Sydney Road passing Walang Public School around 1910
Taken around 1910, this photo shows a section of the Sydney Road about 12 miles from Bathurst as it passes the Walang Public School at Green Swamp. The road at that time followed Surveyor General Thomas Mitchell’s 1830 line of road which was constructed to provide a more direct route between Sydney and Bathurst. The new road also overcame some of the difficulties of the road built by William Cox in 1814/15, including the difficult Mt York descent and lack of bridges.
To arrive at the spot where this photo was taken, a traveller would have negotiated a particularly steep section of the road which in 1849 was identified as the worst part of the road. It was the site of many accidents – carts, coaches, bicycles and early cars – up to 1914 when a deviation between Brown’s Hill and Green Swamp was opened. In February 1859 a fatal accident occurred when a man died from injuries caused by an overturned dray whilst in 1883 Mr James Murray of Kirkconnell was thrown out of his vehicle onto his head and died within an hour from the injuries he sustained. In January 1914 the horses attached to the mail coach between Bathurst and Sunny Corner bolted at Green Swamp while descending the hill. At the bottom the vehicle struck a culvert and overturned. The driver, James Sparks, had both legs broken, and sustained other injuries. Fortunately not all accidents were as serious. In 1907, while riding his bicycle down Green Swamp Hill, Mr C Westaway, teacher at Walang Public School, sustained an injured shoulder after something went wrong with the brake and he was thrown heavily to the ground. He was lucky to avoid more serious injury.
The population of Green Swamp began to grow with the 1856 discovery of alluvial gold in the creek behind the Green Swamp Inn and the finding of a quartz reef by Pierre Pourot in 1863. By 1866 there was a population of about 150. To meet the needs of a growing population a provisional school was established at Green Swamp in August 1873 in a building provided by Mr Christopher Roberts of the Green Swamp Inn. In 1876, with the nearest public school some miles away at Kirkconnell, local residents applied for the establishment of a public school, indicating that 59 children between 4 and 14 would be able to attend and an additional 14 people over the age of 15 were keen to attend Evening School. On 25 May 1876 plans were drawn up for a Public School to cater for 56 pupils and a Teacher’s Residence with estimates for construction of brick (£750) or weatherboard (£570) but nothing was done at this time. In September 1878 the provisional school was converted to a public school known as Walang Public School, a new brick school building with teacher’s residence was erected and Mrs Eliza Boyd of Yetholme was appointed as the first teacher. She had originally been appointed to the Provisional School on 22 July 1876, her first teaching appointment following two months training at Kirkconnell Public School.
Over the next 40 years the school maintained strong student numbers with students being taught in three divisions: Upper, Middle and Lower Divisions. In 1906 with Mr C Westaway as teacher, a miniature rifle range was established in the school grounds with mounds at 25 and 50 yards. Popular with the boys, a practice shoot was held on Friday 7 December with the highest scores being achieved by Mr Westaway 19, Victor Edwards 17, Frank Howard 16, John Edwards 11 and Sidney Howard 6. The following week the school year concluded with an afternoon concert given by the children and the presentation of prizes: Upper Division: Myra Howard 1, Victor Edwards 2, Frank Howard 3. Others: Nellie Shirlaw, Harriet Rue, Gladys Clark; Middle Division: Elsie Howard 1, Jack Edwards 2. Others: Sid Howard, Edie Rue, Emily Shirlaw, Harold Wray, Clarence Roberts; Lower Division: Grace Howard 1, Alma Howard 2. Others: Christopher Rue, Clarence Wray, Jessie Shirlaw, Willie Roberts. A special prize was presented to Myra Howard. Later in the afternoon the children participated in races and competitions whilst the older folk enjoyed a variety of games until dark.
Residents of Green Swamp regularly exhibited at the Bathurst Show and students at the school exhibited school books, needlework and produce. In 1908 the students were successful in the agricultural and homemade produce sections winning 12 first and 8 second prizes.
In 1912 a new weatherboard school building was constructed and the old building was converted to a school residence. With no other public buildings in the area the school was also the centre of community activities which included meetings of The Walang Mutual Improvement Association and Debating Club, fund raising activities and community picnics to celebrate significant days including Empire Day. In the 1920’s Teacher Mr Chris Smith was instrumental in establishing the Walang Tennis Club with two courts being constructed within the school grounds. For many years tournaments were played against neighbouring clubs at Kelso, Yetholme and Brewongle. Whatever the event, the local ladies were well-known for their lavish catering.
The status of the school changed with each of the World Wars. From May to August 1918 it became a half-time school with Brewongle with Mr Arthur Miller as the teacher. It re-opened as a Public School in October 1918 and continued until 22 September 1941 when it again closed. Mr Richard (Frank) Wilsmore was appointed to reopen the school in January 1945. He remembered riding a pushbike out from Bathurst with Jack Hooper to meet Mrs Phyllis Wray who lived in the old Green Man Inn and who had the keys and books for the school. His family joined him in the school residence about a month later and his wife Reta taught the girls needlework. Enrolments at this time fluctuated around 15 students and the school continued to be the hub of the community with the resumption of the tennis club and dances and euchre parties alternating on Saturday nights in the classroom. The classroom furniture consisted of 8 foot long cedar desks that were bolted to the floor and long forms. On the Friday afternoon before the dance one of the students would scramble underneath the school building to remove the nuts that anchored the desks to the floor so that they could be removed. Dance music was provided by locals including a harmonica player and later an accordion player who came from Yetholme. During the post war years Mr Mac Little, who was president of the P & C at the time, was instrumental in obtaining a hall for use by both school and community. Locals subscribed money for the purchase of the hall which reputedly came from the former Army Camp and was constructed on land opposite the school.
Declining numbers led to Walang Public School finally closing at the end of the 1969 school year. Mr Ian Pine was the last of a long line of teachers to teach the children of this small community. With the closure of the school, the buildings were sold in 1972 to become a private residence.
Written by Jan Page