GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
This section contains memories of the Brothers who have passed on but whose memory is kept alive in these anecdotes from the students they taught.
For those of you who are visiting this site and who did not attend school in the 1940's to the 1960's some of these stories will highlight what today is unacceptable behaviour on the part of educators (and students). But for those of us who grew up and went to school during those years...it was just how things were back then!
FIRST YEAR AT ST BERNARD'S: 78 OF US! - Contributor Ron Clark (ex-student and Old Boy)
Brother Walter was our First Year Form Teacher at St. Bernard's. We all called him "Wally". To this day, I don't know his given name. Incredible to recall, but "Wally" had 78 students in my first year at St. Bernard's in 1956. Not sure if it was fact or fiction...but we were led to believe that Bro. Walter was an Amateur Boxer in an earlier life. Fact or fiction…it worked. We did not want to "cross" Wally, just in case. How he and other Brothers controlled 78 boys aged about 12 years in the one large, long classroom, in the first year of High School, is still a wonder. However, it was "Wally" who seemed to carry the main burden. He had two holy pictures, on either side of the wide blackboard, so well placed and "angled" that he could view "reflected" activity at the back of the classroom. It was his mastery of the situation that impressed us. I often wonder what became of him.
When you consider that current classroom numbers are considered excessive, of over 25 students, then our era was exceptional. It is a testament to the skill and forbearance of Bro. Walter. We also had a quota of students from Malaya (Malaysia) join us. I felt very sorry for one fellow student from Malaya who found English very difficult, found even the mild cold weather too hard to bear...and did not return after only one term. The Malay students were expected to perform and learn, or they returned home. We were taught Latin by Brother Patrick, the then Principal. Bro. Patrick was a disciplinarian. Although Latin was a challenge, we all did well...a tribute to his teaching skill. Bro. Walter ("Wally") introduced us to Shakespeare via "Julius Caesar" play. An excellent choice for boys aged 12 years.
Thank you Wally !
BRO CELCUS - Contributor Mike Burke (ex-student and Old Boy)
I was a member of Bro Celsus's first class at St Bernard's and remember him very fondly as, I believe, would everyone else in that class. I would have said that 1952 was his first year there, because in 1951 I was in First Year, and our beloved John Walch was our class teacher that year. Celsus was the following year, I'm sure. John might remember.[Compiler's Note: John did remember, of course, and it was 1952 when John started at St Bernards, other than that this story certainly rings true.]
He spent one year with us and was then moved to Clairveaux. Little bastards that we were, we made his life miserable, but paradoxically he was quite popular. For some reason, probably because he was too nice and, I think, painfully shy, or perhaps because he insisted on wearing his black skull cap everywhere (hence his nickname, Skull), he never really got control of us and we got up to incredible mischief! We fired ink-soaked spit balls at him and the blackboard (and the ceiling) whenever his back was turned, hung boot polish lids from the blinds so they would rattle against the windows whenever there was a breeze, which meant 24/7 in Katoomba as you know, and created general mayhem.
He fought back, and many a time he'd whip around and fire a blackboard duster in the general direction of whatever noise was being made. No joke when the dusters were wooden-backed, but all's fair in love and war as they say.The following year, they sent him down to Clairveaux where I understand he found his feet very quickly. I can't recall ever having any contact with him again, but I recall hearing that nobody ever again took liberties with him. We trained him very well.
I'm very sad to hear that he has gone, but thankfully it seems to have been quick.
BRO MATTHEW - Contributor Ron Clark (ex-student and Old Boy)
I have very fond memories of Br. Matthew at St. Canice's. Br. Matthew was an absolute perfectionist. He was probably the first real perfectionist that, as children, we had encountered. His Classroom, Grades 5 & 6 (in the one room) was such an interesting setting for learning. The Ideal Classroom. Stimulating maps, charts, items of interest etc were all displayed. It was a wonderland. We all enjoyed his teaching and learnt much from him.These were happy days. Even at 10 years of age, I could only admire his skill and authority. If you earned a good mark or report from Brother Matthew...you really earned it!
Bro. Matthew had a truly deep faith. He taught us about the Saints.He believed that we should support "The Missions" and led from the front. He taught us Clay Modelling. We all had casts, clay, and hand painted our work. As he was so gifted in crafts, he gave us insights into self-expression.Everything that he did he did with panache.
I've related a story of Br. Matthew under "Football" in the SBC Newsletter. (Ice-breaker)
Br. Matthew remains, for me, the Ideal Teacher. I can't recall ever really thanking him. A real regret.
May God Bless his Immortal Soul.
Ron added: This memory shows what an extraordinary man Brother Matthew was:
Brother Matthew had organized a School Outing for his Grade 5 & 6 boys in the middle fifties. We all walked from St. Canice's to Echo Point. Then down The Giant Stairway to the valley floor of Jamison Valley. All 900 plus steps.
We turned left at the valley floor and went into an area, known as The Leura Forest. In this area were long vines hanging from tall trees. Imagine the scene of 10-11 year old boys and natural vines (like ropes). Adventure Plus! With all the hectic activity, there was bound to be an accident. And there was. A boy injured his foot/leg (broken bone(s)?) and could not walk. Poor Brother Matthew carried this boy on his back...back to The Giant Stairway, and then up all 900 plus steep steps back to the top!!
It was a supreme effort. Incredible. You have to visit this Stairway to fully appreciate his ordeal. We were all feeling guilty that we had (collectively) put this upon Brother Matthew. If we felt like complaining about the long ascent, we only had to look at poor Brother Matthew, and be humbled. Brother Matthew was supremely fit. However, this must have really taxed his strength, endurance and will. He did it quietly and without fuss. He probably said his Rosary or Rosaries quietly to himself as he manfully endured this ordeal. This was obviously in an era without mobile phones.There was no chance of requesting help or of having assistance waiting.
Other De La Salle Brothers may know of this happening. As Brother Matthew was a modest man, they may not know. None of his Grade 5 & 6 students will forget it!