Written by ROSS JONES
(Maiden Gully Back to Committee Member)
About the writer
As a lad, Ross Jones moved to Maiden Gully with his parents in 1947. His father ran a 40-acre mixed farm in Maiden Gully. Ross attended Maiden Gully Primary School in 1947. in 1956 his parents sold the farm and retired to Bendigo. Ross married a local girl, Rosita Monsant in 1958. He and his wife purchased a 10-acre block of ground in Edwards Rd and there settled down with his family in 1961. He became a member of the School Committee in 1965 and continued to be a member until 1984. during those years, which were a record as a continuing serving member of the committee (later Council), he served terms as both President and Secretary. Ross’ wife and three children also attended the Maiden Gully Primary School,
The details contained in this booklet relate to the history of the Primary School 1592
P. S. 1592 first opened in 1875 and was known as Myers Creek P.S. At that time the population of the area had increased, along with the other areas around Bendigo, as a result of the discovery of gold in 1851. Until about 1935 the population of the area continually increased or decreased in accordance with changes in gold mining activities of Bendigo over that period. Other factors such as droughts, depressions and wars also affected fluctuations though to lesser degree.
After 1935, and up to the late 1970s, the growth rate remained static or gradually increased. However, since that time there has been a dramatic increase in population. The increase will continue at a fast rate for the next decade or so due to several “Housing Estates” in the area.
As there is a lack of written information on the past, this booklet has been difficult to research. The writer therefore seeks forgiveness if some of the facts therein contained my differ from what is the reader’s understanding.
PRIMARY SCHOOL 1592
IN THE BEGINNING - MAIDEN GULLY
The Maiden Gully Primary School No.1592 first opened its doors to receive pupils on the 26th of April 1938. This school was erected as a result of meetings held by local residents when was decided that a deputation, consisting of Messrs Jack Harris, Tom Wearne and Tom Wellings, be made to the local member Mr. Albert Dunstan*
Three prefabricated schools were imported from England, one of which was erected at Maiden Gully. It is believed that this school is the only remaining one of its type now in existence.
The first teacher is believed to be a Mr. Ryan. However, his was only a temporary appointment. Mr. Harry Beckham became the first permanent Head Teacher on the 8th September, 1938 with an enrollment of 15 pupils. Mr. Beckham originally came from a Bagshot school which had closed at the time. He retired at the end of 1959. The District Inspector quoted in 1939 “The school was opened on a new site on the 26th of April, 1938. The school is housed in a State Building of the new portable type”. Also 1959 The Head Teacher’s genuine interest in the welfare of his pupils has gained community cooperation and has greatly improved the working tone of the school”.
Growth of the school was very slow and it remained a one teacher school until about 1967, when an additional classroom has been added, though the original room had been extended a few feet some time earlier. It took 32 years for the enrollment to double, as in 1970 30 pupils attended. In 1968 reticulated water was connected to the school.
Growth rate began to escalate from the 1970s so that by 1980s it became obvious a new school on a larger site would be required. The situation became desperate by 1987 when the enrolment exceeded 150.
* Albert Dunston MLI at the time of deputation, was member for Korong and Eaglehawk; Premier and Treasurer all Victorian state government in the country party. later (1948) he became Sir Albert Arthur Dunstan K. C. M. G.
A NEW BEGINNING-MAIDEN GULLY
The new site had been chosen by 1987 and some preliminary siteworks commenced. By the end of the year the new school buildings had commenced so that by the 26th of April, 1988 (exactly 50 years since the opening of the first Maiden Gulley School), the new school buildings could be occupied for the first time. The new school was built after some considerable hard work by Teachers, Parents and School Council. The new Maiden Gulley School has been built with various classrooms etc. having the appearance of a bygone era while incorporating modern facilities that should remain the pride of all students and teaches for many years to come.
PREVIOUS HISTORY-MYERS CREEK
Those who are aware of the numbering system of schools would realize that SS. 1592 is an old number. In the case of the Maiden Gully School, it inherited this number from the original school which was opened on the 1st of July, 1875 and was then known as the Myers Creek State School.
