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FRATERNITY AND FRIENDSHIP: Past students of Newcastle Grammar School gather for a photo at Newcastle Baths, from left to right, Prue Hurt, Billy Coffey, Sarah Sivyer, Chris Thornton and Yvonne Mullane.
FRATERNITY AND FRIENDSHIP: Past students of Newcastle Grammar School gather for a photo at Newcastle Baths, from left to right, Prue Hurt, Billy Coffey, Sarah Sivyer, Chris Thornton and Yvonne Mullane.

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Speak to any former student of any school and they’ll talk fondly of enduring memories, youthful aspirations, heartfelt experiences and lifelong friends.

This confidence combined with the diversity of people and ideas by which I was surrounded has set me up for success later in life.

Newcastle Grammar alumni are no different, and in many ways their experiences – catching the train to school each day, playing sport with mates, surfing during period break, dreaming of the future – combined with the school’s location in the heart of Newcastle, underscore just how Novocastrian NGS is. 

Prue Hurt wanted to be a vet growing up.

“My fondest memories of Newcastle Grammar School were catching the train, SATU, friends, and the Year 10 musical Grease – played at the old theatre in King Street, now Central Bar.”

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Billy Coffey wanted to be a lawyer or a mining engineer, but athletic prowess saw his talents applied to the rugby field.

He now owns and operates an athlete performance facility called Pinpoint Athlete in Newcastle West.

“I was a class clown,” Billy says. “I was a handful for my teachers. I wasn’t an individual that you believed was going to do to much with their life on an academic level.

“My favourite memories of growing up in Newcastle were being surrounded by my mates in my local suburb, Merewether.  

“I played a lot of rugby and worked security for near 10 years in local venues so I got to know a lot of people.”

Fifth generation farmer Sarah Sivyer remembers thinking in Year 6 that being prime minister or captain of the Australian cricket team sounded like a great idea. 

She ended up a chemical engineer, studying at Sydney University and Oxford before working round the world with organisations such as BHP Billiton, Arup, Rabobank and The World Bank Group while living in Chicago, London, Switzerland, Western Australia, Sydney and Melbourne. 

Back in Newcastle now, Sarah founded Just Been Laid, Newcastle’s freshest egg business in 2017. 

“My memories of NGS involve playing as many sports as I could fit into one day,” Sarah said. 

“Cadet camps with the Service and Adventure Training Unit, and loving maths classes (yes – I know I’m a nerd!)

“I absolutely loved going to Ocean Baths for school swimming classes. Even now, I can’t resist going for a dip when I’m on my delivery run dropping eggs into Estabar in Newy East.

“My particular memory is catching the Red Rattler from Maitland to Newcastle for school. There were so many of us on the train from kindergarten through to Year 12 that everyone looked out for each other.” 

Chris Thornton is head chef and owner of acclaimed Restaurant Mason.

“I remember going down for a surf in free periods and playing rugby for Maitland Rugby Club because we lived out that way. 

“I used to play against mates from school who played for Merewether Carlton .. we beat them!

“Newcastle is an awesome town! It’s a large country town with city facilities – there’s nowhere like it. Country, beach, no traffic.”

Yvonne Mullane always wanted to be a photographer and after studying and travelling abroad, today runs her own corporate photography business in Newcastle – YCM Photography, which stands not only for Yvonne Claire Mullane, but also Your Captured Moments. 

“I have great memories of being a part of the choir and also the rowing team,” Yvonne recalls of NGS.

“I have great memories of my art teacher, Mrs Owers, who really encouraged me to follow my dream to be a photographer.

“I also have great memories of going to Newcastle bathes on a Saturday morning with the family, drinking $1 shots from the Lucky Country when it was dark and dingy, and I can’t forget going to the Boxing Day races with the rest of Newcastle.” 

Each of these alumni firmly believe NGS has helped shape where they are today and armed them with the skills to succeed.

For Prue it was by being presented with opportunities and extra curricular programs that allowed her world to open up. 

“Friendships and connections, catching up with old friends,” she said.

For Billy, it was the fact that NGS never gave up on him.

“I wasn’t a model student but I distinctively remember my geography teacher, Mrs Roberts, refusing to believe that I was worth giving up on,” he said.

“She singlehandedly saved my HSC.

“She taught me that sometimes in life you will be asked to commit yourself completely to a task that you may not want to do.

“However, to simply finish the task, regardless of the result, is the definition of achievement.

“This has been a lesson I have never forgotten and that I use on an every-day basis.”

Sarah believes Newcastle Grammar School gave her the confidence to have a crack.

Whether that be on the sporting field, in the classroom or even as a cadet in the Service and Adventure Training Unit.

“This confidence combined with the diversity of people and ideas by which I was surrounded has set me up for success later in life,” she said.

For Chris, one of the enduring benefits of attending NGS has been the networks he’s established and been introduced to.

“Connections and relationships! I have a lot of affiliation with connections from school,” he said.

Yvonne says NGS instilled in her notions of commitment and accountability.

“Being a business owner, networking is a big part of my everyday life, and commitment and accountability come hand in hand with networking,” she said.

Experiences and memories like these highlight the central role Newcastle Grammar School has played in shaping the citizens of Newcastle for the last 100 years, and no doubt for the century to come.