Do you wonder what school was like for children growing up in Australia 100 years ago? My mother Evelyn, who grew up in rural Queensland in the 1920s, often spoke of her schooldays and the small one-teacher school she attended.
Evelyn Maud Beaumont was born at Mount Morgan on 14 January 1916. Her parents Donald and Flora and brother Harold (aged 2) had recently moved from Westwood to Rannes, where Evelyn’s father had selected a small prickly pear block and built a family home. Rannes is located about 104 kilometres (65 miles) southwest of Rockhampton and 67 kilometres (42 miles) south of Westwood, in central Queensland.
The Leith Hay brothers, the first white settlers in the district, gave the name “Rannes” to the pastoral run they established there in 1853. Rannes was the name of one of the Leith Hay family estates in the brothers’ native Scotland. Mr A F Wood surveyed the town in July 1860 and the Queensland government gazetted the Rannes town reserve on 2 October 1860. 
However, it wasn’t until 1915, when the railway from Rockhampton to Mount Morgan and Mount Morgan to Wowan reached Rannes, that the town began to grow. The second stage of the Dawson Valley line from Mount Morgan, Wowan to Rannes, opened on 2 February 1915. Three months later, on 1 May 1915, a postal receiving office and telegraph office opened at the Rannes railway station (prior to that date known as Kuyul railway station). For a couple of years, until 30 July 1917 when the line from Rannes to Baralaba opened, Rannes was the terminus of the railway line from Mount Morgan. [2, 3, 4]
The population of Rannes swelled with the influx of railway construction workers and their families. They lived in a tent village at the edge of town. Due to construction of the railway, Rannes was a hive of activity. Rannes had been chosen as the junction of the Dawson Valley and Callide Valley branch lines. The Dawson Valley line from Rannes via Baralaba to Theodore opened on 7 May 1927. The Callide Valley line from Rannes to Callide opened on 3 May 1924 and to Thangool on 24 August 1925. The sawmill at Rannes turned out hundreds of thousands of timber sleepers for use on the railway tracks.
Rannes had grown to the extent that, in 1930, the Banana Shire Council moved the shire office from Banana to Rannes. The town remained the administrative centre of the Banana Shire until 1944, when the shire office moved again, this time to rented premises at Wowan.
NOTE: A list of references I used in preparing this story is found at the end of this post. Specific references are numbered and displayed throughout the text in brackets: [X]. My main sources of information were the State Education Act 1875 (available online), the Rannes State School Administration File located at the Queensland State Archives and the Goovigen and District State Schools Golden Jubilee booklet. In particular, the Rannes State School Administration File is the source of memoranda and letters I’ve referred to, or quoted from, in this post.
A school for Rannes
A state school opened at Rannes on 14 March 1916.  For the Queensland government to approve a new school, the local community had to show the Department of Public Instruction that a permanent average daily attendance of at least thirty (30) children was likely. The Department was responsible for finding a suitable site for the school and, if a new building was required, the community had to set up a building committee of a minimum of five elected persons. A second teacher (assistant teacher) could be appointed to a school once the average attendance equalled 45 or more.
Evelyn started school in 1922, when she was 6 years old. State schooling in Queensland was free and compulsory for children from 6 to 14 years of age. The recommended length of primary schooling was 9.5 years. Classes were organized into six levels (Classes 1-6), of 1 to 1.5 years per level. Evelyn attended Rannes State School for 8-9 years.
In Evelyn’s schooldays, a pupil’s progression from one level to the next depended on his/her passing an examination in each of the subjects prescribed for the class. The head teacher held examinations for promotion at or near the end of each school quarter and subsequent promotions took place at the beginning of the following quarter. Of course, in small one-teacher schools like the one at Rannes, where the numbers were insufficient to form a distinct class, the teacher instructed more advanced pupils alongside those in lower classes.
The school’s first head teacher
The Department of Public Instruction appointed Michael Francis O’Connor as Rannes State School’s first head teacher. To qualify as a head teacher, Mr O’Connor had to be a certified teacher. About six weeks after the opening of the school, the Department approved the appointment of an assistant for Mr O’Connor, Miss Olive Harrison, a pupil-teacher on probation. Pupil-teachers could be appointed by the Minister once they turned 14 years of age (males) or 13 years of age (females). Indeed, many pupil-teachers were scarcely more than children themselves. 
