McLeans Ridge



On the 7th August, 1882, just on 77 years ago, and two years after the introduction of the Public Instruction Act of N.S.W., Mr. Henry Talbot was sent to a spot in what was then known as "The Big Scrub", about seven and a half miles east of Lismore, for the purpose of opening up a school.

There is some doubt about the first site of the original school, however it appears that a spot was chosen among dense scrub which included many large cedar, teak, and black bean trees. These were being cut down and either drawn by bullock team to the river at Boatharbour, from whence they were floated downstream to the sawmills or were pit-sawn into timber and planks for the building of homes.


On this site a tent was erected and in that tent Mr. Talbot commenced his duties with 11 pupils under his care.

In searching for a name for the school, two titles were considered: Gibson's Ridges and McLean's Ridges. At that time the two chief families in the district were those of Mr. Hugh Gibson and Mr. Donald McLean. It was finally decided to perpetuate the name of McLean.

The school was very soon moved to a large room in the home of Mr. Hugh Gibson, who lived about a quarter of a mile to the south.

Again there is some doubt about the next move. According to my authority for information, it moved into the room of a home owned by Mr. Donald McLean, further north along Cowlong Road, before being transferred to a wooden school building near the entrance gate of what is the present school playground.

In 1890 a brick building was constructed directly opposite the original tent site and into this new school moved the teacher and his pupils.

In the meantime, a school had been started at Pearce's Creek and, until his removal, Mr. Talbot had taught alternatively at McLean's Ridges and Pearce's Creek. He then moved to Nashua as teacher, while his family continued to attend McLean's Ridges.

Although the new school had provision made for the addition of another room, should it become necessary, that room was never added despite the increase in enrolment to 56 in the early nineties.

School furniture consisted of the usual long forms and desks which remained in use until 1956, when they were replaced by desks of the dual type.

In such an environment in which the only roads were those pushed through by the timber-getters, very rough and dusty in the dry weather and bog-holes in the wet, it is not surprising that the local inhabitants made the arduous trip to Lismore only once in probably two or three years, and the extremely dangerous one to Ballina not at all.


In the playground, the Black Satin birds swooped from the surrounding scrub to attack the children, taking their lunches from their hands, while "Paddymelons" hopped around the area at their leisure.

Among the records of the school can still be found: the Original Admission Register, much the worse for wear, but still quite legible; and the Punishment Book. The latter shows entries of punishment, which includes 12 strokes of the rod. What beautiful writing is preserved in these two books!

The Roll of Honour shows that of the 21 who volunteered for action, in the First World War, one was awarded the M.M. and four were killed in action. During the World War 11, 17 ex-students volunteered, one of whom did not return.

The following is a list, in order of those teachers who have been in charge of this school: - H. Talbot. W. White. A. Cousins. J. Moore. J. Cameron. H. Smith. G. Yansen. J. Osborne. R. McLaughlin. Mrs. F. Blanch. A. McInnes. E. Pickford.

And, of course, the present teacher, Mr. M. Shaw, who has in his charge, 28 children. It was only recently that the school was in danger of closing. In 1953 the enrolment was 11. It has built up to its present level through the movement of families from one dairy farm to another, and appears as though these numbers will remain fairly constant for a few years to come.

A very strong Parents and Citizens' Association has been in force here. At one stage it carried on for eight years without a teacher being in attendance at its meetings.

Now that high school facilities are available, children finishing their primary education pass to Richmond River High School in Lismore.

McLean's Ridges district has now become almost devoid of timber, so that, despite its original covering of trees, scrub etc., it is now necessary for the farmers to buy firewood and fencing posts. This has come about through the wanton destruction of its natural timber, as well as through clearing for agricultural pursuits.

With the closing of the butter factory at Alstonville in 1929 all milk and cream are now taken to Lismore. However, with good roads and modern transport, this provides no difficulty.

In 1902, a public hall was built on the site where the first school was opened in the tent. The building, with its additions, still stands.

When we consider how close are our neighbouring schools: Wollongbar, two miles; Pearce's Creek, four; Richmond Hill, three, and Eltham, four miles, it is appreciated that only a very small area is served by this school. However, it always has been, and still is, a very integral part of the community.

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.