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“It would have been hard to find anything less like a preschool. A small group from the optimistically named Dunoon Preschool Committee stood silent gazing at the supper room of the Masonic Temple as our visions of a light airy building where our children would be nurtured close to nature before starting school, gradually shrivelled.” Nathalie Buckland


It had proved difficult to find a suitable building in Dunoon with owners who were prepared to allow a Preschool to be situated there. The Masons came to the rescue. The Preschool used the rectangular room. At the time it had frosted windows set high up on three of the walls, letting in little, rather gloomy light. The unpolished floor was dark, dusty and rather splintery. There was a picture of the Queen, and a pile of benches, trestles and table tops at one end. The small kitchen had a sink with cold water, and there was a conveniently situated toilet.


Donations helped get things started. The two cupboards, a mattress, some carpet and a wonderful old craft table from the school, along with kindergarten sized tables and chairs. Parents were asked to donate a pillow with a colourful cover for story corner, three rolls of newsprint, coloured paper and material scraps. Books and jigsaws were willingly loaned. Paint, brushes and crayons were brought, and play dough made.


Lyn Rowlands, Nathalie Buckland and Robyn March were all teachers with young children. Each volunteered to take a group of pre-schoolers one morning a week, in order to prove that the project was viable, and obtain funding. They didn’t think of insurance, or any of the things that might have gone wrong, they just went and did it. There were about six children in each group and the parents paid 50c per session, to go towards replenishing paint and paste.


Play was always inside the hall, as the front yard was unfenced and completely without shade. There was a barbed wire fence on each side of the building, behind which a large sheep somehow survived on a steep eroded block chocked with lantana and cotton weed which was scattered with rusty wire, old tin and the odd broken bottle. It was hardly surprising that the sheep eagerly accepted the children’s offerings of apple cores and banana skins, and used to baa when it saw us.


The first building project was to erect some children’s toilets and hand washing facilities, but to begin with two besser blocks, one in front of the toilet and one to stand on for washing hands were used. It was a preschool that wasn’t yet acknowledged as one, but the skills and perseverance of the committee members finally paid off, and funding was made available. For a short time, St. Mary’s Preschool, Casino, ran Dunoon as an outreach centre. Dunoon Preschool was well and truly launched.


Adapted from “Able woman: Stories from Dunoon and Dorroughby”, collected by May Mackay (1999) written by Nathalie Buckland.

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