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Trip down memory lane for former Bourke teachers

Former Bourke teachers in Bourke again on the weekend – Ian Turner, Liz Turner (Dart), Ray Collins, Lilian Dowell, Robert and Ariane Dixon, John Dowell (back) and Lorri and Glenn Bown. PHOTO TWH

A group of former Bourke teachers stepped back in time at the weekend, returning to their classrooms after almost 50 years.

These retired teachers from all over New South Wales, shared the common experience of teaching at the ‘Back O’Bourke’ in their formative years.

Some of them met and married their spouses here, and for most, their time in Bourke was the most enjoyable of their careers.

Elizabeth Turner is now living in Port Macquarie but was an infant’s schoolteacher on her first year of ‘prac’ when she arrived in Bourke in 1972.

“These reunions started when I caught up with my friends Lorri and Glenn Brown in Maclean and we said we should have some reunions, so we have been catching up with our former Bourke friends ever since,” Liz said.

“The reunions have been going on for about six years now and we kept talking about the fun we had back then and decided we should all go back to Bourke together. It’s where we all started teaching in the 1970’s.

“My father Ray Dart was the principal of the high school and my mum Nona taught at the infant’s school, so when I had my first year out, I was sent here.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it. We were all first year out and we were wary- it was a long way away, but the people were so friendly, and we became friends with not just our group, but with older people as well. We mixed in with everyone.

“My husband Ian and I actually got married in Bourke. I was Miss Dart, and he was Mr Turner at the Bourke High School.

“We have really fond memories, working at the children’s hostel, joining Rotaract, being involved in amateur theatre, the teaching was hard work, but we had a wonderful experience,” Liz said.

John Dowell and his wife Lilian both taught in Bourke – Lilian in the Primary School (1971-1976) and John as the woodwork/metalwork teacher at Bourke High School (1970-1976).

With a flaming shock of red hair, big John Dowell played for the Rams Rugby Union side and then went on to coach the Bourke Warriors Rugby League team in 1973. Both John Dowell and another from this group – Ray Collins went on to play for the 1974 premiership winning warriors team, captained and coached by current Bourke Mayor, Barry Hollman.

John Dowell says the people of Bourke were the best thing about living here in the 1970’s.

And after being in Bourke all weekend, John and Lilian said the friendly people of Bourke are just as friendly today. Lilian said that many lifelong friendships were made in Bourke, and that Bourke was a great start to her teaching career.

Robert and Ariane Dixon both taught at Bourke Public School – Bob from 1972 to 1975 and Ariane in 1974 and 1975.

Ariane said her best memories were her first class of 18 children, being part of the amateur theatre in Bourke, tea and scones at the Louth cricket ground, and the fantastic balls at the Oxley Hall.

Robert played rugby union, cricket, tennis, and basketball at Bourke and said the sport in Bourke was a highlight.

“I also have great memories of the kids I taught in Bourke and it was great to catch up with Mark Gordon who I taught in year 5 – we had a wonderful catchup with Mark and his wife Sandra,” Robert said.

“And the teaching skills I developed in Bourke stood me in good stead for the rest of my teaching career. I eventually retired as Principal of the Terrigal Public School on the Central Coast of NSW.

Glenn and Lorri Brown lived at Bourke from 1973 to 1977, when Glenn was teaching at Bourke High and Lorri at Bourke Primary.

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