Not close to home, but there is a connection between Chris’s extended family to where we once lived in Zeehan, Tasmania. A nephew of his 3x great grandmother was the headmaster at Zeehan State School in the late 19th century.
Born in Liverpool in 1845, Louis Arthur Peers came to Victoria with his parents and siblings when he was seven years old, his family eventually settling in the New South Wales town of Deniliquin some years later. With a penchant for plant breeding and the study of the natural world, Louis spent an abundance of time in those pursuits. For several years, he worked as a specimen collector for natural science museums, sometimes associated with Ferdinand von Mueller, a distinguished scientist, and Victorian Government Botanist for 43 years.
In Deniliquin, Louis had a property where he grew fruit, developing his own early apricot, and studied horticultural pests and diseases. His gardens of vegetables and flowers were renowned in the district.
The mild climate of Tasmania called to Louis Peers in 1885, and he moved there with his Tasmanian wife and their son, Victor. Undeterred by lack of qualifications, Louis applied for a teaching position in the North-West town of Black River. His examination wasn’t that successful. Though he showed a satisfactory reading standard, his arithmetic was barely passable. For the unexpected tests in grammar and geography, his results were a failure. However, he assured the examiner that he could improve his skills in these subjects before his pupils were likely to require them.
The people of Black River regretted his departure after almost six years when the department promoted Louis to headteacher of the larger State school in Zeehan, a mining town on the west coast. Here, Peers continued with growing vegetables and breeding plants. Louis achieved prizes for his flowers, chrysanthemums in particular, and he was noted in Zeehan as the ‘school Burbank,’ after the well-known American horticulturist Luther Burbank.
When he left Black River, the newspaper reported that the community respected Louis’s teaching abilities and referred to him as a ‘perfect encyclopaedia,’ owing to his widespread general knowledge. At a function to celebrate 25 years of service as a teacher in Zeehan, many past students praised his work and attributed their own successes to the efforts of their teacher.
‘Black River Notes.’ Wellington Times and Agricultural and Mining Gazette (Tas. : 1890 – 1897). 8 August 1891. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65248594
‘LATE MR L. A. PEERS.’ Zeehan and Dundas Herald (Tas. : 1890 – 1922). 11 February 1921. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83963452
Tasmanian Education Department. ‘Applications for Teaching Positions and associated Correspondence (ED2)’. Libraries Tasmania, 1885. https://stors.tas.gov.au/AI/ED2-1-784
‘VETERAN ZEEHAN SCHOOLMASTER’. Zeehan and Dundas Herald (Tas. : 1890 – 1922). 5 September 1916. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84070075