Ashgrove Historical Society Inc. logo and name png

  • ArtS1 Grove Estate Plan 1888

    Advertisement for auction sale of lots in Grove Estate, on Saturday 4th February 1888.
    AHS archive no - AHS146

  • ArtS2 Grove Estate map c. 1900

    Grove Estate plan, c.1900. 

  • ArtS3 Ashgrove scouts 1909

    Ashgrove scouts, 1909
    AHS archive no: - 915

  • ArtS3 Seils Dairy Delivery Van 1930s

    Seils Dairy Milk Delivery Van, 1930s, a 1926 Willy’s Whippet,  owned by Seils' Dairy, Toomba Avenue, Ashgrove.  Milk was carried in the Dicky seat. 
    Source:  Neil & Jeanette Seils.

  • ArtS4 Waterworks Road, 1924

    Section of Waterworks Road showing the rough condition of the roadway.  1924.
    John Oxley Library digital image #201390

  • ArtS5 Old St Finbarrs Church Hall 1926

    Old St Finbarrs Church Hall,  Scan, 1926
    AHS Archive No: AHS523

  • ArtS6 Padmore Butcher Ashgrove Crescent c.1946

    WA Padmore, Quality Butcher, Ashgrove Crescent, c. 1946. 
    Source:  Desley Drevins.
    AHS Archive No: 559

  • ArtS7 Tram at Ashgrove West terminus, 1951

    Toast-rack tram No. 65 at the Ashgrove West tram terminus, in front of the Ashgrove West Uniting Church. 1969.

  • ArtS8 Grantuly Ashgrove

    Grantuly, the home of John Killough Stewart, son of Alexander Stewart of Glenlyon House.

The History of Marist College


The History of Marist College.


Presented by David Cameron, College archivist, on 3 August, 2013




This is the Marist College Ashgrove insignia - Marist sign on the left, the southern cross indicating Australia, MCA, Marist College Ashgrove, the book and the candle symbolises learning.  Viriliter Age was not always our motto and we were not always known as Marist College Ashgrove.  I'll give you a bit of my personal history with the college.  I was 10 years with the state, 9 years in the country and 1 year at The Gap High, in 1982.  I was offered the first promotion I had ever had, to become history subject master at The Gap.  That very night, 2 teachers from Marist College came around and offered me a job.  So the next day I told the boss at The Gap that I was leaving.  So I went to teach at Marist College Ashgrove.  I was a bit of a leap into the dark as I was not a catholic.  One of the teachers who came round was my twin brother who worked at the college.  In fact it's one of the decision I have made that I have never regretted. 


I always say, if you want to know where you are going, first you've got to know where you came from. At MCA, it’s not the school that begins, it something else.  There is the building we know as the tower block, but the Marist Brothers didn't build it and it was constructed almost a decade before the Marist Brothers settled there.  The inspiration for it was Father Walter Cain, a catholic priest, who was English and joined and order called The Mill Hill Fathers who were into missionary work.  He spent 20 years in the Philippines as a missionary.  He was convinced he had a vocation in his life was to establish a missionary order, which would train people to go to places like the Philippines, China and Japan and convert souls.  He manages to sell himself to Brisbane's Archbishop Duhig who said he could establish his missionary order provided the Vatican approves, which they did in 1927.  He was given permission to establish an order which could be both male and female.  Duhig gave him support, but not money.  Cain had a great talent for raising money -  he was a very good speaker, and was very persuasive with the written word.  He eventually gets his money from a magazine called Filipinas.  In it he stated he is going to train people to win souls for Christ in the Philippines.  The magazine was enormously successful and the money rolled in.  So firstly, he bought a house on Gregory Terrace, and then in 1928,  a deceased property, 44 acres on Enoggera Creek, for 4400 pounds, what is now MCA.  He wanted to clear the land and build a mother house on the top of the hill.  Money was no object, and in 1930 he had the tower block constructed for 25000 pounds.  Constructed started in 1930 and it opened in 1931.  Behind every man there is a good woman, and his greatest supporter was Mother Margaret Clair.  They were as thick as thieves, to do with religion, although there was talk that it was more than that, although there is no proof that there was anything more than religion.  Her name in real life was Gertrude Wilson, also English and her family were high Anglicans and she converted to Catholicism.  She was always searching for a way to express her new faith and was totally caught up with Walter Cain's vision, and became his greatest supporter.  Cain was very interested in St Jude, the cousin of Jesus, known as the patron saint of the hopeless.  So his missionary order became known as St Jude’s Seminary.  He also constructed a bridge over Enoggera Creek which has stood the test of time, having been flooded many times.  A road winds up the hill to the Tower Block.  There were wonderful ornate gates with the name of the order at the top, "Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist", both male and female, and St Jude's Seminary across the centre.  There was a large white building where the male side of the order lived, and the nuns lived in the tower block.  Ashgrove in 1931 was very rural with very few houses on Glenlyon Drive. 


