This was Russell c.1911-12. The old school is in the centre of the scene. Built in 1893, it was turned around in 1956 to allow more light and sun into the classrooms. Who could have known then that the new aspect would be ideal for the installation of solar panels in 2015? The old school house, seen here to the south of the school, was picked up and moved to its present site on Beresford St before the work on the school began. According to oral histories collected at the museum, the house was moved in the same way that Polynesian waka all over the Pacific and boats all over New Zealand have been moved up and down beaches for centuries – on rollers. The rollers under the school house were, reputedly, the size of telephone poles. The house site was levelled and turned into a playing field in 1958. In February 1911 four names were added to the school’s attendance register: Neville Fuller, Jane Rivers, Grace Forsyth and John Bernard Williams. During 1911 the school admitted or readmitted 37 students.
What else happened in 1911? In April a nationwide census was held, Maori and Pakeha being surveyed separately. Russell Riding’s Pakeha population was 388. In the wider Bay of Islands County there were 2623 Maori and 3147 Pakeha, living in 598 ‘houses and huts’ or 67 ‘tents and dwellings with canvas roofs’ while 55 people lived ‘shipboard’. (At the March 2013 census 720 people were usually resident in Russell in 384 dwellings.) Schooling in the Bay was recorded too: there were 2 secondary and 563 primary school students. 31 children received instruction at home.
Two mementoes from 1911 have ended up in Russell Museum’s collection: a schoolchildren’s souvenir medal minted to commemorate the Coronation of George V & Queen Mary in June and a piece of grapeshot, a golf ball-sized piece of ammunition, that caretaker Henry Moors dug up in the old Russell churchyard. It was probably part of HMS Hazard’s bombardment of 11th March 1845.In 1911, as it is today, history was being written, unearthed and lived through all at the same time. We are left with only the smallest glimpses.