Please remember, this was the original Burnie High School.
"A Heritage Lost"
Historical details referenced from the book "Campsite to City" written by Kerry pink and published by the Burnie City Council.
Before starting I must explain that I personally was never a student of the Burnie High School. My secondary education was done at the Launceston Church Grammar School in the years 1951 1954 inclusive. However many of my class mates from the Penguin Primary School were students of the Burnie High School during those years. It is for them and others, that I now post this history to the Internet.
Let us look at the beginning of secondary education in Burnie which had its beginnings in the Burnie Primary School in Alexander Street in 1916. It was housed in the second storey of the new school, in two rooms with an initial enrolment of thirty four students. The Principal was Mr. W Parker-Listner who was assisted with two female teachers.
In no time the number of students increased to one hundred and conditions became cramped. As a result the now growing Burnie Community lobbied the Government to build a purpose built High School. The Premier and Minister for Education Joseph Lyons, announced that a new school would be built at the school?s speech night in the new Burnie Theatre in March 1928 and I quote from his speech in part.
"During the present year you are going to have a new school erected in Burnie, one which will be a credit to the town and the State?. Following on from representations made by your political and municipal representatives, we are going to erect here, at Burnie, on a magnificent site, a school that for appearance will beat anything we have to the present?. Presenting a handsome appearance. The architecture is striking. A large erection of brick, with a handsome facade, topped with a neatly built tower, it is visible from all directions. The building is well worthy of a town of Burnie?s size and importance.?
Tenders for the building of the new school were called within two weeks of that speech night, and the foundation stone was laid by Joe Lyons 1st June 1928 overlooking the sea to the north and east, and in close proximity to the West Park sports ground. The school was officially opened 13th March 1929 by the then Attorney General and Minister for Education Mr Henry Baker MHA. The Premier Joe Lyons was unable to attend the ceremony but was represented by his wife Enid who was to go on to become Australia?s first female member of the Federal Parliament. Dame Enid had been a past student and teacher in Burnie in previous years, who went on to become a minister in the Menzies Government years later.
When the new school was built it consisted of five class rooms, a science room, teachers? room, headmaster?s office, and a quadrangle for school assemblies. Mr H. T. Glover who had taken over as headmaster at the old High School in 1920 remained as principal at the new school till 1931 when he resigned to become Private Secretary to Joseph Lyons, his brother in law, after his election to the Federal Parliament. In the first year the enrolment increased by a huge 30% to 140 pupils. Of those 140 students a large number lived four or more miles from Burnie and with limited public transport, many sort lodging in the town.
The school provided enough accommodation for students up till 1937 when an additional classroom, library, and other facilities were added. In 1935 additional land was purchased between the Tasmanian Government railway and the school, plus three courts of the Burnie Tennis Club.
The depression years saw many families unable to meet the costs of High School thus ruling out secondary education for many Burnie families struggling to meet the costs of books, and uniforms etc. These costs were still in place after the Government abolished fees in 1935. Term fees prior to 1935 were set some years earlier.
The headmasters who followed H. T. Glover after he resigned in 1931 were:
Frank Close. 1931 - 1933
Lionel Briggs, 1934 - 1938
Charles W MacFarlane, 1939 - 1959.
MacFarlane was a firm but fair disciplinarian, with a notable World War One service record having been awarded the Military Medal, and the French Croix de Gruerre (The French equivalent to the Victoria Cross) plus campaign medals. He was also a highly qualified languages teacher at the Hobart High School prior to his transfer to Burnie.
With the establishment of the Paper Mills at Burnie and other industries, Burnie saw unprecedented growth during the 1940?s and 1950?s, as a consequence when Charles MacFarlane was appointed Head Master the school had an enrolment of just over 200 pupils and a staff level of twelve. Twenty years later it was to have a student population of 600 with almost forty staff.
With the increase in enrolments came the improved bus services from outlying areas and towns with a special train running from Wynyard picking up students from Somerset, and Cooee along the way. Students were able to leave the train at a special shed for the purpose at the school. Tatlow?s Motors provided buses servicing Penguin, Sulphur Creek, and the Blythe Heads area.
The original School was progressively enlarged in the years following 1937. A domestic Science centre in 1940, and after the end of the Second World War, more classrooms were added and eventually an assembly hall, which was used regularly by the community for functions and Saturday night dances.
By the mid 1950?s it was becoming abundantly clear that the North Terrace campus was becoming incapable of catering to the ever increasing enrolment of students that a new site would have to be sort. The result was the purchase by the Education Department of 30 acres of land at Cooee, just behind the land bought in 1914 for the Cooee Primary School. Charles MacFarlane was to serve as Principal at the new school for two years prior to his retirement.
The North Terrace campus was to pass to the Adult Education program where it continued until 2005, when the Burnie City Council bought the property from the Education Department to relocate the Creative Paper complex, and the new Visitor Information Centre which was due to open in June 2007 after extensive renovations.
The Adult Education facility was relocated to the Portside Building at 2 Spring Street, which was originally build in 1947 as the Burnie Modern School and later to become the Burnie Technical College.
Unfortunately this was not to be. The old Burnie High School complex had security problems for years with unwanted intruders resulting in the fire that ended the building existence on the 27th of April 2007.
This was a sad ending for the past students who had many fond memories of their years as pupils, many of whom had made their names in the fabric of Tasmanian and Australian society as successful doctors, lawyers, politicians, professionals, or in business and trades in general.
Their heritage is lost forever.
John, "The Old Goat"
"With out your imagination,
You will never make the world laugh"