School Histories

Parkfield School (1869 – 1937)

By Maidee Smith, (c1979), with additions by Irma Walter & Heather Wade (2018), using records from the WA State Records Office.

It wasn’t until 1871 that the Elementary Education Act was passed in WA. The Act made education compulsory for all children aged from 6 to 14 years, provided that they did not live more than three miles from a school. Prior to that time many settlers endeavored to educate their children themselves or engaged governesses or tutors. Even after the introduction of compulsory education there was a general shortage of suitably qualified people in the Colony seeking employment as teachers, a situation which persisted for a number of years. Reluctantly, administrators were forced to employ ex-convicts who could read and write, as a way of overcoming the shortage. The provision of school buildings to house the influx of pupils was another problem facing the General Board of Education (formed in 1847), so some parents provided schoolrooms and accommodation for a teacher.

Such was the case for the Robert Henry Rose family at ‘Parkfield’, situated about 22 km north of Bunbury. They had children who required teaching, so when on Tuesday 16 April 1869, George Newby Wardell offered his services as a teacher, Mrs Rose was pleased to engage him and asked him to come ‘as soon as things are ready’. Elizabeth Rose was the second wife of Robert Henry Rose, whose first wife, Ann Bishop Rose (née Allnutt), had died in 1864, leaving behind a family of five sons. In July of 1865 Robert had re-married, his second wife being Elizabeth Teede. Mr Rose employed a number of families on his farm, so they were able to muster enough children to justify a school.

It is presumed that the school was housed in an existing building on the farm, probably a workman’s cottage. On 17 April 1869, the day after Wardell’s offer, Robert Henry Rose’s diary records that Thomas was preparing the schoolroom. On 23 & 26 April Thomas was flooring the schoolroom, on 4 May he was making desks, and on 28 May, Yates was whitewashing the schoolroom. The Rev. Andrew Buchanan was able to hold the first church service in the building on 11 May, 1869.[1]

George Wardell was an educated ticket-of-leave man who had arrived in WA aboard the Lord Dalhousie on 25 December 1863 and was employed at ‘Springhill’, the neighbouring farm, which belonged to Ben Piggott. Lessons commenced on 8 June 1869, although work on the building was not complete. In November 1869, Mr Atkinson came to inspect the school and its pupils.[2]

More work was carried out on the building in 1870. In June of that year, Thomas was putting windows in the schoolroom. In July, he was putting on shingles and Mason had started building the school chimney.

In 1871 Wardell was replaced by another ticket-of-leave man, a young German named Adolph Hecht, but he left at the end of the year. Desperate for a replacement, George Wardell, who had been doing general farm work, was briefly re-employed as schoolmaster in January 1872.[3] He did not remain very long, returning to the employ of Ben Piggott, before leaving Western Australia for Melbourne, on 29 April 1872.[4]

A local man William Reading was called upon to teach the children, commencing on 15 April 1872.[5] He was replaced by a third ticket-of-leave teacher, Daniel McConnell, in 1872.[6] McConnell moved into a new schoolroom in October 1873. He remained at the school until April 1875, when he was ‘set up at Rodgers’ and the school closed.[7] In 1876 a farm labourer named Smith was ’preparing the old schoolroom to reside in’.[8]

Parkfield School on Buffalo Road taken in 1921. Note the dunnies to the left.

Parkfield School re-opened on 1 February 1876, when Isa Mitchell, the daughter of William Owen Mitchell, the manager of ‘Belvedere’ on the west side of the estuary, became the teacher. She remained at the school until the end of 1878.[9]

The school closed again so RH Rose privately employed Augusta Dorinda Ker, who arrived at ‘Parkfield’ on 7 June 1879 to take over the education and care of the Rose children – Marianne (12), Lorne (10), Gus (9), Percy (7), Ada (4), Jeffes (2) 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. [10]

