It takes a village: Turning a small Otago school into a museum

by Guy Frederick / 20 May, 2017
Photo/Guy Frederick
Dorothy Walker revisits Cambrian School, which closed in 1954.

Visitors to Cambrians are welcome to get schooled.

A black-and-white photo of the “class of 1952” sits above the fireplace at Cambrians School, near St Bathans. Of the nine children pictured, seven-year-old Dorothy Walker (née Harley) was related to six of them. When the school closed two years later, her sister and two brothers were all on the roll.

She remembers balancing on the bar of first cousin Edwin’s pushbike on the 2km ride to and from home, clothed in thick woollen layers during Central Otago’s freezing winters.

“In class, our desks would be arranged in a semi-circle around a big pot-bellied stove, which kept our fronts warm – but our backs were a little chilly,” says Walker, who lives in Gore but often spends time at a family home in Cambrians.

“In the hot summer months, the windows would be wide open and the nor’westers would blow through the room.”

A leather-bound copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Good Wives was given to her as a farewell gift when the old school – which was built in 1885 – was moved to Becks to begin a new life as a Sunday school.

But the village of Cambrians was never the same without it. Walker’s late brother, Donald, donated land so the building could be returned and in 2006, buoyed by a huge dose of community spirit and fundraising for repair and repainting, the school was brought home to the valley, where it’s open to visitors who can tinkle on the pianos and learn about the Welsh settlement’s colourful history.

By all accounts, the school’s last sole-charge principal, Alan Vuglar (also pictured in that 1952 photograph), was a bloody good man. “He helped the local farmers when they needed an extra hand, and never once used a strap,” says Walker, who went on to have three children of her own.

“We were so lucky having such a great teacher in that environment who created a real family feel.”

Perhaps he also played a hand in her future career – as a primary school teacher. 

 

 

This was published in the April 2017 issue of North & South.


Get North & South delivered to your inbox

Subscribe now

/Northandsouthnz @Northandsouthmag @Northsouthnz

 

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

A History of Magic reveals our compulsion to magical thinking
86134 2018-01-23 00:00:00Z Television

A History of Magic reveals our compulsion to magic…

by Catherine Woulfe

Harry Potter is the starting point for an enchanting documentary about the history of magic.

Read more
The awards season reckons with a new world
86173 2018-01-23 00:00:00Z Television

The awards season reckons with a new world

by Diana Wichtel

A tone of anger and uplift prevailed – thanks to #MeToo and Time's Up – as the first cab of the awards season left the rank.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern broke baby news to Winston Peters over tea and sandwiches
86125 2018-01-22 08:15:08Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern broke baby news to Winston Peters o…

by RNZ

Deputy Prime Minister got a home visit by Ms Ardern to break the news of her pregnancy.

Read more
Road toll: 'Without a doubt' increase is linked to police cuts
86121 2018-01-22 07:22:48Z Social issues

Road toll: 'Without a doubt' increase is linked to…

by Emile Donovan and Tim Brown

Nearly 100 dedicated road police positions have been cut in the past five years, while the road toll rose 50 percent increase in the same period.

Read more
New Mongrel Mob app 'bloody stupid' and insensitive
86117 2018-01-22 06:57:35Z Social issues

New Mongrel Mob app 'bloody stupid' and insensitiv…

by Emma Hatton

Gang violence mediators say a Mongrel Mob-themed game is 'stupid', but its maker says he was just taking advantage of a gap in the market.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern: Government's focus turns to '300-day plan'
86114 2018-01-22 06:38:40Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern: Government's focus turns to '300-d…

by Mei Heron

Labour's caucus meets for the first time this year, with the PM saying there are still policies to be finalised for the govt's first 100 days.

Read more
New Zealanders have long loved a good ghost story
86094 2018-01-22 00:00:00Z History

New Zealanders have long loved a good ghost story

by Redmer Yska

We New Zealanders are known for being down to earth and no-nonsense, but there's a surprising number of Kiwi stories with a supernatural element.

Read more
How to avoid burnout at work
86051 2018-01-22 00:00:00Z Psychology

How to avoid burnout at work

by Marc Wilson

Taking positive steps at work will help keep weariness at bay.

Read more