This publication presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time  Education Week, 1959  and their origins.


In February, 1861, Messrs. Henry Garrard, Charles Fawcett, Joseph Eyles, James Brown and James C. Stevenson applied to the Board of National Education for the establishment of a non-vested national school at Ballina or West Ballina, as it was then known. The establishment of this school marked the beginning of public school education in Ballina. Mr. Eyes seems to have been the moving force and largely owing to his expenditure of time, energy and money the first school was completed in 1863 at a cost of 450.

The first teacher, Mr. G. F. Kemp, had sailed from Sydney in July, 1861, and commenced duty in August in a temporary building which served as schoolroom and residence and which Mr. Eyles had ' rented to the Board for 5/- per year. The enrolment was 45 and when the transfer to the proper school building as made, the enrolment was 39.

In 1865 Mr. Kemp resigned to visit England and he was succeeded by Mr. T. Russell, an Irishman, who began teaching in April. During the year 70 was spent on repairs. In January, 1868 a bushfire caused 5 worth of damage to school fences. There was a move in this year to establish a school at East Ballina, "in consequence of the danger and inconvenience experienced in crossing the channel" and also because "West Ballina schoolhouse is scarcely approachable from the east side, being surrounded by almost continuous swamps". Nothing further was done about the East Ballina School, but the swamp question was to be discussed frequently in the future.

In 1875 the attendance varied from 33 to 45. An inspection report on the building stated "the building, is old and the site unsuitable, that is, unhealthy, wet and inaccessible". A new school was obviously needed, but the town was divided into two hostile camps over the site".

NEW SCHOOL STARTED In July, 1878, the Secretary of the Council of Education asked its architect to prepare plans and specifications for a new school building and a new residence. The buildings were completed in 1882 at a cost of 2,000. The school building would seat 165 pupils by the standards of the day. This building is the "Gothic" building still in existence and use. The old buildings were sold for 31. The school enrolment was then 80.

In 1883 Mr. Russell was told that unless he too examinations for a second class efficiency mark he would be transferred to a school of less importance. Mr. Russell was apparently a man of definite opinions and some temper. He had previously been in trouble with his inspector and though the school board supported him when he was charged with insubordination he had been reprimanded and cautioned. He refused to take the required examinations and when he was told to change with Mr. C. Smythe at Swan Creek he resigned. He settled in Ballina not far from the school. Two of his sons later became pupil teachers at the school. Shortly after Mr. Smythe became headmaster there were agitations for more accommodation as there were 130 pupils, but the inspector reported that classroom accommodation was adequate. However, a weathershed was built and general repairs and painting carried out.

In 1887, Mr. Connolly became principal and the School Board asked for a qualified assistant and the building of a separate infants' room. Miss Anne Fraser was appointed assistant in 1888 and a new school room for infants was completed in 1889.

Mr. Connolly appears to have been a very efficient and popular teacher. In 1887 he had arranged a concert by the pupils and the parents presented him with a "Dictionary of Music,' as "a token of appreciation" and in 1890 he obtained the rare 1B efficiency mark.

By 1890 the enrolment was 240 and Mr. Ewen MacKinnon, chairman of the District School Board, applied for further accommodation and furniture. An additional room was built on to the infants' classroom at a cost of 205. The Inspector proposed a separate Infants' Department and recommended Miss Fraser as mistress. The Proposal was deferred as Miss Fraser did not have a sufficiently high efficiency mark.

In 1891, Mr. Connelly was transferred to Grafton and replaced by Mr. Donald Fraser, who, under the nom de plume of, Jimmy Pannikin, wrote stories of the rivers for "The Bulletin".

An Infants' Department was established in 1893 with Miss E. L. O'Keefe as mistress. In 1898 she married Mr. T. Russell, a son of the second teacher. She continued as mistress until 1919, when she retired. The Parents and Citizens' Association placed a plaque in the infants' corridor to commemorate her service.

The school was proclaimed a Superior Public School in 1895 and also in this year Miss I. L. MacKinnon, daughter of the District School Board chairman, was appointed as a pupil teacher. As Miss MacKinnon and later as Mrs. Jolley she was infants' mistress from 1920 to 1927 and from 1937 to 1944. In all she taught for 58 years. She still lives in Ballina.


Mr. George Dart became headmaster in 1896. In March there was a case of typhoid in his family. This caused a panic in the town and the cause of the outbreak was said to be the swamp which surrounded the school. There was talk of "withdrawing the children from the school en masse". In 1898 some of the worst stagnant areas were filled in and the Municipal Council built a path of oyster shells to the school.

In August, 1900, an application was made by the headmaster and the board chairman for an alteration of the afternoon school hours from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. to 3.30 pm. In support of this application it was stated that Ballina was becoming a dairying district and children were needed to help at home. The application was granted.

