Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 24 July 2014 Contents LOCAL NEWS
24 July, 2014 | Page 7
The final curtain fell on
Blackmount School on Saturday
evening with a community get-
together to formally mark the
end of more than 100 years of
classroom education in the remote
western Southland district.
The school's board of trustees
reluctantly made the decision to
work towards voluntary closure
earlier this year after it accepted
that the dwindling roll was no long
sustainable. The remaining three
pupils completed their studies
there at the end of term two,
however the gazetted closure did
not come into effect until Sunday
so members of the community,
joined by former pupils and
staff, took the opportunity to
say a proper farewell to the local
People began arriving about 4pm,
enjoying time to meet and mingle
over nibbles until the formal
speeches about 6pm.
Board of Trustees chairman Neil
Robertson told the 100-odd
gathered that the occasion was for
"celebrating the memories of the
past and looking forward to the
opportunities of the future".
He thanked principal Linda Lewis
for her dedication to the school
and the community and her
professionalism over the past 25
years -- firstly as a teacher and
latterly as principal. The board
then presented her with a painting
of the school against the backdrop
of Titaroa Mountain that had been
given to the school by the artist
Barbara Smith at the time of its
centenary in 2011. She was also
given a plaque of the Takitimu
mountains depicted in paua shell
on a rimu background made by
OceanShell in Riverton, and a posy
In accepting the accolades and
gifts, Mrs Lewis quoted the
wording from the school logo --
"taking steps up the mountains of
"Some children find the steps up
the first mountain of learning --
the primary school -- are steeper
than other children find them, but
all who have taught at Blackmount
have helped give the children
the tools, skills and knowledge
they needed for their backpacks
so they were ready for the next
mountain of learning," she said.
"I have always loved teaching.
The children have been the
focus of my teaching life -- the
innocence of the young ones who
believe everything you say to the
challenge of keeping ahead of
the older students (years 7 and
8 particularly), and not always
Others present for the final
farewell included Southland
District Mayor Gary Tong who
had enjoyed a long relationship
with the area, firstly offering
educational programmes as the
Tuatapere police constable, later
as the manager of nearby Borland
Lodge and most recently as Mayor.
The oldest former pupil to attend
was John Warren, now in his
late 80's, who began school at
Blackmount in the 1930's when
his father was working at Monowai
Power Station. One of his brothers
and two sisters were also there on
Among the ex-staff present was
former principal Wayne Green who
travelled from Invercargill along
with his wife Raewyn who was a
former pupil of the school. Both
taught there when Mr Green was
principal for six years during the
1970's. During their tenure the
roll peaked at 42 pupils with a
bus bringing children from the
Monowai hydro village every day.
"That's operated by one person
now I understand," Mr Green said.
He said that while there was an
underlying sadness, the mood on
Sunday was upbeat and everyone
present relished the opportunity to
reminisce about their times at the
Mrs Lewis said the difficult
decision was now behind the
community and there was a
positive air and a sense of
celebration for "how lucky we were
to have had our school".
"There were regretful moments...
but I think they all knew that it was
inevitable and we've got to move
forward," she said.
Photograph albums, prepared as a
keepsake for the last pupils,
and other memorabilia got a
great deal of attention and
sparked many stories.
Also much admired was a banner
that had been designed and
stitched by the pupils as a surprise
for Mrs Lewis that had been gifted
to the community.
Buttons on it represent the
number of families that have
attended the school. The trunk is
represented by the two hands of
Mrs Lewis and release teacher
Helen Scott, holding up the
families. The Takitimu Mountains
go across the top of the banner.
There is the playground, a book,
the school bus and the school at
the bottom with the school bell
rung for the last time. The three
birds were made by each child.
Sarah Slee is the pink one, Nikita
Gow the blue and Harry Mather
the red one. They symbolise the
remaining three children flying
away to new schools.
Sociable end for Blackmount School
Blackmount School principal Linda Lewis and the last pupils to be taught
there (from left) Sarah Slee (9), Harry Mather (5) and Nikita Gow (12) with the
commemorative banner they designed, sewed and gifted to the community.
About 100 people gathered to pay a last farewell to Blackmount School on Saturday.
PHOTO: Trudy Slee
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