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.[11] 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, Anglican Ministers in Bunbury, would come to ‘Parkfield’ once a month to give services at the schoolhouse, while on other Sundays, the Evening Service was always conducted by Mr Rose, 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.[12] 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 building 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 School to make up the numbers. He then prevailed upon Miss Ker to take the post of Government teacher. In her diary, she records that he persuaded her after some trepidation to take it and that he would come out to the school every second month to give religious instruction.[13] She commenced as a Government teacher in 1881.[14]

Schools at that time were supervised by an inspector and controlled by a local School Board. Mr Atkinson was the Inspector, who came to take the children for their examinations, and Dr Lovegrove of the School Board or Mr Withers sometimes accompanied him.

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 Purnells so that 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 in September. 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 continued to teach until one day she was too ill to get out of bed. All the children had caught the measles.[15] It would have been a trying time for Mrs Rose to have her children sick and nobody to help her with them.

Marianne Rose (born 1867) 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.[16] Miss Ker sought other employment, later marrying Algernon Clifton in 1887 and raising a family at ‘Alverstoke’ near Brunswick. Marianne Rose continued to teach her brothers and sisters, and perhaps other children presumably in a private capacity, until 1 September 1888 when she is first listed in the Blue Books.[17]

The School Inspector 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 by this time and when Miss Rose resigned in December 1892, the school closed. By June 1893, the numbers had increased enough 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 teacher Marion Buchanan, who had received her certificate of competency 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 who had briefly taught at the Parkfield School in 1872. Her mother was a daughter of Sarah and Ben Piggott of ‘Springhill’, and to get to school, Maud would ride her horse to her grand-parents at ‘Springhill’ 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.

School certificate awarded to Loftus Clifton in 1893. Courtesy of the Bunbury Historical Society.

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 once more, and on 11 November 1896, Marion Buchanan was notified of her transfer to the Greenbushes School. The Parkfield School remained closed for nearly 20 years.

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 to attend. There were four children in the neighborhood over the age of eight years and four others able to go who were between 4½ and six years. She offered to board the teacher, and to have school lessons at her house, but nothing became of it, as she could not get the people of the district to combine forces and so had to abandon the idea.[18]

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 open ‘half-time’ with Australind. Mr George H Pettersen 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. Mr Pettersen 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 instead had gone via Harvey to the Coast School at Myalup. The children on the roll were – three Joneses, one Cargeeg, one O’Rourke, three Cliftons from two families, one Howarth, two Rodgers, two Pearces, one Oldham and one Milligan. Mr Pettersen had transferred to Quindalup by the time that he enlisted in the AIF near the end of 1918.

Parkfield School resumed as a part-time school on 11 March 1918, opening three days a week, then became a full-time school again on 22 August 1918. The teacher at Parkfield School at this time was Miss Elliott, who was reported as spending her Christmas holidays with her brother Mr W Elliott, of Zoe St, Bunbury.[19]

Miss Ethel Clifton (born 1911), daughter of Edward Loftus Clifton of ‘Rosamel’, remembers a Miss Alfreda Smith teaching at Parkfield School, followed by Miss Seymour, who was later tragically drowned in the Blackwood River during the summer holidays of 1923, when she was teaching at Nannup. 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.

Students with Miss Alfreda Smith, the teacher in 1919.

From left to right – Dick Howarth, Douglas Clifton, Lyall Jones, Gilbert Clifton, Beryl Jones, Miss Smith, John Howarth, Jack Clifton, Les Clifton and Ethel Clifton. Courtesy of Bunbury Historical Society.

Their next long-term teacher, Miss Rooney, did not like snakes either. She commenced at the school on 4 April 1921[20] and her reminiscences are noted below, on the occasion of the laying of a memorial plaque on the school site in 1989.

Miss Irene Rooney and her pupils in 1921.

