Faster: Manly in the 1920s



Faster: Manly in the 1920s
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
By Terry Metherell, 2006
Chapter 7: The Seasiders: Manly Schooling in the 1920s.
Manly National (later Public) School was established in 1858, first in temporary
accommodation at H G Smith’s Swiss Cottage on Constitution Hill, and from January
1859 at the new National School on the south-west corner of Pittwater Road and Carlton
Street, Manly.
In 1882 a new Manly Public School was built in central Manly on the current site, and
opened at the beginning of the 1883 school year. It was overcrowded from the start
despite the irregular attendance of many pupils. In 1897 only an average of 329 pupils
attended each day out of 477 enrolments. By 1907, there had been little improvement,
with an average 426 out of 620 pupils attending each day, only 68%.1
In April 1900, Manly became a Superior School, meaning that it had at least 20 pupils
willing to progress to ‘higher learning’, or 7th Class beyond the Qualifying Certificate (QC)
issued at the end of 6th Class.
In 1905, the school was renovated and the headmaster’s residence enlarged but
chronic overcrowding continued. By 1908 there were only three classrooms to
accommodate more than 200 girls. Overcrowding that year prevented a 7th class course
being offered.2
School extensions, including a new two-storey Infants’ School and renovations to the
original 1882 stone school were completed in 1911. They were too small, and the
adjacent School of Arts was used so regularly that it came to be regarded as part of the
school. Classes were held in the Victoria Hall on the corner of the Corso and Darley
Road and in several church halls.3
By World War One, Manly Superior Public School had a high academic reputation.
Students came from as afar away as Narrabeen, Seaforth and Harbord despite having
schools in their own suburbs. Manly also had a more varied curriculum, with Latin,
French and Science being taught to more advanced students in the higher grades.
Lifesaving and swimming instruction was introduced in 1911 and Manly won many
Since 1913, typing, book-keeping and business principles had been taught, and boys
were taken on work experience visits to local businesses to observe duplicating
machines and typewriters in use.4
The Great War aggravated overcrowding by adding an acute shortage of teachers at
Manly, and throughout Australia. By the end of 1914, there were 1140 pupils but seating
for only 747. Enrolments in the Infants’ Department were limited, but many classes were
still held in corridors and weather-sheds as well as surrounding halls.
Manly [Public School], c1909-12, prepared by NSW Dept of Education, p4.
Manly Public School, c1950s, prepared by NSW Dept of Education, p13.
Op cit, p14.
Loc cit.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
Manly’s headmaster, James Cosgrove, died of tuberculosis in 1916, while on leave in
New Zealand, probably exhausted by the stress of running the grossly overcrowded and
undermanned school. Manly was fortunate that its new headmaster, H J Brown was a
highly experienced educator, who had been headmaster at Condobolin, Kurri Kurri, West
Maitland, Cook’s Hill, Newcastle and Enmore. ‘Farmer’ Brown as he was affectionately
known was ‘a strict disciplinarian’, yet kind, efficient, with ‘the happy knack of getting the
best results from both staff and pupils’.5
Henry ‘Farmer’ Brown
‘Farmer’ Brown was also fortunate to have commenced at Manly in January 1917.
The new second floor additions to the original stone school were completed in August
1917.6 This enabled the Girls’ Department to operate on a separate floor from the Boys’
Department for the first time since the school’s commencement in 1858.
In wartime conditions, cadet drill for boys formed an important part of school
activities. All children were involved in fundraising for the many wartime charities.
Wattle Day was celebrated in 1917 and basketball was introduced as a girls’ sport
suggesting that the public movements for better children’s and community health were
making their influence felt in local schools.
Much of children’s time was spent at school, even in the 1920s. Education was
compulsory until the Qualifying Certificate (QC) at the end of primary school. Most local
children went to the chronically overcrowded but well-regarded Manly Superior Public
School, until Harbord Public School opened in September 1912 and Manly West Public
School in 1922. Many Catholics attended Manly Public School even though St Mary’s
Primary school, run by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, was operating in Raglan
Gas lighting had only just been connected to Manly Public School when the Spanish
flu epidemic struck Sydney in 1919, carried back from Europe by returning exservicemen. The school served as an emergency hospital during the epidemic.
