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Wee Jasper [1899]

An early application for a school

On 9 October 1888 the residents of Wee Jasper applied for a Provisional School (average attendance necessary at this time 12). Children listed to attend the proposed school were those of CH Curtl – police constable, FC Faulder, P Carey, W Costello, Mary Grace, JJ Marzol – selector, and A (or S) Martin.

Inspector Lancelot Crawford reported on 31 October of that year 'This is an application from settlers on or near Goodradigbee (Little) river. They are extremely scattered and though the names of some 20 children are promised I do not think there is a fair prospect of an average of more than about 10'.

Crawford went on to recommend that when the residents provided a building, a teacher might be sent by the Department for a Provisional School. The school did not eventuate at this time, presumably because the residents did not provide a building.

A second application for a school

A second application for a school by Wee Jasper residents was dated 22 August 1898. Children to attend were those of FC Faulder – farmer and grazier, Joseph Travers Jones – grazier, D Mc Innes – policeman, John Carey – farmer, William Grace – labourer, and John Coady – labourer.

On this occasion Inspector Patrick Sheehy reported on 12 October 1898: -
'I visited Wee Jasper on 10th instant, and called on each of the residents. It is situated about 30 miles south-east of Yass on the road to Tumut. The Goodradigbee River, which is locally known as the Little River passes through the place. The residents are graziers, farmers and labourers. There is a Police Station close to the proposed site and a Post Office about a mile from it.

'The locality is, I think, likely to be permanently inhabited. The site consists of two acres ... There are 18 children entered on the Annex (to the application form). One is 4½ and another 14½ years of age. The remaining 16 are between 5 and 14 years. These do not attend any existing school. The nearest school Tumorrama Prov (later Old Jeremiah Creek) is about 16 miles distant.

'I recommend that the application be acceded to, that I be authorised to prepare plans and specifications for the erection of a school building 20' x 17' x 10' and two out-offices at a cost of about ₤75.'

Tenders were then called for the building and the lowest received was that of Peter Poidevin of Collector for ₤112/19/- . Inspector Sheehy recommended the acceptance of this tender as 'Wee Jasper occupies an isolated position. The nearest town is Yass, which is 30 miles from it. I do not think therefore that a lower tender than the one recommended can be obtained'. Chief Inspector Frederick Bridges did not agree and noted that none of the tenders should be accepted and that 'the amount authorised by the Minister, about ₤75 , be adhered to'.

Meanwhile local residents were wanting the school and on 4 February 1899 FC Faulder wrote to his Yass MP, William Affleck: 'we trust you would trie and jeet it erected and a teacher as we could send the children to scool as they are joing Wild for School' (sic passim).

Fresh tenders for a school of the same dimensions were called in in February 1899, with Inspector Sheehy now noting that the site for the school building was 'only a few chains off the main road to Tumut, which is a good one all the way'. The Department had apparently accepted that it would not get a satisfactory building for its original estimate of ₤75, and the successful and cheapest tender for the building was again that of Peter Poidevin of Collector, who now tendered ₤92.

Furniture provided by the Department for the school was: 4 desks and forms 81½ ft long, 1 book press, 1 small table, 1 chair, 1 blackboard, 1 easel, 36 hat hooks, 2 large and 2 small tablet boards.

On 6 May 1899 Poidevin asked the Department to pay him in advance about a third of his contract price. Local resident Joseph Travers Jones verified the fact that Poidevin was making good progress with the building, writing on 14 May that Poidevin 'has nearly all the material on the ground and the remainder will be there this week, he has the frame of the school up. The two pits for WC excavated and ground partly cleared, also has a bricklayer here who has made start on the fireplace'. The Department, however, did not grant the advance.

Yass MP William Affleck wrote to the Minister in June 1899 asking to have 'a two-railed fence erected round the ground attached to the school at Wee Jasper or Little River. Many of the children will have a good distance to go to school and therefore will ride horseback and the paddock will be required for the horses during school hours'.

The fencing was not done at this time after Inspector Sheehy gave his opinion on 22 June: 'The school has not yet been opened and it is not known how many children will ride to it. It is not usual to fence small-school sites nor school reserves. I recommend that the application be declined, and that Mr William Affleck MP be informed that it is the practice throughout the colony for parents whose children ride to school to themselves erect a small stockyard of saplings and brushwood for the safe custody of the horses'.

