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Spotswood lies close to the magnificent Waiau River where both the road and railway bridges are remarkable for their length. The settlement of Spotswood itself seems to be centred on the corrugated iron construction of the Spotswood Hall where a memorial to those who were lost in the 1914-1918 war is also located. The inscription indicates that the small communities of Spotswood, and nearby Leominster, paid an excessively high personal price since fourteen names are listed. Unusually there were no names engraved on the memorial for the Second World War. Perhaps they were just lucky or perhaps the people of Spotswood felt that they had already paid too high a price once before and simply said 'Stuff it, we won't serve'. But I am sure that they served, once more rallying to the cause. The grass around the hall was neatly mown and two tennis courts at the rear looked as if they might still be in use since the nets were taut and ready for play.
On the other side of the main road a sign seemed to raise the possibility that Spotswood may once have had its own railway station but a dual track is all that remains for trains passing north and south. Further along the line an attractive wooden structure stands besides the track. It is used by the train drivers to change the points for the passing trains, and perhaps where they can also have a quick chat about family and friends. The name Spots Wood is painted on the side of the structure and I can only assume that this was a simple mistake or perhaps somebody was having their own little private joke at the expense of the community. The land about is parched and dry except where irrigation sprinklers project their liquid gold onto the welcoming soil. But summer drought in this area is just an annual event and not of any particular surprise to the local farming community. Surrounding Spotswood, like Indians circling a wagon train, are Mount Emily, Mount Ward and the intriguingly named The Wart, also Dead Mans Hill and further away Mount Beautiful. And as with so many rural communities in New Zealand they love their horse racing in Spotswood and a full size racecourse with stands was laid out many years ago, but there is no indication that another race will ever be run.
It's hard to believe by looking at the place that Spotswood once had a school of its own, established in 1895, and that by 1902 the average attendance was an impressive forty one. Sas and I could see no sign of the building itself, unless perhaps it was one and the same as the hall. It would make sense. The records state that surrounding the school was an area of two acres whilst the teachers accommodation stretched to five rooms, a large investment in the benefits of education by any standard. The rural school in New Zealand clearly helped to establish the firm foundations for the rapid economic development of the country as a whole. The simple ability to read, write and add up helped thousands to make their way in the world but unfortunately the selfsame schools are rapidly becoming historic relics on their way to joining the cooperative dairy factory, communal hall and war memorial as crumbling memories of another age. Now rural children are being transported long distances to larger more impersonal centres of education where they can achieve 'universal standards' and along that path something fundamental has been lost. One can only hope that in the age of the internet geographical distance will no longer be the handicap that it is today and once again more people will have the opportunity to live, work and play in the countryside.
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