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History of St Carthages Convent School Gordon Park

This website is dedicated to the history of the St Carthages School community. (1930-1976) . The initial commentary is drawn from The First Fifty Years : As Recalled by P. J Sheehan, OBE (1979). Special thanks also to Mrs Kath Kelly for her invaluable research assistance.

The decision to establish a new Parish at Gordon Park appeared, to the new Parishioners, to have been a hurried one. No announcement had been made by Fr. E. A. Stanaway, the then Parish Priest of Kedron, nor had any meetings been called or held. The establishment coincided with the acceptance by the Franciscan Fathers of an invitation to take over the Parish of Kedron. Some Parishioners were aware that land had been purchased at Gordon Park by the Archbishop, but as our numbers were not great, it was probably thought that we would have a Mass Centre serviced from the Little Flower. Once day, in mid 1929, a young priest Father McCarthy, a Curate at St. James, Coorparoo, commenced calling on the Catholics of Gordon Park announcing to them that the Archbishop had decided to create a new Parish and that he had been appointed the first Parish Priest.

Gordon Park was only sparsely settled in 1929, but new houses were being built apace. The basic wage in 1929 was approximately 8.00 per week and a block of land with 33ft frontage cost about $130.00. A 2 bedroom home could be built for approximately $1,400. Electricity and water were available, but gas did not come until some years later. Some of the parishioners of the new Parish, particularly those who resided at the Wooloowin end of Thistle Street, and possibly those in the vicinity of the junction of Stafford Road and Gympie Road were of the opinion that it was not the time to open a new Parish as our numbers were insufficient. Another opinion could have been the “ascent” that had to be made to the new Church at Gordon Park, which was formidable, when compared to the flat walk to the Holy Cross, Wooloowin. Some of them probably had never attended any other Church other than Holy Cross, where their children were still attending, and possibly their parents and their earlier generations before them attended.

With the advent of the new Parish Priest, meetings were convened to get the Parish established. Father McCarthy informed his new parishioners that the Archbishop had arranged for a new Church-School to be built and its construction would commence almost immediately. The first meetings were held at the residence of Mr and Mrs J. P. Sheahan, Beaconsfield Terrace. A property, the home of Mr and Mrs E. Walters, had been purchased in Beaconsfield Terrace for a Presbytery at a cost of $4,000. Father McCarthy was the guest of the Rev. Father Fitzgerald, Parish Priest Wooloowin, until his Presbytery was available and when Father McCarthy occupied the Presbytery, we had Mass in it each Sunday until the new Church Building was blessed and opened.

The Parish property embraces the whole of the area bounded by Beaconsfield Terrace, Bedford Street and Aberdeen Terrace. When the Parish was formed, the Parish did not own the land on which the Church now stands, nor did the Parish own the land at the corner of Beaconsfield Terrace and Aberdeen Terrace, the home of Mr Boucher. This property was acquired at a cost of $22,000 in 1973. Just below the Church School building. Huntley Street from Thistle Street continued across Aberdeen Terrace to Bedford Street. After negotiations with the Council, this street was closed and the area added to the Parish Property.

The foundation Stone of the new Church- School was laid on Sunday, 28th July, 1929 by the Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr. James Duhig. During the course of his address, he mentioned that although he had acquired many excellent sites for Church Buildings, he doubted whether any surpassed that of Gordon Park.

READ HERE The Brisbane Courier Extract 29 July 1929, Page 19
He paid tribute to the work that Father McCarthy had performed to date in the Archdiocese, and he felt he would prove to be a good Pastor and display the administrative ability required of him. Rain fell during the afternoon but that did not deter a large attendance of clergy and parishioners.

The blessing and opening of the new Church-School took place on Sunday morning 3rd November, 1929. It was performed by the Archbishop who at the conclusion of the Ceremony offered the First Mass. Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Archbishop remarked on the Depression, which was then causing much unemployment and to the task confronting Father McCarthy.
READ HERE The Brisbane Courier Extract 4 November 1929
It was interesting to note, when you appreciate the size of the Church-School building, that the time between the laying of the Foundation Stone, i.e. the 28th July, and the opening of the new Church which was 2nd November, was about two and one-half months. Having regard to the time it takes to do building these days, it will be agreed that a mighty quick job was carried out on the building.

The building was erected by Concrete Constructions Pty. Ltd. Who had then recently completed the Holy Name Cathedral Foundations. It was built on the “cost plus” basis and not under a normal contract sum. The foreman on the construction of our Church-School was one of our own parishioners, Mr John Woodward.

