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John Oxley Library

150 years of State School education for Nanango

By JOL Admin | 22 January 2016

2016 was a milestone year for Nanango and district. On January 1, 1866 Nanango State School was gazetted to commence educational instruction to children of the district.

In our search for records and photographic images we unearthed some wonderful newspaper articles and copy prints in the State Library of Queensland collection to share with readers. The articles published in the mid-1860s demonstrated the pioneering spirit of people who were new settlers in the South Burnett region of Queensland.

The early story… 

Nanango State School, 1894. The Principal was Thomas Kirby and Assistant Teacher Mary McKeone. Source: Acc: 80-6-13, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

On 17 May, 1864 The Brisbane Courier reported on the sentiment of establishing a centre of education for the Nanango district. The correspondent for the Burnett Argus refers to the educational needs of the children in the mid-1860s:

"…It is a lamentable fact that most of the children in this township have not the opportunity of being enabled even to learn the simple rudiments of education – and though I do not strictly believe that Sunday schools alone to children have the alphabet – yet I hail with pleasure the promptness and interest displayed by those who have taken in hand the establishment of a Sunday school under the auspices of Mr Wilson, believing that it will be the first step in progressing towards the formation of a daily school.

We have not certainly a sufficient number of children to induce a schoolmaster or mistress to obtain a sufficient income by keeping a school alone, nor are we in a position to apply to the government for the establishment of a National school: - but yet we have it in our power if assisted by our neighbouring squatters, to do something towards the promotion of education. In the first instance I would suggest the advisability of raising a small amount by subscription for the erection of a building suitable for a school-room; without this is at once done I am afraid that Mr Wilson’s proposition of the Sunday school will not be able to be fully carried out. The knowledge that a school of some kind does exist may be an inducement to many at a distance to be anxious that their children should be able to attend it, and very shortly lead to the establishment of both a daily and Sunday school.

Surely when it is known to the townspeople of Nanango that on the station of Messrs. Jones, at Boonara, the working hands have most liberally assisted in the establishment of both a daily and Sunday school, and though only a short time open they are proceeding in a most satisfactory manner, they will use an exertion at least to place themselves on the balance of their immediate neighbours in showing that they are equally anxious for the progress and advancement of their juvenile population."

Source: From the correspondent of the Burnett Argus (April 30) The Brisbane Courier, 17 May 1864.

Group portrait of teacher and students, possibly at Nanango, 1900-1910GS-23 Tarong Station Photograph Albums - John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Eighteen months later in October 1865, the same correspondent describes in detail the renewed activity in Nanango at the time:-

"For a length of time nothing has passed to cause the least excitement: but last week we were all in a state of agitation created by the insertion of an advertisement in the Brisbane Guardian, calling for tenders to erect a school-house at Nanango. Our building contractors (which consist of a considerable number of firms) considered – as most of the non-builders did also – that they had been treated unfairly in not being allowed an opportunity of competing with the Brisbane builders, the tenders having to be in by the 4th October last. A meeting was immediately convened, resolutions to the above effect adopted and also one requesting the Board of Education to extend the time, and forward plan and specification to Nanango. Sufficient funds were promised to defray the expenses of a special messenger to Brisbane. The result has been that tenders will be received at Nanango until the 20th and a plan and specification on view at the Court-house. It certainly appears to me very unjust that Government contracts for such buildings should be confined to Brisbane alone, when, Be it remembered, that Government gives only the usual subsidy, a large amount having to be gathered by local contributions. As I before said, we have a considerable number of contractors; naturally a proportion of the sum subscribed will come out of their pockets, and I am aware that several have been anxiously watching for the plans, &c., being issued from Nanango, that they might forward in their tenders.

The advantages to be derived by the establishment of a school cannot fail to still further an inducement to parents to augment the large increase of population who have lately made our township their home; necessarily there has been a large number of buildings erected, but mostly of the humblest aspect. From the plan of the school-house it promises to be a handsome building and an ornament to any town."

Source: From the correspondent of the Burnett Argus, The Brisbane Courier,28 October 1865.

In December 1865, The Brisbane Courier records another entry by Nanango’s correspondent, announcing the humble beginnings of Nanango State School:-

"The contractors for building the National School-house have commenced operations, but as the completion of the building will extend over many months, the Board of Education have promised to send a master at once. Arrangements have been made for the erection of temporary premises, so that the establishment of the school may be regarded, in the history of Nanango, to date from the coming year. Something grand in this! to think that only two years since the number of our population amounted to only about fifty, including the rising off-springs who are by this establishment to be enlightened, to find in the surrounding district - for only to the inhabitants thereof is the credit due of raising - sufficient to claim the Government bounty, to aid in the cause of education. During the last twelve months Nanango has made wonderful progress as a township; its inhabitants having nearly doubled, its buildings trebled, and the many advantages it offered in an agricultural point of view now fully appreciated, nearly all the country farms open for selection being taken up."

Source: The Brisbane Courier 19 December 1865

Nanango State School surrounded by dwellings in 1913, the view from Drayton Street.Neg. 60619 John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Nanango State School ca. 1920 Acc.: 77-10-1 Neg. 1576, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Established by 1866 the first building on the RH side in this image was somewhat modified by the 1920s. Larger windows replaced the original style in 1905 and the shingle roof was replaced using modern materials. In 1909 tenders were called for a new classroom (LH) to be erected alongside, as seen in the photo above.

In 1926 the families of the district came together to celebrate the school’s Diamond Jubilee.

Former pupils and present day students attend the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, 1926. Acc: 80-6-13, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Nanango State School Diamond Jubilee celebration, 1926.

"60 years ago a State school was opened at Nanango, and when the school celebrated its diamond jubilee on February 12, nine of the 34 original scholars answered the roll-call. Others are scattered over the world or dead.

The Nanango school was among the first opened in the State, and the first head teacher appointed was Mr. John Ryder, who taught from January 1866, to February 1868. On the first day the school opened 29 children were enrolled - 16 girls and 13 boys."

Source: The Queenslander, 27 February 1926.

1926 Nanango State School Football team with trainer J. Kennedy. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

On March 10, 1966, The Nanango Advocate published a Centenary Pictorial featuring the modern school of the time, a commemorative cake, street parade and guests attending the celebration day.

The ceremonial cake was cut by former senior pupils Mrs Williams and Mrs Mylett. Image in copyright, South Burnett Regional Council, Nanango Library.

Contact either the Nanango State School for more information or view several images available on Nanango Library's virtual gallery.

150 years along…

On 12 February 2016 Nanango State School celebrated its sesquicentenary.

Anne Scheu, Engagement Officer - State Library of Queensland


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