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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Sharpley, Annie Maria (1859–1943)

Miss Annie Maria Sharpley, whose death occurred at her home in Narracoorte on January 16th, was an old and highly respected resident of the district. Since meeting with an accident some months previous to her death, which resulted in a broken thigh, she had been laid up, and was under treatment in the Narracoorte Hospital for several weeks, but improved sufficiently to be able to leave the institution. She was unable, however, to walk, but there were hopes that the broken limb might knit, as her general health appeared to be satisfactory. She purchased a residence in Robertson Street, having decided to make her home in the town, and seemed to be getting along fairly well. However, on the day previous to her death, Miss Sharpley took a bad turn, which necessitated a hurried call to her medical adviser, who found her condition serious, and secured the services of a trained nurse. Although everything that medical and nursing aid could provide was given her, she passed away peacefully next morning. Being widely known and esteemed, it is needless to say that her death is regretted by a host of friends. Her quiet and unassuming disposition and sympathetic manner combined with her intellectual and conversational qualities, gained friends for her in all walks of life. Being a school teacher of experience and ability over a long period, it can be said that she played a special part in the social and home life of the community.

The deceased lady, who spent the whole of her life in the district, was the only daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. James Sharpley, who were among the very early residents of Narracoorte, and was born on February 15, 1859. Her father and mother were both natives of southern Ireland, now known as Eire, her mother being born in County Cork and her father in Tipperary. After their marriage, they came out to Australia, landing at Robe about the year 1856, and settled at Narracoorte, which was then a mere hamlet. Mr. Sharpley at once obtained employment, and though the population was sparse, he was never out of a job. Having been brought up among horses in the Old Land he had charge of the stables of the late Mr. A. D. Handyside, who was for a number of years a representative of the South-East in Parliament, and Mr. Sharpley drove the mail coach from Narracoorte to Kingston. Later on he secured a piece of land about three miles from Narracoorte on the Messamurry road, on which he built a house and a school, the latter at the request of parents living in the surrounding district, his daughter being the teacher. Mr. Sharpley established an orchard on his holding, and was soon producing all kinds of fruit and vegetables. He also devoted a portion of his time to agricultural pursuits, and formed a comfortable home. He took a quiet part in the affairs of the town but eschewed public life. He attached himself to the Presbyterian Church, but in their native land both Mr. Sharpley and his wife were members of the lrish Episcopal Church, its constitution and ritual being similar to that of the Church of England. There was no church of England in Narracoorte when he arrived, but when steps were taken to form one, he joined with other residents belonging to the church in forming a congregation, and was appointed a member of the Church Committee on  November 27, 1878, which was ultimately responsible for the erection of the present church. He was one of the first two wardens of the church.

Their daughter, the late Miss A. M. Sharpley, took part in raising funds for the founding of the many institutions that benefited the town in its earlier history, including the hospital and Institute, and was one of the leading playing members in the Narracoorte Dramatic Club, which provided numerous benefit entertainments for public movements and institutions. She was a capable musician and cooperated with others in organizing musical and other entertainments and socials, recognising that it was a civic duty to furnish the town with institutions and societies for social and intellectual purposes. She opened the Near Narracoorte School in August, 1877 at the request of the parents residing in the part of the district where her parents lived, and in January, 1878 the school was taken over by the Education Department, and she continued as teacher of it without a break until 1929—a period of 51 years—which must be a record of service as a school teacher if not for Commonwealth, for South Australia. According to a statement made by Miss Sharpley at a gathering tendered to her on her retirement as head teacher of the school, the following were the names of the first scholars who attended the school when it was opened:—Annie McInnes, Alfred J. Welcome, Angus McInnes, Jno. McInnes, Sarah Welcome, Thomas Smith, Charlotte Smith, Alfred, Horace, and William Turner, Minnie and Thomas Graham, Alfred, Emily and Julia Rogers, Bertha and Charles Schinckel, Sarah and Ellen Ludwig, Ellen and Richard Harris, William and Bessy Vivian, and Emma Buck. Members of a number of well-known Narracoorte families attended the school, and many of them have figured prominently in public and business life in different parts of Australia. Among those who are well-known to many residents in this district at the present time are Dr Rupert Magarey, the well-known medical and surgical specialist of Adelaide, and Mr. A. C. DeGaris, the first Mayor of Narracoorte. Several others, some of whom still reside in the district, who were scholars at her school could also be mentioned. Miss Sharpley was never happier than when teaching a class of bright boys and girls, but she devoted much attention to those who had less brighter intellects, realizing that the plodder was well worthy of attention, as the knowledge he gained was often more thorough and adaptable in after years than the brighter ones. Her chief aim was to win the friendship and affection of the children, so that they would not consider her merely as an ordinary instructor. She thus cultivated an absorbing interest in the well-being of her pupils. She was offered promotion by the Education Department who recognised her abilities, on several occasions, but being the only member of the family, and desiring to preserve the home her parents had gradually made by their hard toil, she was reluctant to leave it.