The dedication of the Parish to St. Carthage was at the request of the first Parish Priest, Father McCarthy, who was born in County Waterford Eire It was within Waterford that the town of Lismore is located and it was here, where St. Carthage conducted his great schools of learning in the late 6th and early 7th Century. These Schools were patronised by students from all over Europe. It comes as no surprise that St Carthage was thereafter named the patron saint of Lismore and Waterford Dicocese.So strong was the influence of St Carthage in Lismore, Ireland that his name was honoured in the Cathedral of the same name, in Lismore, Australia. It has been said, that the choice of Carthage appears to have been also connected with Fr McCarthy's own early association with the Cistercian Monastery of Mount Melleray, near Lismore, Ireland, where within the east window of the abbey chapel, a depiction of St Carthage has been made. (Source: Dr Chris Watson)

The initial ceremonies having been completed and the First Mass having been said, the future of the Parish rested in the hands of the Parishioners. The School would be established during the following year.
The grounds surrounding the new Church-School, and which were to be the School grounds for about three years after the School was opened, were rather rugged. The only level area was in front of the building to the brick fence, and about 20 feet at the back of the School.
This area had been prepared by the Contractors for the construction of the new Church-School Building.
On taking up duty at Gordon Park, he visited all the Catholics, practising or otherwise, in his new parish, and he compiled a complete census. It was evident from the remarks (all in Latin) in his Census Book that the warmth of his reception varied, but apparently he was undeterred and completed his task.

However, zeal for the salvation of the souls of all parishioners was always uppermost in his mind and like the Master he rejoiced on the return of any lost sheep to the fold. The financial depression was already being felt in 1929 and the Archbishop remarked so the day he laid the Foundation Stone.

St Carthage's School was opened on 8 July 1930 under the control of the Sisters of Mercy. During the period when they conducted the School, the Sisters of Mercy resided at the Holy Cross Convent, Wooloowin and travelled daily to Gordon Park in transport provided by both the parishioners and the Parish Priest. When the parish was established originally a Convent had been planned and land purchased. These plans were abandoned with the shortage of money and because Wooloowin Convent was large enough to accommodate all the Sisters teaching at the School.

The Sisters on the Teaching Staff at St Carthages School at the opening date were Sister Mary Francesca, Principal, Sister Mary La Salette and Sister Mary Dorothea who taught music. The school roll records the names of twenty-nine pupils present on the opening day. These were, Rita Aylward; Dorothy Alward; Ethel Aylward; Graham Archer, Alfred Bishop; Marie Cole; Molly Cole; Leonie Cole; Eric Davis; Marie Gardiner; Elizabeth Gilshenan; Nora Gilshenan; Mavis Haddock; John Joynes; Kathleen Kearney; Veronica Kearney; Heather Long; Irene Meenagh; John Pesch; Phyllis Pesch; Teresa Pesch; Thomas Palmer; Thomas Power; Donald Quinlan; Joyce Rumball; Kenneth Sheehan; Bernice Tokely; Mary Walker.
By the end of 1930, the numbers attending the school totalled 79.

The Brisbane Courier reported several musical events held and performed bt St Carthage's School.
Saturday 12 December 1931, page 21

" A concert was given by the pupils of St Carthage's School, Gordon Park, last evening in the War Memorial Hall, Kedron which was decorated with the school colours and poinsettia. The Archbishop of Brisbane (Dr Duhig) ; Dean D.M. O'Flynn (Gympie) , Revs J Mc Carthy PP and D Dee were present. The concert was the first to be given by the pupils of the school, which was opened about 12 months ago. The opening chorus was "A Welcome", sung by 50 of the small children. A babies item, "Daddy's Sweetheart' was much enjoyed as was also an Australian play, "Dot and the Kangaroo". Another item was a phantsay (sic) entitled "Life's Sunbeams". Other items were descriptive songs, vocal solos and dances".

As the school and staff were heavily influenced by their Irish heritage or birthplace, it was not unusual for St Patrick's Day Concerts to be held in recognition of the Patron Saint of Ireland.

The Brisbane Courier reported on 17 March 1932, at page 15

" A grand irish entertainment was held in St Carthage's School, Gordon Park, last evening in celebration of the festival of St Patrick. The concert opened with an overture "Irish Aira" and solos were "The Hills of Donegal", Mrs Muller", "Father O'Flynn", Mr Muller, "Roses of Tralee", Miss S McQuillan, "Old County Down", Master K. Barry, "The Mountains of Mourne", Mr Woods, "Mother of Ireland", Mr King. selected Mr M M'Quinn. Piano solos were rendered by Mrs G Ward and Miss V Mahoney. There was an interesting selection of dances, including "Four hand Reel" and Irish Jig, the dancers being Misses S Stack, Dee and Farrell and Masters Robinson and Barry. A violin solo was contributed by Master J Woodward accompanied by Miss Ri Woodward. the accompanist for the evening was Mrs G Ward."