Prior to the establishment of a Teachers’ Training College in Brisbane in 1914, the pupil-teacher system was the main method of recruiting and training local Queensland teachers. The majority, if not all, of Evelyn’s teachers were recruited and trained in this manner. It was on-the-job training combined with annual exams, with a pupil-teacher the apprentice and a certified teacher his/her instructor and supervisor. Not surprisingly, the pupil-teacher system did not guarantee a satisfactory and uniform standard of professionalism and it was phased out between 1923 and 1935. 
The role of the head teacher
Head teachers like Mr O’Connor bore a high degree of responsibility and accountability (not unlike school principals today). They were responsible for the general management and conduct of the school and the progress of the children. They had to keep books and records and forward to the Department weekly and quarterly returns. The head teacher’s role included ensuring the cleanliness and good order of the school buildings, grounds, furniture, books and instructional material. As the following memo indicates, head teachers even organised the school’s sanitary contract. A little more trouble than ordering the school’s supply of toilet paper!
Head teachers had to promptly report any misconduct, incompetence or insubordination on the part of their assistant teacher(s) and pupil-teachers. As part of their duties, they were required to devote 1.5 hours each school day to the instruction of pupil-teachers. They were expected to work collaboratively with and provide support for the school board or school committee (Rannes had a school committee). Head teachers had the power of administering corporal punishment, a power to be used seldom and with discretion. At the end of each year, head teachers had to forward to the Department an estimate of the school books and material required for the following year.
The school buildings and classroom facilities
Mr O’Connor’s task as the first head teacher of Rannes State School was not an easy one. From the outset, he had to manage without furniture, basic equipment and books, and more enrolments than expected. The school building was not ready until June, three (3) months after the school opened. In the meantime, he and the children and (later) the pupil-teacher occupied a small makeshift building and made do until the furniture, equipment and books arrived. Even when the new building was completed, it was not big enough to house the number of pupils, so Mr O’Connor continued to use the temporary building along with the new one. In a letter to the Department of Public Instruction dated 15 May 1917, Mr O’Connor described the situation:
Six years on, in 1923, the school facilities at Rannes were still inadequate. Evelyn was a pupil of the school by then. On 1 October 1923, the head teacher Mrs Annie Lester notified the Department that the “Construction School” had been relocated adjacent to the school building and that she had tried to make use of this extra classroom, but in vain. Mrs Lester requested the appointment of an assistant teacher, so she could make use of the two classrooms. One teacher alone could not use two classrooms. At the time, up to 50 pupils were squashed into one small room measuring 22 ft by 15 ft (about 6.7 m by 4.5 m).
In Evelyn’s schooldays, there was no covered play area in the school grounds (as is common today), only a small shed. The children used the shed for shade on hot days and for shelter on wet days. In 1922, when a rumour came to the notice of the Rannes school committee that the Department was going to move the shed to Baralaba (about 23 miles or 37 kilometres from Rannes), the committee secretary wrote to the local member of parliament seeking his support to oppose the move. I assume the shed stayed put.
Inside the classrooms
By 1930, Rannes State School comprised two small classrooms separated by a narrow landing. The school had moved to a new site (see later). Inside each classroom, the children sat at long (7 ft 6 ins) wooden desks on equally long (7 ft 6 ins) wooden forms, four or five children to a form. (The metric equivalent of 7 ft 6 ins is approximately 2.3 metres.) Given the size of the classrooms, the teacher and children must have been packed in like sardines in a tin. Each wooden desk had a shelf under the desktop for storing books, a groove for laying pens and pencils, a slot for placing a slate and an ink well for each pupil.
In a memorandum to the Department in July 1930, the head teacher Miss Beatrice Bartholomew listed the following particulars. From this information, we can gain some idea of the conditions experienced by the teacher and pupils of the school at that time.
Miss Bartholomew added: “The condition of all furniture is good, excepting that of one blackboard and easel. The latter is minus pegs. The table legs are pulled away from the frame on two corners. The lock on the press [cupboard] has been broken since before I took over the school, also that of the table drawer.”
The curriculum: The 3Rs and more
Up until a new syllabus was introduced in 1930, the Queensland primary school curriculum comprised the following subjects: reading, writing and arithmetic (the so-called 3 Rs), object lessons (“show and tell”), drill and gymnastics, vocal music, sewing and needlework (for girls), English grammar, geography, history and elementary mechanics. Of course, not all of these subjects were taught at the lower levels. But, by the time pupils completed the recommended 9.5 years of schooling, they would have covered most, if not all, of these subjects, at least to some extent.
