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History of Waverley College

A strong sense of community, service and faith has shaped the life of Waverley since its foundation in 1903. Waverley College graduates have made significant contributions to all areas of social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual life in Australia.

Foundations

In October 1902, the Franciscan Fathers of Sydney’s Eastern suburbs purchased the property at 2 Salisbury St, known as Airmount, from John Barlow. This was given to the Christian Brothers who, at the bequest of the Franciscans, came over from Ireland to establish a school in the Catholic tradition of Edmund Rice.

The house, with frontages to Carrington Rd and Salisbury St, was built in 1864 by John Birrell. He was the first elected Chairman of Waverley Council in 1859 and his name was given to the street facing the new building. Carrington Rd to the west was named after Lord Carrington, a former Governor of New South Wales. The Brothers’ lived at Airmount and taught a small group of students there until the new school building was complete.

On 27th January, 1903, the College, originally called the Christian Brothers’ College, Waverley, was opened by Brother Quinn with an enrolment of 22 boys. The very first boy to enrol was Master Ray Poulsen, aged eight, of 27 Cowper Street, Waverley. On the same day, Brother Tevlin took over at St. Francis’ Paddington and Brother Conlon took over St. Charles, which became the ‘feeder’ school for C.B.C. By the end of the year, enrolments were at 50.

In its first decade, all facets of the school underwent dynamic growth and development. In 1905, with the arrival of Brother Conlon from St Charles, the school adopted a more rigorous approach to education. Five students were made to attempt the Sydney University Junior Public Examination, with four passing successfully. Also in this year, the school’s first football and cricket teams were formed, marking the beginning of Waverley’s characteristic blend of sport and academia.

In 1906, to celebrate the 100th student, Headmaster Brother Conlon declared a day holiday, allowing the boys to go to the beach. This was repeated on the occasion of the 200th student in 1911.

Both the Council for the Sodality of our Lady and the Old Boys’ Union (OBU) were formed in 1908. The aims of the Sodality were, and remain to this day: to foster devotion to the Mother of God; to improve the Christian way of life for its members and to set a good example to others. The College bears the proud title of Our Lady’s Mount and in 1911 Brother Aungier instituted the first May Procession in her honour. This tribute of love and veneration to Mary has continued each year since and become a rallying day for the school’s Old Boys.

In 1909 the curriculum of the school diversified, adding classes in physical culture, recitation, shorthand, typewriting, dancing and club-swinging.

The College Cadet Unit was also raised in 1911 with Captain Holborrow and Sergeant-Major Clayfield as the first instructors. It was disbanded in 1929 and reformed in 1941. Training was concentrated on military techniques and weaponry. In 1975 the Federal Government announced its decision to disband the Cadet Corps. The final ceremonial of that year at Queens Park witnessed the unpiking of the Unit flags and Beating Retreat. The present unit was reformed in 1977 and annual highlights include the camps, the Passing-Out parade and the Anzac Day ceremony.

In 1910 another storey was added to the school and a Chemistry and Physics laboratory was built. It was extended in 1916 and by 1920, the purpose-built school house had expanded to three storeys and enrolments were at 500 students.

The College has used three crests during its history. The present crest consists of a number of historic and symbolic elements: the royal blue signifies the Blessed Virgin Mary, while the gold colour indicates the royal kingship of God. The Star of Knowledge is not only a reminder of educational aspirations, but also commemorates the original crest of the College, based on the Congregational crests of both the De La Salle Brothers and the Christian Brothers.

Virtus Sola Nobilitat, the words inscribed beneath the crest, have been translated in a number of ways over the years. The most literal translation is ‘Virtue alone ennobles’. The Latin phrase has another english equivalent, “A man’s sole claim to fame is the nobility of his life.” At other times, the College has adopted the translation, ‘Virtue is its own reward’ as more appropriate, suggesting that a man should not be motivated by a potential reward, but rather by the knowledge that whatever he does should be fundamentally good in itself.

The War Years

Nineteen Waverley College men died in the First World War, three of whom lost their lives in the Gallipoli Campaign including Edgar Fitzgerald (enrolled 1910) who was killed on the first morning. Two hundred Old Boys enlisted over the course of the war, serving in every branch of the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) from the Light Horse to the Flying Corps, as infantrymen, doctors, engineers, drivers, stretcher-bearers and artillery experts. Several were decorated for bravery, including Thomas James ‘Bede’ Kenny who was awarded a Victoria Cross.

