By Maidee Smith
Parkfield School No. 1 – July 1870 to June 1923
It wasn’t until 1871 that the Elementary Education Act was passed in WA. The Act made attendance compulsory at school for all children aged from 6 to 14 years provided that they did not live more than 3 miles from a school. Many settlers had endeavored to educate their children themselves prior to that time or had engaged governesses and tutors.
The Rose family at ‘Parkfield’ had children who required teaching. So, when on Tuesday 16 April 1869, a man called in the afternoon to offer his services as a teacher at their school, Mrs Rose was pleased to engage him and asked him to come ‘as soon as things are ready’. In May of the same year, she had their workman, Thomas, ‘making desks for the schoolroom’, and in November, the Inspector from Bunbury, Mr Atkinson, came to ‘Parkfield’ to inspect the school. Schooling must have been held initially in the homestead, as the building on Buffalo Lane was not completed until the middle of 1870. In June of that year, Thomas was putting the windows in the schoolroom. In July, he was putting on the shingles and Mason had started building the school chimney.
Parkfield School No. 1 in 1921
While school construction proceeded, George Newly Wardell, who had come to ask for a teaching job, must have been giving lessons at the house. He was an educated man who had arrived in WA aboard the Lord Dalhousie on 25 December 1863 and was working at ‘Spring Hill’, the neighbouring farm which belonged to Ben Piggott. We do not know how many pupils he had at the beginning but there were five Rose sons from Mr Rose’s first marriage. His first wife, Ann Bishop Rose née Allnutt, had died in 1864 and in July of 1865 he had re-married. Also, Mr Rose employed a number of families on his farm – the Milligans, O’Connors, Melon and ‘old Roily’, so they could have had children old enough to attend school. The schoolroom was not very large, built like a workman’s cottage of the time of wooden slab and shingled.
Mr Wardell did not remain very long and left for Melbourne on 29 April 1872. He was followed at ‘Parkfield’ by A Heckt and D McConnell, but by 1874 there were not enough children in the classes so the school closed. As in so many of these country schools, this set the pattern for the future – schools were closed almost as often as they were open. ‘Parkfield’ re-opened for another short period in 1876, when Isa Mitchell, the daughter of the manager of ‘Belvedere Farm’ on the west side of the estuary, became the teacher. The school closed again and as the Rose family increased in the next few years, their father employed Augusta Dorinda Ker, who arrived at ‘Parkfield’ on 7 June 1879, to take over the education and care of five of the Rose children – Marianne, Lorne, Gus, Percy, and Lena (a baby of six months). Miss Ker was employed as a Nursery/Governess and had done her teacher’s training at Miss Cowan’s School for Girls in Perth.
Very soon after Miss Ker’s arrival, Mr Rose was prevailed upon by his neighbours – the Clifton’s – to include their three boys Willie, Arthur and Maitland, in the school lessons. So they joined the children at ‘Parkfield’ walking up from their home, ‘Rosamel’, on the southern boundary of ‘Parkfield’ beside the estuary. With eight pupils of varying ages, Miss Ker must have been busy, as she had to attend to the little children as well. At that time Mr Withers and later Mr Purnell, who were Anglican Ministers in Bunbury, would come to ‘Parkfield’ once a month to give services at the school house, while on other Sundays, Mr Rose would give an evening service in the dining room at ‘Parkfield’. Mr Purnell began his ministry in Bunbury in 1880 and was interested in the education of the many young children who lived far away from any school. This too was a pattern followed for many years, where the Anglican Minister in Bunbury would help outlying communities in their endeavors to get an education for their children. A letter published in the Southern Times in 1890 echoed the concern of the Rev. Joseph Withers of Bunbury who wrote in an article in support of the establishment of the Ferguson school, that there were ‘17 children roaming the bush with no schooling’ in the area.
Though not quite roaming the bush, the children at the head of Leschenault Inlet had a school available but there were not enough of them to warrant a teacher. However, the Rev. Purnell stirred up the Education Department to allow some of the children from the Australind school to come up to ‘Parkfield’ to make up the numbers. He then prevailed upon Miss Ker to take the post of teacher. In her diary, she records he ‘persuaded me after some trepidation to take it’ and he would come out to the school every second month to give religious instruction.