The school's first teacher – Elizabeth Loughlin

On 4 July 1899 Sheehy nominated 23 year-old Elizabeth Loughlin as teacher for Wee Jasper School when it opened. She had begun her career as a teacher at South Gundagai School in 1895 and had been at Yass School since 1896. In nominating her, Sheehy noted that her vacation address was Maud Street, Goulburn, and that she could obtain accommodation at Wee Jasper 'at Mr Donald McInnes' place, about 10 chains from the school'.

Chief Inspector Frederick Bridges agreed with this nomination, writing: 'in view of the great difficulty which is being experienced in inducing female ex Pupil teachers to accept Small Schools, I recommend that Miss Loughlin be declared eligible for the charge of a small school, and that she be appointed to the Provisional School at Wee Jasper'.

Loughlin was appointed to Wee Jasper Provisional School (average attendance required being 10 at this time) on 31 August 1899 at a salary of 72 pounds a year. In 1902 Inspector Sheehy wrote that Loughlin had been in charge of the school since 1 September 1899. In November, she successfully applied for permission to purchase the following articles for the school: 2 Holland blinds, 1 bucket, 3 enamel hand basins and 3 enamel mugs. The next year she was granted permission to close the school on 14 September because the majority of the children would be travelling 30 miles to attend the Yass Show on that date.

In 1901 local resident John Carey successfully requested the Department's permission to fence the 5 acre school reserve at the parents' expense for the pupils' horses. He had written that 'several children living at a distance will be thereby able to attend school'.

Teacher Emily Clark

The Wee Jasper teacher Florence Benjamin's replacement was Emily Clark (nee Lynch) who had begun as pupil-teacher at Mount McDonald School near Cowra in 1884. At the time of her appointment to Wee Jasper, on 29 April 1907, Clark had been teaching at Old Jeremiah Creek School for about seven weeks. She had to support her children and herself, and as she had trouble finding accommodation she boarded at Wee Jasper, first with Mrs Styles who was a personal friend of hers.

Early in 1908 there was an outbreak of measles at the school that affected most families, including Clark's children. With two and later three of her children, she was boarding with Mrs John Carey who found it difficult to continue to board her, as Clark wrote in March 1908: '(Mrs Carey) has too much work to do. There are 15 of us living together here and she does all the cooking. So you can see that boarding me and my two children considerably adds to her burden. We have had measles in the house ever since Christmas holidays, one or sometimes two patients at a time, till everyone except myself have been sick, the last one is down now, I find living like this very trying'.

Apparently Clark continued to board at the Carey's, probably until 1909 when Clark - with the assistance of the residents who had applied unsuccessfully for the Department to build a teacher's residence – built a slab house with hessian ceiling in the school grounds so that she could live in it and move her furniture into it. Until then, she had had to leave her furniture at Euralie School where she had taught before being appointed to Old Jeremiah Creek and then to Wee Jasper in 1907.

In a petition for a residence at the school, twelve local residents had written that 'Settlement is steadily spreading in the district, the presence of the Weir operations will have the effect of bringing more families about as time goes on'. Clark went on leave for the last three months of 1911, and on 29 September local residents W Mcalister and FC Faulder wrote to the Minister requesting a temporary teacher in her absence. Mcalister added: 'some of the families will have to leave because they will have their home Submerged by the Barren Jack dam and is very probably they will have no school near their new home'.

World War 1

On 16 July 1915 Clark made an unsuccessful application to the Department 'to hold a dance in my school in aid of Mother's (sic) ₤30,000 Fund. There is no other suitable room about. We have not decided on the date yet but probably it will be held a week before or a week after Australia Day, to prevent a clash with celebrations in the neighbourhood'.

Again on 6 September of that year, Clark applied 'to hold a social in the Schoolroom on the 22nd of this month to enable us to supply warm clothing for our local boys who have gone to the front, and also in aid of Red Cross. I will have every care taken of the furniture and have everything ready for school next morning. The social would take the form of a Euchre party and a couple of hours dancing afterwards. Will you kindly let me know as soon as possible for if we do not have it on the 22nd inst. we could not arrange anything until the first week in October, and it is getting so late and we are anxious to get our parcels away'. Approval was given for 'such part of the programme as will not require removal of the desks'.

Inspector Lewis Henry inspected the school in 1915 and afterwards wrote that he found Clark's work 'exceedingly satisfactory. The plain needlework done by her pupils is excellent – it is the best I have seen in this district'. When Henry inspected the school in 1916, Clark asked to have some repairs done and he asked her to get tenders for the work. On 22 September she reported that she had tried to do this 'but men are very busy preparing for shearing'. The work was done later that year by local resident, W Mcalister.