Historically, and throughout Evelyn’s schooldays, teachers put most of their effort into ensuring children completed their schooling competent in the 3Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. They based their instruction on rote learning, a widely held view that children learn best by memorisation through repetition.
Beginners learnt the letters of the alphabet, numerals and counting through chanting rhymes and ditties. Later, they learnt their tables and spelling by rote (repeating them out loud and writing them over and over again). As the children progressed to higher levels, they memorised names and dates, poetry and songs. Although rote learning is not popular today, it certainly worked for my mother and the majority of her peers.
Reading and writing
Teachers then believed in the principle “practice makes perfect”. To master reading, pupils read and re-read a text until they could pronounce every word perfectly and read a passage fluently with expression. “Reading around the class” was a common practice (although feared by those who found reading aloud difficult). By Class 3, each pupil had a copybook in which to practise their handwriting.
In higher grades, they reinforced their knowledge and understanding of English grammar, history and geography (for example) by completing written “exercises” in a special exercise book. Teachers often set these “exercises” as homework. I don’t have an example of an exercise Evelyn did, but here is a copy of a nib pen and ink “English” exercise I completed as a pupil in the 1960s.
As for arithmetic, once pupils mastered the rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and understood fractions, they were given abundant examples to practise their use of number and develop accuracy and speed.  Here are three examples of problems the children in the upper classes may have been asked to solve.
Evelyn was schooled in Australia’s former currency of pounds (£), shillings (s) and pence (d). Twenty shillings (20 s) made one pound (£1) and twelve pence (12 d) made one shilling. Evelyn was also schooled in the former Imperial (British) system of measurement. If you are old enough you will remember feet (ft) and inches (ins), yards, chains, furlongs, miles, perches, acres, pints and gallons, tons, hundredweight, stone and pounds (weight). I could go on. Both systems were much more complicated than the decimal currency and international system of measurement we use in Australia today.
Here are a couple of sample calculations involving pounds, shillings and pence.
The pupils’ “tools of trade” and books
In Evelyn’s schooldays, children in the infant classes used a slate and slate pencil for writing and arithmetic. A slate (as its name suggests) was made from a thin layer of grey-black slate rock; slate pencils were made from softer slate or soapstone. If you’ve ever used a slate and slate pencil, you’ll cringe as you recall the grating sound the pencil made on the slate. After use, the children had to wipe the slate clean using a wet sponge or absorbent cloth before using it again. (This is the origin of the expression “to wipe one’s slate clean”, which means “making a fresh start”.)
From slate and slate pencil to nib pen, ink and paper
After mastering the slate and slate pencil, pupils graduated to using pencil and paper and nib pen, ink and paper. In the preparatory years, children learnt how to print. Later, they learnt Queensland cursive handwriting. Each child had a copybook in which to practise their handwriting. Indeed, as Evelyn often reminded me, good handwriting was considered a very important outcome of schooling in her day.
Whole sessions were devoted to copybook work. On each page of the copybook, there was an example of handwriting that the pupil had to reproduce (“copy”) several times on the lines below using nib pen and ink. In case of ink smudges or drips, each child was supplied with a piece of absorbent blotting paper. If a child made a mistake and used the blotting paper, they were said to “blot their copybook”. You may remember the expression “blot one’s copybook”, which means doing something foolish that spoils your good name.
The Education Act 1875 made schools responsible for providing pupils with textbooks and slates and parents responsible for providing duplicate textbooks and slates for home use, copybooks, exercise books, pens, pencils, ink and rubbers. I guess not much has changed in this regard over the years, as the following 1928 newspaper report reveals.
Queensland School Readers
In Evelyn’s day, children attending Queensland primary schools learnt to read using Queensland School Readers Books I-VI. These so-called “Red Readers” were published in 1913 and first used in 1915. These readers proved very popular and remained the foundation of literacy programs in Queensland primary schools for more than 60 years!  Indeed, when I attended primary school in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I learnt to read using these same books (although later editions).
These illustrated readers contained factual material, moral stories, fables and poetry that reflect the values and norms of Australian society at the time they were written. One of the aims of the readers was to encourage development of good character in children.  Here are a couple of examples, taken from the Preparatory IV book. I can’t imagine content of this kind being included in Queensland primary school readers in 2021!
