Smithfield Primary school
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SMITHFIELD PRIMARY SCHOOL 1877-1972
The early history of education in Smithfield is shrouded in conjecture and only a few facts emerge, while quite a few questions remain unanswered.
In 1852, John Smith, from whom Smithfield takes its name, kept a ledger and one day he took the time and trouble to draw in it a map of “SMITH’S CREEK” the town’s early name, as 1200 acres of it belonged to him and much of his holding was let to tenant farmers.
In the southeast corner of Section 1719, on the west side of the Main North Road, directly opposite Purdie Road, he shaded a small oblong and clearly marked it “SCHOOL”. The site is in front of the house now used as a hostel by Barkuma and most of it is buried beneath the sound barrier raised to shield the new homes form the noise of traffic.
The obscurity which surrounds the history of education in Smithfield is due to the lack of private and official records, and the loss by neglect or dishonesty of vital school journals, roll books, inspectors’ examination registers, and the original school admission register. The last-named covered the years 1877 to 1896 and contained the names of the first pupils enrolled at the school, while the first three would have been the source of interesting historical data.
Even records of the Central Board of Education contain no references to Smithfield until 1857 but the Education Reports and Government Gazettes are more helpful, though occasionally confusing as in the case of James Catts.
The educational system was to blame for much of the confusion as the earliest schools were held in chapels and private dwellings as well as in “vested” schools erected by Boards of Trustees on land already bought by the trustees, aided by grants from the Central Board of Education.
The first licensed teacher hereabouts was J. William Buchanan who, from 1851 to 1854, conducted a school at Gawler Plains. In 1854, he resigned his license.
He was followed by James Catts, who served the district until 1869 (25 years) when he vanished from the educational scene without trace. He must have been a good teacher for the Central Board
of Education received a “memorial from several inhabitants of Gawler Plains in favour of Mr Catts who is desirous of removing from that place”.
This is almost enough to suggest that Smithfield and Gawler Plains were one and the same place, but they couldn’t have been, for there were, at times, three teachers (Letitia McClelland, Ann Crisp, and Margaret Myers) presumably keeping separate schools at Gawler Plains while James Catts and Ellen McClelland were each maintaining a school at Smithfield.school was opened in 1877.On 16 December, 1871, Ellen Grace Beer McClelland was married in Adelaide to Archibald Campbell and returned to her school at Smithfield where she remained until the new Attendance at school was not compulsory until the passage in 1875 of a Bill which made it compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 13 to attend 78 days a year.
It appears that the pioneers placed a fairly high premium on education. The Government of the State provided no school buildings. If the people living in any district decided that a school was required, the District Council of the area sent a plan, specifications, and a guarantee relating to the intended school, to the Central Board of Education (set up in 1851). A grant in aid of construction of the schoolhouse was then given to the Council provided the Central Board of Education was satisfied with their plans, specifications, and guarantee.
Not all Councils were progressive. On 1 August, 1855 the Board received a letter from the District Council of Munno Para West saying that they were unable to avail themselves of the Board’s offer to assist in the erection of a school.
Because attendance was voluntary, it is no wonder we find enrolments and attendances fluctuating widely. At James Catts’ school, the attendances varied from as low as 26 in 1867 to as many as 59 in 1869. In 1860 (24 boys, 26 girls on the roll) he taught writing to 45, arithmetic to 39, grammar to 10, geometry and history to 7, and had an average attendance of 38.
Ellen Campbell, in 1876, had her school open on 245 days, was visited twice by an inspector, had one assistant (male), presented 46 pupils for examination. Of these, 53 percent passed. An amount of £30-4-7 was collected in fees.
From 1876 onwards, records of school, head teachers, and statistics of attendances etc. are good, but details of the schools’ activities are almost non-existent.
Minute 854 of the meeting of the Council of Education, held 10 July, 1876, records “It was resolved to accept Mr John Smith’s offer of block 163 for a school site in Smithfield”, although later records show that they paid £8-5-0 for it.
