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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Ginninderra Public School

Ginninderra Schooling (1844 - 1910)

The Ginninderra Public School building still standing beside the Barton Highway in the area once known as Ginninderra village, dates from 1884. However, schooling in the Ginninderra district had been going on for forty years by then, with the history of district schooling somewhat confused by the liberal use of 'Ginninderra'. Schools at the 'Palmerville' estate and at The Glebe (St Pauls; modern day Evatt) are referred to by Lyall Gillespie as 'Ginninderra', as is the private school conducted for a while by Alfred Mainwaring Rich.

C of E schooling at Palmerville estate

Both George Thomas Palmer (from 1844 to 1851) and his successor as 'squire of Palmerville', William Davis Junior (1859-1862), organized schools for the benefit of their employees.

St Pauls church school, The Glebe

Davis was then instrumental (1862) in establishing St Paul's church/school at the Glebe - 200 acres given to the church by Charles Campbell, which is now part of Evatt. Hugh McPhee, a Scots Presbyterian, was teacher at both 'Palmerville' schools, and at St Paul's (1866-1870). St Paul's was conducted Half Time with Parkwood school (1871-1873) with Francis McPhail as teacher.

St Francis, Ginninderra

By this time the Roman Catholic church had built St Francis - a church school on the Yass road (1872) which quickly became a Provisional (1873), then a Public School (1877). "A neat and substantial school church has just been completed at Ginninderra for the united purposes of Roman Catholic worship and a provisional school. It is erected on land given for the purpose by Mr Florence McAuliffe [then Ginninderra blacksmith] by whose exertions also the principal costs of erection - about ₤70 - was collected" [Qbyn Age, 28 March 1872]

In 1882 the school moved into a tent when the church advised that St Francis was no longer available. Tenders were called for a new Ginnindera schoolhouse which was opened in 1884, but closed in 1910 when Hall school opened.

Alfred Mainwaring Rich conducted a private school for eleven years (1881-1892) alongside the Gribble's homestead at 'The Valley', having previously been a private teacher at Taralga, Nelanglo and Gundaroo.

Ginninderra Pubic School (1872-1910)

Public schooling was available at Ginninderra village from 1873. St Francis Roman Catholic church and school was built in 1872 on land given by Flourence McAuliffe, Ginninderra blacksmith, with funds raised by public subscription. Within months, the Department agreed to convert the school from Denominational to Provisional status, on condition that St Paul's would close, and the local committee would comprise a Catholic (McAuliffe), a Presbyterian (Donald Cameron), a Weslyan (John Southwell) and an Anglican (Thomas Gribble).

In 1882 the church 'reclaimed' their building and the school was conducted in a tent for two years! An offer first made in 1877 by George Harcourt, of two adjacent acres, was belatedly accepted, and a fine new school and residence erected (1884) - the Ginninderra Schoolhouse. The tent, erected for £26, was then sold for £8.6.0.

After several short-stay teachers - including the allegedly drunken, incompetent, and punitive - Charles Thompson was appointed in 1895 and stayed 15 years before being transferred to Hall when Ginninderra closed. For twelve years he was also in charge of Gungahleen, four miles towards Canberra.

Parent-teacher discord: John Southwell vs Stuart Haig (Hogg)

Rose Hill, Hall. 4th September '93

Dear Sir, Through continual corporal punishments inflicted upon my children by the teacher Hogg, I now take my children from the Ginninderra school. Hitherto I have compelled my children to attend this school against their will, but will do so no more as they seem to hate the teacher and the school . Yours truly, John Southwell.

"......[John Southwell] quarrels with almost every teacher he comes in contact with, says my predecessor was 'mad', reported his predecessor once or twice in 2 years, was ruined as defendant in a Supreme Court action for assault, in court about the same time with E K Crace Esq about wanting road through Crace's garden, has been at law repeatedly since I came here, was in court last week again re impounding cattle, had to apologise to Revd. Mr Hall M.A. for libelling and belying him, and is hardly ever out of a row; so you see he is not very easy to deal with".

[extract of letter from teacher Hogg to Chief Inspector, 26 November '94]

On 12th January 1895, Hogg, who had quite a history of excessive punishment, was severely reprimanded, demoted, and cautioned that further misbehaviour would incur dismissal. He was replaced almost immediately.

Teacher-parent discord (2) - Scripture lessons

Letter from teacher Thomas Ray to Inspector of Schools:

Public School Ginninderra October 9th 1884
L E Lawford Esq Inspector of Schools


Since I took charge of this school, the parents of the R.C. children have requested me not to allow their children to read the scripture lessons, which I acceded to. But now they wish to withdraw their children from the school while the other children are reading them, which I would not allow. One family have tried much to cause a disturbance every week when I give the Scripture Lessons. I confine myself strictly to the questions printed in the book - and have not knowingly given any reason for their withdrawing their children.

Would you favour me with your kind advice.

I have the honour to be your obedient servant,

Thomas Ray

Public School Ginninderra Nov 4th 1884

Fight over scripture lessons

Department of Public Instruction Sydney


In reference to your letter of 31 instant with reference to my son Brian suspended from school by the teacher for gross insolence. I beg to say that my son did nothing further than to ask the teacher to let him out at school during the time he the teacher where [sic] teaching scripture and as soon as he asked the teacher the teacher ran at him and knocked his head against the wall and he then got him down on the floor and punched him with his knees and then he the teacher dragged him out the school into the hall and told him to go home. On another occasion he caned another of my children on the hand till he drew the blood for the offence.

When my son asked to be let out during the time he the teacher where [sic] engaged in teaching and preaching on scripture it was my instruction to my children to ask the teacher to go out during the time mentioned. When I sent him word not to teach my children the scripture he done as required.

P.S. When I sent word to let my children out while instructing he caned them and ill used them. I think he might as well make the children read it as to keep them in while preaching about it. I think it is coming to something when a teacher in a public school can do as he thinks proper that he can teach them what he likes in spite of the parents.

It matters little to me what this teacher does now as I am determined that my children will not go to that school during the time that he remains as I have arranged with two other families to get a teacher and pay him out of our own pockets rather than send him to this school while he remains.

I remain, Edmund Rolfe.

Related Photos


Gillespie, L.L. Early education and schools in the Canberra region. Canberra, 1999

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