Money was still rolling in - statues were carved from Italian marble, there were big religious paintings, and things seemed to be going well.  However, from 1930 onwards, Australia was in a depression, with 30% unemployment and social and economic dislocation.  In the middle of all this Walter Cain was erecting big buildings, statues etc and this caused resentment, particularly from the local parish priests.  He was able to afford this through his Filipinas magazine, in which he said that prayers could be said for others ....  as long as you pay for them.  There was a lamps chapel, a wooden building, and people were always there saying the prayers that people had written in for.  Each candle represented one prayers said.  One was for a cow that was about to calve.  Rumours of this activity reached the Vatican.  So in 1938, a Vatican representative presented Fr. Cain with a letter informing him that the male side of his order was suppressed.  The trained priests were to become part of the Brisbane diocese, and the un-ordained priests were to go home.  The female side of the order was to continue as long as there was no contact between them and Cain.  Cain had no idea he was even being investigated, so was quite surprised.  He went to live at the Fathers house in Glenlyon Drive.  But, he arranged to have his laundry done by the nuns and was caught passing notes.  Then in October 1938, Mother Margaret Clair was called down to Sydney and told she was finished too.   The church, through Archbishop Duhig, assumed control of the property.  Cain protested, and went to Rome but was not given an audience.  He spent the rest of his life as a parish priest at Northgate and Cannon Hill and retired to Redcliffe.  Mother Margaret Clair stayed faithful to Cain and became his housekeeper.  So their order disappeared - she died in 1956 and he died in 1962.  She was buried as Rev Mother Margaret Clair. A lot of the magnificent paintings, and also the gates on the bridge, disappeared.


Duhig now has possession of St Jude's  Seminary and this is where the Marist Brothers come into it.    By 1938/39, the Marist Brothers were trying to advance up to Brisbane.  They did have a small boarding school at Rosalie, which was inadequate and the number of brothers was improving in quality and quantity.  They bought the Ashgrove property for £12000, which they thought was a bargain, but it cost Cain nothing in the first place.  They have been given the right to found a school, both primary and secondary, boarding and day boys.  First, they had to make room for the boarders.  Thiess Brothers, as one of their first jobs, cleared the top recreation ground and the sports oval.  When the Marists took over, there were only a few buildings and they were used as a dormitory, a science lab, a boarders dining room and brothers rooms.  The building where the male side of the order lived, became the whole school, until 1958.  Another small building houses the domestic staff.  The first head master was Brother Ignatius O'Connor.  He set the vision for the Marists.  He was a big man in intellect, having 2 university degrees and a diploma in education.  He was also a leader, and set the standard for all to follow.  His vision was to establish a 'St Joseph's of the North', but because there were already 2 Christian Brothers schools, Terrace and Nudgee, named St Josephs,  he settled on St Marys  Marist Brothers College, Ashgrove.  The first motto was Posurant me Custodum, 'they have appointed me guardian', translated by the first boarders as 'they have placed me in custody'.  The first parade was on 30 January 1940, and John Walpole [an AHS member] was actually there.  There were 70 students - 49 day boys and 21 boarders, from primary through to seniors.  In those days, there was no state aid to independent schools, so they have to made their own way -  they had to attract enough people to pay for the fees.  So Br Ignatius had the idea to offer something that not many private school had - a swimming pool.  That was a good year for it - 1940 was the hottest for many years - 4 days over 41 degrees.  He got Theiss Brothers to dig a big hole down near the creek, but had no money to build the pool.  So they built it themselves - with pick and shovel and volunteer labour, now one of the great traditions.   They all joined together to help; Ignatius lead the charge along with Brothers, students, parents and members of the community.  They call it the Marist family - and Ignatius believed that hard physical labour bonds people. [ Shows several photos of the construction of the pool.]  When it got too hot during the day, they worked at night under light from cars' headlights.  By this time, the suburb fs Ashgrove had grown.  John Walpole's father offered his horse and dray to help cart materials.  The pool was opened in November 1940. 