The schools at that time were supervised by an inspector and controlled by a school board. Mr Atkinson was the Inspector, who came to take the children for their examinations, and Dr Lovegrove of the school board accompanied him. They came before the Christmas holidays, and although agitated on behalf of her pupils, they did not disgrace her and the children did quite well in the examinations.
As she was not accustomed to the paper work and records required in a government school, Miss Ker found the quarterly returns something of a trial. However, Mr Paisley, a teacher in Bunbury, came to her assistance and ‘kindly initiated me into the mysteries’ as she reports in her diary. She spent a weekend in Bunbury staying with the Purnell’s so Mr Paisley could show her how to do the returns.
At Christmas, the children were given two weeks holiday, with one week at Easter, a week in the middle of winter and another at Michaelmass (September). Miss Ker recalls in her diary a highlight of the school year, for her pupils and herself, was the day that Bishop Parry came out from Bunbury with Mr Purnell for the consecration of the private cemetery at ‘Spring Hill’, Mr Ben Piggott’s farm. Everybody went to the ceremony and all walked around and around the cemetery saying a psalm as they walked. After, there was a lunch party – a ‘sumptuous feast’ as she reports. Bishop Parry and Mr Purnell then returned to ‘Parkfield’ where they spent the night.
In 1882 or 1883 there was a serious out-break of measles in the colony. Miss Ker caught the disease and unwittingly gave it to all her pupils. She felt ill for a week, but not knowing what was the matter, continued to teach until one day she was too ill to get out of bed. As all the children had caught the measles, it would have been a trying time for Mrs Rose to have her children sick and nobody to help her with them.
Marianne Rose was sent away to Perth to further her schooling and was to be trained to take over the Parkfield school. In May of 1885, she returned from Perth and Miss Ker was relieved of her job. Miss Ker sought other employment, later marrying Algernon Clifton and raising her family at ‘Alverstoke’ near Brunswick. Marianne Rose continued to teach her brothers and sisters, the Clifton children and others from around ‘Parkfield’ and the estuary until she resigned from the Department in 1892. Just prior to her resignation, the School Inspector had visited and reported, ‘Miss Rose satisfactory as a teacher, says she is considering resigning. Hope she will not as the children are improving’. He was not so impressed by the school itself and his report reads:- ‘Parkfield school building needs thorough repairs. Of rough slabs, far apart, which allows in wind and rain. Quite unfit for a school in its present state. One part of the floor is under water in winter. Chimney smokes so cannot light fire. School should be closed. Many articles required, but cannot recommend they be sent until school fit to receive them. Teacher and children diligent. Four less children than last year’.
The school was repaired and he pronounced it as ‘fairly comfortable’, but the numbers had dropped and when Miss Rose resigned, the school closed. During the following year, 1893, the numbers had increased enough by July for Marianne Rose to write to the Department offering to board a teacher at ‘Parkfield’ if the school could be re-opened. It re-opened on 3 October 1893, with Marion Buchanan as teacher. Miss Buchanan had received her certificate of competency as a teacher in 1891. Her first request to the Department was for a clock to use at the school.
One of her pupils was Maud Alice Reading (married name – Milligan) who began school at Parkfield when Marianne Rose was teaching in 1892. Her parents, Elizabeth and William Reading were farming at ‘Runnymede’, north of ‘Parkfield’. Mrs. Milligan’s father, William Reading, was an educated man and had also taught at Parkfield school in 1872. Her mother was a daughter of Sarah and Ben Piggott of ‘Spring Hill’, and to get to school, Mrs Milligan would ride her horse to her grand-parents at ‘Spring Hill’ where it would be cared for while she walked down to school – about 3 miles. Quite a long trip for a small child. She only went to school to Grade 3. Her companions were Nellie, Elizabeth and Keziah Jones, Bessie, Florence, Ella and Harry Rose, Lionel, Loftus, Violet and Janet Clifton, Florence Reading and Ernie Manning.
At the school, there was some concern expressed about the water supply. In January of 1894, Miss Buchanan wrote requesting a new tank. However, the school building did not belong to the Department and they replied that Mr Rose was supposed to keep it in repair and that the request should be directed to him. The numbers were dwindling away once more, and on 11 November 1896, Marion Buchanan was notified of her transfer to the Greenbushes school that year. The Parkfield school remained closed for some time.
