Home' Greymouth Star : September 6th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 7
ince the Marist Brothers School for boys
was established on the Alexander Street
hillside in 1892 it has been blessed with
generations of characters from both the
teaching and student ranks.
Peter Kerridge says being taught by the
Marist Brothers was an education in itself.
“I was there in the late 1950s and no question about
it, boxing was compulsory. If you didn’t fight on a
tournament night in the Columba Hall you fought the
following morning at school,” he chuckled.
“Brother Oswald and Brother Edmund were form
teachers in my day, but the school building didn’t have
the built on two-storey section back then. There was
the woodwork and engineering section, then the third
and fourth form classes, but the fifth and sixth form,
along with the laboratory, were upstairs at the old Dean
Carew building across the road.”
Peter says the brothers ruled with the cane but they
were all masters of their trade.
“I remember at woodwork I put a chisel through my
hand, cut the left palm pretty bad, but got it patched
up. I was then caned on my right hand for being
When the school bell rang every student had to stop
and freeze until another bell rang five seconds later, all
under the watchful eye of Brother Maurice.
“If you moved or toppled over — it was hard not to
if you were standing on one leg — you were caned.
Sometimes, Brother Maurice would stop the bell ringer
ringing the second time until he caught boys falling on
Denis Smith, Gary Smith, Pat Keily, John Harnett,
Frank Blanchfield, Danny O’Brien, Graham Williams
and Peter Anisy were just some of Peter Kerridge’s
classmates who ser ved their time at the Marist school.
“There were some hard cases. I remember Peter Anisy
got 100 lines and wrote them out on a roll of toilet
paper. You would pay good money to see the outcome.
Peter always took his thrashings like a man but said the
fun of doing what he did was well worth it.
“ We had army school cadets and this particular
weekend all the secondary schools on the West Coast
had a weekend camp, run by the New Zealand Army,
at the Reefton Racecourse. Frank Blanchfield went up
there as a sergeant and came back as a private,” Peter
“As an altar boy, we would go around collecting
donations for the altar boys’ picnic. I recall knocking on
one particular door and this fellow came out. I said we
were collecting for the altar boys’ picnic and he asked
if we were Catholics. I stuck my chest out proudly and
said, ‘yes, we are’. He said, ‘ Well f ... off then.’”
George Skinner attended school there from 1949
through to 1951, before heading off to teachers college.
“ You got a good education, a good grounding that ’s
for sure. The brothers taught you well. Sport was
important and the cane was just an accepted part of
your education and school life. Brother Oswald was
school principal until Brother Maurice came and took
over in 1951. Brother Egbert was one of the brothers
back then, a short stumpy man, a hard task master in
the classroom, but reasonably good outside.
“Once we had a Latin test and Michael Scott had
answers written out in front of him. Egbert suspected
and whacked him across the head, knocking old Scott
clean out of his chair such was the force. Michael Scott
was a hard case and one day in fourth form he started
moaning and clutched his stomach calling out, ‘Bro,
Bro, I don’t feel well’ and buckled, falling to the flo o r.
While the Brothers were rushing around, old Scott
winked at us. Three bigger boys had to carry him all
the way home because there were very few cars around
then — he had a week off school and got one back on
Egbert,” George grinned.
“ We all got the cane at one stage or other. I recall
Protestant boy who was calling us Catholics names.
“I ended up giving him a bleeding nose. His mother
came down to the school and complained. I was
called out of class and Brother Gilbert said to me,
‘As a Catholic, we have to turn the other cheek’. He
then proceeded to give me six of the best across the
Tony Coll says in his time the Marist school building
was bursting at the seams and how the brothers kept
control remains a mystery.
“One thing the brothers had on their side was the
cane, and they instilled it into you pretty quickly to
follow the rules or be disciplined. There was nothing
worse than standing up at the front of the class in
front of your schoolmates and seeing the cane in
the brother’s hand towering above his head. I always
thought of pulling my hand back, but then they
attacked your legs so you took the cane and put on a
brave face,” Tony says.
