History repeats at St Patrick’s College

March 25, 2020

In the space of three years St Patrick’s College has built a brand new boarding precinct, experienced the sudden departure of a principal and now endured school disruptions due to a worldwide pandemic.

Amazingly, this is all nothing new for St Patrick’s College. In fact, it is all eerily reminiscent of a time exactly 100 years ago.

College archivist Halina Sztynda has delved through the College history books to unearth the following details of the College’s history from 1918-1920 which aligns spookily with 2018-2020.

Halina has provided the following summary of the post-World War I years at St Patrick’s College, taken from the College history book which was produced to mark the centenary year in 1993.

History and Heritage Book 1893-1993 (from page 102)

Chapter 7



The Spanish Flue of 1918 created havoc across the globe, similar to what we are experiencing today with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The end of the war in 1918 ushered in a period of rebuilding everywhere—a general reorganisation of things after the tragic years when so many young men went away, some never to return. For the schools, which had struggled in many ways during these lean years, the atmosphere changed completely and there was a renewed freshness and optimism in the air. True, 1919 was to bring with it other difficulties, such as the ‘Spanish Influenza’ which ravaged the country and seriously interrupted the work of many schools. But the War was over, a new world was developing, and the years to come would not see any more the swallowing up of the nation’s youth soon after they emerged from the schools. It was a good time to be alive and the future looked bright.

At St Patrick’s College, a double jubilee year was proclaimed—fifty years since the Christian Brothers arrived in Melbourne and twenty-five years since the College opened. There was an Australia-wide appeal for funds to pay off the debt of £ 15,000 on the Christian Brothers’ Training College in Strathfield; and the Ballarat response—a combined effort by Skipton Street, Ballarat East and St Patrick’s — was a Monster Fete which netted £1,900. The Annual referred to ‘the patriotism of the Old Boys, strikingly manifested during the recent war’, and expressed the hope that—

This spirit of unselfish love of native land will help to drive out of public life the gibbering money- hunters of contemporary politics, and to kill that self-idolatry which is turning the school into a shop, sport into a swindle, government into a scramble for spoils.

The school had just come out of the most successful sporting year of its short history:

The football eighteen scored an average of over twenty-five actual goals per match, without allowing a single point to be recorded against them. The Combined Sports Meeting, the premiership cricket matches, and the Annual Boat Race all brought overwhelming victories; while in Tennis, 27 of the 32 rubbers played were won by SPC

In 1919, St Patrick’s College Principal Br Turpin was suddenly and unexpectedly moved to Christian Brothers College St Kilda as principal.

Altogether, then, as the school commenced its second stage of history the prospect was bright and the spirit buoyant.


The school leadership changed three times in the period now under review as the Provincial Council reorganised after the war and the General Chapter of 1920. In the middle of 1919 Brother Turpin was changed to CBC St Kilda as Principal. This was unexpected and apparently caused a vacancy which the Council found it hard to fill. Whatever the cause. Brother W. M. McCarthy, still Consultor to the Provincial, was called on yet again and took the helm at St Patrick’s until the end of the year. This temporary arrangement was ended when Brother E. F. Keniry was recalled as Principal. He stayed until the end of 1924, when he was needed to open a new school for the Brothers in Young, New South Wales. At this stage Brother J. B. Galvin, already on the staff at St Patrick’s, was appointed Principal; and we will return later in this chapter to a consideration of his contribution to the work of the College. For the present, however, let us pause to see what developments took place immediately after the war.

Brother McCarthy

One of the changes that had taken place since Brother McCarthy was in charge of StPatrick’s in 1909 was in enrolment. The number of boarders in 1909 was 131; in 1917 it was 154 and rising. And by 1920 it had risen to 242. Before 1917 specific accommodation for boarders consisted only of the St Patrick’s dormitory—the western wing of the original wooden building constructed by the Holy Ghost Fathers in 1889. Some boarders were housed in the old Wanliss House after 1905; but by 1919 even this was inadequate, with the result that the billiard room (one of the old handball-courts) and the gymnasium were b

In 2020, St Patrick’s College Principal John Crowley was suddenly and unexpectedly moved to St Kevin’s College, Toorak as principal.

oth being used as dormitories. This, of course, upset normal use of these valuable facilities; and it was clear that further appropriate dormitory accommodation would have to be provided. When Brother McCarthy arrived (July 1919) he not only saw the problem immediately but promptly set about remedying it. He planned quickly but carefully, borrowed money for the purpose and with great dispatch had the building under construction within a few months. By the end of the year it was nearly ready, and the following notice appeared in the Annual:

This year we built a set of dressing-rooms, lavatories and two spacious dormitories. The lavatories and dressing-rooms are all on the ground floor and are constructed on the best principles. The new dormitories occupy the first floor and have a frontage of 160 feet. Needless to say they are perfectly lighted and perfectly ventilated. The total co.st of this section was £7,000.

