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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

School Teachers - Robert Anderson

Maypole dancing in grounds of Springwood Public School
before school re located to Burns Road.

Robert Anderson was born in Glebe in 1860. His father, Thomas, was a coach builder, and his mother was Margaret McFarlane. Robert was Springwood Public School’s third schoolmaster. He began his teaching career as an apprentice pupil teacher at Sydney High School in 1874. He worked his way through the grades in Botany Road Public and then went to Crown Street Boys earning £5 per month. He then taught at Fort St Boys for a short time, earning the same salary.
In November 1880 he was sent to Cobar Public. Here he met Mary O’Conor and they were married in 1882. Cobar was a mining town with plentiful deposits of copper and also some gold, and the town had an Evening Public School. Robert began teaching in the evening school in 1883, the same year as their first child, Arthur, was born. In September 1884 Robert was transferred to Pitt Town where Alfred and Elsie were born in 1885 and 1887. In April 1888, Robert was transferred to Springwood. The Nepean Times reported that he had ‘an intelligent and open countenance’. The townsfolk seemed well pleased with their new schoolmaster. In 1889 several of the residents were quoted as saying that Mr Anderson ‘has done more to relieve the dry monotony of school life to his scholars than any of his predecessors’. The fourth Anderson child, Mary, was born in 1891.
The Andersons were active in the community, organising bazaars, concerts, lantern shows and generally raising money for the school and for end-of-year treats for the children. Robert also took part in the Literary and Debating Society and was for a time an office bearer in the Springwood Progress Committee. However, he was forced to resign this position when a local influential member of parliament reported him to the Department of School Education. Robert, together with William Rayner, John Illingworth and Lancelot Brennand, organised Springwood’s first flower show and it raised £20 12s 9d for the Public School picnic.
Both Robert and his assistant teacher, Miss Brady, kept up with their studies and both were successful in passing the exams necessary to gain promotion. The school was also subject to unexpected inspections where the inspector examined the children. In each of these the Springwood pupils did well, even when, in 1892, they had an enrolment of over 100 due to a large influx of pupils, many from Glenbrook. Robert also found time to pursue his artistic activities. He worked in a variety of media and styles—landscapes, water colours, silk painting, crayon drawings and etchings. These he exhibited at both the Hawkesbury and Nepean Agricultural Shows, winning many prises. He also created beautiful illuminated addresses which were presented to those citizens leaving the district or retiring from public office.
In January 1895, after 6 years in Springwood, Robert was promoted to Hanbury School, Waratah. He and Mary were given a valedictory farewell at the Oriental Hotel where they were presented with a purse of sovereigns.
Hanbury appeared to give Robert a few problems as his inspections mentioned defects in discipline. However he continued to be promoted, going first to Woonona Public and then to Croydon with an annual salary of £300. In 1907 he was promoted to Class 1A (Good Service). He died in Haberfield on 21 January 1939 and was survived by his wife Mary, his daughter Mary and his son Arthur.

Shirley Evans, taken from Making Of A Mountain Community; A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District 

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