Sharing tales over lunch with boarders from 1940s and 1950s by Miss H Bancroft

Distinguished Alumni Lunch

Speech from Miss Abby Griffin, Deputy Head of House

I extend a very warm welcome to distinguished alumni, family of alumni, boarders from the 1940’s and 1950’s, board Members, staff and fellow students. On behalf of our boarding family for whom Bishopscourt is home to during term time, welcome.

My name is Abby Griffin and this year I have the privilege of being the Deputy Head of House. My five years here as a boarding student are precious and full of many special memories that I shall never forget. No doubt those of you who are former day or boarding students will know exactly what I mean. Being here today I hope has brought many of those special memories back.

Bishopscourt has been home to Columba College boarders for the past 105 years and is the jewel in the crown of the school campus. Today we have 123 boarders living between our two houses, Bishopscourt and Katherine Buchan House, or KBH as we fondly refer to her. Boarders in Years 7 to 11 are housed in Bishopscourt with boarders in Years 12 and 13 living in KBH.

Boarding and Schooling over the past 105 years has no doubt changed. While that may be the case, the one thing that has not changed is that Columba continues to be an environment that emphases trust, doing the right thing, using praise, positive role modelling and genuine respect for each other.

One of the highlights during my time here has been hearing from our old girl community and the privilege of them sharing their learning, stories and journeys with us. Today as well as celebrating and recognising the achievements of Dr Helen Beattie, Skye Duncan and Amanda Ellis, we also welcome back boarders from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Throughout this past year I have had the privilege of touring many past boarders through the house and school. Their stories shared of fun and adventurous times have been one of my favourite parts; especially those related to the boarding house. I’ve heard about sneaking out to Roslyn for ice cream, brewing ginger beer in the cupboards secretly until it exploded and, I’m not sure how, but sunbathing on the roof of Bishopscourt. That must have been a real art in itself which will really have our Governors here today cringing. The rather impressive and colourful stories make us wonder where we’ve gone wrong as it seems Columba Old Girls have got away with a lot more than we have!

Through stories shared, we learned of a secret staircase leading to the Bishopscourt basement. Being the curious people that we are, we needed to know more. Given failed previous attempts to steal the hostel keys in our earlier years, to see where it led, we were pleased to be able to finally make it down there legitimately to learn some more about our past and to see if we could uncover something from the 1940’s and 1950’s that may be of interest to some of those present today. Some of the names that we found etched in during this period include Ann Beattie (maybe a relative of Dr Beattie whom we celebrate today), K.Maclean - 1959, J Morrison - 1956 - 1959, Bunty Mail 1949, Kay Hurley 1955-1960, and Bev Simpson 1959. We found a Rosalyn Smith but we were not sure if it is the same Rosalyn Smith here today or not. One of the things we are really intrigued by though, are the groups labelled the “Stars and Harps”, the “Cherubs” and the “Bats and Spiders”. The mind boggles, so maybe that might be something that our old girls present might be able to help us out with. There are remnants of all sorts in the basement so we can’t wait to hear your stories.

Hearing your stories only makes me reminisce about the times the girls and myself have had here at Columba, which makes us quite nostalgic as we are about to move on too. At the beginning of your hostel experience, everyone says you become a family. At the time you think it is just a cliche. But the truth is we do become a family; we all become sisters, the House Supervisors are our second mums and going home for the holidays only makes you realise how much everyone in the hostel means to you.

Columba College provides us with an opportunity that we embrace to become resilient, independent young women who treat each other with kindness, sensitivity and respect.

While today we are enjoying having you here to learn from your experiences and to celebrate your achievements, we also look forward to the day when we return to do just the same.

On behalf of current boarding and day students of Columba College, we hope you enjoy your lunch and time here with us. Please feel free to share more stories to everyone around you as it is a genuine highlight of our time here and you never know, it may give us some ideas for our last few weeks!

Thank you for coming. Please now enjoy your lunch and your tour around the school and boarding campus that will follow.

Abby Griffin

Deputy Head of House