Photos show the first day students in 1940, with no recognisable uniform.   The first school magazine, the Blue and Gold, shows the boys in a recognisable uniform.  One of the students was Harry Judge, a boarder at Rosalie who moved to Ashgrove in its first year.  He was an orphan from the country and his uncle could not afford to keep him during the depression.  The magazine was intended to impress the prospective parents with its wonderful shots of the dining room and dorms.  The reality was quite different, however.  The new uniform included a boater hat, which they hated.


 In 1940, during the war,  there was a fear that the Japanese would attack Australia and  Marist College was right next door to the army camp.  The Australian army came up with the idea of a Brisbane line, giving everything north of that to the Japanese.  This did not eventuate, however.  The army was concerned about the college's proximity to their base, and the school was told to evacuate.  The army was the next occupiers of the Tower block, becoming an officer training unit at first, then the headquarters of the 5th division.  They spent from 1942 to almost 1945 in possession of St Marys College, Ashgrove.  The college moved to Mt Tambourine, at Eagle Heights, and the swimming pool for the school was at St Bernard’s Hotel at Mt Tambourine.  Some students went to Rosalie but most went to Eagle Heights where 3 or 4 guest houses were rented.  Then a building was bought and the school was centred there.  The school remained opened at Eagle Heights until 1964. It was sold and became St John the Baptist preparatory school. 


Br Ignatius continued to advertise for students in the school magazine, and had big plans for the school.  Photos showed wonderful shots of the boys at Eagle Heights and the wonderful life they had.  It was a wonderful adventure for the boys. Br Ignatius died at Mt Tambourine in 1949, following a stroke.  He was buried in the catholic church beside the school.


After the war in 1945, it was discovered that the army had used the chapel for the officers mess and the alter itself was stained and damaged.  So the boss, Oliver Clarke, put in a considerable claim for compensation from the army, which was received.  However, there was still no money, no aid and the school was struggling to attract students.  Oliver Clarke returned to WA and Br Cyprian Dowde took over - and the tougher it got the better he liked it.  Br Cyprian gave the college three things - firstly, he has a great belief in sport and it was a wonderful way to tire boys out.  He gave the college their playing fields and had a turf wicket constructed to attract players.  The land over the creek, the flats, had become Marist property and was levelled by Theiss Brothers, using it to train their drivers and doing the job for free.  The flats were levelled but it was covered with thousands of small creek stones.  So, at Br Cyprian's instructions,  the students and boarders walked the length of the fields picking up the stones.  Brother Cyprian continued to build a steel fence around the field, using a crow bar, a shovel, cement and plenty of sweat.  A young boy, when asked by Cyprian if he would be going to school at Marist, said, 'No!', because he said it was a slave school!  Eventually, in the 1950s, he gave the school their playing fields - all again through that communal effort.  Look at this picture of their playing fields - there are 3 cricket pitches there and you can see why workplace health and safety would not be impressed.  The cricket pitches are too close and the boys have their backs to the adjacent pitches.  Improvements need to be done, but it cannot happen until the money comes in.  The second thing that Cyprian gave them was that he changed the name of the winter gamed that was played.  The competition they were in, the Metropolitan Catholic School's Assn., had been dominated by the Marist boys since 1945 playing rugby league.  By 1948, the other schools were sick of it and so, at the top level, the first 13s, they put a weight limit of 10 stone on it.  So this eliminated most of the Marist boys.  So Cyprian changed rugby league to rugby union.  By the time he left in 1952, he has converted the league boys to union - and they have never gone back.  So he changes the winter, simply because he is a kiwi.  The third thing he gave them is related to the set of gates on the Marist flats.  He wanted to honour any Marist / St Marys College boy who had served in world war 2, not just killed.  Two boys were killed - both air force boys, killed in 1945 within a month of each other.  The boys would see the list of names on their way to school and would be example.  The gates were officially opened in 1950.  At the opening, along with the Governor of Queensland, they watched the newly introduced cadet corp. to Ashgrove, his third thing he gave the school.  One of the cadets was Denis Callaghan, then 16, and now 80 and still teaching 3 days a week at the College.  The cadets had rifles, and used mortars  and machine guns at their camps at Wacol in 1950s.  The cadets loved it, but in 1975 the Commonwealth Govt. stopped the cadets for financial reasons.  In 1954, the cadet's Q store burned down, but fortunately the boys who were playing tennis nearby were able to rescue about £10000 worth of army gear.  It was caught on camera that day by a Brother with a box brownie.