From rear left – Miss Rooney, John Howarth, Dick Howarth, Ethel Clifton, Lyall Jones, Beryl Jones, Doug Clifton. Front – Meg Clifton, Les Clifton and Peter Rooney. Peter Rooney was not enrolled at the school. He was the teacher’s brother who was visiting the school that day with his father, Charles Rooney, a Bunbury professional photographer who took the picture. Courtesy of George Good.

Miss Rooney with her pupils who are playing ‘skippy’. Rooney photo, courtesy of George Good.

Parents, students and the teacher at Parkfield School, 1921. Note the pump on the left.

Miss Rooney back row, far left. Also Violet Clifton, Belle Clifton, Lyall Jones, Ethel and Vern Cargeeg, Beryl Jones, Albert and John Reading, Les Clifton, George Cargeeg, Craig Cargeeg, Marjorie Jones, Ern & Roy Clifton. (NB: names do not appear to match people.)

Miss Rooney boarded with the Maitland Clifton family at ‘Rosamel’. The Loftus Cliftons lived in their own house on ‘Rosamel’ too. Miss Rooney 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 her family 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 by means of a motor boat owned by local resident, Mr Lyons.

It was during Miss Rooney’s time as a teacher at Parkfield that Mr Cargeeg was fatally injured, in 1923. During harvesting, he was accidentally 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.

Miss Rooney often took the children on nature walks, 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 School, 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 School in 1924. Before she commenced at Bunbury on 1 July 1924 at a salary of £200 she had long service leave from 4 February to 3 June 1924.[21]


In 1921, when Miss Rooney first went to Parkfield School 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, snakes could be seen in the rafters.

Miss Rooney wrote to the Education Department in February 1922, explaining the extent of the problem:

…You will understand, Sir, that both the children & myself go in fear of the horrible things and on days when we have visits or indications of visits – the children cannot give their full attention to their work as the walls are full of cracks & the floor a mass of holes, where a snake can appear at any time. We have tried to fill up the worst places, but the mud that we have used is worse than useless.

I have not mentioned all the indications of snakes we have seen, but you will see that it is not safe, & that the continual worry is not beneficial to the children’s studies – so I wish very sincerely that some measures might be taken to mend the walls and floor to at least keep these reptiles outside – which it is absolutely impossible to do as things are.

The complaint was taken seriously and the Department decided to abandon the old building, now owned by George Cargeeg 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 owner George Henry Cargeeg. 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 moved to Parkfield.

This schoolroom had been erected at Upper Ferguson in 1893, and was then used as a school shelter shed from 1912. It was removed to ‘Parkfield’ by the contractor, JG Hough. The room had a jarrah dado inside with plaster board above, and the tendered price of £175 included rebuilding the fireplace. Mr Hough began the work on 28 May 1923 and the school was ready 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.

Miss Rooney was very happy to move from the snakes, and it is said that 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.

Parkfield School 1923, (left to right) – Albert Reading, Lyall Jones, Jack Clifton, John Howarth, Doug Clifton, Roy Clifton (in front), Ethel Clifton, Beryl Jones, Meg Clifton (in front), Marjorie Jones, Ernie Clifton, Les Clifton, George Reading (in front), Bertha Reading (in front) and Syd Rooney, with their teacher Irene Rooney standing proudly front left. CR Rooney photo courtesy of Parkfield Primary School.

There were mixed blessings with 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 older children would soon be leaving, 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 that the new owners had a ‘large family’. This was encouraging for the teacher and parents. Miss Rooney left Parkfield and continued her teaching career near her family in Bunbury.

Several teachers followed in quick succession – Miss Ada Tindale, Miss Mollie McEntyre remembered by Miss Rooney as a great Labor Party supporter and very outspoken about politics, Miss Myrtle Owens and Miss 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. Dr Rita Stang, the Medical Officer for Schools, visited the School and reported that it was a single room, well-lit and well-ventilated, but that all the desks were facing two big windows, which made the light fall badly on the children’s work. She also found the room was 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-hand side of the pupils. 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 boys’ toilet was old and not weatherproof. She recommended they should be renewed. The boys’ toilet from the Ludlow School, which had 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.

