I commenced school at Bishopsbourne after the September school holidays in 1948 and remained there until the end of the school year in 1954, going onto Bracknell for the 1955 year. The headmaster and only teacher when starting school was Mr. Harry McGuire who was quite young and newly married and had till wars end in 1945, served in the Army. The reason for starting at that time was to get us settled into school and learn a few basics so as to be ready for commencement of Grade 1, which was due to start at the end of January 1949.
Mr. McGuire remained at the school until the end of 1950, when he with his family were transferred to Tullah, a remote mining town on the West Coast of Tasmania. He was replaced by Mr. Fred Gilbert who was to be my teacher for my remaining four years at Bishopsbourne. He was also a returned soldier.
At the commencement of Grade 1 there were seven students in my class and with a total enrolment of around 20 students at the school, was by far the largest class. In the class were five girls and two boys, the girls from the township being, Jill Goss and Marlene Curtis, and from the outlying farms, Patricia Holmes who lived at the now “Lonsdale” property and Marlene McQueen who lived to the south of “Little Hampton”, the McQueen property later being known as “Braelands”. Another Goss girl, walked from the “College” property immediately to the west of the school, but only attended for a few months in that first year before moving away. The only boy, besides me, was Timothy Chilcott, whose parents, Fred and Mollie, operated the combined local shop, post office and telephone exchange.
All classes were conducted in the single-roomed school, this premises having been moved to the site from the Upper Liffey and set up beside the former school room which was attached to the teacher’s residence. My mother had also attended this same school but at the Upper Liffey.
Many of the classes and other activities were conducted on a combined school basis. With six distinct classes at the school to prepare lessons for, this must have been quite demanding for the teacher and a challenge to his organisational skills. The first period in the morning was almost always devoted to the learning of the “Times Tables”, currency, weights, and measures which at that time were in the Imperial system, also spelling, although this varied from class to class, the words becoming progressively more difficult for the older children.
A lot of emphasis was put into learning the “Times Tables” and almost every morning were run through in parrot fashion followed by the teacher firing specific multiplication questions to various students so as to gauge each ones progress with their learning. Correct responses and without hesitation were expected. A periodical check of each student’s mastery of the tables would be made by requiring that each independently write out all tables from 1 to 12 to the number 12. This grounding was of great value, not only for our remaining days at school but for the rest of our lives. Calculations for additions, subtractions, division, currency, weights, and measures were also ground into our minds in the same manner, with a similar benefit.
School Report – Bishopsbourne – August 1950 – Ivan Badcock
Other activities, such as music, craft, sport and scripture, were also run on a combined basis, although scripture was taught by a visiting minister, alternating week about by the Church of England minister, mostly from Carrick and the Methodist minister from Longford.
Craft activities were always conducted in the “old” school room on a Friday afternoon. One of the activities was French knitting and was learned by both boys and girls, and when the rope like cord was long enough, would be stitched to form a flat circular mat suitable for sitting a tea pot or similar on. Other mats were made from raffia while baskets were weaved from cane.
Figurines were also made by inserting plaster of Paris into moulds and after drying and removal, were painted. Both boys and girls were taught to knit with some carpentry and leather work being undertaken. From those days I still have a blue-painted bat, a leather wallet, and several cane baskets.
For sport we frequently played cricket there being a dirt pitch in the centre of the school ground. For stumps we had a slab of wood cut to the right height, the ball used sometimes a tennis ball or at other times a proper cricket ball with several good second-hand cricket bats available for batting. For a good game all students, including the youngest and the girls, were needed to play and were actively encouraged to do so. Mostly the youngest and the girls were bowled to gently to enable them to get to the ball and frequently were given another life and sometimes more if they got out. This kept their interest in the game and in hindsight helped to develop tolerance and understanding between the participants.
