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Rangitumau School

Rangitumau School

[Mabel Evans was Head Teacher at Rangitumau School from July 1893 to December 1900. This excerpt is from the 'Opaki-Rangitumau Schools and Districts' History' published by the Opaki Centennial Committee, March 1978. - J.D.C]

At a meeting of the Wellington Education Board held in November, 1892, it was resolved "To call tenders for the erection of a new school at Rangitumau." Although the initial settlement of a new district calls mostly for individual toil, the advancement of the district as a whole depends largely on community effort. Naturally, the first consideration of the settlers was education for their growing families, and to this end the school was opened in 1893. Although actually provided by the Government of the day, a great deal of hard work had to be carried out by the settlers themselves in clearing the land, fencing, metalling and generally putting the school in order. The school was built on a piece of land set aside as an education reserve. The building consisted of one room with a porch in front. About 1897, two rooms were added as a teacher's residence, and towards the end of 1898 a buggy shed was built, which incidentally did service as a wood shed. In November, 1900, Mr W. Allen metalled round the school, thus doing away with the mess in school caused by the limestone sand.

As the result of a petition started on May 21, 1906 a new school residence was completed early in 1907 and fenced by working-bee in October 1908. On the teacher moving into the new residence, the two rooms attached to the school were used for storage of garden tools, etc. 

In 1955 septic tanks and toilets were constructed and in 1957 a front porch and new windows were added to the main classroom. A cycle shed was built in 1961 and the school swimming pool was finished on February 13, 1957 at a cost of ₤1,050.

Friday, December 15, 1967 marked the end of an era. The Rangitumau School which had been in existence since 1893 closed its doors for the last time. Consolidation was effected with Opaki.

The Opening of Rangitumau School, July, 1893 - by Mrs H. Mabel (nee Evans) Jackson

Fifty-three years! How much water has flowed under the Kopuaranga Bridge, and how many moons have risen and set on the trig station on the Te Rangitumau Hill since I stepped off the train at Opaki Station to open the new school at Rangitumau?

Rangitumau was a newly-opened settlement, eight miles or so as the crow flies, north of Masterton. The land was taken up by young settlers with growing families and the first thought was to see a school was built and equipped for the education of their children.

I was met and welcomed at the station by Mr George Welch, chairman of the School Committee, who was to take me to my first place of abode, at Mr George Manning's, until arrangements could be made to live at his homestead, "Earnspast," in the Kohi Kutu Valley. Mrs T. P. Kemble, his sister, who kept house for him, was away.

As I climbed into a farm wagon drawn by a very sturdy horse, Mr Welch explained as the weather had been very stormy and wet, the Bluff was blocked with slips. I learnt later the "Bluff" was the road leading off the main road to the settlement and I also learnt it was a most interesting hill, and still is, for fossilised shells and fish.

"We shall have to cross the Ruamahanga River, which has a fresh in it, so I brought the farm cart." Here was the beginning of the "Great Adventure" that I had looked forward to, but this did not stop me clutching the seat tightly as we rolled through the swollen river and up the steep slippery bank on the other side, and along the road with patches of standing bush but mostly fallen timber which had been burnt and lay all over the country.

I arrived at my abode, a small house on the bank of the Kopuaranga River - the land now being owned by Mr Eric Wilton. I wonder if the house is still there? The next morning, as the day was beautifully fine after a heavy frost, I decided to walk to the School, which was a little more than a mile away. Half the road there was metalled, but the Kaka Amu Road and the Kohi Kutu Road branched off the metalled road and both were not metalled for some years after I lived there. The School was built at the foot of the Kaka Amu Hill and commanded a view of the whole country.

As I walked along the road I met my first neighbour, Mr Colin McLachlan, who was driving his cows to a paddock close by. We passed the usual salutations of the day and weather, and I passed on. Afterwards, I heard he passed his opinion of the new teacher to Mrs Macdonald, "Ay! She'll do! The lassie was nae frightened o' the cows!" and his opinion did not alter, when, as his partner, I danced the Highland Reel at the dance held in the School.

The road was metalled as far as "Te Rangitumau". The road branched here to the School and was the Kaka Amu Road. I found the School as stated before on the rise surrounded by burnt timber, and still a piece of heavy bush at the back of it bordering on the Northcroft Road - a road branching off the Kaka Amu Road and going over to Mauriceville. The School was unfenced, but was heavily "metalled" with limestone sand all round. The building consisted of one room with a porch built on the front. There had been a dance on the previous Friday and the floor was covered with the limestone. The desks and furniture had not arrived, so I had to plan how to carry on when the children should attend the School next day.

The next morning - the great day for both children and me - the School opened with 19 children: Thomas Harvey, John Harvey, Robert Thomson, James Thomson, John Thomson, Albert Brown, Thomas Court, Leonard Wilton, Sydney Thomson, William Thomson, George Thomson, Katherine Bertelsen, Elizabeth Harvey, Isabella Harvey, Agnes Harvey, Flora Macdonald, Jessie Thomson, May Thomson and Laura Wilton.

We introduced ourselves to one another and set about to make use of the few books Laura and Leonard Wilton had brought with them. They were both in the second standard. The desks and equipment provided by the Education Board did not arrive until nearly three weeks after the School opened: During that time I am afraid the instruction was not tabulated on the time-table. It was a course of telling stories, nature study, bush lore, physical drill and saying "Twice one are two". This free and easy method made us all learn to know each other and we became friends from the beginning.

We cleared and burnt the logs to make a playground and a garden, and two shelter sheds were built; the School was fenced and it was not long before it was all ship-shape. A Museum was started with the help of Sir James Hector, who visited the district on astronomical survey, and who stated Rangitumau was a wonderful place for fossils, and many interesting "finds" were made and collected from the limestone rock.

