History and Stories. Adapted from ‘Blyth: A Silo of Stories’ Winifred N. Johnson


The residents of Blyth were agitating for a school in the township itself. On 19 January 1877, a deputation waited on Council, asking it to urge the Board of Education to erect a public school in the town. There were about 60 children of an age to attend. Mr C.B. Young offered Council a site for a school and had canvassed the residents for subscriptions for the building of same. He forwarded a cheque for 100 pounds ‘being the amount of local subscriptions in order that a school might be erected at an early date’. The Blyth Public School building was completed in August 1877, at a cost of 740 pounds, three shillings and ninepence, which included the cost of the residence. The school opened with Miss Cox as the teacher of the 66 pupils. The School was under the control of the Clare Board of Advice, and had Miss Grace Kerr, a former teacher at the Blyth Plains School, as the teacher for the next four and a half years. The number of students grew each year with the teachers and students contributing to the cultural and social life of the town. The teachers at these early schools had many menial tasks to perform and had to adhere to strict rules of conduct. In
‘Rules for Teachers, 1877’, were the following:

The teachers were also required to supply dry earth and ashes for the ‘earth closets’ and inspect them daily, making sure that ‘they are in clean condition, as well as seeing that they are washed out at least once a week’ (presumably by the students). To maintain a high standard of teaching, 60 per cent of pupils had to pass, otherwise the salary of the teacher was docked. Conditions improved during the next decade, but there were other problems.
At Blyth in 1888 there was a pressing need to increase the size of the schoolroom as 60 of the children were taught in a room, which at best, seated 40. The overflow was accommodated in a galvanised iron shed which was erected in 1884. After constant pressure from the teacher and parents, the room was enlarged. One important event in which the students of Blyth Primary School participated, in June 1897, was the Diamond Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria. The Northern Argus of 2 July, says

‘All the public schools of the district, including Blyth, Blyth Scrub, Everard and Hart, with some children from Kybunga, assembled at the Blyth Public School at 11 a.m., where they were presented with Jubilee Medals. A procession was then arranged. The Chairman of the District Council of Blyth, Mr E.A.S. Johnson, led on horseback, followed by members of the Blyth Rifle Company under Captain R.H. Shepherd. They were followed by the members of the Blyth Model Parliament, then the children of the Blyth School, followed by the other schools, and all marched through the principal street of the township, singing patriotic songs.’

‘They were drawn up in front of the Hall where addresses were delivered by Messrs Nancarrow, Wiltshire, Sampson, McEwin, Hartwig, Dunstone and Drennan. A volley was fired by the Military. The procession retired to the recreation ground where refreshments and entertainment were provided. A social and concert in the hall in the evening brought the celebration, which was considered to be the most imposing demonstration ever held in Blyth, to a close?
By 1899 there were 122 students on the roll of the Blyth School, but as attendance was not compulsory, the average attendance was 77. In 1912 the annual salary of a teacher was:
Men — first year — 100 pounds; subsequent years — 120 pounds.
Women — first year — 80 pounds; subsequent — 100 pounds.

The Education Department Boards of Advice consisted of influential members of the community who were seconded to the position. Mr E.C. Deland of Blyth, in 1915, was a member of the Clare Board and attended the Blyth School Prizegiving to award some special prizes for attendance.

These were:To Daphne Knowles for only missing two days in four years.

To Bonnie Knowles for attending every day for three years.

To Reg. Mugge for missing just a half day in three years,

To Hartley and Hazel Dunstone for attending every day in 1915.

The School Board of Advice was replaced in 1916 with a School Committee of seven parents of either sex, elected by the parents, bi-annually. The first committee for Blyth was enc Dr. Ethel Heynemann, Mrs M. Williams, Messrs F.B. beg Turner, E.C. Deland (Chairman), W. Pratt, J.A. Jamieson, and J.S. McEwin.

The new Education Act also made attendance compulsory for students under the following conditions: If six to seven years of age and reside within one mile of school — attend every day. Seven to nine years — if reside within two miles. Nine to 14 years — if reside within three miles of the school. By 1917, the teacher, Mr E.M. Adams, had 101 students enrolled with an average attendance of 73. He had the assistance of four senior student monitors, A.R. Ninnes and J.R. Langrehr and Misses D. Eldredge and M. Harmer. The two male monitors attended the Junior Teacher’s Entrance Examination in Adelaide. Master Ninnes was successful, and enrolled at the Adelaide High School.