To enable me to get to school, which was a mile from the farm, Dad purchased a bicycle from Norm Shipp the bike previously being used by his son Laurie but had outgrown it. The wheels were 24 inch and had a foot brake with the brand name being a Champion. However, when Dad got it home it was found to be too big for me, a rather small five-year-old, and I could not reach the peddles and so modifications were necessary. The seat was lowered so that it sat immediately on the bar and short peddle cranks purchased and fitted. This helped a lot but still couldn’t get started by myself, therefore when setting out for school had to get a push start and hoped that I didn’t fall off or had to stop between home and school. For a year or so until I grew a little, the only way of stopping was to fall off the bike much to the amusement of the teacher and others. When more than 20 years later on meeting Mr. McGuire this was about the only particular thing that he could remember about me – the unusual method of dismounting would seem to have left a lasting impression.
To get our books, pens and lunch etc. to and from school, we had a leather-type satchel which was worn on our back, and which was known as a “school bag”. My bag, which I still have, was a size 12 inch and was used until starting high school in 1956 when a larger bag was required. Still visible on the inside of the flap and written in childlike letters are my initials, “I.J.B.” and name in part, “Ivan J. B” the name not being completed as I had run out of space.
The composition of the class changed progressively during my six-plus years at the school. The Holmes and McQueen families sold their farms and moved away, similarly, the township Goss family sold and moved to Devonport to live with the only gain from these moves being Peter Kirkby, his parents having purchased the Goss home and small acreage in the township. Sometime in the early 1950’s Mrs. Taylor and family, Arthur, Dorothy, and Max, moved into the town with Max becoming part of my class. By year 6 in 1954 the class consisted of only four boys, Timothy Chilcott, Peter Kirkby, Max Taylor and me. Although Marlene Curtis was still at the school, she had fallen a year behind due to the need of repeating an earlier class.
The commencement of the school day had a military-style about it. When the whistle blew it was the signal to form two lines, one for the girls and another for the boys, ready for inspection. The teacher would move up and down the line inspecting shoes and dress with a particular emphasis on having clean hands and fingernails. Often the national anthem would be sung which, till the death of King George V1, was “God Save the King” and on the coming to the throne of Queen Elizabeth 11, was changed to “God Save the Queen”. We would then in single file, march into school.
Should it be raining, assembly would take place in the lobby and on days of National significance, such as Anzac Day or Empire Day, assembly would be around the flagpole located on the southern side of the school building. On the death of the King, I can vividly remember standing in line near the pole with the flag at half-mast, and Mr. Gilbert in sombre tones telling us of the King’s death, during which time he wept. It was a time when loyalty to King and Country was intensely strong, with the standing of the King unquestionably being regarded so high as to be just below that of God Almighty. The death of the King was therefore a time of great mourning and on that day now seventy years ago around that flagpole, for the first time, we sang God Save the Queen and which at the time seemed very strange.
The health and well-being of students was of some importance with a number of measures and practices undertaken to assist. Iodine tablets were regularly distributed, from memory once a week, this to prevent the development of goitres which among the older generation, though not common, could be regularly seen. These small white tablets, supplied by the Education Department, were stored in a large glass jar and distributed on a Friday morning. This initiative, together with the placing of iodine in bread, must have been successful as I’m not aware of any one in my age group developing a goitre and now people with the tell-tale neck swelling due to the goitre condition are rarely seen.
The daily supply of milk to students commenced in the early 1950’s again a health initiative by the State Government. With no refrigeration available in the summer months the milk would sometimes be sour and undrinkable on receipt. In the wintertime, Mrs. Gilbert would warm the milk in a large pan in the residence, with the older girls collecting and bringing to the classroom. To make it more palatable cocoa would be added, this chocolate-like ingredient being supplied by the School’s Parents and Friends Association. With the classroom being quite cold in the winter months, there being only a small open fire in the classroom, the hot milk drink helped to warm us and was much appreciated.