As a Superior Public School since 1900, Manly had long offered a 7th grade at the
end of normal primary school. Many students stayed on in the post-war years, with
unemployment high, and new educational opportunities offered through Manly’s
Continuation School and Commercial Day School.
Soon the school was so
Press clipping, “Our Portrait Gallery, H J Brown”, nd (c1920s), Wellings Local Studies.
Manly Public School, NSW Dept of Education, [nd], p15.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
overcrowded that a large Army tent had to be used, further reducing the already small
playground space.
Manly Flag Drill Team, 1920s. Photo by W Johnson, the Corso.
The 1920s at Manly Public School were dominated by two formidable educators and
local identities: ‘Farmer’ Brown, the Headmaster; and Miss Kit Phillips, girls’
headmistress, who also became headmistress of the Domestic Science Continuation
School 7th and 8th grade for girls in 1923. ‘Farmer’ Brown had been headmaster since
1917 and remained until 1930, the longest service in Manly’s public school history up to
that time. He lived with his family in the school residence. Past students recall one of
his punishments was to set troublesome boys to work at lunchtime or after school,
weeding his large vegetable garden. His discipline regime, strict but fair, was welcomed
by parents and generally respected by students.
Throughout the 1920s, many school classes had to be held in nearby halls, including
the School of Arts, Victoria Hall and the Congregational Church Hall. It was a common
sight to see older Manly primary students straggling along Darley Road and nearby
streets on their way to and from their overflow accommodation.7
In 1924 the Far West Scheme for isolated country children was established by
Reverend Stanley Drummond. The summer camp for Far West children was held at
Manly Public School for many years.
In 1925, Manly was reclassified as a First Class Intermediate High School, with both
Commercial (boys) and Domestic Science (girls) Departments. For most local children,
this meant their schooling had been lengthened from seven or eight years to ten years,
unless their parents chose to send them out to work at the minimum leaving age of 14.
Despite the chronic overcrowding, and community lobbying for a new high school
site, a new Domestic Science building was not completed until 1931 (housing both
primary girls’ and secondary girls’ Departments) on the site of the demolished
headmaster’s residence. The Boys’ Intermediate High School was not moved to a new
site, known as ‘Shacktown’, at Balgowlah, until 1943.
Interview with Albert Owen, 29 October 2001.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
Girls in Class 4B, Manly Public School, 1926. Photo from Mina Bancroft.
Manly children in the 1920s were accustomed to class sizes of 45 to 60, frequently
operated on verandahs, in playground shelters or in local halls. Overcrowding seemed
normal. The playground accommodated over 1600 students by 1931, in a tiny area of
asphalt much smaller even than the current site. Until 1970, the original stone school,
with a second storey added in 1917, still occupied its original area of what is now
extended playground.
To help separate boys and girls, infants and primary, lines were painted on the
asphalt to indicate boundaries. The more ‘forward’ of the boys and girls delighted in
throwing notes across the ‘no go’ lines, disguised in various ingenious ways.
Memories of teachers have dimmed. The general opinion seems now to be that
while teachers were strict, and caning by male teachers common, students accepted
their lot. Many girls developed a real affection for some of their teachers. Others were
feared. The two Miss Phillips sisters were recalled vividly by most former Manly Public
School girls. The smaller of the two sisters, Kit, was called ‘Little Miss Phillips’, and the
larger, Marg, was called ‘Big Miss Phillips’. Miss Marg Phillips was widely feared as a
fierce disciplinarian who caned ‘her’ girls for minor infractions and tolerated no talking or
fooling around in her classes. Miss Kit Phillips seems to have been remembered
affectionately. Students who found school or their teachers too difficult simply truanted,
left school at 14, and even, occasionally, climbed out of windows to escape to the beach.
For most Manly children, the stereotyped curriculum, the formal teaching methods,
even the male-dominated character of the school would have seemed normal and
inescapable. Only a very few won scholarships to selective schools like Fort Street and
Sydney High while fewer than twenty per cent would have attended local small private
schools such as Brighton College, or St Mary’s Catholic Primary School.
After the Great War, Manly and other communities were hard hit by the Spanish flu
epidemic of 1919. It appears local schools were closed during the worst of the epidemic
to try and minimize the spread of infection. Manly Superior Public School became an
emergency hospital, as the Quarantine Station was hopelessly overcrowded and Manly’s
Cottage Hospital in Raglan Street had only a few beds. Gas-lighting was connected to
the school in 1919. The fine marble Honour Roll erected to those pupils who had served
in World War One was unveiled in 1922.