In the 1950s, the school had increased to 400-450 students and classes were overflowing onto the verandas.  The Provincial Council was not prepared to give them the money to expand.  When there is a challenge, someone steps up, and that person was Brother Peter Carrick.  He decided to run an art union.  His first prize was a block of  four flats at Burleigh, and 6 Holden cars as book-sellers prizes.  He was the genius who unlocked the secret of getting bank loans.  With the profit from the art union, which was by then £25000, they were able to secure a bank loan.  The school was then able to expand and expand, with debt mounting up.  The Carrick wing was then built - 15 class rooms and administration area.  This was the first brick building on the property.   The main yard was then bitumened. 


In 1958, the motto was changed to 'Viriliter Age' - meaning 'act manfully'  or 'act courageously'.  With the better facilities, the population started to boom.  By 1963 there were 650 boys.  There was an almost continuous expansion after that - a new boarding dormitory in 1964, a physics lab in1966, 1965 another 15 classroom block, and a new boarders dining room in 1966, with kitchen and laundry.  By this time, state aid was available to private schools.  Another new dorm block was built in 1969/70.  With a Commonwealth grant of $40,000, a new library was constructed in 1970, all state-of-the-art, and a new science block was completed in 1972.  Brother Alexis Turton changed  the name of the College in 1971, to Marist College Ashgrove.  The main oval was upgraded in 1973, with new fencing and training equipment, grand stand, all using communal labour. 


The school acquired a property at Dayboro for outdoor education and permanent huts were needed as accommodation.  Some old huts were available at Amberley, but one of the huts collapsed on the workers during demolition, killing one of the workers and seriously injuring many others.  The coroner found that it was death by misadventure.  The headmaster, Alexis Turton, launched a huge appeal and compensation from the school was paid out. For Bill Myers widow, a house was purchased for her at Alderley and she stayed then for many years. One man, Mel Retchford, became a paraplegic, and was employed by the school as a guidance officer, and also modified his home to be wheelchair friendly.  There is a memorial to Alexis Turton in the chapel. 


In 1978, a dedicated chapel and religious education centre was built.   The school now holds a fete each year, the September Fair, to raise money.   This continued until 1987, and was replaced by a walk-a-thon, the boys being sponsored for every km they walk.  It began as a 30km walk and now is only 15km.  It's a big fun day and involves everyone in the community as well as raising money.  It's run by volunteers and ends at the school in 'the battle of the bands'.  Recently, it raised $90,000. 


Brother Cyprian by now has passed on, and the one thing they needed was somewhere to entertain visitors.  It was decided to operate a hospitality pavilion, called the Cyprian Pavilion, overlooking the main oval.  It is available for weddings and receptions.


In 1981, plans were made with Mt St Michaels College to have a combined year 11 and 12 senior school on the property.  Surveys were done at each school but were suddenly stopped.  It may have been the Old Boys Association who was responsible for this, but it never eventuated. 


In 1989, Chris Wade was responsible for the construction of an indoor sports area where the boarders could safely play indoors and it was also an area for the whole school to meet.  The inaugural mass and speech night are held there each year.  Money was raised through the Ash Appeal, and within a year $1,300,000 was raised.  A dedicated primary school was built in honour of Brother Ignatius, and was opened in 1984, with 300 boys and 15 teachers.  The Champagnat Centre, the gymnasium, was opened in 1989 by Bob Hawke.  A new senior dorm for year 12's only opened in 1994, and a new music centre was built, music now being as popular as rugby.  A new entrance was constructed in Frasers Road in the late 1990s.  A new commercial kitchen and trade training centre for manual arts, caters for students who are not academic so that all students are catered for.   The old library became the Resource Centre in 2000, with all the latest technology.  A third classroom block is built in 2004 and new music and drama block to honour Chris Wade, with a 300 seat Draney Theatre, and in 2011, to honour Alexis Turton, a new science centre.   The Tower Block will be renovated in the future and the archives will be put in the east wing. 


Some famous former students were - John Eales, rugby player;  Des Connor, rugby test player;  Matthew Hayden, cricketer;  Fr. Tom Moloney, cricket coach and college chaplain; Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister;  Julius Chan, PM of New Guinea;  Michael Gubbins, longest serving lay staff member; and Derek Cameron, who, by next year, will have taught for 40 years at the college.