School named after a crab celebrates its history

Carrington Public School will celebrate its 150th birthday on Friday. Luke Horton reports.

A student standing on a wall while her mum holds her hands. A student standing on a wall while her mum holds her hands.
Image: Emma Savaiinaea with her daughter Winter. Emma was school captain at Carrington Public in 2000 and Winter is the sixth generation of her family to attend the school.

Carrington Public School will embrace both its past and its future when it celebrates 150 years of education this week.

Newcastle’s smallest K-6 public school opened on 16 September 1873 as Onebygamba Public School, meaning ‘mud crab place’. It became Carrington Public School in 1889.

“There’s a lot of pride in the school in this community,” Principal James McGill said.

“More than 20 per cent of our students are Aboriginal and 50 per cent come from a low socioeconomic advantage group. We service a broad range of the community.”

Former school captain, Emma Savaiinaea (nee Hughes), can trace her family connection to the school back more than 100 years.

Her great-great-grandfather George Ramshaw attended the school in the early 1900s.

Emma’s daughter, Winter, started Kindergarten at the school this year, meaning the family has now had six generations attend Carrington Public.

“It’s definitely changed over the years,” Ms Savaiinaea said.

“There were 120 kids when I was here and only 80 when my mum (Nichelle Hughes) attended,” she said.

“We used to know every family that went here. We don’t know absolutely everybody anymore.”

Ms Savaiinaea said she still had fond memories of her time at Carrington Public, where she was school captain in 2000, and the teachers that taught there.

“One of my teachers, Don Meloche, left a real impact. He had a very unique way of educating. He wasn’t your typical classroom teacher. He was always taking us out of the classroom to visit the river or the beach,” she said.

Staff and students standing on and in front of play equipment. Staff and students standing on and in front of play equipment.
Image: Principal James McGill holds the 150th anniversary shirt designed by school learning support officer Kulka Fahey, right, with students Madden Jordan-Hawkins, Winter Savaiinaea, Bonnie Lentfer and Gordina Geary.

The school celebrated its sesquicentenary with a week of activities, which will culminate with a whole school assembly and performances by each class on Friday.

Two of the school’s oldest living alumni, Joan Carter and Joan Stewart, both 93, have been invited to Friday’s assembly.

The lifelong friends started Kindergarten together at Carrington Public in 1935.

Mrs Carter said school had changed a lot in the years since.

“I remember a grass field where we would have running races down by the incinerators. These incinerators were used to burn any rubbish at the end of each day. We used to rummage through the bins before hand, to look for scraps of paper because paper was scarce during war time,” she said.

“In the classroom, we sat in rows in wooden desks and weren’t allowed to talk at all. We wrote with pen and ink. Each desk had its own ink well. The ink was mixed from a blue powder and water.

“Punishments were harsh. The cane was often used and could be easily seen up on the cupboard as a constant warning.”

Both Mrs Carter and Mrs Stewart will be presented with specially designed shirts commemorating the school’s 150th birthday at the assembly.

Artist and school learning support officer Kulka Fahey designed the shirt in consultation with students from each grade.

Ms Fahey said the shirt was inspired by the school’s history and harbourside environment and all students and staff at the school will receive one as part of the celebrations.

“All the kids pretty much said they wanted some crabs, animal tracks, the creek, the native plants, so we had to incorporate that into the design and make it something for the school,” she said.

As part of Education Week activities and the 150th celebrations, students also visited Newcastle University on Wednesday to tour some of the school’s archives, which were found in the roof of a building during a cleanout.

“There were heaps of them, including the roll of the school’s first ever day,” Mr McGill said.

“We’ve donated the archives to the uni and all the students got to have a look at them during our visit.”

Students marching. Students marching.
Image: Students from Carrington Public marching during a Health Week march in 1965.
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