Following the Second World War, a fund initiated by the Old Boys’ Union enabled the erection of the War Memorial Chapel and Assembly Hall (now the site of the Library). Built as a memorial to Waverley College’s war dead of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, the Chapel was officially opened and blessed on 6 October 1956 by Bishop Carroll. The ceremony included Old Boy representatives of all three of the armed forces: Major General J A Chapman CB, DSO and Bar, OBE; Surgeon Captain JM Flattery and Flight Lieutenant R Marr. The Chapel was a popular venue of choice for Old Boys’ wedding ceremonies, and in the assembly hall, dances, dinners and movie nights were regular events.

Waverley has had representation at all levels of national and international sport. 1920 saw the first Olympic Waverlian in William Walton (Bill) Hunt, who was selected for the Olympic track and field team competing in Antwerp, Belgium. He placed 4th in the 100m quarter finals. Since then, ten more Waverley men have become Olympians: Jack Standen (Cycling, 1928), Kenneth Kennedy (Speed Skating, 1936), Morris Curotta (Athletics, 1948, 1952), Tony Madigan (Amateur Boxing 1952, 1956, 1960), Murray Garretty (Swimming 1956), Terry Nicholl (Pentathlon 1956), James Lynch (Speed Skating 1972) Patrick Hynes (Boxing Official 1972), Zlatko Arambasic (Soccer, 1992) and Brett Hawke (Swimming 2000).

By 1930 the school had become the largest Catholic Secondary School in Australia, and was producing many young men of academic distinction. There were around one hundred Waverley graduates attending university, thirty-five of these studying medicine, perhaps most notable was our first Rhodes Scholar Dr Len King (1936).

The school started accepting boarders in 1938 with students coming from all over Australia, Asia and Pacific Islands. Boarders resided at The Grange on Carrington Rd until 1940, when new living quarters (now known as the West Wing) were opened to accommodate increased numbers. Boarding was discontinued in 1979 to make room for more classroom facilities.

Also in 1938, Queens Park was secured as the College’s sports training field. Students and staff were responsible for clearing the area, which was largely rubble and rubbish. The first cricket match, College students vs Old Boys, was held on 9 December, 1938.

1944 marked a new era in the history of Waverley sport when it became a member of the Combined Associated Schools (CAS) of New South Wales. In that first year of membership Waverley won the rugby, cricket and athletics. Since then, CAS wins include football (soccer) and AFL in 1973, and AFL in 2015.  The current CAS fixtures have expanded to include swimming, basketball, water polo, tennis, lawn bowls, cross country, chess and debating. Other co-curricular activities now available to students within the school include table tennis, volleyball, diving, public speaking, Theatresports, performing arts, media group, fitness groups, Judo (2008), touch football (2016) and STEM (2017).

The school enjoyed post-war growth under the leadership of Headmaster Brother O’Connor, starting with a change of name and crest from C.B.C. to Waverley College in 1945. O’Connor firmly believed in the value of cultural activities, increasing the options for music and art classes. During this time, the chess club, camera club and dramatic society were formed and dancing lessons developed. In 1946, the property at 135 Birrell St, Braidwood was purchased, enabling housing for 20 more boarders. Later in 1952, the college purchased eleven more cottages, number 6-26 Salisbury St, which allowed for the expansion of sports and recreation areas.

Growth and Expansion

Waverley, in common with the whole of Australia’s education system, experienced much expansion, both physically and systemically throughout the 1960s with the introduction of the Wyndham Scheme. This was a more comprehensive approach to secondary education and is what we have today – four years of general secondary studies (Y7 – Y10) and an optional two years focussed on university examination preparation (Y11 & 12).

The Wyndham Scheme necessitated the growth of most NSW schools to accommodate larger numbers of students. The syllabus became more ‘research’ oriented, and places like Libraries and Science rooms took on greater importance within schools. Staff found themselves returning to university to do courses which would bring their own knowledge up to scratch.

The ‘60s were difficult transition times for Catholic schools, who struggled to meet the new requirements of Australia’s education system. Waverley responded in a number of ways. In 1962 an immense fund raising campaign began with the aim of securing £360,000 for new buildings. In 1963 the main building facing Birrell St, known now as the Administration building and eastern block, was opened by Prime Minister Sir Gordon Menzies. The new 5 storey building comprised: a monastery for 30 brothers, 12 classrooms, 3 Physics rooms, 3 chemistry labs, admin block, libraries, additional dormitory, infirmary, dining room, Matron’s room and enclosed all-weather recreation areas. 1963 was also the year Waverley celebrated its second Rhodes Scholar, Ian Douglas McCloskey. McCloskey graduated from the College in 1958 receiving the JJ O’Brien Prize for Leadership, Study and Sport. He later went on to become Professor in charge of the medical research facility at Prince of Wales Hospital.