In June 1917, Clark reported that the Carey family and then the Faulder family were suffering from scarlet fever, and that in September of that year 'Mrs Davis and Mrs Edwards sent me word that their children have Whooping Cough'.

Emily Clark leaves and Winifred Harmer is temporarily in charge of the school

In September 1917 Clark applied for an assistant teacher's position which involved a drop in salary. She wrote to the chief inspector: 'I hope you will not appoint me further out than Temora or Parkes for I will be able to get a place with a reasonable amount of comfort. Perhaps by Christmas there will be a vacancy at Temora. I am very anxious to go there, as my sister and brother-in-law can help me in getting a house and in many other things'.

She was appointed to Temora School the following month. She sold the house in which she had been living in the school ground at Wee Jasper to the Department for ₤60.

Local resident Winifred Harmer, a temporary teacher, then taught at the school only until the end of the year despite wishing to stay there longer and despite a petition signed by 13 residents requesting this, for as they wrote: 'A majority of those attending (the) school are girls, and we would prefer a lady rather than a gentleman as teacher... Winifred Harmer has given us every satisfaction since she has been in charge'.

The school becomes a public school and Charles McClellan is appointed

The school became a Public School (average attendance 20 or more) at the beginning of 1918, and 24 year-old teacher Charles McClellan took charge at that time. When Inspector Henry inspected the school in 1919, he found that McClellan had not been keeping his school records up to date and, when called upon to explain this, McClellan wrote on 3 April: 'During the past Quarter at the request of parents in the afternoons from 4.30 pm I have been taking the children to the river for swimming lessons ... I have given assistance during weekends in fighting forest fires. In consequence my records have been neglected'.

In considering this explanation Henry noted 'the very satisfactory progress of pupils, and the fine tone of the school, which give evidence of intelligent, systematic teaching'. McClellan was informed that any further cause for complaint in his keeping of the school records would result in serious action being taken.

In the context of providing advice to Inspector George Dart about the prospects of the school, McClellan listed the following families as being residents within three miles of the school in February 1921: J Carey, J Davis, W Boardman, JW Mitchell, W Mcalister, R Carrol, A Mcalister, E Baker, J Faulder, R Flynn, W Grace, J Mitchell, L Gardiner, S Lindeman, C Grovenor, S Tait, H Carey and Mr Sloan.

Max Nicholls was the teacher for the year 1931 and for a few months Kathleen Davis of Sunny Corner, who was related to nearly all the children at the school, taught sewing to the girls.

School site taken over by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission

In 1929 the land granted for the school in 1893, Portions 27 and 28, was appropriated by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission. No long after this in 1931 a new site of 9 acres, 1 rood, 35 perches, Portion 91, was dedicated for the school. This land was acquired from the Police Department and the school building was moved onto it and re-erected some time before 1932. Briars and rabbits were noted as problems on this land in 1932 and for the sum of ₤9/ 5 / - local resident Phillip Davis of Sunny Corner and two other members of his family cleared the briars which harboured rabbits in April 1933.

The Department had considered providing a new school prior to moving it to the new site, and there had been strong local agitation for this as the old building rocked in a strong wind. George Sykes, secretary of Wee Jasper–Cavan Progress Association, had written to local MP William Hedges on 6 February 1928 pointing out the deficiencies and adding: -

'I understand there are 15 children on the role (sic) most of them have to ride long distances to school. They are typical of most of our children bred in the mountains of a fine healthy type and I think in fairness to them and their teacher they are entitled to at least a decent school to help them acquire under better conditions the knowledge they are striving to obtain under difficult conditions'.

Inspector Charles Hicks could see no imminent danger in regard to the building, but he wrote on 12 April 1931: ' I feel that the responsibility would be too great for me to decide as to the safety of otherwise of the structure. The teacher has been instructed to remove children from the building during heavy winds'.

Foreman builder R Baxter, who was required to examine the school building as to its safety, found however that while the building had a very high chimney stack it was not unsafe and although some foundation blocks had given way and the classroom floor worn thin, the replacement of these items and other repairs would make the building quite suitable for continuing use as a school.

Twenty-one-year-old Cecil Ison was in charge of the school from January 1934 until September 1935. During his time there, the school was given a holiday on 6 March 1935 for the Yass Show. The Progress Association applied for dual desks for the school (to replace the old long desks and forms) in 1935 but these were not supplied, although back rests and shelves for the existing furniture were supplied.

