LAST week, William Kennett, the former headteacher of Symondsbury Primary School, was sentenced to ten years in prison.
It won’t bother him too much, as he died in 1910. But it was a surprisingly tough sentence, handed down to a missionary who went to Australia in 1867 to “christianise” the natives, and came back home two years later with an Aboriginal and a kangaroo in tow.
The sentence came from Symondsbury School class three and four students - aged from seven to 11.
They decided that this was people and animal trafficking, and rejected his defence that he was only rescuing the Aboriginal from the clutches of Frank Jardine, played by Peter Hitchin, of Symondsbury Manor at the trial.
Students came to their conclusion despite the fact that Jardine remains notorious in North Queensland 150 years later for the 47 notches on his rifle stock, each one allegedly representing an Aboriginal he had “potted”.
They say he had to be buried standing up, or he would drown in all the blood that he spilled.
Florence Kennett, played by Isla Byrne, was also convicted of perjury for her false testimony in support of her husband William.
Vice chairman of governors Clive Stafford-Smith said: “This came as part of an annual exercise in trial practice in our school. This time it was based on a true story – the Aboriginal brought back by Kennett was allegedly buried in the graveyard, and the kangaroo in the schoolyard, both coming from a tropical climate, unable to survive the Symondsbury winters.
Class teacher Lisa Jenkin said: “It is really good for the children to learn about the law. They have to find everything out themselves. It opened up a lot of discussion about the law and proving that they did it. They absolutely love it.
“It is so lovely that we have got that opportunity to have someone of Clive’s stature who is giving up his time to come in and work with the children.”