History Pages
James Ruse Agricultural High School Pioneers Inc.

This page was last updated: June 22, 2021

Milestones in the Development of James Ruse Agricultural High School 

Editors Note:- Much of the article below was taken from the Program of the Official Opening held in1962 (this information is shown in black), but that document did not include 1949, 1956, 1957, and 1958. The official program also contained some inaccuracies. (Addions and corrections are shown below in red.)

  • In September the NSW Department of Education purchased a property and house in Felton Rd. Carlingford for the purposes of Agricultural Education. 

  • In the latter part of the year, the Agriculture classes walked from the Rickard St site of Carlingford District Rural School, to the Felton Rd annex site.
  • Mr. Charles Mullavey became the "Master in Charge" of the annex.

  • First enrolement of first year pupils at the Felton Rd site. These pupils enrolled on the understanding that the school would become a full high school, meaning they could sit for the Leaving Certificate in 1961.
  • A competition within the school produced the design for the new school crest. This crest (apart from the change of name to "James Ruse" and the later addition of a crown) continues to this day. 

  • The Felton Rd site became known as the Carlingford Junior Agriculture High School. Mr Harry Frater was no longer the Headmaster of this new school. Mr. Charles Mullavey continued as "Teacher in Charge" - effectively the Headmaster. 
  • School blazers were introduced displaying the school crest.
  • At some point the property to the north of the main school site was purchased for the establishment of  the school farm.

  • School established as Carlingford Agricultural High with Mr. J. C. Hoskin, B.Sc.Agr., as Principal, and Mr. C. Mullavey, B.V.Sc., as Deputy Principal.
  • Initial enrolment was 318 students from 1st to 3rd Years. 
  • The 2nd (sic - the 2nd year pupils of 1959 had not attended Carlingford District Rural School. They enrolled as 1st year pupils at Carlingford Junior Agricultural High School in 1958 - see chart aboveand 3rd Year students had begun as students of Carlingford District Rural School, first at the original site in Rickard Street and, from August 1956, at the present site as an annex (sic - the 3rd year pupils of 1959 never attended school at the Rickard St. site. They enrolled as 1st year pupils at the Felton Rd site in 1957 and went on to be the first pupils of James Ruse Agricultural High School to sit of the Leaving Certificate). 
  • Mr. Mullavey was Master-in-Charge.
  • Name of school changed to James Ruse Agricultural High.
  • The school oval, commenced in 1958, was completed and grassed. 
  • Glasshouse completed.
  • Prefect system commenced. 
  • Byron Sharpe first School Captain.
  • School Houses established- Felton, Frater, Jones and Mullavey.
  • Orchard area planted. 
  • First Farm Caretaker appointed, Mr. E. S. Adams.
  • First edition of School Year Book - Editor, Mr. K. Best. 
  • First Annual Athletics Carnival. (This may have been the first school athletics carnival held on the Felton Rd Site - but there had been earlier such carnivals held on other ovals in the district.)

  • The school was classified as a High School from the end of 1959. At the beginning of 1960, the school began offering Leaving Certificate courses for its first batch of 4th year pupils. This means that in 1960, James Agricultural High School was officially classified, and staffed, as a High School.)
  • Mr. C. Mullavey appointed to the Inspectorial Staff.
  • Mr. A. G. Cameron, B.Sc., Dip. Ed., Deputy Principal. 
  • Mr. R. A. Anderson, B.A., M.Ed., first Subject Master. 
  • Alan Bell, School Captain.
  • First country tours to Upper Hunter and Bathurst areas by 4th Year students.
  • First Annual Play Day.
  • School Cadet Unit established, Mr. M. Coveney O.C. 
  • Annual appeal for building of tennis courts.
  • School Council formed to advise Principal on aspects of school management and development.
  • Weekly Hobby Period commenced to develop interests not catered for in the normal courses.
  • Term Church Services begun.

  • Alan Bell again School Captain.
  • New buildings completed, including four classrooms, a Biology laboratory, and Sheep and Wool, Agriculture and History Rooms.
  • Tennis courts completed.
  • Ground improvements, including roads, parking areas, path­ways and general landscaping completed.
  • Farm area fenced.
  • Poultry unit completed and stocked.
  • Annual appeal for livestock units.
  • School enters Cramp Debating Competition.
  • Cricket practice wicket completed.
  • School enters Lennox Zone for sporting competitions.
  • First Annual Reciprocal Visit with Yanco Agricultural High.
  • First Annual Farewell Dinner-Dance to departing 5th Year students.
  • Eighteen candidates successful at Leaving Certificate Exam. 
  • Adrian Lynch gains 2nd place in the State List in Agriculture. 
  • First Annual Visit of 1st XV to H.M.A.S. Cresswell.

