Where are they now – Peter Howley (SPC 1963-66)
September 11, 2020
The College recently reconnected with Peter Howley (SPC 1963-66) whose close connection with SPC continues to this day as a committee member on the SPC Old Collegian Association committee. Peter generously shares his thoughts on the huge role that SPC has played in his life, wonderful memories of school life and its people, and his career as a physiotherapist and important connection to champion Olympian marathon runner and fellow Old Boy Steve Moneghetti.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
I left St Patrick’s in 1967 and commenced studying Physiotherapy in Melbourne. It was an exciting transition from the strict Christian Brother’s environment to the independence of living away from home in Ballarat. Living in Parkville, and enjoying the cosmopolitan vibe of Carlton, with among other things a plethora of student pubs, I entered a new world. It was easy to become distracted from study but somehow I made it through!
Having enjoyed sport whilst at SPC, I continued playing football and cricket whilst studying and after commencing work. After a couple of years playing football with Footscray Under 19’s and Reserves, I joined Redan in the Ballarat Football League and forged lasting friendships with my new teammates. I continued to return to Ballarat in the cricket season to play with my local club and played cricket into my 30’s.
On the completion of my course I returned to Ballarat and spent a year working at the Ballarat Base Hospital. Here I gained experience in general physiotherapy, such as orthopaedics, neurology and cardiothoracic. I then joined the Ballarat Physiotherapy Practice, which involved mostly orthopaedic/musculoskeletal patients. I worked there until 1980 when I decided I’d like to set up my own practice.
Together with fellow St Pat’s Old Boy and current SPC Board member, Charlie Flynn, I established Newington Physiotherapy Clinic. I had 25 enjoyable and rewarding years working with Charlie and a number of other physios who joined us over time. Upon retirement from Newington I worked part-time at the Ballarat Base Hospital in a mentoring and teaching role until retirement in 2009. It proved to be a nice transition into full retirement.
In 1982 I returned to Melbourne, this time with my family, and undertook full time post graduate study in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy. At about this time I also qualified as a Sports Physiotherapist and became an Inaugural Fellow of the Australian Sports Medicine Federation (Sports Medicine Australia).
In 1972 I married my wife Judy and have been fortunate to have four children – Chris and John (both attending SPC) and Anna and Katherine (both attending Loreto). We now have eight grandchildren who give us a lot of pleasure.
My connection with SPC was renewed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when I joined the Old Boys Committee. As well as with the Old Boys, I undertook leadership roles with the 1993 Centenary Celebrations, the Old Boys Pavilion Building Appeal and the Jo Walter Field Funding Appeal. A stint coaching the College First XI in the early ‘80s was another enjoyable involvement, this time at the student level. I have recently rejoined the Old Boys Committee and am attempting to deal with remote meetings via Microsoft Teams.
I have also been involved in sports administration, undertaking leadership roles in local athletics, contributing to the running of the Ballarat Regional Athletic Centre (club competition), and the Ballarat Athletic Club (which started The Ballarat Gift, a feature on the Victorian professional running calendar).
Attempting to keep healthy and relatively fit I enjoy my morning brisk walk, ‘rain, hail or shine’ (running went out the window many years ago!) I have always enjoyed gardening and home handyman projects and maintenance (I’m a very rough tradesman!) as well as music, films and particularly books. I have enjoyed writing feature articles for the Ballarat Lifestyle Magazine and wrote Old Boy Steve Moneghetti’s biography, as a result of my involvement in his career.
I have been fortunate to experience a good deal of travel with my work and have been able to attend many major international sporting events such as Olympic Games. Judy and I have also travelled overseas regularly and been able to tick off most places on our ‘bucket list’ (thankfully, as any overseas travel in the near future looks unlikely). We look forward to exploring more of Australia once the borders reopen again.
St Pat’s has been a big part of my life and I have gained so much from my involvement. I have, during this time, witnessed massive changes and crises, not only in the College, but of course in the Church.