“The School Paper”
To supplement the readers, three times a year the Department published a set of three school papers, one each for classes I and II, III and IV, V and VI. “The School Paper” (as it was called) provided contemporary material suitable for children at their particular reading level. For example, for the set bearing the date October 10, 1920, the paper for classes I and II carried on its cover a photograph of the Prince of Wales and contained a brief sketch of his Royal Highness’s life and a picture of him at age 3. The papers for classes III and IV and V and VI contained the farewell message by the Prince of Wales to the children of Australia. Considerable space in the papers was devoted to bird life as Friday October 22, 1920, was the day Queensland Schools would mark Bird Day. 
Evelyn’s schooldays: Extra-curricular activities
The breadth of schooling a century ago was not as narrow as one may think. Outside of the classroom, children participated in a range of extra-curricular activities, not unlike those schoolchildren engage in today. There were school concerts, sporting competitions, school fundraising events, looking after the school garden, celebration of special days.
School concerts enabled the children to gain experience and confidence in public speaking, singing and performance. The children would recite poetry, sing songs or present a play for their parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and community members. As an example, I’ve included an abridged report of a school concert that took place in a privately-owned hall at Rannes on Saturday, December 3, 1927. Evelyn, aged 11 at the time, sang “I Don’t Want to Play in Your Yard” as a duet with her cousin, Dawn Lewis.
Sport was an important part of school life for Evelyn and her peers. All children in the upper classes were encouraged to join a school sporting team. When compared with today, there was not a range of sports to choose from. Children could join the cricket, tennis or football team(s). Evelyn joined the cricket and tennis teams. These teams were mixed – boys and girls together made up the numbers. But not so the football team. Only boys played football. Either the head teacher or a willing parent coached each of the sporting teams.
The Rannes State School sporting teams competed against teams from other small schools in the district. Children could also participate in athletics competitions, as the opportunity arose.
Rannes school committee fundraising events
As part of its fundraising efforts, the Rannes school committee conducted regular dances to which the whole community was invited. Not only adults, but also children, attended. The dances catered for young and old alike. Here is a report of a fundraising dance the Rannes school committee conducted in July 1930.
The dance held in aid of the state school on Saturday night last was a great success. The takings amounted to over £6. A guessing competition was conducted and the prize went to Miss L Saidy, who re-donated it to the school funds. The Monte Carlo and Chocolate waltzes were won by Mr I Rankin and Miss Enid Barrett and Mr H Stanley and Miss Len Saidy respectively. A bunch of roses presented by Miss E [Emma] Beaumont, was won by Mrs W Edwards. Refreshments were supplied by the ladies. 
From time to time, the school committee hosted a special fundraising event such as a plain and fancy dress ball. The children loved the chance to dress up and, for some, to get something new. My mother never forgot the beautiful “Mary Pickford” shoes her parents bought her when she was about 12 years old. The shoes were part of Evelyn’s fancy dress costume. Every little girl like Evelyn knew about and wanted to be like Mary Pickford, a Canadian-born Hollywood actress and celebrity, dubbed “America’s sweetheart”.
Looking after the school garden
It appears that the school had a flower garden, which I assume the children helped look after. In June 1928, the acting head teacher, Miss Margaret Rout, wrote to the Department requesting flower seeds. Note the manner in which she addressed her superior. She wrote:
The response from the Department reads: “Inform regretted that all seeds on hand were applied for and distributed prior to receipt of her application.”
The children were encouraged to care for the environment. Many of the pupils of Rannes State School came from farming families, so this came naturally to them.
Celebration of special days
In 1890, the Department introduced Arbour Day into Queensland schools, a day set aside to celebrate nature and the environment. Typically, on Arbour Day, the children planted trees in the school grounds. With the blessing of the school committee, the head teacher and pupils spent the day out of the classroom, as the following report of Arbour Day 1931 indicates:
Arbour Day was celebrated at the local State School. During the morning trees were planted. In the afternoon a fair crowd of parents, children and friends gathered at the sports ground, where juvenile sports and games were carried out. Afternoon tea was supplied by the ladies. The afternoon was greatly enjoyed by all present, especially the children. 
