• Dr Tony Brady

The Teachers of St Helena - Part 3

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

The Picture:

Warders Row on St Helena Island. The schoolhouse sat at the bottom end of Warders Row

The 1000 Words (Though this one is closer to 2000)


Walter Hore


Walter Alexander Hore replaced Teed in September 1884 and a year later District Inspector Shirley conducted his first inspection of St Helena school since it had come under the tutelage of Hore. Shirley noted thirty-one pupils attended, and the new teacher was ‘intelligent’, ‘fairly well informed’, he made ‘fair decisions’ and taught ‘with some successes’. [1] Shirley concluded, ‘as a whole the teaching has been solid and intelligent’.


Twelve months later Shirley inspected again and his impressions of Hore had changed. He wrote, Hore ‘governs well’; however, ‘he fails as a teacher… but on the whole his selection for this position is a suitable one’. [2] The inspection in 1887 indicated no improvement from Hore. In his report District Inspector Daniel Macgroarty remarked, Hore, ‘gives his duties due care and attention; works with pretty fair method and skill, but with no marked insight into his profession’. [3]


The following year MacGroarty could only remark that Hore was ‘honest and plodding’ and that ‘he does his best’. The next two school inspections, by MacGroarty and Shirley respectfully, refrained from assessing Hore’s ability as a teacher. [4] Over the six years under Hore’s guidance, the school averaged twenty-five pupils with the numbers at inspection ranging between twenty and thirty-one and the testing results for the children were a consistent sixty-one percent. [5]


Complaints


In June 1890, the Colonial Secretary’s Office wrote the Undersecretary of Public Instruction stating that they intended to ‘terminate Mr Hore’s engagement as schoolmaster at St Helena’ and they inquired if the Undersecretary might find a suitable school within his Department to employ him; also could he find a suitable unmarried teacher to replace Hore. [6]


The General Inspector, David Ewart replied on behalf of the Undersecretary. Ewart wrote that Hore was ‘unsuccessful as a Provisional School teacher at Rosewood and Samford’ and further noted ‘he is an objectionable kind of man to deal with’. Consequently, Ewart concluded ‘I do not think it would be wise to readmit him into the service of this Department’. In any case, before reinstating him to the department, Ewart asserted, we would need to know ‘the circumstances which have occurred to render it necessary to terminate Mr Hore’s engagement as schoolmaster at St Helena’. Ewart also pointed out the difficulty faced in finding an appropriate Provisional School for a man with a family as large as Hore and pointed out Hore was not qualified to teach at a State School.


Addressing the request for a replacement teacher, Ewart declared, ‘Before bringing forward a man for St Helena, it is necessary to know what are the enrolments of this place and what are the duties and responsibilities of this position, as distinguished from work incidental to ordinary employment inside this Department’. [7]


Hore’s fate remained unresolved until October 1890, when acting on the complaints levelled by the Superintendent, the Colonial Secretary wrote to the Minister of Public Instruction stating, ‘good work is not being done’ by Hore, and he requested a District Inspector to come to the island and assess whether Hore was ‘suitable for the work of educating others properly’. [8]


Inspector Shirley was sent to conduct the investigation. He arrived on St Helena on 12 November and compiled a report based on a variety of sources. Initially he conducted an inspection of the school, then he spoke to the Prison Superintendent, Captain Pennefather, and perused correspondence concerning Hore in the prison’s letter book.


