This weekend my Alma Mater, All Hallows’ School (AHS), has celebrated its 150th anniversary. This may not seem much to those in the northern hemisphere but it remains one of Queensland’s oldest schools. The school was established by the Sisters of Mercy, led by Mother Vincent Whitty and five young nuns, who arrived on the Donald McKay with Bishop Quinn in 1861, having had only FOUR days to prepare for this amazing journey around the world. I read, to my surprise, that one of the nuns on this voyage was Sister Mary Benedict, the name of my own excellent science teacher in the final years of high school. The Sisters of Mercy hold as one of their precepts, service to the less advantaged, and in fact the school has always had a diversity of pupils. The example of the nuns has always included one of role modelling strong women’s leadership.
While the school is often thought of locally as a school for the wealthy or in the vernacular, a “snob” school, this is definitely not the case. My family is/was definitely not wealthy yet three generations have benefitted from the wonderful educational opportunities provided by All Hallows’.
The facilities have always been avant garde though perhaps they would not choose to describe them this way. Cutting edge language and science laboratories and a reference library were among the resources we had at our disposal. Of course there was always a strong emphasis on culture, music and theatre ie the art of being a young lady. I wonder how many schools produce their own classical music vinyl record? Unfortunately I was never talented at music though I notice a photo on the school’s pages of our senior year play includes one of the Shakespeare play we did. Of course there were also all sorts of strictures on appropriate behaviour which could generate an enormous kerfuffle when they were breached eg eating in public, not wearing hat and gloves etc.
However I can honestly say that my four years at All Hallows’ were a critical and wonderful part of my education as well as a pivotal part of my life’s experiences. Retrospectively I’d like to thank all those nuns, and they were pretty much all nuns, for the superb education they gave all of us. In particular Sr Mary Benedict for her excellent teaching in science and Sr Mary Borgia for German, even though science took precedence. Not to mention Sr Mary Marguerite, the school’s Principal during my era, who could bring you into line just by looking at you and not even raising her voice, but who was always incredibly fair.
I haven’t mentioned the religious elements of our education but for me that’s encapsulated in one thing. The atmosphere in the school chapel can send goosebumps up an “old girl’s” arms: the place is redolent with the spirits of generations of nuns and pupils past and present and is a truly special place.
So many memories: friends’ birthday morning teas, cousins, parades, charity work, sports days, theatre outings, ecumenical events, oh yes, and learning. Of relevance to no one who hasn’t “lived” there yet with its position above the bridge and the river it has been part of Brisbane’s history for nearly 150 years (the first school was near the present cathedral). My own AHS-related memories include two of my earliest family history colleagues with whom I shared and learned research strategies and discoveries.
I’m proud to be an All Hallows’ girl as the boarders’ song goes, though for me the school anthem, Angeli Archangeli is more emotional: it’s bizarre how quickly the Latin words come back to you.
Oh, and for those who know Brisbane, no, the school walls weren’t built by convicts.