The school and parish also rallied around to raise funds for a new church that ultimately with the advent of the depression and the war, took some time to come about. Various fundraising activities were organised including a fete at the Kedron Park racecourse and a St Carthages Queen Competition. (See Brisbane Courier 29 October 1932, p23). One of the contestants of the 1932 St Carthages Queen competition was a Miss Pauline Kelly, who organised a novice amateur boxing tournament in the St Carthages 'School Hall' on Monday 31 October 1932. Various bouts were held that night including, a middleweight challenge bout between Geo Clifford and Joe Gorman, the decision going to Mr Clifford on a technical knockout in the fourth round!!! Mr Clifford was the Uncle to Mr Jim Kelly (husband of Kath Kelly and father to past students Judy, Greg and Michael from Jack Street) who at 22 years of age at the time, was a member of a local boxing club located in a hall at Lutwyche Road next to Carroll's Chemist.

The St Carthage Queen was crowned at a ceremony at the Kedron War Memorial Hall on Tuesday 8 November 1932, with Miss Nellie Moloney being crowned Queen of Charity, Miss Pauline Kelly runner up as Queen of Hope and Miss Marjorie Millar, Queen of Faith. Miss Moloney was crowned by Dr Duhig. (Brisbane Courier 9 November 1932, p18)
Grade One - 1954
There was a steady rise in enrolments at St Carthage's during the period 1958 to 1964, coinciding with the building of many new homes in land previously the home of the Hickey Dairy. The peak of the numbers occurred in 1961, when the school accommodated children from teh Stafford Parish during the time when their school was being erected.
Communion Class 1959
Combined Girls Sports Photo (circa 1960)
Communion Class 1961
School Sports day at Corbett Park 1966

In the late 1960s's several school fetes were held down an Corbett Park, the home of the Past Brothers Rugby League Football Club. Mrs Freda Kelly, the mother of past students Susan and Wayne, worked tirelessly to bring the fetes to fruition. On one occasion the then Federal Member for Brisbane Central, Mr Manfred Cross officially opened the fete.
The Music Room

 

St Carthages Girls Marching Team Winners of the Sr Mary Bernard Cup1969-1971

St Cecilia’s Hamilton was a sister school to St Carthages, but unlike Gordon Park there was a separate convent located at the school and it had an expansive grassed playground, something that the children of Gordon Park were very envious of indeed.
During the 1960’s and early 1970’s, St Cecilias was home to the local Sisters of Mercy hosted sports day. Schools from Hamilton, Wooloowin, Gordon Park and Kangaroo Point to name a few, attended the annual fete and sports day, where leader ball, tunnel ball, sprint races and girls marching were the main competitor events.

While invariably Gordon Park’s sporting prowess was eclipsed by the larger sized schools (such as Wooloowin that not only had a school tuckshop but a swimming pool as well!!) , St Carthages had a school spirit and a determination that was unrivalled when it came to the Senior Girls Marching Event.

The ‘Sr Mary Bernard Cup' was introduced in 1968 as the prize awarded to the winning school team in girls marching. As the inscription on the old cup shows, the cup was to be presented each year by Mr Kevin Cairns, the then Federal Member for Lilley.

In 1968, the inaugural winners of the cup were St Joseph’s Convent, Kangaroo Point and from recollection St Carthages were runners up in that year.

Our marching team wasn’t large in number and consisted of approximately 18 girls in a formation of three to a row. The team was made up of girls from Grade 5 to Grade 7.

In 1969, Sr Mary Yvonne Higgins devised a plan. She was determined to bring home the Sr Mary Bernard Cup and a regular lunch time sight in the top playground at St Carthages, was the girls marching team in practise. I can still see the faces of those girls, (such as Mary Keily, Wendy Scanlan, Ann Goodwin) marching in such a very confined space over the broken concrete and uneven surfaces that made up the Gordon Park playground.
But mere physical efforts were not enough. Sr Mary Yvonne sought divine intervention to ensure that the girls could secure some victory for our school. So the plan was devised. Each day several weeks well in advance of the fete we would pray that we would be victorious. Normally the prayers would consist of something small, but often we would say part of the Rosary in a bid to remain focussed and supportive of our girls.

One Saturday afternoon in 1969, the day had come. After a fairly uneventful amount of success in most of the competitor events, again it was up to our girls. And out they came. With their newly designed green sash and especially made same coloured babooshka worn with the new St Carthages sports uniform, our girls were prepared.

I can still remember the taller girls such as Kathleen Blanchard, Cathy Ingram and Susan Kelly near the front and my own sister Margaret, Claire Burns and Mary McGinley near the rear.