Little is known about the Myers Creek schools, however an excerpt from the Education Department book Vision and Realization states: “this school, first known as Myers Creek SS 1592 opened on the 1st of July, 1875. H. T. Patrick Fitzpatrick was in charge from 1875 until the 16th of April 1877. He was followed by Herbert B. Bashford who stayed until 1889”. It is of interest then an excerpt from the Leichardt East School states “From December 1988 until October 1889 Leichhardt East worked half time with Myers Creek”. It is understood that in the early days, when there was a reduction of pupils or a shortage of teachers, schools would share a teacher i.e. the teacher would teach him one school in the morning, then at lunchtime mount a horse and travel to another school for the afternoon lessons. The Leichhardt East School site is believed to be one or two kilometers north of the present Sandhurst Town Tourist Attraction.
Vision and Realization excerpt continues “Purchase of the site for the school had been completed by January 1875 and the building itself was finished by May. The schoolhouse was of wood and had accommodation for 72, plus a three-room residence attached. In its opening year the school had an enrollment of 22. The school closed in 1892, reopened in November 1893: closed again in February 1902...”
This is believed to be the end of the first school at Myers Creek, for soon after it was shifted from its location (which is now Beckhams Road) to Specimen Hill. It would appear that this road may not have been designated when the school was built.
Without written confirmation this relocation is difficult to prove. Some people still believe that the school and residence were burnt down. Looking at other factors, this may be proved so because of the following information. A photograph of the first school taken at the turn of the century had an enrollment of 70 pupils. Also a letter written by the Secretary of the Myers Creek Progress Association dated 24th of March 1900 made reference to the growth rate of the Myers Creek being on the increase. It is therefore improbable for this school to close two years later, given these facts, unless for some reason such as fire or some other disaster.
The second school was built on the site next to Beckham's road in 1908. This site was subdivided from allotment 93 as shown on the Land Department map of about 1910. To continue with Vision and Realization “reopened in July 1908; was again closed about 1920, and reopened in 1938. It was about 1938 when the school was renamed to Maiden Gully. The original school buildings were apparently destroyed by fire, although the exact date of this is unknown”.
This is where some confusion lies. Some believe neither the first nor the second school was destroyed by fire but that rather it was the shelter shed of the second school which suffered this fate possibly at about the same time as the Myers Creek Hall, which also was razed to the ground. The second school was shifted to the Northern Victoria in 1924. It is not clear where, but Kotta and Mitiamo have been suggested, also Torrumberry is a strong contender.
The second school was also a wooden construction, having a porch at the front similar in style to the first Maiden Gully School. Social functions were held in the school, particularly dances. The holding of dances had its problems as the floor was of three levels. This problem was overcome when a working bee over one weekend put the floor on one level.
It may come as a surprise to former pupils of the Maiden Gully School that at the southern boundary of the school ground, adjoining the tennis courts, the remains of a male person is buried. This man was believed to be a policeman or trooper who died in the 1850s. Little else is known about who this gentleman was or what was the cause of his death. Frank Cusack’s book “Bendigo A History” makes reference to the following during 1852-... ”at Myers Creek Assistant Commissioner Read set up tents for 9 troopers, a Sergeant, a Clerk and himself...”The headstone of this grave was last seen under the tank stand of the Myers Creek School before this school was removed during the 1920s.
ACHIEVEMENT AND JUBILATION
As was mentioned previously much hard work was done by the local community in achieving a new and much larger school in 1988; so too was much hardwork put into building the first Maiden Gully School in 1938. For example, the first meeting in which it was decided to establish a new school for the district was attended by Mrs. Pansie Durston, Mrs. Carboon, Mrs. Bertha Wellins, Miss Bonna Trahair and Mrs. Gertrude Monsant. This meeting was held on the school site and logs were used for seating.
Efforts to obtain this school was also strongly backed by the Maiden Gully Progress League.
There was high jubilation on the day the school was officially opened by the premier Mr. Dunstan on Saturday 18th of June 1938. The following is the Bendigo Advertiser’s write up which appeared in that paper on Monday 20th of June, 1938.
MAIDEN GULLY SCHOOL OPENED BY THE PREMIER
On Saturday afternoon the recently erected Maiden Gully School No, 1592 was formally opened by the Premier, Mr. A. A. Dunstan, in the presence of a large gathering of local residents and visitors. Among those present were Colonel G. V. Lansell, M.L.C., Mr. W. J Stephens. Crs J. L. Cooper and Wootton Lansell, Marong Shire: Messrs E.B. Pederick, district inspector of schools; J. Monsant (president) T. G. Wellings (secretary) J. Carson (treasurer) of Maiden Gully Progress League; and Mr. Trahair, President of School Committee. The Premier was accompanied by Mrs. Dunstan.