“In third form we had a class of 56, it was chocka
block and just one teacher, who was Brother Peter
John. Peter John was a big man, red-faced, wore glasses
and I could only describe him as a bully, very much into
discipline. While brothers caned you with the normal
cane, which was bad enough, Peter John would go up
the back of the school and bring back a pussy willow. It
would have knobs on it and when you got six across the
hand it left large welts — you couldn’t write for three
days. You’d never get away with that today.”
With the class being so large it was only the top five
or 10 students who received a full education, Tony says.
However, like all classes, it still had characters aplenty.
“Pug Bell, Johnny Calder, Peter Molloy and the
Kumara boys — Michael Brereton and Denis James —
they all taught me bad habits. I was good until I got to
Marist with that lot,” he grinned.
“One thing about the brothers was they were all
passionate about sport, especially rugby and league.
I remember training at Anzac Park behind the old
swimming baths after school and there would be five
or six full Marist school league teams training. It was
always a focus to make the first XV side, too, as there
were trips home and away down to Invercargill, which
was certainly an incentive.”
Tony Coll says the Marist schooling did him no harm
and in reality all the discipline dished out was part of
the education for future life.
“ When you finally left Marist you were street-wise
and reasonably educated. Part of the education came
from all the hard cases you went to school with.”
Tony Keating says he went to the Marist school
under sufferance. The highlight each day was eating his
lunch and riding home on the bus to Cobden.
“ To be perfectly honest, I actually hated the place.
In fact, I hated every minute I was there in regards to
school work,” he chuckled.
While the majority of time attending school was
under duress, looking back now there were also many
fun times, too.
“It was over 45 years ago when I was at high school
but there were certainly moments of mirth.”
He recalls the time he created a bomb scare to avoid
getting reprimanded for not doing a book-keeping
“I had to have a trial balance done for the first period
after lunch and because Brendon Anisy hadn’t done
my homework the night before I was under a bit of
pressure. I couldn’t wag school as the Brothers had
caught me the week before and kept checking on
me, watching me like hawks. I said to Cossie (Mike
Costello) and Twisty (Graham Twist), ‘How am I
going to get out of this one?’ They said, ‘Just ring up
and say there’s a bomb at the school!’ Twisty said he’d
give me 50 cents if I did — that ’s what swung me,”
Tony Keating says.
“I rang the police station from the public phone box
outside the old Post Office and said to the cop on the
other end of the phone there was a bomb under the
Marist High School. He said, ‘ What?’ and I repeated,
‘There’s a bomb at the Marist school,’ and hung up.”
Tony says he caught up with his two accomplices at
Russell Glen’s Milk Bar soon after and asked for the 50
cents, but neither believed he had made the call.
“It wasn’t until we walked up Chapel Street and
turned the corner into Alexander Street that they
actually believed me,” he laughed. “ The road was
blocked off and there were cop cars and flashing lights
everywhere — total pandemonium.”
Tony says the police and Brothers listened to the
tape of the recorded bomb conversation and blamed
fellow pupil Alan Rooney for the hoax call, but Rooney
proved his innocence as he had an alibi, and nothing
else ever “came of it”.
“I was never questioned or interrogated, but I believe
I was a prime suspect. The good thing was, I never, ever
did homework again and I was never ever asked why.”
Tony says a number of happenings at school come to
mind and, like the bomb scare, all were slightly left of
“A couple of us would get into the loft of the
Hibernian Hall at lunchtime and get into Jack Guerin’s
stash of grog, which he kept hidden there — leftovers
from cabarets in the Columba Hall. He was the hall
caretaker and he’d have 40 dozen or more stashed away.
We’d knock the top off a bottle or two while we were
having our lunch. We’d fill the empty bottles up with
water and put the tops back on. Must have been five or
six crates of water among all the rest. Imagine grumpy
old Jack Guerin hanging out for a beer and knocking
the top off a bottle of water,” Tony laughed.
He recalls also that the driveway beside the Brothers’
house had the hallmarks of a ski slope, running with a
60-degree fall, which had its attractions.
“Brother Arthur would come down the slope on
his bike and would always say something smart after
school while we were waiting under the tree for the
bus. This particular day he was waving as he went
flying past, didn’t utter a word. He shot across the road,
hit the kerb and went flying over his handle bars and
slammed into the brick wall. It was quite spectacular —
someone had tampered with the brakes on his bike.”
