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Marist College Ashgrove | College Newsletter 2010

From the Archives... Hello to you all again. We left Ashgrove in the Directorship of Brother Cyprian Dowd after discussing the permanent alteration he made to the College’s culture – the substitution of Rugby Union for Rugby League as the main winter sport (and therefore THE main sport.) Yet it was not only in sport that Cyprian would leave his mark. He was also concerned that as many boys as possible should be given the opportunity for leadership roles, so that natural talents that should be developed would be developed. The sphere to achieve this was somewhat limited: there was no school prefect or school Captain system as yet; each class had a leader elected by his peers; a prize was given out on Speech Night to the outstanding Senior student of the year; in sport, captains of teams were appointed. For Cyprian, these opportunities were not enough and did not encourage the quantity of leadership experience he envisaged as healthy and desirable. Cyprian’s solution was to establish the Ashgrove Army Cadet Corps in 1949. He of course knew that the greatest war in mankind’s history was not long past, and that admiration for the deeds of Australia’s servicemen in that conflict was a part of the heritage of his students: when the boys received the chance to dress in their uniforms and “play soldiers” they would see themselves as sharing in an important part of our national history. The Cadet Corps would be popular; of that Cyprian rightly had no doubts. For him, though, the important part of creating the unit was the potential for leadership of boys by boys: the chain of command upwards from privates, through lance-corporals, corporals, sergeants, and officers would ensure many orders would be given, and those giving them would have plenty of chances to experience the advantages and pitfalls of leadership. Cyprian further hoped that it was one more area where those boys who didn’t shine in any other field would reveal unexpected talents….and so, in many cases, it proved. In that first year of 1949, the fledgling Cadet unit took part in a torchlight procession at the Exhibition Ground, participated in an All Schools Parade at Victoria Park, and had a week-long camp at Wacol, at which they “spent two days on the rifle range disposing of a few thousand bullets”, with the Mortar Platoon in Boy Heaven as they sent shells whistling “a thousand yards down the range.” The ability to make loud noises was undoubtedly thrilling to the cadets, but as Mark Farrelly remarks, the Brothers found in the enthusiasm for the new unit what Cyprian had hoped for: “boys were guiding boys in worthwhile activities and leaders were maturing before their eyes.” The Cadet Corps would remain a mainstay of Ashgrove life and culture until 1975, when government authorities announced the abrupt termination of the Cadet system. Brother Alexis Turton sadly remarked in his annual report in the Blue and Gold of 1975: “Schools will be hard put to replace this activity, which did so much for the development of leadership, teamwork, skills and self discipline.” The fact that Ashgrove enjoyed such benefits for so long was a tribute to Cyprian’s wisdom and foresight. Still on matters military, Cyprian set his heart on the construction of a monument that would honour Old Boys of the College who had served during the Second World War. He hit on the idea of the Memorial Gates on the Flats, with the names of the Old Boys recorded there so that students going to school every day would walk past them and be reminded of their service. The gates were opened ceremonially in 1950, and Cyprian must have been a proud man as the Ashgrove Cadet Corps swung past the dignitaries in fine style. Ever humble, though, he confined himself to remarking in his Principal’s report in the 1950 Blue and Gold “…voluntary labour was used…and it is wonderful how much can be done by a few, directed by a man who knows his work.” The “man” he referred to was the professional who built the Gates, but it could have been himself, with the whole College as his work…… Cyprian in so many other ways aimed at making the College the best possible place for students. Music under the redoubtable Kitty Gilroy was always encouraged, and the first Parents and Friends’ Association was founded under Cyprian to raise funds for College use. (In his 1949 Blue and Gold report, Cyprian remarked: “It is not enough now to pay school fees; all parents and friends must show an active and personal interest in the school’s activities.”) Cyprian also encouraged daily attendance at the Chapel, on the principle that religion wasn’t separate from College life – it was the core on which that life and culture was based. Did EVERYTHING Cyprian touched turn to gold? No, of course it didn’t, and he was never afraid to admit failure. Memorably, he stated in his 1949 summary of the year that an attempt to sink a well because of the high cost of Brisbane water was unsuccessful : “My faith in water diviners is gone, so is 160 pounds.” That might have been unsuccessful, but failure to Cyprian was not a fatal occurrence, it was all part of The Struggle. “It is,” he told parents and students at Speech Night in 1950, “the ordinary things of life that build up character…hum-drum constant daily work…eventually brings success, forms a stable character, and eventually a good citizen, and if this daily routine is sanctified by religion a Christian gentleman is formed.” It was a simple philosophy, and he based his life and work on it. How well he succeeded, and many Ashgrove students owed so much to his determination and tenacity. Cyprian would leave Ashgrove to become Director of Rosalie in 1953, but would return as a teaching Brother from 1963 until a “retirement” which saw him constantly working on the school ovals and gardens. He died on 12th November, 1974, aged 77. A measure of the esteem in which he was, and is, held lies in the Cyprian Pavilion, the functions room which overlooks the main sporting oval: in the College’s history he is a modest giant. And here again we must pause…..until next time, From the Archives, Until next time, From The Archives, Dave Cameron: 38584591 or camerond@marash.qld.edu.au

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