On 8 August 1935, Ison applied for a coil of barbed wire to protect trees that had been planted on Arbor Day. He wrote that the barbed wire was 'to prevent horses destroying the trees and the fence will be erected by the teacher and pupils'. The request was unsuccessful however, as the Department did not permit barbed wire to be used because children could injure themselves on it.

Police premises become available for teacher's residence

In August 1935 the Resumed Properties Department informed the Department of Education that the police premises at Wee Jasper were available for letting. It was noted that 'The building is of weatherboard construction, on brick foundations, with iron roof and contains four rooms, kitchen, bathroom, laundry, enclosed rear verandah and Office. There is also a detached weatherboard stable building containing two stalls and forage room. Detached cell. The area is approximately one acre'.

A married teacher, John Bennett, who had previously been at Lintondale School near Temora, was then appointed to Wee Jasper in September 1935 and remained there until the end of 1948. He was occupying the police premises by October 1935.

Low attendance

During the 1940s the school was in danger of closing because of low attendance, as it had been in the 1920s. It did close from December 1954 until March 1956 and has been in danger of doing so many times in more recent years

Ron Mitchell's pupil memories, 1920s –1930s

I started school at the age of 6 years and went until I was 13 or 14 years old. Some of the later time was as a correspondent student. I went to the old and new school. My first teacher was Mr Edward Schumack. Next was Mr Charles Berglund, he didn't wear ties, and hit too hard with the cane and tried to teach the children to sing. Mr Nicholls didn't hit too hard and he wasn't married. Most teachers had families. We didn't put any tricks on the teachers. Mr Boardman was the policeman and lived in the barracks near the school.

My sisters and I walked about four miles to school or rode a horse. If we walked it took an hour to get to school or home. School was from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm, we had about an hour for lunch and 20 mins for morning break about 11 am. I wonder what children would do now if they had to walk four miles to school these days?

School was down by the river across the creek. Sport wasn't a big thing in that they didn't do much with other schools. They did play games called Prisoner's Base, rounders, hopscotch and skipping. We used a tennis ball for rounders. Not sure what was the bat but stones for the bases, and drew on the ground for the other games. Occasionally we went to Yass for interschool sports carnival day.

They did have a cane for punishment, a proper one not a stick. It was good – 6 cuts, 3 on each hand, for spitting water on the girls while at the drinking fountain. Should have it now – it worked.

The children didn't sit together in classes, it was the bigger ones up the back and the smaller ones in the front. I had trouble helping myself so I didn't help the little ones much. I was good at figures but not good at spelling or dictation.

There was church every Friday with Rev. William Meredith Holliday (C of E), who would come out from Yass, and the children looked forward to it. Everyone had to attend regardless of faith. He owned 'Cookmundoon' and my dad had a property next to him. He was a nice bloke, married and had an Overlander car, then changed to a T Model Ford 1926.

The school was made of weatherboard with a little verandah. There was a tank for water and each child brought their own mug. There was an open fire at school, which the boys kept going and had to chop the wood for, no cooling system for the heat.

All materials were supplied, ink, inkwells, pens, books to write in. There were no textbooks as such, only what the teacher told them or wrote on the blackboard. We didn't do presentations for the community and the parents didn't come to school to help.

We wore rag hats in summer. Mum used to make the clothes, spin wool and make jumpers, there was no sewing taught in those days. We didn't have a school uniform, we wore whatever was washed. Most of my classmates are now deceased – Des Carey, Hope Flynn, Ken, Mary, and Zeda Grace.

We had medical examinations. A doctor would come out from Yass and the children would go to the store to be weighed. One girl put rocks in her pocket so she could be heavier.

We had to catch horses to be able to ride home, often 6 -7 horses in the paddock. ... One day Jack, Joyce and myself were going home and passed the camp of an Indian who used to sell brooches etc from a wagon pulled by two horses. He was cooking damper and Jack decided to turn his damper over. He gave it to us because he couldn't eat it after it had been touched by someone. (We) broke a small bit off and fed it to a goanna up a tree.

Ben Faulder's pupil memories, 1939-1945

We had to be at school about 8.30am and we'd have to say one set of tables, spell six words and answer five questions of history and five of geography – before school started. If we didn't get them right by 9.30am, we stayed in at 11am and then at dinner time if we still didn't get them right – but that's unheard of today. We'd get a dozen words over the weekend to learn. Mondays we didn't have much trouble but Tuesdays would be quite different.

A lot of kids used to ride horses and put them in the horse paddock. There was Joyce Mitchell, and Val Cole lived above the Swinging Bridge (now Micalong Stud), they had a long way to come to school and they'd come every day, and if the horses were unable to come the girls would walk.

