Cutting the 100th birthday cake were the school’s oldest surviving students (from left to right) Marge Buckley, Mary Walker, Ruth Slattery, Norah Porthouse and Bill Shay, with Mary Walker’s daughter Francis in the background. Mary now has a great grandson at the school.
Cutting the 100th birthday cake were the school’s oldest surviving students (from left to right) Marge Buckley, Mary Walker, Ruth Slattery, Norah Porthouse and Bill Shay, with Mary Walker’s daughter Francis in the background. Mary now has a great grandson at the school.

St John's celebrate 100 years

Over Federation Bridge in Mullumbimby last weekend, cars were parked everywhere, for it seemed that anyone who had had a connection to the St John’s Catholic School community over the years had made the effort to come from near and far to join in the school’s centenary celebrations.


Of huge interest to all was the ‘walk back through time’ exhibition in the hall, where tables displayed photos and memorabilia of each decade of the school’s 100 years of operation.


John Healy, who had travelled from Moss Vale, was perhaps typical of those whose breath was taken away by the ‘walk’, as he discovered photographs of family members that he had never seen before.


“My grandparents were the first couple to be married in the church, in 1907, before the roof even went on,” said John, pointing to the photo of the church on the very first table.


“They had a farm out near the McAuley’s Lane turnoff, and raised 10 children who all went to school here, walking barefoot all the way.


“All my cousins and their partners have got together for this reunion, nearly 100 of us, who will have dinner together tonight, all grandchildren of the people married in this church.


“This is very special to me.”


Successful


As well as the trip down memory lane, the weekend had more celebrations in store, with a sit-down dinner for 250-plus in the hall and spilling out into the annexe on Saturday evening; mass in a packed church presided over by the bishop on Sunday morning, followed by morning tea and the cutting of the cake, and performances of songs and bush dancing by the children.


Chairperson of the centenary committee Mark Russell said the response to the weekend far exceeded any expectation, where something that began with a small group of people 12 months previously culminated in such a hugely successful event that was so meaningful to so many.


“It has been a big weekend,” said Mark, “and an opportunity to embrace 100 years of Catholic education in the valley.


“It all began when the committee decided to try and plan a walk back through time, led by Frank Mills who uncovered historical photos from 1907, and from there we started to gather photos from family and friends that embraced the 100 years.


“This culminated in a booklet, compiled and written by Lisa Russell, a teacher here since 1981, a booklet full of images from the years, and of messages and reminiscences from past students and teachers.


“We’ve had so much positive feedback about both the booklet and the walk, with people saying it was a great experience to see where they fitted into the school’s history.


“People spent a lot of time going over old memories, remembering the days they had together as students, and a lot were overwhelmed at the memorabilia we have, enough to position everyone in the history.


“I believe everyone can walk away knowing their history, their heritage, has been captured.”


The souvenir booklet contains some wonderful photos – nuns in full black habit on a picnic at Minyon Falls, Father O’Byrne feeding his cows outside the presbytery in the late ’50s; music students of the ’30s wearing the big floppy ribbons of the era, and boarders outside the convent in the ’20s – as well as a ‘Do you remember?’ page where getting the cuts features next to visiting the grotto and seeing Sister Carthage riding a camel in habit and veil for Bicentenary Day.


The booklets went like hotcakes, and now the committee is busy producing DVDs that will be available for purchase later on.


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