An education among the Bunya treetops
Like many bush schools Mowbullan Provisional School was small and at any time in its seven years never had a lot of pupils but it may have had one claim to fame. It may have been the highest school in Queensland as it was built in the rainforest right on top of the Bunya Mountains.
It was opened not far from a sawmill which still operated in the area and most of the children attending came from families who worked in the timber industry.
When Tom Kerr was appointed teacher of the school in 1946, he wasn’t sure how to get there and was advised to go my train to Nanango, which he did. He paid five pounds for a taxi to take him to the mountains. They arrived at the steep and narrow climb to the top. However when they reached the Yellow Pinch the taxi met its match and could go no further.
Tom decided he would walk to the top and get someone to bring his luggage up but when they got back, the taxi had gone, taking his suitcase and personal gear with it. It was over a week before he got his luggage back. After a rough start he found his accommodation was good as he was staying at the guesthouse then owned by Mrs Green.
Tom Kerr completed three years teaching at Mowbullan School. He found it a place with a difference as one bleak morning snow began to fall. No children showed up so he closed the school and went home.
The first teacher who opened the school was Charles Law. As he only had one year’s teaching experience it was a big undertaking to pioneer a new school. The children ranged from beginners to Grade 7. He began to feel a little insecure, surrounded by dense rainforest and a long way from family and friends. He stuck it out for a year and left the mountains to join the air force.
The next teacher was Robert Walker who in later years was well known in Toowoomba education circles. He too stayed at Green’s guesthouse. He never forgot the narrow rough roads which wound up the Bunyas. At times during heavy fog, he sat on the mudguard of Green’s car to ensure they didn’t drive over the edge. Robert remembered the cold winters when the water in the wheel ruts stayed frozen all day.
Mrs Algar conducted a boarding house that was used by the men working in the sawmill. Before they went to school the Algar children had to yard and milk by hand six or seven dairy cows. If they were running late for school they sometimes “borrowed” the old car owned by one of the men and drove it there to be on time.
When the sawmill closed, the school building was moved to Dandabah Picnic Ground where it still stands today. It closed in 1950 and only 51 pupils had attended during the seven years. For some time it was used as a store room and then a National Park’s office. Today it has been moved to one side and used as a home for the chocolate wattled bats.