State School, Rockhampton

News of the day

Morning Bulletin, Tuesday 12 July 1887, page 5


The ceremony in connection with the opening of this school, which is situated on the block of land formerly occupied as an exhibition ground by the Fitzroy Pastoral Society, and is surrounded by William, Denham, George and West Streets, took place yesterday forenoon in the presence of a large number of residents. Among the company were many of our prominent citizens, and numerous ladies; they seemed to be of one mind in their expressions of admiration of the new structure. Inside everything looks clean and new, and the dark hue of the blue-gum that has been used for rafters, joists, etc, harmonises well with the light-coloured stain on the walls. Outside also things are as attractive, and it is evident to the most casual observer that in the erection of this edifice one great aim has been to provide as much light and ventilation as possible. On a former occasion we gave a description of the school -one of the finest in this colony; and now we need do no more than refer to the main features. Messrs. P. Waters and Co. were the contractors, and though they encountered many difficulties at the outset, they have succeeded in completing their undertaking to the satisfaction of all concerned. The building consists of a main school room, and two wings. The principal room is a fine large area, and its capacity may be judged by the fact that it accommodated all the pupils and visitors who yesterday attended the opening ceremony. It is 80 ft. long and 22 ft. wide, and at the rear portion there are ranged three rows of forms and desks. Here, as in the other apartments we shall refer to, are to be found the paraphernalia necessary to the conduct of a school, and it is noticeable that, besides the numerous windows on either side and at either end there are ventilators in the roof. These are, however, small, and it is to be regretted the turret in the centre of the room, is not useful as well as ornamental. This apartment has, on either side, a verandah 8 ft. wide, and at the ends a 5 ft. passage, so that it is distinct and separate from any other part of the house. The passages divide the main rooms from the wings, and in the latter are two classrooms, each measuring 30 ft. by 22ft, and separated by a passage 5 ft. wide. The side windows in the class-rooms are prettily coloured, and can be easily moved by shifting up or down, as the teacher requires to let in more light or air, an iron rod that connects with each sash. At the ends of the building, i.e., the parts facing George and West Streets, are hat and cloak rooms, and in the centre at the front and rear are located comfortable rooms for the head master and assistant teachers respectively. Mr. Potts's apartment is nicely furnished and well-lighted, and, seated in a chair here, he can see what lessons are going on in the principal rooms. The school-rooms can be reached from any part of the ground, there being four entrances. All save the one facing Denham street, are reached by stone steps, railed in with ornamental ironwork. The rear entrance is wholly of wood. In this building a novel departure in school architecture has been made. The floor is raised to a height of 8 ft. from the ground, and rests on solid brick pillars. The floor of the lower area is asphalted and here the boys will be able to indulge in such innocent recreations as marbles when it is too wet or hot to play out of doors. In the corners are the iron tanks, which have been provided in plenty; at the ends are lavatories; and under the head teacher's room is an apartment which is to be used for lumber. The water from the lavatories, and from the overflow pipes of the tanks, is carried away immediately by underground drains, and there appears to be little chance of stagnant pools being formed in the vicinity of the school. At some distance from the buildings are the closets and urinals - all of which are arranged with a view to cleanliness, and an attempt to carry off liquid matter. The school is built entirely of wood, and the only hardwood used is blue-gum. The boys have a fine playground, but it needs to be levelled and drained.

About half past ten o'clock in the forenoon the boys marched from their old to their new school, and were assembled in the main room. Here parents, friends, and others gathered presently, and about twenty minutes past eleven o'clock the head-master (Mr. G. Potts, senr.) announced that all was in readiness to begin.

