SPC Memories with Eugene O’Donohue

October 16, 2016

Retired QLD university researcher Eugene O’Donohue (SPC 1939-47), now aged in his 80s, wrote to the College recently to share some of his memories of SPC under war conditions.

The photo, above, is of Eugene in his 1947 Athletics- school photograph.-

We encourage any of our Old Boys to share their memories of their time at St Pat’s. With the College’s 125th celebrations fast approaching in 2018, we would love to gather some of those candid memories from our Old Collegians to help celebrate the occasion.

Eugene O’Donohue writes –

-I am 88 years of age and would like to add some memories of SPC under war-time conditions.

-I commenced my schooling as a boarder after the May holidays -“ probably in the month of June 1939. War had not yet started, and I recall being waitered upon by maids who readily served our needs at the table and graciously made our beds. With war that cosy arrangement ceased. Women were needed in more urgent areas, and we boys had to take their place at these more menial tasks. That didn’t do us any harm!

-As the war progressed and we had the Americans to share our battles, other tasks came to hand. There were slit-trenches to be dug by hand. Every student helped and soon the zig-zag shaped trenches occupied the grassy lawns across from the teaching buildings. Alas, the first wet winter rains began to fill the trenches with water -“ even up to chest height -“ making the digging efforts unusable. Better to face the enemy’s bombs than to plunge headlong into the icy winter waters.

-As we grew a little older, army chores were offered to us. We helped make camouflage nets, but not always to the strict needs of the armed forces. But we did our best! In school’s spare time army personnel called to teach us morse code, aircraft recognition, and army drill precision at the downtown drill hall. We lapped all this manly stuff up. There was even a possibility of a flight in an Avro-Anson -“ a military craft based at the local airport. No flights came to pass. It was back to -‘slope arms’ and -‘present arms’ and stand at -‘attention’ always having our feet firmly on the ground.

-Perhaps the highlight of our -‘school-boy place in the war’ was the many visits to the American convalescent camp across Eyre Street in Victoria Park (as I recall). After the battle of Guadacanal, American soldiers were given rest and recreation in Australia, and we, SPC boys, were fortunate that this friendly -‘invasion’ occurred just beyond the College boundaries. In reply, we -‘invaded’ their domain, crawling in and out of their tents, clamouring over their trucks and tanks and field guns, and (some of us) getting -‘arrested’ by big strong dark-skinned sentries, just for being a bit too keen. A good talking to by the officer in his command tent was a little scary, but his good advice and no punishments ordered (and no prisoners taken), we were set free much to the amusement of other soldiers nearby.

-All too soon the war was over. How innocent we were not realizing that older SPC boys were giving their lives for us younger ones.-

If you would like to share your story, memories and anecdotes of your time at St Patrick’s, please get in touch. It may be a war-time memory like Eugene’s or a proud sporting or academic achievement. We would love to hear an entertaining story about what you and your mates got up to, a favourite occasion or fun and mischievous moment, memories of your teachers and the staff, what school or boarding life was really like in your day, or how a St Patrick’s College education has shaped your personal values and life. Please get in touch with Alumni and Foundation Officer Lorrie Liston by phone on 5322 4442 or email at lliston@stpats.vic.edu.au