Ganmain Public School Celebrates Centenary of Main Building

On Friday, 23 November Ganmain Public School will be holding an Open Day to celebrate the centenary of the main school building. 

Having celebrated the School Centenary back in 1992, this is another significant milestone for the community. 

Originally established as a provisional school called Derry, the school opened in February 1892 with ex-pupil, 19-year-old Miss Kate Anderson appointed as its first teacher. By 1893, average attendance was more than 20 pupils a day. Ganmain became a public school, two years later being renamed to Ganmain Public School.  

The original school building, made of “the best colonial pine” of the day and measured 20’ x 16’ x 10’.  It was twice enlarged prior to the new building being erected.

In 1908 the Ganmain Parents and Citizens Association was formed and immediately started advocating for a new building due to the growing concern about the “deplorable condition” of the original timber structure. A petition with 62 signatures was sent to the Minister of Education requesting “a new and up to date brick Public School building”.

The Department’s initial response was to repair, rather than replace, the building in 1909. The P & C persisted however, writing further correspondence in May 1909 highlighting the buildings’ resemblance to “the Ark” in wet weather.

In July 1911, two medical practitioners in the township, Dr Paul L Florance and Dr Ellen Henry, wrote to the Minister expressing their concerns that the School was an “unfit place for teaching” from a health point of view. Gaining momentum, in the same month, another petition with 103 petitions was forwarded to the Minister requesting a new building on the grounds that the existing school building was too small due to the rapid increase in the local population and subsequent increase in attendance rates.

The Inspector apparently agreed, recommending “the erection of a new brick building of two rooms to accommodate about 100 pupils” in his report to the Minister in August 1911. In November, having no response from the Minister, the P & C fired off another letter to again bring before the Ministers’ notice the recent petition for a new building.  

In May 1912, the Department estimated the school’s enrolment in 5 years to reach 120 and conceded to proceed with erecting a new building. Plans and specifications were drawn up in September 1912 for the two-roomed school building, measuring 51 ½ ft x 21 1/3 ft with a verandah measuring 51 ½ ft x 10ft. The building came to a total area of 1,580 square feet and was built to accommodate approximately 100 children with one room for primary children and one room for infants. Tenders were called for the job and the contract went to George H Dixon and William G Butterworth of Narrandera for 872 pounds.

To the delight of the community, the new brick building was erected in 1912 with a plaque to recognise this on the front of the building. Since that time the building has been used to educate thousands of children and generations of local families. Fondly referred to as the “Big Room”, the building has also been used by the wider community for various purposes. In the 1920’s the Ganmain Choral Society held their practices in the building, fostering its growth as well as the link with the school. The building was extended in 1926, adding another 2 classrooms and accommodation for 192 pupils. During the extensions, classes were held in the local hall. 

In 1937 electricity was installed in the building. The Department didn’t consider lights in the classroom a necessity at the time and the P & C paid for the lights to be installed.By this time, the school was four rooms with bare boards, sliding doors between each room and an enclosed corridor (the old verandah covered in) running the full length of the building. There were two entries, no office, no staffroom and no hand washing facilities.  All the rooms had an open fireplace. Over time, modifications were made, with parts of corridor being closed off to create a Principal’s Office and a staff room.

At the time of writing, there are 37 students enrolled at the school. The main school building comprises 3 classrooms and a computer lab, a staffroom, youth worker office, and storage space. 

The current Relieving Principal is Jody Graham an ex-student and school captain herself. Unlike 100 years ago, the classrooms today are filled with technology- with computers, smart boards and iPods in every room and yes lighting too. The building continues to be a great space for the students with different designated areas for innovative and engaging teaching, information technology, group work and space for children to explore and learn through developmental play situations. 

The Open Day is a chance to acknowledge the centenary of the building.  Proceedings on the day include Open Classrooms from 11.30 am showcasing both the building itself and the latest in teaching and learning practices.  

There will be a fantastic display of old photos spanning the history of the school, with lots of familiar faces to be seen. An official assembly will take place at 12.30 followed by a light lunch of mixed sandwiches and slice in the school building. The afternoon will proceed with old fashion tabloid sports. 

All are welcome to attend this milestone event.  For further enquires please contact the school on 69276421 or P&C Publicity Officer, Kylie Hamblin on 0468 910 275.

Historical content garnered from Ganmain Public School:  100 yeas of education 1892-1992 (1992).  

Ganmain Public School Centenary Committee.

Cristy Houghton