John Forsyth

John Forsyth

John Forsyth and his wife Elizabeth, who were married on 28 July 1846, arrived with their first child in South Australia on 23 January 1849 aboard the Derwent, from London. He soon found a job and we find John teaching at Nairne, much to the satisfaction of the parents. In August of 1849 they presented the government with a petition asking that, 'We, the undersigned parents and guardians of children are desirous of placing, or continuing, them under the tuition of Mr John Forsyth'. The local JP. added to this that Forsyth was a person of moral habits, and every way fit to undertake the care and instruction of children and that proper accomodation had been provided for the school.

During his time at Nairne, Forsyth became also involved in local affairs. In 1851 he was a member of the Nairne Committee, promoting the election of John Baker. In April 1854 he signed a memorial, presented to Governor Sir Henry Edward Fox Young, against the division of the Nairne district. It was feared 'that it would take away a very considerable portion of the depasturage for the cattle' belonging to some of the town's people.

Five years later, in 1859 John Forsyth was teaching English in Adelaide, together with his wife Elizabeth, at the Government Free School in the parklands. John was in charge of fifty-eight boys and Elizabeth of thirty-eight girls. On 18 July 1860 John applied for the job of Sub-Inspector of schools. He needed the extra money badly as a few months before he had been declared insolvent. He was unsuccessful, but instead got a job at the newly opened school at Noarlunga, which had a three roomed teacher's residence included in the deal.

A visiting school inspector later reported 'Mr Forsyth is a thoroughly systematic and highly qualified teacher'. A year later when Forsyth was in charge of sixty-seven students the inspector reported in much the same vein when he concluded that John Forsyth was 'a highly qualified master' who had 'reason to be satisfied with his success'.

Although the school inspectors were more than happy with Forsyth's teaching abilities, the local parents were not. Several parents had their children transferred to other schools because they were unhappy with his conduct of the school. Some of the charges levelled against him were 'a habit of commenting at length upon the Scriptures after the daily reading, sometimes for as long as an hour or more'. Another complaint was his 'use of improper and unbecoming language in the presence of the scholars, and idle threats of violence to them'.

Forsyth's answers to these charges are not available but in 1865 Forsyth moved to nearby Hackham where he ran the Educational Institute which also accepted boarders. He remained at Hackam until 1869 when he transferred to Riverton .

South Australian Weekly Chronicle November 1865.

By 1871 it turned out that the District Council and the Riverton parents were not very happy either with the way the school was run by Forsyth. They perceived that the school was being conducted 'in a most unsatisfactory manner'. Matters came to a head in December of that year when the District Council Clerk was instructed to request the Board of Education in Adelaide to withdraw Forsyth's teaching licence. John Forsyth must have been convinced that he conducted his classes to the very best of his ability and refused to leave.

There were several public meetings, a court case, a supreme court hearing and writs of ejectment, but Forsyth refused to go. It was not until March 1873 that he finally left. The District Council had to pay all costs, including legal advice, court fees as well as the costs of hiring another teacher and building to conduct classes while Forsyth remained where he was. This would seem to suggest that the charges against Forsyth were not proven

The job for John Forsyth.

During 1874 the residents of the young mining town of Sliding Rock had formed an action group and successfully lobbied the Government for a school. The only thing needed now was someone to teach the children. The school committee started to advertise immediately, promising a daily attendance of thirty children during the day and as many again at night. The newly appointed teacher was John Forsyth who held classes during 1874 for sixty-two days. Enrolment figures for that year were forty boys and twenty girls. The average attendance of the students that year was forty-two days. While waiting for the new school at Sliding Rock to be finished, it was decided that classes would be held in the Chapel.

New Year's Day 1875 saw an achievement of a different kind celebrated. On that day the first anniversary of the Sliding Rock Wesleyan Sunday School was held. It turned out to be an excellent day for the organisers and the fifty children who were on the roll. Many other people attended the tea meeting at which several people spoke. Among those who praised the good work done were the Rev. W.T. Carter and John Forsyth. The children sang several songs under the leadership of Mrs Holmes. Captain Matthews who presided over the festivities acknowledged the efficient services of Mrs Anna Doig in conducting the school and of Mrs Holmes in teaching singing.

Everyone at Sliding Rock seemed to have been satisfied with their teacher. Apart from teaching Forsyth involved himself in many community activities which improved the conditions of the town's people. When the mine's fortunes declined and the school was moved to the nearby town of Beltana, Forsyth went with it and opened the rebuilt school on 8 September 1877.

John and Elizabeth had ten children. John died on 29 November 1883, aged 60 and was buried on 1 December at the West Terrace Cemetery. Their third son Augustus, who had married Margaret Chambers of Stockport on 3 October 1875, committed suicide on 7 October 1886.


If you would like to find out more,
please go to HOME PAGE for more information.
Thank you for visiting Flinders Ranges Research,
We hope you enjoy your stay and find the information useful.
This site has been designed and is maintained by FRR.