Saddle up, school’s in for another year

Our first provisional primary schools were at Buderim in 1875 and Mooloolah Plains and Mooloolah Bridge in 1878 and 1879.

The Maroochy Provisional School was opened between Yandina and Nambour in 1879 with children from both Yandina and Nambour attending to make up the required number of 12.

A provisional school became a state school when the number exceeded 30 but until then, parents raised funds and supplied timber for a building as well as a suitable site along with a horse paddock.

Both teacher and children rode horses to school, often along bush tracks. Until a provisional school was built at Eumundi, George Gridley’s children attended Fairhill Provisional School “walking along a five mile track their father had brushed for them”.

Stories from school days at Maroochy Provisional School record the children finding a carpet snake on the way to school and taking it along for “show and tell”.

The teacher banned tomahawks at school after they chopped down a tree to catch a koala and the tree fell on a pupil and knocked him out. The koala escaped to another tree.

At lunch time they liked to find native bees’ nests or catch lobsters. Once they got wet through by shaking bushes and had to be sent home early. Another time they let the teacher’s horse out of the paddock, mischief that was remedied with the dreaded cane.

Teachers of those early days coped with remote conditions. The first teacher at Yandina Provisional School in 1889 came to Maroochydore by the steamer Tarshaw, was met by a committee member and rowed up the Maroochy River to Yandina. At Lower Doonan Provisional School the teacher complained that she not only shared her bedroom with one of her pupils but because of a lack of spare beds, also her bed.  

“Bad roads no less than the distances involved prohibit travelling … all of which conspires to render Lower Doonan a swamp-pitted, inaccessible jail”.

There was much emphasis on parades and marching, sitting up straight and using good manners. On school verandas, children chanted tables and spellings, learning by rote.

Classrooms contained long wooden desks and benches. Slots in the desk held slates, a smaller slot held slate pencils.

A vesta tin with a small sponge for cleaning the slate was kept handy. A cupboard or press in the corner of the room held reading books and copybooks. A monitor measured out the ink for the inkwells on each desk and gave out the pens and nibs. No one wanted to blot a copybook as children practised the art of neat writing.

A teacher’s equipment was a large clock, a desk and chair, a large blackboard, chalk and a duster. A cane or two was also on issue and could be applied to outstretched hands for misdemeanours, even forgotten homework.

With an increased population, one-teacher schools became a feature of farming communities.  Highlights of the year were Arbor Day, District Sports Day and Break-up Day.

Perwillowen, Cooloolabin, Poona, Kiamba, Valdora, Yandina Creek and Browns’ Creek are some of the hinterland one-teacher schools that once flourished.

Most closed in the 1960s and children were transported by bus to bigger centres. School days, to many of us, were some of the best days of our lives.

 Image caption:  Bli Bli Provisional School made of pit-sawn timber and shingled roof, opened in 1901 with one teacher and 26 pupils. Courtesy Sunshine Coast Council Heritage Library.