A school dental service was also commenced around the same time and which for us at Bishopsbourne school meant a trip to the mobile unit which periodically visited the nearby Bracknell school. To get there we were transported aboard the Blackwood Creek school bus which by then had started to call at Bishopsbourne to pick up students above Grade 6 for further education at Bracknell. We would spend the day at the Bracknell school attending our grade class and when required to see the dentist were called to the van. The visit was made with some trepidation but almost certainly helped to prevent a lot of toothache.
Writing throughout Primary School and into the early years of High School, was always undertaken with pen and ink, with the biro for students being strictly on the taboo list. The ink would be located at each desk in an ink well held at the head of the desk. These wells, when necessary, would be topped up from a larger container held by the teacher and when this ran out, more ink would be made by mixing ink powder and water, the strength varying according to the ratio of powder to water used. The pen was that of a holder with a replaceable nib, these needing to be changed periodical on becoming worn or broken. With a good sharp point, the boys would sometimes use them to impale March flies or other insects that would inadvertently land on a desk, which was probably a welcome distraction during a boring lesson.
The writing in pen and ink was not only slow, due to the need to regularly reload the nib with ink, but also the need to regularly blot the wet ink to prevent smudging. To blot the copybook was frowned upon therefore some care was taken to avoid this.
One morning on arrival at school, from memory around 1951, there sitting on the headmaster’s table was a set of biros, four different colours, red, blue, black and green, and were standing points down in a stand. To me they represented the latest in technology and were a marvellous invention – no more messy ink, no more continuously dipping into the ink well and no further need for blotting paper. However, their use was strictly forbidden in the classroom, a situation that would not change until midway through High School.
I remember longing for one of these new biros but for me to acquire one appeared rather remote, for in not receiving pocket money I could not buy one and it was a bit much to expect Dad or Mum to buy one for me, but yet a pen did come my way in an unexpected and miraculous way. Around that time in Sunday School, we had been told that God does hear our prayers, no matter how young we may be, and does answer them. And we were taught, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you”. I thought there was no harm in asking God for a biro and which I did, it was a Saturday afternoon and I put the request while running around the farmyard – “Please God give me a biro”.
God’s response was not long in coming, just over 24 hours later a biro that was mine was in my hand, even though biros were still few and far between. It all came about as follows – Dad had been planned to take the evening service at the Whitemore Methodist church and the rest of the family had gone along with him, going to visit Reg and Ruby Page, Mother’s cousins. Their son Graham was about my age, and we sometimes would play together. During the service, we were playing along the side of the road near the church and there to my surprise found a biro lying in the grass. Enquiries to locate the owner were made but was not found, so the biro was given to me. I have never been able to believe that it was an act of fate, but rather it was an answer to prayer.
Another memorable event occurred when after school holidays each student was asked to give an oral composition before the class with the subject being “What I did over the school holidays”. Some of the students had been away to the beach or visiting other family members or at least on a day trip somewhere, but for me it was spent at home on the farm with activities being the normal humdrum of farm life.
When it came to my turn to speak, I decided to report on some of the birds and animals, both native and domestic, that I had seen over the holiday period. On standing up I said something like the following. “While on holidays I went up along the paddock…..”. Immediately Mr. Gilbert broke in and said, “What you have said is not correct English, you can either go up the paddock or you can go along the paddock, but you cannot go up along the paddock”.
As he was the teacher and I was the pupil, I did not argue with him but in my mind believed he was wrong for I had heard Dad, his brothers and cousins as well as some friends using this terminology, therefore the weight of numbers seemed to be on my side.
As the years went by and I continued to hear the terms of “up along” and “down along” I would be periodically reminded of what Mr. Gilbert had said but thought little more about it until in the 1980’s, some thirty years later, when I commenced research on the Cornish families of my ancestry, that of Badcock and French. I also discovered that many of their neighbours in the nearby Whitemore region and other relatives and friends had also come from Cornwall and that the terms, “up along” and “down along” were well-known Cornish sayings and used nowhere else in England. It would seem this part of their Cornish vocabulary had survived over the generations, which by the 1950’s was more than 120 years since arrival.
