Revisiting Bathurst Primary School

EARLY DAYS: The pupils of Bathurst Primary School, established by the 1820 Settlers
EARLY DAYS: The pupils of Bathurst Primary School, established by the 1820 Settlers

Serendipity with Bev Young

THE founder and first master of Bathurst School was the Rev William Boardman, a clergyman of the Church of England, who held a Master of Arts degree from Oxford University.

He was born at Ashton, Lancashire, in 1768 and in 1819, then aged 51, was the master of the Grammar School at Blackburn, Lancashire.

He married in 1794 and the Boardman family consisted of nine children – five daughters and four sons. The eldest daughter was Mary who, in 1819 at 24 years of age, was a qualified teacher. In 1820 Mary became the assistant teacher at Beaufort Vale School, which four years later, moved to Bathurst.

Margaret, then aged 17, the fourth Boardman daughter, was to become the first assistant teacher of Bathurst School.

William Boardman was nominated by Thomas Claughton, a British Member of Parliament, to be a chaplain with the party of settlers who were leaving Britain, at a time of extreme depression, to set up their homes in South Africa. Boardman’s appointment was dated

November 19 1819. He resigned his teaching appointment and the

Boardman family, with the exception of Thomas, aged 19, who remained in England, sailed from London on the “La Belle Alliance”.

The settlers were not allowed to employ Bantu or coloured people as labour, and the settler children were often needed to do essential work at home. Thus not all children were lucky enough to be educated. Margaret Boardman, who was not quite 18, was the assistant teacher in the marquee school and was given the task of teaching the girls and the younger boys.

A few years later it became more appropriately known as the Bathurst Free School.

The next master of Bathurst School was William Earle, the late William Boardman’s son-in-law, at the same salary of £100 per annum. His assistant was his wife, Mary, and he continued with his business as apothecary. He also became postmaster in 1830. He read the address at the laying of the foundation stone of Bathurst Church in 1832.

The school had to move again in January 1827, because the authorities wished to dispose of the Drostdy.

Lieutenant Walter Currie, who was Field-Cornet, Bathurst, and whose son Walter Junior was a pupil at the school, conducted examinations there in September 1827.

The half-yearly vacation commenced on December 15 at which time there were 21 pupils attending school. It would appear that the same pattern was being observed as in the northern hemisphere with the school year commencing in September. The December holidays thus became the half-yearly vacation.

The Bathurst attendances register for January 18 1828 shows a slight reduction in the number of pupils since the previous December. In conclusion, this tiny school moved twice in its history, first in a marquee, then to the Drostdy, and later to the little building where it is today.