Early history of Tanja Public School

Early education: Tanja schoolchildren in 1890. Children who misbehaved or "were not so bright" often faced the cane.
Early education: Tanja schoolchildren in 1890. Children who misbehaved or "were not so bright" often faced the cane.

THE Bega Pioneers' Museum has countless files on people and places. This history was researched and written by Robert Russell on the occasion of the Tanja Public School Centenary in 1978.

EARLY in 1889 Peter Manning's tender of 105 pounds to build Tanja's first public school on the present site was accepted from six tenders submitted.

The tender was to build, find materials, grub two acres of land and erect 72 rods of fencing.

The school building was 22 feet by 16 feet by 10 feet high.

It had three windows, box framed with weights and pulleys.

The outbuilding was four feet by three feet, with six-foot walls and pits three feet by two feet.

The painting was to be three coats of white lead paint on window sashes and all outside woodwork. It was completed on October 1, 1889.

The furniture included one Austrian chair, desks and forms from the old school at Braine's.

Thomas McPaul transferred on November 1, 1889, and the first teacher in the new school was Arthur J Seaton who arrived on the same day. He still lived in Braine's school residence.

He was 36, a widower with one son. He was unhappy with the drop in school attendance as his salary was dropped 22 pounds a year.

Mr Peter Manning tendered 289 pounds for building a school residence and weather shed and these were completed on April 10, 1891.

Mr Seaton was transferred in June, 1891, and Mr N J Riley was appointed but allowed to stay at Greig's Flat because of the sickness of his wife.

On June 13, Mr I I Brown was appointed to Tanja from Toothdale but did not take up the position and Mr T J Kelly complained to the Department of the teachers' short stays.

George Pickering was appointed on August 4, 1891. He also took over the post office from T J Kelly. Mails now came twice a week.

Little is known of these early teachers but John Caldicott, who was 91 in 1978, started school when Pickering was the teacher.

He said that Pickering was a good teacher but severe with the cane on those who were not so bright.

One pupil took the cane and burnt it, only to have it replaced by a shredded girth strap.

In April 1895 the kitchen was lined, costing 46 pounds, and  later in  the same year a school bell was supplied from Bega School and, of course, the lads tried it out late at night.

The school became overcrowded and sometimes the pupils had to go outside to get relief from the heat.