Clydesdale School holds stories of 150 years

FOND MEMORIES: Long-time Clydesdale resident Peter Rawlands, school researcher Joan Sartori and past Clydesdale School student Dorothy Garsed share fond memories of the Clydesdale School. Picture: Dylan Burns
FOND MEMORIES: Long-time Clydesdale resident Peter Rawlands, school researcher Joan Sartori and past Clydesdale School student Dorothy Garsed share fond memories of the Clydesdale School. Picture: Dylan Burns

CELEBRATING A MILESTONE

The Clydesdale community is celebrating 150 years of the cherished Clydesdale School which is now used as the community hall. 

A past student and long-time Clydesdale residents shared the stories of the building’s past. 

It’s never changed. It’s always been our meeting place. It's a part of our lives.

Joan Sartori, Clydesdale School researcher

STORIES FROM A FORMER STUDENT

Dorothy Garsed was the youngest of eight children in her family who attended Clydesdale School. She has lived in Clydesdale her entire life. Now 78, Mrs Garsed shares fond memories of the school as she sits inside the renovated hall. 

“There were big families then,” she said. 

“The school was full and there was only the one teacher. You would hardly find that today. All the concerts we had and the dances we had, it is all happy memories.

“One Christmas they had a Christmas tree up there. We’d all get some little thing off the tree and then Santa’s beard caught fire. Mrs Taint raced in to put him out and stood on my brothers truck. That was a bit of a stir at the time. I would have been very young then. My brother passed all that information on to me.”

A painting of the school in its earlier years hangs on a cream wall, reminding new visitors of the building’s long history. 

Picture: Dylan Burns

Picture: Dylan Burns

The first school in Clydesdale was opened in 1866 when Charles Morrison, the manager of the Christmas Reef gold mine, organised a school for the miner’s children. An old timber mission building on the eastern side of Jim Crow Creek was used as the school room until the current sandstone school building was built in 1874. 

In 1883 what was named Christmas Reef Common School was renamed Clydesdale School. Teachers came and went, making it difficult to run the school in the early years, especially when some teachers were not qualified and some didn’t get paid. 

Catherine McArthur, later to become Catherine Hird, was appointed at the school in 1872 and taught there for 22 years. In 1876, Mrs Hird taught all 66 children at the school. 

A decline in student numbers lead to the school’s closure in 1941, meaning young Mrs Garsed had to ride her bike to school in Yandoit. 

But after the school’s closure, the building retained a special significance to the Clydesdale community. 

“Going back through the years the community have all come together here. I don’t know how many functions we came to here,” Mrs Garsed said. 

“I was thinking the other day when a soldier would come home from leave we would have a function for them. I had my 21st birthday here.”

Mrs Garsed’s great aunt’s 100th birthday was also held at the hall. 

Picture: Dylan Burns.

Picture: Dylan Burns.

GROWING UP AROUND THE SCHOOL

Joan Sartori took on the task of researching the school to compile its history for the 150 year commemoration.  

Ms Sartori’s mother and father both attended the school and in her youth, the area became her playground. 

“This is where we came to play,” she said. 

Ms Sartori’s father was the secretary of the hall.  

“There was a big black key for the school that hung in the kitchen above the door. I still remember that big black key,” she said. 

Ms Sartori said there have been multiple times in history where it seemed the beautiful sandstone school building may not have survived. 

After closure of the school in 1941 and a failed effort to reopen it in 1952, the building stood empty for a number of years. The building’s condition was deteriorating and demolition seemed likely.

Public subscription purchased the building and financial assistance over the years has allowed maintenance, preservation and renovation of the historic hall. 

Picture: Dylan Burns

Picture: Dylan Burns

CARING FOR AN AGEING HALL

In 1990, financial assistance from Hepburn Shire enabled the committee to undertake maintenance and the construction of a new toilet block. 

In 2007, financial assistance from state government, Heritage Victoria and Hepburn Shire Council allowed renovation of the hall. 

Clydesdale resident Peter Rawlands was one of 20 locals who volunteered their time to work on the school’s renovations over two years. 

“We had to rip up the floor and took all the lining out. We put a new floor in it and painted the walls and put in a whole new kitchen,” Mr Rawlands said. 

Mr Rawlands said he felt a special connection to the building and was happy to see the renovated hall officially open in 2009. 

Renovated hall. Picture: Dylan Burns

Renovated hall. Picture: Dylan Burns

More recently, financial support from Hepburn Shire has lead to the construction of a rotunda in the school grounds. Hepburn Shire mayor Sebastian Klein will open the rotunda on Saturday as part of the 150 year anniversary celebrations. 

The rotunda will hold a permanent photographic display of the history of the school. Mrs Garsed will unveil the display on Saturday, revealing photos dating to 1903 and a photo of her great aunt’s 100th birthday celebrating at the hall. 

COMMUNITY INVITED TO CELEBRATIONS

The 150th commemoration of the Clydesdale School will be held at the old school site on Locarno Road, Clydesdale on Saturday November 4 from 2pm to 5pm. 

Anyone is welcome to share afternoon tea, hear stories about the school and attend the unveiling of the rotunda and historical photo display. 

Clydesdale School. Picture: Dylan Burns

Clydesdale School. Picture: Dylan Burns