Ballina & Richmond River GenWeb
Brokenhead Public School
The early infiltration of pioneers to the Broken Head district followed a similar pattern to that of most of the North Coast. As the easily accessible stands of cedar cut out along the Richmond, the drift northward eventually brought the cutters to the spacious stand of "Big Scrub" that covered Migon Flats and Piccadilly Hill. This area, the centre of the Broken Head district, yielded vast quantities and many fine specimens of the much prized tree.
Much of the valley was selected originally by the Hodkinson family. Members of this pioneering family constructed a trolley line, approximately six or seven miles in length. The difficulty of transporting the timber from the valley, in those days, prompted the building of the trolley line that ran from the northern reaches of the valley to link up with North Creek in the south. Loaded trolleys were hauled by bullocks along this line to North Creek, down which the logs were floated by the rafters to Ballina.
From the northern section of the district, the timber was snigged to Tallow Beach, there to be loaded aboard ships lying at anchor off shore. Hauling the logs by boat through the surf was difficult enough, but often the seamen laboured only to see their cargo swept to sea by the varying currents of this treacherous beach.
For many years timber getting remained the main occupation of the district. In later years, after a track was cut from the Newrybar district to link up with the valley by way of Piccadilly Hill, the flow of timber, now hardwoods, hoop pine and posts, was directed to the rail town of Bangalow.
In the wake of the cedargetters, followed the farmers with their families. Eventually the need for a school was expressed to the Department of Education by the Broken Head Progress Association. This association, the first formed the district, was also responsible for the erection of the Broken Head Hall and Church. Apparently the original school was constructed by residents of the district, on land made available by Mr. Elliott. This, the original school, was opened as a provisional school in August, 1910, the teacher being Mr. Sydney Nethery. Approximately fourteen pupils were enrolled during the foundation year. Several of the original pupils still residing in the district recall the little school which during frequent periods of heavy rain was surrounded by water, often knee deep. Their teacher, Mr. Nethery, resided in a tent, occasionally having meals with the Lewins family. The unfortunate and untimely death of Mr. Nethery during the Christmas vacation of 1912, accompanied by a drop in enrolment, led to the closure of the school. During the period of closure that followed, the pupils walked or rode, often four miles or more, to attend the schools at either North Creek or Cooper's Shoot.
Again in 1917 the Progress Association petitioned the Department to reopen the school. The present site of the school was acquired by resumption by the Department of Education from the farm then belonging to Mr. Goard. During the year the original school was transferred to this new site. This was accomplished in an interesting manner. The original school, having withstood the ravaging of termites, was lowered on to two large logs, placed beneath the school to form a "V". These logs were crossbraced to prevent rolling and the school bolted to them. One of the local bullock teams 'snigged' the school to the new site. In May, 1918, the residents of the district celebrated with a basket picnic the reopening of the school and welcomed the new teacher, Miss Azalea Harding.
Since the opening of the school on the present site the following teachers have been in charge: Azalea Harding, appointed May, 1918; Annie Bromley, January, 1919; Pretoria Harding, June, 1919; Grace Harrison, September, 1921; Grace Norrie, September, 1923; Francis Donnelly, October, 1927; Percy Coulton, January, 1935; William Bell, August, 1941; John Atkin, November, 1944; Alfred Robinson, February, 1954; Geoffrey Williams, July, 1955.
Next year, 1960, marks the 50th anniversary of the school.
The school population at present numbers fifty-four. Of this number, thirty-four pupils, most of whom live at Broken Head Rock Picnic Ground, travel to school by bus, which also conveys secondary pupils to Ballina High School. Present members of the school staff are G. Williams and R. Johnson. Apart from normal school studies the pupils of the school take an active interest in the work of the Junior Red Cross and Gould League of Bird Lovers. Each year the children amass farm produce which is donated to the Ladies' Auxiliary of the local hospital at Byron Bay. The pupils themselves run a Book Club, choosing their own books and doing their own organising of fund raising. Favourable progress is being made by the recently formed flute band.
The school is the focal point of the community. An active Parents and Citizens' Association takes a keen interest in school matters, endeavouring to acquire for the school the maximum possible amount of educational equipment. At present it has undertaken the task of enlarging the school playground area by clearing dense undergrowth from the lower reaches of the school grounds. The running of a Youth Club in the hall opposite the school on meeting nights enables the majority of parents to attend P. and C. meetings.
In concluding we wish to thank old pupils and residents whose assistance made this compilation of a brief history of the school possible.
School history kindly supplied by Kathy Pearson.
Source: the publication STATUS QUO MCMLIX; presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time - Education Week, 1959 - and their origins.