  • School officially classified as a High School (sic - 
  • Shearing Shed completed in association with Cyclone Company. 
  • Four ex-students enter rural faculties at Sydney University. 
  • Two ex-students commence training at Armidale Teachers' College as teachers of Agriculture.
  • The GOOD Shield available for competitions between James Ruse and Yanco Agricultural Highs.
  • Colin Denston School Captain.
  • School competes in all grades in cricket and Rugby Union in Lennox Zone.
  • Initial Romney Marsh flock obtained.
  • Annual appeal for Scientific Equipment and Recreation.

James Ruse – The Man We Honour

The name of the school was chosen to honour the contribution of James Ruse to Australian agriculture.

Ruse, originally a native of Cornwall, arrived with the First Fleet as a convict. He was one of the few of the original settlers with any knowledge of agriculture.

At a time when the colony was facing the threat of starvation, he obtained from Governor Phillip the first land grant in Australia, and became the first person to support himself and his family from the products of the Australian soil, setting an example for others to follow, and disproving the opinion, then current in the colony, "that a man could not live in this country". By his industry and perserverance, he justly earned the title of our first farmer.

Ruse's first farm, known as the Experiment Farm, sit­uated on the banks of the Parramatta River at Rosehill, was sold in 1793 to Surgeon Harris. 

In 1794, Ruse was again playing the role of pioneer, helping to open up the Hawkes­bury district. From then on, he held land in various parts of the settlement, at Bankstown, Windsor and Riverstone.

Ruse spent his declining years in the Campbelltown district where he died on September 5th, 1837, aged 77 years.

He was buried in the St. John's Cemetery at Campbelltown, where his grave can still be seen, marked by a headstone bearing a rather quaint inscription which reads:-



In 1949 the main part of the present school site was purchased by the NSW Government for the purpose of Agricultural Education[1]. The school that commenced on this site in 1956 was an annex of Carlingford District Rural School with Charles Mullavey as the Master in Charge. At that time the school consisted of a wooden five room classroom block, a small staffroom and male only ablution facilities. By the start of 1958 the school was independent of Carlingford District Rural School and was called the "Carlingford Junior Agricultural High School" (the Junior part of the name reflected the fact that students at that time could only undertake the first three years of their secondary education at the school).

In 1959 the name of the school was changed to "Carlingford Agricultural High School" (to reflect its new full high school status - although there were no actual Fourth and Fifth Year classes at that time). The first Headmaster, James C. Hoskin, and his Deputy Headmaster, Charles Mullavey, commenced duties at the start of that year and in April, the name of the school changed again - this time to "James Ruse Agricultural High School".

When James Hoskin was studying Agricultural History in University, he had been interested in James Ruse due to his significance in the early development of agriculture in Australia, and also because "both Ruse and I [Hoskin] are of Cornish extraction".[2] Mr Hoskin questioned the name of the school (Carlingford Agricultural High School) as the school was not serving just the Carlingford area (in fact there were only a small number of students from Carlingford). In April 1959 Mr. Hoskin put forward a proposal to the then New South Wales Department of Education outlining two new names for the school: "Sydney Agricultural High School" and "Ruse Agricultural High School". Eventually, the Department agreed to a modification of the latter.

Hoskin soon became synonymous with the school, as he served as headmaster until his retirement at age of 65 in 1978. During this time, the school became established as one of the few public schools that were selective; initially because of its agricultural speciality, then for its reputation as a quality school. For his efforts, Hoskin was awarded the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the Order of Australia for Services to Education in 1990.

The first group of students to complete the full five years of secondary education at the new high school sat for the Leaving Certificate in 1961. Most of these boys were part of the initial enrolement of 1st Year pupils at the Felton Rd. site, in 1957. James Ruse AHS was originally a boys only school, but gradually became co-educational after an initial intake of 24 female students into Year 11 in 1977.

Since the mid 1990s, James Ruse has undergone an extensive building works program funded by both parents of students and the State and Federal Governments. 1997 saw the completion of Stage 1 of this program (encompassing a new Library block and English classrooms which replaced the old Anderson building, a new block containing Art and HSIE classrooms, the integration of the existing Powe block and the former library into a science block, and the installation of an elevator in the Perrau block to improve wheelchair accessibility).

In 2000, Stage 2 of the program began with the first building (a 180 seat lecture theatre) completed in early 2001. The Schofield block became part of the program in 2002 after the building was damaged by arson. During the next two years the old Technology Block and the Francis block were demolished due to a white ant infestation, with both blocks being rebuilt and refurnished in 2004. The final stage of the works were underway at the time of the departure of Principal Michael Quinlan, who retired in 2006 after having been Principal since 1992[3].