In May 1914, Mrs Maitland Clifton wrote to the Department asking that the Parkfield school be re-opened as the Australind school was too far away for her young children, aged 4½ and 6 years, to attend. She offered to board the teacher, and to have school lessons at her house, but nothing became of it as the other parents nearby would not help to pay the teacher.
Mrs Isabella Clifton then offered her services as teacher. She informed the Department that though she was not ‘government trained’, she had taught privately before her marriage. A further request for re-opening the school was made in November 1915. The list sent to substantiate the request contained the following names – Vera, Gilbert and Douglas Clifton, Richard and John Howarth, Albert, Beryl Fredrick and William Reading and John O’Rourke (whose father worked at ‘Parkfield’).
In 1916, the school was used ‘half time’ with Australind. Mr George H Petterson was the teacher and he spent three days at Australind and two days at Parkfield. This gave the children some schooling – it was quite common at that time in country areas for schools to operate like this with the parents paying the teacher’s wages. He began at Parkfield on 12 June 1916 and he was obliged to improvise for desks and tables while he waited for the Department to send furniture. It turned out that his requirements had been sent but had gone via Harvey to the Coast School at Myalup. The children on the roll were three Jones’, one Cargeeg, one O’Rourke, one Clifton, two Cliftons, one Howarth, two Rodgers, two Pearces, one Oldham and one Milligan. The parents were again disappointed when the school closed, but this time it was not a lack of numbers, but because Mr Petterson had left to enlist. Many male teachers had enlisted and gone to World War 1 which made it hard for teaching staff. Parkfield school resumed as a part-time school on 11 March 1918, opening three days a week and became a full time school again on 22 August 1918.
Ethel Clifton, daughter of Loftus Clifton of ‘Rosamel’, remembers a Miss Smith teaching at Parkfield, followed by Miss Seymour. Miss Seymour tragically drowned in the holidays when she was at Nannup and so for the remainder of the year, Miss Marie Butler was their teacher. Miss Smith had been scared of snakes – though few of her pupils were. They grew accustomed to seeing snakes about their farms and on their long walks to school – and their next teacher, Miss Rooney did not like them either. Miss Rooney opened the school on 4 March 1920 and her reminiscences are noted separately. Due to the large number of snakes, the dilapidated state of the building and the fact that most of the children now lived to the north of ‘Parkfield’, the Department agreed to build a new school. For this purpose, three acres of land were resumed from the then owner of ‘Parkfield’, George Henry Cargeeg. On 23 July 1923, the school house from Upper Ferguson was re-sited on the Old Coast Road as the new school for Parkfield. It was during Miss Rooney’s teaching days at Parkfield that Lyall Jones, then one of the older boys, caused quite a stir by breaking the cane with which he was punished. Even in his seventies, he remembers it quite clearly and vows he was being caned for something he hadn’t done, therefore feeling quite justified in breaking the cane as he did.
Parkfield School No. 1, pupils and teacher, 1921
In 1921, the old building was no longer shingled, the roof having been covered with corrugated iron. However the remaining shingles could be seen under the iron and as there was no ceiling, the snakes could be seen in the rafters. Miss Rooney boarded with the Maitland Clifton family on ‘Rosamel’ farm. The Loftus Clifton’s lived in their own house on ‘Rosamel’ too. She had a nice big room with doors that opened onto the verandah and faced the estuary. However, she often found it lonely there and being part of a large family, she went home to the family home in Eileen Street, Bunbury, whenever she could on weekends.
On Mondays, she would ride her bicycle from Bunbury out to the school, and on one occasion had a puncture so she had to push her bike. Tiring of this, and feeling very hot, she left it at a nearby farm house and walked in the shallows of the Estuary, up to ‘Rosamel’. Occasionally, her father would sail his small boat up the Estuary, to take her home on Fridays. She enjoyed sailing, and looked forward to seeing her father’s sail coming. However, the evening they got becalmed was not so good. When they finally drifted near to Turkey Point they were towed home, utilizing a motor boat, by Mr Lyons who lived there.
