Legendary headmaster Amesbury dies

National, Normal

The National, Thursday 23rd May 2013

 Legendary Bugandi High School headmaster Jack Amesbury died in Caboolture, Queensland, last Saturday.

Amesbury, who served in the Royal Australian Navy in World War II and had a long career in Papua New Guinea, died last Saturday in his 90th year with his family by his side.

He was well-known in education and rugby league circles in PNG in the pre-independence years between the 1950s and 1970s.

A celebration of Amesbury’s life will be held tomorrow at the Northwood Garden of Remembrance, Deception Bay, Queensland, commencing at 10am.

Under Amesbury’s guidance, Bugandi became a great and famous school – a far cry from what it is today – producing many students who went on to become academic, political and business leaders in PNG.

Denis Murrell, a former teacher at the iconic Bugandi from 1968-71, remembers Bugandi and Lae the way they used to be under Amesbury. Murrell is now a freelance consultant and writer in China.

“Bugandi had been built on the site of a former swamp, a place where people said it would be impossible to build anything,” he remembers.

“At first, just 10 acres were cleared of rainforest and a mess, two houses, a dormitory and two classrooms were built. That was in 1959 and amazingly, classes began soon after Jan 21, 1960.

“The school was called Bugandi Upper Primary School and there were just 78 students in standards 7, 8 and 9 and three teachers, two from overseas and one Papua New Guinean.

 “By 1962, the name had been changed to Bugandi Junior High School and in the following year, a man famous throughout the land, Jack Amesbury, was appointed as principal.

“He worked successive groups of students hard over the years, to take the land back from the water, fell trees, clear undergrowth, build roads, plant lawns and gardens and construct playing fields and livestock pastures and I could see the results of this hard work as I travelled down the driveway in Jack’s car

“The school had become a full high school in 1965.

“There were 257 students by then, enrolled in forms 1 and 2, but in 1966, Bugandi began enrolling students from all over the New Guinea mainland,” Murrell says.