Manly was now an evening Continuation School and a Commercial Day School, with
classes for boys in 7th and 8th Grade. Pupils who wished to continue further, to their
Intermediate Certificate had to travel to the city. Some girls also continued their high
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
schooling outside Manly, taking the ferry daily to Fort Street Girls’ High, or Sydney Girls’
High in the city.
Extreme school overcrowding was compounded by the post-war recession of 191921, which saw few new jobs created and thousands of repatriated ex-servicemen given
preference in employment. Many more pupils chose to stay on at school rather than
face unemployment: “Space was taxed to the utmost at Manly and a large Army
marquee was used as a temporary measure. However, classes continued to spread to
neighbouring church halls.”8
The pressure of increased enrolments was relieved by the opening of Manly West
Public School’s first two classrooms in September 1922. By 1924, Manly West’s
enrolments had risen from 179 to 347 with six new classrooms opened in July of that
Miss Kit Phillips was appointed headmistress of Manly Domestic Science
Continuation School in 1923.
The Domestic Science School became virtually
autonomous within the framework of ‘Farmer’ Brown’s Superior Public School.
However, it did not obtain its own purpose-designed building until 1931 and had to share
accommodation with the Primary Girls’ Department, upstairs in the old school building
throughout the 1920s.
In 1924, a manual training room for woodwork and metalwork was built behind the
Literary Institute at the rear of the school site (the present Manly Village Public School
assembly hall.) This added to the extreme overcrowding of the limited playground
space, where over 1000 children shared a space approximately half that of the present
cramped playground. Only the large Port Jackson fig trees relieved the hot expanse of
crowded asphalt.
Bert Owen started kindergarten at Manly Public School in 1916, after part of the year
at Harbord School. By 1919, he lived in the weatherboard guest-house, Grantleigh, in
Wentworth Street, between the old Palais Theatre and the boarding-house used by
Reverend Drummond for the first Royal Far West Children’s Home.10 From Grantleigh
he could hear the school bell, ringing out from the stone bell tower on top of the old
school building (demolished in 1970). In kindergarten and first and second class, Bert’s
lessons were held in the Infants’ School which faced Victoria Parade. From third class,
he was in the Boys’ department, the left-hand wing of the original sandstone school
opened in 1883 and facing Darley Road.
Bert recalls one teacher, a Mr Hough, who extolled all his pupils to “Read buuks”.
Miss Ada Lee ran the Infants’ School. Bert was not a natural student and was “always in
trouble”. Along with other troublesome pupils he would use his ruler to fire ink-coated
blotting paper at teachers’ dust-coats. These misdemeanours sometimes earned him a
“double six” (six cuts of the can one each hand) from the Headmaster, ‘Farmer’ Brown.
Feelings between some boys and their all-male teachers were not always warm. Bert
recalls in junior high school “getting back” at one teacher who made his life a misery by
punching him in a scrum during the annual boys versus staff rugby match.
Bert recalled the craze for playing marbles on the school’s asphalt playground. If you
continued playing after the second bell, on the third and last bell you were able to grab
any marbles left on the ground. He remembers exchanging marbles for a “peep in a
shadowbox” – a portable version of the ‘naughty’ peep-show machines at the fun parks.
Op cit, p15.
Swancott, C, Manly 1788-1968, p101.
Interview with Albert Owen, 29 October 2001.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
One of Bert’s fondest memories was getting part of the school day off in 1918 for
Armistice Day. Similar half-holidays for Empire Day were a tradition popular among
school-children in the 1920s.
In 1919, Manly’s school children were inoculated against the ‘Spanish Flu’. Mothers
made gauze masks for their children to wear at school. He remembers being told to
keep his mask on because “kids were dying like flies at Glebe and Balmain”. The masks
were soon forgotten.