Parkfield School on the Old Coast Road showing children having a tug-of-war competition. Courtesy of Maidee Smith.  

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.

On 15 February 1932, 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 Lorna Boucaut. Again the School was broken into, with two panes of glass being broken and the clock stolen once more. Miss Boucaut 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.

Teacher’s Journal, October to December 1935.[22]

The summer was a very hot one, and on 10 February 1936, it was over 101° F in the classroom so the children were sent home early. Although Bob Jones was good at his schoolwork, 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 Parkfield 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 were 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 backyard.

‘Parkfield’ later became the property of George and Morgan Smith, who asked the Education Department if they could buy the three 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 as a ‘Stopping Place’ but was on lease to the Smiths until required for road widening later.

Two pine trees marked the site for many years until 1994 when they were removed to make way for a dual carriageway on the Old Coast Road.’[23]


A newspaper article by journalist Paul Wood was published in the South Western Times on 19 April 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 older 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 then there were 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, located on Buffalo Road at the side entrance to the ‘Parkfield’ property.


The reunion brought back many memories for the surviving former pupils, of hard times and the strong bonds which were formed between small groups of children and their teachers. Dorothy Bail, daughter of former pupil Roy Clifton, recalls the story of her father going to visit Mrs Good when she was staying in Little Grove with her son Jim:

She was blind by then and in her nineties, but when Dad walked in and said, ‘Hello Miss Rooney, remember me? You used to piggy back me to School’, she immediately said, ‘Roy Clifton’, without any hesitation.

Roy’s father Edward Loftus Clifton died in 1923 at ‘Rosamel’, the property he shared with his brother Maitland. His widow and children went to live in Bunbury when Roy was about six years of age. Roy’s oldest sister, Ethel (born 1911), attended the Parkfield School until around 1923. Samples of her school needlework are kept at King Cottage Museum in Bunbury. These models, nearly one hundred years old, reflect the importance placed on teaching basic sewing skills in those days, in order to prepare the girls for a life where they were expected to make and mend the family’s clothing. Here are some examples of her work:

Ethel Clifton’s sewing sample worked while at Parkfield School. Courtesy of the Bunbury Historical Society.

2018 update: The current Parkfield Primary School in Chapel Drive, Australind, opened in 1993 with an inaugural enrolment of 409 pupils.[24] The School celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its opening this year.

[1] Brian Rose, Extracts From Parkfield Diaries, R H Rose Era, 31 May 1859 – 28 June 1894.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Convict Teachers in the Australind Area, on this website.

[5] Brian Rose, Extracts From Parkfield Diaries, RH Rose.

[6] Western Australia, Public Service Lists, 1871 – 1905 [database on-line], Blue Book for the Year 1872.

[7] Brian Rose, Extracts From Parkfield Diaries, RH Rose.

[8] Ibid.

[9], Western Australian, Public Service Lists, 1871 – 1905, Blue Book for the Year 1878.

[10] Remembrances of Augusta Dorinda Clifton née Ker.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Western Australia, Public Service Lists, 1871 – 1905, Blue Book for the Year 1881.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Western Australia, Public Service Lists, 1871 – 1905, Blue Book for the year 1888.

[18] State Records Office of WA, Item 1914/2558, Cons. 1497.

[19] South Western Times, 4 January 1919.

[20] State Records Office, AU WA S132-Cons. 3512 Good, IM, Good (née Rooney), Irene Mary.

[21] State Records Office, AU WA S132-Cons. 3512 Good, I.M., Good (née Rooney), Irene Mary.

[22] WA State Records Office, Parkfield Primary School Journal (1930-1937), AU WA S3884- cons 830 1.

[23] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, 1895 – 1995 Centennial Book. Shire of Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia, 1995, p.73

[24] Souvenir Programme of the Official Opening Ceremony, 26 November 1993.