I am so proud of the way St Pat’s has handled these challenges and today see a school which is at the forefront of Catholic education.
What are your fondest memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
Involvement in sport is definitely my fondest memory. Playing in an SPC team was always an honour and because of our success it was so very enjoyable. We were also blessed with great sporting facilities, be it the cricket turf wickets or the wonderful Main Oval, The Hill Oval, The Shed or St Roch’s. We were also so fortunate to have such dedicated Brothers organising sport and providing enthusiastic coaching.
Playing some form of sport most school days and at weekends, whether a game or training, was such an enjoyable routine. I realised years later from scientific findings, how beneficial this regular activity, at a young age, was for future good health. I am indebted to St Pats for encouraging such a beneficial lifestyle.
My first year at SPC was 1963 and I was in awe of the magnificent First XVIII which thrashed all opposition. That team has been regarded by many as possibly the best football team to represent the College. With stars like Barry Richardson and Frank Dimattina in the team, it made it exciting to watch them perform.
From the first time I saw the First XVIII run out onto the Main Oval, I coveted the famous jumper. I did get one, and whilst playing for the team in my final year, broke my arm. I was taken to hospital and the nurses were about to cut the long sleeve of my jumper to access my arm. I was horrified and requested that they slide my jumper off once I was under anaesthetic. They fulfilled my request and I still have an intact jumper to this day!
I also remember and value making friends with my fellow students. These and my cricket and football teammates are friendships that have lasted to this day. When we meet now, particularly at Old Boy functions, we seem to effortlessly ‘pick up where we left off”!
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
Brother T.G. O’Brien was someone I admired and was my first teacher in 1963. He impressed me with his dedication, friendliness and ability to relate to his charges. He was a gifted teacher with the knack of making his subjects very understandable.
He was strict but fair. My class in year nine had 44 pupils. The challenge to control and instruct such a large group was monumental. Brother O’Brien also had Boarding House duties, study supervision of an evening and coaching sporting teams after school and on weekends.
I have fond memories of him decked out in his full Essendon kit – jumper, shorts and socks, kicking the footy after school on the Hill Oval. He was a beautiful drop kick!
Brother Bill O’Malley was a legend of SPC when I arrived at the College in 1963. He had an incredible memory and knew the names of any student’s family who had previously attended. He taught me the use of mnemonics to remember facts in the various subjects. I still use them today.
It was always a challenge to get Brother Bill to talk about the two Brownlow Medal winners he had coached, Brian Gleeson and John James. We could never get him to say who he thought was the better player despite our ‘baiting’ him!
Peter Morris, one of the few lay teachers at the time, was a fine teacher. He taught me in year twelve and treated us more as friends than underlings. I always enjoy reconnecting when we meet at Old Boy gatherings.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
I think my time at St Pat’s gave me the basic, solid academic tools to manage my tertiary studies, both undergraduate and post graduate. This in turn enabled me to enter a profession of my choice.
Having punctuality and good routines drummed into me at SPC I was able to carry this through when conducting a reasonably efficient working life.
The Christian values instilled in us at SPC were great ideals to carry into adulthood. Honesty, compassion and caring were things I attempted to be mindful of in my professional life.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
SPC in the 60’s had a wide range of students from families of all walks of life. I was made to appreciate how important it was to treat everyone equally and with respect.
We had a period of Religious Education each day right through to year 12. Theology/the Bible/the Gospels were often a mystery to me. However when its practical application was discussed I could relate to this and this helped in developing a values system.
Trying your best was also emphasised at school and is something I attempted to remain true to.
Possibly the key message I have taken from my Christian education, is to ‘treat others as you would like to be treated yourself’.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
In life nothing worthwhile comes easily and it is only by hard work, commitment and a degree of “self- sacrifice” that you will be able to fulfil your ambitions.
This applies to every aspect in life whether it is in relationships, your working life or sport.