Mr. W.W. Tamblyn

Mr. Tamblyn was the next headmaster who followed Professor Baker at Centre Street School. His duties commenced August 2nd, 1872.

An act had been passed just before he took over the school, requiring all students who were admitted to the High school, just previous to that, to try their exams again. The act provided for the distribution of grants on the principle of payment for results. Part of the grant was determined by the proficiency of the pupils as rated by the Inspector and the results of written exams. This method was customary in Britain at the time, however it was abolished in Canada in 1882 and fifteen years later in Britain.

It was reported that there were fifty in the school who tried the exams again and twenty-three passed. The results were known when the Central Board of Toronto reported them and successful candidates were given certificates. Examinations were conducted in the school, as they had been in the part and parents were urged to attend.

Mr. Tamblyn was very efficient in both public and high school and the Inspectors gave good reports of his work with the scholars.

Secondary schools in the province, as well as Oshawa, were by that time, giving more tuition in literature, modern languages and science. There was also a widening choice of optional subjects.

A Teacher’s Association was started in 1877 and it met semi-annually. Teachers were now granted time off to attend normal and model schools. Supply teachers could be appointed in their places.

In 1876 a ruling was passed by the Minister of Education that all high school students must pass the Intermediate before proceeding to the Upper School. These requirements were the successful completion of Grades VII, VIII, IX and X. County grants were increased to the different schools for pupils who passed the equivalent of the second class teacher’s certificate. It was reported that in one case, a teacher classed himself as a pupil, when trying the higher exams, in order to increase the grant. The name place in which this happened was not given but it was hinted that it was not far away. Oshawa and Whitby were known to have been rivals at the time.

The Department of Education in Toronto had changed. Rev. Ryerson was relieved of his position in 1875 and a Minister of Education had been appointed.

When Mr. Tamblyn first came to the school, the public school was plagued with irregular attendance; there were 482 on the roll, with a very low average attendance. Children between the ages of seven to twelve were running the streets, playing truant. Their parents did not seem to care either when they were approached about it.

Not much interest was being taken in secondary education, and a large number of students left the school at the age of twelve. It was estimated that about 35% of the older children were not receiving any instruction. There was no way of enforcing compulsory attendance and not much could be done to improve the situation, although there had been plenty of talk about it.

Every inducement was offered to those who wanted a thorough education for teachers or college exams. All subjects of the high school course were being taught here, and Oshawa rated along with any in the province. The high school had 53 on the roll and occupied two rooms.

Judging from the following, an attempt was being made to teach home economics to the girls and some practiced hints were given to boys which could be of use on the farms.

Here is an item printed in the Vindicator, August 22nd, 1877:

 “To those persons who think that High school is a useless luxury, used solely to teach such impractical things as Greek and Latin and a snatch of poor French, we beg to submit the following as some of the questions submitted to the male and female candidates at the recent Intermediate exams.”

To the female students –

12) How would you proceed in order to?

            i) Cook a beefsteak

            ii) Poach eggs

            iii) To make good toast

            iv) Prepare a nice dinner in the month of July, at a farm house where the only meat available is salt pork. N.B[1]. Nothing expensive is to be used and nothing that cannot be, usually, or at least easily, had in a farm house.

Note: There ladies, is an opportunity to apply your culinary art. There would be no running water; the pump might be quite a distance from the house. They would only have a wood stove on which to prepare the dinner and the cooking utensils would have been black iron pots, perhaps a few grey granite ones. The cook would likely have to see that the supply of wood was found for the fire. She might even have to cut it herself. That kitchen would be the hottest place this side of the “Infernal regions.” Did I hear someone say, oh but there would be a summer kitchen! Don’t be deceived; summer kitchens were as hot as any others. The only thing in their favour was they kept the main part of the house cooler. One redeeming feature, there would be plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables on a farm in July.

A Suggested Menu

Soak the salt pork in fresh water for several hours, change the water often, this would eliminate some of the salt. The meat could then be boiled and served hot or cold with mustard, pickles or could be sliced and fried with eggs.

New potatoes, boiled and flavoured with parsley

Green peas, possibly new carrots (these would be small)

Lettuce, radishes and green onions

Homemade bread or rolls, and homemade butter, plain cookies

Usually plenty of pickles were available.


Desert – deep cherry pie, or steamed rolly poly cherry or black currant pudding with a custard sauce or cream. Or backed Rice pudding made with pump raisins.

