Chatsworth Island


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



The Clarence River is credited with harbouring 99 Islands, and one of the largest and most prosperous of these is Chatsworth Island, which is situated about eight miles from its entrance.


Following an application by district residents, the original school was erected on a site of one acre about a mile south of the present school. The school and residence were completed in March, 1868 at a cost of 403. The school was a weatherboard structure with lath and plaster walls and on 11th May, 1868, was opened with an enrolment of 32. Mr. Albert Gale was its first teacher, and besides his ordinary duties he conducted a night school for 16 older pupils on two nights each week, and was local postmaster.

By May, 1871, the school enrolment had risen to 77. He had to spend 10 hours extra each week rowing an 18ft. copper bottomed 5ft. beam boat transporting 25 pupils to and from school from the neighbouring islands. No wonder he applied for a transfer!

On 30th September, 1872, Mr. Isaac Archibald took charge of the school. School enrolments reached 107 by 1876. Families were large and one farm of 120 acres supported three families, whose children totalled 33. However, Mr. Archibald reported that the increase in enrolments was largely due to the extension of the school ferry service. Without remuneration, he rowed seven miles daily, in transporting to school, 41 children from Harwood Island, Warrigah Island, Ashby Island and the mainland.

In October, 1879, Mr. Louis Price was appointed. Early In 1881 a request was made to have the school removed to a more suitable site. The inspector held an investigation and, following his recommendation, the Minister decided to resume the present site of two acres, for which 240 compensation was paid.

In March, 1883, a tender of 4,000 for the erection of both the residence and school was accepted. The site selected is situated on the Pacific Highway three miles from the northern bank of the Clarence and four miles from the southern one. Both buildings were constructed of brick on sandstone foundations and had 13 inch solid brick walls 12ft. high. The residence had six rooms and three brick chimneys, while 8ft, verandahs protected its western, northern and eastern walls. The school had two classrooms, one 5Oft. x 25ft., the other 18ft. x 18ft., and was built to accommodate 150 pupils.

In June, 1883, Mr. Louis Spanswick was appointed as headmaster. The new school buildings were completed in April, 1885, and were occupied in the following month. Mr. Spanswick was a bachelor so he was replaced by Mr. Andrew Gardiner, a newly married young man, 22 years of age.

Mr. Timothy Davis replaced Mr. Gardiner in June, 1837, and on 28th August, 1890, celebrated Arbor Day for the first time at this centre. On that occasion 30 ornamental trees were planted. Most of those trees still stand as majestic specimens and provide the present generation with both bounteous shade and a beautiful school setting. Chatsworth residents are very proud of these beautiful trees and realise their indebtedness to Mr. Davis.

In December, 1894, Mr. Henry Larkin took charge of the school. He was very interested in music and organised a choral society which functioned very satisfactorily for several years. He also organised a school fife band and drum band of 30 members, which flourished from 1895 to 1900.

By 1895 the enrolment had risen to 130. Headmastership of the school changed frequently. In May, 1898, Mr. Thomas Page was appointed, in February, 1900, Mr. George McLennan replaced him, and in February, 1906, Mr. George Clarke took charge.

During 1908, Mr. Clarke organised the residents to construct swimming baths within 100 yards of the school. Those baths, which have for several years been under the control of the local National Fitness Association, have been consistently used by both school and residents and have made it possible for hundreds of school children to learn to swim.

In April, 1910,Mr. Frederick Bate was appointed to the school. He was intensely interested in nature study and besides building a lovely fernhouse at the school, frequently took the pupils on nature study excursions across the island. A Bangalow palm, which now towers as a 4Oft. sentinel in the school ground, is the sole survivor of Mr. Bate's fine green-house collection.

During 1914-18 the school took a very active part in the patriotic activities of the district.

By 1919 the enrolment had dropped to 80, so Mr. Bate's assistant was transferred.

Mr. William Piggott was appointed in charge of the school in 1922, and during his stay the P. & C provided the school with a phonograph and a piano and was granted permission to use the school for holding socials as a means of providing funds for educational purposes.

In December, 1932, Mr. Erie Champion was appointed headmaster. He was a keen adherent of the Junior Farmer movement and organised a branch at the school in 1934. That branch was a very enthusiastic one and organised its own annual show for several years.

In March, 1935, electricity was installed in the residence and two months later was, at the expense of the P. and C., extended to the school.

On 17th May, 1935 the P. and C. and school staff celebrated 50 years of schooling in the district. Many ex-pupils and ex-teachers were among the 250 who attended this very successful function.


In December, 1936, Mr. Clyde Muscio took charge of the school. He was keenly interested in swimming and First Aid and organised the training of both pupils and adults in those fields. During his stay at Chatsworth the P. and C. provided a wireless and a sewing machine for school use.

On Empire Day, 1940, Walter Woolley replaced Mr. Muscio. During that year the Department of Main Roads resumed a portion of the playground to enable the widening of the Pacific Highway.

Early in the year the P. and C. conferred life honorary membership on two of its members, Messrs. T. McMahon and A. Piccoli, for outstanding services rendered to the school.

Towards the end of 1940, the Chatsworth Island Children's Council was formed. It consisted of 16 pupils, whom the children elected by secret ballot. This council, which met monthly, provided a form of democratic self-government which afforded the pupils complete realistic training for participation in citizenship. Its members learnt to use judgment, to rest on the consequences of their decisions and, through their daily experiences, developed techniques for co-operative living. The teacher adopted the attitude of benevolent observer.

The project for 1941 was a school beautification scheme. School flower gardens were formed and enclosed by a painted sawn timber fence, while a few dozen flowering shrubs were planted.

During 1942, the enrolment rose above 50, so a system of inter-class and intra-class grouping under pupil leadership was introduced. Both the Department and the P. and C. afforded wholehearted co-operation in this educational experiment. The Department issued new table-type furniture for the school, while the P. and C. provided a dozen framed pictures, reference books, including a set of encyclopaedia, two large sand trays, and much free activity material for the infants. During 1943 the P. and C. continued its splendid work. The eastern half of the playground was transformed into a beautiful playing area, having a football field, a cricket pitch, a basketball field and two enclosed tennis courts. It also provided a broad jump pit, horizontal bars, high jump sticks and sporting equipment.

On 29th October, 1943, a school of method was held to demonstrate a system of self-education and self-government employed in the manipulation of central theme activities based on project work. A large number of interested spectators included teachers from 42 schools of the Lismore Inspectorate.

In January, 1944, an assistant was appointed. In March both a Mothers' Club and a Younger Set were formed as adjuncts of the P. and C., which has since provided the school with a telephone, two large tables and six chairs, a phonograph pick-up, a Cinevox projector, a beaded screen, a microphone, a Waterworth strip film projector, and a reference library. This grand association was also responsible for securing an improved school bus service to Maclean High School and for the formation of the local branch of the National Fitness Association.

During 1954, the school enrolment rose to 95 and a second assistant was appointed. However, the enrolment again dropped and since 1957 Mrs. Fraser has been the only assistant at the school.

The school children participate in annual ceremonies conducted locally on Anzac Day and Empire Day, and are active participants in inter-school sports, Education Week and Christmas Tree celebrations.

The project for 1959 is the transformation of the treelined south-western corner of the playground into a colourful park with seating accommodation for 80.

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.