TARYN Dunne never had any doubts about where her son, Nash, would start school.
She chose St Columban’s at Mayfield, where both she, her four siblings and her late mother Susan Watt completed their primary education under the care of the Dominican Sisters. “My mother made lifelong friends here and I loved the closeness of the school, everyone got along all the time,” Ms Dunne said. “I idolised my year four teacher Sister Casimir, we used to have fun and help her recycle, using the can crush and smashing glass bottles, but the teachers were also very persistent.”
Principal Jennifer Crichton said Ms Dunne’s loyalty to the school was not unusual. She said many families have sent multiple generations, or travel from as far away as Gillieston Heights, Aberglasslyn, Glendore, Medowie and Fern Bay, to attend.
Ms Crichton is a past pupil, along with her father Joseph Connor, three brothers, daughter Julia and three other staff members.
She said the school of 160 students from 22 countries was proudly multicultural.
“Children, no matter what nationality, are tolerant of each other – we’re all one big family,” she said. “We don’t notice nationality – they get treated all the same and there is no racism. The school is also always willing to look after the underdog. If you tell them someone is struggling, it’s the ones who have got nothing who are contributing the most. It’s not unusual for us to raise $1000 in one hour for missions overseas.”
The school will mark its 100th anniversary on Saturday, when Bishop Bill Wright will preside over Mass at 11am and the school will open its centenary garden, which features five pillars bearing St Dominic and the words prayer, study, community and service. The school will also plant an orange tree from a cutting from a tree at The Basilica of Saint Sabina in Rome, which St Dominic was said to have brought from Spain 800 years ago.
The school was born after Bishop Dwyer asked the nuns to set up a primary, secondary and boarding school at Waratah North. It opened on April 16, 1917, in a two storey house on the corner of Bull and Kerr streets.
The 50 pupils grew to 107, which necessitated the 1919 purchase of larger property Redcliffe, which was renamed San Clemente, on the corner of Havelock and Crebert streets. The primary school shifted to its current location facing Church Street in 1922 and was known as St Joseph’s.
It was renamed St Columbanus in 1924 to avoid confusion with the school at Merewether and this was Anglicised in 1959 to St Columban’s. After the closure of Christ the King Primary at Mayfield West and Sacred Heart Primary at Hamilton around 1993, student numbers rose to 250.