Records indicate that land was purchaswd in 1846 for a school in Magill. However, the first official record indicates that Mr Augustus Winter was the first named schoolmaster at Magill in 1850.
On the 1st July 1853, the first government teaching licence was issue to Mr William D Crammond under the Education Act of 1851.
Magill School celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 2003 and we look forward to celebrating its 175th Anniversary in 2028.
The following information is reprodcued with permission from the Campbelltown City Council.
On the 22nd of January 1846, half an acre of land was conveyed to the Magill School Trust to enable a schoolroom to be erected in Pepper Street, Magill. By 1850, the school had been constructed and 23 children were attending classes under the tuition of the first Schoolmaster, Mr Augustus Winter.
Augustus Winter accepted a transfer and was replaced by William Crammond, who was granted a licence on the 1st of July 1853 after providing the Central Board of Education with a memorial from local settlers supporting his application. The School Inspector’s report of 23rd July considered him ‘tolerably efficient’, with 12 boys and 15 girls receiving tuition. It was a difficult year for the incoming headmaster. In November, whilst walking through the hills surrounding Magill, he “broke and sprained his leg in such a manner as to render him a cripple.” Although his daughter was able to take charge of school duties, student numbers declined considerably in his absence, and aged 57, Mr Crammond was very concerned about the loss of his income. The Board eventually decided to revoke his licence on the 30th September 1854.
Mr William Mudie took over on the 1st of February 1855, and with student numbers increasing, the School Trustees applied to the Board for funding to construct additional buildings. In November, there were 67 students enrolled, prompting alterations to the existing school, which included a separate room for girls and a Schoolmaster’s residence. The Trustees explained that “from past experience it seemed desirable and a matter of economy that the Master should reside on the premises to prevent them being injured as has here-to afore been the case.”
Subjects taught in the 1850s included Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography, History, Reading, Writing, Drawing and Singing. Tutoring 43 boys and 27 girls of different ages and needs was quite a challenge for Mr Mudie, and he asked the Board for assistance in the form a pupil teacher. That request was rejected and he eventually resigned at the end of 1860. Mr William Hall replaced him in 1861, and ran the school with considerable success until the end of 1864. As enrolments increased to 91, two teachers were appointed late in 1865. Joseph Mercer, a farmer in nearby St Bernards, began a long term at Magill, with Agnes Dobie as his initial assistant. Jane Parkin, her replacement, was appointed in August of that year.
In 1875, Magill School became a Public School under the new Education Act and in the following year, 128 students were enrolled, although the average attendance was only 53. An impressive stone school was constructed in Pepper Street, Magill, in 1882 (photograph 1), slightly closer to Magill Road, with a separate residence for the headmaster, and room for 150 students. Joseph Mercer taught until 1884, retiring at the age of 73 years after 20 years of continuous service.
Mr Robert Mitten, a headmaster with considerable experience and qualifications, replaced him in 1885. His salary of £100 was the highest paid to a South Australian teacher at the time. During his time at Magill, students started using ink pens and paper instead of slates and pencils, and the school was provided with its official colour, violet, in 1891. Robert Mitten retired in in 1892 at 69 years old, replaced by Michael O’Dea in 1893, and Oliver Jones in 1897. By 1899, average attendances at the school had risen to 185.
A new Century
The start of the 20th century began with the appointment of a new headmaster, Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger, who was 62 years old at the time. The School Inspector noted that he was “conscientious, gentle spirited, but lacking in assertiveness”. The average attendance was 194 at the start of his 8-year tenure, but this declined steadily during his term and he eventually resigned in 1908 at 70 years of age.
