Byron Bay


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


'Where Australia First Greets the Sun".

Cape Byron, the most easterly part of Australia, was named by Capt. Cook in 1770, in honour of Admiral Byron. When the town site was being surveyed more than a century later, the planners, thinking that the cape had been named after the poet, sought to perpetuate the names of English poets by bestowing their names on all the streets.

The Public School is situated on a four acre block facing Kingsley Street, and bounded by Middleton, Carlyle and Tennyson Streets.

Timbergetters were the first settlers in the district, which was known to the natives as "Cavanbah", meaning "meeting place".

There are few available records. It has been suggested that most of the school records were probably burnt in 1919 after the school had been used as an emergency hospital during the influenza epidemic.

It appears certain that application for a school was first made in 1890, but it was considered by the then local Inspector of Schools - Mr. H. D. McLelland, who later became Chief Inspector of the Department of Education that the number of children did not warrant anything more than a half-time school.

The nearest schools at that time were Brunswick Heads and Granuaille (Bangalow). During the following years several applications were made. The applicants were informed by Mr. McLelland that the establishment of a school would be justified only if the projected railway line was proceeded with. The names of the residents which appeared in the application forms include Jarman, Hayter, Atkins, Hammond, Rice and Hocquard. John Hocquard seems to have done most of the correspondence with the Department of Public Instruction.


Here it should be mentioned that some information points to there having been a 'school' in the vicinity of the first Police Station, to the east of the Shire Office, near the quarry.

On lst September, 1891, Mr. McLelland recommended that a Provisional School be established, and that a small building measuring 2Oft. x 16ft. x 19ft. be erected. This was approved and a contract was let to a man named Sheppard, but he later transferred the contract to J. E. Glasgow, owner of the local sawmill, which was situated on the present site of Zircon Rutile Co.'s factory. The building was erected on the present site of the residence at a cost of 96/7/6.

Mr. Edward Luney was the first teacher at the school. He reported that the enrolment for the first week, ended 2nd September, 1892, was 57. Four weeks later the enrolment had risen to 72. The building was inadequate, and an additional classroom was added by contractors, Bell and Ferguson, for the sum of 53/13/3.

The first building served as a school until 1902, when it was moved to its present site - the weather shed. At the same time one long room, the western end of the present primary school, was erected. This room had a tiered floor rising towards the south wall. The "beginners" were taught in the old building, while the "Master" had charge of the upper classes in the new building.

Photos show the buildings behind a stout split post and rail fence. The pupils wore mushroom hats and the "Master" a luxuriant black beard.

Some time later the "Manual Room" was erected, and more rooms added to the primary section. The brick infants' block was erected in 1926. The enrolment of the school now stands at 325 pupils.


Plans have been approved and allocation made for the erection of a modern kindergarten room. The work has been delayed while negotiations have proceeded for the establishment of an incorporated septic sewerage system for the whole school.

Headmasters, in the following order, have been in charge of the school subsequent to Mr. E. Luney, who re-signed in 1899 and joined the staff of the "Tweed Herald". Mr. Luney was the first secretary of the School Of Arts.

John Goard was interested in civic matters - the School of Arts - and was a Master in the Masonic Lodge.

James Paterson appears to be best remembered for his Assam silk suit with its fully fashioned tailoring.

John Roxly was a big man, and a prominent churchman.

E. Bateson was keenly interested in Old Students' classes. Mrs. Bateson taught basketry. On one occasion Mr. R. Brownell, then Shire Clerk, was invited to address the class on town planning. So rapt in basketry were the class and teacher that "no one listened to me". Mr. and Mrs. Bateson were fond of music and put on many plays.

H. Lang was of a retiring nature. He was not here for very long.

D. Woodward is well remembered for his choral work. Assisted by a talented pianist, the school choirs achieved success at Murwillumbah, Lismore and Mullumbimby.

Don Miller "was a particularly jovial fellow, a good organiser and speaker who liked a noggin or two, and loved to join in the revelries". It is said his was the greatest farewell ever given in Byron Bay.

Gordon Swift was a quiet unassuming man, a good churchman, who took part in many town organisations.

R. McGregor, always on the move, keen on his game of bowls. Secretary of the bowling club for many years. Quadrangle cemented and flowering shrubs established.

W. Dunn did not enjoy good health. Retired from the Department whilst here.

The staff on the lst July, 1959, was F. B. Willis, Headmaster from July, 1956 Miss K. Brandon Mrs. A. Scarrabelotti T. B. Morgan, D.H.M. Mrs. N. Shrubb L. K. Chittick Mrs. L. Trimble W. H. Knight Mrs. R. N. Willis, Needlework.


