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


Yamba Public School was established on 12th October, 1882, when the first teacher, Mr. Duncan McGregor, commenced duty in what was then a small public hall at the corner of Wooli and River Streets, the site of the present school residence.

As early as November, 1876, an application for the establishment of a Provisional School had been made to the Council of Education by Messrs. Black, Pegus and Harry, the two firstnamed still having descendants at Yamba, but it was not until two years later that a renewed application was successful, and financial aid guaranteed. Delay, however, followed. In 1880 the parents arranged for the use of the public hall as a school, but in the same year land was resume on Pilot Hill a very bleak and exposed spot, as parents quickly pointed out. The site now in use was acquired in 1885.

Early teachers remained for only short periods. Mr McGregor left in 1884 and was succeeded for only a few months by Mr. Archibald, who, in turn, made way for Mr. Colin McKinnon in 1885. Mr. McKinnon married at Yamba in June, 1887. He and his wife, both aged 95, are still living and remember clearly their experiences. Mr. McKinnon recalls that he was locked out of the school on his first day by the hall’s trustees, and had, on the advice of the District Inspector of Schools at Grafton, to break in, afterwards being threatened with police action. A photograph taken at this time, presented to the school by Mr. McKinnon, and now preserved in the school archives, shows him a tall bearded man and his pupils in their rather quaint clothes. Three of these ex-pupils at least are still living, two at Yamba and the other a frequent visitor. Two of these “children” were first enrolled at the age of les than three years.


By the time Mr. McKinnon was replaced by Mr. G Jones in 1889 the need for a permanent school building was urgent, and this and a residence were built by Mr. George Wunderlich, of Grafton, in 1891 at a cost of 981 pounds fifteen shillings. This amount was considered excessive, but the contractor explained that all materials had to be transported by boat from either Grafton or Sydney. It is interesting to note, too, that the salary of the first teacher was 91 pounds per annum. The present state of school and residence, after 68 years’ use, speak highly for Mr. Wunderlich’s work.

Mr. Samuel Campbell, who was to stay longer than any other teacher so far at Yamba (1895-1911), is still remembered with affection by many of his pupils. To him is owed the fencing of the school ground (so well done with posts and rails that its replacement became necessary only a year ago), the clearing of scrub where many snakes had caused alarm, and the planting in the residence grounds of the majestic Norfolk Island pine from whose seeds have come most of these trees which are a feature of Yamba. Twenty seedlings are to be handed over to the Yamba Urban Area Committee shortly, the present pupils continuing the work begun by Mr. Campbell.


During the headmastership of Mr. A. McLachlan (1911-1915) or Mr. Dalbey (1918-1921) the school acquired an oyster lease. Apparently this was a successful venture as one pupil recalls the glee he experienced at being detailed with others to take an afternoon off to gather a bag of oysters for the district inspector of schools on his annual visit. When the school's interest in oyster culture, still a thriving local industry, waned is not known, but it is suspected that possibly some oysters disagreed with an inspector. Mrs. McLachlan, now living at Bondi, recalls that on arrival at Yamba by ship the family was driven to the residence where a fine meal, prepared by citizens of the town, was waiting, and that none of the usual bother with furniture and effects was experienced as the same citizens arranged everything, ensuring that the newcomers would feel welcome.

During the time of Mr. Eades (1929-1934) the school tennis court and a concrete relief map of Australia were built, but little could be done to improve the school in the next decade as depression and war intervened. Serious deterioration to school and residence occurred, and it is believed that no repairs or painting were carried out for about twenty years, despite strong representations by parents and teachers (Angus McArthur, Arthur Holmwood, Cecil Schofield, Fred Clayton, James O'Keeffe and Roger Christie). The last-named did have one important improvement effected, the draining of a section of the school ground which became a swamp in wet weather.

Mr. George Arden, headmaster between 1949 and 1954, was able to have all necessary repairs and painting carried out, a storeroom made from a section of a corridor and a much-needed ablution shed built.

Enrolments have varied greatly over the years, and the school has at periods had only sufficient pupils for one teacher. The establishment of schools at Palmer's Island and Palmer's Channel reduced the area the school serves and in 1959 the school serves the immediate neighbourhood of Yamba, though frequently children are enrolled for brief periods from other areas while visiting such a popular resort on holidays. In the past five years enrolments have varied between seventy and ninety, and at times it has been hoped that permanent enrolments would warrant the building of another classroom and appointment of an additional teacher. However, these hopes have not been fulfilled, and the present staff of two, Mr. S. G. Baker and Mrs. M. Morton, have classes totalling eighty-one children in classes kindergarten to sixth. For many years now secondary pupils have mainly attended Maclean Intermediate High School, twelve miles distant by bus.


The people of Yamba have shown their interest in the full education of their children in many ways. A very active Parents and Citizens' Association has provided much equipment for the school: piano, duplicator, radio, radiogram and amplifier, microphone, motor mower, reference and general library, strip film projector, cricket pitch, concrete paths, fixed physical education equipment to mention a few, and has erected a weather shed with materials supplied by the Department. The school staff receives much encouragement from this excellent body of keen citizens. Staff and citizens share the responsibility for weekend sport for boys who play in a football competition and in cricket matches with other schools. Clubs for boys and girls have been established in the town with weekly meetings, and where possible the school has given assistance in these. The Yamba Bowling Club has recently undertaken to provide amenities for the school to the value of £500, and with this magnificent donation it is planned to replace the present gravel tennis court with concrete and to purchase a tape recorder and set of "The Australian Encyclopaedia".

Active affiliation with town organisations, National Fitness Committee, local Drama Group, C.W.A., R.S.L., has materially helped the school, and other bodies have always provided assistance whenever asked. Probably the best example of the manner in which the school and community co-operate was the celebration of the school's 75th Anniversary in 1957 when every town organisation assisted in some way.

This spirit of "togetherness", to quote a contemporary craze, augurs well for the future of the school at Yamba.

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.