Mr. FERGUSON, addressing the ladies and gentlemen and "young boys" present, said he was sure they were all pleased that the day had come for them to take possession of this building. Speaking for himself, he was exceedingly gratified, especially that he had the privilege and honour of declaring it open for the purposes for which it was intended. The School Committee had hoped that the Minister for Public Instruction would have performed this ceremony when he was in Rockhampton recently, but the building was not sufficiently advanced at the time to enable him to do so. Now the duty devolved on him, and he undertook it with pleasure, feeling glad that the day had come when it had to be done by someone. He was only expressing the sentiments of each member of the Committee, and also of the head master, when he said they were pleased and proued that the work, which they had taken so much interest in, and had done so much to accomplish, was finished. The Committee had been unanimous and hard-working; and if they had been otherwise, and had not worked harmoniously and perseveringly, there would not have been a stick of the structure they were now in standing today. He looked on it as a monument of their persistence and determination, and it would not be out of place for him to give them a brief history of the troubles they had encountered. Though the building had not yet been opened, it had a history. About four years ago the School Committee - the same Committee as they saw here today - observed the necessity of making certain additions to the Boys' School in William-street, which they had left today. At first they only contemplated adding a wing to the old place, which he hoped they had now left for ever; but when they considered the matter again they saw that by the time they had the new wing ready, a similar addition would be wanted at the Girls' School. These new buildings would take up so much room, too, that there would be no play-ground for either the boys or the girls. Thus they determined to build a new school for the boys away from the girls; but to do that they had to collect one-fifth of the cost of the new structure. To accomplish their purpose, they divided themselves into collecting committees, and decided to make a thorough canvass. They were pretty successful, too - so successful, indeed, that they came to a decision to build a new boys' school at a cost of £3500. After consulting the Government Inspector of School Buildings, they found that such a place would not provide sufficient accommodation; and when he went to Brisbane he waited on the Minister for Education, in his capacity as Parliamentary representative for Rockhampton and as Chairman of the School Committee, and guaranteed £1000.  This was with the sanction of the Committee. At that time they had only £550 in hand, but still, on their guarantee, the Minister authorised the preparation of plans. These were drawn out in due course, but while they were in progress the Committee applied for a site. At first they were given the reserve adjoining the Council Chambers, but the Council objecting, their troubles began. They were prepared to meet the Council's protest if they were given a site as good as the one first granted.  Eventually they entered into communication with the Committee of the Fitzroy Pastoral Society, who held the land on which the school stood now, and - to cut a long story short - the dispute that arose between that body, the Government, and the School Committee delayed the building for nearly two years. In the interval the plans were finished. In the end this site was gazetted under the control of the Committee for school purposes, and they thought that, being now in the position to call for tenders, there would be no more trouble. But when the tenders came in it was found the structure would cost over £6000, and this raised a new difficulty. They had only £550, and as a drought set in while they were disputing over the site, there was not the slightest chance of bringing the subscriptions up to £1200, so as to carry out the building according to the plan. This obstacle they thought they would never get over. While in Brisbane attending Parliament he saw the Government Inspector of School Buildings again, and consulted him as to the best way of dealing with the difficulty. At one time they believed they would have to revert to the old idea of adding a wing to the old building. During his conversation with the Government Inspector, that gentleman said he would tell him a wrinkle, and he could act on it or not as he liked. He (Mr. Ferguson) asked him to say what it was, and he pointed out that two or three new buildings had been erected in the southern part of the colony without the people being asked to subscribe a penny towards them. When he learned how the other committees had gone to work, he said to his informer "You must give me full particulars before I tackle the Minister for Education;" and having obtained the facts, he waited on the Hon. B. B. Moreton, who was then in charge of the Education Department. He pointed out their position - that they wanted additional accommodation, that they had not all the money that was wanted, and that they wished to carry out the plans in their entirety; and made use of the facts that the Inspector had kindly favoured him with. It seemed that the schools in the south, which were erected without aid from the parents, were constructed while Sir Samuel Griffith was Minister for Education. The result of his representations was that Mr. Moreton said he would bring the plans before the Cabinet, recommend their adoption, and advise the Government to carry out the work in accordance with them. Now he indulged in the hope that their troubles were all at an end, but the worst were to come. After the interview he returned to Rockhampton, and here he learned that the building was to be constructed in conformity with the original designs; and informed Messrs. P. Waters and Sons that their tender would be accepted in a week or so. He left Rockhampton again soon after this, and almost immediately after his arrival in Brisbane he received a telegram from Mr. W. Davis, the Secretary of the Committee, saying the contractors had been asked to send in an amended tender, and to reduce their offer by £1000, which would result in the whole thing being spoilt. He saw the Inspector, and obtained the particulars of the proposed reduction. Armed with these, he again waited on Mr. Moreton, and pointed out that if the changes contemplated were made the Government would not get value for their money, and the building would not be suitable for the purpose for which it was intended. He replied that he had no option, the whole of the Cabinet being against him; and he could not help it. He expressed himself satisfied, however, that if he laid the facts before the other members of the Cabinet in the same way as he had before him (Mr. Moreton), he would get what he wanted. And he personally interviewed each Minister, telling each precisely what he had told Mr. Moreton; and they promised that when the matter came before them again they would deal with it in the way he proposed. At all events, the Cabinet, at its next meeting, agreed to the building being gone on with according to the original plans; and today they saw the result. ( Applause.) He need not dwell on this subject any longer, or detain them otherwise. The boys he now saw before him would be men in a few years, and the action of the Committee in connection with this school would be a good example to them of what could be done by perseverance. In whatever pursuit they followed in life - whether they became tradesmen, or members of a profession, or entered into commercial pursuits - they should be persevering in everything they undertook, and they were bound to succeed. But this was not the first qualification for success.  There was another above it. Their first aim should be to be honest, for honesty was the best policy, and then, with perseverance, they were sure to prosper. Above all things they should be honest, even if they left the future out of the question altogether. The Committee possessed the power or privilege of giving the boys a holiday once a quarter, and, not having exercised it this year, they had decided to make today a day of pleasure for them. (Loud applause.) They had also collected sufficient money to treat them to refreshments and to provide certain cricketing materials; and these they could enjoy this afternoon if they liked. He would not keep them any longer. He had great pleasure in declaring this building - a beautiful structure, and one of the finest in Queensland - open. He did not believe there was any boys’ school (separate from the girls and infants) in the colony that was so well finished. Before he declared it open he must give credit to the contractors (Messrs. P. Waters and Sons), who had carried out their work faithfully, both with regard to material and labour. The structure was really a first-class one, and they deserved every praise. All he had to do now was to declare the school open for the purposes for which it was intended. (Loud applause.)

