Remembering school years

macdeedle / Pixabay

What do you remember about your school years? Was it a good time in your life? Have you found out anything about your ancestors school lives?

Our questions this week were:

  1. Share some memories of school -funny, happy or inspiring -sad or scary -school rules – tough or easy
  2. Let’s hear about the teachers and school friends
  3. Tell us about your family schooling traditions, school traditions, does your school still exist? Have you visited it?
  4. What about your ancestors education? -have you found their school records or reports? -what records have you found & where? -any teacher discoveries?

Memories

  • Carmel has written a great post about school day memories.
  • Fran has written about her first day at school.
  • Jennifer – We made Waldorf salad in cookery. I didn’t and still don’t eat dressing so I refused to eat it. they made me sit there through the next two classes until I ate it. I didn’t care. I didn’t eat it. Teacher hated me after that.
  • Pauleen – Stubbornness wins! I never had a cooking class at school – the joys of the science class.

  • Sandra – I just remembered, In year 2 I used to write back to front and right to left. Must have been interesting for the teacher. In college, I wrote the same for some notes because I got bored. I’m left-handed if that explains it
  • Pauleen – I have to say I have very fond memories of my high school and its advanced learning opportunities with language and science labs, good teachers and a fab library. I finally felt like I belonged somewhere.
  • Jo – 2 different primary schools & 2 different high schools – though 2nd high school was the 1 I was supposed to go to in Yr 7 so knew some of them. 1 primary school new school – 8 students & I was only girl for a while
  • Jill – In my final years was a gopher for the boarders. I used to post their letters to bypass the censors (nuns) and used to buy all sorts of contraband except alcohol.
  • Jennifer – We recited the times tables over and over every day. They were imprinted on our brains. I’ve never forgotten them
  • Sandra – Not a tradition but we were given a rating first to last in the class. It always motivated. Wouldn’t be able to do that now
  • Carmel – at boarding school we were not allowed to wear “witches britches” – remember those long knickers, usually coloured and sometimes with frills – fashion in the late 60s
  • ANZ – I always wanted to go to boarding school – I think it was all those English books about tuck boxes and midnight feasts. Am sure it wasn’t always like that!
  • Pauleen – I felt for some of our boarders who had a terrible time with teachers but couldn’t speak or write to parents without censorship. Mr Cassmob only saw his parents once or twice a year once a boarder. We made sure our girls never boarded.
  • Maggie P – we had a roster to take turns with torch and clock to stay awake until midnight. I was a heavy sleeper. Took torch in my sleep I think. Someone else woke up and we went downstairs for our feast about 1am.
  • Jill – My most vivid memory was spending two months in hospital in the term prior to our Leaving Certificate. I scraped through. I put a lot of weight on in hospital and wouldn’t go to our end of year celebration because I was so fat – nearly 9 stone
  • Sandra – At primary school, every report said I was too quiet. In year 3 someone poked me in the back with a pencil and I turned around and told them off. I got into trouble and I never forgave that teacher. Mum had to bribe me with a bag of lollies to go back.
  • Jill – I remember us all rubbing ourselves with a bush that gave us a red rash. We were hoping the school would be closed if enough of us got measles
  • Fran – We had out hems measured at a govt. high school. If you leaned forward you could reduce the measurement. I think there was a line of girls leaning forward.
  • GenXalogy – I adored school. I attended three different high schools: a country public school, then two private schools in ‘town’. MUCH stricter rules at the latter! Maths test in about week 3… teacher left the room and nobody cheated or even stopped working/talked!!
  • Pauleen – Frightening memories of primary school, aged 5, being told in graphic detail by my teacher, a nun, what the communists would do to us when they came. This during the “Reds under the beds” scare. Stayed with me for years.
  • Carmel – Boarding school not at all like the story books but I did make some great friends in 5 years there. Was a huge change from a 2 teacher country school, I met girls who even had their own bedroom!!!!
  • Hilary – We had an outside toilet block at primary school in the 1960s
max_gloin / Pixabay
  • Fran – Us too. When my brother started school he was afraid of going there as it was stuck out the back so I had to wait outside for him. Unfortunately, a teacher told me off for hanging around the boys’ toilet so got moved on. Brother was not happy when he came out.
  • Pauleen – School rules weren’t intimidating for me as I was a compliant, well-behaved child (yes, things change!). As a prefect in high school one of my jobs was to ensure compliance with uniform rules etc.
  • Jennifer – My happiest memory of school is riding my bike to and from every day. Rain hail or shine!
  • Sue – Changing schools at high school was terrible – lost all my friends but loved library at new school
  • Hilary – in primary school we had a carpet in the library created static and metal shelving made for some shocks
  • Jill – I can remember being told that people in mixed marriages were evil. I couldn’t see much wrong with my parents! But this was mostly in secondary school. Sister Eugene was a fearmonger/ She was relegated to the tuckshop when I was in third year.
  • Jennifer – Strong memories of very strict rules on school uniform. Who remembers those drab grey winter tunics with box pleats. They looked dreadful on this chubby teenager.
  • Sue – Missing three months of school to travel around Australia as a family, having to teach my brother how to write in cursive while we were in Darwin. Teacher asked me to keep a journal about what we saw and learnt, but my brother’s teacher organized daily lessons which I ended up making sure he did, beginning of my teaching career.
  • Jennifer – I loved library class and just being in the library. I enjoyed shorthand, typing and accounting. I was good at those subjects
  • Maggie P – Doing a short musical in Std 3- aged about 9. I was supposed to help an old man onto a ‘log’ but they forgot to put it on stage until the end of the scene! Loved performing anyhow.
  • Pauleen – Dozens of girls climbing the wooden stairs to the concert hall at high school, making nary a sound with shoes or chatting. Sitting stiff as a board during a performance and not looking around or fidgeting.
  • Carmel – in primary was in a small 2 teacher school learnt lots from older kids in same room. Was always frustrated with prescribed readers, just gave a snippet from a longer novel
  • Jennifer – When I think of school, I think of how much hated it. Primary school was ok but I hated going to secondary school
  • Pauleen – Unhappy memories: at a Catholic primary school feeling often “odd man out” as an only child of a mixed marriage.
  • Fran – My memories of school are both good and bad. Good: one teacher that read out to the class a Famous Five Adventure so I then just had to read books with chapters after that. The first one took ages. By the end of the series I was a much faster reader.
  • Sue – Playing softball with friends, then missing those same friends when changing to another school
  • Jill – We used to do a lot of marching at school – The nuns used to take over Victoria Street, Kings Cross and march us up and down at lunchtime.  The nuns encouraged us to be modest and wear petticoats under our uniforms. I was severely castigated by Sister Christine when she spotted my bright red half-slip. Good girls didn’t wear red underwear!