One of the scholars attending Magill in 1911 was Ethel Bennett, who remembers walking half a mile to school and returning home for lunch every day. In her Composition Book, she recalled the details of the Magill Annual Fair, held at Magill Institute:
“It was a very successful fair because just about everything was sold. There was a pig to guess the weight of and my father was a pound and a half out. He guessed 22 pounds and the correct weight was 23½ pounds. Mrs Fred Jury guessed the exact weight and she got the pig. It rained very heavily about five o’clock, and when I was going home I nearly got wet through. There was a whistling competition and Clarence Allbright won the prize. They had to whistle God Save The King. There was 2 nail driving competitions. Gert Gumley and Mrs Murphy each one.”
After Mr Kruger’s resignation, Mr. Dennis Murphy took over as Headmaster until 1914, followed by Alfred Bayliss in 1915, and then Frank Beech and R. W. D. Whitington in 1919. During this time, attendances gradually rose from 123 to 237.
The School Journals from 1911- 1919 offer us a glimpse of the activities and influences of the time.
1911: 9th October. “School reopened after Michaelmas holidays and owing to several cases of diphtheria, attendance was 46.” 1915: 20th August. “Paddy’s market held – proceeds £8.1.0, to be devoted to material for working up in school for wounded soldiers.”
1917: 27th April. “Half holiday. ‘Win the War Day’.”
1918: 12th September. “Children from all grades (160 in total) visited a tank.” 1919: 17th November. “Lieut. J.G. Murray took the junior cadets for drill.”
The Inspector’s Reports provide an institutional perspective of the same period.
January 1914: “Writing: A determined effort is needed to see that children hold the pen properly.”
July 1915: “General: The behaviour of the children is satisfactory, although there is a certain uncouthness of manner which should, if possible, be improved.”
January 1916: “Effectiveness: In upper class geography, take the opportunity of keeping the children posted concerning the great events of the ‘War’.”
April 1917: “General Remarks: The discipline does not reach the standard that it should – there is a lack of prompt obedience to the orders both in the yard and in the school. A laxity of bodily discipline is often reflected in the mental effort.”
William Stock became the new headmaster in 1920, followed by Herbert Oborn, 1921-1928, and Edward Nicholas in 1929. Attendances rose steadily from 232 in 1920, to 434 in 1929.
Memories of Students attending Magill School from 1920- 1929
“The headmaster rode a horse to school and as soon as he was seen riding up the road somebody would ring the bell that was on the porch. That was a signal to let all the children know that he was on his way.”
“Discipline and the three R’s were drummed into us. The punishment never hurt me. I feel sure I am a better citizen for it.”
“Magill School has a fine drum and fife band which competed in competitions at Tanunda. The band was transported to Tanunda on a flat tray top truck!”
“I remember one Guy Fawkes Day when I ran around the school yard with my thumb alight stuck to a piece of phosphorus ‘til I had the sense to put it under a tap and put it out.”
“Darned good discipline was the order of the day.”
School Journal Notes 1920-1929
1920: 25th February. “Kindergarten room and Grade 5 room disinfected in consequence of whooping cough and scarlatina.”
1926: 7th September. “Rang up Director about getting a class into the new rooms as 120 children are in a room built for 90.”
1927: 18th July. “School Drum and Fife Band won the first prize in Magill Competitions winning a silver cup.”
1929: 23rd February. “Pet show held. A great success.”
1929: 28th May. “Much sickness prevalent. Influenza, tonsillitis and diphtheria.”
The Inspector’s Report of 1920 notes that “The Head Teacher’s self-activity, industry and quiet disciplinary powers have influenced the school beneficially. The children have gradually grown more obedient. Grade 2 has many inattentive children – the reading of this grade is likely to be weak.”
Average attendances in the 1930s hovered around the 400 mark, and headmasters included Edward Nicholas, Alan Rendell, Robert Love, and S. McGilchrist.
Memories of Students attending Magill School from 1930- 1939
“My memories include a desk to sit at, a blackboard to look at and a cane to dodge.”
“Sometimes we sat on the running board of a tram car from the top of Moules Road to school on Magill Road.”
