Horsham Downs Primary School turns 100 this year. A weekend of celebration is planned to mark the milestone, and one of its oldest students plans to attend. Number 8 Network’s Annette Taylor talks to Dawn Gage-Brown, who started at the rural school in 1937.
These days Dawn Gage-Brown spends much of her time knitting at the Matamata Country Lodge, but the 85-year-old intends to attend everything that’s on offer at the school’s celebrations later this month.
“I’ll be going the whole weekend probably, staying with my daughter (Rae Corin). Whatever’s happening, it will be really good. It’s a shame my dad’s not there to join in as well.”
Her father, Lionel Anthony, became principal/head teacher at the small school in 1938. “He was strict but kind, nobody disliked him. I know he was my father, but he was a really good teacher and taught me nearly the whole way through.”
Dawn says she was very happy at Horsham Downs, and the family lived in the house by the school. She can still remember many of the pupils’ names – “there wasn’t a hang of a lot of them back then. It’s grown now.”
The school was built during World War One as a single classroom, sole charge rural primary school and lessons began on March 6 1916. As Hamilton city has spread north, the school has grown accordingly and the roll is now 350, with 13 classrooms.
Back in Dawn’s time, many of the pupils rode a horse to school – there was a horse paddock between the school and house. “One of the pupils –I’m not going to mention any names – he fell off and landed with his face in horse muck. I might remind him when I see him.”
Dawn’s daughter Rae is still connected with the school as a grandparent and lives locally on Horsham Downs Road. Her granddaughter Hannah, eight, attends there now, and her youngest grandchild, Alisha, will start in April.
Rae says her grandfather Lionel Anthony was a real old-fashioned teacher. “Everything had to be proper. Once he left the school he always remembered all the pupils he had taught, long after he’d retired and loved keeping in touch.”
Dawn’s advice to today’s young students is to join in. “If they’ve got good teachers, they’ll do real well. Make the most of it while you’re at school.”
Dawn married a dairy farmer and eventually moved to Matamata. She also has a word of advice to live to a good age – “Be happy, get on with it. And help as many people as you can as you go.”
Current principal Phil Missen said former students will find while the school has changed, there is much that has remained the same, or has built on what came before.
“The original building now serves as a library. The original classroom at the eastern end of the library has been restored to its old Victorian glory with the ceiling and collar-tied trusses exposed. The palm tree near the office block is the survivor from a pair of palms that were planted very early in the school’s history.”
The centennial will provide an opportunity to celebrate the team effort that has sustained the school in the past and which continues to sustain it, he said.
“On Friday 26 we will hold a special morning assembly so that the present students can gain a sense of the occasion. Members of the Horsham Downs community will be invited. Students will share some of the things they have learnt about what it was like to attend school in former times. The assembly will be followed by a general Open Day.”
Horsham Downs School Centennial Celebrations begin on Friday 26 February, and conclude with a dinner/dance at the Wintec atrium on Saturday 27. For further details, email Chris Savill or phone 07 8294 700.