History

 

HISTORY and TRADITIONS
 
St. Columba
Patron Saint of St Columba’s Primary School and Parish
Feast Day: 9 June
 
ST. COLUMBA or COLUMCILLE 521-597
 
St Columba is a saint who still, after fourteen hundred years, exerts an appeal upon our imaginations. Born in Ireland, in Donegal in the year 521, he was of the blood royal, and might indeed have become High King of Ireland had he not chosen to be a priest. His vital, vigorous personality has given rise to many legends, and it is a little hard to sift fact from what is more probably fiction. We do know that he was a man of tremendous energy, probably somewhat headstrong in his youth, but with his tendency to violence curbed by a gentle magnanimity.
 
It seems certain that he left Ireland as an act of penance, although it is less certain how far this was connected with his quarrelling over a copy of the Gospels he had made, a dispute that led to a bloody battle. He came from Ireland to Scotland, to the colony of Dalriada founded on the west coast by his fellow Irish Scots who were at that time somewhat oppressed by the dominant Picts. With twelve companions he founded his monastery on Iona in the year 563.
 
These Celtic monks lived in communities of separate cells, but Columba and his companions combined their contemplative life with extraordinary missionary activity. Amongst his many accomplishments, Columba was a splendid sailor. He sailed far amongst the islands and travelled deep inland, making converts and founding little churches. In Ireland he had already, it is said, founded a hundred churches.
 
Of all the Celtic saints in Scotland, Columba's life is much the best documented, because manuscripts of his life, written by St Adamnan, one of his early successors as abbot of Iona, have survived. Iona itself remains a place of the greatest beauty, a serene island set in seas that take on brilliant colours in the sunshine, recalling the life and background of this remarkable man whose mission led to the conversion of Scotland and of the north of England, and indeed carried its influence far further a field. It later became the site of a Benedictine Abbey and of a little cathedral. These were dismantled by the Scottish reformers in 1561, and part of Columba's prophecy was fulfilled:
 
 
In Iona of my heart, Iona of my love,
Instead of monks' voices shall be lowing of cattle,
But ere the world come to an end

Iona shall be as it was.
 
 
When Dr Samuel Johnson visited the island in 1773 he observed, 'That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona!'
Columba was a poet as well as a man of action. Some of his poems in both Latin and Gaelic have come down to us, and they reveal him as a man very sensitive to the beauty of his surroundings, as well as always, in St Adamnan's phrase, 'gladdened in his inmost heart by the joy of the Holy Spirit.' He died in the year 597
 
Saint Columba's Parish and School
 
1930’s & 40’s
Although the Parish of Bayswater had had a Church since the beginning of the century, a school was not established until the mid 1930’s. At the time, Bayswater still formed part of the Parish of Maylands and was not to become an independent entity until 1938, when Rev. E. Sullivan was appointed as priest-in-charge. Consequently, the Catholic parishioners of Bayswater had a parish school before they had a Parish.
 
On the 22nd December 1935, the new school for the children of Bayswater was blessed and opened by His Grace, Archbishop Prendiville. Sister M. Pascal O’Connor was appointed as Principal and remained at Bayswater until 1951. The founding staff included Sister M. Teresa Butler and Sister M. Adrian Coughlan. These Sisters of Mercy commenced teaching at Bayswater in 1936, travelling each day from the Bassendean Convent.
 
Extensions to the school were blessed by Archbishop Prendiville on 5th March 1939 and at the same time the school was placed under the patronage of St Columba.
 
Unfortunately, no other information is available with regard to the years 1935 – 1945.
 
In 1946, Rev. J. Russell became Parish Priest of Bayswater, where he was to remain until his stroke in 1985. For many years, in fact until 1987, Father Russell collected the Sisters from Bassendean Convent each morning and drove them home again after school.
 
From 1946 – 1949 Sisters Pascal, Teresa & Virgilius comprised the staff of St Columba’s. Reports written by the Education Department Inspectors during that time show that a high standard of work was achieved by the children and that the Sisters were well respected for their achievements.
 
In the years to 1970, Education Department Superintendents visited the school annually. Their reports continually refer to the excellent spirit and tone of the children and to the sound guidance and thorough education provided by the teachers.
Changes to the school after 1950 occurred as student numbers rose and the needs of the parish developed.
 
1950’s – 70s
In 1953 a new classroom was added, making a total of four.
 