Dr. HAY delivered a lengthy address, in the course of which he dwelt on the possibility of the lads he now saw before him rising to the positions held by some of the gentlemen assembled there today. They might become aldermen, and mayors, and even - as Mr. Ferguson was - one of the representatives of Rockhampton in Parliament. But they would require to learn a great deal before they could aspire so high. He had been thinking, as he listened to Mr. Ferguson's speech, how much the boys were interested in the opening of the new school. Some were getting into new places, or had been promoted, and others had got new books to begin with. His advice to them was - "Make the most of the novelty. Get all the good you can out of the new school, and there is no telling what may become of it." He was not going to detain them long, but he would just like to say that this was only one step on the educational ladder. There was one lower than this - the infants' school, which was the first. Then came theirs - the primary school; then the grammar school; and by-and-bye there would be a higher step still - a Queensland university. He hoped they would all work as if they were trying to get to the grammar school, and thence to the university. He was very pleased to be able to refer to the fact that three boys from this school won grammar school scholarships last Christmas; and he hoped there would be not only three, but thirty, successful at the next examination. After a time of inaction, Mr. Potts had got to work again, and he hoped he would continue to prepare the ground for future success. In conclusion he could only say he congratulated tbs members of the School Committee and Mr. Potts on having this fine building. (Applause.)
The Rev. R. HARTLEY also addressed a few words to the boys, following up the advice given by the Chairman and Dr. Hay. He urged them to be diligent, honest, and truthful, and warned them to be especially careful lest their truthfulness should be suspected. No doubt they were all fully interested in the opening of the school, and he could join in a hope that it would be the means of increasing education to an extent that had never been thought of before in Rockhampton. When he thought of the old schools, and of the additions that were made to them from time to time, and contrasted them with this perfect school - as he could only call it - it gave him great pleasure to think they had men in the town who would toil so perseveringly as the Committee had to secure this new building. He would not keep them any longer, but he must say he echoed the wishes of Dr. Hay, and felt convinced that, before long, the educational institutions of Queensland would be as perfect as those in any of the other colonies. (Applause.)

The Rev. D. RUDDOCK remarked that it gave him great pleasure to be present at the opening of this school, which was certainly the finest he had seen in the colony. He could only repeat the excellent advice they had received already, and express a hope that in all their undertakings they would work with all their might, and for God's glory. Then they would be preparing themselves for the life that was before them, and the life that was to come. (Applause.)

The formal business being now finished, the boys of the lower divisions sang, under Mr. F. W. Hacker's direction, "The Midship mite," and those in the upper classes - led by the head master – “The Harp that once thro' Tara's halls." The pupils, at Mr. Potts’s call, gave three cheers each for the School Committee, and the ladies and gentlemen who attended to witness the opening ceremony; and of their own accord they paid a similar compliment to their head teacher. The proceedings, so far as the public were concerned, were concluded with the singing of the National Anthem; but after the visitors had dispersed, the boys were regaled with buns and oranges, and indulged in a game of cricket.




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