The School Journal Notes from 4th July, 1933 show that a construction contract had been completed. The new school on the corner of Penfold Road and Adelaide Street, Magill, now had 2 new rooms, cloak and fuel sheds, and an extended verandah. The Old School on Pepper Street, Magill, had rooms remodelled, with an office, storeroom and caretaker’s shed provided. Later that year 189 children were absent due to measles. In 1937, the school was closed from 17th December until 15th March the following year as a precaution against polio.
The Inspector’s Reports from the 1930s note that attendances are often impaired by illnesses such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles and other sicknesses. There appears to a degree of poverty in the district, with 145 children receiving free books.
1940 - 1949
Average attendances from 1940 to 1949 dropped to around 300 students a year, with six headmasters taking charge during the decade: S. McGilchrist, Eric Pryor, T. R. Antonio, Hans Marker, John Read, and Charles Woodard.
Memories of Students who attended Magill School from 1940- 1949.
“The school picnic when the ‘Bay Trams’ came right up to Magill and took the whole school to Henley Beach for the day.”
“The highlight of my time at school was meeting Helen Keller.”
“A ‘Victory Medal’ was given to every child in 1945.”
“Stand at assembly and have inspections, clean hands, fingernails and polished shoes.”
“I remember the air-raid drills in the paddock next to the school. It used to upset some of the younger children.”
The School Journal Notes from 1942 Indicate that the Second World War influenced many school activities and fundraising objectives. In March, squads of soldiers billeted in the Magill area began digging trenches in the vicinity of both school buildings and sirens were regularly tested at 9.15 am.
In 1943, a flower show was held and the proceeds of £11 were provided for Prisoners of War. The following year, a measles epidemic in September resulted in 70- 80 children being absent.
On the 29th of April in 1946, the school held a Pioneers and Explorers Day, where students marched with their band to St George’s Cemetery where wreaths were laid on the graves of Patrick Auld, James Jury, Dr. Penfold, J. Horsnell, Hon. John Baker, Ross Reid, and A. B. Murray.
In 1947 a holiday was announced on the 20th October to commemorate the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, and on the 9th December, a classroom was disinfected after a case of polio was discovered. Later that month, attendances dropped to 80 out of 338 children because of the disease.
1950 - 1959
Average attendances slowly rose from 314 in 1950 to 491 in 1954, falling to 388 in 1959. Thomas Dack was the headmaster from 1950 to 1957, replaced by Jacob Norman for the remainder of the decade.
Memories of Students who attended Magill School from 1950- 1959.
“Reciting the Lord’s Prayer at school assembly.”
“First day in grade 3 and the first lesson was folk dancing.”
“Being a ‘Wattle Blossom’ for the Queen and Duke’s visit in 1954 at Victoria Park Race Course.”
“When I was in Year 6 or 7 we were trained as the first school crossing monitors and given a special book.”
The School Journal Notes from 1950 - 1959 show that a Gala day was held on the 21st of October, 1950, where children dressed up in fancy costume and decorated their bikes and prams. In 1951, the Commonwealth Free Milk Scheme was introduced and 416 children were involved. Each child was supplied with half a pint of bottled milk and a straw at morning recess. In March 1955, earthquake damage repairs commenced, and a cycle shed was completed.
1960 - 1969
Alister Cant was the headmaster from 1961 to 1964, replaced by John Maguire, who served until 1978. Attendances rose from 401 in 1960 to 616 in 1969.
The School Journal Notes from 1960 to 1969 indicate that space was becoming “hopelessly inadequate” and initial earthworks began in 1961 to erect a new two-storey brick building further East along Adelaide Street, Magill (photograph 3). On the 6th February 1962, children were transferred to the new building, which was officially opened on the 4th October 1963, by the Minister of Education, Hon Sir Baden Pattinson. On the 21st of July 1969, children were sent home at 10 am, so that they could witness the first landing on the moon.
Towards the end of 1964, School Houses were established to commemorate early pioneers and local history. Students were arbitrarily assigned to one of four houses for Sports Days: Ferguson, Murray, Penfold and Tolmer.