In September 1919, Bert Owen witnessed the day “when the diggers rebelled at the
Quarantine Station”:
“Over our young life we were used to seeing many ships of all sizes anchor in Little
Manly off the Quarantine Station, flying flags for smallpox and other diseases but we
were excited when a troopship from either the Middle East or France with our returning
diggers anchored and discharged the troops into the station. I cannot remember how
long they were restrained I the station but eventually they rebelled and one Saturday
morning broke out. Down Darley Road marched a disciplined body of troops who turned
into The Corso and halted before the Town Hall. They were confronted by a number of
senior officers, the Mayor, and other officials.”
Bert Owen did not remember the troops commandeering a ferry and, eventually,
taking their protest to Victoria Barracks. Perhaps some stayed behind. He recalled:
“After some time apparently an agreement was reached and to the cheers of the
public and me, an 8 year old, the troops marched back to camp and I lost interest in the
We can imagine the playground conversations at Manly School on Monday morning!
Bert had heard the soldiers’ boots ringing out from Darley Road at his home in
Wentworth Street.
Bert and his friends got up to mischief regularly. They would steal fruit from the
Chinamen’s shops on the Corso. As teenagers, a group would order milkshakes at a
milk bar in Raglan Street, and then try to slide out without paying. One time, they stole
chemicals from the school and set off a ‘stink bomb’ at the Olympic picture palace,
clearing the theatre.
Bert and other students ‘uninterested’ in school spent most of their spare time in the
surf or down at Manly Wharf where they dived for coins from the piers. There were other
sports, too. Bert played for St Matthew’s Sunday school in the weekend soccer
Bert was one of many local teenagers who helped ‘Boy’ Charlton train at Manly Baths
for the 1924 Olympics. Charlton’s coach would arrange six boys at each end of the pool
who paced or raced ‘Boy’ through his laps. To Manly kids like Bert, ‘Boy’ was “always
my hero… he would have been another Thorpe with modern training techniques.”
His years at Manly Public and Intermediate High may have seemed wasted.
However, the hours of surfing and swimming were not. In 1929, Bert was a member of
North Steyne Surf Club’s surf rescue team that came within 0.1 points of winning the
Australian R and R Championship at Bondi. Between 1933 and 1937 North Steyne
always placed second. Finally, in 1939, Bert Owen captained North Steyne to its first
Australian R and R Championship.
Joan Lind (nee Walpole) and Ted Lind recall Manly School in the late 1920s. Joan
Walpole began kindergarten there in 1928 and left aged 14 after completing her first
year at Manly Domestic science School in what was then the near-new building
completed in 1931 (the present Manly Village Public School’s main building). Joan left
school to train as a dressmaker in a private home on Manly’s Eastern Hill. Her family
owned Walpole’s ‘ham and beef’ delicatessen on the Corso until they lost it in the
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
Depression. At 15, Joan worked in Sewell’s Frock Shop in Belgrave Street, and then her
brother’s fruit shop, Walpole’s also in Belgrave Street opposite the Manly tennis courts.
Ted Lind was born on the kitchen floor at 100 Whistler Street, Manly. He attended
Manly Public with his five brothers, starting in 1926. Quickly promoted from kindergarten
to 1st class, Ted moved up to 2nd class the same year. Ted remembers ‘swapping
classes’ with his cousin in Year 2 after successfully answering a teacher’s question.11
Ted Lind also left school at 14 as most children did in the 1930s. He worked at McIlrath’s
the Corso grocer’s until he was 21, then enlisted in the Army and, soon after, the
Merchant Navy at the outbreak of World War Two.
Both Joan and Ted remember their teachers as ‘likeable’ and the school as a ‘happy,
friendly place’. Joan’s teachers in the Girls’ Department were all females under Miss Kit
Phillips, while Ted’s in the Boys’ Department were all males. They recall the huge old
trees and the dividing fence across the playground, separating girls from boys. Joan
remembers the girls looked after the gardens in front of the old stone 1882 building. The
boys may have looked after the vegetable and flower garden at ‘Farmer’ Brown’s
residence. If not a regular task, then weeding and watering ‘Farmer’ Brown’s garden
was certainly a punishment several ex-pupils of the school recall.
Joan Lind remembers school swimming carnivals at the old harbour Baths in Stuart
Street, Manly; playing in the grounds and rock-faces around Dalley’s Castle (demolished
in 1939); the annual Venetian Carnival on the harbour and Corso, for which Joan and
her young girlfriends dressed up as tulips to decorate one of the carnival floats; surfing
at Manly Beach; and tennis at her brother’s Brookvale courts.
