Marie (Bryant) Harling, from Bundaberg, studied for her Scholarship exam in 1945 in the building immediately behind her
Recognise anyone? A photograph of St Pat's boarders taken in the mid-1940s; Marie Bryant is on the far left in the second row from the top

November 20, 2012

Memories of another era came flooding back on Saturday afternoon when former students from St Patrick’s Catholic School gathered in Nanango to celebrate the school’s centenary.

There were tales of trenches in the boys’ playground during the war, tennis on the Shamrock Courts (now just a vacant block), playing “tiggy” around the camphor laurels (“the trees are still here from when I was a kid”), skipping school to go fishing in the creek …

One enterprising chap even recalled being hunted out of Church by the priest with a broom (he’d been found wagging school).

About 180 former St Pat’s students gathered at the school to celebrate with a High Tea, share stories and cut an anniversary cake.

Marie Harling, nee Bryant, will turn 82 next month. She boarded at St Pat’s for five years and it’s where she completed her Scholarship class (Grade 5).

Scholarship was a very important examination in those days as it determined a pupil’s career choices.

If you passed your Scholarship exam, you could go on to attend high school. Failure meant you left school and looked for a job.

Marie has fond memories of St Pat’s. She passed this all-important exam after being tutored by the Sisters of Mercy and went on to Star of the Sea at Southport for high school … and she wasn’t even a Catholic!

St Pat's Assistant to the Principal Religious Education (APRE) Bill Mulcahy, school officer Carole Mulcahy, teacher Sonia Vine, Principal Matthew Vine, school officer Laurel Franklin and secretary Daneile Holmes
Irene and Barrie Martens, from Ipswich; Barrie left St Pat's in 1948 to work in the post office
Tim Dwyer, from Kingaroy, attended St Pat's from 1943-46
Old friends Philippa (Hayes) Lassman, from Dayboro; George Emerson, from Herston; and Helen (Kelly) Davidson, from Palm Beach have caught up over the years at various "Nanango reunions" in Brisbane; George attended St Pat's from 1943-46; Philippa and Helen left in the early 1950s
Brisbane residents Ian Fairweather (left St Pat's 1939) and Peter Nunan (1940) with Ian's son Paul

* * *

The High Tea on Saturday was just one of a number of events St Patrick’s school held last week to mark its Centenary.

On Wednesday evening, students held a concert to entertain parents and friends in the school hall.

And on Friday evening, a lantern procession wound its way through Nanango to re-enact the arrival of the Mercy Sisters by train.

About 40 people – including staff, students, past students and friends – gathered at Pioneer Park, adjacent to the old railway siding, at 7:00pm.

The group acted out short scenes from a play, written by local identity Jim Mangan, that portrayed the lead-up to the arrival of the first Sisters of Mercy to Nanango.

A procession by torch and lantern light then made its way up Drayton, Fitzroy and Alfred streets to the site of St Patrick’s School.

The foundation group of nuns numbered just five.

Over the 100 years since, nearly 130 Sisters have served at St Patrick’s School, including 19 who were school principals.

The first lay principal was appointed in 1980.

The torchlit procession begins up Drayton Street
The "Sisters", carrying their ports, were welcomed at St Patrick's school

[Photos from procession: Bill Mulcahy]

Nanango Convent Opening Ceremony

From The Brisbane Courier, April 29, 1912:

Archbishop Duhig arrived at Nanango on Friday, and was formally welcomed at the railway station, and escorted to the convent by torch-light procession, headed by the Nanango band.

The Reverend Mother Patrick, of All Hallows Convent, and Sisters of Mercy also arrived for the opening ceremony, which took place at noon to-day, Archbishop Duhig officiating in the absence of Archbishop Dunne.

There were over 1500 present, including 400 persons from along the branch railway, who journeyed to Nanango by special train.

Father J.P. Burgen, parish priest, read the financial statement, showing that the building cost £2173, and £1804 had been received, leaving a debit balance of £309.

Subsequently, a collection was taken up, and, £623/1/6 was subscribed, which Archbishop Duhig said was the most enthusiastic response he had ever seen in such a cause.

A long procession marched to the convent from the church, and after the ceremony of blessing, Archbishop Duhig said the dedication to God of such a magnificent building would long live in the memory of all present, it being for the noblest of all purposes, that of Christian education.

Archbishop Duhig said he was delighted that his first official action was in the spread of Catholic education, than which there was nothing dearer in his life’s work.

He paid a tribute to the Sisters of Mercy as being the pioneers of Catholic education in Queensland, and said their schools were known from Stanthorpe in the South to Cooktown in the North.

Their work had been going on for the past 50 years in Australia, and they had done great work in this young country – a work in which Archbishop Dunne had always taken a most affectionate interest…

Amongst the donations received were £21 from Archbishop Dunne, £25 from Father Burgen, and £100 from the Sisters of Mercy.

It is just 12 months since the first meeting was held to start a convent. The building was not only free from debt; but there was a good credit balance.

A luncheon was subsequently served in the school hall, and a toast list was gone through …

The convent will start the day school to-day, a number of pupils having been enrolled. Boarders will not be taken until June.”

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