Thursday, May 24, 2012

Greigs Flat School

The establishment of educational facilities was an important consideration for even the smallest of communities locally, & over the years many centres boasted institutions that are today served by Pambula Public School.

One amongst these was the Greigs Flat half time facility. Conscious of the number of local children growing up without access to education, Pambula’s Anglican Minister, Reverend Thom, decided to establish experimental half time schools at Greigs Flat & Lochiel, opening in July 1869 with 18 & 15 pupils respectively.

With books & equipment supplied by the National Board of Education, teacher Mark Johnson was appointed in October, but after breaking his leg in a fall off a horse, his commencement had to be delayed until November. Although the Greigs Flat School was initially conducted in a slab hut provided by Mr. Love, as no residence was provided, the teacher was forced to board with local families.

Regarded as hard working & deserving, Mr Johnson's income was small & his health considerably weakened by the harsh life he necessarily led. By the end of 1871 he was obliged to take three months sick leave & both Greigs Flat & Lochiel schools closed for a short period. Thomas Wellings arrived to take over in 1872, but in January 1873, gained an appointment to the more stable Pambula School & although both Greigs Flat & Lochiel continued to operate for long enough to submit their 1873 returns, it appears that they closed some time that year.

By 1887, local residents recognised the need to re-establish Greigs Flat School, but despite the fact that twenty two parents signed an application, the inspector initially declined to reinstate the institution. Finally, by September, however, Greigs Flat Provisional School had been approved.

Late that year, a building valued at £45 was constructed on a two acre site facing the Pambula - Eden Road but despite being ready for occupation by January 1888, the teacher, Nicholas Riley, was not appointed until September. With an average attendance of twenty during the last quarter of the year, the Department of Public Instruction upgraded Greigs Flat to a ninth class Public School from the beginning of 1889. The same year, as enrolments continued to increase, the building was also extended.

The visit of the NSW Governor to Greig’s Flat School was a highlight for students. 
Teacher Nick Riley can be seen second from right.

Unfortunately though, despite surviving summer bushfires, the school was burnt to the ground following a magic lantern show in August, also destroying the books, furniture & some of the teacher’s possessions. As a result, lessons were suspended for six days until a barn could be hired for classes whilst the school was rebuilt. A new timber building on piers 22 foot by 16 foot by 10 foot with a six foot wide verandah was completed by January 1890 on the old site. The school ground was also partly enclosed by a two rail fence in May.

After marrying a local girl in April 1890, Mr Riley & his wife lived into a cottage less than a mile from the school. This local connection was to keep him at Greigs Flat for a further 22 years, making him the longest serving teacher at the institution, also acting as the settlement’s postmaster for a number of years.

Greig’s Flat School, C. 1900. The teacher is Nick Riley.

A very popular teacher, Mr Riley's students came not only from Greigs Flat, but also South Pambula & Yowaka, the increase in enrolments enabling parents of the sixty pupils to successfully campaign for the erection of a weather shed in 1894, & extensions to the school building in 1898.

In 1895 an additional eight acres extending back to Broadwater Lake were added to the school reserve, & a four roomed timber residence with detached kitchen was built for the teacher. The residence was extended in & was renovated in 1913.
The Greig’s Flat teacher’s residence, C. 1918.
Attendances continued to average between thirty & forty until the nearby goldfields went into decline, with the result that the Mt Gahan (or Yowaka North) School closed down in 1907. As a result, Greigs Flat gained new pupils & after a short time, was raised to Forth Class status. By 1910, agitation to have the school moved to the Yowaka side of the river was successful, with the school building itself physically relocated a mile to the west of the junction of the Pipeclay Creek & Old Hut (Nethercote) Roads.

The teacher's residence, however, remained on the old school site with the teacher continuing to reside there & in March 1912, when Mr James Reardon replaced Mr Riley, he was travelling the two & a half miles to & from the school each day on horseback.

Greig’s Flat School pupils, C. 1930’s.

With mining operations continuing to decline, attendance at the school also began to drop, & by 1920 Greigs Flat residents were pointing out that most of the students lived east of the Yowaka River. With cost of again relocating the school estimated at £150, it was given a low priority, but finally, in 1931, the Parents & Citizens Association agreed to move it themselves, & by October, the school was back in its original position next to the teacher's residence. By this time Mr Cecil Goodacre was the teacher. Although enrolments continued to decline, parents staunchly opposed the question of closing the school when it arose in 1939.

Greig’s Flat School, 1935.
Interestingly, despite the fact that the school was now located at Greigs Flat, the name was changed to Yowaka in 1942, & the same year renovations & repairs were carried out to both the school & residence, while a tennis court was also added to student facilities. However, just fifteen months later Education Department support for the institution was withdrawn, although it continued to operate as a subsidised school until 1946. In November that year its re-establishment as a public school was approved & William Hey was appointed teacher the same month. It continued to operate under him until in 1951 when the Yowaka, late Greigs Flat, school closed for the last time.

The old teacher’s residence continues to stand near the Princes Highway, & is apparently still owned by the education department. Over the years Arbour Day was an event strictly observed at Greigs Flat School, & even today a number of large pine & other species continue to stand on the property as a reminder of the importance of the event.

© Angela George.

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