STATUS QUO MCMLIX
This publication presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time - Education Week, 1959 - and their origins.
O'POSSUM CREEK PUBLIC SCHOOL
A Provisional School was opened at Opossum Creek in 1899. The school was built on the southern side of Opossum Creek in the corner of the late Mr. E. O'Meara's property and facing the Friday Hut Road, which, in those days, was the main track between Murwillumbah and Ballina.
The school building, about 18 ft. by 16 ft., was built of pit-sawn slabs, each about 12 inches wide. The cracks were covered by battens and it was roofed with a gable roof of corrugated iron. The school was ceiled, but was neither lined nor painted. At first the school was without a verandah, but a year or so after it was opened a verandah was erected along the front wall and was boarded up at one end for further shelter. It had no floor other than mother-earth and, until the school grounds were fenced made a comfortable camp for Mr. O'Meara's cattle, a number of which were prize winners in the Jersey section at the Sydney Royal Show.
In 1912 a new school was built about half a mile from the old school and on the northern side of Opossum Creek. This school is still in use today. It is a building 27 ft by 22 ft. with a verandah on the northern side. The new site was acquired from the late Mr. A. French and was fenced by the late Mr. H. O'Meara; in return for his work he was given the old building.
The first teacher, Mr. J. Howes, was a young city man. He opened the school early in 1899 and camped in a tent alongside the school for about six weeks. He was then offered board by Mr. Robb. Mr. Howes' work at Opossum Creek ended very tragically when he accidentally shot himself whilst trying to extract a jammed bullet from his rifle.
The second teacher to come to Opossum Creek was Mr. G. F. McDonald who arrived in September of 1899. He at first boarded with Robbs, then, after his marriage travelled daily from Lismore by train and then by foot. Later he obtained a house in Bangalow and travelled out the four miles by horse. Mr. McDonald's son is at present teaching in Lismore.
Teachers to follow Mr. McDonald were: 1907, T. E. Strang; 1908, C. C. Street; 1918, Robert W. Simes (with Miss Freda Elvery as assistant); 1923, William H. Turner; 1929, Henry E. Ward; 1937, Ronald A. Lowery; 1942, Lyle P. McGrath; 1946, Charles W. Gordon, who is still in charge of the school.
Up till about 1924 the teachers lived away from Opossum Creek. Most of them lived in Bangalow. About 1924 the late Mr. A. Beckinsale, of Bangalow, erected the present school residence which was obtained as the result of repeated representations by the local residents.
The name Opossum Creek comes from a tree-felling incident. one of the early settlers, Mr. E. Bonnell, felled a tree into the creek and was surprised to see half a dozen opossums making for the bank from amongst the branches of the felled tree. After that incident the creek and the surrounding district have been known as Opossum Creek.
The interests of the children attending the school reach beyond the walls of the school. They are interested in several outside organisations, but their chief interest lies with the Junior Red Cross. For quite a number of years the Opossum Creek Circle of the J.R.C. has raised annually amounts of between £20 and £30 to help the cause of the J.R.C. The members of the Circle have also won a number of prizes at the J.R.C. Exhibitions in Sydney.
In the field of sport the school has had its successes. At Mullumbimby the school won the Clark Cup in 1946 and in 1945 shared the Ball Games Trophy with Mullumbimby School. Since joining in with the Bangalow-Byron Bay Branch of the P.S.A.A.A. the school has been successful in winning the Flick Cup.
The school is supported by a very co-operative Parents and Citizens' Association. The present officers of the Association are: - President, Mr. E. 0. James; Treasurer, Mr. C. A. Blewett; Secretary, M. J. J. Rodda. Mr. Rodda has been Secretary of the Association for the past eighteen years. The school is equipped with radio, gramophone, projector and a good library.
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