Anzac Day was another important day in the Queensland school calendar. The day had been commemorated in Queensland state schools since 1916, the year after the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli. The then Minister for Education, Herbert F Hardacre, in the Education Office Gazette of April 1916, gave the following instruction to state schools:
Commemorate Anzac Day by suitable addresses to their pupils, dwelling upon the gallant landing of our Australian and New Zealand troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula, their splendid achievements, their sacrifices, and their loyal devotion to duty, our grief at the great loss they suffered; and our country’s debt of gratitude to them and theirs.
Anzac Day continues to be commemorated in Queensland state schools over a century later.
Outside of school hours, Evelyn took piano lessons. Her teacher was Mrs Puddifoot, the wife of a railway night officer at Rannes. Evelyn’s parents didn’t own a piano, but her grandparents (Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont) did. Evelyn used to go to her grandparents’ place to practise her pieces. Evelyn told me she would call in on them as she rode home from school on her pony. They lived on the adjacent property, about 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) from her family home.
Although Evelyn was aware that she never mastered the piano, these early piano lessons, along with the vocal lessons she had at school, contributed to her lifelong love of music. For more, read In the Garden: But no, not alone (March 31, 2021).
Dress and general behaviour
Children attending Rannes State School in the 1920s and 1930s did not have a uniform. (I doubt that their parents would have had the means to purchase uniforms anyway.) The Departmental regulations stated that children must come to school “respectably clothed and clean”. The regulations also stated that children were to “conduct themselves in a becoming manner” while under the teacher’s control at school.
Evelyn and her peers grew up in an era when children were taught to be courteous and show respect to all persons – especially their elders – at home, at school, at play, in the street, at table…everywhere! Every Queensland classroom displayed a copy of the “Good Manners” chart, based on the rules of the Children’s National Guild of Courtesy.  From time to time, the teacher would remind the children of the rules on the chart and have them recite the rules verbatim. In this way, the children were left in no doubt as to how they were expected to behave.
The school inspector
There was one person the children respected – and feared – more than their teacher. It was the school inspector. He (it was always a male in Evelyn’s day) could turn up at any time during the school year – unannounced. His visit was an annual ordeal for not only the children but also the teacher. Although the children thought they were the ones being examined, in fact it was the teacher who was being assessed.
School inspectors were the teachers’ only human contact with the Department. They had the onerous task of enforcing Departmental rules and regulations. In many instances, this put inspectors at odds with teachers, many of whom were poorly trained and incompetent. As Swan concluded, “During their annual visit, inspectors had the impossible task of trying to correct these shortcomings.” 
The very nature of the inspector’s task was judgemental. A teacher’s progression to the next classification and salary level or demotion to a lower classification and drop in salary depended on the inspector’s report(s). Two consecutive negative reports from an inspector could trigger a demotion.
The school inspector’s visit
A school inspector’s visit to a school went a bit like this. To begin, he would wander around the school making notes in his little black book. Next, he would sit at the teacher’s desk (or up the back of the classroom) and go through piles of copybooks, exercise books, composition books and the like, ensuring that the teacher had marked each one and made all necessary corrections in red ink.
In the meantime, the teacher would make the children “perform”, by having them read aloud around the class or recite poetry (for example). Then the inspector would take over, coming to the front of the class and asking the children “curly” questions. Of course, every child would put up his/her hand and feign enthusiasm (whether he/she knew the answer or not). Later, the inspector would set the children to work on some obscure task while taking the teacher aside and speaking with him/her in hushed tones.
In Queensland, the Inspector of Schools position was abolished in 1989. 
Getting to and from school
When I told my son I was writing a story about his Grandma’s schooldays, he said, “Don’t forget to include that she rode to school on her pony. Whenever she reminisced on her schooldays, she would tell us about that.” He is right. Even when Evelyn was in the later stages of dementia (read My mother’s latter years: Living with dementia) and had forgotten most of the details of her schooldays, she remembered how she travelled to and from school.
Evelyn’s family lived approximately 2 miles (about 3.2 kilometres) from the school. Evelyn and her older brother Harold rode to school on their ponies. At first, Harold (2½ years older than Evelyn) took Evelyn on his horse. Later, when she was old enough, Evelyn rode her own horse to and from school. During the day, the horses stayed in a paddock adjacent to the school. (A little bit different to a school bike rack!)
When I attended primary school and was old enough, I rode a bicycle to school. The distance from my home to the school was about 3 kilometres. I remember having a couple of nasty falls off my bike on my way home from school. Thankfully, I sustained only minor injuries (cuts, bruises, gravel rash).