There was homework plus the weekend homework – tons of homework, and we had to do it by candle light or rabbit lamp. But what scared me was Fridays –'Poetry Day'- I loathed poetry. We'd come in at 11 o'clock and this voice would say 'Right, poetry', and you would have to get up and say your poetry off by heart. The teacher would pick the poem and when he would say it was my turn and I'd have to answer 'Don't know it sir' – then I'd be in trouble – every Friday I looked forward to being in trouble.

There were a series of nails driven into the tank stand and you had your own mug, hat and bag on the nail.

The Mitchell's lived directly west of 'Athelington' turn off, and on a Monday morning in summer time Mrs Mitchell used to bring boxes of apples down in two big deal board boxes, one of red and the other of green apples.

Sometimes the Inspector would come to the school unannounced. There'd be a rattle on the door, the door would open and he'd be in, he only ever came on a Monday once.

The boys would chop wood for the school and keep the fire going. My father put the fence around the school, particularly on the northern side, he cut a big box tree down and stripped posts off it, down near the little cubby house, and as time progressed suckers came up around the stump and that was where the canes were broken from.

In my day marble playing was the go and we played the game 'big ring'. The kids would go to school with a pocket full of marbles and if they had to blow their nose and they'd pull the handkerchief out, you'd hear 'Plonk, plonk' on the floor – 'Righto, bring them out to me', the teacher would say. So everybody's marbles that were dropped were put in a heap on the teacher's desk – and the trouble was, that if any little kids did a good job they were rewarded with your marbles.

We had sport for about an hour on Friday afternoons. We'd play cricket or rounders. We'd nominate a game then to pick the teams, we would do 'Hares and Hounds' or 'Oranges and Lemons'. There would be two girls (mostly), and one would be the orange the other the lemon, and a whole lot of kids would come marching by and they would have to go between them, and each girl in turn would ask if you liked Lemons or Oranges then we'd line up on either side, and that was the way we picked the teams. We didn't play tennis in school time, only outside school hours. There wasn't any athletics, mostly cricket or rounders.

About 1939 to 1945 there were about 28 kids in the little school with one teacher, and about 40 at one stage during the depression years, but that might not have been for long as there was a floating population then with people fossicking for gold or mining.

We set rabbit traps and we'd sell the skins to an old skin buyer who came from Yass, John Steer, he'd come in a really funny old truck. That would be a great day. But we didn't get much out of those as it had to go into war saving stamps which we would buy at sixpence each. The teacher would sort of take charge of the certificates, or have control over them, and he'd keep them. As years progressed we were able to cash them.

When the old school was removed, every screw and nail was taken, even the dimensions of the toilets and the holes were taken, so that when it was rebuilt it was exactly as it had been.

Reference : Centenary Committee, 1999. Wee Jasper Public School 1899 – 1999, Centenary Book.

The departmental website has this to say about the school today:

"Wee Jasper Public School was established in 1899 and has always been a one-teacher school. The buildings are attractive and well maintained. Nestled on nine acres in the picturesque Goodradigbee Valley, the old school house and school grounds are often the regular subject of tourist photos. We are proud of our school and make it a priority to present it in the best possible way."

[This entry for Wee Jasper school was contributed by Keith Amos, former teacher at The Mullion school nearby, and is an abridgement of the school's Centenary Book].

Teachers at Wee Jasper since 1949-1999

Robert J. Payne, 01/1949 - 12/1951
Donald Mc Hugh, 1/1952 - 12/1954

(School closed 12/1954 - 03/1956)

William Poole, 03/1956 - 08/1956
Frederick French, 09/1956 - 12/1956
Ken Shorten, 01/1957 - 12/1957
Philip B Sawell, 01/1958- 08/1958
Greg Doherty, 09/1958 - 04/1963
John Broughton, 05/1963 - 12/1965
Arthur McLaughlin, 02/1966 - 12/1968
Dennis R Cross, 01/1969 - 12/1970
Wayne Bourne, 02/1971 - 12/1974
Peter Otton 01/1975 - 12/1975
Gregory A Roberts, 02/1976 - 12/1977
Danny Ogilvy, 01/1978 - 2/1981
Ross Kenneth Couchman, 03/1981 - 12/1983
Wayne Francis Foran, 01/1984 - 12/1989
Juliet Whiteside, 1990
William ('Bill') Taylor (Acting from 04/1992), 07/1992 - 12/1992
Julie Newbury (Acting) 1993
Veronica Longley (Acting) 2 terms 1999

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