It was a period of increased concern for children’s health and for healthy sports at
school. Regular requests were made by local schools for increased access to Manly
Oval and other grounds. In April 1926, Miss Phillips was granted permission for Manly
High School (sic) to use Manly Oval for ‘organised games’ on Thursday afternoons
during the winter season (April to September) and for ‘the marking of two base ball
courts’.12 The same month Manly Church of England Preparatory School was given
permission to use Manly Oval ‘as desired’.13
Ted Lind in class 6A remembers one of his school-friends was Ray Everett, whose
parents owned the Ivanhoe Hotel on the Corso, known as the ‘Blood House’ because of
all the drunken fights there. More memorable were the hard years of the Great
Depression. His family relied upon unemployment relief work and food coupons (the
dreaded ‘susso’ or sustenance). On Fridays, Ted went to the bakery with food coupons
to get eight loaves of bread for the family’s weekend meals. His older brothers caddied
at Manly Golf Course while young children pinched vegetables from the Chinese market
gardens around Manly Lagoon or collected bottles to help make ends meet.
Jessie Dorsett (now Mrs Lawson) lived on the Corso from 1926, above her parents’
shop, Dorsett’s Shoes. It was her doll’s pram, with her tame galah perched on top,
which enchanted ‘Villagers’ and visitors alike.
Jessie attended Manly Public School with her young sister. She started in second
class in 1926 in the Infants building on Victoria Parade, still used today for K-3 classes.
She remembers the Girls’ Department headmistress Miss Kit Phillips (sometimes called
‘High’, in reference to her position, not her height); and Miss Marg Phillips (sometimes
called ‘Low’ Miss Phillips). Miss Kit Phillips and ‘Farmer’ Brown kept the pupils under
firm control.
Manly Memories, Seasider (newsletter of Manly Village Public School), 29 November 2001.
Manly Council Minutes, 20 April 1926 (Correspondence, Item 21, p7).
Manly Council Minutes, 27 April 1926 (Health Inspector’s Report, p3).
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
Class 7A, Domestic Science School, 1927
One of Jessie’s teachers, a Miss Brimer, would stride up and down the aisles rapping
with her ruler on the knuckles of girls not paying close attention. Naughty pupils were
placed up the back and ignored, while the ‘good’ ones were placed up the front as
‘models’ for the class. Female teachers in the 1920s still wore long black dresses down
to their ankles, including the two Misses Phillips.
There were exceptions, such as the two lesbians who taught at the school in the late
1920s and early 1930s. Miss Green taught Domestic Science and came to school with
‘Eton-crop’ hair, jodhpurs and brogues. Her partner Miss Foran was a delicate lady who
loved music.
Jessie remembers the school ‘tuck shop’ was a privately run shop and across Darley
Road, not on the school premises. Some children went home for lunch, like the
Mildwaters and Walpoles who all lived on the Corso. Jessie brought her cut lunch to
school in a shoe box.
The girls’ and boys’ playgrounds were separated by a fence, and later a line on the
asphalt. The fence ran from the back of the old school building across to the new
woodwork rooms (now the school Assembly Hall and Music Room). The boys and girls
were not supposed to mix at school, but messages and ‘love’ notes were thrown
between their play areas.
Girls’ discipline was firm, even stern, but few female teachers caned pupils. Mostly,
girls were kept in after school, without warning and, of course, without notice to parents.
In class you were expected to be quiet unless spoken to and sit up straight and, if not,
you had to place your hands behind your back and keep them there, sometimes for long
Jessie Dorsett was talented at sewing and remembers her sewing teacher, Miss
Tapfield, fondly. After completing her Qualifying certificate (QC) and one year at the
new Manly Domestic Science (Girls’ High) School on the same school grounds, Jessie
studied dressmaking and millinery at East Sydney Technical College.
When World War Two broke out, Jessie joined the Manly WANS (Women’s
Australian National Service). They met at the school, where she remembers the aboveground bomb-shelters – one of which still serves as the boys’ toilets at the rear of the
canteen and present school.
