St.Kilda Christian Brothers' College

Christian Brothers' College is a Catholic secondary College for boys in St. Kilda established by dedicated, courageous men of the Christian Brothers' order who left their homes in the nineteenth century with little expectation of ever seeing them again, travelling around the world to serve and educate the children of the Irish immigrants they followed. Over the years they have made a significant contribution to both Church and nation through their education of generations of young men who, from their schooling in St Kilda have taken up positions of influence across Australia and internationally.

Three Centuries of Education

Christian Brothers' College St Kilda traverses three centuries; commencing in colonial Victorian times when the telephone was new, man had not yet taken flight in his flying machines, trams weren't rattling down Dandenong Road, and the mode of transport was horse and cart. Led over the years by thirty Headmasters who were members of the Order passing the baton of the education of its students to the many lay teachers who followed them, culminating in the appointment of the thirty-first and first lay Principal, Gerald Bain - King in 2005. Its genesis may be traced back to the tireless efforts and foresight of Dr Corbett, Parish Priest of St Mary's who was responsible for securing the arrival of both the Presentation Nuns and Christian Brothers from Ireland to deliver an alternative education to the Godless system that was to be phased in after the passing of the Education Act of 1872. The government of the time had declared it would phase out over a period of some years the assistance formerly given to denominational schools run by parishes such as St Mary's in St Kilda.

St.Mary's Parish

Prior to the arrival of the Brothers to St Kilda the boys of St Mary's Parish were taught by lay people. The decision to open a State school in Hornby Street adjacent to St Mary's was a direct threat to the existence of St Mary's School. In response to the threat posed by the Education Act of 1872 a meeting was held in St Mary's chaired by Archbishop Gould to consider the means to be taken to financially sustain the boy's school in the Parish. At this meeting it was decided that funds would be sought from parishioners to sustain the school's existence. At this time, after speaking to Brother Ambrose Treacy, who agreed that the Brothers would do well in colonial St Kilda, Dr Corbett wrote to his half brother John Patrick Corbett -  a Christian Brother in Ireland, to secure for him a couple of Brothers for St Mary's Boys School. Brother John Patrick Corbett, the school's first Headmaster, and seven companions left Plymouth on the SS Kent on the 17th of May 1878. Three of the Brothers believed they were bound for Adelaide whilst tradition says the rest were bound for Beechworth, a great gold centre in Victoria with high hopes of becoming the Federal Capital of Australia one day. On the night of their arrival the theory is the Brothers bound for Beechworth accepted the hospitality of Dr Corbett who immediately called a meeting of the men of the Parish to invite the Brothers to take over St Mary's School. Within three weeks of their arrival the Brothers opened the Christian Brothers School on the feast day of St Anne the 26th of July 1878. In 1879 the Brothers' School in East St Kilda, staffed by four brothers, three teachers and one lay Brother comprised of five rooms, three for the Primary school pupils and two for the secondary students. It cost 2000 pounds to build; of which 1900 had been raised by parishioners. Its foundation boys came from a wide geographical background that included St Kilda, Toorak, South Yarra, Prahran, Elsternwick, Balaclava and Caulfield with most walking the 1 to 3 mile daily journey. They were of Irish background but later included English and Scottish surnames as a result of intermarriage followed by Italian and other European nations whilst in the latter years the College enrolled students with Asian and African backgrounds.