Gesta Non Verba Deeds not words
Ruse, James (1759–1837) by B. H. Fletcher 
This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

James Ruse (1759-1837), pioneer and smallholder, was born on 9 August 1759 at Launceston, Cornwall, England. At the Cornwall Assizes in 1782 he was convicted of burglarious breaking and entering; his capital sentence was changed to transportation to Africa for seven years. During the next five years while the government was searching for ways of solving the convict problem Ruse spent much of his time in the hulk Dunkirk at Plymouth. 

When it was decided to establish a penal settlement in New South Wales he was sent out in the First Fleet in 1787 in the Scarborough. In July 1789 he claimed that his sentence had expired and soon afterwards he asked for a land grant, inspired by the desire to take up farming, an occupation to which he had been bred. Lacking evidence that Ruse was entitled to his freedom, Governor Arthur Phillip did not at once give him a grant, but in November permitted him to occupy an allotment near Parramatta, withholding the title until his capacity as a farmer and his right to freedom had been proved. The governor made this concession partly because he knew Ruse to be industrious and partly because he was anxious to discover how long it would take an emancipist to become self-sufficient.

Although not the first person to cultivate land in the colony on his own behalf, Ruse was the first ex-convict to seek a grant, for other emancipists displayed no inclination to take up agriculture. Undeterred by famine, drought and the depredations of convicts Ruse applied himself diligently to his task, helped by Phillip who provided him with provisions, clothing, seed, implements, livestock, a hut and assistance in clearing a small area of land. He proved not only a hard worker but also, by local standards, an enlightened farmer who made quite effective use of the limited means at his disposal. By February 1791 he was able to support both himself and his wife, Elizabeth Perry, a convict whom he had married on 5 September 1790. In April 1791 he received the title to his land, the first grant issued in New South Wales.

Besides justifying the faith placed in him Ruse had also scotched the belief held by many contemporaries that a smallholder could never maintain himself in New South Wales. This was not his only contribution to the expansion of private farming. He left Parramatta in despair at the quality of the land and in October 1793 sold his farm to Surgeon John Harris for £40. Having spent the proceeds, originally intended to pay his passage to England, he was obliged to seek a fresh grant and in January 1794 he became one of the twenty-two settlers responsible both for opening the Hawkesbury River area and for demonstrating its superiority as an agricultural centre over all other known regions. Why he chose a region hitherto regarded by many as unsuitable for farming is uncertain, but he made it his home for the next few years. At first he appears to have fared quite well and in June 1797 received the title to an additional forty-acre grant (16 ha); nine months later when poverty was acute among smallholders, he sold his original grant for £300, which suggests that it must have been well developed. Before 1800 he had bought an additional twenty acres (8 ha) but he mortgaged them in March 1801.

In 1797 he had been brought to court on charges of running a gambling school on his premises, but since no details of the trial are available, there can be no certainty that he engaged in a pastime enjoyed by many of his fellow settlers. In the next decade he still owned some land at the Hawkesbury, but his name appears on none of the available lists of settlers. 

In 1806 his wife was recorded as farming fifteen acres (6 ha) at the Hawkesbury and she later signed the petitions extolling William Bligh, but of Ruse himself there was no mention. The only evidence of his presence was an agreement dated May 1801 apprenticing his son James as a mariner in the firm of Kable & Underwood. It has been suggested that he found employment on local vessels himself, for on several occasions the Sydney Gazette listed a James Ruse among the crew members of such ships, but these references were probably to his son.

In 1809 Ruse successfully requested a grant at Bankstown, for the recent Hawkesbury floods had caused him heavy losses. He retained contact with the Hawkesbury throughout the Macquarie period and in 1819 received a 100-acre (40 ha) grant at Riverstone. The muster of that year, however, showed him as owning only 45 acres (18 ha) in the Windsor district of which 20 (8 ha) were cleared and 19½ (7.9 ha) under crop. 

In addition he owned 3 horses, 2 cows and 7 hogs. Subsequently his fortunes seem to have declined for in 1825 he was recorded as owning a mere ten acres (4 ha) of land, all in the Windsor district, and twelve hogs. Since this small property could scarcely have sustained him, it comes as no surprise to find that by 1828 he was working as an overseer for Captain Brooks at Lower Minto. 

In 1834 he was living at Macquarie Fields. Two years later he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, though there is no evidence that his wife or seven children followed his example. 

His death on 5 September 1837 brought to a close the career of one whose importance in New South Wales history has been unduly exaggerated and romanticized. Although his early achievements were noteworthy, he soon faded into the background and led an existence that scarcely distinguished him from many of his associates.