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


In 1873, Mr. Rogers was sent to open the first school at Wardell, although in those days it was known as Blackwall. Mr. Rogers’s appointment lasted three years.

There are no records available of the teachers between 1876 and 1890. It was during this period, on March 20, 1885, that Wardell was proclaimed a town.

The school children of those times would have seen the graceful sailing ships inching their way up the river to load timber which the husky cedar-getters had felled.

Mr. Fraser, with three assistants, Miss McIntosh, Miss Burgess and Mr. Duncan, was teaching at Wardell from 1890 to 1898.

Mr. Cousins, who was appointed to Wardell in 1898, had two assistants, Mr. Costello and Mrs. Duncan. In those days, Wardell could boast a resident doctor, three stores, two hotels, two sawmills and a cream factory. It seems that at this stage school enrolments reached a peak - the numbers being in the vicinity of 150 pupils.

Mr. Cousins described the school in which he taught in the following terms:

"The school consisted of one long room for four classes, and a smaller class-room adjoining this. These were separated by a wall from the residence, which in the early nineties contained two rooms and two skillions. Then came a detached kitchen, but no bathroom or laundry."

The above was where the present day residence now stands, Mr. Cousins continues.


"In the mid-nineties the site of the present school was added to the old site, which in the early nineties was very low-lying and nearly half swamp until a considerable part of it was filled in, making it usable but still leaving swamp at the lower end. It was the home of millions of mosquitoes and many snakes. Much of the land was likely to be flooded. In the late nineties one flood brought the water right to the verandah of the residence and the teacher was able to take his wife and children all over the playground in a boat".

One teacher in the nineties claimed that "Wardell school children were the champion spellers of N.S.W."

Mr. J. H. Connor was appointed to the school in 1900 and had two assistants, one of whom, the late Mr. J. Mallett, was an ex-pupil of this school. A pupil who attended school under Mr. Connor showed me a certificate she received at that time. It reads:

"I hereby certify that Florence Bartlett, Wardell Public School, has been educated up to the standard of education required by the Public Instruction Act of 1880. Dated at Wardell the fourth day of August, A.D. 1898. - Sgd. P. Board, Inspector".

In the nineties Wardell School was in the Casino Inspectorate. It was not until some fifteen years later that it came under Lismore and finally under Ballina.

Pupils attending school at the turn of the century who wanted higher education were confronted with many problems. For instance, the late Mr. W. Rudgley, who won a bursary from this school, had to take it out at Maitland High School.


Sport was as dear to the heart of the pupils of those times as it is today. A tennis court was erected in the school grounds and many and keen were the players. Football and Wardell seem to be synonymous, for it was here that many of the side-stepping hard-tackling stars of the past cut their football teeth.

In July, 1904, Mr. Connor left and Mr. G. Klein was welcomed as the new headmaster. Until his term of office ended in 1911 he had two assistants and the enrolments did not fall below 100.

Ex-pupils speak of Mr. Klein in the most glowing terms. One ex-pupil remarked that he could not recall a year that one of Mr. Klein's pupils did not win a bursary.

Two of those who so ably assisted Mr. Klein were Miss L.White and Miss Isabelle Drake.

Children attending this school prior to World War 1 were expert at cream and milk testing. In those days there was a machine at the school for testing milk and there is a communication in the records which states that in one of the tests hook-worm was discovered.

In 1913, Mr. N. McLeod was appointed. Some of the assistants who served under him were Miss Rita Shea, Miss Ellem Holmes, Miss Jessie Benson and Miss Wilkinson.

In 1914, Mr. McLeod must have been filled with pride as he witnessed 100 ex-pupils from Warden Public School volunteer for service with the first A.I.F. Many of these courageous and noble young men paid the supreme sacrifice.

Post-war era saw the advent of Mr. Stanley Johnson (1921) as headmaster with one assistant. The numbers by this time had dropped considerably and the school was hard put to maintain its assistant, Miss Lancaster.

When Mr. K. Bongers arrived in 1933 Wardell was a one-teacher school. Mr. Bongers' stay at Wardell is the longest on record-1933-1950.

As Mr. McLeod had done previously, Mr. Bongers witnessed the generous sacrifice on behalf of the country by Wardell ex-pupils. Similarly many of these paid the supreme sacrifice.

Mr. W. Heugh arrived in 1950. He had at one stage the unenviable task of teaching 42 children by himself. During Mr. Heugh's term a new residence was built and extensive renovations and repairs were carried out in the school. The school building is externally the same as it was in 1900 when it was first built. Internally, the old tiered seating has been replaced by modern posture furniture.

The present teacher, Mr. B. G. Whelan, finds that the school still services the same district as it did in 1890, but with far fewer pupils. Enrolment in 1890 was approximately 150 with the enrolment in 1959 at 29 pupils.

Parents and citizens of Wardell have manifested an interest in their school since its infancy. In the early nineties while Mr. Cousins was headmaster many delightful concerts were held. In the organisation and presentation of these he was ably assisted by his musically gifted assistant, Mr. Costello. Some may recall the staging of "Cinderella" and "Robin Hood", which were highly successful. It was at this stage also that an effort was made to beautify the establishment by the planting of trees, some of which still stand today.

Empire Day is an annual function which has always been well supported. A subscription list for Empire Day in 1914 shows that a sum of £2/12/- was collected. Through the generous efforts of post-war P. and C. Associations much valuable equipment has been added to the school supplies. Recently the P. and C. purchased a motor mower worth sixty guineas.

Wardell Public School can lay claim to citizens who have served their fellow men honourably in all walks of life.

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.