Roby School, located near Coomandook, stands to attention after 100 years

After a century of dust, vermin, rain and heat the Roby School has been revitalised.

It was built by Mr's Clem Wilkin and Fred Cordes in 1919-20, on the Wilkin property, for the benefit and education of ten families surrounding their properties.

Clem moved from Wonna, near Terowie, after riding his push bike to Coomandook, to inspect properties in the Hundred of Roby during 1908.

He married Emma Jones of Carrington in 1913 and the first of their family arrived in 1914

. The Cordes Family lived on a neighbouring property and along with other neighbours, required their children to be educated.

Education commenced in 1919 in the original "house" built by Clem Wilkin.

The first teacher, Miss Fisher, at her first posting, boarded three miles away (5 kilometres) at the Cordes' home; there were neither cars nor roads in those days.

It was a real wonder that Miss Fisher stayed on because after travelling to Coomandook by train, she was advised to continue to Yumali as the Cordes family never came to Coomandook.

On this advice to continue to Yumali, at that time there was nothing more than a small tin shed in the Mallee scrub.

She waited many hours until a small girl appeared on a horse to pick up a parcel, she said to stay here, that she would arrange something.

Some time later a horse and cart driven by a wild looking bearded man appeared, Mr Max Wilkin, Clem Wilkin's brother, she was hoping the situation was sorted, as by this time it was nearly dark.

After several hours of travel through the bush they finally arrived at the Cordes' home, to meet a rather distort Mrs Cordes, who had been to Coomandook and back.

In the summer of 1920 Clem and Fred set to work on the construction of the new School building "The Hundred of Roby School".

Neighbours happily collected and delivered dray loads of lime stone, to assist in the building of this very important part of providing education for their children.

With this community spirit the School building was ready for students at the start of the 1920 school year.

In the late 1990s the Wilkin Family Club recognized the significance of this building for the Family and the community. It must be pointed out that this building is on private property, two kilometres from the closest road.

Several years later, negotiations with the current land owners resulted in a plaque being mounted on a large limestone, happily provided and placed in position by them.

The unveiling of this plaque attracted 150 people, a result that startled the committee and sparked interest in preserving this little piece of local history.

After further negotiations with the owners of the land and discussions with Wilkin Family members, it was decided in 2018 to replace the roof using new corrugated iron.

Three of Clem and Emma's grandchildren completed this job, along with some small repairs to the stone work, the first small step in the preservation of this almost 100 year old building.

In early 2020 Clem and Emma's daughter, Ida Warner, believed to be the only remaining living student of the school, offered to help if the Family wished to replace the floor.

There were some stipulations however, this floor is jarrah of a rare size and the requirement was to restore it to its former glory.

This sturdy little building, built as a school and also used as a social meeting venue for about 25 years, then as a barn for a further 50 years, has had many occupants.

There are many family members' recollections of encounters with rats, mice and bees over the years.

White ants had also enjoyed time in residence working hard at anything that was not jarrah, or limestone, it is a pity that a cupboard containing all of the school records, became a playground for the above residents.

With further discussions among the many grandchildren of the Wilkin and Cordes families, it was decided that it would be a worthwhile project for this branch of the Wilkin Family Club.

Late in 2020 work began on the removal of the old floor, revealing that about 60-70% of the material would be able to be reused.

This was quite incredible considering it had been simply laid on top of rock and sand, left over from building of the walls. In early 2021, work by several Grandchildren of Clem and Emma removed many tons of material and prepared the room for the "new" floor.

The leader in this project, Max Wilkin, Grandson of Clem and Emma, went to great lengths to locate matching flooring to finish the project. The great contributions and support by family and others, have made this a very worthwhile project.

The 11th of April 2021 will be remembered as a special time in the Wilkin Family history, there has been 117yrs. of living and working in the Southern Mallee of South Australia.

Two of Clem's brothers were some of the first to farm at Coomandook, commencing in 1904.

The one very special memory however is that of 94 year old Ida Warner (nee Wilkin) opening the door of her old School and seeing it as it was in 1932 when she started her education.

We believe she is the last surviving student who attended "Hundred of Roby School".

Families of children who attended Roby school 1919-1937: Brittain Cordes Coats Davis Hillman Lymn Lubcke Mulkhilda Sunquist Wilkin