Shirley then spoke with Deputy Superintendent Hamilton, inquiring why he had withdrawn his children from the school in January 1887. He followed this by interviewing each warder with children attending the school. Shirley stated, in preparing his report, he was also drawing on knowledge of Hore from previous inspections and an interview conducted on the day. His report noted:


Mr Hore is a man of gentlemanly birth and breeding and has had what is commonly termed a middle-class education, having been four years at the Grammar School, St Helier, Jersey, two years at a school in Paris, and the same period as external at Kings College, London. He is a very fair French scholar and his mental qualifications are sufficient for the work required in the St Helena School. [9]

Whilst Shirley acknowledged Hore’s suitability for his role, he did take issue with the teacher’s attitude to the job, reporting, ‘the failures arise chiefly from a want of energy and industry’. The majority of the teaching load, Shirley discovered, was carried out by Hore’s assistant teacher, and daughter, Miss Hore, a girl, according to Shirley, possessing ‘considerable energy and ability’. The results of all examinations at this inspection had dropped to fifty-one percent, and Shirley noted, ‘taking out of this the efforts of Miss Hore… little is left to represent Mr Hore’s work in the school’.


Problems at the school, Shirley reported, had first come to a head in January 1887, when Chief Warder, now Deputy Superintendent, Hamilton, withdrew his children from the school. Hamilton organised a petition, signed by all married warders, asking for an investigation into the school, and he urged all of the warders to withdraw their children from the school until an investigation was completed. Although he withdrew the petition Hamilton’s children never returned to the school. Shirley, in the presence of Captain Pennefather, interviewed each of the warders who had signed the petition and he found that a large majority of the parents were now satisfied with Hore’s teaching. However, in reviewing the correspondence, Shirley discovered that Hore’s believed Captain Pennefather did not afford him the same respect he had received whilst under the command of Captain Townley.


Shirley reported that Hore had written letters to the Department stating that under Pennefather ‘opportunities [were] seized upon to annoy and wound him’, whilst Pennefather’s letters showed he considered Hore ‘irritable under constraint, wanting in self-discipline and covertly insubordinate’. Shirley concluded Hore could not remain on the island due to the tension between the teacher and the Superintendent. [10] Based on the prior advice, provided by Ewart, that no suitable position existed for Hore, the Colonial Secretary dismissed him from service in December 1890 and the St Helena Provisional School closed. [11]


A Turning Point


Hore had served as the schoolmaster on St Helena for six years and he should have been confident in his position. However, as Shirley stated, 1887 defined a turning point in his attitude towards his role. Perhaps the petition from the parents of the schoolchildren that year undermined his confidence, or as Hore stated, the new Superintendent was treating him with contempt. Living on the prison island, excluded from many of the rights and pleasures open to other teachers, also meant that Hore’s family and work life were intrinsically interwoven.


It is not difficult to believe then, that when St Helena became the dumping ground for Brisbane’s nightsoil in 1887, Hore certainly would have had concerns for his family’s health, especially when illness spread among the residents. [12] These fears and the consequential impact on his work could only have intensified when, in November that year, dysentery claimed the life of Hore’s five-month old daughter Charlotte. [13] Then in October 1889, a prisoner uprising over the quality of food saw the warders ordered to ‘load their rifles’. With his dual capacity as a teacher and warder, Hore would have been required to take up arms and defend the armoury adding further to any misgivings he had over family life on the prison island. [14]


Most likely though, is that it was a combination of many factors and as Superintendent Pennefather intimated, like Mahon, Brown, and Teed before him, Hore’s resilience to island life; the constraints of living within a penal establishment; and the constant association with criminals, had reached the limit. Sadly, at the same time Hore lost his job, his family lost their newborn child Montagu, again to dysentery. [15]


School Closed


In January 1891, a month after the school closed, there was an outbreak of Scarlet Fever among the families of the warders. The Colonial Secretary relocated the afflicted families to an isolation station on nearby Peel Island and he seized the opportunity to remove all of the warders’ families from the island permanently; as such, St Helena Provisional School never reopened.


