No, this didn't happen in the country where schoolboys know almost instinctively how to size up a grazier's social status from the width of the brim.
It happened this week at the James Ruse Agricultural High School at Carlingford where most of the 400 pupils have been raised in clamorous Sydney suburbs.
But their love of nature, agriculture and animals is perhaps greater than many country boys who have not seen Sydney.
Basically, the school exists for the hundreds of Sydney boys who want to go on the land.
It is perhaps the most methodical way of repaying the country for the constant flow of it's brilliant young men to the city.
Intermediate student Fred Keers illustrates almost perfectly how boys raised in the shadow of skyscrapers can take the country life to heart.
Fred lives in Macquarie Street, but when he leaves school he wants to work in the cattle industry.
He has made a good start already. He has been visiting friends, who own a farm at Camden, for eight years and now has his own horse and cow there.
From that beginning he has bred four calves and visits them once every two or three weeks, as well as spending every vacation there.
Fred is no exception. A recent survey of first-year boys showed that more than half of them spend their holidays in the country.
Headmaster Mr Jim Hoskin's study in the 76-year-old colonial house, Barrengarry, overlooks the fields which nurtured the first successful wheat crops in Australia.
Mr Hoskin told me that soon new buildings worth £96.000 would allow the school to expand to 540 pupils.
The boys who "go bush" in the city
Then he held up another model with a slightly narrower brim which he described as the "one-thousand-sheep hat" and asked the boys to pick the one they wanted to wear.
This will make it the biggest agricultural High school in New South Wales, yet it was opened only three years ago.
The new buildings will include a wool classing-room with 16ft ceilings for plenty of light and loading ramps to receive the bales of wool. When the boys leave school they will have completed about half of their wool classing course at the Technical College.
When the school's "man-proof fence", now being built for £5,500, is finished, the school's first animals will arrive.
Like a modern Noah's Ark. the animals will lead city boys to an existence they dream about. There will be two cows, eight: sheep, three pigs and 240 fowls, who will live in a poultry Utopia of automatic feeding, mist cooling and artificial light. The boys will also have a school pony. The Director-General of Education, Mr Harold Wyndham, recommended this when he visited the school. "Every boy should be able to pat a horse," he said.
Mr Hoskin said that the boys at the school came from 108 different railway stations in the metropolitan area, and the vocations they chose were almost as varied.
But one advantage of an agricultural high school was that even if a boy changed his mind about his career halfway through his school life, agriculture could probably help him.
Some of Mr Hoskin's pupils in the past have become doctors and dentists who have been glad of the intensive scientific and biological training they received at this agricultural High school.
Mr Hoskin said an important feature of the school was that boys who came from poultry farms or other rural fringe areas felt -that they were learning a dignified trade.
"There are no feelings of inferiority here.” he said. "If anything, the boys are a bit aloof from other schoolboys. Nobody here would think digging was a menial job. They mightn't like the hard work, but they certainly don't look down on it.”
"I some-times think that some of them like to get dirty." Mr Hoskin feels that an agricultural High school in the metropolitan area offers city boys a chance to pioneer.
"There are still huge tracts of land to be opened up in Australia, but the job will require men with initiative and knowledge," he said.
To get that knowledge, the city boys go to the country on school trips whenever possible.
They attend local field days and visit pig pens and farms to make contact with farmers.
Orchards fascinate them - but not in the way they do most boys, whose only thought is how to get free fruit.
A panel of local farmers cemented good relations with the school by pruning the fruit trees and looking after the bees.
The boys recently collected 1201b of honey and it was sold in the canteen with vegetables they had grown.
The canteen is staffed by mothers of pupils. - "The mothers sometimes have to travel for hour to get to the school - they regard it as a trip to the counrtry," Mr Hoskin said.
The Sun-Herald, May 14, 1961
THE headmaster put on a school hat with the widest brim imaginable and told the assembled pupils: "This is the ten-thousand-sheep hat."
