Life in Early Poverty Bay
It is interesting to record that the first school in Poverty Bay stood in Childers Road in front of what is now the Gisborne Hotel. The late Mr. William Dean Lysnar, father of Mr. W. D. Lysnar, M.P., was the first dominee. He was a trained master of St. Mark's College, London, and certificated D2 by the Department of Education in this country. Previously, he had had a private school in Auckland and a register, relating as far back as 1859, is still extant. Incidentally, the late Mr. Lysnar could claim to have taught the children of some of the most influential early residents of the Queen City of the North. His terms were—weekly in advance—as follows:—Lower Division: Reading, writing, spelling, geography and arithmetic, one shilling and sixpence. Upper Division, including the above, with English grammar and composition, advanced arithmetic, history and book-keeping, two shillings and sixpence. Mr. Lysnar also held evening classes, for which the fee was two shillings per week, with Latin, French and the Higher Mathematics extra. It would appear that Mr. Lysnar gave up his school at Auckland—it was at first known as “The Commercial School” and later, as “The Lyceum School”—early in 1864. Some twenty years later, however, he again had a private school in Auckland known as the Eden Hall School, and situated on Mt. Eden Road, Auckland.
The late Mr. Lysnar commenced school-teaching in Gisborne early in 1872. The school building was used also to hold church services in on occasions. His diary (kindly lent by Mr. W. D. Lysnar) contains the following interesting references to the school.
June 10th, 1872: Attended a meeting of the school committee in school-house. Resolved to call a public meeting. Mr. Read signed the specification for addition to school house.
June 22: Public meeting to consider advisability of imposing a tax for educational purposes. Considerable discussion ensued, all those present being on one side—in favor of education. Mr. Horsfall proposed that the meeting do not agree to any taxation for educational purposes. Seconded by Mr. Dalziell and carried.page 128
June 25: At a meeting of the school committee it was resolved that the chairman be empowered to apply to the Central Board of Education at Auckland to impose a tax estimated at sixpence in the £ on the annual rental on this district for the purpose of raising £150 to be expended as follows: Lining school house £40; fencing £25, debts due £40; rent for teachers' house £25; additional furniture £10; expenses of collection £10; total £150.
June 29: A copy of the above resolution and statement was affixed to the Court-house this day.
August 7: A soiree took place in the Gisborne school-house at 5 p.m. There was a very large attendance of all ages and conditions. It continued until about 4 o'clock next morning. The gross proceeds were £23 2s; tickets 4/-each.
August 22: In the evening a meeting of the Church and school committees to consider the question of religious services in the school-house. Resolved that the school-house be common to all denominations.
February 27, 1873: Mr. O'Sullivan inspecting the school. Attended public meeting for the election of school committee. Committee elected: Capt. Porter (chairman) and Messrs. Steel, Skeet, Webb-and Adams.
March 31: Letter from the Board of Education—salary £150; mistress £15; rent £25; school requisites £10.
April 30: Meeting of the Gisborne school committee. Resolution passed to regulate the price of stationery—sixpence per quarter for slate pencils and 1/- for pens and ink.page 129
January 17, 1874: Public meeting in schoolroom to elect a new committee. The attendance was small and, although five prominent residents (Messrs. Buchanan. Teat, Morgan, Capt. Porter and Rev. Mr. Root) were willing to serve, it was resolved on a motion proposed by Mr. Webb and seconded by Mr. Skeet that no committee should be elected for the present year on account of the unsatisfactory working of The Education Act 1872.
March 30, 1874: Gave notice to the school committee of my intention to apply to the Board of Education for a gratuity to the monitorial teachers.
December 18, 1874: In the morning the Gisborne school examined by the Rev. Mr. Root at the request of the School Commissioners. Result—Reading, very good; writing, fair; arithmetic, very inferior; composition, good; spelling, middling; history, inferior; geography, fair.
April 15, 1875: Saw Mr. Gill, who told me I would shortly get a letter from Capt. Porter about the admission of Native children into the school at a fee of £4 per head per annum by the general government.
June 5, 1875: Dr. Nesbitt brought me an offer from Mr. Gill to take charge of the Native school at Omahu, near Napier. The terms are £150 a year for the master; £20 a year for the mistress; free house, and enclosed garden land of nearly two acres. Limited right to pasture land.
June 8: Resigned the mastership of the Gisborne school.
September 1: Started a school at Omahu, salary £200 per annum; wife's £20.
In 1875, it seems, the bulk of the Native children attending Te Aute school at Napier came from the East Coast. Here is an account of what Te Paki te Amaru, of Uawa, said after a visit to that institution:—
‘I am much pleased with what I have seen and heard here, viz., the personal cleanliness of the children, their clean clothes, the good beds and iron bedsteads, and the wholesome food. They eat from tables and follow the customs and the habits of the pakehas generally. They are taught arithmetic, the English language, and the Scriptures in English. This is good for ‘The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Another good thing is that European children attend the same school; and they all converse together as if they were children of one race. What I also admired was the untiring energy of the teacher, who seemed to take no rest, except when eating or sleeping. I thought if I were still a child I should like to attend this school. The children who attend are—from Tokomaru Bay, 1; from Uawa, 12; Turanga (Gisborne), 3; from Wairoa, 3; and from Napier 3; total 22.”