From 1911 to 1914 Mr. Adams also conducted evening classes for adults at which he taught English, Maths and Geography for a fee of 10/6 per term. The children of Blyth School have always been encouraged to plant and nurture trees. When the school began, there was no reticulated water, but once the town was connected to the Bundaleer scheme, tree planting by the students was a regular occurrence. In 1909, with the help of Messrs Deland, Hartwig and Buzacott, they planted 45 trees in the town. In 1911, the number increased to 400, and in 1915, they planted 230 gum and pepper trees along the Blyth/Snowtown road. In the four years of World War 1, the students took part in many patriotic marches, etc., where they sang rousing songs. They collected goods for the troops overseas as well as forwarding to the Cheer-up Hut in Adelaide regular parcels of food to feed the troops on leave. In his report in 1918, the Inspector, Mr S.H. Warren, stated that their patriotic effort is by no means being neglected, though the children do not have many medals to show. After War ceased and the Memorial was built, fund raising to pay the outstanding debt lagged, and it was the school which revived that effort by raising 25 pounds at a special bazaar, which then left only 20 pounds to pay. In 1918, the school received from the Education Department, an Honour Certificate for their war work of forwarding large amounts of goods for the troops and the sum of 190 pounds. By 1919 the school was again overcrowded, and, while extensions were carried out, the billiard room at the Coffee Palace, owned by Mr Gursansky, was rented so that a class could be accommodated there. Despite their cramped conditions, the students were well behaved, as, in 1921, Inspector Fairweather recorded that ‘I have noticed the street behaviour during my stay — all the children I have met have saluted and spoken a pleasant “good morning” That year a new junior classroom was opened. It was 24 feet square, was fitted with dual desks to seat 60 children (of the 114 then on the roll), and was built by local contractors, Haupt and Leyson, at a cost of 835 pounds. 1921 was also a good year for student Geoffrey Dodd, who brought credit to Blyth by coming second in South Australia in the Qualifying Certificate examinations, with total of 671 points out of 700.
From 1922, Higher Primary classes were available at the local school for a few years, eliminating the need for students who wished to go on to higher education, travelling by train each day to either Gladstone or Balaklava. To broaden their knowledge, the older students were taken on educational excursions. In 1930, the Chairman of School Committee, Mr Lanyon, took a party to visit the ‘Palace of Industry’ in Adelaide, where they saw pottery, rope, nails, Bryant and May’s matches and Holden car bodies being made.

A highlight in 1932 was the visit to the school of the Governor of South Australia, Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven, and Lady Hore-Ruthven, who were welcomed to the town by the Chairman of the Council, Mr J.S. McEwin, and to the school by Mr Lanyon. The Returned Soldiers, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts formed a guard of honour for the distinguished guests.
As it was at the height of the Depression, the Governor in his address, commended the people of Blyth for ‘your grit and determination during the stringent times through which we have been passing’ On behalf of the scholars, Joan Beebee presented Lady Hore-Ruthven with a posy of their war work of flowers. In November 1933, 36 children sat at Blyth for their Qualifying Certificate Examinations. Many of these students were from the outlying small schools. All school children were encouraged to sign the Temperance Pledgebook, whereby they promised to abstain from drinking intoxicating liquor before the age of 21 and to encourage their companions to do the same. From 1890 to 1938, 168 pupils of the Blyth School had signed ‘the pledge’ A new innovation in the classroom in 1936 was a music lesson which was given ‘over the air’ from 11 a.m. to 11.15a.m.

During World War 2, students were once more involved in making and collecting goods for the troops, while at a working bee, air raid shelters for the school were dug in the grounds.

Religious Instruction was introduced into the curriculum for the first time in 1941, when Ministers of Religion and Lay people came into the classroom to teach the subject.

As the number of people involved in rural industries declined, so the number of small schools decreased, with many of these students then attending the Blyth School. Bo-Peep closed in 1929, Everard in 1937, Woodlands in 1939, Harmerville in 1941, and Bowillia in 1951, when the teacher, Miss E. Brian, resigned to get married. Some of these schools were held in buildings which were built by community subscription and were used for district functions as well. Few are still standing.

Another local student to bring honour to the school was Audrey Fiegert, who in 1944 topped the State (for the second time), in the needlework examination. In 1949, the old ‘fire alarm bell’ obtained in 1920 by the Vigilance Society, was erected as the school bell by Mr F.

The policy of instilling care of the town and surroundings in the students was rewarded in 1949 (and 1953) when the school was awarded the R.T. Rose Shield for Civic Pride and Citizenship, proving that, in those 80 years of education on the Plains of Blyth, many important lessons had been learnt.