Although official records are not available, the association was formed in 1928. Throughout the ensuing years this body has done much to assist the school, has been a valuable liaison between the school and the community, and has provided much equipment, including library and text books, pictures, sporting equipment, movie projector, electric copper, wireless and extension speakers. During the past three years a public address system, tape recorder, library and text books, motor mowers, record player, duplicator and much other equipment has been added; while the outlook, attitude and policy of the association has been such that the school and community have a unity of purpose, to provide the best possible education for the future generation.


The most noticeable changes that have taken place are the replacement of the split post and rail fences with park rail fence, the filling, levelling and drainage of the grounds. Prior to 1956 Zircon Rutile Company had deposited thousands of yards of waste sand on the school site, which had originally been rush and ti-tree swamp. In 1956 the P. and C. Association accepted a grant of 180 to fill and level 2 acres. In 8 weeks work to the estimated value of 890 had been done and the ground had been transformed into a playing field. The P. and C. Association ended up with a profit of 37 on the contract. Credit goes to Mr. Fred Benbow as "Foreman" together with A Canning, R.Glock, G. Duncombe, E. Speers, V. Wright, J. Wright, A. Lavercombe, W. Walsh, D. Ruttley, P. Ryder, P. Glanville, H. Cook (Shire Engineer), Ted Atkins (grader driver).

In 1957 the Junior Citizens' Association raised 60 by a bottle drive (40,000 bottles). The 60 plus a grant of 27/10/- put 600 yards of filling into the girls' playground, with a profit of 24/10/-.

The latest project, the erection of a Sound Shell 30ft. x 13ft.6in. has just been completed. The shell is valued at 650, and credit goes to the principals, Roy Hollands and Arthur Deane, carpenters, assisted by Joe Barker, plumber, and A. E. Canning, Jack Fenwick, Ian Weir, Vic Phelps and Bert Newman (electrician) and others.

Full records of the P. and C. are not available, but the names of W. Goodwin, H. Warne, Mrs. E. Warne, Mr. and Mrs. J. Hine, Mrs. G. Fredericks, Mr. C. Chant are known to have held executive positions.

The present executive is: President, K. Hamlyn; vicepresidents, J. Fenwick, L. Bowers; hon. secretary, A. E. Canning; treasurer, I. Weir; social secretary, Mrs. J. Rays; social treasurer, Mrs. J. Bowers; auditors, C. Lumley and L. Bowers.

The school serves the Byron Bay district - a tourist and industrial area, unique firstly in that it is the most easterly school in Australia: that Norco Butter Factory was for some time the largest in the southern hemisphere; that Zircon Rutile Co. was the pilot factory for the treatment of mineral sands; that besides Andersons' Meat Works, there is the North Coast Whaling Station, where the whole whaling process may be seen from the land.

The school honours Mr. A. W. Stephens, Director of Secondary Education as one of its ex-pupils.

"Dibbie" and Jack Wright, also ex-pupils, represented Australia in hockey.


The school has long been known for its Flute Band, first established in 1941 by Mr. Miller. In 1959 it played for the Anzac Day march. It has played regularly for the P.S.A.A.A. march past. 1958 saw the beginning of a school orchestra. School choirs, both primary and infants, take part in school activities. A percussion band was formed in 1958. Puppetry was introduced in 1957. The school paper, "Cedar Chips", which was commenced in 1957, is published each term.

The first football matches on the re-formed school grounds were played between the 5.7 and 6.7 teams from St. Finbarrs and the Public School on 26th June, 1959.

The Junior Citizens' Association was formed in 1957 with Geoffrey Willis, president; Dorothy Haskew, secretary; and Bettina Feros, treasurer. This Junior Citizens' Association, besides having responsibilities for intra and interclass organisation and discipline, has raised nearly 200 from bottles and waste paper.

School and Class Captains were instituted in 1957. The first school captains were Dorothy Haskew and Geoffrey Willis.

Finally, mention must be made of the support given the school by the various companies and business firms. Andersons (Mr. J. A. Anderson): Zircon Rutile (Messrs. J. Miller and J. Henderson); Great Northern Hotel (Mr. J. Burt); Pier Astor Hotel (Mr. L. Schneider); Norco Co-op. Ltd.; and the Shire Council. Particular mention could be made of every firm and resident, but space does not permit. The goodwill and support has unified the school and the community. The school is of the people and the people of the school "Where Australia First Greets the Sun".

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.