He certainly was to me when I was his class of one, whether it was explaining something about Nature in the garden, or inspiring me to read Dickens, or telling me of his own past, or telling me about just about any place I pointed to in the atlas…
But let his daughter, my mother, explain:
It was quite a challenging task to teach forty children in one room over six classes with ages ranging from 5 to 15. A deal of thought, of preparation, and great organising ability, were needed to keep each section actually engaged in quieter activities. Much has been said for and against the standard in these small schools, but I feel that given an earnest and sincere teacher the pupils gained much more than they lost, and the students of this particular school proved in the years to come that they could take their place in any field of commerce, profession, or industry, without apologising for their humbler beginnings. [NOTE: one such student was Sinclair Hill, famous for his Polo connection with the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles, among others. The story goes that his parents kept him at Braefield, rather then sending him to a private school for his early learning, because they so respected my grandfather as a teacher.]
In this building the younger children were taught to read, to write, to spell, to add, subtract, multiply, and all that is learned in any Kindergarten or Infants section of a modern school. To the older children in the upper classes the concept had to be more attractive and more challenging; their interest had to be aroused.
The worlds of History, Geography, and our spoken language, English, were wells of untapped splendour waiting to be opened. To these bush children it was a fascinating exerience to learn, and they were avid for knowledge. A lover of poetry himself, my father instilled in his pupils enough of the splendour of the written word to make them long to find more for themselves, which is so very necessary. He introduced them to Shakespeare, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Byron, Burns, the Brownings, Coleridge, Longfellow, Scott, Stevenson, Dickens… As for Australian poetry, it seemed to find an echo in the very hearts of the bush children, as Lawson, Kendall, Paterson, Adam Lindsay Gordon, Dorothea Mackellar, George Essex Evans, Bernard O’Dowd, and anyone else who had found a place in the Treasury of Australian Verse, wrote of things and places the children knew. Such was our heritage, to store in our minds for all times.
Not a bad role model.