17 Young Street, Fitzroy (St Patrick’s Primary School)

I have located this school by the description from Tony Birch, who describes the school location as: “

There was a St Patrick’s school in Fitzroy at the end of Young Street and in fact if
you go up to where Australian Catholic University is the side that the main campus
is on is the old mint, and then the other side where they’ve got a couple of big
lecture theatres now, behind Cathedral Hall, or what people call Central Hall, was
our school.
It was a little three teacher school. It was a boys’ school, only Christian Brothers,
Grade 3 and 4, Grade 5 and 6 and Form 1. There was one Brother for 3 and 4 and
about 50 boys, one Brother [11:12] for 5 and 6 and about another 50, and then
just Form 1 with the Headmaster who had about 30 boys.
” (Oral History – Fitzroy History Society – Tony Birch 2016)

St. Patrick’s School during demolition. by Mario Cotela. 1970 – Image held by Fitzroy Library

Another recollection is that of Bill Farr, Art Director of the Age in 2009. He starts the article with “APPARENTLY, I’m one of the lucky ones” and goes on to describe the sexual abuse by Catholic priest Monsignor Penn Jones of former alter boy Gavan Boyle. He describes the school as “a little bluestone pile in Young Street, Fitzroy – long since demolished. It was the local Catholic school and also the feeder school for members of the choir. Its principal was Brother Dean. Legend had it that Brother Dean had been a boxer, under the fighting name of Dogger Dean. It was, of course, the only name we kids used for him.” It was 1967

The article continues and talks about the roll that Monsignor Penn Jones held as the school chaplain and his role as counsellor for boys going through puberty. Farr was 12-13 at the time and remembers feeling uncomfortable, that he became friends with Farr’s family and that he used to drive him home sometimes and these were awkward, but more so that they were an extension of his counselling session, discussing erections etc. Although they were close including going on a holiday in Rosebud together with his family, there was never an incident with Farr. The full article is available from the Sydney Morning Herald, Re-examining the memories of a Catholic childhood, Bill Farr, 16 Sep 2009.

This is a super interesting school – if anyone has any photos or stories, I would love for you to share them.

6 thoughts on “17 Young Street, Fitzroy (St Patrick’s Primary School)

  1. I was at St Patricks from mid 1960 with I think Brother Moylan in Grade 6 and Spent 1961 with Br Dean before going on to Parade. I remember the Eistedfodd being held at Cathedral hall.

    1. Hi Hamish, If you have any photos or stories I would love for you to share them! Thanks for the notes!

  2. I was a student there from 1960 to 1964. I recall there being 3 classrooms grade 3 and 4 downstairs adjoined to grades 5 and 6 and upstairs was form 1 which was ran by brother Dean. Initially, grades 3 and 4 where ran by brother Kevin Shacklock who later ran grades 5 and 6 as well. All the Christian brothers were sadistic bastards who took great delight in punishing children for the slightest misdemeanour, like dropping a pencil. Brother Moylan had flaming red hair and was a large man who was basically a thug in a frock. He gave me a thrashing whenever he could until finally I complained to my father who just happened to be an ex boxer. He came down to the school one morning, asked brother Moylan outside for a quiet chat and Moylan returned to the class looking very pale and shaken indeed to announce to one and all that he no longer had permission to lay a hand on me. The school got rid of me a year later by sending me to Collingwood technical school. Those so called Christian brothers did me a favour by turning me into a fully fledged atheist the only shred of gratitude I have for them. In contrast to the other self styled Nazis who ran the school, brother Dean was a gentle old soul who, when he strapped you, barely grazed your hand and we would all go back to our desks feigning great agony much to the mirth of our class mates. The popular game we played in the schoolyard was handball, basically hitting a rubber ball against the wall until the other kid missed. Our uniforms consisted of a navy blue cap with a badge on the front, pale blue shirt and v neck jumper with yellow green and navy stripes in the V, navy shorts or trousers and black shoes combined with long socks that had a green, navy and yellow striping at the top. We were often trooped down to the Fitzroy baths in the middle of winter for swimming lessons, no pool heating back then. I have many more memories of the place.

  3. I’ve read the above comments with great interest and, in the main, agree with them. I’m having trouble remembering when I started at St Patrick’s after attending The Sacred Heart school in Nicholson Street, but it must have been about 1951. I left midway through 1953 when our family moved from Gore Street Fitzroy to the northern suburbs. I then attended Fairfield North state school which was co-ed and very different from the Catholic system. I didn’t see the sadistic violence described by Robert Morgan but do remember Brother McKay, a young red headed teacher who had a very short temper and was prone to throwing things at the students. I also remember Brother “Dogger” Dean, who I think was the headmaster and yes, he was a boxer with a boxer’s nose. He seemed to be a gentle person but there was one story at the time claiming he struck a boy across the side of the head, causing deafness in one ear, but I’m not sure of the veracity of this. I also remember the handball competitions which were very competitive. Then there were the religious instruction classes that seemed to be held each day for half-an-hour leading up to lunchtime at 12 noon. We were also herded across Victoria Parade and Albert Street occasionally to St Patrick’s Cathedral where, incongruously at the age of six or seven, we had to “confess” our sins! One year, I won the school award for being the “most religious person” and received a framed picture of the Virgin Mary…how ironic considering my views on religion now and all the trouble it’s caused. Like Robert, I’m an atheist now but it took me some time to shake off the nonsense the Brothers inculcated us with when we were so young and impressionable. Thankfully, I saw none of the disgraceful sexual crimes that now bedevil the Catholic Church. Looking back, Fairfield North was somewhat liberating with a large play area, a football ground with house teams and a curriculum unimpeded with heavy doses of religion.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: