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Michelago [1868 - 2018]

A Roman Catholic School operated in the Catholic Church at Michelago for some years before a Provisional School was established. In November 1866 there were 29 pupils and the teacher was John Boland. In 1868 parents complained that the school fee of 1/- per week was too high, and one parent, Patrick Reddan, refused to pay. After the School Board reduced the fee to sixpence Reddam sent his children with the reduced amount, but Boland refused to take it.

The Council of Education withdrew support to the Catholic school on 30 July 1868. Boland complained that he had not been given advance notice and kept the school going until the end of July. The Inspector recommended that he be paid at only half the normal rate for July in view of the small number of children attending.

On 10 September 1868 Rev Patrick White of Queanbeyan submitted an application for the establishment of a Provisional School at Michelago, and nominated John Jacob as teacher. The parents who agreed to send their children to the school were:

Dennis Cummins
William Cummins
Daniel Baldwin
Thomas Harman
Michael Hayes
James Lawler
Edward Ross
Thomas Eagan
John Kelly
Garrett Cotter
W J Livingston
Patrick Kelly

State aid of ₤36 per annum was granted from 24 August 1868, the day on which Jacob took up his duties as teacher. Having proved its viability the school became a Public School in July 1880.

When long-serving School Board member Rev James McAuliffe died in 1879, a proposal was submitted for Thomas McTiernan to replace him. Inspector J H Murray had other ideas however, noting that all existing Board members were Catholics, and recommending that new appointments should be non-Catholic. He also observed that the school was (still) being conducted in a Roman Catholic Chapel and that altar furniture, pictures and tablets relating to Catholic doctrines were exposed to the pupils at all times.

Some three years later the Architect for Public Schools, W E Kemp, submitted specifications and plans for a proposed new Public School and residence at Michelago. After a second call for tenders (three initial submissions being considered too high) the job was awarded to Sanders Helman at the price of ₤993. Helman was the builder of several schools in the district. There were then complaints about the proposed location of the new school – 'away in the bush two miles from the railway station' – but these were ignored. The Department of Lands had approved the appropriation of two acres for the school site – Portion 150, Parish of Monkellan, County of Murray – and the adjoining Portion 103A 'for school purposes' (this usually meant a paddock for the horses that teachers and children rode to school).

The new school was not for long at this location however. In 1896 the Hon Alexander Ryrie, MLC offered a new site for the school, and in January 1897 Adam Patterson's tender of ₤97/7/7 to relocate the school was accepted. On 14 April 1897 teacher James Lowe reported that he had taken possession of the relocated school. The school has continued at this location ever since and celebrated its sesquicentenary on 24th August 2018.

[Edited extract from Gillespie (1994) p. 98]

150 Years of Michelago Public School (29 Mar 2018)

Almost 500 local residents, present and past students, visitors and politicians converged today onto the tiny village of Michelago to celebrate its school's 150th birthday – a testament to the strength and importance of community.

The full day's celebrations, which included a range of live performances, music, speeches, exhibitions, arts/crafts stalls, the Rural Fire Brigade, NSW Ambulance and NSW Police presence, and the proverbial sausage sizzle, attracted participants from across the Monaro, and further afield in NSW, ACT, Victoria and Queensland.

Some past students sharing their memories dated their attendance at the two-room school back to the 1930s and 1940s when air-raid drills were commonplace.

Former senior public servant and journalist Marie Coleman, who attended the school from 1941-42 during World War II, said in her days, road signs were removed as well as the railway station sign in case enemy troops landed.

"The Japanese wouldn't be able to work out where they were," Ms Coleman said. "There was a lot of concern as Michelago was part of the area that had to be blacked out after dark.

"We had to do marching drills at school and there were slip trenches dug out in the schoolyard so we could practice air raid drills," she said.

Principal Claire Plummer said the sesquicentenary celebrations were an overwhelming success.

"The celebration was a testament to seeing members of the public join in and become members of their community," she said. "The Parents' and Citizens' Association, along with a volunteer committee devoted 12 months to the planning and presentation of the event, and it paid off wonderfully.

"Event manager Trish Williams spent the last night on-site to ensure an early start to the morning's bump-in of stalls, vintage cars, erection of tents, firing up of BBQs and parking arrangements for the hundreds of cars and their occupants," Mrs Plummer said.

Federal Member of Parliament for Eden-Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly paid tribute to Michelago and its 500 residents, and shared his family's history with the village. He also recognised the importance of community, reminding those present of the difficult times Tathra residents currently face after 70 homes were recently lost to fire.

Also attending were Bronnie Taylor MLC, Snowy Monaro Regional Council mayor John Rooney, former Eden-Monaro MP and chairman of the Mulloon Institute Gary Nairn, and Senator Jim Molan.

"Social media has been very helpful, as have local newspapers, radio stations and television news reports promoting the day; we would not have attracted such a good turn-out without their support," Mrs Plummer said. "Clearly the weather, the weekend and the welcome we rolled out all helped to make the 150th birthday one to remember.

"I won't be here for the next sesquicentenary, but the time capsule we've buried will provide plenty of insights and history for our successors," she added.



Gillespie, L. L. 1994. Early Education and Schools in the Canberra Region. The Wizard (Canberra local history series): Campbell

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Mrs Robina Lowe (Rogers)
Mrs Robina Lowe (Rogers)


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NSW Government schools from 1848

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