Riding a horse to school also had its dangers. I do not know if my mother had a fall from her horse on her way to and from school (she never said so), but I’ve discovered that two of her classmates did. Both incidents occurred when the horse and rider tried to negotiate a railway crossing.
On Tuesday, after school hours, Bernard Guest (9) met with an accident that could easily have been more serious. He was restlessly riding his horse along the road and in crossing the Rannes level crossing, the horse slipped on the rails which caused the boy to be heavily thrown. He was picked up suffering from a contused wound on the chin, abrasions to the knee and right foot. The wound necessitated three stitches. 
Patricia Sales, aged nine, while riding home from school one evening last week had the misfortune to be thrown from her horse, which stumbled on crossing the railway grid. Seemingly, on getting up, the horse stepped on the child’s foot and tore the nail from one of the toes. Mr Reed, the ambulance bearer, was called upon to render first aid. 
There were not as many school holidays in Evelyn’s schooldays as there are for school children today. According to the regulations of the State Education Act 1875, regular school vacations comprised five (5) weeks commencing before Christmas and one (1) week in July. Other regular holidays were every Saturday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the Queen’s Birthday, the Prince of Wales’ Birthday, Separation Day, and any other day officially proclaimed as a public holiday. (In those days, Sunday was already a public holiday.) The school board or school committee (if one existed) could grant a special holiday, but this was limited to one in each school quarter.
No doubt teachers and pupils looked forward to the 5-week summer vacation and the break-up function that preceded it. For Evelyn and her peers, the end of year break-up function was one of the highlights of the school year. Typically, the break-up included a picnic (of sandwiches, cakes, watermelon and soft drinks), prize-giving and a Christmas tree with presents for the smaller children. Parents were invited to attend. 
Friday was a happy day for the pupils of the Rannes State School for it was the occasion of the annual breaking up. Excellent arrangements prevailed for the occasion, these being capably carried out by the head teacher, Mrs A Lester. The schoolroom was tastefully decorated and the children’s work was displayed. This was greatly admired, especially the fancywork by the girls. A Christmas tree was heavily laden with toys, which were distributed to the children. Every pupil received a present in book-form and the youngsters present were handed a gift from the Christmas tree. Out of four candidates who entered for the High School examination, three were successful. A special prize was awarded by Mrs Lester to the pupil securing the highest percentage and this was won by Eric P Stanley. Another special prize was won by Enid Barrett. During the afternoon refreshments were served. The afternoon concluded with cheers for the head teacher. 
At the end of year break-up function, each child received the gift of a book. The school committee funded the purchase of the books. For Evelyn, these books were precious. I know, because Evelyn kept two of these books her whole life long and even allowed me (as a child) to read and enjoy them. In the 1920s, families like Evelyn’s couldn’t afford to buy the kind of books the children received at the end of the school year.
Rannes State School head teachers (1916-1931)
Mr Michael O’Connor and Mr Charles Thomas Bauer
Given the difficulties Mr Michael O’Connor experienced as Rannes State School’s inaugural head teacher, it’s not surprising that he lasted just one year. He had to deal with not only lack of physical resources, large pupil numbers and a pupil-teacher on probation, but also disgruntled parents.
In March 1917, thirteen parents of children attending the school signed a letter to the Under Secretary of the Department seeking Mr O’Connor’s removal. They complained that Mr O’Connor was absent “a great deal more often than Departmental Regulations allow”, arriving late and leaving early, and that their children had not progressed as they should have done. Of course, Mr O’Connor denied their accusations, stating that two inspector reports rated his performance satisfactory. Nevertheless, the parents’ petition to the Department spelt the end of Mr O’Connor’s time at Rannes. His tenure as head teacher ended in May 1917.
The Department appointed Charles Thomas Bauer as Mr O’Connor’s replacement. Mr Bauer served as head teacher at Rannes for approximately 2 years, from 28 May 1917 until 3 March 1919. For about a year, a young pupil-teacher assisted him.
Miss Myrtle Caddy
Miss Myrtle Caddy succeeded Mr Bauer, becoming Rannes State School’s third head teacher.
Miss Caddy grew up at Mount Morgan and completed her schooling and teacher training there.  She held the position of head teacher at Rannes for three years, from 12 March 1919 until the end of April 1922. Miss Caddy was Evelyn’s first teacher, but not for long. She left Rannes within three months of Evelyn’s enrolment at the school.