It was during Miss Rooney’s time as a teacher at Parkfield, in 1921, that Mr Cargeeg was fatally injured. During harvesting, he accidentally was drawn into the chaff cutter and killed. Mrs Cargeeg went to stay with her mother for a time. At the time, ‘Parkfield’ was the only farm with a telephone and following Mr Cargeeg’s death, Miss Rooney found it was very sad to go there to use the telephone as it had been such a lively, happy home before this tragedy. Mrs Cargeeg had been kind to Miss Rooney, and she would walk down to the school on cold, winter afternoons with hot coffee and lamingtons for everyone, so the children had afternoon tea before they set out on their cold, often long walk home.
There was an old cottage in the bush east of ‘Rosamel’, which Miss Rooney saw in 1923. She was told it had belonged to the Clarkes. It was derelict then, but on some of the walls it could be seen they had been papered over with pages of the Illustrated London News. She often took the children on ‘nature walks’, both through the bush and to the estuary. For the Christmas break-up picnic, all the families would gather at the estuary and have a lovely day. When the school moved further north it wasn’t so convenient to go on these rambles and both teacher and pupils missed them very much.
Although enjoying her years at Parkfield, Miss Rooney was lonely for her family and in 1924 asked for a transfer to Bunbury. When Greta Baldock left the South Bunbury Infants School, Irene Rooney was given her place and left Parkfield (No.2) school in 1924.
Miss Mollie McIntyre became the teacher at Parkfield. Miss Rooney remembers her as a great Labor Party supporter and very outspoken about politics. On one of the holidays, she saw her with a Labor placard, picketing some works in Perth. After the next holidays, the new school was re-opened by Myrtle Owens. The history of the second school at Parkfield follows.
Parkfield School No. 2 – July 1923 to March 1937
In 1923, after the teacher, Miss Rooney had written to the Department complaining that the old Parkfield school on Buffalo Road was infested with snakes, a decision was made to abandon the old building for a ‘new’ one. The site was also moved, as the population of children had shifted north and the children to the south could go down to Australind. Resumption of a three acre portion of Wellington location 48, on the Old Coast Road frontage of ‘Parkfield’ was made on 9 May 1923 from George Henry Cargeeg, the current owner. The school would then be situated in a paddock of about 150 acres, and it was arranged that the building from Upper Ferguson would be removed to Parkfield. This schoolroom had been erected in 1893, and then had been used as a school shelter shed in 1912. It was removed to Parkfield in August 1923 by the builder, JG Hough, who had won the contract. The room had a jarrah dado inside with plaster board above, and the tendered price of £175 included rebuilding the fireplace. Mr Hough began his job on 28 May 1923 and the school was finished for use on 23 July 1923. It was a small room with a verandah half way around – a great improvement on the old slab hut which had originally been a workman’s cottage.
Parkfield School No. 2 showing children having a tug-of-war. Photo courtesy Maidee Smith.
Miss Rooney was very happy to move from the snakes, and to commemorate the occasion of the opening, she lined the school children up on the verandah for her father to take a photograph of her with them. The photo shows Albert Reading, Lyall Jones, Jack Clifton, John Howarth, Doug Clifton, Roy Clifton, Ethel Clifton, Beryl Jones, Meg Clifton, Marjorie Jones, Ernie Clifton, Les Clifton, George Reading, Bertha Reading and Sid Rooney, with their teacher Irene Rooney standing proudly in front. There were mixed blessings to the ‘new’ school. In May of the next year, Miss Rooney again complained to the Department that the chimney would not draw and the room filled with smoke. She wanted the children to have a garden but as there was no fence, the cattle from the surrounding paddocks came right up to the buildings. The site was three acres but she suggested fencing only half an acre around the school.
As some of the bigger children would be leaving soon, there was the constant worry whether there would be enough children to keep the school open. There was news that ‘Parkfield’ had been sold and the new owners had a ‘large family’. This was encouraging for the teacher and parents. Miss Rooney left Parkfield No. 2 and continued her teaching career nearer her family in Bunbury. She was replaced by Myrtle Owens who only stayed for a while, and then the new teacher was May Gillespie.
