ROCKY HALL PUBLIC SCHOOL

Application for a Provincial School at Rocky Hall was made in 1876 and was granted. The school was opened in 1877.
A vested site of 2 acres was obtained by Government Grant dated 17th January 1879. The school was raised to Public School status in 1882. Another site of 2 acres (the present site) was obtained by resumption dated 20th May 1887, and a further 4 acres were added to it by resumption dated 15th February 1892. The original site was sold to J. Boland on 27th February 1902. The school was made a Half-Time school with Burragate in June 1925 and was made a Provisional school in January 1926.

The information below is compiled, by kind permission, from: 'A History of Wyndham Fourth Edition 2003'

The first route used by early settlers to travel from the Monaro to the Coast passed through Rocky Hall. Over the period 1830-40 a few people began to run cattle in the valley. As the track through Rocky Hall was improved, it became a busy thoroughfare with a general store, a pub and an inn to provide accommodation, and blacksmith shops to shoe horses and repair vehicles. The population increased until about 1890, by which time the majority of land had been selected and settled.
During the 1880s and 90s, the agricultural emphasis changed from beef production to dairying. Cheese and butter were made on farms until the butter factory commenced production in 1896. The butter factory was one of the very early co-operative dairy companies.
Prior to the building of the present school, early education in Rocky Hall was conducted by private teachers in various farm buildings. A Miss L. E. Beck is mentioned between 1866/1876 as teacher of the school, which was located in the corner of the Boyd Paddock. Later on the Department leased a building to the left of the Orchard Road - this being a construction 12' x 15' x 7' high. The tin roof proved too hot in summer and the walls were too draughty in winter. There were at this time, 50 children of school age with an average attendance of 20.
In 1883, a night school was started for adults by renting rooms at the hotel in which to teach. Mr. N. Hutchinson was the appointed teacher at this time, and later a Mr. Kearney took his place.
A 2 acre site was surveyed not far from Basin Creek, but the school was eventually built on its present site in 1887 with Rocky Hall now a flourishing community. The stone foundation was constructed by Charles Ralphs. One of his daughters married a local farmer and three families of descendants still live in Rocky Hall.
Pine trees were planted inside the perimeter of the school grounds and soon become a prominent landmark. A number of the trees were stone pines which bear edible nuts.
Many a happy playtime was spent searching for and eating pine nuts. Unfortunately, as the trees neared their eightieth year, it was becoming obvious they had passed their prime. To remove the danger to the public the pines were cut down in the beginning of 1965.
In the early 1900s, pupils and members of the community excavated a tennis court in the school grounds. Further excavation and upgrading of the court has occurred since then. The courts have long been a focal point in the community, with tennis being an important social activity.
A gradual decline in the population began during World War I. During that period the pub closed. The butter factory ceased production in 1926 and afterwards cream was transported to the Pambula Butter Factory.
The Parents and Citizens Association made important contributions to the School by organising fundraising dances. The nine long wooden desks in the schoolroom had to be unbolted and stored in the weather shed to provide space for a dance floor. The P&C purchased a piano, which was used for many functions. At the end of each school year a break-up dance was held. The 50th anniversary of the opening of the school was celebrated at a dance held in the schoolroom in August 1937.
After World War 11, the population further declined as people resettled in cities where they found jobs. As people moved away, land holdings became larger and many of the dairies converted to beef, cattle and sheep in the 1950s and 60s.
During the late 1950s the number of pupils dropped to a level which put the future of the school in doubt. The P&C fought strongly to keep the school open. The number of pupils rose again as younger children began school.
Until the mid 60s the majority of teenagers completed their secondary education by correspondence work while still attending Rocky Hall Public School. In 1966, the teacher at Rocky Hall began taking High School students to meet the bus at Wyndham. The next year the bus run was extended to Rocky Hall and travelling to Bega High School each day was a possibility.
The number of pupils dropped in the 1970s and by the end of 1974 there was not sufficient for the school to remain open and its doors closed. In 1975, Rocky Hall Progress Association applied for and obtained a Permissive Occupancy Agreement from the Education Department to use the school building and grounds as a Community Centre.
From 1976-1981 Bob and Heather Meek used the schoolroom and residence as a Field Study Centre.
In 1982, the Dept. of Education advised that, as the building was not being used as an educational facility it would be sold. The Progress Association applied to the Minister for Education, enclosing a petition signed by all the residents in the area, to stop the building from being sold and to keep it as a Community Centre. This application was not successful so the committee decided to approach the local member, Mr. John Akister, personally. At this stage, the building was being used as a meeting venue and for playgroup, yoga and tennis. It was also used for ceramic, photography and natural dye workshops.
In 1983, to assist in endeavours to retain the building, an agreement was made with the Bournda Field Studies Centre to use the community centre as an annex to their centre.
During this year, Mr. Akister made representations to the Minister for Education on behalf of the Rocky Hall Progress Association.
In 1984, as a result of the Progress Association and Mr. Akister's persistence the property was declared Crown Land with the Rocky Hall Progress Association as Trustees. An application for a government grant was also successful and the project, funded by the Ministry of Education, involved the restoration of the building and tennis court.
In 1987 an application to start a pre-school was successful and pre-school commenced that year.
From 1998 to the present day, the Community Centre has been used for the main part as a pre-school, but also for tennis, meetings, children's parties, seminars and workshops. It has also been used for overnight accommodation during school holidays and for emergency accommodation.
This Historic Public School House building has, is and will always remain a most important asset to the community and surrounding Rocky Hall districts.
Wendy Whitby

February 16, 1900
Wyndham

Mr. H.G. Elphick (public school teacher) and family have removed from Rocky Hall to Wyndham for a short stay, on account of Mrs. Munro having typhoid fever at the school residence at Rocky Hall, necessitating the closing of the school for a few weeks.

Rocky Hall Primary School 1928
Photo courtesy Dale Hummer (nee Whitby)
Rocky Hall Primary School Pupils 1928
Photo courtesy Dale Hummer (nee Whitby)
Today the local Community Centre.
Photo K. Clery

July 13, 1894
*.. Mr. Augustus Scanlan 8 years in charge of Rocky Hall Public School.

'Magnet' June 1929.
* Mr. C. P. Brown - school teacher at Towamba
* Mr. McMullan - school teacher at Pericoe
* Mr. Cornford - school teacher at Burragate

'Magnet' November 1929
Teachers: Mr. Luff - Rocky Hall
Mr. Cornford - Burragate
Mr. Browne - Towamba Mr. Tyson - Kiah
Mr. Bissell - Wyndham

LIST OF TEACHERS
Name - Date Appointed
No record 1877 - 1882
Nicholas Hutchinson - October 1882
John Kearney - April 1885
Augustus Scanlan - September 1886
Henry Kiphick - July 1894
Ruben West - July 1918
Edward Hinman - May 1921
William Luff - June 1925
John Byrne - January 1937
John Cranford - January 1939

Lionel Lang - February 1948
James Rutherford - January 1950
William Sayer - January 1956
Compiled by Unknown