On 14 September (Minute 1105) it was reported that the following tenders for the erection of a schoolhouse and residence at Smithfield had been received. Taylor and Forgie £1200-12-6 (accepted), Caleb Virgo £1251, Joseph Blake £1270. The Council affixed its seal to Taylor and Forgie’s tender agreement on 25 November, 1876.
Taylor and Forgie, who are still in business in Gawler, wasted no time in getting on with the job and progress payments were made 2 January, 1877 (£200), 12 January (£250), 12 March (£205), 16 Aril (£200), 14 May (£300-12-6: final payment).
The Council of Education met on 7 May, 1877 and appointed Mr August Wittber to open the school on 1 June, 1877. We can imagine the excitement and pride with which he moved into his new home and prepared to open his new school on 1 June, 1877. His wife, Sarah, was appointed teacher of sewing.
Apparently there were unruly children in those days and Mr Wittber had to deal severely with one of them, so severely that the parents complained but Mr Wittber survived the complaint and went on to complete two years of service at Smithfield and eight years at Salisbury.
That he was a good teacher cannot be doubted. Of the 108 children on the roll in 1977, 80 had attended some other school; the school was kept open on 138 days, 76 pupils were presented for examination by the inspector, who judged that 65 (86 percent) were worthy of promotion – a record which no one surpassed between 1877 and 1900.
The following list of head teachers was culled from the records at the Education Centre (Flinders Street) and Admission Registers at Smithfield School.
1877-78 August Wittber 1919-20 John A. Shepherd
1879-80 Henry G. Allert 1920-28 Keith V. Day
1881-84 James Kekwick 1928 Clyde H. Pearce
1885-93 Timothy O’Connell 1928-31 Paul H.F. Brus
1894-95 Henry J. Armitage 1931-43 Carl H. Nietschke
1896-98 Charles R. Tucker 1943-45 Peter L. McCarthy
1898-1912 Herbert J. Deeble 1946-67 Kevin P.J. O’Brien
1912-18 Arthur J. Moulds 1968-75 Ormonde B. Kermode
1976-date (26/11/77) Ian R. Weston
Smithfield has always been a small school with an enrolment fluctuating between 37 and 70 during the years 1877 to 1947. There were three upsurges in the past 30 years, as shown by the following figures; 1951(90), 1954 (60), 1959 (180), 1974 (33), 1977 (113).
The peaks of 1951 and 1959 were caused by the influx of migrant children from the hostel at Smithfield. The closing of the hostel and the development of Elizabeth and Smithfield Plains, which swallowed up the farms from which many of the pupils at this school came, caused the decline in numbers.
A sense of impending doom seemed to hang over the little school with much discussion in Committee and Welfare Club of its life expectancy.
The years passed and the school still maintained its identity. It proved a useful school at which students of Salisbury College of Advance Education could gain experience in handling multiple classes. When the Federal Government reduced allocations for development at Monarto, the building of new homes north of the town resulted in increased enrolments and the Smithfield School can look forward to a few more years of activity. Additional rooms will need to be built to cope with the greater numbers until a larger school to cater for the new area can be built north of the little village.
Present staff are: Principal, Mr Ian Weston; and Assistants, Misses Tania Botuch, Maria Barone, and Karen Skifington.
There is an active School Council (President, Mr Norm Jenkins; Secretary, Mrs Jenny Gibson; and Treasurer, Mrs Judy Mudie).
A Parents’ and Friends’ Club meets regularly and gives enthusiastic support to school projects. It is organised by Mrs Helen McCarthy and Mrs Dawn Tresize.
A myth or two regarding the earliest schools (except that on Section 1719) still exist. One holds that the house belonging to the two Fradd brothers was used as a school. It is now demolished. The other asserts that an old house on Gardener Terrace, formerly occupied by a Mrs Watson, was also used as a school. These myths may be true, as both James Catts and Ellen McClelland kept school at the same time before the stone building was built in 1877.