In those days there were only three ways of travelling - riding, horse-drawn vehicle and walking. The settlers took all their produce to Masterton and brought back their stores by trap or wagon every week or so. No delivery vans those days ! Bread, butter, cheese, bacon, were all made by the farmer's wife - so the days were busy. As most of the children in the first year or so walked to School - some a distance of three to four miles - it meant an early start in the day for mothers, and also an anxiety if the weather was stormy. When one looks back over the period of 50 years one wonders now with all the easy ways of travelling, how the children tramped the long distances to School in all weathers.

As the children grew older, riding horses became easier for them, while easier still if a trap were provided. Even these had their adventures, especially when the horses became restive - in a sudden "southerly" coming up - on the narrow road with gullies alongside them. One winter's day a horse and trap moved off with one small boy in it and upset over a bank. The very worst was expected, but when the trap was lifted, the small boy crawled out smiling and unhurt. Do you remember it, Leonard? And Kemble and Kathleen, do you remember your early riding lessons on the old grey horse?

The School became the centre of social activities in this little district - Church services, dances and school concerts - all took place there. The school concert programme, composed entirely of items of song and verse from the scholars, was conducted by their own chairman, Mr John Harvey. The charge was one penny entrance at the door, and they performed to packed houses. Many old pupils will have fond remembrances of this cultural training, and no doubt many (I hope, anyway) will be able to give some of the old songs and verse at the Jubilee.

It was my endeavour and pleasure to help the development of the district like all those who lived there were doing. I was permitted to give religious instruction to the children before school opened at 9 o'clock and this was followed by further instruction by the Rev. Yorke once a week. Bishop Wallis visited the school once a year.

As years went on, the School rose in attendance, from 19 to 54 children, which necessitated another teacher. My sister was appointed, and as by this time two living rooms were attached to the School, and as I lived alone, I was glad of her company and help.

A sawmill came in to cut Mr Stuckey's bush, which brought a number of children to the School, it also brought havoc to the roads, which for a long time were quagmires of mud, often impossible to get in and out to Masterton. If I remember rightly, this was the last of the bush in the district.

It was a wonderful seven years to me. The School had good reports of the children's work by the Inspectors Lee, Fleming and Bakewell, and there were few, if any, who did not have a successful school career. In those days, classes ranged from primers to Standard VII and it often happened those who passed Standard VII still stayed another year.

I pay a tribute to all those fine settlers who did so much to make my sojourn among them a happy one; never a teacher so cared for, thought of and helped as I was in those days of long ago.

I cannot conclude without referring to those boys who fought for King and Country in the 1914-18 War, and who nobly did their duty. Sydney Wilton, Hugh Wilton, Claude Bertelsen and Jack Clarke gave their lives "that we may live." "We will remember them!"

In addition to the names of the first-day pupils mentioned by Mrs Jackson, the following completes the list of first-year pupils: Ethel May Blatchford, Ida Katherine Blatchford, Isabella Court, Elizabeth Court, Charles Alfred Thom-son, Andrew Thomson, Frederick Blatchford, William Kemble Welch, Kathleen Welch, Albert Bertelsen, Cecil Wilton, Eric Thomas Wilton, Ellen Alice Kjestrup.

Although the foregoing gives the main features of the history of the School, it does not tell of the wonderful work carried out from time to time by various working-bees, to whom the thanks of the pupils, more especially of latter years, is extended.


Random Notes

December, 1900: Subscription list opened for Library.

April, 1901: Misses M. and E. Stuckey granted the use of school building for Sunday School.

July, 1901: First football bought for the boys; in payment for work done levelling grounds; 12s.6d.

October 4, 1901: Library had credit balance of eight pence.

December 15, 1904: First Christmas Tree held in the Hall.

March, 1901: Relief map of world made in clay on playground.

April, 1905: Relief map of world made by Stds. V. and VI in papier maché.

September, 1905: School piano fund opened.

March, 1907: Mr Kemble presented flagpole to School.

April, 1907: School Library contained 300 books.

June 21, 1907: Post boxes erected in School porch.

March 12, 1908: Two swimming events included in School picnic.

April 15, 1910: Girls play-shed blown over.

October 3, 1912: Committee resigned en bloc.

February 29, 1918: School gained first prize, Masterton Show, for collection of insects.

March 19, 1918: School closed on account of smoke from Raetihi bush fires.

July 21 to 24, 1918: School closed on account of snow storm. [!! - J.D.C.]

August, 1925: Mr S. Smith gave Maypole to School. Mr McLaren gave fittings.

1926: Piano fund begun in 1905 changed to gramophone, and same purchased.

1933: Rangitumau won Wairarapa Primary Schools seven-a-side football tournament at Carterton.

March 6, 1934: Severe earthquake. School closed on account of dangerous position of chimney.

August 7, 1935: Arbor Day. Thirty-six native trees planted on bank sloping to new play area.

July 27, 1939: School closed - heavy snowfall. [!! - J.D.C.]

July 6, 1942: School reopened after having been closed as a result of severe earthquake on night of June 24.

March 7, 1956: School team first in senior relay at country school sports. April 12, 1962: School party commenced trip to Christchurch.

September 13, 1966: An excursion was made to Picton on the new GMC Aranui.

February 2, 1967: Roll - 5.

Friday, December 15, 1967 Rangitumau School merged with Opaki.

Reproduced with permission from Jackson Family website. 28 Feb 2009

Owner/SourceJackson Family
Date28 Feb 2009
Linked toEthel May Blatchford; Frederick Walter Blatchford; Ida Catherine (Kate) Blatchford; George Henry Welch; Kathleen Welch; William Kemble Welch; Cecil Clifford Wilton; Eric Thomas Wilton; Laura Evelyn Wilton; Leonard Robert Wilton

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