Ferguson was named after William Ferguson, one of the first land owners in the Magill area. He bought land in 1838, two years after the founding of the colony, and began clearing the stringy bark forest. Some of the workers he employed were believed to be runaway convicts from New South Wales. The first Magill School was built on land purchased from William Ferguson and co-owner Robert Cock. Ferguson and his wife Rosina arrived in Adelaide on board the ‘Buffalo’ with Captain Hindmarsh.
Murray was chosen to honour Alexander Murray, a prominent citizen of Magill and a member of both Upper and Lower Houses of the South Australian Parliament. He bought a piece of land on St Bernards Road in 1862, and built a magnificent mansion, now known as Murray House. It is now used as an administrative building for the Magill Campus of UniSA.
Penfold was named after Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold, who settled in the area just South of Magill School in 1844. Dr Penfold established his vineyard with cuttings he brought from Europe. However, it was his wife, Mary, who was the vigneron in the family. She produced wines that made the Penfold label famous and profitable.
Tolmer House was named after Alexander Tolmer, another prominent Magill resident, and the first Inspector of Police in South Australia. He was often in the news, leading many daring chases through the Adelaide Hills to apprehend escaped prisoners, and saving the colony from bankruptcy by escorting the gold from the Victorian goldfields back to Adelaide.
1970 - 1979
Neil Mason replaced John Maguire in 1979, with attendances dropping markedly during this decade, from 706 in 1970, to 472 in 1979.
The School Journal Notes from 1970- 1979 indicate that a wide variety of activities were organised for students. In 1971 School Orchestra Concerts were held in the General Purpose Room, and 3 students were soloists at the Festival of Music. In 1972, the Minister of Education, Hon. Hugh Hudson, officially opened the school’s new swimming pool and change rooms. The following year, the Teacher of German was appointed 3/5 time, the School Choir visited the Magill Old Folks’ Home, and the Magill Relay Team won the State Boy’s championship. In 1974, the School Football Side were unbeaten in all 20 games of the season, winning Norwood’s Saturday morning competition, the Premier’s Cup, the Lightning Carnival, and all 8 games in the Mark Mitchell Shield.
Memories of Students who attended Magill School in the 1970s.
“Football was my favourite part of school. We’d kick end to end during breaks and attempt the most outrageous ‘speckies’.”
“The annual teachers versus students football game was a huge event. My friend Raff kicked a goal from the wing with a monstrous torpedo to seal the game.”
“When the pool opened, we had regular swimming lessons and organised exercises. Having our own pool was like a dream come true.”
1980 - 1986
Neil Mason continued as headmaster until 1981, followed by David Trebilcock, 1982- 1984, and Rod Probert. Attendances dropped from 463 in 1980 to 265 in 1985.
Memories of Students from the 1980s
“I enjoyed the school picnics at ‘The Gums’ reserve.”
“I remember the day, in Grade 2, when our class went up to the Primary School to plant trees. My friend and I called our tree ‘Melissa’ and we still go and visit our tree.”
“A few years ago the canteen had lollies and soft drinks but now they have foods and drinks that don’t have a lot of sugar in them.”
“I’ve always liked going to the library. It is upstairs and air-conditioned in the summer.”
“I have enjoyed all the sports the most and the new tennis courts are excellent.”
“When I was in junior primary we had swimming every day in the school swimming pool but after Grade 4 we went to the Teachers College pool because it is deeper.”
“The best thing that has happened at Magill School while I have been here are the computers.”
“The best memories that I have of Magill School are of the people who are in it. They are all friendly, kind and helpful.”
Researched and compiled by Jonathon Dadds and Patricia Dadds, for the Campbelltown ‘Digital Diggers’ group.
References Dadds, Patricia (1986). Under The Shadowy Hills: A History of Magill School. Adelaide, Australia: Peacock Publications.