Since our Remembrance Day ceremony, the History Club has still been busily involved in three events!
With Edna Wheatley (wife of Kevin Wheatley VC) at the Book Launch
On 20 November - six Year 12 Modern History students, accompanied by myself, attended the book launch of Michael Madden's 'The Victoria Cross - Australia Remembers' at Ingleburn RSL. At this launch students met the Governor of NSW David Hurley and his wife, 98 year old Daphne Dunne, World War II war widow of Albert Chowne VC (who made headlines earlier this year during Prince Harry's visit), Doug Baird father of Cameron Baird VC (Afghanistan) and Edna and George Wheatley, wife and son of Kevin 'Dasher' Wheatley VC who was killed in Vietnam. Michael Madden has documented the story of every Victoria Cross recipient from Australia and consulted both archival and family records. He spoke with great zeal about the importance of the Victoria Cross and how each is made from a bronze cascabel kept under guard at the Royal Logistic Corps in Donnington, Shropshire (UK). The Governor of NSW, David Hurley, spoke about some Victoria Cross stories that appealed to him and how his career had been influenced by VC recipients, eg his first firearms trainer in the army had been Keith Payne VC. A signed copy of the book has been purchased for the school library. This event was covered in The Advertiser.
21 November - a group of Year 8 and Year 10 History Club members interviewed 94 year old Phyllis Baxter who attended St Patrick's College in the 1930s about her time at school. The girls had the opportunity to ask Phyllis about her life as a boarder at Old St John's. She spoke about how the building was originally two floors and indicated to the girls where the dormitories and classrooms originally were. The girls were fascinated by Phyllis' honest responses as she disliked being in boarding school and especially hated the food! She would sit on the window sill everyday to watch high up on the hill her father's hired car business run from Appin to Campbelltown to ease her homesickness. She recalled studying music (on which there was a big emphasis) and having to sit music examinations at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She also studied arithmetics and getting special visits from a physical education teacher from Sydney. Our students were fascinated that Science was not on the curriculum in those days for girls and that career opportunities for young women were very limited in the 1930s. Phyllis also described the uniform which will help our archives to ensure a true replica is made. The interview was recorded for posterity.
We were also joined by Jo Cavallin (College Archivist) and Danielle Grant (who organised the event). A special treat was for Margaret Rixon who attended as Phyllis remembered her father, Vincent Confeggi, who was the groundsman at Old St John's. Vincent Confeggi was the grandfather of Liam Rixon who currently works in the Maintenance Department of the College.
23 November - at our final meeting of the year, the History Club was treated to a presentation by staff member Mrs Jackie Irwin called 'Love in war - a collection of sweetheart brooches and other wartime treasures'. Mrs Irwin brought in her personal collection of artefacts, many from both wars, and spoke to the girls about how she acquired the objects and the history behind each one. The students were able to handle each object and examine them closely. They were particularly intrigued by the World War 1 French embroided postcards soldiers sent home.
2019 looks to be another busy year for the History Club as we prepare for the 180th anniversary of the College's founding.
Fran Musico Rullo - HSIE Teacher