A — is for Adams, a digger of dams,
B — for Bray who teaches and crams.
C- for Crettenden who is terribly smart, but failed to get land in the Hundred of Hart.
D— for Duke, who is Frank in the face, failed to win with Eldredge in the race,
E— for Eime, our councillor elected,
F— for Freeman, who ought to be corrected.
G— for Gursansky, a rather queer name, and a funny little Doitcher is that very same,
H— for Hartwig, our calico man, who will sell groceries too — if he can,
J for Johnson who brings meat and our bread, but it’s not always as sweet as he said,
K— for Kirchner, fond of his gin and ale,
L— for Lyford who does up our mail.
M — for Mitchell who hammers and stitches,
N- for Ninnes, who mends his own breeches.
0 — for Odevahn who lives in the scrub
P— for Parry, who stays at the pub.
Q— for Quinlan who lives in the hills,
R – for Roberts, our Major, who drills,
Sーfor Shepherd, our worthy JP.
T— for Trestrail a terror on bulls you see,
V — for Victorsen who drives the brown ponies,
W —for Williams and Wyatt, two other old cronies,
X — is a letter, which we draw and, if witnessed, Will stand at law,
Y — for Young — our CB, who is fast growing old.
Z— for Zweck who always looks cold.

In the days when the only way to get water was to lower a bucket on a windlass into the well, a farmer had his well-bucket and rope stolen. Instead of an advertisement threatening the thief with dire consequences, the farmer invited the malcontent to ‘come and get the well, as it is now of no further use’

NEWS 1951 TO 1990
The Chairman of the School Committee, Mr A.J. Sims welcomed everyone to the school in 1951 when the students staged a pet show and fancy dress as part of the celebrations to acknowledge the advancement which had occurred in Australia in the 50 years of Federation. The official Jubilee train was open for inspection at the local railway station, and each child was presented with a Jubilee medal. Students were encouraged to take part in a Temperance examination which was sponsored by the Order of Rechabites. Those who did well in the exams received an illuminated certificate. Trevor Zweck topped the other candidates who were Brooke Bateman, Barry Paterson, Patricia Newton, John Annells, Marilyn Sims, Gavin
Thomas and Helen Inglis. They continued with their tree-planting programme by planting 100 of the 1,000 aleppo pine trees forming a double row from the hospital to the beginning of the golf links.

Others were involved in the ceremony – Sir Robert Nicholls planted the first tree, Mr J.S. McEwin the second, followed by the office bearers of town organisations.
Mr Alf Cockburn was given the task of planting the rest, which were then protected from stock and rabbits by a 24-chain fence which was erected by the parents.

There were some fast runners at the school in this decade— Kathleen Brusnahan, Dianne O’Hara, John Lloyd and Richard Hennig.

The health of the school age children was of primary importance. They were immunised against Diphtheria and Whooping Cough in 1952, and a free milk scheme, whereby each child was given 1/3 pint of milk which was paid for by the Commonwealth Government was introduced in 1956. In 1954 the old sanitary pan system was dispensed with and a septic tank installed at the school. More trees were planted near the golf links in 1961, after an Arbor Day address by Mr Arnold Wood.

The new school oval, which had first been mooted in 1959 was officially opened on 17 September 1965 by the Minister for Education in SA, the Hon. R.R. Loveday. The Deputy Director of Education, Mr Jack Walker, who had been a scholar at the Blyth School, was also present. The Chairman of the School Committee, Mr Roy Hentschke said that the Committee raised £500 in two years towards the establishment of the oval on four acres of ground to the north of the schoolyard. Having the oval on which to practise, must have improved the sporting standards of the children, as in 1967, they won the
Quirke Shield in the SAPSASA sports from seven other primary schools in the area.
Congratulations were in order too, for a former student of the school, Miss Lois Zweck, who in 1967, topped the State in the examination on the German language at University level to win the Schulze prize.

Just because they were at school on the day that the first men landed on the moon did not mean that the local children missed seeing this thrilling feat. Arrangements were made for them to view it on the television sets of nearby residents.

In the 1970’s two new buildings were erected — a new administration building, followed in 1973 by a lunch shed. The Welfare Club was busy as usual in 1970, when members baked and sold pasties for the 77 student’s lunches twice each month.

A TV set was bought and reading aids purchased. The Welfare Club Officers were President, Mrs Seaman, Secretary, Mrs B. Kennett and Treasurer, Mrs M. Williams.

As a memorial, a Mundy Scholarship was established by Mrs Dorothy Mundy. Mr Mundy was the Head Teacher at the school from 1959 to 1965, and this award was given to the best boy and the best girl student each year. In 1974, Karen Williams and John Humphrys were the recipients. The cultural development of the children was not neglected, as in 1977, the students of Years 5, 6 and 7performed “The Spirit of Blyth’ at the ‘Sing Your Heads Off’ Opera Festival in Adelaide.

On the 8th and 9th April 1978, the school celebrated its Centenary, inviting all old scholars of Blyth, Harmerville, Woodlands, Bowillia, Boucaut, Hart and Everard Schools to join in. It was a great success with a procession, a back-to-school enactment, a ball at the Institute, Church services on Sunday and a community lunch.

A money-raiser with a difference was the very successful Square-dance night at Neville Jericho’s barn in 1980 when $700 was raised to buy school equipment.

