No. 1436: A teacher and class out the front of Mt Pleasant State School pre-1905. Photo: R. COATES COLLECTION.

‘A window to the past’ these school holidays

July 8, 2020 BY

IN 1855, a Wesleyan Day School was set up from a tent in Mount Pleasant, as a place of worship and a Sabbath School.

Its direct descendant is Mount Pleasant Primary School, with its original 1874 brick building, set to turn 150 in four years.

Already energised and inspired by this upcoming milestone, Mount Pleasant History Group’s president, Max Duthie has a school-themed project idea for children and adults, as they continue to spend their mid-year holidays in isolation.

“Now that the kids are at home and don’t have to do schoolwork, what can you do to entertain and educate them?” Mr Duthie said.

“The answer may lie in school photos, especially the group photos of a class. Even the newly opened [Mount Pleasant] State School No. 1436 made use of photos in the late 1800s to record the growing history of the school.”

Whenever you attended primary or high school, whether recently or decades ago, historians see importance in identifying and cataloguing individual or class photos, preserving information about an institution and the people of its community through various eras.

“My challenge to you this week is to get those old school photos out, both class and individual, and put your memory to work to name students in the photos, and also to try and date the individual student photos in your family’s collection,” Mr Duthie said.

Max Duthie’s grade 4 class. Photo: SUPPLIED

Recently, he received a copy of his own grade 4, Mt Pleasant Primary School class photo from a lady in the same year cohort and had a joyful time working to identify the little faces in the black and white shot.

“I discovered that our history group had received a wide selection of photos that had been gathered together for the school centenary in 1974. Amongst those was my grade 4 photo with almost all students identified,” he said.

“Almost all of our efforts to identify our classmates had been done for us, and we had been mainly accurate. The gaps in our knowledge had been filled, but even then, we found that whoever listed the names in 1974 had missed one student.”

A former teacher, Mr Duthie knows school photo day was, and is, often a tedious event, but sees great value in the imagery produced.

“We have to get tidied up, hair done properly, and our neatest uniform on ready for the class photo… and individual photograph. Sitting there, looking at an invisible point behind the camera and saying some ridiculous word so that your facial expression is just right,” he said.

“However, those photos provide today’s historians with an invaluable insight into our history. They are a window into the past, not just about what a school looked like, but also how teachers and students reacted to the intrusion of the camera.”

The Mount Pleasant History Group is keen to see results of photo research and would appreciate copies of area specific images for their archives. Contact [email protected].