A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas
The Cockabully Hunters --- from an original painting by Noel Guthrie

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Mona Vale School

Delightful School Building is still used for many District Functions
This delightful little school still stands at Mona Vale, a locality west of the Main Highway between the townships of Cave and Albury.  Its construction was initiated during the early part of the twentieth century by a group of residents living in and around the Ma Waro district and led by William Tasman Smith.
It appears that the name Mona Vale came about when William’s father, A. B. Smith purchased about 1200 hectares of land from the Rhodes family, who at that stage owned Levels Estate.
Although born in Scotland, William Smith had spent some time in Tasmania prior to arriving in New Zealand and was familiar with a famous property in Tasmania called Mona Vale.  I guess he like the name considered this name was as good as any for a new school.
It is reported that on February 13. 1912.  Education Board Representatives held a meeting with householders in the Ma Waro district.  It was resolved that a new school be built on what is now Mona Vale Road, adjacent to Coal Creek and suitable of accommodating 30 children.
William, or as he was more commonly known, Tasman Smith, stated at that meeting, if the school could be built of limestone, he would donate all the stone required to the school from his own property.
April 30th. 1912, tenders for the erection of a school were received. 
Tenders for the stonework were received from;
John Finn. __One hundred and fifty five pound
Harding and Roy. __One hundred and seventy two pounds, nineteen shillings 
A plumbing tender was received from;
A. Cooper. __Eleven pound, eight shillings
Croxford and Co. __Thirteen pound, thirteen shillings
Joinery tenders came from;
Hadley and Clough. __Fourteen pound, eight shillings
Shillito Bros. __Twenty three pound, eighteen shillings and six pence
Jacksons Ltd. __Twenty four pounds, seventeen shillings
J. Murdock. __Twenty five pounds
Westland Timber Co. __Thirty five pound, four shillings and nine pence
John Finn won the contract for stonework on this new school and under his direction construction began within a few weeks.
I am led to believe, John lived only a few miles away, down by the Te Ngawai River.  Yet for the duration of the contract it is recorded he obtained board and lodgings near the site, with Mr and Mrs Hogg.
John was actually born in Blencowe, Cumbria in 1872.   His father owned a quarry there and John is said to have learnt all the tricks of the trade from his father while working in the two districts of Greystoke and Blencowe.  He is said to have married Christina and they settled down in Northumberland for a few years, prior to taking a passage to New Zealand, where they landed on January the first 1908.
One can easily see from his work on the school, even after all those years, John Finn was a perfectionist.  He dictated the quality of stone to be used coming from Tasman Smith’s quarry, about two miles further up the valley.  Each teamster, in charge of a Clydesdale horse and a tip dray, carted the raw limestone down a rough shingle track to the site.
Harry Blisset, an old identity of the district, was one of those teamsters on the site; he must have been in his early twenties at that stage.   I knew Harry when he was getting on in years, living in Pleasant Point with his wife on Te Ngawai Road. 
February 1st 1913 was a very special occasion in the Ma Waro district; the new Mona Vale School was ready for occupation.
Twenty children arrived at the gate that first morning, ready for their first lesson under the guidance of Miss Vida Sutherland.  Vida was employed in the interim, until a permanent teacher was available.  On May 13, applications were received from prospective teachers to fill a full time position at Mona Vale.  Mrs Culprit, Misses McClellan, Bailey and Scannell all applied.  However, it was Miss Scannell who was appointed.   Miss Anderson acted as headmistress, until Miss Scannell arrived.
By 1920 the School had increased to twenty seven pupils, teacher in charge at the time was Miss Florence Tizard.   She boarded Monday to Friday, with a parent nearby.  At the end of each school week she would walk the several miles to the Ma Waro railway station where she caught the Friday evening train to Timaru for the weekend, returning on Monday morning.
Some Children attending school during those early days were lucky enough to have a pony to ride, yet many others had to make do with a good old Shanks’s pony (walk).
Many a school day during the summer was spent in the spring fed swimming pool up the valley.  Pupils continued their lessons in the shade of the trees, as well as being taught to swim.  Some of the highlights throughout each year were the school concert, the annual pet parade and a trip to the Albury Flower show.  Of course some of the most exciting times were to be had at the nearby Coal Creek, here the kids could tickle a trout, try their hand at bird nesting or spear an eel with dads garden fork.
Sadly though, with the declining roll in the early 1940’s, the school faced a very uncertain future.   Then at the end of term 1944, with the school roll of just five pupils, the Education Board closed the Mona Vale School, consolidating it with Albury.
When I was last by there several years ago, the building was well maintained, obviously by a dedicated community for regular community functions.

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