• Schooling and the Railway


    We know that the Selwood children went to Lumsden School from 1889.  They continued to go to Lumsden School until 1898 even though the family shifted to Parawa in 1892.

    Henry started school in 1889 but finished his schooling within a year.  His school record said he was born in 1876 but we know he was born in 1874, so there may have been a family sensitivity to declaring his true age.  At the age of 15, Henry had just a brief introduction to formal schooling.

    Edith started and completed her education when the family was living for that two-year period at Lumsden.  Both Elizabeth (Bessie) and Helena (Nellie) started their education in September 1889 and completed it by the end of 1893.

    Lily Selwood started at the age of six at Lumsden School in April 1890 and continued until August 1998 after which, from the school record, she was destined to go to Athol School.

    Albert (Bertie) Selwood started his Lumsden schooling from January 1892 and by February 1898 the record says he was destined for “home”.

    The next four children, Charles, Rosie, William and Evelyn (Eva), started their schooling at Lumsden, by which time the family had moved to Parawa.  By August 1898 Charles was destined for Athol School, Rosie and Eva destined for Garston School, whereas William was destined for “home”.

    We know, by way of a “Dear Dot” letter from eleven-year-old Nellie, that in 1892 she and the family were living at Parawa and that she was travelling 34 miles (55 km) to and from school.  We will see later in this section how they achieved this.

    From September 1898 the children shifted to Athol School.  Athol School was just 6 km to the north of Parawa, so it is a bit of a mystery why some of the children spent six years of their lives travelling the 27 km distance to Lumsden before transferring to Athol School in 1898, which they attended up to 1901.

    The question now is:  how did the children routinely travel to and from the Athol School?  There are two probabilities:  walking or local horse transport.  We know that father James Selwood had horses and a dray.  Perhaps he hitched up and regularly took the children to school.  We know from young Lily’s “Dear Dot” letter that mother Helena was an accomplished horse rider, so perhaps she and her children went to school on horseback.  There was a train service before the introduction in 1900 of the famous “Kingston Flyer”, but this was not daily and nor did it in any way harmonise with school hours.

    Athol School opened in 1878.  “There were thirteen pupils when the school opened in a small building beside the main road to the northern end of the village.” (from “Live and Let Live” by Lyndel Soper).  It must have been bleak and cold in the schoolhouse as for many years the school committee tried to persuade the Education Board to move the school to a better location.  “The site was one of the worst in Athol, a hill about 2000 feet high overshadowing the school with the result that the only sun the school obtained in the winter months was between 11am and 2pm.  Despite the fact that a big fire was kept going the temperature of the building at 10am on a winter’s day was never more than twelve degrees above freezing (7°C), while sometimes it was down to two degrees above freezing (1°C).”  (From Live and Let Live by Lyndel Soper).  Sadly, it was many years after the Selwood children left before the school was shifted to a warmer place down the valley and where it is now located.

    School records show the following Selwood children attending Athol School:

    Lily Selwood (born 1884) Standard 5.  From 22.8.1898 to 13.10.1899

    Bertie Selwood (born 10.3.1886) Standards 2-4.  From 22.8.1898 to 25.6.1901

    Charles Selwood (born 26.8.1887) Standards 3-4.  From 22.8.1898 to 25.6.1901

    Rosie Selwood (born 19.1.1889) Infants to Standard 3.  From 22.8.1898 to 25.6.1901

    Willie Selwood (born 20.8.1890) Infants to Standard 2.  From 22.8.1898 to 25.6.1901

    Eva Selwood (born 24.4.1892) Infants Standards 2.  From 22.8.1898 to 25.6.1901

    Hilda Selwood (born 16.9.1894) Infants.  From 1900 to 25.6.1901

    So, compared to the Lumsden School departure notes, William did not stay “home” but continued his schooling at Athol, whereas Rosie went to the Athol School and not to Garston School further up the road to Kingston.

    Lily completed her education at the Athol School.  School records note that, in 1901, Selwood children Albert (Bertie), Charles (Charlie), Rosie, William (Willie), Evelyn (Eva), and Hilda (Tot) were identified as “destination Kingston”, so for them another location and school shift awaits.

    The Lumsden-Kingston Railway Line

    The railway line north of Lumsden to Kingston was completed in very quick time.  With the exception of three bridges across the Mataura River, there were no major difficulties in establishing the line to Kingston.  Parawa and Garston were opened on 28 January 1878, Fairlight on 29 April 1878 and to the wharf-side terminal at Kingston on 10 July 1878.  All this development occurred while the Selwoods were at Windley on Burwood Station.

    When the Parawa railway siding was completed, it was at a height of 860 feet (262 metres) above sea level.  A local resident was asked for the name of the locality.  He knew the Maori name, Paiherewao, but could not adequately pronounce it, so it initially became Parrawa until an edict from the railways Chief Engineer in Wellington resulted in the change to Parawa in November 1906.

    The Selwood family established themselves at the Parawa Junction Hotel in 1892, 14 years after the railway had arrived.  In those days rail was well established and was the preferred means of travel with good connections to Lumsden, Invercargill, Dunedin and further afield.  No doubt the Selwood family used the rail extensively.

    The train was the way the Selwood children went to and from their Lumsden School.  Railway schedules changed regularly but from my research at the National Archives here is an indication of the schedule: 

    To Lumsden 1893-99 1900 1900
      Mon, Wed, Fri Sat only Daily Mon, Wed, Sat only
    Dep Kingston 8.45am 6.10am 9.00am
    Dep Fairlight 9.11am * *
    Dep Athol 9.45am 7.15am 9.50am
    Parawa * * *
    Dep Lowther * * *
    Arr Lumsden 10.45am 8.20am 10.45am
    From Lumsden 4.40pm 3.40pm 6.25pm
      Mon, Wed, Fri Sat only Mon, Wed, Sat only Daily
    Dep Lowther 4.59pm * *
    Parawa * * *
    Dep Athol 5.48pm 4.30pm 7.35pm
    Dep Fairlight 6.25pm * *
    Arr Kingston 6.50pm 5.30pm 8.35pm

    In the 1880s and 1890s it was accepted by the Education Department that children in the country may not be able to attend school on a daily basis.  There was an acceptance of missing up to 50 percent of schooling before the truancy officer was sent out to investigate!   The Selwood children would have missed school on a Tuesday and Thursday from 1892 until a full weekly service was introduced with the Kingston Flyer in 1900.

    As a railway flag station, Parawa was the centre of a somewhat prosperous agricultural district, and also where mining and flax milling occurred.  Fertilisers and lime were brought in, and sheep, cattle and flax were transported out by rail.  Postal and telephonic business was conducted at the Parawa Junction Hotel, probably after the time that the Selwoods were there, and mail was received and dispatched daily.  The population of Parawa in the census of 1901 was 60.  Today there is no community there.