She welcomed the visit of the district inspectors at periods for reviewing the work of the school, and often discussed with them the improvements in teaching and educational training which could be effected, as well as matters concerning educational advancement. Miss Sharpley during her lengthy career as a teacher, kept her old scholars steadfastly in mind, and was interested in their welfare so long as she could trace their whereabouts. When the last Great War was being waged, she took a pride in the work the school had done in providing comforts for the fighting forces, and many of her pupils who enlisted regularly kept up correspondence with her when serving abroad. She was keenly interested in world wide affairs, as well as local doings. She was a keen student of history, and followed the course of the engagements in the different world centres in connection with the present war with the utmost interest up till the time of her death.

Miss Sharpley retired, as Head Teacher of the Near Narracoorte school and from the Department of Education on February 15, 1929, more than ordinary regret expressed by the parents and others. It was generally agreed that the record of her services was a great achievement, and she richly deserved recognition. The School Committee, parents, and a number of friends organised in her honour a gathering and social to mark the interesting occasion. The proposal was taken up heartily, and old scholars entered into it with enthusiasm. It was felt by the School Committee that it had to be held in a central place, as so many wished to attend, and it took place in the Town Hall on May 8, when a large attendance was present. Mr. A. C. deGaris presided and numerous speeches were made, praising the work she had done in the sphere of education. It transpired during the proceedings that she had old scholars in all parts of Australia, who, in forwarding donations to a gift that it was proposed to hand to her during the gathering, expressed their wishes for her future happiness. There was no desire on the part of the promoters for large donations, and the gift took the form of two beautiful Morris chairs. Mr. H.C. Hosking, District School Inspector, spoke on the occasion, and referred to the long and efficient services Miss Sharpley had rendered to the school and the Department.

The funeral of the the deceased took place on Friday afternoon January 17, and was largely attended by residents of the town and district, in addition to relatives and friends. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. W. A. Curran, Th.L. Rector of St. Paul's Church of England, in the absence of Rev. W. Dykes (Presbyterian Church) who was on holidays in Victoria. Previous to the cortege leaving for the Narracoorte cemetery, a service was held at the home of the deceased in Robertson Street, and in an address the rev. gentleman referred to the death of Miss Sharpley in the following sympathetic terms:—

The church's teaching about death, said the rev. gentleman, brings to us comfort and assurance, an antidote for our sorrow and mourning and sense of grievious loss. For the emphasis of that teaching is one of joy and gladness that God has called a soul to the happiness of being nearer His presence. Life beyond death is a life filled with far greater, far deeper, far truer happiness than can ever be experienced or even imagined here on earth. It is only human that we should mourn those who depart this life, but that sorrow can be eased if we regard things from their point of view. No more suffering, no more sorrow, no more trials of the flesh, but instead life more abundant, life nearer God. And He Himself has promised us that in our turn we too shall share in this life, so that once again we shall be reunited with those whose visible presence has been taken from us. It is this thought that gives us strength to bear the pain of our temporary parting. Miss Sharpley has left behind her here a fragrant memory, and she will always be held in affectionate remembrance by those who knew her. Especially her interest in children and young people generally will be borne in mind. In itself there is a cause for joy, even at this time, that this can be the type of memory to look back upon. So then, we must regard this occasion with the sure and certain hope of the Christian that death is but the call of God to a further, fuller, and happied life—a life nearer His blessed presence.

The cortege was a long one, there being many old scholars of the Near Narracoorte school present. The hearse was covered with beautiful wreaths and other floral tributes were otherwise conveyed to the cemetery, a number of them being from friends at a distance. One of them was from Mr. Tom Smith, of Western Australia, an old scholar, and a son of the late Mr. H. Smith, who was one of the prominent early residents of Narracoorte, and was engaged in farming and building contracts. Mr. T. Smith has a property at Bridgetown (WA), where he resides. The Near Narracoorte School Committee and the schoolchildren, forwarded a wreath. Miss Sharpley was fond of flowers, and was a grower and good supporter of the old Narracoorte H. and P. Society's flower shows. The Rev. W. A. Curran conducted the service at the grave. The pall-bearers were Messrs. Robt. and Alf Welcome, A. and J. Farmer, G. Ludwig, and Jim Humphries. The mortuary arrangements were in the hands of Messrs Platt Bros., of Narracoorte.

Original publication

Citation details

'Sharpley, Annie Maria (1859–1943)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 9 August 2022.

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