Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A History of Seventeen Central Victoria Schools

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The following is a reprint of a book review from several years ago. More copies have recently been unearthed and are available at The Book Wolf.

A History of Seventeen Central Victoria Schools: Baringhup, Baringhup East, Baringhup West, Bradford, Brokenback, Eastville, Gowar, Muckleford, Muckleford South, Neereman, Nuggetty, Porcupine Flat, Shelbourne, Shelbourne South, Tarrengower, Walmer, Walmer North by Ken James and Sue Barnett.

The Nuggetty Land Protection Group has been busy these last few years, producing a couple of heritage calendars (and one contemporary) with great photos on frameable quality paper. In 2018 their next project was this very large and comprehensive history written by Sue Barnett and Ken James, both previously-published historians.

It’s an unusual book in that the target audience is almost exclusively people who attended those schools (and perhaps local historians) – and it has sold mostly by word of mouth. It is punctuated by historic photos, news clippings and documents. Much of the information is a revelation, as in the following:

A 1912 article in the Mount Alexander Mail lamented the Education department’s neglect of Muckleford State School, which had not been painted or repaired inside or out for 20 years. Between 20 and 30 students attended under a single female teacher.

The fence would have ‘gone to rack and ruin’ but for the work of local residents; an outbuilding had been destroyed by fire and not replaced; it swarmed with flies in the warmer months, but no screens for the windows or doors were supplied; a request for a fly-proof safe to store the children’s lunches had been refused, and they were instead left on the porch where neighbourhood dogs often stole them; there was no shelter shed; the teacher’s residence leaked so badly that, ‘one has to use an umbrella when cooking or doing other work’ in the kitchen; diphtheria had broken out among the children, which was attributed to the unsanitary state of the school building. It came to the attention of Castlemaine MLA Harry Lawson (later premier of Victoria), who got to work – and within three months, work had commenced at the school.

Last year The Book Wolf was visited by a bloke from NSW hoping to learn more about his family history in central Victoria; in this book, we found his surname attached to a ‘Work Mistress’ on the staff of Nuggetty Gully School between 1869 and 1875; she had married one of his ancestors.

Why isn’t Maldon in there? I hear you asking. It was decided that the project would only include schools that had closed. This was a very limited-edition publication, and The Book Wolf has two of the last copies in captivity.

Tarrangower Times 17 February 2023

This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 17 February 2023.


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