Grand pa­rade for Tu­tu­rau’s 145th

Newslink - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - RACHAEL KELLY

‘‘We had a li­brary down be­side the hall and as far as I know it was the first in South­land.’’

Yes, that cat had vis­ited the taxi­der­mist be­fore mak­ing an ap­pear­ance at Tu­tu­rau School’s pet day and birth­day cel­e­bra­tions on Mon­day.

And yes, it did have wheels at­tached so two-year-old Ri­ley Ren­ton could tow it around dur­ing the grand pa­rade.

Its name is Wil­ber­force, and in a pre­vi­ous life it was a pen­guin eater on the Otago Penin­sula.

Its owner, South­land Times colum­nist Lloyd Esler, ’’brought it along in case there were any chil­dren here who did not have a pet’’.

But pets aplenty - and well at­tired ones at that, were towed, car­ried or pulled around the school’s field as the com­mu­nity threw its school a party.

It wasn’t just the pets that were suit­ably dressed up.

Ev­ery­one had ap­pro­pri­ate turn of the cen­tury garb on to cel­e­brate 145 years of education in the district.

Tu­tu­rau School is Eastern South­land’s old­est, and it’s not hard to imag­ine what the school was like for the 14 pupils who ar­rived for their first day of learn­ing in June of 1871.

The school is still in the same spot, nes­tled into rolling farm­land above the Mataura River.

One of the school’s old­est sur­viv­ing pupils is 95-year-old Ron Dickie.

He and Eleanor Dickie, who was born an hour be­fore him and went to Tu­tu­rau School along­side him, vis­ited on Mon­day.

It was con­sid­ered to be ‘‘quite a district’’ when they started at the school in 1921, Ron said.

‘‘We had a li­brary down be­side the hall and as far as I know it was the first in South­land. There was only one teacher.’’

While the school’s site is still in the same place, the pupils are now learn­ing in the fourth build­ing built there.

‘‘The first one got moved out to Fern­dale. They rolled it on logs and towed it with a trac­tion en­gine, I re­mem­ber that,’’ he said.

‘‘Then they put it on a trailer and that was the first time we’d ever seen one.’’

Time has marched on, but the school was still a fun place to visit 90 years after Ron started there.

Go­ing to a ru­ral school was just as good as it used to be, and he hoped the school would al­ways have enough chil­dren to stay open.

‘‘Chil­dren are still here, just like we did.’’ play­ing

Former pupil, 95-year-old Ron Dickie. Ri­ley Ren­ton, 2, tows Wil­ber­force the cat around at Tu­tu­rau School’s birth­day cel­e­bra­tions.

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