I have culled some snippets from the available records at the school, but regret that there is a complete blank for the period 1877-1925.
1877 School opened with 32 students
1925 “The schoolhouse is in the hands of workmen who will remodel and repair the old building. School is being held in the Institute” (V.J. Pavia, D.I.)
1927 The school has an air of willing obedience and the older scholars evidence their pride of school. Manners are very good, attendance and punctuality are exceedingly good.
I was charmed by the attitude and manners of the children and the enthusiasm of the teachers (V.S. Pavia)
1929 The enrolments (29) have suffered this year and are smaller than they have ever been.
1937 Annual seaside picnic held at Semaphore. Thirteen scholars signed the Temperance Pledge. During Kindness Week, £1-11-2 was collected for Minda Home. Lloyd Frisby raised 11/- and Ray King 9/-.
Arbor Day held on 6 August. Twenty-three flowering gums planted.
December 4th; School Concert held. A great success. Credit balance £11.
December 18th; school holidays commenced a week earlier on account of infantile paralysis (the old name for poliomyelitis).
1938 An address on the “Anzac Landing” given by Constable Neave.
1939 May 26th; Empire Day celebrated. School listened to a special program broadcast from Norwood School.
1940 June 7th; “Tuck Shop” for Patriotic Funds raised £1-4-3.
1941 March 11th; first lesson on Religious Instruction held 9.30 to 10am. Reverend Fitch (Gawler) and Father O’Sullivan conducted the lessons.
1942 July 24th; flowering gums planted on the road.
1943 January 27-29th; a severe heat wave. Temperature rose to 114°F in porch (45.5°C).
April 7th; Parents’ Meeting to elect School Committee.
Mr Martin (Chairman), Mr J.B. Smith (Secretary), Mr Frisby, Mr Paltridge, Mr Barker, Mrs Curtis, and Mrs Adams.
August 13th; “Dig for Victory” campaign started. Several new gardens marked out.
September 7th; band being revived. Several recruits admitted to band making a total of fife players (sic). (Teachers are, like all humans, imperfect).
September 30th; “…it was decided that school timetable should operate half an hour behind usual time during daylight saving period”.
1945 August 15th; PEACE today. The war is over. Today is VP day. Today and tomorrow are holidays. We came to school, saluted the Flag, sang the National Anthem and then the scholars were dismissed until Friday (entered by Assistant Teacher).
1946 March 13th; during the lunch hour one of the boys chased his brother with a knife.
March 23rd; The boys journeyed to Salisbury where a cricket was played between the two schools Salisbury won easily. A fine spirit of sportsmanship was shown by both teams.
April 29th; the day’s lessons devoted to early explorers and poems about early pioneers.
August 23rd; Arbor Day – Memorial Garden set out. Mr Duncan, MP of Gawler was the speaker. Miss Adams planted a tree for Lance-Corporal C.P. Spratt, the only local soldier killed in the war. Rose trees were planted in honour of the other men.
1947 November 20th; school closed…to commemorate the wedding of HRH Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten.
1948 April 11th; heavy storm. School window blown out.
1949 Junior teacher absent form 14/3/49 to 25/3/49 due to train restrictions.
September 2nd; Debutante Ball held by Mothers’ Welfare Club. Mr Mander Jones (Director of Education) present. A very successful night.
1950 March 27th; Annual Parents’ Meeting held in the schoolroom. The recently acquired cinema projector was demonstrated. (It is still going strong).
September 21st; school closed so children could attend the Gawler Show.
1951 Enrolments 90.
March 27th; Institute taken over as classroom. Miss Conlon to takes Grades I and II; Miss Brown, Grades III and IV, at the Institute, and HT, Grades V, VI and VII.
April 11th; Jubilee Sports Day. Combined Sports Day held with One Tree Hill School. Six cups were presented for competition. (Silver anniversary coronation, King George VI).