In July 1926, the school was broken into, and this happened several times. The Old Coast Road was seldom used in those days and the little schoolroom was isolated and vulnerable. ‘It was a single room, well-lit and well ventilated. All the desks faced two big windows which made the light fall badly on the children’s work’. This was stated in a report from Dr Rita Stang, the medical officer for schools. She also found the room ‘too congested with decorations’, which were distracting to the eye, and told the teacher she should only put up pictures as they were required for lessons. The desks were then turned to get the light falling over the left had side of the pupils. These were the old-fashioned long type desks, which must have been very uncomfortable for the children, as they grew bigger. The verandah around the school acted as a shelter shed for the children, with pegs on the walls for their hats and bags. Dr Stang found the grounds ‘neat and tidy’; the water tanks in good order and condition, but the toilets were not satisfactory. The doors did not have screening and the boy’s toilet was old and not weather proof. She recommended they should be renewed. The boys toilet from the Ludlow School which was closed, were sent to Parkfield to remedy this.
When Miss Gillespie became ill in July that year, she asked for sick leave. While she was away for a month, the school closed but her ill health persisted and so Maisie Jennings was sent to re-open the school in September. There were children on the roll when the school closed for Christmas of 1926. The key was left with Mrs Clifton whenever the school was closed.
The next teacher was Alice Armstrong. She was later transferred to North Dinninup and the teacher in 1927 was Miss Page who had as her pupils in March that year:-
George Reading (15), Jack Morgan (12), Vivian Morgan (5), Dulcie Jones (8), Mary Jones (11), Robert Jones (5), Gwendolin Piggott (9), Percy Milligan (14), Verne Milligan (7), Roy Milligan (4) and Bertha Reading (13)
In 1928, a request was made for solid ‘blackboards’ as the painted black cloth then in use was not at all satisfactory. Flat iron sheets, painted black, were sent to the school on 9 September 1928, and were used until May of 1929 when the school was closed by Miss Page due to a lack of pupils. The son of the family at ‘Parkfield’ had left and was moving to South Australia and there were only seven children at the school including Mary Jones, Margaret Clifton, Verne Milligan, Robert Jones, Roy Milligan and Mavis Milligan.
It was suggested by the Department that the school building should be removed this time, but it was left empty for twelve months at which time its future would be re-considered. In May 1930, it was decided not to remove the school as it may be needed again. In November of that year the school re-opened with Minnie Rigg as teacher. However, the gate had been removed and sent to the Stirling school while Parkfield was un-occupied so a new gate was ordered and fitted. The school re-opened with seven children, three from Norman Jones’ family, three from the Milligan family and William Jones. The local people asked if the school could be used for a dance and this was duly held before Christmas. It must have been popular as a further dance was held on 14 February 1931.
During May 1931, two new pupils were admitted to the school, one Lewis Adsett was only visiting his grandmother for nine weeks, but the other was George Jones who was then old enough for school. Later that year in October, 12 year old Dulcie Jones went to Bunbury to take a scholarship exam.
Soon after school resumed in 1932, on 15 February the school was broken into and a clock was stolen. It was speculated that one of the unemployed men from the large camp of sustenance workers at Myalup had been responsible. In April, the school was broken into again and in May the same thing happened once more.
The highlight for the children that year was when the school closed for two days in November so they could go to the Bunbury show. Later, the school again closed and the teacher resigned. However, the parents managed to have it re-opened in March 1933 when the teacher was Miss L Boucat. Again the school was broken into with two panes of glass being broken and the clock stolen once more. Miss Boucat stayed all of 1933 and 1934, although in June 1934, only seven pupils were at the school when the Jones’ twins, Mervyn and Lionel were admitted.
When school resumed in February 1935, Audrey Northwood was the teacher with nine pupils on the roll. She didn’t stay long and was notified of her transfer to Perth on 29 March 1935.
Throughout 1935, Bob Jones and Roy Milligan were often absent as they helped parents with farm work. This made it very difficult for the teacher to ‘keep up the numbers’ and often threatened closure of the school. A local girl, Miss Jessie White became the teacher on 1 April 1935. On the next weekend, 4 and 5 April, the school was broken into again but nothing was stolen.
A memorable day in May of that year, was when all the pupils received their Jubilee Souvenirs. During the year, Grace Hansen was admitted, while Maisie and Roy Milligan left to go to school in Harvey where they attended the Convent. In November, the taps were broken off the school tanks which worried Miss White. She was particular about the water and had got the bigger boys to clean out the gutters and tanks to keep a clean water supply. This act of vandalism was very upsetting to her. That year, the school was closed for the Brunswick Show and closed again on 4, 5 and 6 December to allow Miss White to go to Bunbury to sit for her Leaving Examinations.
