In January 1917 the Headmaster of Scotch College in Launceston announced that he was moving his school to a farm called Ravenscraig at Newstead.
Mitchell Tovell had bought Scotch College boys’ school, located in York Street, in 1914 and had brought it under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church.
With Australia in the grip of the Great War the decision to move his small college “out of town” was a brave one but it would, in time, prove most fortuitous.
On January 13, 1917, The Examiner’s reporter “Silvia” wrote that the 3.6 hectare Ravenscraig farm, the former home of Ethol and the Reverend Cecil Fawns, seemed to be perfect for a boarding school.
“Early in February the Scotch College will be re-opened there under the most attractive conditions. The location is the healthiest imaginable.”
It was stated that 30 boarders could be accommodated at Ravenscraig and day boys would continue to be accepted.
The story said the property had ”every convenience” including electric light and hot water and the telephone connected. There was also a fine supply of vegetables, fruit, and milk, and fish from the river.
The home featured a “cheerful” dining room and music room, comfortably furnished, that commanded an eastern view.
“In every way the house is as if it were built for a school,” The Examiner reported.
It said Mr Tovell had arranged the dormitories well.
“Special arrangements are now in course of completion for cold shower baths, dressing room, and lavatories on the first floor. The boys will veritably have a home away from home.”
A “spacious” lodge near the entrance gate was being converted into three classrooms, separated by accordion doors, and comfortable desks were being installed.
The spacious grounds included a paddock for ponies if boys wanted to ride to school and a bicycle garage.
There was space for a cricket ground and goal posts had been erected for football. There was a tennis court and a playground for junior boys.
A terraced bank led down to the North Esk River where there was a “fine” swimming pool with a springboard and dressing shed.
While The Examiner’s reporter might have been a little too enthusiastic in her description of Ravenscraig after extensive renovations and many additions the site has stood the test of time.
On Saturday, November 30, this year, the school now known as Scotch Oakburn College will hold a “Centenary Celebration of the Scotch College Lunch,” to mark the first annual reunion and dinner for the Scotch College Old Boys Association held in 1919.
(Written for the Launceston Historical Society and published in the Sunday Examiner on 28 July 2019)
Photograph of the original Ravenscraig homestead courtesy of the Scotch Oakburn College Archives