With Clair Craig, Brookfield
Of all Moreton Bay’s islands, the most inaccessible has always been, and still is, Moreton Island itself. For those obliged to stay there, in particular the lighthouse keepers and their families, this isolation posed its own set of problems, not the least of which was the education of their children.
At Cape Moreton, one of the sleeping quarters was converted into a school room in 1879 for the 21 children from the five families there including the Braydon, Griffin, Pascoe, and Jones families. Henry Ward was the first teacher and he remained there, popular with both his students and their parents, until his transfer in 1890.
Subsequent teachers proved less well adapted to their environment with repeated requests for transfers for reasons ranging from the isolation, poor supply of fresh produce, irregular mail communication, ill health, and the unfriendliness of the locals.
Discontent was to peak in 1912 when Mrs Harper, wife of the First Assistant Keeper, established herself as teacher for the Cape Moreton School. The Harpers proved to be socially unacceptable to the other members of the community and Mrs Harper was eventually removed from her position as school teacher.
She was followed by a succession of teachers who, although competent and on good terms with the locals, left after a short period because of the reasons already cited. Eventually, in 1926, the Cape Moreton Provisional School was closed and it was suggested that the remaining children enrol in correspondence classes.
Today, Claire Craig remembers her four years at Cape Moreton where her father George Byrne was Superintendent of the Lighthouse from 1912 until 1916….
SCHOOL DAYS AT THE CAPE
“I was seven when we went to Cape Moreton and was nearly 12 when we left. Our house was made of stone quarried locally and constructed by prison labour. It was situated on the exposed cliff near the Cape Moreton Lighthouse. The school house was a minute’s walk away down the hill which made it more protected from hurricanes than our house which was right on the top.
“I didn’t go to school for some time because my father, George P.Byrne, didn’t approve of the teacher, Mrs Harper, who was the wife of the First Assistant Keeper. During my time at home, when my mother, Elizabeth Emma Byrne, wasn’t giving me lessons, I went with my brothers to chip oysters from the rocks. We had to be very careful though because rogue waves could sweep away the unwary. One of the Harper’s sons, Vince, had been drowned off the rocks there.
“Eventually Mrs Harper resigned as the school teacher and her husband, First Assistant Harper was replaced by Oliver Birrell. From then on, the school teachers were all single women. Miss Lucie Tardent was my first teacher there. I had two brothers who went with me to school for the first year, but then had to go to the mainland school for their higher grades. There were about a dozen pupils including the three of us Byrnes, and the Henderson’s from Yellow Patch. On Saturdays, after my brothers went away, I used to walk down to the Hendersons and stay with them overnight, being watched by telescope walking down the track until I reached the turn off to Yellow Patch.
“Teachers only stayed for a short time. I don’t know whether it was policy for them to stay only a year, or whether they left because of loneliness. Although they stayed in a room in our house, my mother was in her thirties and Miss Tardent was only 18, so she must have missed people of her own age. Then Gladys Heaney came as teacher and she was there when war was declared in 1914. She was replaced by Miss Pocock who was quite elderly. Although I didn’t like her very much, I was obliged to go walking with her simply because she asked me and I couldn’t very well refuse.”
Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.