After school, the girls would play with their dolls and prams, and in later years
tomboys like Jessie would go to the beach to play on the sand, swim in the harbour pool
or walk round to Fairlight Pool for a swim.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
The local boys played marbles after school at ‘rings’ drawn in the dirt edges of
Wentworth Street. Others played Cowboys and Indians with toy cap guns and
homemade bows and arrows. There were bonfires and fireworks in local streets on Guy
Fawkes’ Night.
At night, at home, the family read stories, played tiddly-winks, Ludo, snakes and
ladders, and snap, and the whole family played cards and cribbage. Radio was very
popular. Jessie’s father Percy Dorsett, an Englishman, built the family crystal and radio
sets. He contemplated starting a radio shop with Alf Sellar. Alf Sellar, a later Mayor of
Manly, did set up a radio sales and repair shop, later adding television in the 1950s. His
brother(?) Clarrie ran the hardware store on the Corso (now in Whistler Street). Their
father, Alfred Sellar, was a dentist on the Corso, originally from Katoomba. Jessie’s
mother was also from Katoomba and knew the Sellars there. Such close family
connections were common in the ‘village’ and the Corso in the 1920s and continued
through the children into Manly Public School, and often beyond into employment,
community life and war service together.14
Kylie Lough (who became Mrs Scotter) was a pupil at Manly Public School from 1919
to 1923. She has vivid memories of her teachers: High Miss Kit Phillips and Low Miss
Margaret Phillips; a Mrs Penfold who lived in Wood Street, not far from the Loughs at 7
Marshall Street on Manly’s Eastern Hill; Miss Masters in sixth class, an ‘old war horse’;
Miss Ada Lee, the Infant Mistress; and the tall, angular Miss Weatherel, nicknamed ‘the
lizard’ because of the way she tilted her head to look at you.
Kylie was bright and talkative. She was ‘kept in’ regularly (after school) for talking.
Her teacher, Mrs Penfold, once told her, “If you would stop talking we could all be down
swimming at Little Manly”. Another, Miss Masters, demanded and rewarded high
standards, but was prone to ‘frightful rages’. One pupil who pinned ‘April Fool’ to the
back of the teacher’s dress was sent down a grade as punishment.
Kylie was given a penny to buy an apple for school lunch. The first half-hour each
school day was used for spelling competitions, maths quizzes or trivia quizzes to help
teach accuracy and speed in the basics. In her classes, the worst students were seated
in front under the watchful gaze of the teacher, rather than at the back, ‘out of sight, out
of mind’, as Jessie Dorsett recalled.
Kylie wore her hair in a metre-long plait, popular at the time. The local boys were
always pulling it. At thirteen, her plait was cut off in the Corso by marauding boys.
She was a fine swimmer and Manly School and local girls’ swimming champion in
1928, aged 16. The local boys’ champion was ‘Ro’ (later Sir Roden) Cutler. After
school, Kylie remembers skipping, hopscotch, swimming, cricket and billy-cart racing
down the Darley Road and Marshall Street hills. Tomboys like Kylie played ‘rough’
games with the boys as well as girl friends. From the age of ten she was a Girl Guide,
meeting at the Guides’ Hall in Ivanhoe Park. She was still teaching local girls for their
Guides’ Cook’s Badge in her eighties.
In 1924, Kylie won a place at the academically selective Fort Street Girls’ High
School in the Rocks. She attended with her close friend Jessie Bates, Valerie Lovat and
seven others, all from Manly Public School. They travelled over to the city on the ferry
each morning together.
Manly Public School had prepared Kylie and her friends well both for further
education and life. In 1928, with her father unemployed, Kylie left Fort Street Girls’ for
Miss Hale’s Business College where her aunt paid her fees. Accelerated through
College, she completed her one year course in only six months. She took a position in
Interviews with Mrs Jessie Lawson (nee Dorsett), 6 December 2002, 12 September 2006.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
the Department of Education, where she rose to become secretary to the Director of
Properties, then to successive Ministers for Education.15
Cecile ‘Tup’ Hagens (now Mrs Pashley) recalled Manly School from the mid 1920s.
The Hagens children, Gustave, Edgard and Cecile, all attended Manly Public School.
Cecile recalls the school’s tiny playground divided by a small fence, boys on one side,
girls on the other. The boys would put tightly wrapped ‘love’ notes to their favourite girls
inside a tennis ball and throw them over the fence. ‘Throwing’ notes continued into high
school, when the Intermediate Boys would throw them up to the third-floor window of the
new girls’ Domestic Science School, which Cecile attended until 1933.