A School of Innovation

Since its very beginnings CBC was and remains an innovative boys school. In 1882 an annual Sports Day was initiated, the following year in 1883 the first Speech Day took place at which pupils performed extraordinarily exacting work in the elocutionary contests conducted therein. This event was shifted to the St Kilda Town Hall in 1891. In the 1880's commenced annual concerts of Gilbert and Sullivan as well as Operas, consequently making it the school of choice for the enrolment of the sons of leading educationally conscious Catholic professionals and businessmen of the nineteenth century. 1885 was a crowning year in which Regis Hughes was the first matriculant who went on to study at the University of Melbourne. Thus in the 1890's during the boom years of marvellous Melbourne CBC thrived in middle class St Kilda. Within a short proximity of schools like Xavier, Scotch College, Melbourne Grammar, Presentation Ladies College, Methodist Ladies College and Ruyton it became a member of a group of highly sought after schools in the colony which accounted for the education of thousands of students. The new century heralds the introduction of scholarships offered to boys of St Mary's to attend CBC the introduction of the school badge and the appearance of gymnastics for the first time at the Speech Night. In 1904 after representations to St Kilda Council by Headmaster Br Carrol a portion of Alma Park would be used as a playground. The same year sees the introduction of a College Motto, Virtus Sola Nobilitas - Virtue Alone is Noble - which also included the three present colours of the College dark blue, light blue, and green; replacing the original blue and white. In 1908 at the request of the Minister of Defence T.T. Ewing a Cadet Corps was formed in Catholic schools. Some of the boys in the cadets would not return from the theatre of war on the Western Front, Gallipoli and Palestine. The provision of lunch, a hot midday meal for boys at the College who wanted it was introduced as was a focus on discipline, hard work and good manners. In 1914 the Old Boys Association was born whilst 1916 heralds the publication of the first edition of Loquax Ludi whichsold for 1 pence. Prefects are introduced in this year also. The College was by now well established with an imposing line of buildings stretching down Westbury Street, preparing boys academically for commercial and professional life. The teaching of Physics and Chemistry is introduced in 1921 as were the colours that would become the College House colours. This period also sees the evolution of a custom unique to St Kilda, each boy shook hands with the master as he left the room at the end of the closing period of the day. The gentlemanly manners of CBC were alive and well. During this time there are two renown lay teachers associated with CBC, John (Hooker) Ward who worked for forty years at CBC riding his bicycle from Yarraville to St Kilda and Paddy Logue who started at CBC as a pupil in 1888 and died in 1927 after forty years service to his school as a lay teacher. The 1920's sees the introduction of the first college Tuckshop. The new Headmaster's idea of education was outlined as a five pointed star, religion, discipline, culture, athletics and service. CBC continued to pioneer education with the introduction of a form (class) retreat away from school premises which would later be almost universally adopted by all schools. At this time the new uniform of a blue suit with a badge on the pocket was introduced.

World War II

1939 not only announces the commencement of WWII, it was also the year leaving classes were restored to St Kilda. The House System, named after St Mary, St Joseph, St Ignatius, and St Francis was introduced to be renamed Corbett, McMahon, O'Shea and Tevlin in 1955. this was the same year electric clocks were introduced into classrooms. However, more importantly the RAAF 106 squadron set up base at CBC asking the College to provide an office for its headquarters, instruction in Math for the men by the Brothers and a place to carry out the physical training. By the end of the war the roll call had grown to 500 pupils. There is much activity in the school after World War II. In 1950 G. P. Maynard coached the swimming team to its seventh successive victory. On its 75th Birthday Mass was celebrated by Father Durkin, St Mary's priest in the newly completed Chapel. By the mid 1950's it was anticipated that approximately 8000 students had passed through the College. The 1950's also brought to the fore a discussion of the benefits of co-educational schools with Archbishop Simmonds and the Brothers dismissing the notion of  co-educational schools in preference for single gender schools which brought out the 'manliness in the boy'. This would change in the 1980's with the combining of classes with PCW at senior levels. In this decade the new College crest was introduced incorporating the dove, the lion, three feathers and the Celtic cross. The end of the 1950's sees the introduction of the summer uniform and revival of dancing classes held on Sundays in St Mary's. The 1960's saw enrolments at their height with 1074 students at the College in 1966. It represented a community for parents who attended the school socially for coffee parties, film nights and dinner dances in the newly built Logue Hall. This decade saw the introduction of the Road Safety and Car Driving lessons made available to senior students in 1966. Much is celebrated in this decade, including the celebration of the centenary of the Brothers in Victoria and the formation of the College Historical Society. However, of most significance is the introduction of the CBC Walkathon in 1968 which has been conducted annually to the present raising over $500 000 and giving it all away to support national and international charitable works.