Friends and teachers


  • Brooke – Most disliked teacher Subbed for 1 term in grade 3. He used to fire staples & blackboard dusters at us. I kicked him in the shins for teasing me. I got in trouble.
  • Maggie – We had a sub maths teacher throw blackboard dusters at us. He ended up having a nervous breakdown (wasn’t me!) and leaving.
  • Fran – I had one teacher that Mum made cry because he wrote something in my report that was not true so he could not be a good teacher if he thought this. He was much nicer to me the next day at school.
  • Jo – music teachers at both schools favourites – now friends on FB! Disliked my Yr 7 English teacher – we were always in trouble. Still friends with school friends and been to 10 yr & 20yr reunion of 2nd high school (no 30yr one organised!)
  • Jennifer and Fran and Sue – I’ve never considered attending a school reunion. That would be my biggest nightmare
  • Carmel – School reunions never appealed to me either but I was contacted for the 50th and set up a private FB group, we all shared photos and a lot of laughs, was quite glad I wasn’t in SA for the actual event but facetimed with them on the night.
  • GenXalogy – My favourite teachers were ones who weren’t afraid to toss out the script and do something completely different. Ms. Dawson (Yr 8 HASS, no relation), Mrs. Merriman (Yr 11 English). Props to Ms. Abbott (Yr 8 English) for starting me off on family trees.
  • Maggie – There were a couple of very special teachers during my school years, who kept me sane (and at school). I was glad to leave and get on with life
  • Jennifer – I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Funny thing is I’ve loved learning as an adult
  • Jill – My two besties from school are good friends. I attend each of our ten yearly reunions. It’s interesting to see the girls have developed. About 20 of us meet up every few months around Sydney. Covid has put a spanner into the works with that.
  • Pauleen – I’ve been to one primary school reunion years ago which was interesting. Despite living at a distance I’ve been to a few high school reunions over the years – interesting to see how we’ve changed and how things that once mattered no longer do
  • Jill – I don’t know how those nuns coped with the huge classes. In our final year English class we had 55 girls.
  • Maggie P – We went to boys’ Catholic HS for physics and chemistry in my last two years of school. Br Luke would never embarrass a girl in front of the boys- always checked we had right answer before asking us. Once gave me 11/10 for a problem, boys couldn’t cope.
  • Sue – I loved Mrs Chalmers, my grade 6 teacher, probably my incentive to teach, 4 of my friends in that class also became teachers. Even went to her funeral
  • Pauleen – I don’t remember any teachers especially disliking me at primary school other than because dad wasn’t a Catholic. He wasn’t as subservient to them about disciplinary action either.
  • Hilary – my language teacher also taught classics neither were my strong subjects I wanted to learn Latin as thought it might help in my career
blende12 / Pixabay
  • Pauleen – My favourite teacher at high school was Sr Mary Benedict – she was such a smart dynamic woman who taught my science subjects. Sr Mary St Christopher who taught physiology in Junior. Sr Mary Borgia taught German very well.
  • Jane – I think I have blocked my school years out … I do recall that I found Art particularly traumatic in primary school because of the mismatch between what I could see in my head and my inability to draw it
  • Sue – I had a German person teaching me French and a French person teaching me German in high school, I loved languages
  • Fran – I think that I was fortunate to have many of my high school teachers and uni lecturers from different countries. Being from a small town in NZ this widened my horizons heaps.
  • Jill – Sister Casimir in 5th and 6th class used to borrow books for me on her library card so I’d have more to read.

