Cotta Walla Provisional School - Public Tea - Meeting

The Goulburn Herald and Chronicle

Wed 5 Nov 1873


FRIDAY, the 31st October, had long been looked forward to as a great day for Cotta Walla. Great preparations were made in the expectation of large numbers being present. The committee however could not assure that most necessary element in a day's enjoyment - fine weather. Without any exception, Friday was a day unexampled in our experience of many months past. The morning opened with a doubtful appearance; yet large numbers of persons ventured out, and then bravely endured throughout the day an uncomfortable location in a booth, evidently intended to protect from the solar rays, and not from drenching rains. It was magnanimous on the part of the ladies to sit down to tables, on which the water, certainly not purified through filtering from dirty tarpaulins, was pouring in large quantities. We felt for one lady in particular who, attired in nice spring costume, received right down upon her head quite a bucketful of water that had accumulated in the canvass above, and was rolled down by the action of the wind. However, like Mark Tapley, everyone seemed to bear up well, and even to become jolly under the watery circumstances of the day.

The tea commenced shortly after noon. The tables were sumptuously provided by Mesdames Jno. Broderick, J. Howard, J. Wray, J. King, and J. Mortimer.

At the conclusion of the tea a public meeting was commenced.

On the motion of Mr. Jno. Broderick, Mr. J. Whiting junior was voted to the chair.

The Chairman said it afforded him much pleasure to assist the good people of Cotta Walla in their effort, to carry out improvements in their school building. It was highly encouraging to observe the growing interest which the community at large was taking in the important matter of education. But a century ago, and how differently people in the same position as those composing this meeting viewed the question. Then a small tradesman in a country place in England would not be ashamed to make a sign instead of spelling the words in his store bills, as, for instance, making a round ring to denote cheese, and drawing a man hanging by the neck to express that the bill was settled. The chairman here related several other amusing instances of the common ignorance of the times referred to. He was sure that every agriculturist was better fitted to till the soil and reap its golden harvests when enlightened and cultured through the work of education. In this district they well know how ignorance had been the parent of crime. It was pleasing to observe such a change in Cotta Walla, and so much interest taken in the little school which they had established amongst them. Lord Brougham had said in hopeful anticipation of the advancement of his country through the widely extended influence of education:

"The schoolmaster is abroad, and I trust to him with his primer against the soldier's full military array." He trusted that the parents of the children would do all in their power to second the efforts of the indefatigable teacher, in whom they all had confidence. Mrs. Price's success in teaching was universally acknowledged. The teachers of youth wielded a vast power in the community. Dr. Busby, the eminent teacher, had said: "The fathers govern the nation, the mothers govern the fathers, the boys govern the mothers, and I govern the boys." The council of education were wisely exercising the power of choice which they held in the matter of appointment of teachers. Especially, in the small country schools a great improvement in the character and ability of the teachers has resulted. He was pleased to see such an array of speakers around him who would address them, and had only in conclusion to explain that the amount of about twenty-five pounds was needed to effect improvements in the building.

Mr. B. Francis had much pleasure, in response to the invitation of the committee, in saying a few words. He advocated education from a knowledge of his own want of it. He considered that in their enlightened age the parent who neglected to educate his children committed a great crime. The time had arrived when compulsion was necessary for the general good of the community. He was strongly in favour of making our educational system both compulsory and free. He was astonished to hear men speak against this on the ground that the liberty of the subject would be interfered with. The strong arm of the law was now in force against every crime, which, in comparison with that of the parent's neglect of educating his children, was of little injury to the community.

The Rev. J. Penman had much pleasure in meeting so many, notwithstanding the inclement weather they were encountering. He would urge a spirit of liberality. It was gratifying to have to speak on a subject which was so warmly engaging the attention of the community. They lived in a time of great educational advantages, large provision for the education of the entire population being now made. He considered that the only blemish in the Public Schools Act was the omission of a compulsory clause. If parents - and some even yet did - abused their relationship to their children in robbing them of their privileges, they ought certainly be made amenable to law. He would urge upon them to give their children all the opportunities possible for their intellectual improvement, not forgetting also to instil in their every-day life habits of frugality and industry.

The Rev. T. R. McMichael was not prepared to witness such an exhibition of courage as evinced in the large numbers present on such a day as that. He had attended at some self-denial, and thus wished to express his entire sympathy with them in their movement. It was scarcely necessary for him to say much after what had been advanced on the subject of education. It was, however, a sign of the times that men were judged now not by their physical abilities so much as their mental culture. They recognised everywhere the fact that there was a vast elasticity in the intellectual powers of their children. This age wanted sharpened intellects. He was glad to find so much interest taken in education at Cotta Walla.

The Chairman said that addresses were expected from Messrs. Thompson, King, and Broderick; but as the weather continued so unpropitious, it was deemed advisable to close the meeting.

Votes of thanks were accorded to the ladies who had provided the tea, and to the chairman for presiding.

The total proceeds of the day are estimated at about £25.

Description of the Original School

The original schoolhouse was really a barn. The 1871 "Report of the Council of Education on the condition of public schools" has the following entry in it. (From