The original schoolhouse was rudimentary and originally believed to be rented from early farming brothers John and Richard Thomas on property that eventually was purchased by the Bray family (acquired by them in 1900). However, a special inspection of a new south bank building stated it was rented from a farmer named W Jonas. It was a separate dwelling to a house that was also on the property and was also occasionally used as a place of worship by the local Anglican community.
The photos in the photo strip were taken in 1975 and show the shack in fairly preserved form from a number of angles.
Caption: Old North Pine Provisional School building on the Bray family’s former property at 895 Gympie Road, Lawnton, 1976. The building was said to be erected in 1871 as part of a complex of farm buildings constructed for the pioneering brothers, John and Richard Thomas, although an inspection report on a new south bank schoolhouse stated that the building was on the farm of W Jonas. It was used as a schoolhouse in 1874 and 1875. [A series of] photographs taken by John Armstrong and his students from the Brisbane College of Advanced Education. Selected photographs were used in the publication ‘The National Estate of Pine Rivers Shire: Historical Sites and Buildings’. Courtesy Moreton Bay Regional Council Digital Image Library.
On the 3rd June 1874 a School Inspection Report as submitted to the Department was carried out on the first school-house situated on the south side of the Pine River [now where the Neighbourhood Centre is near the A J Wyllie Bridge].
This report painted a very dim picture of the original quality of the services that were arranged by the local community as the report outlined many problems and concerns.
It must have hit at the heart of the School Committee to read harshly worded comments from the Inspector such as:
“dark and gloomy”; “furniture found to be limited”; “no desks, no clock, no blackboard, and not even a shelf for the school material”; “furniture was wholly inadequate to even the crudest form of instruction – to write on paper the children kneel on the floor and support their copy books on the forms”; “school-room was very dirty”.
The teacher was not beyond reproach:
“school records were found to be very imperfectly kept, through ignorance of the proper method of keeping them, and there was no time-table”; “children were docile and their relations with their teacher genial; they were wholly unacquainted with any form of drill or orderly movement”.“The teacher is an intelligent and liberally educated man, but wholly unacquainted with the methods of modern school keeping. His earnestness combined with his intelligence gives promise of a better state of things at next inspection.”
However there were a couple of encouraging positives:
“well ventilated, with verandah facing the west”; “supply of material for teaching the children granted by the Board was found to be abundant”; “school was opened in April, and up to the time of inspection the attendance has been regular, the aggregate being 20”.
The Inspector also felt it important to remind the Department that this was the first stage of an ambitious plan:
“This school stands on the south side of the Pine River, within a quarter of a mile of the ford, and it is proposed to conduct it as a half-time school, in conjunction with a school on the north side of the river.”
Transcript of 1874 school inspection report:
[reveal heading=”%image% Click here to read transcript“]
PINE RIVER NORTH (PROVISIONAL)
Inspected 3rd June
On roll: – Boys, 9; girls, 10; total, 19. Present: – Boys, 7; girls, 7; total 14
The apartment used as a school is a weather-board structure, shingled, and floored with sawn wood; well ventilated, with verandah facing the west; walls dark and gloomy; used as a place of worship occasionally by the Anglican communion. The furniture was found to be limited to six forms, a small table and a stool; there were no desks, no clock, no blackboard, and not even a shelf for the school material. The furniture was wholly inadequate to even the crudest form of instruction – to write on paper the children kneel on the floor and support their copy books on the forms. The supply of material for teaching the children granted by the Board was found to be abundant. The school records were found to be very imperfectly kept, through ignorance of the proper method of keeping them, and there was no time-table. The school-room was very dirty. The children were docile and their relations with their teacher genial; they were wholly unacquainted with any form of drill or orderly movement. The school was opened in April, and up to the time of inspection the attendance has been regular, the aggregate being 20. The teacher is an intelligent and liberally educated man, but wholly unacquainted with the methods of modern school keeping. His earnestness combined with his intelligence gives promise of a better state of things at next inspection. This school stands on the south side of the Pine River, within a quarter of a mile of the ford, and it is proposed to conduct it as a half-time school, in conjunction with a school on the north side of the river.
This little dwelling was used by the Bray family for many, many years after the school vacated. It’s said that the Bray family lived in the shack while their principal home was under construction and that Mary Bray gave birth to one of her many clan in this dwelling (John Bray, 2014).
As a testament to old-fashioned craftsmanship, the shack managed to stay standing on the property until the 1990s.
However, as progress began to encroach into the area, the Pine Rivers Shire Council (now Moreton Bay Regional Council) began to think that the dwelling was not suitable to leave in place.
Negotiations with the Bray family at the time, who were still the owners of this now generational piece of land, were confused and the local news reported that there was disparity between views as to the future of the abode.
The Bray family seemed clear that they were not happy with the idea to move the house to the North Pine Country Park, or at the very least unless the utmost of care and craftsmanship was used in the restoration of the structure. There was even discussion that it be used as an information centre in Strathpine.
None of this was to be.
There are still questions to be asked of key stakeholders from this time so as to clarify why decisions and discussions stagnated.
6 December 1995
PINE RIVERS PRESS – HOUSE MOVE SURPRISES
Description of Article: Plans by Pine Rivers Shire Council to move a historical house to the North Pine Country Park have caught the owners by surprise. Barry Bray, whose family owns the 134-year-old farm-house, said the family had recently met with the council and discussed restoring the house but had not agreed to relocate it to the park.