Brother Frank McCarthy

In 1966 when Brother Frank McCarthy was appointed Headmaster, the College stood at a crossroads.  It had benefitted from extensive and excellent upgrading to facilities and equipment, and yet there was a feeling that standards amongst the students were not as high as they should be.  Br McCarthy brought back a commitment to style and tradition which had been lacking in the preceding years.  Masters were instructed to wear academic gowns, Assembly was held for the whole school on each morning except Wednesday, and an increased emphasis was placed on ceremony and formality.  The staff gave their full support to these changes agreeing that both tone and spirit in the school needed attention.  Br McCarthy, in fact preserved the traditions of the school during his term as Headmaster; of all the headmasters, he probably had the greatest respect for tradition, both of the Institute of the Christian Brothers and of the college in St Kilda.  Under his leadership, the College expanded its curriculum offerings, increased involvement in sports, and flourished.  He placed particular emphasis on academic achievement and maintained high standards; there was a revival at St Kilda of the desire for academic excellence.  A story is told that on one occasion when he returned an essay with “top Marks – 17/20” written on it, the recipient asked, “If they’re top marks, sir, why haven’t I received 20 marks?”  “Because,” answered Br McCarthy, “I never give more than 17.  I would give 18 to myself, and possibly 19 to the Queen of England.” “Who’d get 20, sir?” “God.” was the answer. 

When he became head of St Kilda, he wanted the boys to share, in some way, the results of his own studies and love of Art, so Br McCarthy started buying the great collection which is now the schools’ pride, bringing together examples of the major development in Australian Art to enable students to see for themselves its course and development.  He had also bought, where the price made it possible, any good painting by an overseas artist able to stand on its own. 

Because of the work of previous years, Br McCarthy did not have to undertake any great building program in the school itself.  However in 1971 he did purchase, in addition to No. 31 Westbury Street bought previously, Nos 33 and 37 Westbury Street for the future. 

Enigmatic, determined, visionary and tireless in his efforts for the College and the Brothers; by the end of 1971 there was universal regret that Br Mc McCarthy’s term of office as Headmaster was ending. 

The last Christian Brother Principal 

In 2004 the last Christian Brother completed his term as Principal of the College.  Br Roger Cripps had taken up leadership of the College in 1993 and immediately initiated a strong program of renewal for the College.  During his term there was extensive refurbishment and upgrading of the College facilities including the renovation of all classrooms from Years 7 - 12.  Walkways and corridors were enclosed and carpeted for safety and functionality.  The four Science Laboratories were refurbished, and a major Music Centre with an outdoor concert stage established.  This was complemented by the extension and refurbishment of the three storey Creative Arts Centre which is used for design technology, art, ceramics, and visual communication and design.  Under Br Cripps attention was paid to the College uniform and renewed emphasis was placed upon discipline and the provision of an extensive and highly successful student wellbeing approach. 

The first CBC Lay Principal

In 2005 for the first time in the 127 year history of Christian Brothers’ College, a Lay Principal, Mr Gerald Bain-King was appointed.  This appointment was a new step in the long journey of this famous College and designed to meet the challenge of a new educational context characterised by unprecedented change. 

The final word: Brother Miller

Br Miller, a Headmaster of the College in the 1970's, stated 'a school is not simply bricks and mortar. The work of the school is judged by the quality of the students who have graduated from it of which there are many who have succeeded as captains of industry and grace the world's boardrooms, performed on the sports fields representing their country, performed in front of cameras, are published as authors of books or as newspaper journalists and fulfil their roles as sons, husbands and fathers making their contribution to society something that CBC has played a part in. CBC is not an elitist school to use the word pejoratively applied to independent schools. Certainly it seeks, and for a large part in its history, has found, excellence in both learning and sports. It is not a school that prefers parents with money or social position. It is a school that seeks to educate young men and boys according to sound basis of the Catholic education'.