Old Fairbridgians Association Molong
HISTORY OF FAIRBRIDGE FARM SCHOOL
The Fairbridge plan for caring for child migrants from Great Britain originated with the founder, Kingsley Fairbridge.
He was a Rhodes Scholar from Rhodesia and was appalled at the conditions of the thousands of under privileged children in England with no future but poverty and probable degradation.
He wanted to transplant such children to the wide-open spaces in colonies. With support from well wishers at Oxford and elsewhere, from whom evolved The Fairbridge Society, he founded the first
Fairbridge Farm School at Pinjarra near Perth WA in 1912.
In 1935 a group of Rhodes Scholars in NSW decided to set up a similar Farm School in NSW. The question of raising sufficient money to purchase suitable land was a big one. With the support of the parent body, The Fairbridge Society Inc. in London and the Governments of the Commonwealth and NSW their plan progressed with considerable financial support from persons and business firms.
In February 1937 a subscription list was opened in The Sydney Morning Herald and it soon passed the target of £50,000. The Committee approved the purchase by Mr. Reid of 'Narragoon', four miles from Molong to be the site of the Fairbridge Farm School. It consisted of 1700 acres, in a rectangular form, 1 mile by 2 ½ miles, with a frontage to the Molong Creek.
In December 1937, The Fairbridge Farm Schools of New South Wales was incorporated under the Companies Act.
To assist in the construction of the buildings for the Farm School the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia and New South Wales made substantial loans available on mortgage and also agreed to make maintenance grants as soon as children reached Molong.
The first Farm Manager, Mr. John Fleming, was appointed in March 1937. The original stock for the farm consisted on two Shorthorn cows and 450 Merino wethers. Other purchases were 129 bags of seed wheat, 11 bags of superphosphate, a horse-rake, a grinder and pickler and a ton of salt.
The position of principal was advertised throughout Australia in March, 1937, and in July Mr. R. R. Beauchamp was appointed.
By November 1937, sufficient progress had been made to have the Farm School officially opened by the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, on November 26th.
The first party of 28 migrant boys arrived in March, 1938, and a second party of 28 arrived in June. In 1939 two more parties reached Molong bringing the number of children in residence to over 130.
Altogether, some 1200 children passed through the Fairbridge Farm School and some of them have entered the professions.
The Fairbridge children were encouraged to belong to the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. There was also a Junior Farmers Club.
Through the co-operation of many private citizens the children were able to spend Christmas holidays away from Molong. Sydney Legacy Club and some Rotary Clubs and Apex Clubs also provided holidays away from the village.
When Mr Beuchamp resigned in 1940, the then Farm Manager, Mr. E. R. Heath became Acting Prinicpal, a post he successfully held until he left in 1945.
Mr F. K. S. Woods, who was made Assistant Principal in 1939 became Acting Principal on Mr Heath's departure and was confirmed in the position of Principal in January 1946. In his long association with the Farm School until his retirement at the end of 1966, Mr Woods endeared himself to the Fairbridge children. He was ably assisted by his first wife, Ruth, whose loving service to Fairbridge is commemorated in a memorial in St John's Church in Molong.
Principals who followed Mr. Woods were Mr. J Newberry, Mr. R Cootes and Mr. D Aubrey.
At the peak of its activities the Fairbridge Village consisted of some eighteen to twenty children's cottages, a dining hall and kitchen, donated by Lord Nuffield, the Principal's house, a cottage hospital, staff quarters, a chapel, in which may Old Fairbridgians were married, a laundry, a wood shed, named the Robert Henderson Thomson Woolshed, after a notable benefactor, and yards donated by AML & F Company, Gloucester House, a focus for Old Fairbridgians reunions, dairy and piggery.
Some of the cottages were donated. Goldsbrough Mort & Co donated four of them. Others were donated by Mrs. Faithfull Anderson, PH Christmas, Esq., Mr. G Gillespie, Mrs. Pattinson, Mr. Magill, Mrs. Robinson, JAH Woods, Esq. and FC Pye.
The post war decision of the United Kingdom Government to ban the migration of children led to considerable difficulties in the administration of the Farm School at Molong. The Fairbridge Society instituted its family schemes whereby one parent families and two parent families were assisted to migrate to Australia, the children being cared for by Fairbridge until the parents had established a home for them. But this scheme proved to be impracticable in New South Wales mainly because of the distance separating the children in Molong from their parents in Sydney. The result was that no more children came to Molong from Britain after 1966.
In an endeavour to maintain the function of the Farm School the Fairbridge Council began to accommodate Australian children but the support of the public for this operation fell away and the Council was faced with continuing financial difficulties which, if not overcome, would have resulted in bankruptcy.
Many suggestions for using the property were considered but none proved to be viable. In 1973 it was decided that the Farm School must close and the property was sold to Mr Tom Barrett on 24th November 1973.