Cygnet River School

Cygnet River School 1921.   

Left to Right
Ern May , Ewald Geisler, Leo Ayliffe, Madge Buick, Doug Burgess, Gladys Wakelin, Ollie Burgess, Martin Wright, Eddie Buick, Millie Weatherspoon, Edgar Wright, Dudley Wakelin, Lionel Buick, Don Willson, Vera Gunn (teacher)

Sitting on stool
Lily Cook, Dolly Buick, Eunice Wight, Ida May, Nellie Cook

Sitting on ground
Burt Ayliffe, Orville Wight, Percy Weatherspoon, George Weatherspoon

(Courtesy Jim Tiggemann, Facebook Group Growing Up on Kangaroo Island, 26 Nov 2022)

1870  CYGNET RIVER.—Letter from Marian Johnson, pointing out the requirements of this locality for the establishment of a school, and stating that she had failed in her attempt to establish half time schools at Kingscote and Cygnet River, but had opened a school at the latter place, expecting that the average attendance would be from 10 to 15 in a short time. This application was accompanied by the report of a meeting held recently at Mr. Grainger's, when it was resolved that the support of the residents should be given to Miss Johnson, she being the most suitable for the requirements of the children. As the Inspectors knew nothing about the localities referred to, the Board thought the better way would be to ask the Rev. Mr. Morse, of Yankalilla, to give his opinion of the matter. They expressed their intention of granting a licence at Cygnet River, provided the teacher obtained a general attendance of children residing there.

BOARD OF EDUCATION. (1870, July 12). The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889), p. 3.

KANGAROO ISLAND. Wm. Baker, Cygnet River, wrote that the children attending at Kingscote and at Mrs. Daw's school were in better circumstances than those on the river, who were chiefly the children of farmers and labourers. Mr. Highet had recently returned from Kangaroo Island, and would be able to furnish particulars if required. The Board believed that an arrange-ment would be made to allow the school taught by Miss Johnston to be kept open in addition to those at Cygnet River and Kingscote. An application was received from R. Newton, Cygnet River and Kingscote, enclosing a memorial from nine heads of families, representing 34 children. Probational licence granted from 1st April. 

BOARD OF EDUCATION. (1870, September 20). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 6. 

The school at Cygnet River, under the superintendence of Miss Johnston, is a success, as her moderates charges meet the means of the people there. The school, like that at Hog Bay, is only an infant school.

South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1868 - 1881), Saturday 17 December 1870, page 9

1871  CYGNET RIVER. Marian Johnson notified that she had commenced school with an attendance of 12. The accommodation consisted of a slab room, 12 x 12, and eight feet high. She had also opened a school at Kingscote, but at present there was only a promised attendance of six, making 18 between the two places. The accommodation provided was a room built of shingles, and in size 20 x 12, and between eight and nine feet high. She purposed spending alternate weeks at each place. As the parents objected to the school being closed in her absence, she sought assistance in the employment of a teacher so as to enable both places to remain open. The schools were eight miles apart, and the roads bad, which would entail the additional expense of a horse. Few of the parents were in a position to pay fair school fees. Licence allowed from January 1.

BOARD OF EDUCATION. (1871, March 7). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), p. 3 (SECOND EDITION). 

1873  CYGNET RIVER, KANGAROO ISLAND. Marian Johnston asked for a renewal of licence for Cygnet River only. She had been obliged to relinquish teaching at Kingscote and Cygnet River, as the system did not work well. Licence would not be granted except for the two schools.

BOARD OF EDUCATION. (1873, January 7). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 7.

[1893] On Wednesday Messrs. Downer and Kelly, M.P.'s presented to the Minister of Education a communication from a resident at Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island, requesting on behalf of the residents there that £24 be granted by the department for a school teacher, the petitioner being willing to provide school accommodation. There were eight children of a school-going age in the locality and no school within 10 miles. The Minister promised to obtain a report on the matter.

Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 - 1922), Thursday 21 September 1893, page 2 

[1899] On Friday evening the parents of the Cygnet River public school held a meeting to consider the question of petitioning the Minister of Education to keep the school mistress (Mrs. Lindsay) stationed here. The meeting was well attended, and satisfaction was expressed at the manner in which the teacher had brought on the small children, considering that it is only a half-time school. The petition was largely signed, and is to be forwarded to the Minister of Education. 

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), Saturday 25 March 1899, page 27

[1904] Honora Cahir, living with Joseph and Edith Bates. 

DIVINE HEALING. (1904, March 16). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 5. 

[1909]  Teacher Miss Edwards.

Arbor Day at Cygnet River. (1909, September 4). The Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), p. 5. 


