[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
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.
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.
Opening of Rangitumau School, July, 1893 - by Mrs H. Mabel (nee
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
1900: Subscription list opened for Library.
1901: Misses M. and E. Stuckey granted the use of school building
for Sunday School.
1901: First football bought for the boys; in payment for work done
levelling grounds; 12s.6d.
4, 1901: Library had credit balance of eight pence.
15, 1904: First Christmas Tree held in the Hall.
1901: Relief map of world made in clay on playground.
1905: Relief map of world made by Stds. V. and VI in papier maché.
1905: School piano fund opened.
1907: Mr Kemble presented flagpole to School.
1907: School Library contained 300 books.
21, 1907: Post boxes erected in School porch.
12, 1908: Two swimming events included in School picnic.
15, 1910: Girls play-shed blown over.
3, 1912: Committee resigned en bloc.
29, 1918: School gained first prize, Masterton Show, for
collection of insects.
19, 1918: School closed on account of smoke from Raetihi bush
21 to 24, 1918: School closed on account of snow storm. [!!
1925: Mr S. Smith gave Maypole to School. Mr McLaren gave
Piano fund begun in 1905 changed to gramophone, and same
Rangitumau won Wairarapa Primary Schools seven-a-side football
tournament at Carterton.
6, 1934: Severe earthquake. School closed on account of dangerous
position of chimney.
7, 1935: Arbor Day. Thirty-six native trees planted on bank
sloping to new play area.
27, 1939: School closed - heavy snowfall. [!! - J.D.C.]
6, 1942: School reopened after having been closed as a result of
severe earthquake on night of June 24.
7, 1956: School team first in senior relay at country school
sports. April 12, 1962: School party commenced trip to
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