Riverview Old Boys 1948-1954 Nostalgia Luncheon 22/04/08

April 24, 2008 at 5:04 am (Commentary) (, , , )

Fr Andy Bullen at Mass reminded us of the importance of place and associated memories. The chapel we were all in now would be such a place for all of us. Some perhaps were even married in this very place after leaving school.

The meeting up of old boys from Jesuit institutions inevitably brings up reminiscences and sometimes rather exaggerated public speeches about the excellence of the old schools. The splendour of a Jesuit education in developing boys spiritually and intellectually has a little bit of truth about it but it’s a little like the statement that all Jesuits are intellectuals. Some are and some aren’t.

In the years I spent at Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview (1950-54), I would say that the school was academically and pedagogically rather poor. The school did produce a few high flyers in the classics and sciences but it did very little in drawing out the potential in intelligent boys who were not coping with the mechanics of numbers and letters in the classroom. As teachers, the staff were a mixed bag. Usually the brighter streamed classes were given the better teachers. There was no library where the inquiring boy could independently research anything. If a boy was religious with an inquisitive disposition, Religious Knowledge classes could lead to lively theological and philosophical discussions but the legalism of Catholicism of the time created barriers stifling meaningful and consequential conclusions. But I suspect that the Jesuits allowed a greater degree of discussion with an element of common sense than for instance the Christian Brothers would ever allow in their schools. I can’t remember that anything much was done to develop any theatrical talents that the boys may have had and debating was largely left to the academic high flyers. In 1954, I remember giving a talk in a Sodality meeting defending the Protestant position on matters religion. Bill Craven who became the Dux of the school, after I finished speaking, turned to me and said: “If Fr Jones had heard you, you would be in the school debating team.”

When I left school I certainly would not have been considered one of its successful sons. I said to a fellow old boy, I neither got my sporting colours or passed the leaving. I rowed in the Eight for three weeks and then was replaced. The coach of the First four once said to our crew: “Everyone knows that Yogi should be in the Eight.” My nickname was Yogi. But the fact remained that I was not in the Eight. I played three competition games in the First Fifteen, you needed to play four to get your colours. I was a reserve in the Senior Athletic Team and in the Leaving, I only passed three subjects. I also mentioned that all this prepared me well in fitting into the Australian inclination to glorify failure.

In old age looking back on my school failures, I would put most of them on being racked with religious scruples which stifled any common sense that I may have had.

The reader by this time would probably think that my thoughts about Riverview are largely negative. Surprise, surprise! This is not the case at all.

I don’t always know exactly why but I have a great deal of affection for the old place. Psychologically it was a first-class place. I can’t remember too much bullying, you certainly were not pushed around too much by the staff, perhaps this was a fault. But I suppose with the saintly Fr John Casey running the School, it could not really be anything else. What a wonderful man ‘Butch’ Connolly was, our 1st Division Prefect for most of the time, incidentally, our Religious Knowledge teacher for two years, a class that I topped. A brilliant teacher, a pity I didn’t have him in secular subjects. ‘OGPU’ Jones, raconteur, larger-than-life character and Rowing Master is unforgettable! Fr Pat Sullivan and Fr John Doyle as spiritual advisers did their best to resolve my religious scruples. Fr Frank Wallace, I always felt, was concerned about the poor academic standards in the school.

My admiration for the School must have continued as I sent my two boys there. I must admit that they have mixed feelings about the place but as they grow older, I’m sure they will more favourably view their time there.

At the gathering it was marvelous to catch up with old friends, Mark Gooden and John Dunford to mention two. John reminded me about our cox in the 2nd Four, Bill Coyle.

The women present on the day seemed to enjoy it.

The Committee arranging the day did a splendid job and at a mundane level I certainly appreciated that there were no up-front charges for the luncheon.

Old OGPU crossed the Rubicon figuratively speaking many times uttering, Iacta alea est, the die is cast, and I was so pleased that on this day I crossed the Lane Cove River to attend a memorable day at Riverview.

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