Mayne Island School

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These pages mirror a booklet from 1983, that has been created by the co-operation of many former pupils, teachers, and parents who provided photographs, memories, and written material,  Mrs. Jean Fox, Librian, Ministry of Education, carried out research on former teachers, and the Gulf Islands School Board office staff were most co-operative in letting us use the old school records, Funding for publication of this booklet was provided by the Mayne Island Museum which is operated by the Mayne Island Agricultural Society,
Marie Elliott, Editor for
the Mayne Island School Centenary Committee


The oldest photograph available of a Mayne Island class was taken ca. 1892 by Hannah Maynard of Victoria.  Pictured in the photo­graph are
l to r
Eliza Robson, Nellie Patterson, Alice Heck, Bob Harris, Andy Deacon, Lily Jack, Annie Robson, Mrs. Elsie Patterson, teacher.  Seated:  David Bennett, Green Patterson, Stanley -Robson, Fred Bennett, Ethel Harris, Elsie Patterson, and Gertie Jack








Mayne Island
The First School


Having rowed himself across Active Pass to Mayne Island and back, Charles Groth, a recent settler on Galiano Island, recorded the above entry in his diary for June 1883.  Residents of the Pass area had been petitioning the provincial government for a school since at least 1880.  Their request was finally granted in 1883, and by the end of June a local school board had been formed, with William Robson and Jacob Heck of Mayne Island, and Findlay Murchison of Galiano as the first trustees.  The new school district encompassed Mayne and southern Galiano only, although residents of Saturna and Pender Islands had expressed an interest in participating.
We are not certain whether the children of Charles Groth and Findlay Murchison, Galiano, attended the new school at Mayne, but the children of Henry Georgeson became pupils when he moved to Mayne in 1883 to become the first lighthouse keeper at Georgina Point.  William and Isabella Trueworthy, a niece and nephew of Charles Trueworthy of Saturna, boarded with William  and Ann Robson on Mayne Island in order to attend school.  And in the late 1890's the children of James Georgeson and George Taylor of Saturna lived together at Mayne—the oldest children looking after the youngest—for the same reason.  Galiano and Pender Island did not gain their schools until the 1890's, and Saturna, not until 1919.
There does not appear to be a photograph available of the first schoolhouse, but we know from provincial government records that it was a simple, one-room structure, eighteen by twenty-four feet. Jacob Heck donated an acre of land, which was situated in the center of the island, and at a cost of $200 William Robson erected the building in time for classes to begin in October 1883. In addition to educational purposes, the building was used for church services when itinerant ministers and priests visited the island.  St. Mary Magdalene Church was not consecrated until 1898.
The initial enrolment numbered twenty children, but by the end of 1884 the class had grown to thirty pupils.  Some of the earliest Mayne Island pupils were:  Eva, Emma, and Annie Robson; James, Annie, Thomas, Mary, and John Bennett; William Smith; Matilda, Oscar, and Dora Heck; John and Carl Cook; Melville, Emma, Margaret, and Samuel Collinson; and Dalton, Caroline, William, and Andrew Deacon.

Mrs. Annie Monk was the first school teacher.  She had emigrated from Lancashire, England, to Ontario in the 1870's, where she taught school for several years before moving to British Columbia.  She found it difficult to adjust to the isolated setting of Mayne Island, and was granted a transfer to a new school at Duncan,Vancouver Island, at the end of the first school term in January 1884.  Mr. A.M. Bannerman taught the second term which ended in June 1884.  The teacher's salary was $50 per month, and remained so for many years, despite trustee William Robsonfs frequent pleas to the Superintendent of Education that a larger salary would be more desirable

Mrs, Annie MonkMrs. Annie Monk

In June 1884 and again in June 1885, Hon. William Smithe,   MLA for Cowichan and the Islands, attended end-of-the-year ceremonies at the school, and handed out prizes to the children.  In 1885 Frank Heck and William Trueworthy were voted the best behaved scholars by their peers, and their names were on the roll of honour.  Prizes were also awarded to Annie Bennett, Oscar Heck, and Annie Robson.  The following day after the ceremonies, William Robson introduced an event that was to become a tradition for the school children for years to come—a picnic at the Robson farm.


The Mayne School ca. 1920

In 1894 a new schoolhouse was built, this time somewhat larger, twenty by thirty-four feet, by Villiam Gillespie for $624. While the first schoolhouse lasted only ten years, the second building served island children until 1952.  The only change made to the structure in fifty- eight years was a small addition at one end.  During all these years there was no indoor plumbing. Water for drinking was carried up the hill from the well daily, and strained into a cooler.  An older student was paid monthly to light the stove an hour before morning classes, and to sweep the floor after school each day with damp sawdust

The first teacher to conduct classes in the new building, James Sinclair, was one of the few teachers who remained for any length of time—possibly because he had a family. He taught at Mayne from 1893 to 1901, when he moved to Galiano and taught there. In addition to his teaching duties at Mayne, he also conducted Sunday hymn services at the school, His Christmas parties for the children, held at the school on Christmas Day, were memorable occasions. Newspaper reports claim one hundred people were crowded into a room meant to hold no more than thirty students.

James W. Sinclair
James W. Sinclair

After World War II a number of young families moved to the island. The mothers joined with the long-time resident mothers to form a Parent-Teachers Association, They introduced modern innovations such as hot soup at lunch time at the school, and by holding dances and bazaars they raised money for new sports equipment and a larger playground,  This very active PTA was instrumental in lobbying for a new school in the late 1940's.

This second schoolhouse is being utilized today as a recreational hall by the Mayne Island Fire Department.  In the 1960's the building was moved from its original site to a new location beside the fire hall.  The firemen are presently making modest alterations, but most of the original exterior has been retained. Several years ago this schoolnouse was included in a national survey of historic schoolhouses, and it is presently being catalogued by the Islands Trust staff for their heritage building survey of the Gulf Islands.



Our mailing address is:
Box 256, Ganges P.O.
Salt Spring Island, B.C. V8K 2V9
phone: (250) 537-2622

e-mail: dmcwhirt@telus.net



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