The visit of the school inspector was an important occasion in the life of the school. When notice of inspection was received activities at the school would seem to step up a notch. There would be a general tidy up throughout the school, both inside and out, revision of all subjects would be undertaken just to make sure we were up to scratch, our parents were informed no doubt to ensure that on the day of the visit dress and cleanliness would be of the highest standard. Also, everyone was expected to be on their best behaviour.
The first inspector that I recall was that of Mr. Grace, a well-built man of rather senior years and who to us children had an air of authority and importance about him. This mystique was only added to by the large car that he drove, it was black and shiny and immaculately kept, and was far more imposing than any other car that I knew of in the district.
We were therefore well primed for his visit but in hindsight none more so than the headmaster of the day, for it was he who had the most to gain or lose from the visit. On his departure a sense of relief would sweep through the school and life would get back to normal.
The only other inspector that I can recall coming was that of Mr. Smith who followed on after the retirement of Mr. Grace with him appearing less imposing and more friendly.
Living in the district in the 1950’s was a deaf-mute whom we knew as Jimmy Wolfe. He was in his senior years and lived with the Hall family at “Vron” about a half mile from the school. Almost always as he passed the school, he would be carrying a sugar bag on his back which at that time was often used by people for carrying items. All of us children at the school were quite fearful of him, perhaps aided in our thinking by some of the comments of the older people who would say, “be careful and keep away from Jimmy or he might put you in his bag”. I have never heard that Jimmy ever caused any harm to anyone, but probably due to these comments we would give Jimmy a wide berth if we saw him or met him on the road. In hindsight, a more enlightened approach would have been helpful for all.
Bracknell – 1955
On completion of Grade 6 at Bishopsbourne, this being the highest class at that school, I was transferred to the Bracknell Area School, located four miles away and scheduled to commence that years Grade 7 class. However, after several days in the class the Headmaster, Mr. David Hunt, decided that at 11½ years of age I was too young and I was moved back into Grade 6 which was in the room next door, with Miss Betty Wise from Longford being the teacher.
I now cannot remember the names of the 15 students in the class but did include several people that I knew from around Bracknell, Ian Conn and Hillary Harris who used to attend the Methodist Sunday School and who I regularly met there.
To get to the Bracknell school we were picked up by the Blackwood Creek school bus which came into the township. The bus which was owner driven by Mr. Harold Tubb from Blackwood Creek, was a medium sized bus and painted light brown and which we kids knew as the “brown bomber”.
Even though I was repeating Grade 6 the class work was not a repeat of the 1954 grade 6, as most of the textbooks changed in that year. Up to this time, almost all my textbooks had been the same that both Mum and Dad had used in their time at school with changed books and systems having followed me till then. Perhaps because of this, I have often thought of myself as the last of my parents’ generation.
With a greater number of students at Bracknell, it presented more opportunities to participate in group activities and in sport participated in the cricket and football teams playing mostly against the Cressy Area School teams.
A delight was the occasional visit to Ross’ Bakery to buy lunch which gave a welcome change to sandwiches. By this time, I had become well and truly tired of banana in bread sandwiches which Mother regularly gave us and even to this day although liking to eat bananas, have some difficulty in stomaching bananas in bread.
During the year all students were required to sit the “Ability Test” and for those wanting to go onto High School education, a good mark was required to gain entrance. For those achieving entrance, the students were further graded into academic and non-academic classes, those being allowed in the academic classes having the highest “Test” results and which I was able to achieve. As a result, and with a lot of encouragement from Dad, an enrolment application was completed for admission to the Launceston Technical High School even though at the time the majority of students from the area did not proceed onto High School education, the primary thought of the time being to get out to work as soon as possible and begin earning some money.
Written by Ivan Badcock – updated December 2021