Traditions

  • Remember the days when they printed everyone’s exam results in the newspaper … couldn’t do that these days!! – Jane
  • And you’d head to the newspaper outlet to find out your results. Didn’t go well the first year in uni when I bombed some subjects…not at all popular with parents – Pauleen
  • None of my family were teachers in past generations – they were lucky to get to school given they were regularly on the move. My husband’s family has a tradition of teaching which continues today. – Pauleen
  • All schools I went to still exist. Did 1 lot of prac teaching at 1st high school! – Jo
  • Search family memorabilia for school photos; old school report cards; books that may have been awarded as prizes (I have a few from ancestors); Facebook pages for the school or school photos. Ask relatives. I have my grandmother’s Scottish certificate. – Pauleen
  • My primary school still exists & my niece & nephew go there. Sometimes Mum picks them up so she has been at that school gate since 1976. My high school still exists too…you might have heard about it #TheTeachersPetPodcast – Brooke
  • My primary school was demolished in the late 1960s. My high school celebrates its 160th anniversary this year, Qld’s oldest secondary school – Pauleen
  • Hated the ANZAC day races at school so three of us would all run over the line at the end holding hands, so no one came last – Sue
  • I remember the small bottles of milk that we were given and made to drink at recess. They were delivered early morning and sat in the sun until they were given out. I’m sure many people were put off milk for life by it. – Jennifer
  • Yuk, yes by morning recess time the milk was hot- no refrigeration at our primary school. Most of us were from farms so didn’t need bottled milk. – Carmel

  • Family school tradition… after every P/T night my dad would tell me the teachers said I needed to work harder. It took me far longer than it should have to work out they didn’t say that, it was just what he thought. – GenXalogy
  • Primary school traditions: St Patrick’s Day concerts and fetes with home made goods. High school traditions: giving friends holy pictures with personal messages written on the back; celebrating friends’ birthdays bringing home made cakes and biscuits. – Pauleen
  • As part of curriculum at Sorell School, each class spends a week at the Pioneer School in role play as if in 1821, inkwells, nib pens, nose on chalk on chalkboard if naughty, check fingernails before entering room etc – Sue
  • I looked up centennial magazine. There was photo of my aunty in 1922 in school uniform. She was one of the oldest/tallest. She went on from school to train as a nurse. – Maggie P
  • A high school tradition which remains is the ability to sing the school anthem in Latin, Angeli Archangeli. Some things stick in the mind – Pauleen
  • Not only have I visited my old school – I joined the staff as Head of Library 35 years after I finished my schooling. What a blast from the past! Rules were relaxed, there weren’t many nuns, students were allowed to speak in class – Jill
  • all my 6 siblings attended same rural local primary and then my brother’s 9 children went there too – no more in the family to follow – Carmel
  • Three generations of my direct family have attended the same high school: mum, me, our daughters. Special memories over the years. Sadly generation 4 lives in the NT so won’t be going – Pauleen
  • All schools I have attended are still standing, and I taught for 21 years at Sorell school which is the oldest school in Australia still operating from the same site begun in 1821. – Sue
  • We have had several high school class reunions organised by a couple of those who have stayed in New Plymouth. At school 125th celebration, the boarders had lots to say- our bond was so much stronger- and our memories so much funnier or poignant. – Maggie P

