Where are they now – John Cosgriff (former staff)

December 2, 2020

The College reconnected with much-loved former staff member John Cosgriff who was a teacher at SPC for 32 years and excelled in sharing his love and knowledge of mathematics and football with students. John reflects on the joy he gained by nurturing students to help others as they worked together to help the homeless and volunteer at the soup kitchen. John was awarded the College’s esteemed Facere et Docere honour for teaching. John shares with us some of his fondest memories of his time at St Patrick’s College.

In his retirement, John Cosgriff enjoys helping one of his sons with his racehorses. John is pictured here strapping Fournaise at Moonee Valley in 2019.

When did I work at SPC?

The short answer is 1981 until 2013. I retired in 2008 and then found that my replacement, Steve Callahan, was not well and I returned in 2009 to help out. One of the Year 11 students wanted to study University Mathematics in Year 12 (his older brother had completed the University Maths course earlier on and had found it a real bonus when he went to uni.). And so I continued on in 2010 and then worked as a replacement teacher in 2011, 2012 and 2013. This meant I had taught in Christian Brothers schools for 50 years. Six years at CBC Yarraville from 1964 to 1969, 11 years at Parade College Bundoora from 1970 to 1980 and then 33 years at St Patrick’s College from 1981 to 2013.



What were your various roles and responsibilities during your time at SPC?

I had quite a few positions of responsibility – Year 12 Coordinator, VCE Coordinator, Curriculum Coordinator and Head of Mathematics. I was also involved in sports as coach of Year 8 football, coach of Year 10 Football and coach of Second XVIII Football at different stages.

John Cosgriff pictured in this Year 12 class photo in 2005.


Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?

Since leaving SPC, I joined Mercy Connect as a volunteer and worked with Sudanese students at Ballarat Christian College for a time and I spent some time working with Year 9 students at Ballarat High School. A lot of my time is spent helping my son with his racehorses working mainly as a strapper on race days at courses all over Victoria. My wife Jan and I have travelled overseas to visit family members in England and in Norway and we have travelled throughout a goodly part of Australia – we still have a plan to travel down the coast of Western Australia.


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

Many of these relate to the people I taught and worked with over the many years at SPC. Activities outside the classroom – especially the Year 12 retreats working with the homeless people in Melbourne and at the soup kitchens gave a pleasing insight into the senior students of St Pat’s. Involvement in “Speech Night” each year was always something to look forward to.


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

Br. W. J. Wilding. Br Wilding was my mentor when I started my teaching career at CBC Yarraville in 1964 and then he was the one to invite me to join the staff of St Patrick’s in 1981. We were only on staff together at St Pat’s for four years but we have been close friends for more than 60 years. Brother Wilding’s professionalism and his devotion to duty have been a great example for all who were privileged to work with him.


What do you think the boys would remember most about you?

I hope it would be that I had a genuine enthusiasm for Mathematics.


Where was your favourite place in the College?

The staff room, mingling with other members of staff. Quite a bit of time was always spent in the boiler room – the place where rumours were either started or squashed depending on the time of the day one arrived there.


What was your favourite College event?

St Patricks Day Mass, 1981. The whole college community fitted in the school chapel at that time. When the Bishop entered the chapel, accompanied by a very large group of Old Boy priests from all around the Ballarat Diocese and the whole school joined in heartily in the singing, it made a tremendous impression on all present for the special occasion.

In later years, when the school community was larger, this special mass was conducted in the Cathedral and those who attended were impressed again with the pomp and ceremony of the celebration.

The St Patrick’s Day mass continues to impress each year now celebrated in the O’Malley Centre.



Do you have any family ties with SPC?

All of our 10 children were associated with SPC. Michael attended from 1981-1983, Brendan 1981-1986, Anthony from 1982-1987 (he was College Dux in 1987), Gregory from 1984-1989 (he was College Captain in 1989), Daniel from 1986-1991, Justin from 1989-1994, Benjamin from 1994-1999 and Paul from 1998-2002. Our older daughter Joanna studied VCE Biology at SPC in 1996 and our other daughter Virginia was declared an honorary St Pat’s student by the then Principal,  Brother Laurie Collins for her work in producing (and playing the leading role) in the St Pat’s/Loreto school production of Carrie’s War in 2000. She was also involved in the combined school productions of Away in 1998 and Medea in 1999.

Five of our grandsons, Samuel, Jarrod, Darcy, Rohan and Max have already been or are involved with the College and there are others yet to come.



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

Maths, the numero uno subject, is magnificent.