Br George V Frances (former staff)

September 10, 2021

We extend our deepest condolences to the family of former Christian Brother George V Frances, who taught at SPC during the late 1960s.

Br George Frances pictured in this photograph published in the 1967 College Annual

George passed away on August 14, 2021 aged 92 years and is survived by his wife Louise and her seven children and their 13 grandchildren.

Br Frances joined the teaching staff at St Patrick’s in 1967, but he was no stranger to Ballarat, having earlier taught at St Patrick’s, Drummond Street and at St Alipius (where he conducted the winning South Street Choir of 1950). Br Frances came to SPC from the post of Director of Scholastics at the Congregation’s Teachers’ College (a task combined with that of Metropolitan Vocation Director). In his first year at SPC, he was responsible for Matriculation Christian Doctrine and Histories and the Leaving Maths.

Br Frances pictured in the staff photograph in the 1967 College Annual.

He was on the teaching staff through until 1969. During his time, Br Frances was coach of the First XI Cricket Team, with his extremely disciplined approach taking the team to their first premiership triumph in many years.  He was also coach of the 2nd XVIII Football Team, was a senior officer in the College Cadet Unit and in charge of the intermediate dormitory. He was also remembered for teaching senior histories and playing an active part in many apostolic groups.
Old Collegian Bob Dixon (SPC 1964-67, PY1968) remembered Br Frances taking him for religious education in his matriculation year in 1968 and “I credit him with being a major influence in the transformation of my naive faith into a robust and critical adult faith”.

Br Frances left St Patrick’s College to become Headmaster at St Joseph’s College in North Melbourne, before leaving the brotherhood and marrying Louise. George and Louise were devoted members of the Teams Movement for Married Couples (formerly known as the Teams of Our Lady) as well as the CatholicCare’s Marriage Preparation Programs and enjoyed their life together at Barwon Heads.

We thank Old Collegian and College Legend John Larkins (SPC 1961-67) for also penning this tribute to Br Frances.

“Rev Br  G.V. Frances was a vivid character and a hard task master. He was also (in colloquial terms) a great bloke who treated his students like adults and expected them to behave accordingly.

I first met him in 1967 (his first year at SPC I believe). I had been a boarder at the college since 1961 and was a 17-year-old (somewhat reluctant) second year Matriculation student. Br Frances was appointed the First Xl Coach. I was Captain in the absence of my old opening partner (and better qualified) Peter Howley, who gained entry into a physiotherapy course early in first term. Peter was later very successful in his profession with his best known ‘patient’ being Steve Moneghetti.

In contrast to the First XVIII, the cricket team had not, at that time, enjoyed much success in the BPS Competition and had routinely  finished the cricket season at or near the bottom of the table.
Br Frances was having none of that and very quickly marshalled the cricket troops of ‘67. He also decided we had sufficient ability to win the premiership if properly disciplined and hard nosed in the quest for success. The term ‘troops’ is used advisedly as we soon became aware that Br Frances had a military bent as a coach.

Discipline was his byword, punctuality a key and a ‘no sooks’ policy was strictly enforced. Our bowling trump card was undoubtedly M.P.Hartley (the ‘Wombat’ of Bacchus Marsh) who relied on extreme pace as his main weapon. The Wombat could be a tempestuous character on field – his reaction on being no balled for overstepping was particularly colourful as those who witnessed and heard such reactions will remember. And there was plenty of talent in the batting as well but no one was permitted any slack or to get ahead of themselves by the coach.

That new order under Br Frances was unequivocally established during the practice match phase of the season. After a totally unexpected victory over Ballarat High School West, we were marched out onto the Main Oval for extended fielding practice supervised by our steely eyed coach. I well remember the astonished faces of our opponents as they were leaving the college. It was a clear message that times had changed for SPC cricket.

The season continued in much the same way. After one unsatisfactory but still winning performance, I was ‘stood down’ as captain only to be saved by the support of Vice Captain Gavan Tellefson who nobly refused to take my place. By the end of the season, we had been indoctrinated with such resilience by our coach that we could win from any position. This included one game against a very talented Ballarat East High who bowled us out on a bleak (there were no sight boards in those days) Ballarat Wednesday afternoon for 37 (which included a first ball duck by the skipper). In reply, aided by a lightning spell from the school end by the Wombat, our opponents were dismissed for 27!  In the end, we won that match outright but only after a titanic struggle with a last wicket partnership almost successful in dragging East High over the line.

Mention of the First XI Cricket team’s triumph in the 1967 College Annual.

Some of  these memories should not be considered entirely reliable given they relate to a period over fifty years ago and inevitably suffer from the nostalgia associated with a very happy boyhood experience. I also had a deadline to meet! Corrections and comments welcome.

They also constitute just one perspective of a wonderful man who was a great mentor of those cricket boys of ‘67. The deep impression he made on us all remains as vivid now as it was then and we were and are all the better for his profound influence and care.”

A photograph of the victorious 1967 First XI Cricket premiership team, coached by the determined Br Frances. This photograph was inadvertently left out of the 1967 College Annual and was kindly shared by Old Collegian Michael Kearney (SPC 1962-67).