Ancestor education

  • Maggie P – Found enrolment for my uncle at Camerons school on the West Coast when he was 5. My mother was born there but must have moved to Kumara soon after. My Aunty, 10 years younger than my mother, never knew they’d lived at Camerons, but school record clinched it.
  • Hilary – FindMyPast have lots of the records and they are an interesting read also found newpaper report of non-attendance prosecution
  • Fran – Newspapers are a good one I forgot about. Many Uni exams, nurses, public servant exams, etc are reported in local newspapers in NZ.
  • Brooke – In the @BNArchive I found reports of truancy. My great-grandmother’s parents were hauled in & fined for her non-attendance when she was about 9.
  • Hilary – just found the scans of those school reports for my Mum need to take another look at them
  • Brooke – I have found some Cambridgeshire school records (can’t recall if it was Ancestry or FindMyPast) which listed my great-grandmother. My gg-grandfather was a schoolmaster in Ireland c.1880 but I’m still looking for records.
  • Pauleen – Have you checked the county archives to see what they might have? Also the national Archives Ireland has some records but they’re not digitised
  • Pauleen – School centenary publications or similar can be useful but do try to check for accuracy. Trove stories of the school’s opening or events…look beyond your family’s name. See if local history museums have any records or information, useful in country areas
  • Pauleen – Qld State Archives also has some records for the Grade 8 Scholarship exams – I need to revisit these.
  • Hilary – My grandmother’s cousin was a pupil teacher. I also have school photos of my aunt’s class

  • Carmel – Have a pic of my husbands mother at school in 1925 Maroubra Primary
  • Jill – My Dad left school at 13 to work on the farm, my Mum left at 15 to work in the Post Office. My parents valued education – I was the first in my immediate family to gain a university degree (or 3).
  • Pauleen – My generation was also the first to go to university – no, there was one person ahead of us in a different family I didn’t know. I’m so grateful to my parents for the opportunities they gave to me, especially being a girl. Mum went to Junior (grade 10). One of the biggest things I owe my parents who were working class and my mother who nagged my high school to admit me – I’d gone to a primary school with a different order of nuns. She was sure determined!
  • Carmel – Me too, none of my siblings completed High school so I was the first to go to Uni etc. very grateful to my mother who valued education as she had to leave at the end of primary school, no money for her to travel to a secondary school
  • Sue – Have found newspaper reports though of ancestor parents being fined for truant children
  • Maggie – I’ve looked through school records at Kent Archives in Maidstone – fascinating details there! Sadly, none relating to my ancestors.
  • Sandra – There are a few reports of school picnics on Trove from my grandparents time. They are always interesting reading.
  • Jennifer – Have found teacher records in @PRO_Vic My gg gfather was schoolmaster on the ship. information about him in passenger record
  • Jennifer – I’ve come across many articles about teachers on @TroveAustralia – school concerts, outings, teachers leaving the school or district. But not for my ancestors
  • Maggie – I had a look on @findmypast in their Yorkshire school records for my great grandmother but couldn’t find her – she left for NZ aged six so probably didn’t start. Will have to look in NZ records for her instead!
  • Carmel – Have school admission records for my father and his siblings in 1921 but hard pressed to find any others
  • Jill – I have found several reports that mention my Mother and her sisters’ achievements on Trove. I’m grateful that the Cobar newspaper reported on school activities.
  • GenXalogy – I have all my grandmother’s primary school reports (hilarious reading!!), and I have sourced quite a few records from school archives over the years as two of my great-grandfathers were teachers. (One of the great-grandfathers dropped dead just outside the school after a particularly trying day. I may or may not have threatened my students that I may do the same.) (I totally have.)
  • Pauleen – School admission registers are gold, and even inspectors’ reports can help. Requests to establish schools can include relatives names, and their children’s ages and names.
  • Maggie P – My father was at the younger end of his family. Once he passed Proficiency in Std 6 he had to go out to work as the family were too poor to send him to high school.
  • Pauleen – I have found most records for the relatives who attended state (government) schools because, where they’ve survived, they’re at the archives. Some have been lost over the centuries/decades. How to find the Catholics is my new challenge.

  • Fran – I have found schools for some of my grandparents in both London at the archives and libraries. In New Zealand the NZ Society of Genealogists have great school records. Helps with names, dates and addresses.

    White77 / Pixabay

    Readers: What are your memories of your schooling? Have you found anything about an ancestor’s schooling records?

Hannah DAVEY

Hannah Davey was born in 1899 at Englishtown near Blessington in Tasmania. She was the 6th born out of 12 children to George and Martha Davey nee Colgrave.

Birth certificate Hannah Davey 1899 TAHO RGD 33/1/87 no 598

Englishtown is near the mountains of the Ben Lomond National Park in north-eastern Tasmania and would have been extremely cold during winter. The closest town is Evandale about 22kms away. Life would have been very hard for this large family. Hannah’s father, George, was mentioned in local papers as tendering for works on the roads near their land, but otherwise was a farmer.