Barry Sweetman was also educated by the Brothers in
the buildings on the side of the hill and says while they
were hard teachers, their students walked away with a
good grounding and education.
“I went to secondary school in 1955 and the Brothers
were basically good teachers, or some of them were. I
had a few brothers as I recall, Brother William, Norbet,
Edmund, Celestine, Frederick and I also had some
laughs along the way.
“Zeon Bellis was a hard case in my class, wouldn’t
conform and didn’t take any crap from the Brothers. If
they pulled his ear, he pulled theirs. Neil Keating was
another hard shot and both of us would get into a bit
of strife — go whitebaiting during school and go down
under the wharf smoking. We got potted once and I
got six of the best across the backside. I fried the fellow
who potted us, down at Frank Bell’s Milk Bar,” Barry
The cane was an accepted form of discipline in those
days and the brothers did not mind flexing it.
“I saw one joker get 53 canes one day, all in one go
because he wouldn’t tell Brother William what he
wanted to know. Wouldn’t spill the beans on one of his
schoolmates. That brother would be jailed today for
that. When the coal arrived for the boiler the brothers
would get a couple of the boys to go under the school
and shovel it for them. Funny as a play, they turn up in
class black as Al Jolson — all you could see would be
the whites of their eyes — black as the ace of spades!”
While Marist boys carried the cross of a religious
existence, the school was also traditionally a place
where sport and academics went hand in glove.
Rivalry between the rugby and league codes was
legendary and while Marist had a proud history on the
rugby field, it was players from the 13-man game who
often rode rough-shod over their rugby counterparts.
The first XV side of the late 1960s, coached by
Brother Gregory, boasted 14 league players in the
starting line-up, including future Kiwi international
Former students who represented their country in the
league code include Charlie McBride, Frank Mulcare,
Graham Kennedy, Leo Brown, Kevin Dixon, Gary
Smith, Neville Tiller, Maurice Brereton, Tony Coll,
Gordon Smith, John Griffin and Wayne D wyer, and
were always well represented in lower grade national
teams as well.
Marist High can lay claim to many fine rugby
players, too, with All Blacks Ray O’Callaghan, Bill and
Kevin Meates also receiving their education with the
In the summer months it was tennis and cricket, and
for many years boxing was foremost. Graham Finlay
honed his skills there to become a four-time New
Zealand champion and fought at the 1956 Melbourne
Olympic Games and Cardiff Empire Games two years
later. Even back in the 1920s, ex-pupils Laurie O’Neil,
Jack Nelson and Frank O’Neill were all crowned
Boxing at school was compulsory for the meek, mild
and masculine; every boy was required to step into the
ring with gloves raised.
Whether a student roughed it on the rugby field, hit
tennis balls across the wall into the St Mary’s High
School playground, or hid in the darkroom of the
camera club — everyone was tagged as a prospective
Once the exclusive domain of the Marist Brothers and their Catholic charges, the former Marist Brothers High School site in Greymouth is slowly being
vacated as the now John Paul II High School consolidates on the campus across the road. The soutane-clad Marists, a teaching order of religious brothers,
taught generations of boys from the narrow hillside school site, while living alongside with their own communal house and chapel. After the brothers moved
out, the house and chapel were converted into a backpackers but now that has closed, too, and the school is set to follow. Currently still used as part of
John Paul II High, the school has already relocated the old prefab classroom and given notice that the rest of the ‘Marist site’ will be vacated as the new-look
school takes shape over the road. Reporter PAUL McBRIDE, a Marist old boy, looks back on the days in the old school yard.
men 1966 Marist senior rugby league team, winners of the West Coast rugby league championship,
one round competition and champion of champions, Thacker Shield. Back row: J Hibbs,
G Cowan, M Beckman, M Nolan, B Beban, L Brown, P Reedy. Middle row: Manager N Tiller, R
Nelson, P Mason, B Sweetman, P Beban, T Williams, M Greaney. Front row: President
P Sweetman, spiritual director Rev Father J Consedine, A Dennehy, captain P Crawford,
vice-captain K Dixon, Rev Brother Canute, coach G Skinner. Absent: M Brereton, R Hibbs,
The old Marist Brothers house and chapel, at left, alongside the high school.
Links Archive September 5th 2014 September 8th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page