Sunday, March 14, 2010

John Moloney, Headmaster, Gardener's Road Public School

My ancestor John Moloney (often written Maloney) was teacher and then headmaster in a number of schools, mainly in Sydney. Tom Element found a book on the Gardener's Road Public School in Sydney, entitled 'Gardeners Rd School 1883 - 2008' - John Moloney was it's first headmaster.

Historic time line
1880 Local population: mainly market gardeners and factory workers
1881 Local people applied to the Department of Public Instruction for a school to be established: 79 parents guaranteed 218 children for the school
1882 Botany tram line opened in May
1883 School opened in January, in a one room timber building 100 pupils  in the first week, 143 in the second week, 271 at year end
1884 Principal's residence (built in brick) was completed in June
1890 The first headmaster, John Maloney, left the school

One hundred and twenty-five years after its establishment, Gardeners Road Public School is now a small primary school of some 200 pupils, occupying a number of buildings dating back to 1899: It was very different on that day in January 1883 when John Maloney opened the school in a temporary wooden schoolroom, designed to accommodate 200 pupils in one room. It was also very different in the early 1920s when the enrolment climbed to 1,700 and the children were crammed into the main building and its corridors a collection of temporary wooden classrooms and weathersheds.

The following history of the School was produced for the Centenary of the establishment of Gardeners Road Public School, celebrated in 1983.

In 1880 the area around the junction of Gardeners and Botany Roads was settled by a scattered population of market gardeners, with huge tracts of vacant land and a few pockets of workers who were employed in the factories which had begun to be established in the district. Although it was so close to the city of Sydney, the area was low-lying and sandy, and this had delayed its development. It was also cut off by the huge Waterloo or Cooper Estate, a land grand of 1,400 acres made in 1823, which took in the area from Redfern down to Gardeners Road and from St Peters across to Dowling Street. The Cooper estate was to dominate the early history of Gardener's Road Public School and its sub-division 30 years later was to result in an enormous rise in the school's employment.

Gardeners Road Public School had its beginnings on the 24th  of February 1881 when a School Committee of local people made application to the Department of Public Instruction for a public school 'at Botany'. Botany seems to have been the name for the general area.

The application was signed by 79 parents who guaranteed the attendance of 218 children. The local committee nominated to organise matters comprised the Rev. George Lane and Rev. John Peman, a Primitive Methodist; George Stiff and Thomas Harris, both gardeners and Primitive Methodists; Joh Edwards, Wesleyan retired; and Alfred Norris, a clerk. They suggested that the site should be on the corner of Gardener's and Botany Roads, opposite the Halfway House Houtal (now known as the Newmarket Hotel).

In July 1881 the Department of Public Instruction decided to resume the site from whoever owned it, but did not carry out the resumption because the ownership of the land was in doubt. The Department jumped  the gun as a result of continued pressure from the foundation committee arguing that  the Wesleyan School (the nearest school maintained by the state) was overcrowded. They also said that the population was increasing rapidly and would grow even more once better transport was available (The Botany tram line was opened in May 1882.)

Early in November 1882 the Department decided to erect a temporary wooden building on the site. The temporary  building consisted of a schoolroom 75 by 21 feet, with a verandah on one side. It was designed to accommodate about 200 pupils, in four blocks of desks and forms 12 feet long on a stepped floor, plus a gallery containing forms  16 feet long but no desks. Together with toilets, tanks and fencing it cost 619 pounds. To remind it that its problems were not over the Department receive two letters during the school's first week. One was from Cooper's solicitors, claiming ownership of the land and asking for the building to be remove and threatening to sue for trespass. The other was from a parent, who complained that the building was nothing "but a wooden shanty (an apology for a school)".

The School Opens :

Gardener's Road Public School opened on Monday 15th of January 1883 with John Maloney as headmaster. On the 26th of January he reported that the enrolment had been 100 in the first week and 143 in the second week.

The enrolment grew steadily during 1883 to 271 at the end of the year, although the average attendance was only 173. In addition to Maloney there were two assistant teachers, Sarah Elston and Harry Buckland, and a 15 year old pupil teacher, Arthur McCoy. A workmistress also visited the school once a week to teach the girls sewing.

During 1883 the Minister of Education made a personal appeal to Cooper's solicitors asking for permission to occupy the site without prejudice to the final settlement. (The site was finally vested in the Department in 1887.) Planning went ahead for the building of a brick teacher's residence which was begun in late 1883. Given that the cost of the residence was 1,800 pounds and that the Department was unwilling to risk the uncertainty about the site, it seems clear that plans for a brick school building had been quietly shelved. The residence was completed in Jun 1884 and Maloney then moved out of his home at Redfern from which he had travelled to the school by tram.

Between 1886 and 1890 senior Departmental officers made many criticisms of Maloney's handling of the school. A serious cause for concern was the frequency with which corporal punishment was administered which was unusual even in a period when the case was used too freely in most schools. In 1887 the pupil teacher Charles Barrett was in trouble for caning pupils without authority: one irate parent hit Barrett in retaliation, with the result that he sued her for assault and won. In 1888 an assistant teacher was censured for excessive caning, one of the offences being 'faulty arithmetic'. In 1890, following an investigation, Maloney was removed from the Gardener's Road.