In 1969, Headmaster Brother Simmons and College Advisory Council Chairman Justice McKeon put into motion a master plan created by Civil & Civic which would eliminate obsolete buildings and redesign classes. The building plans included an Olympic size swimming pool, oval, additional boarding accommodation in the existing residential block (west wing) and alterations to the Ludlow Hall for use as a Gymnasium. It also included plans for the then called Middle School, which was later renamed the Kenny Building in honour of Bede Kenny, VC. The Middle School was officially opened on the 1st February 1970 by Prime Minister John Grey Gorton, boasting fifteen new classrooms and four science labs. The teacher’s desks in each classroom were custom-built and fitted onto a dais in each room. Designed as a ‘control panel’ for the AV equipment, each desk included remote controls for the film strip projector and slide projector mounted on the rear wall; plus an overhead projector, tape recorder (reel to reel) and a radio tuner for school broadcasts.

The College’s foundation building Airmount, was demolished in 1970 in a sad state of dilapidation. Where it stood is now the recreation area between the current Library and the Conlon building. Today the name ‘Airmount’ is commemorated as ‘Airmount Court’, dedicated officially in 1996, the year of the Beatification of Edmund Rice.

By the 1980s Catholic education had changed in Australia with the introduction of greater Government assistance to Catholic schools and the transition to predominantly lay staff. At Waverley College, Art and Music became more popular subjects amongst the boys and with the closing of the boarding school, more facilities could be given to these areas. Major building developments during the ‘80s, under then Headmaster Brother Oakley, included the redevelopment of The Grange, which became the home of the Art Department, the refurbishment of Ludlow Hall as a music centre and the Brother Lacey Gymnasium.

In 1993 the pre-school and Junior School campus on Henrietta St, now called Waterford after the Irish district where Edmund Rice lived, was purchased from Macquarie University. Junior classes moved to the new premises in 1994.

The Jubilee of the year 2000 saw Waverley College participate in the celebration on St. Patrick’s Day at Stadium Australia, which brought together over 90,000 staff and students of the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney. A large student cohort also joined the Bridge Walk for Reconciliation, a momentous march on May 28 in support of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Waverley College celebrated its Centenary in 2003 with a Centenary Mass in the Hordern Pavilion, attended by 4,500 people. Brother Wallace was awarded the Centenary Medal for “outstanding services to education and the Catholic Church.” In June, the new Centenary Performing Arts Centre (PAC) was opened, signalling strong future directives for Waverley’s long-standing music tradition. Cliff Goodchild OAM, a former leader of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, commenced as the College bandmaster in 1952. It was fortuitous that he was still in this role 54 years later to conduct the band at the 2003 PAC opening ceremony.

In 2005, the College refurbished the area surrounding Ludlow Hall, clearing the way for a playground, and in 2007 the school started its million-dollar plan to develop classrooms into the 21st-century facilities that students and teachers enjoy today.

New Directions

The Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) has governed all schools owned by the Christian Brothers since 2007. In 2010, the College farewelled Brother Leary and welcomed its first lay Headmaster, Ray Paxton. By 2014, a new pedagogical model Liberate, was implemented, focussing on “liberating the potential of every learner.” This was to be rolled out in two significant Strategic Planning cycles; the first, 2011-2014, with an emphasis on innovation and the second, 2015-2018, with a focus on student wellbeing. To this end, 2013 saw every student issued their own laptop. Both the inaugural Innovation Assembly and Timor Leste Immersion were held in 2014.

In 2016, Waverley College completed the largest scale construction and refurbishment program in its history. The $23m project resulted in state-of-the-art facilities for the College’s senior campus. Major works began in October 2014 on an expanded, high profile heritage facade for the College on its Carrington Road frontage, including reinstatement of the historic arch over the main gates and extensive restoration of The Grange (the last remaining heritage home on the senior campus site). The pool house was also renovated to create a PDHPE Centre with offices, classrooms and changing room facilities. A reconceived gymnasium/auditorium was incorporated into the complex, transforming school assemblies and performances with additional retractable seating, able to accommodate 1800 people. A new stage was built into the southern wall of the gymnasium allowing the gym to be both a sporting venue and assembly hall. To the north, a two-story building houses the Technological and Applied Studies Centre (TAS). Topped with six new basketball courts, the TAS building provides students with modern facilities in Hospitality, Food Technology, IT Software and Development, and in Industrial Technology.

Mr Paxton served as Headmaster until mid 2016 when he was appointed EREA’s National Director of Identity and Liberating Education. He is succeeded by Mr Graham Leddie, who joined the staff as Deputy Head in 2016.

 

By College Archivist Venettia Miller archivist@waverley.nsw.edu.au