Shortly after Mr. McCoy became principal in 1901 it was found that the school fences were out of alignment and the block was resurveyed and the fences re-erected.

From 8th February to 4th March, 1904, while Mr. Telfer was headmaster, the school was closed because of a scarlet fever epidemic.

In May, 1904, Mr. Squire, the new headmaster, travelled to Ballina in the S.S. "St. George", which broke down off the Richmond River. In July, the enrolment was 339 and the staff consisted of the headmaster, infants' mistress, woman assistant and three pupil teachers. Because of increased enrolments another pupil teacher was appointed in 1908. This was Mr. C. Schaeffer, who still lives in Ballina. He reported that Mr. Squire gloried in the fact that he was known as the strictest disciplinarian in the service.

In 1909 Mr. Harvey was appointed as headmaster, but he refused to live in the residence or bring his family to Ballina until the residence was improved as he considered it uninhabitable. In 1910 Mr. Morgan was appointed.

By 1911 accommodation was again inadequate. Clegg's store was rented for 2 per week and the Infants' Department transferred there. It was unsuitable as a school, being situated between a bootmaker's and a restaurant. When the residence of resident engineer of the Department of Public Works became vacant the Infants' Department was transferred to it.


The Primary enrolment was 232 and needed additional accommodation. On 8th October, 1912, the Mayor of Ballina telegraphed to the Department that Ballina Public School was unsafe. The Health Inspector reported that the brickwork was in a very old and ruinous condition and that a brick had fallen from an arch and hit the headmaster. Repairs were made to the old building and it was decided to build a new school. The first part of the building, the four rooms on the east end, were completed in 1913 and used for infants' classes. In 1914 the Inspector suggested adding a further four rooms, demolishing the old brick building and using the wooden building for Manual Training and Science. However, the buildings were renovated and are still in use. Four rooms were finally added to the main building in 1919.

In 1928 after prolonged negotiation the Department of Education obtained the 5 acre site where the High School now stands and future building was on that site except for one wooden classroom built in 1950. The completion of the Manual Block at the High School meant that Public and High school buildings are now completely separate. In 1959 all Public School buildings, including the original building of 1882, were renovated and painted.

When, in 1956, Ballina High School was established, Ballina Public School became a separate entity. Accommodation and playing areas are still not adequate. A separate infants' block is needed and it may be possible to build this on the School of Arts block, which was resumed this year.

There has been an active Parents and Citizens' Association in existence since at least 1910 and there are frequent references to its work on behalf of the school. However, with the establishment of Ballina Public School, a new association was formed in 1956, with Mr. F. Venn as president, Mr. N. Yum as secretary, and Mrs. A. Shay as treasurer. Mr. Venn and Mr. Yum have retained their offices with Rev. R. Hancock and Mr. S. Duncan as treasurers.

During its three years of existence the association has provided much equipment, including 650 library books, many framed prints, strip projector and screen, portable electric sewing machine, radiogram, 5 mantel model radios, duplicator, motor mower, sporting equipment, and many other smaller items.

There is also a very active Mothers' Club with Mrs. I. Wheeler as president, Mrs. A. Gordon as secretary, and Mrs. W. Abbott as treasurer.


G.T. Kemp 1861 W.Easton 1916 T. Russell 1837 J. McEwan. 1918 C. Smythe 1883 A. Askham 1919 P. Connolly 1887 F. R. Baxter 1924 D. Fraser 1891 E. Griffiths 1925 G. Dart 1896 D. Drake 1928 A. McCoy 1901 C. Best 1929 J. Telf er 1903 P. Perrett 1942 H. Squire 1904 C. Hargreaves 1944 W. Harvey 1909 A. T. Williams 1948 J. Morgan 1910 S. W. Ellyard 1956


Miss E. O'Keefe Miss A. Alexander 1933 (Mrs. Russell) 1894 Mrs. I. L. Jolley 1937 Miss I. L. MacKinnon 1920 Miss D. Spicer 1945 Miss E. Rae 1928


A provisional school was opened at South Ballina in April, 1907. The teacher crossed the river from Ballina daily by boat. Later he rode to school on horseback from Ballina by way of Burns Point Ferry. At first the enrolment was approximately 19 and this seems to have been maintained until 1920, when it had declined to 10. The school was closed in March, 1921.

It was reopened in May, 1923, and finally closed again in March, 1947, and the building removed to Terranora.

North Coast School Histories

North Coast School Histories: as transcribed by Kathy Pearson and posted to NorCo List. STATUS QUO MCMLIX This publication presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time - Education Week, 1959 - and their origins.