St Cath’s student from 1954 to 1957: Cecilie Darnley (nee Hall).
St Cath’s student from 1954 to 1957: Cecilie Darnley (nee Hall).

Life at St Cath's in 1954

AT 14, as an avid reader and only child, Cecilie Darnley (nee Hall) was captivated by the prospect of boarding school.

So in 1954 she packed her bags and started at St Catherine’s Church of England Girls School on the corner of Palmerin and Locke Streets in the Rose City.

It was the start of a four-year educational experience under the tutelage of the “rather strict” Sisters of the Sacred Advent for the curious country girl from Mt Sturt.

This week Mrs Darnley contacted the Daily News to share her story about her time at St Catherine’s.

She was motivated to come forward after reading a story in last Thursday’s paper about the heritage-listed Glover House’s connections with the her former alma mater.

The story included some historical inaccuracies and to right these factual wrongs the Daily News encourages residents with links to either St Cath’s or the striking Federation-style home on Palmerin Street to share their local knowledge.

When Mrs Darnley was a schoolgirl the main buildings for St Cath’s were located on the corner of Palmerin and Locke streets stretching back to Acacia Avenue.

“I was a boarder at White House, also known as Mygunyah, which was the sub-junior and junior boarding house,” she said.

“Most of the classrooms and music rooms were located nearby, although we did walk around to Mytton House on Palmerin street for meals.”

The senior girls slept at Parkinson House, which was located next to the Mytton House’s accounts office and dining area.

The thrice-daily trip for meals took the young boarders past Glover House, which at the time was a private residence owned by prominent local dentist and swimming club member RJ McNamara.

“My aunt Kirsty Mikkelsen, my mother’s younger sister, had also been a student at St Cath’s,” Mrs Darnley said.

“She is 90 now, so she would have been at the school sometime in the mid 1930s.”

As a young schoolgirl she remembers the early morning starts; the bell that rang out across the boarding houses at 6am.

“I was a music student so we used to have to get up even earlier at 5.30am for practice,” Mrs Darnley said.

“I used to have a rug across my knees and a hot waterbottle in my lap.

“You would play a few scales and then warm your fingers.”

In her time the school boasted close to 100 students, including 34 in her Year Nine class.

“A lot of girls left after junior, and by the time I was in my senior year there were only four of us,” Mrs Darnley said.

Nostalgically she recalls special times on Sunday’s allocated for letter writing, regular church and chapel services and the white, brown and navy school colours.

There were also those rare dances with boys from Slade school, and on occasion Scots College.

“We had a straw hat in summer and a felt hat in winter,” she said.

“And the sisters were rather strict about full uniform.”

At White House back in the mid-1950’s teacher Alice Cant, who oversaw English, history and Latin classes, had a room upstairs and ensured good behaviour.

“Sister Kathleen was in charge of St Cath’s in my time and she later went on to become Mother Superior of the order,” Mrs Darnley said.

In reflection she said her time as a boarder was special.

If you would like to share your stories or knowledge of St Cath’s or Glover House with Daily News readers please call 4660 1312.

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