A Peakhurst Remittance Man

Peakhurst School c1877. Mr Scott and pupils eyeing up the school bell.

In some brief reminiscences, old George Peake, whose family gave their name to the suburb of Peakhurst, recalled the first teacher at the Peakhurst Public School, Mr Innes Scott.  Scott was what in those days was called a ‘remittance man’.  That is, he was sent out to Australia by family or friends, and sent a regular remittance or money on the understanding that he did not go back to England.  This being Victorian times, scandal or embarrassment generally needed to be hushed up, and what better way of doing it than by sending the miscreant to the other side of the world?

Innes Scott was born at Kensington, London in 1824, into a well-to-do family.  His grandfather John Scott, was private secretary to Admiral Horatio Nelson, and was shot dead at Trafalgar ten minutes before Nelson himself was killed. (Nelson’s uniform, on display at the Greenwich National Maritime Museum, is stained with John Scott’s blood.)  Francis Scott, an older brother of Innes, studied divinity at Trinity College, Dublin, and became a long-serving Anglican minister at Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.

When he was 21, Innes married a Miss Caroline Stalker in London in 1845.  Then in February 1851, he married Miss Temperance Caroline Birchall at Hammersmith.  However his first wife was still alive, so this was a bigamous marriage.  He was charged and found guilty of the felony on 29 October 1851, serving six months in the Newgate ‘house of correction’.[1]  His clergyman brother for one would not have wished for this to be widely known. And after serving his sentence, Innes was packed off to Australia.  There is a possible reference to him in Maitland, NSW in 1855, where an Innes Scott advertised a lecture, illustrated by diorama, on the Crimean War.

George Peake recalled that Scott, who was a ‘fine scholar’, was invited to apply to the School Board to make Peakhurst a Public School.  This was granted, subject to Scott enrolling a minimum of thirty pupils, which he did, as can be seen in the photo.  According to Peake, “Scott was a great character, belonging to a good family in England who sent him out here.  He was supplied with plenty of money, but he spent it as soon as he got it. As proof of him being a great master, parents around Hurstville, Belmore, Kingsgrove and even Sylvania took their children from their own school and sent them to him.”

In September 1871 he was appointed teacher at ‘Peakehurst Provisional School’ which on 13 October 1873 became Peakhurst Public School. At first the school met in the Wesleyan chapel, but in February 1877 a new sandstone school was built on a site donated to the Council of Education by Scott on the corner of Forest Road and Bonds Road (see photograph).  Scott also generously donated the site for the Peakhurst Wesleyan Church, and provided it with an organ.  There was no doctor or chemist in Peakhurst in the 1870s, but Scott had a well-stocked medicine chest which he made free of to residents in need.

Fine scholar though he may have been, Scott also had his less amiable eccentricities.  He was known to ‘flog the dunces unmercifully’ – but the Peakhurst pupils gave as good as they got: Peake recalled:  “The local lads, and some of the big girls too, used to have great fun with him.  On New Year’s Eve they would ring his school bell, and as he had a violent temper and not enough sense to stop inside but come rushing out in his nightshirt to hunt them, he would be met with a bucket of suds and pelted with cow manure.” [2]

Eventually some of the parents complained about him, and the authorities removed him to a quieter posting, and in 1884 he was sent to Glencoe School (near Glen Innes); then in 1885 to Cockburn River School (near Tamworth).  He was allowed to retire in April 1890.

In 1894 he married Anastasia ‘Anna’ Carroll (1843-1925) at Tamworth, NSW.  It is not clear if his marriage to Temperance Birchall was ever annulled; it is to be hoped that it was, for she did not die until 1895, the year after his marriage to Anastasia.  Scott may have committed bigamy all over again without even knowing it!

He died at Burwood on 13 February 1913, and was buried at Rookwood.

[1] Newgate Calendar of Prisoners, 1851; age given as 24.

[2] Peake, George Reminiscences of Early Peakhurst.

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