1912 ‘EVANDALE.’, Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), 7 March, p. 7. (DAILY), viewed 11 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50641551

Hannah’s father died in November 1914, aged just 49 years. He died at the Launceston General Hospital and was interred in the Presbyterian Burial Ground in Evandale. Hannah’s youngest brother, Frederick, was born just one month before her father’s death so I am sure she would have been expected to help look after him when not at school.

Marriage

By 1922, Hannah had moved to the big city of Hobart in southern Tasmania. She was working as a housekeeper to the Lord family in Sandy Bay. This was mentioned in the electoral roll of that year as being on the corner of Grosvenor and Lord Streets. Her future husband, Henry Lewis England, also lived in Grosvenor Street with his parents. This is probably how they met.

Hannah and Henry married on 9 May 1923 at the Methodist Church, Longford. The following article was in the Examiner dated 10 May 1923.

WEDDING BELLS: ENGLAND-DAVEY. The marriage of Hannah, fourth daughter of Mrs. Davey, of Longford, and the late Mr. George Davey, late of Deddington, and Henry L., only son of Mr. HL. England, and the late Mrs. England, of Sandy Bay, Hobart, took place on Wednesday afternoon at the Longford Methodist Church. Rev. George Arthur, M.A., was the officiating minister. The church was charmingly decorated with white roses and chrysanthemums and autumnal leaves by Misses Gladys Wheeler, and Millie Lee. The bride was given away by her young brother (Mr. Bert Davey) in the unavoidable absence of her elder brother (Mr. W. G. Davey, of Hobart). She wore a pretty frock of white organdie muslin embroidered with beads, and a wreath of orange blossoms and veil, the latter being loaned by her cousin (Mrs. Arthur Sherwood). She carried a shower bouquet of choice white flowers, tied with satin streamers. Her only attendant was her sister (Miss Doris Davey, who wore a frock of white crepe merle trimmed with blue. She carried a posey of white blossoms tied with blue streamers, and wore a gold bangle, the gift of the bridegroom. The bride’s brother (Mr. George Davey) supported the bridegroom as best man. Mrs. Davey (mother of the bride) wore a costume of navy blue serge and a black hat. Miss Gould played the “Wedding March” during the signing of the register, and as the newly-wedded couple left the church, Mrs. Davey entertained the bridal party and immediate relatives at wedding tea at the conclusion of the ceremony. Mr. and Mrs. England left for Launceston, and later on the North East Coast. where the honeymoon will be spent. Mrs. England’s travelling dress was a smart navy blue costume, with cream crochet front and a navy blue and gold hat, with Oriental trimmings. She also wore the bridegroom’s gift – a handsome black fur. Her present to him was a pocket wallet and notebook.

Henry Lewis England and Hannah Davey at marriage May 1923
at Methodist Church, Longford, Tasmania.

Family life

Hannah and Henry had three daughters: Iris Alston 1924 – 1934, Margaret Grace 1928 – 2017 and Phyllis Joan born 1934 and still alive with stories to tell. Iris died one month after the birth of Phyllis, so my mum didn’t get to know her eldest sister. These are some memories my mum had about her mother and family life:

  • Hannah enjoyed crocheting and cooking, especially fish.
  • She always helped on committees at Sandy Bay Methodist church.
  • We always went to Long Beach for picnics – caught the double decker tram at the bottom of King Street.
  • We had no car and no phone and only once dad had built the new laundry and bathroom did we get hot running water.
  • Hannah chopped off the top of her thumb helping with the new building.
  • We walked everywhere or caught the trams.
  • Hannah’s mum lived with us for six months of the year and the other half with Hannah’s sister Lizzie who lived in Lenah Valley.
  • We grew a lot of our own food and dad had a great peach tree in the backyard.
  • We used to have lots of visitors and cousins (who were back from the war) who would stay with us – Eileen stayed for four years while doing her high school study.
  • On Sunday, dad would cook the roast on the fuel stove while we went to church and Sunday School.
  • For tea every Sunday we would have sponge cake and scones and eat at the dining room table rather than the kitchen table. It was a special event.

A few other pictures of Hannah and the family:

Iris and Margaret in the backyard at Grosvenor Street, Sandy Bay
Iris and Margaret at Long Beach, Sandy Bay, Tasmania.
Henry, Hannah, Iris and Margaret at Hobart Regatta about 1929
Henry, Hannah, Margaret and Phyllis about 1937

Henry Lewis England died in March 1963 aged 74. Nearly four years to the day Hannah died March 1967 aged 67.