At Manly Public School, Cecile remembered her cooking teacher Mrs Revault,
nicknamed ‘Mrs Revolt’, for her insistence that the girls wash their hands before
preparing food. The girls were often as dusty and dirty as the boys in those days.
Manly Public School had a number of competing local schools in the 1920s. In
addition to Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Whistler Street, several small private girls’
and boys’ schools operated in Manly and Balgowlah. The largest and most prestigious
was Miss Musson and Miss Allenby’s Brighton College for Girls which also took some
boys in kindergarten, and operated from a Federation mansion in The Crescent, at the
corner of Margaret Street, Fairlight.
The small Church of England Preparatory School was operated by A H Yarnold for
many years in the Presbyterian Church Hall in Raglan Street, Manly. Hillview School for
boys ran for several years at different addresses in Fairlight Street, not far from Brighton
In 1924-25, Woodhurst, a new private school for girls, sprang up briefly in Boyle
Street, run by Miss M Stockfield at The Lookout. The Manly Daily ad stating simply:
“New term has commenced. Principal: Miss Stockfield.” suggests a very small school in
rented accommodation probably with no more than twenty students.17 Camden College
was to operate from the same house (renamed Camden) from the late 1940s until the
By 1927, Brighton College, Hillview School, the Church of England Preparatory
School, and the Manly (Girls’) Grammar School were all advertising in the Manly Daily.
Manly Grammar School, at Montague House, Ashburner Street (demolished in the early
1950s for ‘The Citadel’ apartments) was a fashionable and well-regarded ‘day and
boarding school’ for girls under its Principal, Miss Strachan.18 However, Brighton
College continued to rule Manly’s private school roost. In 1928, the Manly Daily
reported: “A Bridge Party. To help defray the expenses of the Brighton College Old
Girls’ annual dance a bridge party was given by Miss Phyll Davis…”19
There was also a small part-time Manly School of Elocution and Dramatic Art run by
a Miss C L Robertson which advertised in 1928.
The Great Depression appears to have thinned out Manly’s private schools. By
1930, only two were advertising: Miss Musson’s Brighton College and A H Yarnold’s
Manly Preparatory School (relocated from the Presbyterian Church Hall to Fairlight
Meanwhile, in January 1925, Manly Public School was reclassified as a 1st Class
Intermediate High School. This included a Commercial Department (for boys) with six
Interviews with Mrs Kylie Scotter (nee Lough), 18 October and 22 October 2001.
Manly Daily, n.d. (c1923?), p4, Wellings Local Studies.
Manly Daily, 25 April 1925, p5; Sands’ 1925 (not listed in Sands’ 1926).
Manly Daily, 26 July 1928, p1.
Manly Daily, 2 July 1930, p3.
Manly Daily, 2 July 1930, p3.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
classes and a Domestic Science Department (for girls) with four classes. It also meant
that boys with a more academic bent could complete their Intermediate Certificate at
Manly before proceeding to a ‘selective’ high school in the city to matriculate for
university entry.
In 1924, the Far West Scheme was established, for isolated children from remote
country NSW, often with medical problems, to come to Manly. Begun by Reverend
Stanley Drummond, he soon sought and gained the support of ‘Farmer’ Brown at Manly
Public School. The school buildings and grounds housed the Far West Scheme’s
summer camp for many years, before the Far West Home building, Drummond House,
was opened in 1935, and its own Far West Hospital School in 1959. From 1932, “when
the scheme was fully operative a teacher from Manly [School] spent the mornings at the
Hospital teaching basic skills.”21
Overcrowding increased at Manly throughout the 1920s. After years of lobbying, a
site for a proposed new boys’ high school was set aside in 1923 at Balgowlah.
