Brian Ross Centenary Interview

Morawa District High School Centenary

Celebrating the past, present and future.


One teacher schools began closing during the 1940’s and 1950’s and this was the case in Gutha and Canna. In 1952 a large school bus was engaged to run from north of Canna through Gutha and Pintharuka to transport about 55 students to the then junior high school at Morawa.

The Gutha school had about 14 pupils and they joined other children from Canna and Pintharuka on the long journey to Morawa every day. With the large influx of students coming to Morawa from all directions, many more class rooms had to be found.

The Morawa lesser hall and the supper room of the Masonic Lodge were used until the Christian Centre hall and new class rooms were built later on. About that time the Morawa Convent was also built and was able to take primary students.

The school bus that we travelled on was a large ex Scarborough Bus Service bus whose best years were behind it but it did a remarkable job considering there were only rough gravel roads. With about 55 children aboard, it was always three per seat on each side of the aisle and the last ones on were sitting on their case down the centre of the bus.

In the 1950’s the only piece of technology we had in the class room was a film projector and large rolls of film would come from Perth to be shown to the students. The tape on these rolls had to be threaded through the projector, a very complex procedure, but there was one student who understood the technology and he was happy to run the films. After leaving Morawa, he joined the Air Force as an instrument fitter but was sadly killed in an accident in Asia.

I remember very fondly of my classmates of those years of the early to mid 1950’s but, sadly, a large number are not with us now. In those days, we had children from almost every farm, plus children from bank managers, stock agents and other shops and businesses in town, including families of the ministers of religion. Rev. Brian Albany from the Anglican Church started a Boy Scouts group in town and it proved to be exceedingly popular. The scouts always met on Friday after school and it was not uncommon to see these boys turn up to class in their scouts uniform ready for the meeting later on.

One of the headmasters at the time that I was at the Morawa High School was Mr. Stan White. He was a dedicated devotee of flora and fauna and, along with Dr. Vincent Serventy, went away on many weekends to camp out and observe the wildlife. The pair wrote many books and articles along with photographs, which were printed and circulated widely.

Mr. Dalrymple, Mr. Stan White, Mr. Gwyn Griffiths and Mr. Clarry Roberts were the Headmasters who were there about my time at the school. All had different styles and personalties and were good at their job. My favourite was Mr. Griffiths, a man of Welsh descent who loved to sing and would sing a song in the classrooms whenever a particular region or area was part of the lesson. The Road to Mandalay in Burma and The White Cliffs of Dover were always popular. He also loved to umpire a football match with an umbrella over his head and a whistle in his mouth while walking around the centre of the ground.

Compared with today’s school room equipment, our requisites were very basic, with ink powder mixed with water in the inkwells and the books were just adequate. There were no computers, mobile phones or calculators to make the lessons easier. In High School some subjects were not taught by the teacher. Science and some maths subjects, such as algebra and trigonometry and health were all done by correspondence. A parcel of correspondence lessons came to the old R. & I. bank every week and subjects were handed to the students to be returned by the next week.

School sport was always very popular in Morawa with some good sport teachers. Keith Hoffman was very good at football and coached and promoted the Morawa schoolboys team. Ironically, his twin brother, Noel, taught at the Mingenew school and we had many interesting and hard fought football matches against Mingenew considering the respective coaches.

One memorable occasion was the time when 400 mm of rain fell in one night at Wuraga, near Yalgoo in 1953 and, as a result a flood of water flowed down the lakes, just south of town. The water was about a metre deep and a kilometre wide and rushed through the lakes for about two weeks. As a result, no school bus could get through from Perenjori or other areas south of Morawa.

As school children in 1953, we had our first sight of vapour trails from jet aircraft as they flew overhead from Perth to the Monte Bellos Islands. The English were doing tests with atomic bombs on the islands in that region, which is in the north west of Port Hedland

Carnation milk mixed with rain water was handed out to all students at recess and I do not remember any refrigeration at the school. I remember seeing those jets go over while outside mixing the milk.

During my time at the school, the Morawa water supply was in very bad shape and all the water you got from the taps was a slow muddy trickle. There was no sewerage at that time all the toilets relied on the pan system. The gold mines at Gullewa had closed down before World War 2 because of an over abundance of water. This water was being considered to be pumped to Morawa, but there was also talk that it may contain some arsenic. The Water Supply then decided to pump the water from the Arrowsmith River.

In the 1950’s and early 1960’s the shire powerhouse was situated between the school and the town hall and where the museum is now, was a large shire barracks, which housed single workers. When Western Mining came to town to begin iron ore mining at the Koolanooka Hills, they built a new powerhouse behind the police station and they delivered AC power to the town. The old power station only delivered DC power, so all electrical appliances in the town had to be renewed. With the advent of AC power, it was then possible to run power lines to all of the farms who were grateful to change from 32 volt power.

The football oval the school used in those days was behind where the tennis courts are now and the boys had to run down to the oval then play their game. Later on, a new oval was built on the present site which used to be the Morawa show grounds. The old oval was then turned into a drive-in movie theatre. The present Golf and Bowling Club was built and opened in 1964.

A very popular event before the opening of the drive-in was the movies which were screened in the town hall every Tuesday night. The movies were very well patronised every week by young and old alike. The town had an enterprising shopkeeper who used to wheel a flat topped hand car full of drinks, icecreams, lollies, chips, etc. to sell during the interval at half time. His name was Mr. Andrew Torrent and during his time in Morawa, started a cool drink factory where he brewed and bottled his own brand of cool drinks. He also stabled a large horse behind his shop which he used to pull his wagon to cart groceries from the railway goods shed to his shop.

Congratulations to the Morawa District High School on achieving 100 years of continual service to the children of the area. They have certainly lived up to their school motto of Ëndeavour and Achieve”. Our Ross clan in Scotland goes back many hundreds of years and our motto is “Success Nourishes Hope” and when combined with Ëndeavour and Achieve” certainly starts you in the right direction.

Brian Ross
Student of the 1950’s


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