(The construction of a wood and iron portable room during 1951 and 19852 passed unrecorded).
1952 July 27th; Miss Conlon transferred to Quorn owing to the closing of the Migrant Camp.
October 24th; Combined Sports at Red Hill…Warren Cluse won the boys’ championship and Rhonda Cluse the girls’.
1953 June 1st; special Coronation ceremony. Speakers: Mrs Harvey (President, CWA), Mr N. Brook (Chairman, School Committee), and Mr (s) Allanson (President, Welfare Club).
June 2nd; school closed, public holiday for Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
1954 March 23rd; Grades IV and V visited Wayville Showground to attend Schools’ Demonstration in honour of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
1955 March 28th; Annual Meeting. Member elected to retire in 1957: Harold Frisby, Norman Dudley Brock, Robert Vivian Taylor, and Angus Albert Kalms.
1956 February 21st; Dr Hannan of Gawler gave injections to 16 pupils to immunise them against diphtheria.
February 27th; Institute taken over as classroom.
March 25th; second poliomyelitis injections given.
August 14th; (Inspector Dyer). The four classrooms are adequate in size, lighting and ventilation for class sizes (obviously a second portable had been built in 1955-56).
1959 April 17th; enrolments 180!
April 27th; Grades III and IV moved to the Institute.
July 6th; owing to a decrease in numbers, use of Institute as a classroom has been discontinued.
1960 March 25th; Munno Para District Sports Association held a combined sports at Smithfield Oval. One Tree Hill, Virginia, Angle vale, and Smithfield participated. (First mention of MPDSA).
June 10th; Nicholas Bradshaw fractured a leg when accidentally fell over in the schoolground.
September 22nd; now that the old school residence and surrounding sheds have been removed, the school looks much tidier (A.L.B. Gibbs, DI).
November 17th; a School Fete, held in school ground, was opened by Mr Inspector Gibbs! Gawler Junior Marching Girls gave a display. Children gave items.
1961 Aprils 28th; Munno Para District Sorts held at Smithfield. Smithfield won the shield.
September 12th; a new shelter shed has been erected.
1962 February 23rd (99 on roll); Inspector Nancy Fitch recorded “a prefabricated wooden unit consisting of a classroom, office and staffroom, has been erected on the western side of the stone building. A shelter shed with toolshed and woodshed has been erected on the northwest of the schoolground.
1963 October 10th; Grades IV and V, under Miss Nardi, paid an educational visit to Grieg’s farm at Wasleys.
October 3rd; Grades II and III, under Mrs O’Brien, paid an educational visit to Peter Simon Hatchery and Woodroofe’s cool drink factory.
October 17th; Grades VI and VII visited Parliament House. Mr Clark, MP for Gawler, conducted them through the House.
1964 February 29th; taps at water trough pulled off by vandals.
March 15th; vandals broke into the infant classroom, disarranged books, marked walls and piano keys with stamp pad. (These are the first recorded acts of vandalism which, as years passed, became more numerous and severe).
1965 May 1st; Back to Smithfield School celebrations. Mr Paul Brus, an old teacher of the school, took lessons. Lunch was provided by the CWA. Gawler Brass Band, University Regimental Band, Elizabeth Marching Girls, and items by the children entertained the gathering.
November 11th; Remembrance Day. The children assembled in the yard, were addressed by the Head Teacher (Mr O’Brien). National Salute was followed by two minutes silence.
November 17th; Mr Hatcher, District Clerk (District Council of Munno Para), presented prizes to Christine Bartsch, Mary Lombards, and Barry Victor for essays on the topic “How does Vandalism affect the Community?”.
1967 Aril 21st; Combined Sports held at One Tree Hill. The shield was won by Smithfield. (Last but two entries made by K.J.P. O’Brien, Head Teacher for just over 21 years).