Following Miss Caddy’s resignation, the Acting Under Secretary of the Department of Public Instruction wrote to the school committee asking if there was suitable accommodation at Rannes for a married male teacher. It was the Department’s practice to place schools the size of Rannes State School in the charge of married male teachers. The secretary of the Rannes School Committee replied that there was no such accommodation at Rannes.
Mrs Annie Lester
Consequently, the fourth head teacher of Rannes State School was another young woman. Mrs Anne (“Annie”) Lester took up her appointment on 8 May 1922. Like her predecessor, Mrs Lester hailed from Mount Morgan and trained there. At the time of her appointment, Mrs Lester was an assistant teacher, Mount Morgan Girls’ and Infants’ School. She gained her teacher certification in 1918, the same year her husband died. Widowed after only 4 years of marriage, Mrs Lester was left to raise the couple’s only child, Florence Ada (born on 6 October 1915) alone. 
Evelyn told me that Mrs Lester boarded at the home of Evelyn’s grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont. Thomas and Elizabeth owned “Mons” and are featured in an earlier story Mons: Whose house is that? (27 November 2016). When Annie Lester came to “Mons”, neither Evelyn’s grandparents nor Mrs Lester owned a car. Evelyn told me, “Granny used to drive Mrs Lester to school every day in the horse and buggy.” It was a distance of about 1 mile (1.6 kilometres).
Mrs Lester held the position of head teacher at Rannes for a little over 5 years, from May 1922 until September 1927. Her tenure covered five of Evelyn’s eight or nine years of schooling. Not surprisingly, Mrs Lester made quite an impression on a young Evelyn. Whenever my mother reminisced on her schooldays, she spoke of Mrs Lester and her beautiful handwriting, adding “Mrs Lester taught Harold and me how to write.” (Harold was Evelyn’s older brother.)
After leaving Rannes, Annie Lester returned to Walterhall, Mount Morgan, taking up a position of assistant teacher.  She never remarried and continued teaching until her retirement. Evelyn never forgot Mrs Lester. I remember my mother showing me the following cutting she took from The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) in 1984. It features Mrs Lester at 88 years of age and still going strong!
Miss Annie Lamond Stuart and Miss Margaret Rout
For the pupils of Rannes State School, the 2½ years that followed Mrs Lester’s departure were somewhat turbulent. The school had two head teachers in 2½ years: Annie Lamond Stuart (5/09/1927 – 1/01/1930) and Margaret Rout (30/01/1928 – 1/07/1928). Miss Rout took over when Miss Stuart took 6 months’ leave in the first half of 1928.
It was during Miss Rout’s brief sojourn at the school that Rannes experienced a flood that devastated the small township and community.
In 1928, when the Don River at Rannes rose to a height of 43½ ft (a little more than 13 metres), floodwaters inundated the town and residents fled for their lives. At the railway station, which was located higher than the rest of the town (the town at the time was located between the railway line and the river), the water was 3 ft 6 ins (approximately 1 metre) in depth. This was unprecedented, as the previous (1918) flood just reached to a level with the shops in the township. 
The Rannes school buildings went under. Miss Rout and the Rannes schoolchildren had some time off school, no doubt. After the flood, a newspaper correspondent who interviewed Miss Rout made the following report:
Miss Rout, a schoolteacher at Rannes, who witnessed the worst flood in that town, said this morning that when the flood waters were at their highest all the houses were submerged, except two. Five houses were washed away, and it was a common sight to see furniture of all kinds, tanks and cattle being swept down the river. A car that was left outside a house was covered with water and when the owner went to it he saw a bullock in the driver’s seat. The absence of boats was badly felt, said Miss Rout, but it was the only bit of excitement they had had in Rannes for a long time. 
Following the 1928 flood, the township of Rannes was rebuilt on higher ground, above the railway line. Buildings that could be relocated were moved to the new site. I assume the school building was among those relocated. It wasn’t until December 1937 that the Department approved a “new” school building for Rannes, relocating a building from Banana to Rannes, to replace the former one (the one my mother and her peers occupied). 
Miss Stuart appears to have been a “jekyll and hyde” kind of person. On one hand, she was musically gifted and inspired the children under her care to reach great heights of performance. I’ve read several accounts of her success in this regard. On the other hand, reportedly, she could get angry, lose control and lash out with the cane. “Miss Stuart has a most erratic temperament and at times she flies into most fearful tempers that she does not seem able to control,” wrote a parent in a letter of complaint to the Minister, on May 21, 1929.