“I thought that the consensus at the meeting was that it would not be moved to North Pine Country Park,” Mr Bray said.
“We wouldn’t agree to it being taken to the North Pine Country Park.”
Mr Bray said the council had suggested rebuilding the house on-site or using it as an information centre at Strathpine.
The family had expected to receive a list of option from the council before a decision was made.
But Councillor David Dwyer said there appeared to have been some confusion or misunderstanding.
Cr Dwyer said he believed the Bray family was keen about moving the house to the park as long as it was done properly. The council had not reached the stage of being ready to move the house but was planning for that.
Cr Dwyer said he would phone Mr Bray to resolve the confusion.
He said the council was keeping the family informed and intended contacting the family once it had recruited volunteers to work on the house.
The council needs retired builders or volunteers with a building knowledge of the old ways to restore the house.
Cr Dwyer said the house was an important asset to the Pine Rivers Shire and should be rebuilt and relocated to the park.
Source: Moreton Bay Regional Council Local History Library
The fate of the old schoolhouse did not hit the news again until 2006. By this time it seems all decisions had been made as to the future of the structure.
At some point there may have been an application to have the abode heritage listed, however it is not yet clear if that was lodged by a private citizen or by the council (Northern Times, 17 March 2006), at any rate it was not to eventuate.
Two articles appeared in the ‘Northern Times’ local newspaper on the 7 April 2006 – amongst much consternation from the North Pine Historical Society, it seems the fate of the old schoolhouse had now been sealed, by the Council but also the new owners of the land had set demolition plans.
7 April 2006
NORTHERN TIMES – LINK TO SHIRE AT AN END
The removal of the North Pine Provisional School from its Lawnton site has been branded vandalism by Petrie Historical Society secretary Lesley Hargraves.
Mrs Hargraves, a university qualified local historian, said there was no prospect of rebuilding what was one of the shire’s oldest and most historically significant buildings.
“Most of what remained of the original materials were dumped and the rest pulled down in such a haphazard way it would be impossible to rebuild it in its original form,” she said. “In my opinion, any talk of rebuilding is nonsense.”
Reg Hodgson, great-grandson of Richard Thomas, who helped build the school in 1871, dismantled and removed it in mid-March. He said it was to try and beat the new owner’s demolition plans.
Mr Hodgson said a lot of material had been dumped as it was in a poor state due to white ants and dry rot. “Once we took the roof off it (the school) fell over,” he said.
He had been talking to Pine Rivers Shire Council about rebuilding it but council was yet to decide what to do.
Mrs Hargraves said building a replica or moving it to North Pine Country Park, would be pointless as its historic and cultural significance would be lost.
“I’m sure other interested parties will agree with me when I say this was the worst kind of vandalism of our cultural heritage.”
She disputed Cr David Dwyer’s (Div 8) claim (Times, March 17) that council had tried to have the building heritage-listed, saying she believed a private citizen made the application.
“Had it been successful, neither the EPA nor any other funding body would have approved an application for a grant or funding for removal relocation of the building,” she said.
7 April 2006
NORTHERN TIMES – WHAT PRICE HERITAGE?
How much value do we place on our heritage? If such a question was put to Lesley Hargraves, the secretary of the Petrie Historical Society the answer would most likely be “very little”. Mrs Hargraves has been angered by the removal of the North Pine Provisional School for its Lawnton site.
Mrs Hargraves has branded the removal as an act of vandalism.
She believes there is no prospect of rebuilding what was one of the shire’s oldest remaining and most historically significant buildings. Saving an old school building is not something that everyone may rate highly as things they have to do during their busy lives. But once a record of our past is lost it will be lost forever.
And what determines what should be retained?
It would be sad if apathy was allowed to make such decisions.
Perhaps it is beholding of us and of our elected officials to rethink our priorities to ensure retaining and maintaining links with our history are given greater attention … before it is too late.
Today, the remnants of the schoolhouse remain with the Bray family as the schoolhouse is a precious piece of their family history – however far from it being out on glorious public display, the damage from the dismantling process has left it beyond repair. According to the family, it is believed to be kept in a shipping container in their care (John Bray, 2014).
The land where the schoolhouse once stood has only recently been redeveloped.
Although the structure that was the original southern side schoolhouse was moved from the property in 2006 one can also imagine that the land the southern school occupied was likely fairly unchanged until around 2012.
The original home of pioneering matriarch Mary Bray was moved from the site to a preserved home at ‘Old Petrie Town’ shortly before the big floods of 2011. The site was only recently developed for the new community ‘Neighbourhood Centre’.
To the back of this property was land long owned by ‘Boral’, this land is currently (2014) undergoing redevelopment to accommodate affordable housing. During the land clearing for this large residential project a little shack directly behind the new Neighbourhood Centre car park was uncovered. This shack seems to have been a work shed with a water tower and electricity, however could have been constructed long before electric lights were installed. This shack would have been almost directly behind the old Bray family house and almost in between, but slightly aback, from the school-house which was furthest from the bank of the river.
The shack was completely hidden from view by scrub and was damaged during the land clearing. Currently it is still standing (as at 4 September 2014) and is the last bastion of the history of this parcel of land on the south bank of the North Pine River. It may be gone very soon, but while it stands it is a reminder to our community of an era that is almost completely lost from our vision and consciousness in our current times.