THE SCHOOL MOTTO
There always was and seemingly always will be a mystery surrounding the school's motto SOLA NOBILITAS VIRTUS.
Here is our best explantion supplied some years back by John Walch ex-teacher, Patron, Secretary/Treasurer and the website's original Editor.
THE COLLEGE MOTTO - SOLA NOBILITAS VIRTUS
It would be intriguing to find out who decided this would be the motto for the then quite new educational outfit that was St Bernard’s.
We’ll never know if it is something someone dreamed up or had seen it somewhere or had rescued it from some book or other.
One possibility suggested was that Mt St Mary’s College had Virtus in their motto (Virtus et Sapientia) and since that College had been going for just ages before St Bernard’s started someone may have decided to put Virtus in the St Bernard’s motto as well??
And of course the first Principal, Br Patrick, was a bit of a Latin scholar and he may have chanced on it or even made it up.
However it came about it must have happened or been decided very early on. The front page of the 1942 school magazine, the first one we have access to and maybe the first one printed, is taken up with the school badge and motto largely written.
It was very much part of the culture of those times for any group or institution to have a motto.
This in theory was designed to be a guiding principle to the personnel even if the personnel did not know or appreciate such guidance.
In keeping with the custom of the times many of these were in Latin.
The R.A.A.F. for example had “Per ardua ad astra” which in general ought to mean something like “you’ll have a lot to put up with before you hit the heights”…though I imagine Air Force smarties have their own version of it.
Those in charge of the group could always point to the motto and say” that’s the way we are headed; that’s our guiding star”.
Indeed that’s what it was meant to be rather than a catch phrase such as “Just do it”, or the one that has had a bit of an airing lately “Carpe diem” “Seize the day”, one of those expressions where you know what it means until someone asks you to explain it!
It became quite the rage for a while after being trumpeted in the film”Dead Poets Society “
A few De la Salle schools early on had “Esto Vir” “Be a man”. Not too sure what they did when the school went co-educational!
“Deo Duce” ´”With God as leader” was another one often used but as far as I can work out no-one else ever had “Sola nobilitas virtus”
At one level it was useful because someone thought of adding the Latin “est”, “is,”not strictly necessary but fitted well into the College war-cry used at sporting events like footy matches and such to gee up the College team
“Sola nobilitas virtus est
College, College do your best
C -O -L -L -E -G -E College”
As to actual meaning we start to run into difficulties.
I was often told it meant “Virtue alone is noble”. That obviously is a worthy enough sentiment. You can’t argue that as a principle of conduct it is in any way wrong, except it does not translate the motto.
Those who thought this was what it was meant to be worked from the fact that Virtus looked like Virtue and if it looked right then it probably was.
Not having access to a really good Latin dictionary where you could find out what authors used the words and in what context the best I could do was Google it ,and just assume that the order in which the meanings were given was significant.
So for Virtus there is manliness, character, courage and for Nobilitas nobility, excellence, renown
Up to each one to take his own meaning.
Nobility I find a bit daunting as in modern usage it seems to be mainly associated with the English upper classes of earls, viscounts, princes and such but I guess each of us can have his own version of nobility and what it entails and we may well consider that manliness is in fact the only version of it worth having.
May the motto continue to be our guiding light!
Perhaps a good one for the present might be
“Nil desperandum”…”Let us not be deterred”.