Both internal and external views of this new building are shown here. It was a solid structure, beautifully finished, has served its purpose ever since 1920 and has been the very centre of the boarding-school life at St Patrick’s College. At the time of its construction it was considered to be a model of its kind, and the building is in extremely good condition even to this day. However, it is significant that in his report at the end of 1920 Brother Keniry could lament two things— the debt still outstanding on the new building and the fact that even as early as that it was inadequate for the number of boarders to be accommodated. At least there seems to have been general rejoicing that the gymnasium and the billiard room had been restored to their rightful use.

We might note that the new wing—known henceforth as the ‘McCarthy Wing’—carries on its northern facade a large representation of the original crest of St Patrick’s College, Ballarat. This was, in fact, the official crest of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers, which had been automatically adopted by many of their schools throughout the world. It had appeared on the St Patrick’s documents since 1893 (notably it took pride of place on the first page of the Annuals) ; and it can be seen a little later in this book. The significant point here, though, is that this was to be the last time it was to be used on a school building in Ballarat; and it seems fitting that it is displayed on the front of what was to be Brother McCarthy’s last contribution to the development of St Patrick’s. He was to leave Australia in 1920 and the ‘old’ crest, resplendent on the ‘McCarthy Wing’, was to be a symbol of an age that was gone. The crest today may be best viewed from ‘Chapel Court’ ; and its motto Signum Fidei (The Symbol of our Faith) may serve to remind us not only that ‘faith’ was the cornerstone on which our College was founded but also that the building it adorns is a sign of the faith that Brother McCarthy and his confrères had in the future of the College.

The College built a new boarding precinct in 1919.

The College built a new boarding precinct in 2018.

Student accommodation in 1919.

Student accommodation in 2019.

Brother Keniry Returns

Brother Keniry was brought back to take charge of St Patrick’s at the beginning of 1920. We have already seen [Principal 1912-1915, 1920-1924] how much he had been appreciated when he was Principal earlier; and it was probably no great surprise when he returned in 1920. Brother McCarthy’s third term (as indeed his second) had necessarily been temporary; and the College could now look forward to some further stability of leadership. So Brother Keniry took up where he had left off in 1915. In this section we will consider developments between 1920 and 1924.

The New College Crest

The College Crest had always been modelled on the crest of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. The General Chapter of the Congregation in 1910 had decided to change the official crest which up to that time had virtually been something taken over from the De La Salle Brothers (French) after 1802. In 1910 it was decided that a new crest should be developed, one which would be original and more distinctly symbolic of the history of the Irish Christian Brothers. So, new ideas were called for. In the ten years before the next General Chapter much work was done in this field, and in 1920 a new form of crest was introduced officially. St Patrick’s College, Ballarat, immediately adopted this as the basis of its own crest; and the new version appeared first in the 1921 Annual. It seems appropriate, then, to consider at this point in our story the history and the symbolism of the St Patrick’s crest. The following article is taken from a booklet produced in 1983 by the Form IV of that year and treating of the history of the College. It should be read in conjunction with the pictorial history of both Congregational and College crests.

St Patrick’s College has chosen as its motto Facere et Docere, aptly the motto of the Christian Brothers’ Order, which depicts the manner in which the Brothers’ life is modelled on Christ.

Their mission, To Do and to Teach, is modelled on that of their Founder, Brother Edmund Ignatius Rice, and they impart this message to all whom they teach.

The words of the motto are taken from St Matthew’s Gospel: ‘He who shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. ’

The same message is conveyed by St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles: ‘The former treatise I made,

O Theophilus, of those things which Jesus began to do and to teach… ’ (Acts 1:1).

Crests were originally used to establish clearly the allegiance of the heavily armoured knights of old, and our crest is seen on many places to identify our college and our allegiance to it. So, there it stands, onour buildings (Brothers’ House, O’Malley Centre, O’Malley Wing); much of our school equipment and many of our pamphlets carry the Crest, as do our sportsmen when they represent senior sides. Buses are part of our College equipment these days and the Crest lets the town know (if the noise doesn’t) that St Patrick’s students are on the move.

In the Book of Daniel we read, ‘Those who instruct many unto justice shall shine as stars for all eternity’, and so the star is central to our Crest. It is set on a cross to symbolise that ourfaith rests on Christ and his Crucifixion. The Cross must always be the source and inspiration of our faith as it is the instrument of our redemption.

In the Crest of the Congregation, from which the SPC crest is derived, the outer circle bears in Celtic lettering (our Irish heritage) Fratres Christiani de Hibernia. While this is the official title of the Brothers, the Crest now commonly carries the words Congregatio Fratrum Christianorum, suggesting that the more acceptable title is ‘Congregation of the Christian Brothers’. In the College Crest the words are replaced by a chain which suggests the school community linked together. The strokes emanating from the centre symbolise the light spread from the Cross to all. And the College Crest always states boldly: St Patrick’s College.

On top of the circle rests an open book showing the letters Alpha and Omega. This symbolises the importance of learning to the Brothers; it further indicates that our lives should be open and simple. The Greek letters remind us that Christ is the Alpha (Beginning) and the Omega (End) of our lives. He is ‘The first and the last, the beginning and the end. ’ (St John).

To Do is to practise boldly the faith we have learned at school, for in no better way can we Teach the world what it means to be a Catholic educated at St Patrick’s, Ballarat.