Extract from the book – Centenary of Primary School Education in
Naracoorte 1879 – 1979

Written by local historians

The Joanna School, one of several to function in the Hundred of Robertson and was opened in 1884. Miss Birt was the first teacher and others included Misses Mason, Hinckley, Peake, Hood and Reddan. Miss Reddan lived at the caves and had to cross Mosquito Creek on her daily ride to school.

The crossing became known as “Agnes Reddan’s Crossing”, and when, in the 1950’s a bridge was built there, it was named for her. If the creek happened to be in flood, Miss Reddan rode an additional five miles, via Struan.

One of the early pupils was Willy Frohlich, who was a guard on the Adelaide-Wolseley railway line for many years. Forty years later he was on holiday in Western Australia, and travelling between Albany and Perth by train, when an old lady struck up a conversation with him and asked him where he came from. Jokingly, and without further explanation, he replied “Joanna” and she remarked, “And you would be William Frohlick!” She was Miss Birt, first teacher at the school.

Mehaffey’s travelling shop, pulled by twelve bullocks, and driven, at that time by William McIntosh, was always welcome. Mehaffrey would ride ahead to prepare the householder.

He was popular with the children, as he handed out bags of sweets. The district was rich in wildlife. There were two varieties of wild cat, both mammals. One was smaller than ‘possum, lived in trees , and was black, with white spots; the other type was as big as a fox, lived in wombat holes, and was brown, with white spots; there were hundreds of Cape Barren geese and magpie geese on the swamps.

One school picnic was memorable. It was held on the creek very close to the border. Kennedy, a well known horse thief, riding a beautiful horse, came upon the party. One of the boys knew him, and they chatted for a while before Kennedy rode off. Presently two police troopers arrived, and inquired whether anyone had seen this same Kennedy, but not wishing to be an informer, the youth replied “no”. The troopers moved on and very soon caught up with the thief. Although his position looked awkward, he was not at all disturbed, but turned his splendid horse and put it at the border fence. Safe on the other side, he turned and waved a gay farewell – out of the colony he could not be pursued. The border meant safety to all but murderers!

• The Light Family referred to above were Jim Possingham Mothers Family who worked for the Robertson Family of Struan at the time. They lived near the Caves, just off the now Naracoorte – Langkoop Road and Mt Light was named after the Family. When Struan was broken up for closer settlement, 3 of the brothers continued to farm in the district.

• Jim Possinghams Father purchased what is now John Coopers property just after WW1 from the McEwin Family and was a very large established orchard supplying fresh fruit to most towns in the South East of SA and also exported apples and pears.

A Composition written on 23rd July 1936 by Jim Possingham, aged 9 years, a student at the Joanna School:

I attend the Joanna School.
It is near a swamp and a house.
Outside are four gardens and some trees and in the porch is a place to hang up our hat and coat.
There are five desks, and at the front is the teachers table and there are five children.
There are two cupboards and two black boards and a locker. The School is about 24 feet long and 14 feet wide.
On the wall are maps and pictures and on the northern side is a honour roll chart and a conduct chart.


09/05/1919 – 15/12/2002

Affectionately know to all as ‘BUFFA’

Buffa, a nickname given to him soon after his birth passed away at the age of 83 on 15th December 2002.

He was the 4th child of a family of 9 to the late Mr & Mrs John Edward Smith who lived at “Carinya”, Joanna. Buffa was educated at the Joanna School and after leaving school, worked on the family properties with 2 of his elder brothers. They developed the land by grubbing gum saplings and poisoning small gums. One property was later called “Gumbowie”.

When the 2nd World War broke out, Buffa joined the army and although he never served overseas, his main job was working as a guard, transporting P.O.W.’s from overseas to camps all over Australia. After a few years he was discharged and returned home to the farm.

Being a very good dancer, he happened to be at a Laurie Park dance and a lovely young widow, Betty Trounce, had just arrived in the district from the city and was in attendance. Buffa was immediately attracted to her and after a romance of some months, they were married on 25th June 1945 and lived on a family farm at Joanna which they called “Aberdare”. They were very successful farmers and graziers with Buffa being an excellent judge of medium wool Merino sheep.

In 1953 a public meeting was called by district residents to fulfil the need of a district hall and meeting place. Buffa was elected the Chairman for the planning and construction of the Joanna Community Hall. He organised local residents to assist, but he put in many, many hours of labour himself.

The Hall was opened in 1955 and Buffa remained the Chairman of the hall committee for 20 years. He was also a very efficient Fire Control Office, organised the many foxhunts in the district, which with the aid of many nights spotlighting, helped keep the numbers down. Having a large swamp on the property, known as “Masons” and being a keen duck shooter, Buffa organised many in season duck shoots through the district. No wonder he was know as the unofficial “Mayor” of Joanna. He also had many private interests being a keen gardener, enjoyed following horse racing, which he nearly always had his weekly flutter on, card games including Bridge, Poker and Cribbage.

In the 1970’s Buffa and Betty sold their farm to Joe Pannell and retired to north of Naracoorte on Cadgee Road, where they built a lovely brick home and he and Betty established a beautiful garden of vegies, fruit trees, shrubs, flowers and a shade house where some beautiful and exotic flowers were grown. They were able to enjoy this home for quite a few years, but with age and health declining, they decided to sell the property and move into a Unit in the Longridge Complex on Cedar Avenue in Naracoorte, which they enjoyed together for 6 years.

Sincere condolences were offered to his wife Betty, son Rhyce, stepson Martin and families.


Written by one of his life-time mates, Jim Possingham

Extract from the Narracoorte Herald, Tuesday 28th June 1927 – now spelt Naracoorte!


An accident, .which, was followed; by sad fatal results, occurred at Mr B. M. Sharp’s saw mill at Joanna near Narracoorte, on Wednesday afternoon last, (shortly after 1 o’clock) Mr. Frederick Dowling, who was engaged hauling logs for the mill with a trolly drawn by bullocks, was in the act of stooping at the side of the trolly, which he was unloading, and in company with one of his fellow -workmen -was undoing one of the chains around the log that was on the trolly to keep it secure. There was no choke on the trolly, and the log suddenly rolled off, and struck Mr Dowling with great force on the lower part of the body, throwing him over a log that was lying on the ground behind him. When he and Mr. WL Spring, his mate, were un doing the chains his companion told him to look out in case ,the log rolled off. Mr. Sharpe and other work men at the mill immediately went to the assistance of the injured man, and Dr. Pavy was sent for, and went out and rendered surgical aid. Mr. Dowling was afterwards conveyed on a lorry to the Narracoorte Hospital for treatment, suffering from shock, serious internal injuries, and abrasions to the arm and hands. He was operated on Thursday, and died from internal injuries that evening about 8.30’ o’clock. The deceased
was a resident of Casterton, and resided there for about 15 or 20 years. He had been hauling logs for Mr. Sharpe’s mill since March – last, and had previous experience in the work.
He was 61 years of age, and leaves a widow and three sons. The remains were conveyed to Casterton for burial there.

A little bit of History from 1953-54

Laying the Foundation Stone of the Hall

A slice of history sent in by Wendy Scott! Circa 1980’s

Play Group back in the day…

“Buck’s Special Brew”

“An unusual ‘Rough-as-Guts’ Red Wine that has the distinctive Bouquet of old and ill cared for animals.  It is best drunk with the teeth clenched to prevent the ingestion of seeds and skins.

Connoisseurs will savour the slight Tannic Taste of burnt shag feathers and soiled medical dressing.


Joanna Hall Post Office, 1923

Photo courtesy of:  Facebook Page – Mortat cemetery Peronne, and districts. Victoria Australia

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