February 8 - 14, 2015: Issue 201
Off To School - 1874
Over the past week or so Aussie kids have been packing their lunchboxes, donning their uniforms, gathering their books and heading back to school.
Back in 1874 the trip to school for many kids was rather different than it is today. This engraving from The Australasian Sketcher depicts four brothers who lived around 24km from their nearest school, which the paper described as 'a condition that would damp the ardour for knowledge of most youthful aspirants to learning'.
However, enlisting the service of their father's old horse these boys were not put off and each day would 'mount this highly domestic quadruped, sitting one after the other on the bare back, the eldest in front to 'steer', and trot off to the distant school in the morning … In the afternoon, school over, the passengers climb up to their not too comfortable seat, and the steady-going old steed readily gets up the steam for a swinging trot homeward.'
ON THE ROAD TO SCHOOL.
To ride a long distance every day to school is not at all peculiar to Australia, but there is no doubt that it is sometimes done here under conditions that are essentially local. A rather singular case of this kind has furnished our artist with an illustration, which will not be viewed with less interest on account of the circumstance it depicts having an actual foundation in fact, and being chronicled in a Victorian newspaper. Four young boys in a bush locality live no less than 15 miles from the nearest school. This is a condition that would damp the ardour for knowledge of most youthful aspirants to learning, and would be looked upon by many parents as satisfactorily exempting them from the operation of the compulsory clause of the Education Act. Not so with the youngsters in question. Their father has an old horse, which would appear to possess the sailor's great point of merit in a horse, 'a long back and good, carrying capacity.' They all mount this highly domestic quadruped, sitting one after the other on the bare and somewhat razor-shaped back, the eldest in front to 'steer,' and trot off to the distant school in the morning, returning at night. The patient horse, who is entirely uninterested in such matters as educational standards, has, nevertheless, to render his services towards this object, and jogs off with the juvenile family on his back to the school, where nothing but a not very luxuriant grass paddock awaits him. In the afternoon, school over, he is again caught, the old cart 'winkers.'-are slipped over his somewhat elongated head, the passengers climb up to their not too comfortable seat, and the steady going old steed readily gets up the steam for a swinging trot homeward. In a school at Tasmania, on a recent occasion, one pupil, a girl, was distinguished with a prize on account of the immense number of miles that she had to travel on foot in a year for the education she was acquiring. If not only results, but also the labour of getting them, were taken into consideration, our young Victorians might perhaps be thought deserving of some other form of recognition in addition to that of having their daily journey made the subject of a picture in The Sketcher.
ON THE ROAD TO SCHOOL.- ON THE ROAD TO SCHOOL. (1874, October 31). The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil(Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889), p. 117. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60605615