The Forgotten Ones: Teachers in the Catholic Schools of New South Wales before 1880

By Luttrell, John | Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, Annual 2013 | Go to article overview

The Forgotten Ones: Teachers in the Catholic Schools of New South Wales before 1880


Luttrell, John, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society


Author: Charles McGee

Sydney: Catholic Education Office, 2012

104 pages: illustrations, facsimilies, portraits ; 24 cm

ISBN: 9781863828390 (paperback) 1863828397 (paperback)

Includes bibliographical references (pages 95-101)

In the history of Catholic education in NSW one of the best known episodes is that of Premier Henry Parkes' ending government funding for private schools with the Public Instruction Act of 1880. This could well have been the death knell of the many Catholic schools which since the early 1800s had been staffed by teachers employed by the local parish priest. However, the schools were saved by the bishops' policy of bringing in religious orders to manage and staff the schools from the 1880s to the 1960s. Naturally, histories of Catholic education have since given great prominence to the contribution of religious orders who have maintained continuous archives.

But what of those hundreds of teachers who had pioneered Catholic schooling in New South Wales in the decades before 1880? Few names have been recorded in general histories and little has been published about their struggles and achievements. Charles McGee has set out to fill this gap in the history of Catholic education. He brings a long interest and experience to the topic, from his years as a teacher in Catholic schools, first as a Marist Brother and later as a lay teacher. His earlier books include On a Winner: A History of Marcellin College Randwick and A Decision Not Regretted: The Early Years of Rugby League in Sydney Schools.

McGee traces the story of Catholic schools from beginnings amongst Irish convicts around 1800 and shows how they developed strongly when the Church Act of 1836 ensured funds for church schools. While this story has been told before by the likes of Ronald Fogarty, McGee's concern is to name and recognise the many teachers involved. Therefore he devotes a chapter to each decade provides cameo accounts of a number of teachers in Catholic schools in that decade. Each chapter ends with a list of names and schools for the decade - for the 1830s he has found the names of sixty teachers and their schools and for the 1860s he identified 300 teachers. …

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