Through the eyes of an eight year old, the girls looked to be marching in unison. They were erect, neat and focussed. It was hard to know where they would be placed and after the event, which was toward the end of the sports day, we just had to wait and see what happened.

Several presentations ensued and the usual speeches and recognitions were offered up. It was now our turn. The announcement was being made. “The winner of the Girls Marching Competition and the Sr Mary Bernard Cup is ……………St Carthages Gordon Park”.
We were hysterical. Our prayers had been answered and the runt of the Mercy litter had brought the bacon home. We were so proud of the girls and were met on Monday at the school by a broad smiling St Mary Yvonne, a woman not renowned for her joviality with the students, who greeted this victory with much apparent personal satisfaction.
School life resumed as usual and not much more thought was given to the trophy or our success for several weeks. But then it happened …The tension of it all could be seen on Sr Mary Yvonne’s face. The

Sr Mary Bernard Cup had returned from the engravers but instead of engraving the words St Carthages Gordon Park, the word ‘”Garden” had been engraved. The engraver had made a mistake. ….
We were mortified and a level of sadness permeated our combined classroom of Year 4 and 5 students, as the full implications of all of this were to be considered.

As it transpired the cup was returned to the engravers to see what could be done, but as the cup now shows etched permanently in the name of the 1969 winners is a very unsuccessful attempt to correct the mistake on the letter “a”, with no further attempt made to correct the further mistake to overwrite the letter “e”.
Despite all of that, for two further years, the St Carthages team won that cup, that is now located in the parish office of St Carthages Catholic Church. 
Year 7 Class (1969)
First Communion Class 1974
St Carthages Square Dancing Members Circa 1974
In 1974, the Sisters of Mercy announced to the Parish that they could no longer staff the school, apart from providing a sister for religious instruction. The Sisters were farewelled in November 1974, at a concert and sports day provided by the children at the school. The last Sister of Mercy Principal was Sister Mary Yvonne, RSM.

A list of the Sisters of Mercy that worked over that time in the period 1929-1976 (incomplete) is as follows:

Surname Religious Name Date Comments

Browne Sr M Francesca 1930 Pioneeer Principal
Rose Sr M La Salette 1930; 1955-1959 Pioneer Sister
Bolton Sr M Dorothea 1930 Pioneer Sister, taught music
Brewer Sr M Trea 1972
Carmichael Sr M Alexia 1972-1974 Last Assistant Principal
Dalton Sr M St Augustine -1964
Garrett Sr M Philomene 1963
Heaney Sr M Flora 1968-
Henry Sr M Dennis 1954-
Higgins Sr M Yvonne 1968-1974 Last Principal
Hodda Sr M Bernadette 1965
Kearney Sr M Agnella 1959 Grade III
Kearnery, Bridget Sr M Hanora 1966, 1971-
Keegan Sr M Edna 1964
Kelleher Sr M Terresa 1967
Kerwin Sr M Julien -1964
Larrisey Sr M St finbar -1954
Mahony Sr M Alphonsus 1964
Markham Sr M Monfort 1960
McDonnell Sr M Barnabas -1954
McMillan Sr M Protase 1969-1974 Last staff
Neylon Sr M Berchmans 1971
O'Rielly Sr M Geraldine 1954
Osborne Sr M Clement -1967
O'Sullivan Sr M Anthony 1954
Roach Sr M Loman 1967-1968
Ward Sr M Pauline 1955-
Wilkes, Mary Sr M Paschal 1973-1974 Last staff
Keatinng Sr M Columkille -1966
Cusack Sr M deSales 1953-1965/1966
Callaghan Sr M Michaelo 1959-
Shannon Sr M St Kieran 1961-1963
Burke Sr M St Therese -1962
Sharpe Sr M Theophane 1955

In 1975, the School became one of the first primaary schools in the Archdiocese to be controlled and staffed with lay teachers. Mr E Pender was appointed as Principal and held this position up to the closure of the School in 1976.
and now..................................
Students from the 1940's (2007 Reunion) Students from the 1950's (2007 Reunion)
Students from the 1960s and 1970s. (Reunion 2007) Year 1 Class 1965 (2007)
Year 1 Class 1966 (2007) Students from the 1970s
Students from the 1970s Parents of Students [2007 Reunion] (Eileen Baker, Fr Maddern, Gloria Brosnan, Mary Devery, Fay Beauchamp Geoff Gleeson, Lena Hood, Pat Gleeson, Mrs Cullinan, Jim and Rita See, Mrs McPaul)


St Carthage's Past Students Association
From time to time, past students gather at the Queensland Irish Association for reunion catch ups.
Please feel free to email me with your contact details, if you would like to be included on the St Carthages email list.

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