TERALBA Public’s principal Richard Metcalf would personally pay the thieves who stole the school’s beloved bell what they would have collected for its scrap metal, if it guaranteed the safe return of the historic artefact.
“We just want the bell back – if they’re that desperate for the $50 I’ll give them $50 from my wallet – what’s important to me is that the kids have that connection to the past and to this tradition,” Mr Metcalf said.
“It’s always devastating to walk into a school and see damage, but windows you can board over, with computers it’s all on the Cloud and graffiti you can clean up.
“This bell is irreplaceable and we feel like we’ve been violated.
“It doesn’t define the great education here and what teachers do in the classroom, but it is part of our heritage.”
Mr Metcalf said he first noticed the more than 60 kilogram brass bell was missing when he returned to school around midday on Anzac Day.
Estimated at around 130 years old, it has been at the school since it opened in the late 1800s and was recently restored and relocated to the top of a 2.5 metre pole in the centre of the playground.
The school of about 70 pupils farewells its year six students each December by using their arms to form a tunnel from the students’ classroom to the bell, which the outgoing students ring together.
“It was a surreal moment – I did a double take,” he said of realising the bell was gone.
“It took three of us after it was restored to put it in place so it was a job well planned.
“They must have backed up a ute and had two or three people to take it away.”
Mr Metcalf said he originally thought it had been stolen after Tuesday afternoon, but further enquiries revealed a school parent had seen the chain missing and cloth stuffed up inside the bell on Thursday last week.
Some students said they noticed the bell was missing over the weekend.
Mr Metcalf said he reported the theft to police and a nearby scrap metal merchant.
“They’d be lucky to get $40 or $50 for it, but if we got one forged we’d need $2000 to $3000. It’s not worth anything, except to us.
“What kind of collector wants to wake up in the morning to a piece that was stolen?”
Meanwhile, security cameras have captured a man stealing a Lest We Forget flag from outside Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper’s electorate office in Toronto.
He approached the office around 11.42pm on Anzac Day and appeared to have burned the cable ties attaching the flag to a railing.
Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000.