In May of 1848 the Merri Creek School was set to close, but it received an injection of government funding, and a new teacher was appointed in June of 1848. Francis Edgar arrived from Hobart with his wife, mother and daughter with no experience of teaching or of working with Aboriginal people but with a level of enthusiasm for the task that surpassed his predecessor Edward Peacock.
The Merri Creek School could not boast the same number of students in Edgar’s time as Peacock’s. The average attendance was 10 students, compared to 20 at the School’s peak. Most of these students were brought to the school from distant tribes as the Wurundjeri-willam families, whose lands had traditionally included the Merri Creek site, had not returned to the area since the death of their beloved clan head Billibellary in August of 1846.
Francis Edgar used financial rewards, as well as allowing access to crops to encourage the students to work around the station. He promoted traditional Protestant values of hard work and self-sacrifice to his students. The best example of teacher and student working together on a project was the construction of a footbridge across the Merri Creek in 1849. The bridge became known as ‘The Black Boys Bridge’ and was finished in November of 1849 and opened in a public ceremony. The bridge was a source of great pride for Edgar and for his students, and its destruction in a severe flood in the spring of 1850 was a massive blow to Edgar’s chances of success. The students’ morale dropped and they became disillusioned with the Protestant values that Edgar had been promoting. By the end of 1850 only 5 pupils remained. In January of 1851 the school was closed for good. The following month saw the Edgars return to Hobart. They had tried to take the last two students with them but the Aboriginal children would not be permitted into Tasmania (Van Diemans Land) and they were left in the care of a teacher in Moonee Ponds.
Clark, Ian D. and Heydon Toby (2004). A bend in the Yarra: A history of the Merri Creek Protectorate Station and Merri Creek Aboriginal School 1841-1851, Canberra (A.C.T.): Aboriginal Studies Press
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.