Mr. J. Monsant, who presided, thanked all who had assisted in having the school established. He extended a hearty welcome to the Premier and Colonel Lansell, whom he especially thanked for his strong support of the Progress League in the attempt to have the school reopened. Mr. W. J. Stephens was heartily thanked for his personal efforts and the assistance given by “The Bendigo Advertiser” in this direction. Marong Shire Council was also thanked through its representatives Crs. Cooper and Lansell.
During the tea Mrs. Dunstan was presented with a beautiful posy of flowers on behalf of the school children. The presentation was made by Miss Gladys Trevaskis.
After the loyal toast had been honored, Mr. Monsant called on the Premier to perform the opening ceremony.
Mr. Dunstan congratulated the people of the neighborhood on the erection of the school. It was not large, but it was neat and compact, and would be a great convenience to them. It had been erected on the same site as the original Myers Creek School which, first built in 1875 filled the requirements of this district, for many years, until removed 14 or 15 years ago It had recently been found necessary to re-establish a school under the name of the Maiden Gully School. They did not yet possess a fence, but one would soon be provided by the department. (Applause). An application had just been made to him for a shelter pavilion. It was the practice of the department to ask local residence (sic) to contribute towards these sheds on a £1 for £1 basis. If residents could do this, either by money or muscle, he would see that a shelter shed was provided. The policy of the present Government was to construct schools wherever necessary, in order to provide educational accommodation and facilities for limited numbers of children rather than see the drift of population to the city, possibly later to swell the ranks of the unemployed. Economics or sacrifices might have to be made, but not at the expense of affording reasonable educational facilities for the children of the State. There was a limit to finances, money having to be raised either by taxation or loans. As Treasurer, he knew taxation was not popular, while loans had to be repaid, but his Government had always done everything possible to keep right up to date in regard to education. More than £3,000,000 was spent on the State schools: 7,500 teachers; and 2,650 State Schools. The cost per head to the Victorian people was £1/13/- shillings a rather severe tax on the people of the State- but money well spent in the right direction. We were living in times of keen competition, and the child with the advantage of a good education was favored when seeking a position. Mr. Dunstan said he was anxious to give all the best education the State could afford. Free education was first brought in on January 1, 1873, and in 1910 an act was framed for a complete national education system, ranging from infants’ class right through to the university. It was quite possible for a child by his own energy to get right through to the university by means of scholarships. Now there was a considerable difference in the methods of teaching children. Formally it was something of a nightmare, when education was carried from books to brain by a cane, now there was a greater feeling of friendliness between teacher and pupils. If the new school was not large enough for their requirements he promised in the near future to have it enlarged, and he hoped that a greater attendance would make this necessary.
Colonel Lansell said he felt he was there in a dual capacity - first as one who had assisted to “get the school, but mainly to thank the Premier for assisting this movement” they had got their school owing to the strong representation made by the progress league and their local committee, which he was only too glad to assist. They were also fortunate in having a man who, while filling the arduous post of Premier, could look after his district as well. Mr. Dunstan was always approachable. They had put this matter before the Premier while he (Col Lansell) did what he could do assist. It was a fine gesture for the premier to come along to open the school. Colonel Lansell added that it would give him great pleasure to support any movement for the good of the district.
Mr. Dunstan said that Colonel Lansell had given him the credit for reopening the school, but he himself had many many representations to the department, and so a large measure of the credit for the reopening was due to Colonel Lansell.
I welcome was also extended to Mr. Pederick, school inspector, by Mr. Monsant who expressed regret at the absence of the teacher, Mr. Ryan through indisposition.
In response, Mr Pederick said he had a soft spot for country schools. In his last district 95 percent, were little schools, while he himself was the product of a small school in Northern Victoria. Country schools were doing more good than they were often given credit for. At one time the whole of the administrative staff of the department were the product of country schools. Now they have a building with a minimum of furniture, and there was still a good deal to be done, but they would appreciate more what had been obtained by themselves. He hoped that in the years to come some of the State’s leading citizens would be pupils from this school.
