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History of Reynella Primary School (1858 - 1902)

The following history of the school was published in 1976. The book "Reynella 76", was compiled by Mr T N Phillips, Deputy Principal, Reynella School, with the very generous and willing assistance of Mrs Margaret Powell and Mrs Kay Viney.

Below are the minutes taken by the Reynella School Committee at a meeting held on 24th May, 1858.

Minutes of Reynella School Committee - 24th May, 1858.

At a meeting of the Reynella School Committee held this day, Present Messrs. Reynell, Montgomery, Young, Jolly, Cowley, Bain, Edwards, McCloud.

A general vote of thanks was given to the Treasurer, Mr. Young for the able manner in which he has performed the task of keeping the accounts of the Society. Moved by Doctor Montgomery and seconded by Mr. Bain that the balance of Fifty Shillings remaining due be raised amongst the Committee. Moved by Mr. Bain and seconded by Mr. Cowley that the present Committee and Management retain office during 1858. Namely; Messrs. Reynell, Young, Montgomery, Jolly, Bain, Edwards. Moved by Mr. Edwards and seconded by Mr. McCloud that Messrs. Reynell, Young and Montgomery be appointed a Committee to frame rules for the future management of the Reynella School, to be submitted to the general meeting of the Committee to be held in the School Room at Half past Six in the evening of the last Monday in June. Moved by Mr. Young and seconded by Mr. Bain that Mr. Edwards be commissioned to make Ten Pounds worth of desks and forms to furnish the School. The appointment of Mr. Alfred Phillips and Miss Phillips being approved at a general meeting and recommended to the Central Board of Education and no objection having been raised, the Committee now recognise them as teachers and place them in possession of the school premises, subject to such rules and regulations as may be hereafter adopted by the Committee. Moved by Mr. Young and seconded by Mr. Edwards that a Minute Book be procured and records be kept of all transactions of the Society.

Mr. Alfred Phillips remained as Head Teacher for three years and the minutes of the Meeting of Trustees, 27th May, 1861 tell of his resignation. A letter was read from Mr. Alfred Phillips, resigning his situation as teacher and asking for compensation for sinking a well and building a wall round the garden. The Trustees were unanimous in the opinion that the application could not be entertained, Mr. Phillips having had the benefit of the improvements during his stay in the situation as teacher and has resigned of his own accord. Thus it can be seen a teachers lot in those days was very hard. Alfred Phillips had dug a well, bricked it in and had walled the garden, all at his own expense. The well was about 15 feet across and very deep

This report from the exam register is very interesting to note:

Visited this School preliminarily April 12th, 1880. There were 31 boys and 30 girls in attendance, out of a Roll number of 65 and a Register number of 83. The various classes were fully occupied according to a time table, very workable and very carefully drawn and executed. The discipline and order of the School were good and the moral tone of it, superior.

Mrs. Asplin

was teaching with her usual vigor and the Monitor was rendering valuable assistance with the junior classes. The sewing mistress was temporarily away on account of ill health. The school requires to be enlarged as it is and for some time has been, too small for the numbers in attendance. That entry was made by Mr. Edward Dewhurst, the Senior Inspector who again reported on April 28th, 1882 that: The school room had been lengthened, the floor new boarded, and the desks added to, and rearranged since my last visit. The increased and improved accommodation, will I hope, lead to higher results than were obtained last year, when the staff was too limited and the school crowded. A school desk and cupboard would enable the teacher to take better care of the school books, which at present have to be packed away on the window sill, where they are liable to get wet in stormy and dirty in dusty weather.

On April 12th, 1888 Mr. Dewhurst found that 38 scholars were present out of a roll number of 65 children. Several children were away grape picking, the season being fully on. From the examination Registers of 1880 and 1882 it can be seen that similar problems were evident then, as are present in today's modern society.

There are still quite a few old scholars living in Reynella and elsewhere who remember the Old School with affection. Mr. Gordon Cox of Reynella tells that his mother also attended this School, and he was born in 1889. He recalls the warmth of the open log fire on winter days, and how the younger children used chalk and slate boards, and didn't graduate to pencil and paper, until the 5th and 6th grades.

Mr. R. Whitington

was headmaster (one of his youngest daughters Rose, will be at the reunion). He remembers how Mr. Whitington used to take about 6 boys down to Pt. Noarlunga in the Christmas Holidays for a week. They would travel in a borrowed dray with horses, and camped in the Old Barn on the opposite corner to where the Hotel now stands.

Mr. Whitington's eldest son Arthur, who also had a teaching career, accompanied the boys and took them out shooting. They would supplement their supplies from home, with fish and rabbits. The day always began with a swim at 6 o'clock and they apparently were the original skinny dippers, of course the usual childhood pranks were practised, because boys will always be boys. As a sideline, boxthorn plants were sold to the School to provide a hedge, at the cost of one penny per dozen, and sometimes these were pilfered from Mr. Appletons store across the road.

In those days it was usual for the children to be granted 6 weeks leave in Vintage for grape­picking. As most children left school in Grade 6 and usually were 12 years of age, our early sons of the pioneers were a hardy lot. This is born out by the fact that from the first known school register, dated 1896 & 1917, and containing 500 names that it has been established 135 are still living and these were all born prior to 1910. Other important occasions he recalls is of all the older boys walking across to the opening of the Happy Valley Reservoir in 1896, and that the children planted the pine trees across the front of the present school, and up Reynella Hill, and on this special occasion, Mr. Thomas Hardy, the original founder of Hardy's Wines at McLaren Vale, came and distributed drinks and sweets to all of the children.

The new School was built in 1902, by a Mr. Cruikshank, and the stone was quarried at Hallett Cove on Tank's property and transported by bullock wagons. It consisted of an upper and lower room and the lower room was enlarged in approximately 1945. Mr. Gordon Cox left the school at 12 years and his first job was droving sheep. He was to meet a shepherd at the old Lady MacDonald Corner, now Chrysler, Tonsley Park, but as he was not in sight, he continued to walk to meet him. He found he had not left the Sales yards on the West Terrace City corner, so he brought that flock back to Reynella and received one shilling for his effort.

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