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


The Public School at Harwood Island is situated on Harwood Island, one of the hundred islands of the Clarence River about six or seven miles from the mouth of the river and on the Pacific Highway, where the vehicular ferries cross. The island itself is about 4 ½ miles long and l ½ miles wide, with an approximate area of 3,850 acres and a population of 450 persons.

Practically the whole of the inhabitants are dependent on the sugar industry either growing cane, harvesting it, or employed in the C.S.R. Co's mill. It is interesting to note that this mill is the oldest working mill in Australia, having been transferred from the Macleay River, where it was known as the Darkwater Mill, in 1873. Later the company's mill at Chatsworth was closed and combined with Harwood.


Government aid for a provisional school was first granted in 1871; local opinion seems to be that there was a slab school, privately operated, before this date. I have been unable to have this confirmed or otherwise, or record any further details of this school. However, the Provisional school was opened in 1871 and the Inspector of Schools at Armidale made an incidental visit on 30th November, 1871.

The school was a wooden building probably a barn; the inspector reported that it was quite suitable although its size was too small for the 30 pupils enrolled because of a partition. Furniture had not been supplied and working materials had not been received for the children, the playground was unfenced and the water supply inadequate. The building in which classes were being held had been leased by a committee, which comprised Charles Law, Edward Gard, G. Martin, Samuel Attewell and Thomas Malone. Mr. Malone was secretary of this committee.

The first teacher was apparently Mrs. F Barnes, who was assisted in an unofficial and unpaid (unless by Mrs. Barnes) role by her husband. This appears to have been a satisfactory arrangement, as Mrs. Barnes, and presumably Mr. Barnes, remained in the position until 1889, some eighteen years. .

The report of the Council of Education for 1872 showed that there were 35 pupils enrolled, with an average attendance of 21 pupils. The first regular inspection took place in September, 1872, and the inspector's report revealed that the school site was central but unpleasant. By this time evidently, a sufficient supply of material had arrived, furniture had been manufactured and installed, the water supply was adequate, but fencing was lacking and the school building far too small. In addition, the inspector pointed out that the attendance was neither punctual nor regular. It seems quite obvious that despite the lack of modern methods of communication, a satisfactory "grapevine" was working, as on the occasion of his visit, only fifteen children could be found. However, the inspector considered that the discipline was "moderately intelligent and effective and the attainments of the children moderately good".


In 1876, the school was raised to the status of a Public School, the enrolment being then more than 50. At this time, it was decided to remove the school to a more desirable situation, but it was not until 1879 that the Department- purchased a site of one acre from Mr. Alex. Cameron, this site being 100 yards north of the old site and on higher ground. It speaks well for the judgment of those responsible for choosing the present site, as although the island is in a flood area, never at any time has flood water entered the school. During the 1890 record flood, the ground was covered with water, but old hands say that the school building was free of water. During a very severe flood in 1950, the school ground provided sanctuary for an interesting collection of pigs, goats, cattle, horses, sheep and poultry, while the school itself housed many of those whose homes were inundated.

In 1880, the present school, a substantial brick structure of three rooms, built in what is known as the "Henry Parkes Style", with typical English high steep sloping roofs, obviously designed with the idea of shedding heavy falls of snow, was built.

Needless to say to the present time no titles of snow have been observed being shed by the roof.

The contractor for the new school building was a Mr. Kinnear and the contract price £1,358. The school opened with an enrolment of 68 and the yearly average attendance was 43 pupils.

In 1891, the school site was enlarged by the purchase of an additional three acres of land from Mrs. S. McNaughton. This gave a playing area of four acres.

Records held by the Department of Education show that by 1900 the school's total enrolment had risen to 141 pupils with an average attendance of 112. This is probably the greatest number of pupils to be enrolled at the school at any one time. Some years later, a Convent was opened at Harwood Island, and from then onwards the annual attendance has varied between 45 and 90. At present, 59 pupils attend the school.

A close and harmonious contact between the school and the community has always been a feature at Harwood. An active P. and C. Association has been functioning for many years and has been regularly attended. No great difficulty is experienced in raising money and much useful and necessary equipment has been purchased, including a projector, radiogram, library books, text books and maps, besides kindergarten and infants' classes materials and other articles which the Department of Education, through lack of funds, has been unable to supply.

Over the years, school functions have received good support from all people in the community. The annual Empire Day celebrations for instance provides a gathering each year, at which sports and a picnic take place, and old friends gather for a reunion.


Adjoining the school is a well kept tennis court which the school children and the "teenagers" of the village use a great deal. Under the patronage of the headmaster and encouraged by the Parents and Citizens' Association, a school tennis club has been formed. Teams are entered in the Lower Clarence Tennis Association's competition. It is felt that the club provides those who have left school with an inexpensive, healthy and pleasant pastime, and preserves a link they have with their school.

Keen interest is taken by the P. and C. and staff at the school in the local baths. Assistance is given at working bees. Concentrated swimming schools of ten days' duration are held each year and every pupil who has attended has been taught to swim at least 20 yards. It is felt that the proximity of the village to deep water around the island makes the teaching of swimming a vital necessity. At December, 1958, every child in the school over the age of eight, and several under that age, were able swim; the majority had passed the Department's safe swimming test.

At the present time, efforts are being made to have a Regional Library Depot opened at Harwood Island. Representations have been made to the Maclean Shire Council and the Regional Library Committee, both of which have replied in a favourable manner. It is hoped that before long this will be an accomplished fact.

Other aims include the modernisation of the school library.

A project is about to be launched in the planting of an area of sugar cane in portion of the school grounds; a small permit has been promised and a volunteer has come forward to prepare the ground for planting. It is hoped that this plot will provide funds for the school and also prove instructional to the pupils, who will take an active part in it.

The following teachers have been in charge of the school since its establishment:- Mrs. P. Barnes 1871 Roger Christie 1927 J. W. F. Bourne 1889 G. Fitzgibbon 1929 R. A. Smith 1894 Percy Long 1929 James Brown 1907 Allan Stewart 1933 Joseph Wright 1913 William Carmen 1934 J. Larner 1916 Glenleigh Hall 1941 B. ReiIly 1917 Vivian Skippen 1945 A. H. Grimsley 1921 Lindsay McIntosh.1949 F. Doust…………..1924

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.