The article following is provided by that wonderful publication, the “Puslinch Pioneer”, which for over thirty years has been dedicated to coverage of Puslinch Township news and history, and yes, most amazingly, is produced entirely by volunteers, as a community service.  It is published ten times per year.  To assist with production costs, annual subscriptions of $25.00 are gratefully welcomed.  Please forward subscription requests, with remittances made payable to the “Puslinch Pioneer”, to the Puslinch Pioneer, R.R. #3, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 6H9.





More Bygone Days at Downey School


(from the Puslinch Pioneer, v. 9, issue 1, July/August 1984.)


The late Mrs. James Phelan, née Mary Elizabeth McGunnigle, of Guelph, graduated from Wellington Model School in Elora as a teacher during the term ending December 12, 1901.  Miss McGunnigle was then hired by the Trustees of S.S. No. 3, Puslinch, then known as Downey School.


Up to that time the female teachers had boarded in nearby homes in the Section. Having lived all her life in Guelph and only about six miles from the school, Miss McGunnigle’s family bought her a pony named “Rock”, a cart, and a cutter for commuting: She bargained with her nearest neighbour for accommodation for “Rock”.


At her arrival on the first day of school all the “big” boys crowded around the cart, offering to take Rock to his new stable.  She discover­ed soon that the “mischievous” ones were often late in returning to school.  So pretending to accept their excuses, she talked it over with them and they decided that one boy should perform that chore.  A studious boy was appointed, as they were informed by the teacher that he knew how to handle horses on his father’s farm.  Being in a family with four brothers, she was well forewarned and forearmed, but perhaps some of the boys’ shenani­gans went unnoticed.


A morning laugh was enjoyed by the pupils when a young man of the Section passed the school on his way to work for the late Mrs. Mad­dock.  He said he was going to work for Mrs. “Maggots”.


The late J. J. Craig, B.A., inspect­ed the school and remained for the better part of the day listening to the lessons being taught.  On one occasion, while talking at the cloak­room door to the teacher, one of the boys urged the quietest girl in the school to set the clock ahead by fifteen minutes so they could get out early, but she was caught and gently chastised.


When the snow became too deep, Rock was left in Guelph and Miss McGunnigle boarded at the Lynch home.  The nights were long and lonely but she learned to play euchre and time passed more quickly.


Romance was not unknown in those days.  One snowy Friday night, one of the neighbours invited Miss McGunnigle to a movie in Guelph on the condition that she would not remain in Guelph when they visited her home afterwards.  On the way he said, “his arm always wanted to go across the back of the cutter”.  After the movie, the condition was not honoured.  It was the first and the last ride in that cutter.


As a useful parting gift, the School Section presented Miss McGunnigle with a five-piece Silver Tea Service, which is still held in high esteem in the family household.

Miss McGunnigle grew to like the country life and the people who resided there.  She later married the late James Phelan, in that Section, and remained there until her demise in 1969.


These vignettes were written by Alice Phelan, a retired teacher, Puslinch resident, and the very daughter of Mary Elizabeth McGunnigle Phelan.