Another highlight of that year was the visit for a week of students from Modbury School in Adelaide. They were billeted with Blyth families, and students of both schools visited Mintaro Slate Quarries and Martindale Hall, Sevenhill Monastery and Geralka Farm. The other Primary School in the Blyth District Council area, the Kybunga School, celebrated its Centenary in April 1981, when 350 people returned for the festivities, which included the unveiling of a plaque at the school.

The children from the two schools joined together for some social occasions such as the Blyth/Kybunga Youth Group meetings when old scholars and present-day children entertained senior citizens and also organised a paper drive.

A fund-raiser organised each year by the Welfare Club was the Melbourne Cup Luncheon held in the Institute. The ladies provided a sumptuous meal for 150 and a bevy of TV sets were set up, enabling a good day at the races’ to be enjoyed, while raising a substantial amount for school amenities.

By 1985 it was decided that a third classroom was needed at the school, so the library was re-located to facilitate that.

As well as their usual lessons, the students broadened their knowledge by making chocolates for the Hospital Fete sweets stall, and collecting money for the Deaf Society, as an extension of their Health Studies.

Some students also learnt Ballet dancing in their spare time from Mrs Kathy Barnes. Sixteen of these students passed their Cechetti Classical Ballet examinations in Adelaide in December 1985.

The school also had a very active Junior Red Cross.

In September 1987, students in Years 5, 6 and 7 organised a mini Blyth Show, taking three days of concerted effort to do so. They received 190 entries at 2c. per entry in the nine sections which included cut flowers, neatest school work, painting, butterfly picture and flower arranging. Most scholars exhibited, making the job of the judges, Judy Alm and Marilyn Paterson, very difficult. $10.83 was raised for Junior Red Cross.

The Blyth children joined in with Clare for activities associated with the Come Out 87′. The theme was Up, Up and Away’, with many dressing in costumes such as Mary Poppins, Angels, aeroplanes, frisbies and butterflies. At Blyth, they painted a mural on the wall of the Serv-Well store and decorated the school fence with art work. At Easter time an Easter bonnet competition at the school was a change from Easter eggs and bunnies. One of the major fund-raisers that year was the Country and Western night organised by the School Council and held in Jericho’s barn. It was a fun night for all the family with “Redpath Country’ supplying the music, a bush supper of chicken, lamb and damper and a huge bonfire to keep out the
In sport, seven students participated in 1988 in Mid-North SAPSASA athletic trials, with five of them reaching the final heats. Marc Johnson achieved all firsts in his five events. Those attending were Troy Stirling, Rochelle Eime, Lea Nelson, Patrick Turner, Lenida Thurtell and Grant Walter.

The Bi-Centennial Book week placed the emphasis on Australian History. Blyth and Kybunga Schools invited the SA Judge of the Book of the Year, M/s Fran Kelly, artist Dianne McGhee and local author, Win Johnson to address the students.

As well, the children had a ‘dig’ for dinosaur bones, enacted the arrest of Ned Kelly and had a poster competition which was won by Glenn Hayes, Deborah Collins and Narelle Dall
Another visitor to the school in 1988 was a blind person accompanied by his Guide dog, which gave scholars an insight into a different life-style, and made them aware of the difficulties faced every day by blind people. As a result of the visit, the students arranged a Walkathon, which raised $320 for a combined walk total of 211 km.

The school children learnt about tree propagation during a camp which was held at Arbury Park in the Adelaide Hills.

The school also became part of the Bi-Centennial ‘Greening of Australia’ Project. The parents and the groundsman, Leighton Fuller were involved in all activities, and the Principal reported that little at the school is vandalised and the children genuinely care for their environment’.
During 1988 discussions took place with regard to a merger of the Blyth and Kybunga Primary Schools. In September, a proposal to amalgamate was lodged with the Education Department by the Kybunga Parents’ Association, with the proposition that the combined school be conducted at Blyth with Mr Neville Johnson as Principal. Of the 17 Kybunga students, 11 would go by school bus to Blyth. This merger became fact when 63 students from Blyth and Kybunga began the school year at the Blyth Primary School. in February 1989.
To accommodate the extra children, transportable rooms were installed and the original stone building was re-furbished.

The Blyth School Parent Club (which supersedes the Welfare Club in name, but not commitment), staged a fashion parade in 1990 at which $900 was raised for the school. The A.G.M. saw Helen Wiech take the responsibility of President, Karen Hayes as the Vice-President, Jenny Collins the Secretary and Jenny Humphrys the Treasurer.
The 1990 School Council is led by John Wood, President, Maurice Wiech, Vice-President, Andrew Hentschke, Secretary and Trevor Conradi, Treasurer.

From a total of up to eight schools scattered in the 1900’s, through the Hundred of Blyth, in 1990 there is just one school in that area.