The above school was visited on Wednesday, and there was a large gathering present. The school-house was nicely decorated for the occasion, and a number of items were rendered by the scholars, the drill especially earning well merited applause. Luncheon was partaken of after which addresses were made by the Chairman of the Board and Messrs May and Cooper. Prizes presented by the teacher, Miss Swain, and Messrs Barrett, Daw, Lamprey, Geisler (3) and May were presented to the children for school work, etc. Provision had been made by residents of Cygnet River for an all day outing and the host of good things provided were much appreciated. The work laid out for inspection reflected great credit on both teacher and scholars, considering that the school had been closed until about six months ago. Ladies and children's events were contested during the afternoon and prizes presented to the various winners. Afternoon tea, and cheers for the teacher, members of the Board of Advice and parents concluded proceedings.

Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), Saturday 21 December 1912, page 5


1921  Plans are being prepared by the Education Department for a new school and residence at Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island. The present school is a reproach to the Government. It is a small one roomed galvanized iron building. No pro-vision is made for the teacher, who is obliged to find aocorannodaton at neigh-boring farmhouses. Some time ago a young lady teacher could find no better lodging-place than a house in which she had to share a room with three children.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), Friday 11 February 1921, page 6

1926  Cygnet River School opened again last Monday. Mr Waller of the Thebarton School is the relieving teacher. 

Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), Saturday 25 September 1926, page 3

1928  Mr W. L. Moore teacher 

There were actually three successive schools in Cygnet River in different locations. The first was in Joe Bates private land.
The second was just outside of Joe Bates' property.
The third, built in 1922, closed in 1946 when the Kingscote Area School took effect and the children were collected by bus.

- Colin Boettcher (2016)

From an interview with Colin Boettcher, October 2015, with David Wilson:

"By 5 years and 9 months I started school at Cygnet River.... snakes and goannas in the summer and water and more water in the winter down the road to school. Very few people wore boots and shoes those days because most of the off roads were only wheel track usually full of water.

Jan 30 1929 started school. Their was a total of 25 students, Roy Chirgwin joined at last term.

Grade 1 those days only had a reading book and the rest of the work was blackboards and chalk. I don’t remember much about the first year, except their was a big flood but those early days their seemed to have been floods often. I remember just before school breakup Vic, Roy and I were sitting in the grass in front of the school and Vic was striking matches in the grass and Roy was using my souwester knock the fire out.

1930 My first teacher was a Mr Moore. Grade 2. The teacher that year was Clarence Walters. ... Dad finished building the shelter shed. – it was started as working bees but most of the “bees” stayed home and they eventually paid Dad for his time. The shelter shed became the dance hall, meeting room and various other parties used it.

The children always looked for the end of the year for prizes presentations in the morning, then down to the Bight of the Bay for school picnic. They used to play tennis on a court in the school and the new courts were built during the summer season and the court at the school was for tournament for the children. During the school holidays Dad and kids were picking mulberry half a mile up the creek ..."

"In those days there was a three mile rule - any kids who had to travel more than three miles were excused from attending school."

- Colin Boettcher (2015)

A farewell was tendered Mr. and Mrs. Walters in the Cygnet River Hall. Mr. Walters has been transferred to the Kingscote school as head teacher. Mr. A. C. Overstock, on behalf of the parents and residents, presented Mr. Walters with a travelling rug. a brass bowl to Mrs. Walters, and made a presentation to their little daughter on behalf of the children.

REPORTS FROM RURAL CENTRES. (1932, May 18). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 5.

[1935] Mr Harold Pearce, of Playford School has been transferred to Cygnet River School, near Kingscote, Kangaroo Island. Mr Pearce and Miss Gertie West will be married at Cowell prior to their departure for the Island. 

Eyre's Peninsula Tribune (Cowell, SA : 1910 - 1950), Thursday 12 December 1935, page 2

PEARCE, Francis Harold
b. 27 Apr 1909 Redruth, SA
d. 15 Dec 1990
e. Electoral roll BET 1939 & 1943 Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island teacher
m. WEST, Gertrude Ida  28 Dec 1935 Cowell, SA d. 22 Nov 1999

From Geoffrey Chapman:
Edited list i.e only from 1916 not from 1870 to 1915 period. 

1916 - 1917 Teacher Miss Christiana Lindsay Johanson.
1916-23 children were on the roll & by 1919 there were 29 children on the roll.
1918 Teacher: Miss Bessie Allen
1919 Teacher Miss Alison Clark
1920 Teacher: Miss Susan Malone
1921 Teacher: Miss Vera Gunn
1923 Teacher: Mr. William Lewis Moar class size 24.4
1924 Teacher: Mr. Leslie Williams (until  1926  replaced by Mr W. H. Moore from Koonunga school) - Kangaroo Island Courier, Saturday 29 January 1927, page 3
1928 Teacher Mr. William Lewis Moar
1929 -1930 Teacher Mrs. R Bell There was a total of 25 students.
1930-1931 Teacher Mr. William Lewis Moar
1927 Teacher: Mr. William Lewis Moar
1930 Teacher: Mr. Clarence Walters.
1931 Teacher: Mr. Clarence Walters. Wood working classes were taught in the nearby shelter sheds.
1932 Teacher: Mr. Robert Kallosch
1936-1945 Teacher: Harold Pearce