Class of 1859 – Tinonee Public School

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One of the region’s oldest schools, Tinonee Public School, celebrates its 150th year on September 25th. Peter Lyne walks us down memory lane.


The public school was established in 1859, renting premises for twenty pounds per year. The seven room building selected was previously a Public House, and Mrs Eliza Jane  Baxter was suggested as the teacher.

The application was approved, with Mrs Baxter appointed as the first teacher. She was born in Kilkenny, Ireland and came to the area with excellent credentials after training at educational model schools in her homeland and Sydney. The doors opened for the first time on the 1st October 1859, with twenty five enrollments.

The popularity and growing enrollments at the school saw a new school building completed at the beginning of 1861, and it was dedicated as a National School on 16th July 1862. This milestone was published in the local newspaper, the Maitland Ensign in an edition dated 15th January 1861. The opening was described as follows:

“The school house is a very neat building, situated on the west side of this township, commanding a beautiful view of the river and surrounding district. Much praise is due to the local patrons, Messrs. Wynter, Richardson and (Morgan) Poole, for their perseverance in procuring the necessary funds for the completion of the building. They had many difficulties to contend with, but they surmounted them all, and brought matters to a happy result. The school-house is an ornament to the township, and will be used for divine worship.”

One interesting addition in the article was: “The township was considerably enlivened in consequence of the opening of the new school-house.” The day’s activities were described, with children taking part in sports, games with everyone enjoying cake, fruit and sweetmeats.

The first school board had Dr Horace Dean as chairman, Arthur Else, secretary and Morgan Poole, treasurer, with other board members Henry Wynter and William Stephen. The new school building began having accommodation problems in 1871, when enrollments passed sixty students, resulting in a desperate need for a new building. Nothing seems to have changed in 150 years where building is involved, with the new school not beginning until early 1873!

The new school building was, at the time, state of the art, being constructed of long vertical boarding and a shingle roof, and it was finally completed in June 1874. During the delays, school enrollments continued to grow, and in June 1894 it was reported as a necessity to again add more accommodation. A new two room building was added to the existing design and completed in 1895; it accommodated ninety students and cost four hundred and forty pounds and is still part of the Tinonee Public School complex. The school was used as an area school, and as Taree and Tinonee grew, so did the Tinonee Public School.

This was due to the Taree Estate School closing in 1865. Students transferred to the Tinonee school, crossing the Manning River by ferry for eighty years.

The Manning River Bridge (later renamed the Martin Bridge) was opened at Taree on 18th May 1940, with the Pacific Highway re directed through Nabiac, Bulahdelah and Karuah from the original Stroud, Gloucester, Tinonee route in 1952. The ferry service between Tinonee and Taree Estate was gradually downgraded, and when it was finally discontinued in 1950, the end of an era had come. The change in the road system diminished the need to cross the river, and building of new schools in the Taree area saw the Tinonee school enrollments fall below forty.

These low enrollments continued until the mid 1970s, when pupil numbers increased again due to the closure of a number of outlying schools such as Kundibakh and Mondrook. This growth caused accommodation problems again, and in 1978 the school finally moved into the 20th century with the construction of a new administration block including a library, canteen and classroom. This move was needed, as enrollments had increased to 153. It also led to the school’s first non-teaching Principal, Mrs Evette Barwick, and a Deputy Principal, Mr Kevin Miller.

The school has come a long way since 1859 and now has all the improvements required in today’s complex world of teaching. Recent additions have been a covered outdoor learning area, a tiered learning area, a computer room and the installation of a Connected Classroom project.

Tinonee is a unique school with an established proud history from its long list of students, parents, teachers and staff. This history began with the school’s inception and has laid the foundation evident today with their continuing pride and achievements. This strong bond has led to a healthy partnership being established with the community; the school becoming a major focal point for meetings and social occasions.

Current principal, Don MacKenzie has been at the school since 2006 and heads eight permanent classroom teachers and a part-time librarian, along with office and ancillary staff and 195 students.

Don MacKenzie is the school’s 24th Principal and joins the 150 year-old Honour Board. The following names may bring back memories for many readers:

Mrs Eliza Baxter 1859, Miss Kate Brady 1861, Daniel Alderton 1862, James Birch 1865, Richard Churchill 1870, James Morley 1876, David Hayes 1897, Charles McDougall 1907, Hugh Kiddle 1911, Joseph Woodland 1922, Allan Doyle 1929, Colin Spence 1952, Arthur Harrison 1957, Lachlan Groves 1961, Ronald Jonas 1967, Bill Craig 1971, Ralph Parkes 1976, Allan Egginton 1981, Tony Dougherty Rel 1987, Mrs Evette Barwick 1988, Kevin Miller 1988, Ross Retallick 1990, John De Gunst 1998, Don MacKenzie 2006

Today, the Tinonee School continues to expand; it is currently adding a new hall and is planning big celebrations for its Sesquicentenary.

All past students, teachers and parents, along with the community are invited to join in the weekend of celebrations, which begin on Friday 2nd October. This will be an open day with morning tea and a BBQ available beginning at 10am and will feature displays, activities and performances by students, who will be dressed in period costume.

On Saturday 3rd October, the school will host a reunion beginning at 9.30am with registration and morning tea, followed by the official ceremony at 11am.

Official guests will step back in time and will arrive at Tinonee via the river courtesy of Stebercraft, after attending a morning tea hosted by Greater Taree City Council. The day will include entertainment, displays, photos and memorabilia, with souvenirs, a recipe book and a compiled history of the school.

The Saturday night will feature another trip back in time when an ‘Old Time Supper Dance’ will be held on the Saturday night in the Tinonee Hall. On Sunday 4th October, a non-denominational church service and a picnic lunch will be held in the school grounds at 11am. For further information, contact Tinonee school on 6553 1279.

Story by Peter Lyne.


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One Response to Class of 1859 – Tinonee Public School

  1. Lindsay Swadling says:

    Eliza Jane Baxter (nee Dixon, then Logue) was my gt-gt-grandmother. I would love to find out what happened to her after teaching at Tinonee, as this is the latest recorded event I have found for her.

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