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Bronger, Mary Ann

Family background

Mary Ann Bronger was born in Ryde in 1868, second of nine children to James Bronger, an attendant at Gladesville Mental Hospital, and Mary Ann nee Ison, who was from a large farming family.

Pupil Teacher: Ryde Public School

In January 1885, sixteen-year-old Mary was accepted as a pupil teacher at Ryde Public School where she had been educated, and her younger siblings (two of whom would also pursue teaching) were still in attendance. An initial report recorded Mary was 'efficient and useful', possessed 'capital health', had 'very good' moral character, and submitted 'well prepared' home lessons. She progressed steadily through the mandated stages of her training over the next four years. In December 1889 she passed her final examination as a First-Class Pupil Teacher, although her results were not good enough to gain her a training college scholarship. She expressed a preference to remain at Ryde 'as long as possible'. Within a year, however, she was appointed to Googong Public School. At the same time, her younger brother William began as a pupil teacher at Hunters Hill Public School.

Googong Public School

Mary took charge of Googong in November 1890 with an average attendance of 18 students, all of Church of England background like herself. She lodged close to the school with the Brown family, receiving an annual salary of £96, which was double the amount she received in her final year as a pupil teacher. Reports of annual Googong school picnics organised by Mary reflect enthusiastic local engagement and the presence of Queanbeyan's Anglican minister Rev. Thomas Symonds.

By mid-1893 the attendance at Googong had fallen considerably and the possibility of converting it to half-time was communicated to residents. No immediate action was taken, however, with the local inspector recommending it continue unchanged for the present. In 1894 Mary requested permission to sit an examination in Sydney, pointing out to the Department that she could stay with her parents, and so save on accommodation expenses. Her application was supported by the local inspector who assessed her 'practical skill and usefulness as Fair to Very Fair'. After her exam was marked, Mary was informed she had failed to gain promotion but her paper was revised and she was awarded a qualification of Class IIIC.

In 1895, Mary's fifth year in charge of Googong, she asked for removal from the Queanbeyan district because a parent was consistently acting 'disagreeably' towards her and making her 'miserable'. The inspector supported Mary's request, drawing attention to Googong's low attendance and Mary's classification, which made her deserving of a better school. He proposed a three-way interchange of teachers from Lower Boro, Googong, and Shaw's Creek, to provide positions better suited to their relevant classifications and school enrolments. This resulted in Mary moving to Lower Boro.

Lower Boro Public School

Mary commenced at Lower Boro in October 1895, replacing Miss Madigan who had been moved to Shaw's Creek. Lower Boro had an average attendance of 17 students and Mary received a positive report at inspection in February 1896, the inspector rating her practical teaching skills as 'Fair', and her organisational ability and disciplinary power as 'Very Fair'. Presumably encouraged by this assessment, she attended another classification examination, once again prevailing on the Department to allow her to attend in Sydney and so stay with her parents.

The examination gained Mary promotion to Class IIIA - subject to a pass in Music - and in early 1897 she requested removal to higher ranked school to meet her new classification. Around this time, her youngest sister, Florence, began as a pupil teacher, while her brother William completed his training and was appointed to a small school. In August, Mary was offered a position in a Sydney school but declined, stating 'I would prefer to have charge of a small school'. A month later she was appointed to Canyan Leigh (between Taralga and Moss Vale), her departure from Boro eliciting a tribute that described her as 'highly esteemed by all her acquaintances, and furthermore, ... a painstaking and capable teacher.' ['Goulburn Evening Penny Post', 30 September 1897, p. 1.]

Canyan Leigh Public School

Mary commenced duty at Canyan Leigh (Canyonleigh) on October 1, 1896. It was a relatively new school, having been opened as a provisional school in 1895, then quickly converted to a public school. It was unpainted and lacked a verandah but tenders for these improvements were called shortly after Mary's arrival, and the work completed six months later. In June 1897 she requested permission to attend another examination in Sydney as she was 'desirous of passing Music', which she succeeded in doing. Mary remained at Canyan Leigh for three years, by which time she had been teaching for sixteen years. While her longevity as a teacher and her determination to improve her classification suggested an intention to continue in the profession, in early 1901 she resigned without gratuity.

Later life

Two months after resigning, Mary Bronger married grazier Henry George Sieler from Marulan, and as a married woman was known as Mary Ann. She lived the rest of her life on a property called 'Summer Hill' near Marulan, where she raised three children. Mary Ann died in 1946 and was buried in Marulan.

[Biography prepared by Joanne Toohey, 2023. Sources include NSW school teachers' rolls 1868-1908, NSW school and related records 1876-1979, historic newspapers, NSW births, deaths and marriages index, and 'Early Education and Schools in the Canberra Region', (1999) by Lyall Gillespie.]


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