It is hard to believe that a forgotten, dirt road terminating at the Manning River was once the hub of a busy, farming community. Redbank Road, Pampoolah used to host a church, hall, school, teacher’s residence, sawmill and punt.
Redbank School started as a Presbyterian denominational school for the local community. In 1852 it became the first National School in the district, years before any schools in Taree, Glenthorne or Wingham.1 The first teacher was Irishman William Small who taught there for nine years.2 His students “had to wade, flamingo-like, through a swamp to reach their academy”.3
In 1872 Hugh McKinnon at the age of 17 became the new teacher. The old slab school was falling to pieces, so Hugh gathered his mates to straighten the walls, replace slabs and lime wash the building. Young men from the sawmill approached Hugh to start a night school. He had 30 pupils three nights a week where they learned reading, writing and arithmetic, all for free except for the cost of lighting.
Parents from Oxley Island wanted to send their children to this school so they organised a punt for 50 students which Hugh operated every morning and afternoon. With 70 students, a new building was provided by the department and relocated to its present spot near the river bank. The large Richmond River pines (Hoop Pines) were also reportedly planted by Hugh.4 This influential teacher went onto become a State Member of Parliament and later a local councillor.5
Redbank School was renamed Pampoolah School in December 1890 and closed in May 1973.6 The school buildings are now private property.
Author: Janine Roberts
Sponsored by the Old Bar Manning Point Business & Community Association and supported by Create NSW’s Cultural Grant Program, a devolved funding program administered by the Royal Australian Historical Society on behalf of the NSW Government.
1 Northern Champion, 5 June 1948, 6.
2 Manning River Times, 31 July 1948, 10.
3 SMH, 10 June 1856, 3.
4 Wingham Chronicle, 28 Sep 1928, 8.
5 Northern Champion, 5 June 1929, 3.
6 Government school records 1848-2019. NSW Department of Education.