Dora Creek Public School

Creating a Climate for Growth and Harmony

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1916 - The School Burns Down

"Children's Peculiar Escapade the Coroner's Enquiry," An abridged version of the original article that appeared in the Newcastle Herald - 19th June 1916.

An inquest was held at the Newcastle Courthouse on Saturday morning into the circumstances relating to a fire which occurred at the Dora Creek Public School early on Monday morning last, by which the building and its contents were totally destroyed.

Constable E. Genner, stationed at Cooranbong, stated that on Monday last he received a message, and went to Dora Creek, where he saw the late school buildings in ruins, having been destroyed by fire.

He was later joined by plain-clothes Constable Ryan and Constable Howard. On the following day, witness saw a lad named Charles Gunning at Sandy reek. Witness had a conversation with the boy and on the way to Dora Creek, the boy stated that he and his brother Tommy got into the school at night by raising a window.

The two boys, according to the boy's statement, got some books out of the press. They had had a candle and some matches. Tommy tore an exercise book up and set fire to it close to a press. He tried himself to put the fire out, but only put half of it out. He then said to Tommy "You put the rest out, I am going."

Charlie next stated that he left the building and waited alongside the church fence for Tommy. They went home and did not know anything of the burning of the school until the next morning. Both lads were later placed under arrest.

A Move

The school moved into the Church of England adjoining which was rented for 11.0s 6d per week. The teacher, Mr Adam, had to make the best attempt he could to carry on the work of the school with what materials which were at hand. Looking back Mr Adam said of the experience:

"There were between 70 and 80 pupils and 2 teachers in a single, ill-lighted, badly ventilated room 30' x 20' with insufficient seating and materials."

The church was vacated on 23rd March 1917, and everything was moved into the new school which had been built by George Simpson for the sum of £467.13s.6d. The new school had two classrooms, both 22'5" x 21', two hat rooms and a verandah 46' x 8'5". Initially, there was not enough furniture and Mr A. Lean, Secretary of the Parents and Citizen's Association, complained that:

"fully half the pupils in one room are seated on makeshift seats made from flooring boards, old palings, blocks of wood and such like."

The Playground Enlarged

The original playground was only about half an acre in extent. Moves were made in 1916 to buy two acres behind the school and Church from Mrs Gardiner for £200, but it was not till 1927 that 1.3.26 acres next to the Gardiners' land were resumed. The owners, Mr Archie Hillis Foster and Mrs Gladys Winifred Foster, who ran an orchard and market garden, received £300 compensation. In the centre of the land was a quarry hole which was filled with water in wet weather. Cattle had been allowed to drink from it. This had to be fenced for the children's safety.