What I See with Peter Fiorenza: Partial demolition of St Patrick’s end of an era for Geraldton education

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
The part of St Patrick’s College escaping demolition.
Camera IconThe part of St Patrick’s College escaping demolition. Credit: Jessica Moroney/Geraldton Guardi/RegionalHUB

I grew up with a Catholic education — a system that has changed significantly in the past 40 years.

Back in the 1980s and prior, Catholic secondary schools were chiefly single-sex institutions.

Even so, there was often co-operation between the male and female colleges when it came to significant events like interschool swimming and athletic carnivals.

This was also the case with different fundraisers.

Today here in Geraldton, these education platforms that were operated by religious orders have given way, along with the rest of the State, to Catholic co-education.

The former system now comes under the umbrella of Catholic Education Western Australia.

Just like my family before me, I attended St Lawrence’s Primary in Bluff Point and then went on to St Patrick’s College.

St Patrick’s or St Pat’s was set up by the Christian Brothers in 1926 and was a boarding and day school.

In my time it schooled up to 400 boys from Year 8 through to Year 12, with more than half boarding at the college.

These boarders included the sons of local farmers in the district through to students from the mining towns in the Pilbara, the Kimberley and even South-East Asia.

And the brothers did everything from teaching, to overseeing the dormitories and coaching the myriad of sports on offer.

In recent times, the Christian Brothers’ reputation has taken a battering and in many respects for just reason, but there were many who certainly had a positive effect.

During my time at the college, the number of religious clergy who taught had somewhat dwindled, yet there were two gentlemen I will always remember, Brother Kean and Brother Duffy.

Brother Kean was a fair age when I first met him. Despite this, he had a remarkably active mind and interest in life.

I thought he was special from the get-go, because although he had generally retired from teaching, he still taught Latin to a select few.

There were also many stories about his athletic attributes as a young man, including playing VFL (now AFL) football for Carlton.

And he was a man who loved walking.

In fact, there would be many late afternoons you would find him happily striding in from the outskirts of town.

And the other was Vincent Duffy, fondly referred to as Brother Vin.

Brother Vin also enjoyed his sport, often chatting to anyone about cricket and the number of famous players he taught and trained.

He was also a remarkable teacher.

When I began my career at Nagle, Brother Vin still taught maths.

He was a diminutive man and had a very soft voice, but if you ever went past his classroom, you could hear a pin drop.

He commanded tremendous respect.

Brother Vin was the last Christian Brother to teach in Geraldton.

Recently, a number of buildings on the old St Pat’s site were demolished, leaving only the palace-like structure on the side of the hill facing the ocean.

And I know that many in the community may have shed a tear as the bulldozers moved in.

Indeed, the end of an era, but, hopefully never forgotten.

Peter Fiorenza hosts Fiorenza on Sunday between 10am and noon on Radio MAMA

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