Appendix Eleven: A School Story Told by the Governor, Ceremony at Junction Park (18 October 1913)

 

Past and present scholars of the Junction Park State School with their friends and relatives made a brave display at the Junction Park State School on Saturday afternoon the occasion being the official opening by his Excellency the Governor of an additional building for the accommodation of the infants’ classes. It was quite a red letter day for all concerned and careful inquiry into all that had led up to it enabled his Excellency to tell to those present a story of school development that was evidently as gratifying to his Excellency as to his hearers. Sir Wm MacGregor was accompanied by Lady MacGregor and Miss Honor Paget and attended by Captain Foxton ADC. The Vice-regal party was welcomed on arrival by the Hon D. F. Denham (Premier of Queensland and chairman of the School Committee), Mrs Denham, the Hon W Stephens M. L. C., Mr J. Stodart MLA, and the members of the School Committee comprising Messrs E. Down (hon. secretary), P. Marshall (hon. treasurer), G. A. Bayard, G. Flay, I. Dickson and W. R. Juster. A guard of honour was formed by the Senior Cadets of 9a Training Area under Captain Benjamin and then, in company with the Premier and members of the committee, went over the whole of the school buildings, the party being conducted by Mr J. J. Dempsey (head master). A visit was paid to the school swimming basin, where half a dozen scholars gave an interesting exhibition of life saving. The visitors afterwards assembled on the balcony of the new building, some hundreds of scholars and relatives being grouped in the picturesque grounds below and the opening ceremony was performed. The Premier welcomed his Excellency and Lady MacGregor on behalf of the committee the children and their parents. Mr Denham introduced to his Excellency the first scholar on the school roll in 1888 Mr Albert Peters who welcomed his Excellency and Lady MacGregor on behalf of the old scholars. Little Margaret Dempsey presented Lady MacGregor with a handsome bouquet. Mr Dempsey read apologies and good wishes from the Hon J W Blair (Minister for Public Instruction), Mr Story (Under Secretary), the Hon W H Barnes (State Treasurer) and Dr J. Shirley. Sir Wm. MacGregor presented to the school a framed portrait of their Majesties King George and Queen Mary, and members of their family, setting out in homely phrase the significance of the gift, something of the relationship of sovereign and subject, and giving the children a peep into the domestic qualities of the Queen and her children. The gift was received by two of the scholars -Miss Mary Marshall and Master George Leckie. All present joined in singing the National Anthem and three cheers were given for their Majesties. Master Leckie, in admirable manner and language thanked his Excellency, and on behalf of 800 loyal young Australians thanked their Majesties for the kindness and interest manifested towards Queensland and wished them health, strength and wisdom. Mr E. Down (hon. secretary of the School Committee) requested his Excellency to declare the new school building open and to name it the Denham Infant School (Applause). His Excellency said the occasion gave him considerable pleasure from the fact that the Junction Park State School was such a fine example of the remarkable progress made in the primary education of Queensland, thus giving an excellent index of the development of the State itself. He had learned that the school was first started by some of the district residents in 1888. The first school was a hired cottage which had accommodated three score of pupils. The only teacher was Mrs Barry who had carried on the work under difficulties until 1889. In that year the committee had neither land nor money, and as a final catastrophe the teacher resigned. Mr J J Dempsey their present head master was induced to take up the work and had been with them ever since (Applause). After some months the school was moved into what was known as the Regent street Hall where it remained for some 10 months. During that time the committee appeared to have been very busy for it raised subscriptions and obtained 5 acres of the land that formed the site of the present school. In this he had learned of one of the very few instances in Queensland where people had looked sufficiently far ahead. He had gathered that some at that time thought three quarters of an acre would be quite sufficient but the present gathering would realise what a huge mistake that would have been. It was in October 1890, just 28 years ago that the foundation stone of the new school was laid, and on the 31st of the following March the teachers and children took possession with accommodation for 250 children. But on the first day 450 pupils presented themselves. From one point of view that was very encouraging, but it meant that they had to busy themselves soon in getting more accommodation. In 22 years thereafter five additions had been made to the accommodation and now they were assembled to officially open the sixth, to be known as the Denham Infant School, making the whole establishment one of the finest in the State. The pupils had grown with the school for there was now an average daily attendance of 800 children with accommodation for 950, the attendance being 13 times as great as 25 years ago. The committee, 24 years ago, had neither land nor money and was in debt £35. Now it had land buildings, and furniture of an estimated value of £6000 (Applause). No doubt a great factor in this extraordinary development was to be found in the continuity of action and policy which had been observed. They had for 20 years had the one chairman of the School Committee -- the Hon Digby F Denham -- and Mr Wadley had been their treasurer for 16 years. There was the further fact that for 24 2/4 years Mr Dempsey had been their head teacher. During that period he had been ably supported by Miss Brown, and for 10 years by Miss Mulveny. The broad and progressive spirit of the school was also manifested in its swimming basin, which in the four years of its existence, had turned out some 500 well trained swimmers and by their 70 guinea piano which must be a great delight to the pupils. Referring to the interior of the older school building, his Excellency suggested that painting it a French grey would improve the lighting, and indicated the splendid ventilation and lighting of the new school room as evidence of the advance made in these matters of late years. Mention was made of the fact that the committee had been enabled to increase the school area to seven acres, and his Excellency said this caused him to turn with increasing admiration to the American system of land endowment for education. That system briefly was that since 1848 in each township in the United States, comprising 86 sections of land, each one mile square, two sections were set apart for the purpose of education. The total area this set apart had been 134,591 square miles or one and a half times the entire area of Victoria. A similar proportion in Queensland would give, in round figures, 29,000 square miles of country for educational purposes. When he saw the difficulties experienced in getting land and money for education, and the ever increasing appreciation of the advantages of education, he could imagine that the day might come when it would be found desirable to endow the schools of Australia on lines similar to those of the United States. In conclusion, his Excellency hoped they would continue to have the services of their old friends and officers for many years longer. He named and declared the school open, as requested (Continued applause). Mr Denham informed those present that two of the eight gold medals presented by the Chamber of Manufactures for the best essays on the recently celebrated "Manufacturers' Week" had been won by pupils of the Junction Park School-Miss May Tremlett Francis (first prize for girls), and Master George Leckie (first for boys, junior section). He would ask his Excellency to present the medals. Sir William MacGregor complied with the request amid further cheers. A vote of thanks to his Excellency and Lady MacGregor was moved by Mr. Denham, seconded by Mr. J. Stodart, and carried by acclamation, the applause being redoubled when his Excellency announced that Monday would be a special school holiday, in honour of the occasion. Mr. Dempsey delivered a brief address, thanking his Excellency and Lady MacGregor, and impressing upon the scholars something of the importance of all they had heard. "Never a sentence is lost," said Mr. Dempsey, as he, told of the inspiration he had himself received, when at the age of 8 years he had received a prize from the hands of the then Governor, Sir George Bowen, at the old Normal School. At the close of the ceremony afternoon tea was served to the visitors in the upstairs room of the Denham Infant School, and a sports programme for the children was decided in the grounds.

 

REFERENCES


 

A School Story Told By the Governor, Ceremony at Junction Park. The American Endowment System. The Brisbane Courier. Monday 20 October 1913, p. 8.