Where are they now - James Gilchrist (SPC 1983-88)
author: Lorrie Liston
The College reconnects with James Gilchrist (SPC 1983-88), who returned to the College for his recent 30-Year Class Reunion. James’ passion for SPC runs deep as the author of the highly-respected book “Wednesday Warriors” about SPC's 1st XVIII Football team.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
After finishing in 1988, I obtained a degree in Arts – History and Classical Studies from Melbourne Uni before studying teaching. I’ve worked in six schools in Melbourne, London, Darwin and now Geelong. I’ve also written two books and a play. The books were about the St Patrick’s First XVIII and the horrific pain of growing up as a Collingwood supporter. The play aimed to reveal the joy and absurdity of being a teacher. I’ve had three beautiful children Amelie (13), Charlie (11) and Imogen (8). I’ve also enjoyed travelling, reading, music, (more recently) surfing and keeping in touch with friends. Every Australia Day I help organise a get-together with some of my best mates from St Pat’s. We indulge in nostalgia and have a few (quiet, responsible) drinks. I’m probably no longer cool to any of my own students (having reached the age at which they consider life to be ‘done’) but still have plans to travel to the US next year, have a blundering, awkward presence on social media and recently scored tickets to the Killers. So I’m not dead yet.
What are your favourite memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
I had a lot of fun in class with my friends (often not related to the subjects being taught). In classes I was interested in I was a solid contributor. When I was bored I was an annoying, distracted nitwit who spent time writing juvenile notes and drawing cartoons - my long overdue apologies to my old teachers. Now that I’m a teacher myself I’ve been caught by the karma bus many times on this. I remember we had fun on school cadets. Mr Clarke, a former paratrooper, used to set us ‘secret missions’ to complete in the bush and enjoyed showing us how easy it was to ‘pick off’ trailing students on a navigation, wearing his full camouflage outfit like Rambo. Not sure these educational techniques would fly these days but they didn’t do us any harm. Mostly I remember my really good friendships with the guys who used to hang out under the catwalk next to the O’Malley Wing. We called it ‘Bay 12’ (after the infamous ‘Bay 13’ from the MCG at that time). I’m still friends 30 years later with some of these guys.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
I gotta mention two. Mr Williams, my Year 10 homeroom teacher who indulged my sense of humour and fun and overlooked the many flaws in my writing technique, gave me real confidence to experiment and take risks which helped me in becoming a writer. He was an English expat with a beard and dark glasses so we nicknamed him ‘Wolf Man.’ My Year 12 History teacher Alan Rossetto had the biggest impact on me. His uncompromising passion for history had a lasting effect that carried into my own career. He was also pretty funny and irreverent and we used to write down the things he said for a laugh. I remember those guys and many other teachers very fondly.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
Obviously in the ways already outlined. But I also think culturally St Patrick’s taught most boys to be reasonably humble, respectful and self-effacing. Most of the students learn to be decent and down-to-earth in their approach to life. I’ve found this really helpful in my working life where I’ve fitted easily into different communities and built friendships and working relationships quite easily.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
When I separated from my wife of 15 years a while back, it was the values of loyalty, perseverance and responsibility that I had confirmed at St Patrick’s that helped me through the challenge and heartbreak of such a difficult life experience. I’ve found at other times in life when confronted with real adversity that those qualities have held me in good stead and helped me to grow and improve as a person, remembering what’s important and finding the right balance. I’m lucky now to have a new partner and an ongoing, loving relationship with my kids and try to be steadfast in the lives of my wider family and friends. St Patrick’s taught me to be strong, present and consistent in my relationships and not to give up. Life can be so overwhelming at times and it can be a real challenge to achieve balance and happiness. I think the values I learned at St Patrick’s helped strengthen me as a person to cope with many of life’s rigours. But nothing ever fully prepares you.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today what would it be?
As a wannabe Stoic philosopher, I’d say, “Enjoy the simple pleasures, be as kind as you can to those around you.” That’s often the key to happiness.