The first school in Mullumbimby was built on what is now the 7 th green of the present golf course, south west of the present high school. The school opened in 1886 with 8 pupils. Their teacher was Miss Eliza McGettigan who lived at St Helena & travelled to school on horseback, or rowed a boat across the flooded streams during wet weather. By the end of the first year the enrolment was 19 pupils.
With increasing enrolments a new school was built on the present High school site in 1892 at a cost of £293-6 shillings-8 pence. With the establishment of the railway in 1894, Mullumbimby's population increased rapidly. The school building had 2 more extensions done to it to provide additional accommodation for what was in 1903 an attendance of 97 pupils.
In 1904 a new building to accommodate 156 students was erected at a cost of £658, thereby increasing the total accommodation of the school to 260. This building still stands and is presently the TAS & art staff room.
Until around 1968 many students travelled to school by train, from tiny often unmanned stations: Nashua, Binna Burra, Bangalow, Talofa, St Helena, Byron Bay, Quarry Siding, Tyagarah & Myocum. "Trainys" regularly strained the relationship between the school & NSW Railways, with the Stationmaster, visiting the Principal almost on a weekly basis to make the same complaints about damaged seats, broken mirrors, water bombs thrown about, and other passengers upset. The familiar refrain was ‘Would all those who travel by train remain behind after assembly'.
Then there were those unfortunate enough to miss the homeward bound train, or to be put off on the way home & it has been said that more than one student was seen heading off down the track walking. Rumour has it that one boy constantly handled and made approaches to the girls until the day of retribution arrived & the girls struck back. He arrived at Byron Bay – starkers – his clothes strewn over the Tyagarah Flats.
Perhaps the most unusual transport was from Mullumbimby Creek area, with pupils arriving via cream truck; and the taxi, and later the Bubble Bus, which ran a daily service from the Wilson's Creek meat pool site (corner of lower Wilson's Creek Rd & upper Huonbrook Rd) to bring students to school.
The woodwork room was an old wooden portable and is still in use today as the Blue Room (English and band practice). Room 14 near the river, known as the fifth years or seniors room was originally a one teacher school from Mullumbimby Creek. It is still standing today as the Hut.
The school was always short of accommodation. Many a class was held under the big camphor laurel or the pine tree, or even in the weather sheds.
The toilets were a corrugated iron structure, pan system and designed for Infants & primary pupils, even to the height of the seats and there were no doors on the cubicles.
Some will remember the waist long grass on the horse paddock (lower oval), with the ergot (a fungus rendering seed heads black & sticky) on the paspalum wrecking the clothes of teachers & students alike. Or the quadrangle (where the library now stands) flooding during heavy rain, and muddy walkways requiring surefootedness to prevent slipping over between classes.
Notwithstanding the sometimes archaic appearance of buildings & the challenge of maintaining the school grounds in a subtropical climate, there was an indefinable quality about the school & the community which was sensed very quickly; a quality made up of hospitality, generosity, cooperation, solidarity, a sense of well being, happiness & courage. The setting was sylvan and beautiful.
The school campus once had a very different name. It was called the playground, because so many games took place there, and during breaks, games of various kinds were organised, from marbles to hide and seek. There was a lot of open space to move around in, as there were fewer buildings, along with fewer students.
Part of this playground was not for students, however, and it was known as the horse paddock. It was important to generations of students and there are many stories associated with it.
For example: in the various ways children got to school in days gone by, horse back (along with shanks pony for town kids) was a main one, especially for farm kids. Stories are told that as the first riders set off from along the Tunnel Road, they gathered more as they got closer to town. Some of the children were very young, in primary school, and travelled with older siblings. The horses knew the routine. When they got to the end of Acacia Street, or Jubilee Avenue as it is now called, at Saltwater Creek bridge, they eyed the long straight run ahead, paused for the group to gather, and then took off, unprompted. They knew this was a race track.
At times there were a couple of dozen horses in the school paddock, confined by a fence and a gate that sometimes did not close, at the western side of the paddock, along the creek. Children came on horseback from along the Main Arm Road, Tunnel Road, Mullumbimby Creek and Wilson's Creek Road. Bridles and saddles were kept in a shed and children had to be independent in organising themselves.
There are tales of recalcitrant horses, nervous riders, and ones that got away, not to mention the pranks that saw horses escaping from their paddock into the main playground.
Now, the horse paddock has been replaced by the need for a student car park.
Area serviced & school transport
Students in those early years were drawn from Mooball in the north to Nashua in the south & west to Huonbrook, taking pupils from the following schools:
|Middle Pocket||Upper Main Arm|
|Durrumbul||Mullumbimby Primary||Mullumbimby Catholic|
|Mullumbimby SDA||Brunswick Heads||Byron Bay Primary|
|Byron Bay Catholic||Tyagarah||Myocum|
|Bangalow Catholic||Nashua||Wilson's Creek|