The Premier then unlocked the school door. He wished success to follow the careers of the children.
COLONEL LANSELL PRESENTS THE FLAG
Colonel Lansell presented a flag for the school, saying he had noticed he did not possess one. The scholars should realize what a wonderful thing it was to be a resident in such a country as Australia. So as long as they were under the Union Jack they would be a happy people. The flag was then tied on by Mrs. Dunstan and pulled to the top of the new poll donated by Mr. G. de Araugo of the Golden City Timber Coy.
I hearty vote of thanks to the ladies for their hospitality was proposed by Cr. J. L. Cooper and seconded by Cr. Lansell. A response was made by Mrs Durston who, in a neat speech, said they would welcome any district lady who had not yet come along to join their committee. A program of events resulted: Races-Senior school girls-Mollie Durston; Junior girls- Myrtle Trehair; Senior boys- Sam Trevaskis; Junior boys- Ray Pentland; Extra junior- Peter Carboon; Girls (open)-Miss Hopgood; Boys (open)- Harry Trahair; Married ladies-Mrs Carboon; Married men- Mr. Smith; Stepping distance Men Cr. J. L. Cooper; Ladies Mrs Wicks.
During the 50 years of the school's history many Head Teachers have come and gone. Some have served for a long period -in the case of Mr Harry Beckham 20 years - while others remained only a few months. The head teachers after Mr Beckham are listed hereunder. This list is not necessarily in order in which they served the school: Mrs. Hutcheson, John Angel, Winston Broad, the late Gordon Patterson, Shane Landy, Brian (Matt) Dillon, Lyn Collier, Colin Hates (twice), Joe Brennan, Gary Muller, Ken Cairns (twice), Robert Baker and to this present day 1988 – Ian Davey.
If we, as parents, or pupils, where to reflect on the past, we must feel grateful that the calibre of most of the Head Teachers and the many assistant teachers have been of the highest order.
We also remember with sadness, and at the time with disbelief, of the sudden death of Gordon Patterson. Gordon was one of our best loved teachers, who not only fulfilled his duties well, but also took an interest in the local community. Gordon and his wife Betty where members of the Maiden Gully Tennis Club. His funeral in September 1974 was well attended, with a good representation from this area. A sad loss, particularly for a man in his early30’s.
MARONG SCHOOL SPORTS
The school sports held in early October each year was one of the highlights of the year's activities. Maiden Gully first ended into the sports during the mid 50’s and continued to do so until 1986. We were successful in winning the shield many times in those 30 years from the many schools from within the Marong Shire.
The rule was that if the shield was won three times in succession, the school held the shield in perpetuity. This occurred in the early 80’s, with the result that the Marong School’s Shield is in the new school for all time.
DELAY AND FRUSTRATION
During the early 1980s progress towards obtaining a new school or slow. Parents’ patience began to wear thin and came to a climax when a “for sale” notice appeared on the chosen block of ground. Three blocks initially investigated; one on the corner of Carolyn Way and Monsants Rd; the second on the corner of Beckhams Road and Marong Road. The preferred block, being of 8 acres, was on the corner of my Marong Road and Carolyn Way. The owner of this block of ground also became so frustrated at the lack of action by the Education Department that he decided to put the land up for private sale. Quick action by the School Council averted this sale going through, with the result that the Department transacted a purchase for the new school site. Future road widening of the Marong Road in this area has reduced the land to around 3.24 ha.
Concept plans of the new school were presented to the parents on the 6th June, 1985. This plan was basically accepted with few modifications being suggested by the redevelopment Committee.
From November, 1985 the Bendigo Advertiser featured several articles of a political nature regarding the progress, or lack of progress, in getting this project off the ground. For instance on the 5th of November, 1985 reference was made to a previous visit to the school by the then Minister of Education Mr Fordham, when he described the schools’ facilities as totally inadequate. He said at the time “Maiden Gulley Primary School was a ridiculous environment in which to be trying to teach children” and he added “that such conditions would not be tolerated in Melbourne.”
At that time it was estimated the initial site work would cost around $160,000 but only $15,000 would be spent by the Public Works Department.