However, it was to be 1943 before the secondary boys were transferred to the present
site of Balgowlah Boys’ High School, then known pejoratively as ‘Shacktown’.22
The secondary girls had to wait until 1930, and the retirement of the much-respected
‘Farmer’ Brown for a new building for their Domestic Science School, covering 7th, 8th
and 9th Class. A ‘Farewell to H J Brown, Esquire’ was held at the new Soldiers’
Memorial Hall in Raglan Street, on 12 August 1930 by Manly Intermediate High School’s
Parents’ and Citizens’ Association. A large crowd sang ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, ‘Long
Long Trail’, ‘Little Grey Home in the West’, and ‘Pack up your Troubles in your old Kitbag’, along with addresses honouring Brown’s long and loyal service to Manly’s
children.23 Tributes were paid by distinguished guests including the NSW Minister for
Labor and Industry, the Hon E H Farrar, MLC; Archdale Parkhill the Federal Member;
Albert Reid MLA the State Member; and the Director of Education, G R Thomas.
A special children’s function was held at the school. Mr Brown was presented with a
‘beautifully inscribed gold watch and illuminated address, a bookcase and volumes, and
a smoker’s outfit’ (he was a keen pipe smoker).
The Manly Intermediate High School Juvenile Band, formed in 192824 performed
under the splendid direction of its renowned conductor Jerry Pheloung who also
conducted the famed Manly Military Band.
Inspector Fraser, representing the
Department, praised Mr Brown’s virtues including his having risen from the ‘lowest rank
(pupil teacher) to the charge of a first-class school. He was leaving honoured by his
pupils, respected by his staff, and trusted and esteemed by the department officials.25
Immediately after Mr Brown’s retirement the headmaster’s residence on the corner of
Darley Road and Victoria Parade was demolished and work commenced on the new
Domestic Science School. It was officially opened in October 1931 having been
constructed as an unemployment relief measure at a cost of £15,000. Stone from the
residence was used in the foundation. The fine three-storey brick building included an
Assembly Hall, state-of-the-art kitchens and a fully fitted-out apartment where the senior
girls could train and practice their domestic skills.
Memories from the 1920s are still cherished by many elderly ex-pupils of Manly
Public school, the (Boys’) Intermediate High, the Domestic Science School and the
commercial courses that developed into the Junior Technical School established in
Manly Public School, Department of Education, p16.
Loc cit.
‘Community says farewell to H J Brown Esq’, Manly Public School file, Wellings Local Studies.
Sydney Morning Herald, 2 November 1928, clipping in Manly PS file, Wellings Local Studies.
Manly Daily, July 1930, clipping in Manly PS file, Wellings Local Studies.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s
1932. Mrs Jean Hale, nee Cameron, who attended Manly Public from 1920 to 1925 with
her sister before going on to Fort Street Girls’ High School, recalls living in Herbert
Street, Manly, opposite Harold Filshie, one of Manly’s teachers.
Mrs Hale has donated her ‘Certificates for Proficiency and Good Conduct’ from 1922
and 1924 to the school’s archives, with her ‘permit to enrol’ in 7th class (effectively junior
high school), and two book prizes for academic achievement. Inspired by Manly
teachers like Miss Kit Phillips and her sister, Marg Phillips, Misses Green, Foran, Wright
and Glasgow, she became a Department teacher retiring in 1971.26
The extraordinary growth of Manly School’s daytime population was topped up by a
thriving Evening Continuation School, the forerunner to the present Evening College. In
April 1929, a new headmaster of the Evening School was appointed to replace Gilbert
Hough, who had doubled as a teacher at Manly Intermediate High School for six years
while running the Evening School.27
By the time the new Domestic Science School was officially opened, Manly’s total
enrolments stood at an amazing1656 students on a one acre site crowded with old and
new buildings, covering the entire period from 1882 to 1931 on the present site. There
were 723 primary, 439 infants, 253 Domestic Science girls and 241 Intermediate High
boys, one of the largest schools in suburban Sydney.28
The surging speed of school growth at Manly Public, Intermediate High and Domestic
Science school growth throughout 1920s mirrored the growth of Manly itself. While
Manly’s ‘boosters’ excitedly sold piano-player rolls of the promotional song ‘Manly-ByThe-Sea’, and invited stars like ‘The Diggers’ Idol’, Mrs Ettie Campbell to Manly’s
Dungowan to celebrate Manly’s public virtues, Manly Public School had quietly grown
faster in community esteem than the pleasure decade itself.29
Interview with Mrs Jean Hale nee Cameron, 21 October 2002.
Manly Daily, 23 April 1929, p2.
Swancott, C, p100.
Manly Daily, 28 July 1928, p1.
Faster: Manly in the 1920s