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Armidale’s Schools (1935 account)

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Wednesday 16 January 1935, The Sydney Morning Herald


Armidale’s Schools.


Because of its numerous schools and colleges and its geographical position, Armidale is sometimes spoken of as the Athens of the northern districts of New South Wales. It has much to justify this title. In addition to its Teachers’ College (described in the “Herald” of October 19) it has a Public High School, a Demonstration School, five fully registered private secondary schools, as well as schools for primary pupils and infants. Situated 3300 feet above sea level, with an invigorating climate, Armidale attracts more than 600 boarding pupils to its schools. Some of them come from homes as far north as Cairns and as far south as Gippsland.

Of these schools, the Demonstration School has the longest lineage. Opened as a National School in June, 1861, with 60 pupils, it became a Superior Public School in 1880, a District School in 1913, and a High School in 1920. Its occupancy as a High School was only temporary until the new High School building was completed In 1922. When the Armidale Teachers’ College was established, the old school became a Demonstration School.

The writer had an opportunity recently of visiting several of the Armidale schools. Approaching the High School through an avenue of young Canadian elms, he admired the sloping lawns and the display of floral colour. The outlook from the school entrance is disappointing, but the quadrangle commands a magnificent view of wooded slopes and cultivated paddocks with Mount Duval as a picturesque background. A large sports ground, a basket ball area, three cricket pitches, tennis courts, bicycle sheds for 150 bicycles, and a dressing shed provided from school funds with the willing help of Mr. O. F. Nott, all tell of the prominent part assigned to outdoor exercise. This exercise is not restricted to games. “All the gardening work,” said the headmaster, Mr. J. H. Killip. “is done by the boys under the supervision of Mr. Graham, one of the masters. This includes mowing the lawns, planting trees and shrubs, and constructing extensive rubble drains.” In the classrooms we heard the boys and girls sing tunefully “Daffodils,” “Sweet and Low,” and “Laugh a Bit.” A fine etching, “Wool Waggons,” several water-colours, and many medici prints adorn the walls, and in the Assembly Hall there Is a glass case of cups, trophies, and pennants won in inter-school sports. Among ex-pupils who have done well at the University are Edward H. St. .lohn, an exhibitioner and bursar in law, and Hugh Gordon, who gained a Walter and Eliza Hall research scholarship in veterinary science. The list of headmasters of the High School comprises Messrs. A. W. Ousbert, H. Craddock, W. Hatfield, J. Gibson, and J. Killip, and of the Public School, Messrs. R. B. Parry, W. Marshall, W. Swanton, J. Dennis, W. M. Kennedy, W. T. McCoy, G. W. Steinbeck, W. Cunningham. A. Wheaton. W. J. Harvey. J. G. Monaghan, A. Pattinson, J. Finlayson, E. Griffiths, and D. Stove. Six of these teachers became inspectors, and one was the late Director of Education in South Australia.


The Armidale School is the only “Great Public School” outside Sydney. Its fine buildings include classrooms and dormitories, a beautiful chapel, spacious sports grounds, and a large library. Old boys from this long established school are to be found all over Australia. Many are in the professions, some have given distinguished public service (one is a Cabinet Minister), others have entered the church, while many of the pastoralists in this State and Queensland received their education at “T.A.S.” Among recent, headmasters are the Rev. F. T. Perkins, Dr. Archdale and Rev, H. Sanger, M.A., the present head, to whose prowess as a scholar-athlete many trophies bear witness. Mr. Sanger has just prepared a special study-course for boys who, on passing the Intermediate, aim at going on the land. It includes English, mathematics, and economics from the official syllabus, and courses in (1) agricultural botany and biology, (2) scientific agriculture, and (3) station bookkeeping and farm economics. These last named subjects deal with the control of injurious insects and harmful fungi, Australian crop plants, parasites and pests of livestock, typical soil regions, fodders, forestry, dairy work, genetics, breeding, etc.

A visit was paid also to the De La Salle College, founded in 1908 in premises previously used by the Patrician Brothers. The present buildings comprise classrooms, dormitories, an assembly hall with film projector, dining-rooms, and a large steam-heating apparatus. To-day this college is one of the largest country schools of the order, and additions are contemplated which denote further progress. One interesting feature is a beautiful grotto in memory of Bishop P. J. O’Connor. This grotto is constructed of white pebbles, with an arched dome and a miniature waterfall. Another feature is a large swimming pool, 100ft by 30ft. The assembly hall and corridors abound in illustrations of cathedrals and reproductions of art treasures from Rome, Venice, Milan, and Padua. According to Brother Benildus, the founder of the order was John Baptist de la Salle, a contemporary of the exiled James II. The headquarters are at Lembecq, near Brussels. The order is a teaching order, whose membership exceeds 20,000.


The New England Girls’ School began in 1905 as a private school with 10 pupils, under Miss Florence Green. It was purchased by the Diocesan Council in 1907, and, under the successive guidance of Miss Margaret Murray, Miss Clarinda Murray, Miss Lyon, and, since 1925, Miss Nona Dumolo, B.A., the present headmistress, it has made steady progress. When the additions now planned are completed, the school will be able to accommodate 250 girls. It is wholly a boarding school, most of the girls coming from country districts in this State and Queensland. Among old pupils are Miss Ursula McConnel, who gained a Fellowship to Yale University for anthropological research, and is at present pursuing her researches in North Queensland. Miss Henzel Conroy, B.Sc. also gained a research scholarship. Recently the Duke of Gloucester visited the various schools described in this article. He also paid a visit, to two homes of ex-puplls of N.E.G.S.- the Misses Dangar and the Misses Scott McLeod.

Two important girls’ schools in the township itself are St. Ursula’s College and the Hilton School for Girls. The former is a boarding school conducted by the Ursuline Nuns, the Rev. Mother M. Alexis being principal. A day school for girls (St. Annice’s) is also in operation. The Hilton School is a day and boarding school for girls. Miss Tendall, M.A., the principal, has had many successes with her pupils for years past. But although all these schools gain their share of success in the annual examinations, the visitor sees not the slightest sign of pressure in study. Rather do matters such as healthful exercises and organised games play an increasing part in school life. In matters of discipline, the teachers seldom appear to dominate their pupils: rather does there exist a friendship which is based on mutual understanding and respect.

Written by macalba

November 30, 2010 at 8:06 pm

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