By Graham Gambie
Photo - Kevin Swann
7th August 1959
The James Ruse Agricultural High School at Carlingford had a "unique responsibility" in that, with Hurlstone Agricultural High School, it catered for courses in secondary education and, agriculture for the whole of the metropolitan area, the headmaster, Mr J. C. Hoskin, said yesterday.
Mr Hoskin said that students from the school came from more than 90 different suburbs.
More than 120 boys had enrolled for first year at the school this year.
The school is on the heights at Carlingford, some 15 miles from Sydney, and is set in a district rich in colonial history.
The main school building and lands were originally part of the Felton estate, which was owned by this pioneering family in the Baulkham Hills district.
Senior staff, prefects, of James Ruse Agricultural School. Responsibility Of Agricultural High School
PICTURED. Senior members of the staff and school prefects for 1960 at the James Ruse Agricultural High School, Carlingford. From left (back row): The master-in-charge of prefects, Mr .T. E. Littler; D. Cadwallader, J. Kazis, K. Swann, I. Fowler, P. Jones, I. Herford, D. Allwood, J. Brothers; and the librarian, Mr A. G. Shearman., Front row: C. Hill; the deputy headmaster, Mr A.: G. Cameron; the school captain, A. Bell; the headmaster, Mr J. C. Hoskin; the school vice-captain, R. Henry; the English master, Mr R. A. Anderson, and J. Hoskin.
The school is named after James Ruse, who was born in England in 1760.
As a young man he was sentenced in 1782 to seven years' transportation."
In the critical early years of the first settlement in Australia the colony suffered a food shortage and Ruse was set to work by Governor Phillip farming land at Rose Hill.
By his industry and perseverance he improved on existing methods and received the first land grant in Australia, not far from where the school now stands.
Sydney Morning Herald 1960
This page was last updated: April 11, 2018
Mr James C. Hoskin, who retires next month as principal of James Ruse Agricultural High School, hopes he has brought his students something he missed as a child. That something is the opportunity to study art and music, the two subjects which Mr Hoskin tries to encourage at the school. He believes they are the only subjects which give students “something solely for themselves.” Many others, he says, are undertaken to satisfy future employers or tertiary institutions. But music and art could be purely for personal satisfaction of the individual.
Mr. Hoskin has been principal of James Ruse Agricultural High School since its establishment almost 20 years ago. As a student at Fort Street Boy’s High School many years ago, Mr Hoskin learnt French and Latin. But while he considers them a source of personal satisfaction, he does not rate the subjects as highly as music and art.
Since the establishment of James Ruse High in 1959, Mr Hoskin has seen it grow to one of the most academically selective public schools in the state. Of the 720 pupils, most have IQs around or above the 130 mark. Mt Hoskin is very proud of the fact of the Higher School Certificate candidates at the school this year, 19 are sitting for the art examination and eight for music.
The man who gave agriculture students a new perspective
By Carolyn Parfitt, Education Reporter. The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday, Nov 10, 1978
The school has a heavily prescriptive curriculum with all senior students compelled to take English, mathematics, agriculture, chemistry, and either Physics or Biology. They can then choose one elective subject from a range including music and art. At the junior level, all students must take agriculture and farm mechanics as well as the core courses prescribed for all other secondary schools.
When Mr Hoskin was transferred from Muswellbrook High School 20 years ago to Carlingford District rural School, he did not like the school’s name. So he applied for it to be named after one of Australia’s first farmers, James Ruse, who settled in the Rosehill district with his wife and was the first convict to receive a land grant.
Mr Hoskin’s love of art can be seen in the many paintings and prints in his office. There are more in the withdrawing room (labelled “withdrawing room” in gold paint on its door) where he has up to 10 guests each day for morning tea.
Soon, another painting will be added to the collection – a portrait of Mr Hoskin by a local artist, Judith O’Conal. The portrait will be unveiled tonight by Lady Black, the wife of the Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Sir Hermann Black, at the opening of the school’s art exhibition.