Dried apple pie with cheese

Tea or coffee with cream, and sugar.

Whole milk


13) Why should a house be ventilated and beds aired?

14) Point out the advantages of having many windows in the house.

To male students the following were submitted for the intermediate exam:

8) Explain how you would feed cattle in order:

            i.          to fatten them

            ii.         to obtain the largest possible quantity of milk

            iii.        to obtain milk of the best quality

            iv.        to obtain the largest possible return in cheese

9) State where it is advisable

  1. not to plough deep
  2. to use sub-soil plough
  3. to drain

10) Explain the value of lime as manure, and state on what soils it is advantageous. Give the chemical composition of quick lime, slaked lime, mild lime, limestone and chalk.

“These are utilitarian enough to satisfy the most radical.”

Mr. Tamblyn started a debating society in the high school in 1879. There were three young men on each side. These debates took place in public, the speeches were excellent and it was all very interesting. The first topic to be debated was “Whether the works of nature are more pleasing to the eye than the works of modern art.” This was to take place at a later date. There is a Tamblyn prize for Elocution and Oratory; it reminds us of his interest in the school.

Some complaints were heard about the students in high school having to buy new books. Some of the parents thought it was the idea of one of the teachers and did not want to be put to that expense. A meeting was held by all of the teachers to standardize the books. Some new ones had been authorized by the department; “Masons Grammar” was mentioned.

It was during Mr. Tamblyn’s stay here in Oshawa, that the first ward schools were built.[2] He mentioned more than once that he thought the Public and High school should be in separate buildings and he asked for the use of Albert Street School for the secondary students. The idea was not approved of, at all, by the trustees.

In 1881, not long before he resigned the high school occupied the north wing of the Centre Street school building and he had two assistants. They are as follows and also the salaries that they received: Mr. W.W. Tamblyn, Headmaster – $1200, James Nugent, mathematics – $600, Miss Henderson, French and German – $450. T’was to improve the efficiency of the school and it “paying off.”

In the year 1881, eight Oshawa students passed the matriculation exams in the Toronto University with honour standings. The residents here were delighted with the results and were making the fact known to other towns. There were over seventy on the roll in the high school, which, for the size of the place, was small, indeed. The Roman Catholic secondary students attended the high school at Centre Street. Also they had their own school for their elementary school.

The following is the account of a prank in Centre Street School that was reported in the Reformer” (formerly the Vindicator) June 20th, 1879. Centre Street School had had a fire. About 10 a.m. someone gathered a number of straw hats in a pile and set them afire. Luckily it was seen by a boy in one of the rooms across the hall, and prompt action by staff and pupils soon put it out. The fire brigade in the village was not very efficient. Tanks were placed around the streets in strategic places to hold water for the firemen’s use and were supposed to have been kept filled. When the firemen were called to the school that morning, there was no water in the tank. The one who was instigator of the hat episode was not found out.

A lot was added to Centre Street School grounds in June 1881. It was bought from Mr. Redwin for $250.

 Mr. Tamblyn resigned as principal of Centre Street School on July 15th, 1882. He went to Bowmanville where he was headmaster of the High school.

Mr. Lyman C. Smith was appointed the next principal, his duties commenced in September, 1882. The summer holidays now ended the last week in August. Mary and Albert Street schools had their own principals.

The following is a list of the teachers and their salaries in September 1875. This was of course before the ward schools were built. It gives one an idea of the handsome salaries the teachers received in those days.

Mr. W.W. Tamblyn               Headmaster of the High school                $1100 per year

Mr. Phillips                            Assistant Headmaster                                 $600        “

Mr. Squire                              Headmaster of the Public School             $500        “

Miss McCreight                                                                                            $350        “

Miss Henderson                                                                                           $250        “

Miss Simmons                                                                                             $240        “

Miss Beith                                                                                                     $230        “

Miss Panton                                                                                                  $230        “

Miss Wallace                                                                                                            $230        “

Miss Sara Jane Hislop                                                                                $250        “

[1]  Instructs an individual to note well the matter at hand. In present-day English, it is used, particularly in legal papers,to draw the attention of the reader to a certain (side) aspect or detail of the subject on hand, translating it as “pay attention” or “take notice”.

[2] Mary Street and Albert Street Schools in 1877.



Filed under Teachers and Administrators

2 responses to “Mr. W.W. Tamblyn

  1. Marjorie (Blayney) Burnet

    I smile at the need to clarify ‘N. B.’

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