1914-1919: Narrogin School of Agriculture

A brief ceremony to dedicate the Narrogin Farm School was conducted on March 2, 1914, with a new principal A W L Southern and new farm manager T D Marsh.

Three events were particularly significant in 1914.  Firstly the Narrogin Farm School was renamed the Narrogin School of Agriculture (NSA).  Secondly, a permanent classroom teacher Mr Sten was appointed. The last important event at this time was the outbreak of World War I.

In 1916 the school was lucky to secure the services of Henry Gervase Shugg. As principal from 1916-1937 he was remembered by all who knew him as a fine gentleman. The school certainly had a high reputation by the time he retired.

By the end of the decade NSA was getting back to normal after the war and making good progress, Mr Shugg now had a staff of 6.  Tom Quinn was engaged around this time to clear paddock 19, popular with the boys he went on to become the odd job man before becoming known to generations as the dairyman.

Experimental work was continuing on the farm especially with trial plots of wheat, oats, barley and rye. Twelve varieties were trialled under three regimes, but unfortunately the optimistically named “Mortgage Lifter” failed to live up to expectations.

A pattern of social life was also becoming well established. Dances were held with Mrs Shugg and dairyman Bill Longs daughter providing the catering.  The names of Park Lane, Rotten Row, Commonwealth Avenue and Quality Street were given to the four rows of dormitories and rivalry was fierce. Two clay tennis courts were constructed near the living quarters.  Often the keen players hurried through lunch to get a game in before afternoon classes.

Overall as Western Australia settled down after World War I the importance of a sound agricultural education was becoming widely recognised.  Student enrolment had risen to 50.  The dining room and classroom had become too small, plans were drawn up for a classroom and laboratory but had not been built, also there were plans for a shearing shed, sheep yard and dipping tank, a blacksmith shop and carpenters shop but these had not been built either.  Due to the high number of students the curriculum had become inadequate and Shugg wished to change the overall emphasis to providing “an institution of value to the man on the land” and give suitable instruction unobtainable on their home farm. Accordingly he adjusted the time spent on basic farm work and introduced blacksmithing, woodwork, plumbing, carpentry and farm engineering.

In April 1919, the State Cabinet decided to establish an Agricultural College at University level and NSA was put forward as a possible site.  It was eventually decided that the new College would be situated at Spencers Brook near Northam and that the NSA was still quite good enough to supply all the requirements of agricultural education provided a few necessary improvements were carried out and a proper staff of efficient teachers employed.


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