Farther on in the book is a series of recollections. By the time this book was written there would have been no-one alive who attended during John Moloney's time (1881-1890 or so) however a descendant of John who attended the school submitted the following:

My grandfather John Maloney - born in Dublin, was brought out from Ireland as a linguist by the then government. He taught at various schools previous to Gardeners Road before being appointed as headmaster. There was a house provided with this appointment where he lived for several months with his wife Ellen and their seven children - William, Joseph, John, Mary, Ellen, Bridget and Margaret. My mother told my sisters and myself about the weird noises and happenings which took place after they had resided in the cottage. My mother told us there was a step from the ktichen to the laundry and one night as she was about to step down a chain dragged right beneath her feet and quite frequently the blinds n the house would be pulled up and down quite fiercely for no reason, then the lights would go out. On one occasion my father told me he and a friend of the family, Dr. Muster, were crossing the yard, now the playground, when they heard a chain being dragged around the fence and a dog barking - there was no dog in sight! Dr. Muster said to my father "My God, Will'. What is that noise? This is unnatural."
My grandfather had to move out of the residence as it became too much for him. Another fellow moved in. He stayed only one night! Nobody would reside in the cottage so the Education Department pulled it down and built an Infants school room out of it.
(Mrs.) Mary Britten

Other Moloney descendants from different lines have hear the same story of the hauntings. Looking at the family tree I have put together it's not immediately obvious who Mrs. Mary Britten is. John's daughter Ellen MOLONEY (1867-1938) married another Botany area resident William Allen COLEMAN  (1867-1953) in 1890 and they had at least six children. None of those I have found is a Mary, however their daughter Edna Willallen COLEMAN (? - 1984) married Henry Locke BRITTEN (1912-1986, another resident of the Botany area). Edna Willallen BRITTEN died in 1984 in Mascot. It's possible she was also named Mary - she is a granddaughter of John Maloney so that fits, and William Allan COLEMAN's death notice in the SMH of 20 Aug 1953 states "COLEMAN, William Allen, August 18 1953, dearly beloved father of Nellie, George, Alice and Mary, aged 87 years".

The history notes that after an investigation, John MOLONEY was removed. While it is not clear precisely what the subject of the investigation was, the following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald at the time. From this it appears that John Moloney, who had recently become Alderman of Botany Council which he played a role in founding, and that it was asserted that he could not act as a public servant and as a publicly elected official, but that many locals wished him to be allowed to stay on as headmaster.

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 26th June 1890

A public meeting was last evening held at the Town Hall, North Botany, to consider the case of the proposed removal of a public school teacher, Mr. John Moloney, from the district. The Mayor (Mr. James Coward) took the chair. There about 80 persons, including a few ladies, in the body of the hall. Mr. Moloney, it seems, has been about 26 years in the service, and has been stationed in the district about eight years out of that term.

The CHAIRMAN opened the meeting by reading the requisition which had led him to convening the gathering, and, having intimated that the subject to be ventilated was one which not only affected an alderman of the borough, but the borough itself, called upon Mr. John Pottie to move the first resolution.
Mr POTTIE explained that those present had not met as critics of the present Administration: but that they might take steps towards inviting the Minister for Public Instruction to reconsider his decision as to the removal of Mr. Moloney. He had therefore much pleasure in moving,- “That this public meeting of the residents of North Botany expresses its regret at the announced intention of the Hon. The Minister for Public Instruction that he contemplates the removal of Mr. Moloney, Public school teacher, for the following reasons:- Firstly, because his long and painstaking services in his capacity as teacher of the young has given the inhabitants the fullest satisfaction ; secondly, because all have learned to value his worth as a citizen, and his public life has been an unblemished one; and, thirdly, because the family he has reared among us are a credit to the neighbourhood, and their influence has always been for good, though of a quite unobtrusive kind.” They had met there to say that it was not the wish of the majority of the residents that Mr. Moloney should be removed. So far as could be gathered from a letter received from the Department, the Minister had not found fault with the gentleman concerned. Mr. Moloney had had a great deal to do with the formation and progress of the borough. He had certainly had much to do with the local elections, but he (the speaker) did not think that a teacher should be debarred from exercising his rights as a citizen. Mr. Moloney had always used his endeavours in a fair and gentlemanly way.
Mr. T.A. WATSON seconded the resolution. He was convinced that Mr. Moloney had given the greatest amount of satisfaction to the greatest number of people in the district. When Mr. Moloney first came to the school there was only a daily average attendance of 40 pupils; at the present time the average was 175. He considered this result very satisfactory. Although a petition for his removal had been got up and signed by a few people, a counter-petition which had been prepared had been attested with the signatures of upwards of 240 people.
Alderman SPARKS considered that the trouble lay in the municipal role. He had much pleasure in supporting the resolution.
The resolutions having also been supported by Messrs. J. Lovett and J.J. Burt, was carried unanimously.
Mr. A. SIDDINS moved: ‘That a deputation be formed to interview the Minister for Public Instruction, asking him to reconsider his decision, the following gentlemen to form the said deputation:- Messrs. J. Coward, J. Pottie, S.A. Watson, A. Siddins, and H. Punter.”
The resolution was seconded by Mr. Punter, supported by Mr. M. Fitzpatrick, and unanimously carried.
The meeting closed with three cheers for the Chairman.

The public resolution did not alter the outcome though. John MOLONEY left the school that year, and in 1891 (the next year) he is found listed as a teacher at the nearby Cleveland Street School.


Anonymous said...

Was this John Moloney any relation to a Mary Jane Molony/Moloney/Maloney who married my GG Grandfather James Ahern/Ahearn in Sydney in 1855/56?

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matt said...

Hi Mark,
Not a connection I'm afraid. The John described here was born about 1841 in Limerick, Ireland and came to Australia in the 1860's. No James Ahern/Ahearn connections in this line.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,
I have a connection with a John Moloney, born in 10th December 1837 in Rosslevan County Clare. John was a twin to a Michael Moloney who died 17th May 1915 at High Street Mascot.Not sure John followed his brother to Sydney.
Neville Edwards