Grand parade for Tuturau’s 145th
‘‘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.