Heartbreakingly, and as a final insult for the Hore family, rumours quickly spread amongst the warders and their families that the cause of the scarlet fever outbreak was Montagu Hore. The Government Health Officer, Dr Wray, quickly dispelled the rumour by informing the island community the outbreak had originated with one of Warder Macpherson’s boys and quickly spread to other warders’ families. Ultimately, in 1893, Walter Hore was readmitted to the Department of Public Instruction as the teacher at Eumundi Provisional School. His daughter Charlotte remained on St Helena, a gravestone marking her resting place in the children’s cemetery. Montagu’s resting place on the island remains unknown. [16]


With the school closed and no qualified teacher employed on the island, the task of educating the prisoners returned to the warders, with reports of guard Mellish conducting classes each day for the uneducated. Those prisoners deem ‘educated’ were excluded from the classes for fear attendance would be used as a means to shirk the more arduous labour tasks. [17]


#history #australianhistory #queenslandhistory #historywithheart #colonialaustralia #colonialhistory #colonialteachers #prisons #prisonwarders #sthelenaisland #school #historyofeducation #teaching #colonialsecretary #deptofpublicinstruction #publicinstruction #compulsaryeducation

Notes


[1]. ---, Item ID 987858, Register of teachers - male includes appointments etc. 1876 - 1903/1904. Vol. I. p, 129. Report: Inspector Shirley, 8 September 1885.


[2]. ---, Item ID 987858, Register of teachers - male includes appointments etc. 1876 - 1903/1904. Vol. I. p, 129. Report: Inspector Shirley, 9 September 1886.


[3]. ---, Item ID 987858, Register of teachers - male includes appointments etc. 1876 - 1903/1904. Vol. I. p, 129. Report: Inspector MacGroarty, 7 October 1887.


[4]. ---, Item ID 987858, Register of teachers - male includes appointments etc. 1876 - 1903/1904. Vol. I. p, 129. Report: Inspector MacGroarty, 21 June 1888, 16 October 1889 and Inspector Shirley, 10 October 1890.


[5]. ---, Item ID 987858, Register of teachers - male includes appointments etc. 1876 - 1903/1904. Vol. I. p, 129.


[6]. ---, Item ID. 16054, Administration file: St. Helena State School No.12. Dept. of Public Instruction, letter 05178, 17 June 1890.


[7]. ---, Item ID. 16054, Administration file: St. Helena State School No.12. Hand-written notes in red on the side of Dept. of Public Instruction, letter 05178, 17 June 1890.


[8]. ---, Item ID. 16054, Administration file: St. Helena State School No.12. Dept. of Public Instruction, letter no. 11195, 21 October 1890.


[9]. ---, Item ID. 16054, Administration file: St. Helena State School No.12. Dept. of Public Instruction, letter 12118, 'Report of Inquiry at St Helena: John Shirley', 18 November 1890.


[10]. ---, Item ID. 16054, Administration file: St. Helena State School No.12. Dept. of Public Instruction, letter 12118, 'Report of Inquiry at St Helena: John Shirley', 18 November 1890.


[11]. ---, Item ID 987858, Register of teachers - male includes appointments etc. 1876 - 1903/1904. Vol. I. p. 129.


[12]. "Penal Establishment at St. Helena: The report for 1887 of the superintendent," Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.), Saturday 29 September 1888, p. 577 | "St Helena Penal Establishment: The annual report of the superintendent of the penal establishment at St Helena for the year 1889," Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Tuesday 11 November 1890, p. 3.


[13]. "Deaths: Charlotte Hore," Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Tuesday 8 November 1887, p.4.


[14]. "Prisoner mutiny St Helena," Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Friday 18 October 1889, p. 8.


[15]. "Deaths-Montagu Hore," Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Tuesday 23 December 1890, p. 4.


[16]. "Scarlet Fever St Helena-Dr Wray's account," Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Friday 30 January 1891, p. 5 | "Scarlet Fever on St Helena," Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.), Saturday 31 January 1891, pp. 5-6 | "Scarlet Fever at St Helena:Warders' Greivances," Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Tuesday 3 February 1891, p. 5.


[17]. "The Isle of Unrest: A visit to St Helena Penal Establishment," Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.), Saturday 16 November 1901, pp. 945-948.