Where are they now – Des Leyden (SPC 1962-65)

October 23, 2023

The College recently reconnected with Old Collegian Des Leyden (SPC 1962-65) who has carved out a successful career as a lawyer across the nation and remembers his education as a boarder at SPC as a unique experience, forging many bonds and friendships.


Des Leyden, pictured at the MCG Museum.

Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?

I had just turned 17 when I completed my Matriculation Certificate in 1965 and like many of our boarding school family were facing future conscription and the war in Vietnam.

I did not pursue my ambition to be a lawyer for some time, rather I eventually met my National Service obligations and pursued a career in Air Traffic Control and learnt to fly.

I have six children and nine grandchildren and a busy life as a general lawyer these days. I am particularly focused on my Legal Practice as a sole Practitioner and spend the majority of my time in law on Family Law matters and Immigration Appeals which is mainly Pro Bono legal work these days. I often fly in and out of various States.

Do you have family ties with SPC?

My older brother Michael and younger brother Mark attended SPC and at one time the three of us were attending at the same time. I also had two sisters attending Sacred Heart and Mary’s Mount. I have no family ties with SPC at present.

What are your fondest memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?

My fondest times and memories at SPC, without doubt, relates to the bonds and friendships particularly with fellow borders, which were not only brought about in the classroom and the dining room, but were stimulated on the sporting arena. SPC provided so many opportunities in Squash, Basketball, VFL, Rowing Cricket and Athletics. My fondest memory is when I was presented my First XVIII guernsey in 1965. I have memories of Br Bill O’Malley beaming from ear to ear at all the team, most of whom were at some time in his classroom of 25 years. I have never seen the Green, Blue and White striped “footy jumper”  fail to win.

Des, pictured in the First XVIII Football Team, in the 1965 College Annual, where he was described as “a fine kick and his spoiling tactics earned him some games at full back”.

 Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?

Brother Kelty had the greatest impact of a teacher in my time. I had trouble focusing on study and lost faith in my ability to pass my Matriculation Certificate. Brother Kelty supported my change from science to Humanitarian subjects and encouraged my ambition to pursue a career in Law. I achieved first class Honors in his subject “Greek and Roman History” I astonished myself.

How has your education shaped your professional life?

Des, pictured second from right, after being crowned the Under 17 Athletics Champion for SPC in 1965.

I believe that my education is broadly academic, leadership skills, life skills in a large family environment in boarding school and sporting and team skills. Co-ordination skills and my short and long term memory skills gave me a basics for Air traffic Control and flying.

My academic skills and achievements gave me the opportunity later to study law and to gain my enrollment as a Lawyer with the High Court and Supreme Court. I also completed my Post Graduate Migration Lawyer qualifications, and this now forms much of my work. I retain my Christian values which are at the roots of my work in helping others.

How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?

Receiving an SPC education as a boarder is unique and more so given the diverse range of activities and challenges. What stood out for me in the historic days was the values I developed for tolerating others, excluding no one and leaving no one behind. I value the principal of equality and equitable opportunity at SPC and believe these principles were important when living with a large boarding population of all age groups. These principles apply to my life today which tends to be focused on those who need legal assistance. My family life focused on helping all my children develop the skills to reach their potential in life.

If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?

SPC is a great school of Australia. SPC offers the opportunity to develop enormous diverse skills.
My message is “Take the opportunity to astonish yourself“ – I sincerely wish you the best in your education and achievements and in achieving your potential.

Des, pictured in his matriculation class photograph in the 1965 College Annual.

Des enjoyed being part of the Athletics Team at SPC, as pictured in the 1965 College Annual, in same year SPC was crowned the Ballarat Public Schools Champions.