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School Bell brings back fond memories for the Simpson family

The historic Dunsdale School bell was presented to the Kuaotunu Hall Committee on Saturday 9th December. It will now occupy pride of place in a kauri case in the hall.   The bell is significant to the Simpson family whose history goes back a long way in the Kuaotunu area.
 |  Dorothy Preece  |  ,

The bell started its life at Dunsdale Farm, situated on the Kuaotunu road near Simpsons Beach (Wharekaho).  The farm was owned by two Simpson brothers, Arthur and Henry who moved there when they came back from the First World War. Both had large families, Henry having six children and Arthur, eight. As the children grew they had no school to go to – Kuaotunu School being too far for them to travel. When the oldest children were seven and eight, the brothers applied to the Education Board for permission to start a school on the property for all the Simpson children.  Permission was granted, with the proviso that the family paid the teacher!  An old chaff mill was converted as the school room, with desks, books and maps on permanent loan from the Kuaotunu School, and the first three children began their education.  

In 1922 at age 16, Arthur and Henry’s younger sister Winifred, ‘Auntie Win’ began teaching the Dunsdale children. Winifred taught at the school (and rang the bell) for six years, commuting on horseback each Monday morning from her parents’ home in Kuaotunu, and living week-about with Arthur and Henry. The children did not relish these visits, for when the teacher was in the house, homework was compulsory!  When Winifred left the job, Miss Clarice Hamilton took over as teacher. By this time the Education Board was paying the salary.  After travelling overseas, Winifred eventually went on to teach at the Kuaotunu School.

The Dunsdale School amalgamated with Mercury Bay Primary in 1940.  Winifred died in 20ll at age 107. But Winifred’s school bell has been passed down the generations of Simpsons to the present day.  The last custodian of the bell was John Jackman, whose mother was Dorothy Simpson, daughter of Arthur. John died on April 18th this year, and his wife Larissa presented the bell at a Simpson family gathering in the Kuaotunu Hall.  Two of the three remaining Dunsdale pupils, George Simpson age 93, and Betty Barnwell, age 96(son and daughter of Arthur) were present to unveil and ring the bell.  The third original pupil, Joan Whiting, (daughter of Henry Simpson), was represented at the gathering by her son Stephen. National Party MP Scott Simpson attended the family gathering. Both George and Betty aimed a few words at Scott, about the state of education in New Zealand schools today.

Caption: ; The Dunsdale Bell in its new cabinet.