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‘He’d take aim and belt it into me’

School days were a bit of a lark until the cane caught up with you back at the Merinburn school at Manildra in the early days of World War I.

Allen Angus, a retired farmer, ought to know.  He admits he was a “bit of a larrikin” and he tested out his schoolmasters, Messrs. Olde and McAllister during their terms at the school.

Schoolmaster Olde was a “savage man” with a stick, he remembers that!  “He was solidly built; he’d take aim and belt it into me”.

Master McAllister was “a wonderful teacher” and young Allen Angus needed only a “bit of a tune up” from him.

Allen Angus’ parents Hector and Mary Angus were among the first settlers at Manildra.  They lived about three miles out of the township at Melanbar on their selection.  They had Scottish roots.

Allen Angus remembers the pneumonic plague when “we all wore masks and had a vaccination needle”, the great Empire Day bonfires – we built our fires for weeks ahead – and most of all he remembers Helen Keller, who visited the school when he was a lad of 14.

The pupils weren’t prepared in advance for the visit of a handicapped V.I.P.  “She wore dark glasses and her speech, despite her deafness, was very clear.  She was driven to school by one of the Tom brothers in their limousine”.  Angus Allen laughed.  “Most of the boys were more interested in the car than our guest”.

School days for Allen were “misery and something you had to suffer”.  He “suffered” until his 15th birthday when the self confessed “bad scholar” took up his real love – farming.  His days of the three mile walk to school and bread and jam sandwiches were over.

His criticism of the early school system?  “They kept you at school too long.  If you’re going to learn it won’t take you as long as that…”.
Central Western Daily 1982, ‘He’d take aim and belt it into me’, Manildra Public School Centenary supplement, 21 October, p.11