HISTORY

by CAROLYN SLADE and WENDY MCMULLIN 

Genealogy Sunshine Coast 

In 1879, genial 34-year-old William Mahon, Irish by birth and well-liked by parents and pupils, became the first teacher appointed to Nambour’s first school on the hill known as the Bull’s Forehead at Parklands. Mr Mahon had a love of music and played the concertina. He taught the children to sing and by introducing music to the classroom created a precedent for the years to come.

Other teachers, men and young women, followed but by 1890 that first school building had deteriorated and become too small. The children were moved first into the ballroom in Mathew Carroll’s hotel, then to the School of Arts building in Currie St. Some years after the move to the permanent school building in Mitchell St, a headmaster’s cane was found in the School of Arts piano where it had been hidden by the boys after a day of harsh discipline.

With the new school came a new teacher, Henry Miller, transferred from Rosemount School. As a keen amateur astronomer, he encouraged the children to explore the possibilities of weather and space – to look to the stars. But despite his ability and experience, the school committee considered his “great age” (of about 60 years) a drawback. They sent a request to the Department of Public Instruction for a younger teacher. 

At 19 years old, Robert Greathead was certainly a younger man. Not even old enough to vote, he was deemed old enough to control an entire school full of children, some not much younger than himself. He was a popular choice. As a strong member of the Yandina cricket team, he encouraged an interest in all sporting activities, leading to Nambour State Rural School and Nambour State High School later becoming prominent in various fields of sport. 

By 1905, curriculum changes were on the way. Agricultural and domestic science subjects were to be added to the standard academic subjects. With the agricultural nature of its local industries, Nambour was chosen to become Queensland’s first rural school. Thomas Grenier Fisher was appointed in 1913 to take the school through the transition. It took much considered organisation and by 1917 helped set the pattern for future rural schools throughout Queensland. 

It would have been beyond the imagination of pupils at the new Nambour Rural School in 1917 that, 90 years later, the school would produce a prime minister (Kevin Rudd) and federal treasurer (Wayne Swan). 

Taken from Distinction By Merit – A History of Nambour Rural School, published by Genealogy Sunshine Coast. It documents the development of the school and contains thousands of names of committee members, teachers and children involved with the school as well as some previously unpublished photos.

The Genealogy Sunshine Coast Resource Centre in Petrie Park Rd, Nambour (just opposite the swimming pool), is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9am-4.30pm. Visit sites.google.com/site/genealogysunshinecoastinc or facebook.com/gscnambour, phone 5329 2315 or email genealogysc@gmail.com.