After the new church was built in 1957 it was decided to utilise the old church building as part of the school and ever since 1958 it has been used as a classroom.
 
In 1962 St Columba’s Parish employed a lay-teacher for the first time. Miss B. Stables, from New Zealand, made a valuable contribution to the school and won the respect of teachers, parents and children. The following year Mrs K Hartley was to become St Columba’s next lay-teacher and her three years at this school are still remembered with gratitude and affection.
 
Since 1962, the only year in which the staff consisted solely of nuns was 1966.
 
Class numbers appear to have been recorded since 1956. In those early years the Sisters had to cope with large numbers of children.
 
Since 1970, St Columba’s had undergone considerable change. By 1974 a central library had been established in the old church.
 
During 1978 and 1979 the buildings were upgraded to provide an administrative block, a pre-fabricated classroom and a covered assembly area. The grounds were reticulated and playground equipment was installed.
 
The large area of grass was a huge improvement on the black sand on which the children had played for so many years!
 
While the renovations were taking place, the Years 1 & 2 children were provided with accommodation at Bayswater Primary School.
 
On Sunday, 18th February 1979, the remodelled school was blessed by his Grace, Archbishop Goody, and an open afternoon was held to enable visitors and ex-pupils to inspect the improvements.
 
As the years progressed, Superintendents of Education continued to be impressed by the dedication of the staff of St Columba’s School and the effective and professional manner in which they have been providing a varied and rich educational programme for the children in their charge.
 
1980’s
1982 saw the purchase of a school bus, with the result that children from surrounding suburbs could now attend St Columba’s without transport problems. The bus also because useful for class and school excursions.
 
In 1984, with the financial support of the Commonwealth Schools Commission, construction commenced on the new school wing. Between February 1984 and March 1986 two stages of building took place. Stage one resulted in the construction of three general purpose learning areas and a coveredlunch area and alterations to the administration block and library. For some months during this phase the Years 1 & 2 children attended classes in the Anglican Hall, Roberts Street Bayswater.
 
Stage two of the building programme included one general purpose learning area and a new toilet block. Total cost of the building programme was $241,476.00 of which $123,800.00 was provided by a Commonwealth grant.
 
An “English as a Second Language” teacher was appointed on a full-time basis in 1985. That same year a whole school multicultural programme was implemented.
 
A sad occurrence of 1985 was the stroke suffered by Father Russell, who had provided wonderful support for the school ever since he first arrived in Bayswater in 1946. As an expression of gratitude, a plaque unveiled at the 1985 Graduation evening commemorated the “Father Russell Library”.
 
1986 was the Golden Jubilee Year for St Columba’s School. On Sunday 27 April, his Grace Archbishop Foley blessed the new wing of the school, having previously celebrated Mass with past and present teachers and students. For fifty years the Sisters of Mercy and lay-staff had provided an excellent start to education and life for the Catholic children of Bayswater.
 
During the same year the school crest and motto were re-designed. The three sports factions were given names in honour of three wonderful contributors to St Columba’s – Pascal, Columbanus and Russell.
 
After two years of illness, Father Russell died in August 1987. The children of St Columba’s to whom Father Russell had meant so much, formed a guard of honour at this funeral. Father Russell’s care and interest in all aspects of school life will always be remembered with respect, gratitude and affection.
St Columba’s in 1988 was captured within the publication of it’s first ever School Magazine. The children were enriched not only by a good academic curriculum, but also a varied sports programme and a music programme second to none.
 
Since the days of Mother Pascal, Music had been an integral part of St Columba’s School and was fostered through the Liturgies as well as choir work and musical productions.
 
St Columba’s children participated in Netball, Soccer, Basketball, Swimming and Athletics throughout the metropolitan area. The emphasis was on participation and learning of skills rather than competition.
 
1988 became a most significant and sad year for St Columba’s School because Sister Irena Kasprzyk, the Principal, retired from teaching and began work in a new apostolate, marking the end of the service of the Sisters of Mercy, Perth Congregation after 52 years of guiding, teaching and loving the children and families of the Bayswater Parish. The work and dedication of all the Sisters of Mercy who served at St Columba’s during the past years was appreciated deeply and was very much missed.
 
Since then St Columba's Catholic Primary School has remained a family friendly school striving to achieve the best for the children and the parents with an active parent community and dedicated lay staff.
 

 

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