1968 February 5th; Ormonde B. Kermode commenced duty as Head Teacher.
April 1st; the children were all keen to play tricks on one another and on the teachers. All were harmless and a few quite subtle.
September 25th; took Grades VI and VII for an excursion on foot up Uley Road. One boy brought along a packet of cigarettes and three or four hid under the bridge on Adams Road to indulge in a quiet smoke, but their luck was out. The cigarettes were confiscated and parents informed.
1969 May 28th; concrete paths now completed, the contractor having been compelled to relay them because of the inferior quality of the concrete he used.
June 11th; 21 new tables and 42 new chairs for use of children arrived and 11 K-type desks taken away.
August 18th; (entry by Rory A. Chisholm, relieving Head Teacher) Mr Kermode, Head Teacher, is to undergo an operation in the Lyell McEwin Hospital and I have been sent from Smithfield Plains to relieve in acting capacity. I presume this will be until the end of the term (It was!)
1970 February 2nd; resumed duty with Miss Whaites the only Assistant and Mrs Ireland as Clerical Assistant. Organisation of classes: HT Grades VII, VI, V, IV (49), Miss Whaites Grades III, II and I (21).
September 2nd; three students from Salisbury College of Advance Education began their three weeks training. They are Mrs Audrey Fletcher, Miss Catharina di Marie, and Miss Anthea Ftherston.
October 13th; Mrs Carey’s class of 36 from Elizabeth Field Infant School arrive. They are to use Room 3 for the next 6 months while their burnt-out classroom is rebuilt.
1971 April 15th; there has been a marked change in the weather and temperatures have dropped 20° to 30° below those of last week. Oil heaters were lit for the first time to warm Room 1.
November 4th; since Monday, children of Grades III, IV, V, VI, and VII have been going to block swimming lessons and good progress has been made.
1972 August 15th; seventeen children attended a rehearsal for the Elizabeth-Salisbury Festival of Music for which the children of Room 1 have been practising for several months. Twenty children eventually took part in the Festival’s Concert this evening.
1973 February 17th; two unknown children set fire to the paper in the shelter shed attached to the old stone room and fled. Prompt action by parents and the Emergency Fire Service saved the 94 year old building from destruction.
1974 May 1st; a new Rover lawn mower arrived today and was tried out. A powerful, efficient machine.
September 9th; three children from Canada were enrolled today. Gail, Mark and Eddie Tattingham – all open, friendly, articulate children.
October 16th; an advertisement has been placed in the News Review calling for applications for the position of Teachers’ Aide as Mrs Beth Ireland has resigned because she and her husband are going to live in Sydney.
October 22nd; 59 applications received for the position advertised on 16th inst.
October 29th; applicant finally selected for the position of Teachers’ Aide – Mrs Helen Bain.
1975 December 11th; children of Room 1 brought along food and cordial for a breakfast feast. After a communal lunch, some of the children put on an unscripted play of what happened when three mothers took their children to see Santa Claus at the Magic Cave.
1976 Mr Ian Weston appointed to this school. Since his appointment the area north of the Institute has been improved by growing lawn grasses on it. The active Council keeps the premises looking neat and tidy and with the aid of the Parents’ and Friends’ Club have provided aids, library books, etc. for the school.
The subcommittee which organised the Centenary Celebrations, under the guidance of the Principal, hope that this booklet will have awakened in old scholars memories of the days they spent at Smithfield, and a desire to see that the old building, with its simple, rugged architecture, is preserved for posterity as a symbol of our past when things moved at a more leisurely pace.
If only these walls could speak what a tale they could unfold but they are dumb and bleak and leave the tale untold.
Smith Creek Primary school officially closed on December 18th 2009, 132 years old. It closed under the State governments Education Works initiative which will see two larger schools in the area. At that time it had 75 students. New school Munno Para West with 1375 students to be built in 2011, and 575 school at Playford North to finish in October 2010.Also known asSmith Creek SchoolGeotag