MORE THAN A CENTURY AGO: Students from Gunalda State School circa 1890 with teacher Sara Johnston (middle row, left).
MORE THAN A CENTURY AGO: Students from Gunalda State School circa 1890 with teacher Sara Johnston (middle row, left). Contributed

Gunalda school always 'on track'

AS WITH most of the Gympie region, James Nash's discovery of gold in Gympie in 1867 spurred the biggest growth spurt for the Gunalda area.

However there were already a number of colonial settlers and squatters in the area, attempting to build pastoral stations and other agricultural ventures to secure their future.

With the legendary strike "near Curra” streams of diggers from southern states and around the globe hastened immigration to the parishes of Gootchie, Curra, Gunalda and Thompson's Flat.

It was at Thompson's Flat the first moves were made to build a provisional school in March 1881 and by June the people of the area had raised more than £50 to put towards the construction of a school house and the furniture to go in it.

In Chinese culture the number eight is considered lucky and but it's more likely to be coincidence the committee chose the eighth of the eighth (August), 1881 to officially open the school with 28 students.

Moves were made by the school committee to have the school replaced by a state school in 1884 but this was quashed by the Education Department as the school was losing students to a newly established provisional school at Slatey Creek, some 31/2 miles away.

The crowd assembled at the opening of the new school on the present site in 1954.
The crowd assembled at the opening of the new school on the present site in 1954. Contributed

As the site of the school was right next to Gympie/Maryborough Railway line and just down from the Gunalda Railway Station, and because the new pupils would be coming from elsewhere in the Gunalda area, it was decided in 1888 to rename the school Gunalda Provisional School.

At the start of a new page in the admission's register in September 1889, the name was changed.

"There has been no recent settlement at Thompson's Flat, nor is there likely to be as the land open for selection has already been secured. The principal occupation of the people is timber-getting,” wrote general inspector D. Ewart in 1888 in his report.

The people in the area went through a financial rough patch and moves were made to the department to be again considered as a state-funded school as the school was starting to fall into disrepair.

When the department demanded residents find the money to effect repairs, the secretary of the school committee, J. Robinson, wrote back:

"The season is one of the worst known by any person that has lived here for the last 20 years. There is men (sic) living round Gunalda that have not earned six pence for the last nine months, on that it is impossible to get money from them, 2 have seen some of the parents and they

all state we shall have to wait until better times come.”

A decade later, a new school was erected, funded by the residents and in 1908 the school finally became a state school.

In 1924 the committee began their efforts to have the school moved from its low-lying position, and was unintentionally supported by the Railway Department.

This occurred when in 1932 a railway deviation in connection with the North Coast Railway resulted in around 5a (2ha) of school land being resumed by the department, causing a 15ft (4.5m) embankment to block the ventilation to the school and a culvert, to drain stormwater from the high side of the embankment was made which drained directly into the middle of the school grounds.

The head teacher, Alfred Collins, wrote of the hazards to the children at the time:

"To reach school some children must either crawl through or jump over railway fences, and cross the line, on which trains are running.”

This battle was fought for a further 20 years before finally, in 1954 a new school in front of the old school was built and opened.

Renovations, updates and new buildings were erected again in the 1970s including a library, a play shed, an adventure playground and tennis court.

In 1981, the school celebrated its centenary and today has 136 years of history contained within its walls.

INTERESTING FACTS - GUNALDA

THE first recorded white man in the Gunalda area was Jim Davis, the legendary "Durramboi” who escaped from Moreton Bay Convict Settlement and lived with Kabi Kabi tribesmen for 15 years. Durramboi was recaptured at Tiaro by whaler Andrew Petrie in 1842, when he sailed his whaleboat up the Wide Bay River.

Gunalda township was originally surveyed as the township of Keelar in 1883.

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