Rugby's school celebrated after revival

Pat Baker, 97 years of age, the oldest living ex-student of Rugby Public School watches on as the youngest members of the school plant a tree with Member for Hume Alby Schultz and Boorowa Mayor Cr Wendy Tuckerman as part of the school’s 125-year anniversary celebrations.
Pat Baker, 97 years of age, the oldest living ex-student of Rugby Public School watches on as the youngest members of the school plant a tree with Member for Hume Alby Schultz and Boorowa Mayor Cr Wendy Tuckerman as part of the school’s 125-year anniversary celebrations.

Rugby village has cheered its school’s 125th anniversary today after it was snatched from the brink of oblivion.

Having lost its store and post office, Rugby was about to lose its school after 2010 when two of its four pupils left for high school. Twins Dylan and Jakobe Howard, then 7, were left as the only students.

The Canberra Times published the school’s plight, sparking state-wide media attention which culminated in the pioneer of the $1 rent-a-farmhouse scheme, Christine Weston, of Cumnock, contacting the forgotten village.

Rugby progress association secretary Margaret Kelly said locals were approached to rent out old farm houses to coax newcomers into their battling community.

Families from Canberra, Sutton, Sydney and Hargreaves, near Bathurst, have moved to Rugby and found work at the Boorowa Hospital, as a station hand, or commuting a couple of days a week to and from the national and NSW capitals.

‘’We left it up to the owner and family to come to a legal agreement [for rent], we were just the go-betweens setting it up,’’ Mrs Kelly said.

‘’One family is not paying rent, the owner is happy to buy building material in lieu of rent and they fix it up,’’ Mrs Kelly said.

The new families have helped fill the school with six boys and six girls joining the Howard twins.

A farmer’s wife from Murringo near Young, Heather Shore, travels 60 kilometres to teach, sharing the role with Mem Brougham, who travels 20 kilometres.

Mrs Shore said: ‘’It’s much easier to have more children to bounce ideas off with their own ideas.’’

Mrs Kelly said one of the newcomer’s daughters, Olivia Monteleone, an outstanding singer in year 5, lifted the spirits of 60 people at a freezing cold Anzac Day dawn service with ‘Travelling Soldier’ and ‘We’ll Meet Again’.

On Saturday former pupils, teachers and principals reunited and celebrated the 125th anniversary with a Devonshire morning tea, tree planting and unveiling a principal’s board.

Among them was Gordon Schliebs, a teacher from 1953 to 1955, who did his training in Wagga and supplemented his income trapping rabbits and foxes.

Now retired in Crookwell, Mr Schliebs has fond memories of a weekly dance circuit around the outlying villages, cricket and tennis at weekends, and being responsible for everything at the school of 22 students, including lighting the fire each morning.

‘’I boarded, I used to move camp every term, the local storekeeper first, then four other families,’’ he said.

William Kelly, Margaret’s husband, was seven at the time, and remembers Mr Schliebs’ resources: a small bookshelf, coloured blocks and a blackboard. When he left for lunch, the children would play merry hell.

Mr Kelly said: ‘’We used to go up to the creek and bring back white clay and make little mud items, sun drying them and painting them.’’

- The Canberra Times