Development of the school
Mr Donaldson donated half an acre of land as the site for a building to be used as both a school and church. Mr Samuel Furphy built a substantial slab building, 30 feet by 18 feet (9.1 metres by 5.5 metres). It was to serve the community as school and church for 27 years until September 1878.
Mr Andrew Ross, a Scottish immigrant, was the first schoolmaster in the region, deeply involved in community activities as well as being a keen recorder of contemporary life. Throughout his adult life he kept a diary. Years later when he returned to Scotland he published a long series of newspaper articles chronicling the district’s life and times. His diary and the articles have survived to provide present-day readers with details of early Kangaroo Ground.
Mr Ross had been teaching in Melbourne and studying to become a Presbyterian minister. However, his health failed and his acceptance of the position as schoolteacher at Kangaroo Ground was to reduce his workload. Given that background it meant that as well as teaching, he would conduct divine service on the Sundays when Rev Gunn or another minister did not preach. He also read many grave-side services, the first within weeks of his arrival.
For the first few months after their arrival, he and his wife Mary Ann used the school-room as both bedroom and kitchen. During the day Mr Ross taught the farmer’s children; of an evening he ran classes for those of the community, who due to the disruption of emigration and settling had missed the benefits of a formal schooling.
The School Inspector, Mr James Bonwick, described the building in 1863 as "rudely constructed of slabs of timber and sapling logs covered up, partially, with mud to stop the wind holes". Mr Bonwick also praised highly the people of the district for the attention given to religious instruction and scholarship, and he wrote of the area as a "moral oasis".
The school was closely associated with the Church as officially it was Kangaroo Ground Presbyterian Church School No. 27. By 1853 the name had changed to Scots Church School and by 1854 to Church of Scotland School. There is a note within the Church records stating that repairs to the school house in 1871 required expenditure on "palings, calico, nails, weatherboards, spouting and glass, carriage of timber, labour and cleaning" for a total outlay of 12 pounds and eight shillings (about $1,300 in today’s values).
The school was transformed into State School No. 352 by the Education Act of 1873. The slab school finally closed its doors on Monday, 1 October 1878. The following morning classes recommenced in a new schoolhouse some 50 metres to the north, officially known as the Kangaroo Ground State School No. 2105. (This is now the Andrew Ross museum. ) In 1880 "The Australian Handbook and Almanac and Shippers' and Importers' Directory" still recorded the school as No. 352 as shown in the following extract:
5. Samuel Furphy was the father of Joseph Furphy, the writer of Such is Life and John Furphy, the manufacturer of Furphy water carts.
6. The Diary and Reminiscences of Andrew Ross, 394 pp., Andrew Ross Museum 2011.
7.The bell was donated in 1892 by Mr John Bell. Originally located on a wooden structure on the north side of the Church, it was placed on a steel pole on the south side in the 1960s. It was moved to its present location adjacent to the porch in 2013 as part of the landscaping works associated with the new hall. The present mounting was made by the late Mr Bruce Ness, but it incorporates what is probably the original mounting; a horizontal axle made from an old miner's pick, the supporting tongue of the bell going through the handle hole. The bell rope is connected to a curved bar crudely riveted to the axle. In the early 20th century the bell was rung to warn of bushfires, as well as for Church services.
8. Approximate current prices have been determined using Fitzherbert, R, Price Conversion Factors for Historians, Australian Actuarial Journal, 2004 Vol 10 Issue 3 pp. 617-622. The “today figures” are quoted in dollars of 2004.