This parent (Mr G Guest) complained of the “fiendish” manner in which Miss Stuart caned two of his children (he had four children attending Rannes State School). Apparently, after the first instance, his son who had been caned was left wealed and bruised from his hips to his ankles and carried the marks for weeks afterwards. After this incident, Mr Guest raised his concerns with the school inspector who, in turn, spoke to Miss Stuart about her (mis-)use of the cane. However, when Miss Stuart did little to make the boy’s school life bearable, Mr Guest removed his son from the school and sent him to a school in Rockhampton. Unfortunately, “Miss Stuart repeated this offence by caning the second boy in no less a severe manner and had there been a doctor conveniently handy I would certainly have taken this boy to be examined,” Mr Guest wrote in his letter to the Minister.
I do not know if Mr Guest’s complaint was resolved to his satisfaction (he wrote a follow-up letter to the Minister in June 1929), but Miss Stuart’s tenure as head teacher at Rannes concluded at the end of that year (1929).
Miss Beatrice Frances Bartholomew
Beatrice Frances Bartholomew, Miss Stuart’s replacement, took up the position of head teacher on 1/01/1930. After Miss Stuart, Miss Bartholomew was a breath of fresh air. “Miss Bartholomew, the newly appointed schoolteacher, has taken up her duties. She is very popular with the children.” 
Unfortunately, Miss Bartholomew was destined to spend just 15 months at Rannes. In late March or early April 1931, she took ill and was admitted to the Rockhampton General Hospital. She was found to be suffering from typhoid fever and, after a month-long battle against the disease, died on 8 May 1931. She was just 22 years old.
OBITUARY: Miss Beatrice Frances Bartholomew
Universal regret was expressed in Longreach on Wednesday when advice was received that Miss Beatrice Frances Bartholomew had died at the Rockhampton General Hospital early that morning. Deceased who was 22 years of age was the second eldest daughter of Mrs Bartholomew, Arrilalah, and one of a well-respected Longreach family. She received her school training from the Presentation Sisters and for a time was teaching at St Joseph’s School [Longreach]. Later she received an appointment with the Education Department and was stationed at Rannes, in the Dawson Valley. A little over a month ago, she was taken ill and removed to the Rockhampton Hospital where she was found to be suffering from typhoid fever. 
Miss Bartholomew was yet another victim of the typhoid fever epidemic that plagued Rannes and district in the 1920s and 1930s. I’ve written previously about this in A deadly disease: Rannes, Queensland, in the 1920s and 1930s (March 26, 2020). There, I describe Evelyn’s own battle against typhoid fever, in late 1934. Unlike Miss Bartholomew, my mother survived and went on to live a long and fulfilling life.
I have no doubt that my mother’s schooling prepared her well for adult life. Unlike me, Evelyn did not have the opportunity to attend secondary school, let alone university. Nevertheless, her reading, writing and arithmetic skills, her general knowledge and competencies, equalled and, in some instances, exceeded mine.
Evelyn performed a number of different roles during her adult life – seamstress, clerk, assistant manager, shop assistant, homemaker, newsagent – all with much success. I’ve written about this previously, in My mother, a young woman (May 6, 2016).
As a recruit in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) during World War II, Evelyn easily adapted to her “mustering” (trade or occupation) of clerk signals. For more, read My mother’s years in the WAAAF (Part 1): Brisbane. (April 22, 2018).
Years later, when Evelyn managed our family’s fruit and vegetable shop, I remember looking on with amazement as she served customers and carried out difficult calculations “in her head”. She could calculate the price of an item by multiplying its weight by its cost per unit weight, perform money additions and calculate change “in her head”. She didn’t need a calculator, cash register or computer.
In February 1966, when Australia changed over to decimal currency, Evelyn was 50 years old. But she was not fazed. Then, over the next decade as Australia transitioned to metric measurement, Evelyn coped with these changes too.
Evelyn certainly did her teachers proud.
MAIN SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Queensland & Queensland Department of Public Instruction. (1876). The State Education Act of 1875, and Regulations of the Department of Public Instruction in Queensland, as approved by the Governor and Executive Council, 8th April, 1876. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-67567227
Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM15929 (Rannes No. 1503 State School).
Goovigen State School (1976). Goovigen and District Schools: Golden Jubilee 1926-1976. Central Telegraph, Print, Biloela.
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