To finish up the year with a Christmas treat, the teacher, parents, and children went down to the estuary for a picnic.
The summer was a very hot one, and on 10 February1936, it was over 101° F in the classroom so the children were sent home early. Although Bob Jones was good at his school work, by 1936 when he was in Standard 6, he was doing a man’s work on their farm and was often away, which his teacher regretted. The children were given a day off to go to the local show, but this year it was on 21 September and they went to the Harvey Show.
In February of 1937, the temperatures were very high again and when it reached 105°F, they were sent home once more.
After the Easter holidays in 1937, the school resumed with only two pupils – Fred and Poppy Jones. As five of the children had left to live in Harvey the school had to close.
That was on 31 March 1937, and almost two years later – with no prospect of further use – the building was sold and removed. There had been several requests to buy the building, from Frank Travers of Australind, G Pearce and Ernest Clifton of Wokalup, but Frank Gavranch of 40 Spencer Street Bunbury won the tender, and demolished the old school in May 1939. The materials were used to build and line an extra room on his house, and build a shed in his back yard.
‘Parkfield’ later became the property of George and Morgan Smith, who asked the Education Department if they could buy the 3 acres of school site, reserve number 18414. There was no objection from the Department, but the PWD decided to keep the area. This was reduced later by the resumption by the Main Roads Department for widening of the Old Coast Road. The small area now remaining as reserve is designated ‘Stopping Place’ but is on lease to the Smiths until required for road widening later.
The site is marked by two pine trees and a few freesias, which survive in the paddock. These were once in the garden so carefully cultivated by the children. There were several other pine trees, but these have been burnt down by bush fires in the past.
Newspaper article By Paul Wood, April 19, 1989
Snakes Alive At Parkfield
‘Knees up everyone! Knees up.’
As the teacher’s sharp command rang out, the eight pupil class dutifully raised their collective knees at their desks while a prowling dugite slithered across the floor of the slab hut to disappear through a gap in the wall.
That was Parkfield one room primary school, at the head of Leschenault Inlet, sometime about 1916.
Former Parkfield pupil Les Clifton, of Paris Road Australind told his story to 40 people who had gathered on Buffalo Road for the unveiling of a Plaque to commemorate the school on Saturday April 1.
He described slab hutted Parkfield as ‘the original air conditioned school with plenty of room between the slabs to let out the smoke from the chimney fire.’
Nothing remains of the former pioneer schoolhouse, which had a checkered 53 year start – stop existence. Only the plaque identifies the approximate location. The school averaged about eight children with a maximum enrolment of 17.
Ninety-two year old former Parkfield teacher, Irene Rooney now Mrs Good of Perth, unveiled the plaque.
Harvey Shire Councillor, Mrs Maidee Smith, an authority on the school’s history, read to the gathering a carefully researched paper that detailed the struggles of caring pioneer families of the locality to provide schooling for the children in an age when the need for juvenile education was not so firmly established as today.
Mr Clifton remembered that Miss Rooney lived in Eileen Street in Bunbury (now Hayes Street) and each Monday morning peddled her bicycle the 22 kilometres from home to Parkfield on unsurfaced roads, and peddled home for the weekend.
Mrs Smith recalled that around 1918 the teacher was scared of snakes. Few of the pupils were since they were accustomed to seeing snakes about their farms and on their long walks to school – sometimes as far as four miles.
The next teacher, Miss Rooney, didn’t like snakes either. She recalled that the elder brother of one of her pupils shot with a pea rifle a snake in the school roof.
Mrs Smith said that in 1921 the old building was no longer shingled, the roof having been covered with corrugated iron. The remaining shingles could be seen under the iron, and since there was no ceiling snakes could be seen in the rafters.
Mr Clifton paid tribute to Morgan and Maidee Smith for permission to erect the plaque, which is on ‘Parkfield’ private property.
Parkfield School plaque is located on Buffalo Road at the side entrance to the ‘Parkfield’ property.
Photo courtesy Heather Wade, 2005.
2016 update: Parkfield Primary School, Chapel Drive, Australind opened in 1993 with an inaugural enrolment of 409 pupils. Source: Souvenir Programme of the Official Opening Ceremony on Friday 26 November 1993.