The Bendigo Advertiser featured a front page article on the cramped conditions of the school which was described in the headlines as the “School has no room to swing a snake.” This was followed by a front page news on November 22nd in which the headlines read “Squashy schools long wait is all over.”
This article advised of the then Education Minister, Mr. Cathie’s announcement of plans for a new $500,000 building to replace the present school, which has been described as one of the worst in the state. The minister stated that the new school would be opened in the first term of 1987.
Before and after this announcement was made, parents took an active role in frequent letters being written to the Bendigo Advertiser. Children of the school also took action in writing letters which became a feature article, with the heading “While children suffer cramped conditions, the great space debate continues.”
Several letters from concerned parents were published. Cassie Luke made reference to “The school has a pupil population of seventy-eight crammed into three classrooms and a multipurpose room. The library, office and grades five and six all share one small portable classroom.”
Joyce Wood wrote about “A basic right of every child is that of adequate schooling.” Mrs. Wood stated that the surveys indicated an enrollment would be almost 200 by 1988/89.
P. Hinch slammed the Education Department on being pathetically typical to promise something, then delay and finally withdraw the promise.
J. Bouwmeesterl expressed his disappointment to hear that some “Bendigo educationalists” recommended that children from Maiden Gully should be “bused” into Bendigo schools. He also expressed his concern at money being spent on some Bendigo schools Maiden Gully appears to have missed the bus”
Bruce Parker spoke of the school council's rights and responsibilities being diluted by the Education Department. A group of concerned parents complemented the Regional officers, school council relocation committee and the school principal on having worked tirelessly to implement a satisfactory school beginning on a new site in 1986- these efforts were for what?
Frustration continued into 1986, and on the front page of the “Advertiser” of 2nd December, the headlines “District parents impatient at delays to school works” said it all.
DISTRICT PARENTS IMPATIENT AT DELAYS TO SCHOOL WORKS
District parents, impatient that delays in work promised at their school last night filled a public meeting to consider further action.
More than 20 parents of children at Maiden Gully Primary School gathered at the school to protest at what they called six months of government inaction.
Education Minister Mr. Cathie visited the Maiden Gully on May 30 this year and told the parents their few buildings would be going to tender soon after.
School council president Mr. Jack Bouwmeester save since then the school has been given six separate dates for tenders to be let.
The first of these was in July add in the latest last week but still nothing has happened, because the department of management and budget had not released funds.
He said last night’s meeting decided to take further action if the work did not go to tender by next Wednesday.
“We are very, very annoyed and concerned. We have 125 plus children coming to the school next year on something no bigger than an ordinary house block.” Mr Bouwmeester said.
“I defy anybody to find school children anywhere putting up with worse conditions” he added.
Mr. David Kennedy MLA (Labor, Bendigo West) said after hearing of the school's problems he had taken the matter up with the Department of Management and Budget and had been told it was all right for the Education Ministry to proceed to tender.
He said he had been told the Maiden Gully school project should go to tender before the end of the year.
Mr. Bouwmeester said “the end of the year” was not good enough as people at the meeting felt they had been “fobbed off” for six months and waiting till the end of the school year would run into the Christmas holidays and effectively add another two months to it. He said as it was the school was going to have to put another portable classroom in for the start of next year, further diminishing the school yard.”.
Delays were further compounded when the builder, who was the successful tenderer, became ill and was forced to withdraw his tender. This meant that the tenders had to be left once again, thus causing further delays.
Building of the next school commenced during 1987 and on completion in April 1988. No works could express the degree of relief felt by the teachers, pupils and parents alike.
Give economically favorable conditions, housing growth in Maiden Gully will continue, so that by the year 2000 a further 600 or more families will have settled in the area. This means that the enrollment of the school may exceed 400 pupils.
Perhaps this school will overgrow the present site and another school will be required? Who knows?
The writer expresses grateful thanks for the assistance given by many people with material and their knowledge of events in the past. Thanks go to Mr. Harry Beckham, Mr Jack Bouwmeeter, Mr Ian Davey, Mrs. Pansy Durston, Mrs. Hilda Harris, Mr. Reuben Pata and Mrs. Molly Smith.
I also wish to express my appreciation for the late Miss Jonah Kearn’s many moments of interesting discussions. Miss Kearns could recall, as a young lady, events during the 1980s and 90s regarding the Myers Creek area.