Sunday, January 20, 2008

Did you board at St John's Hostel Armidale?

THIS photograph is of boarders at St Johns Hostel, Armidale taken in 1937.

Back row: F R Allen (Warden), W (Bill) Peters, - McGlauchlan, I Thompson, H Conway, R (Bob) McLean, R (Bob) Jack, J S Keogh, B (Barry) Cook, K (Ken) Bowman, C (Colvin) Churches, D (David) Marr, - Morrison, L (Laurie) Barnes, B (Bruce) McKenzie, - McRae, S (Stauby) Baker Third row: D Spencer, J B Ivor, Bruce-Smith, W (Wal) Sabine, - Godfrey, J (Jim) Munro, D Hall, J (Canary) Woodhouse, H (Harry) Freame, I (Ian) Ferris, R Crawford, J (Jack) Thompson, C (Charlie) Sourri, J (Jim) Morrison, D Ferris, C (Chicka) Henderson. Second row: E (Edward) King, M (Max) Virtue, A (Austin) Kimball, B (Basil) Virtue, K (Ken) Wall, J (John) Millett, F Kerr, - Roper, Canon Dickens, Matron, Dr Drummond, R (Bob) Gray, R L Waugh, R (Ross) Clark, P (Peter) Capel, W (Wal) Samuels, R (Rex) Hobden, - McGee. Front row: R (Ron) Green, M (Malcolm) Hawke, I A (Ian) Clarke, A (Allan) Gray, J (John) Hays, A G Thomas, N (Norm) Melick, D Hays, J Rolands, A J Jameson, D Dowe, J E (Jas) Barnes, A R Keohan, C R (Clinga) Gibson, R (Ron) Gray.

My thanks to Gordon Smith for drawing my attention to this story in the Armidale Express.

I have not had time to check my facts, so I am relying on memory.

Around 1898 St John's College was established in Armidale to train priests for the Anglican Church. A new building was built for the College not far from the Bishops' private residence on the southern edge of Armidale. In the 1920s, the College was shifted to Morpeth in the Hunter Valley.

Following the College's move, St John's became a boarding hostel for boys attending Armidale High School. The hostel closed as the need for boarding declined. Today, St John's has become the prep school for the adjoining New England Girls' School.

Ian Clarke was a boarder at St John's in the 1930s. The Armidale Express records his reminiscences:

"St Johns was next door to NEGS on the road south out of town.

Although impossible, one wonders, how many of these boys are still with us. Many came from surrounding districts such as Uralla, Walcha, Inverell, Glen Innes, Guyra, Bendemeer, Bundarra and as far away as Grafton. All attended Armidale High School.

From a failing memory I recall that Cleave (Clinga) Gibson, Bruce McKenzie and McRae came from Walcha and Uralla. Ross Clark from Bendemeer, Ken Bowden Bundarra and Harry Freame Kentucky.

Harry’s father was a secret service agent in World War 1. Basil, Max Virtue and Jim Munro were from Inverell and R L Waugh possibly from Guyra. Wal Sabine, Ivor – Bruce – Smith and myself, Ian Clarke were from Grafton and travelled up through Nymboida and Tyringham in the large touring coaches operated by Woodward and Purkiss.

And that is as far as I can make my brain reveal.

As for myself, I spent 44 years in the banking profession interrupted by four and a half years service in the second AIF.

Now heading for 84 years and married to a wonderful woman for over 60 years I am the proud father of four, grandfather of eight and great grandfather of six.

Would it not be a wonderful thing if some others could be found."


helen cram said...

Hi Jim,
I am wondering if you can help me.Today i stumbled upon the photo of St Johns Hostel Armidale while searching for the history of Werris Creek. You seem like a fairly knowledgable person so I thought I would contact you. I am trying to trace my grandfathers history, however there is no birth record for him in Australia, however he claimed (hes now deceased) he was born in Werris Creek in 1918 and had a twin sister and older brother. He went by the surname Giles, hoever Henderon may also be a possability. If you think you may be able to help me, It would be greatly appreciated. Yours Sincerely
Helen Cram

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Helen. Werris Creek was (is) a fairly small place. It is also a railway town.

If he was born there in 1918, then there is a chance his dad worked for the railways. Then it is also possible he went to primary school there. The schools kept pupil records.

I am not sure whether or not there is a local historical society in Werris Creek. However, there is a railway museum. You might try them first - contact details here:

Do let me know how you go on.


Jim Belshaw

Walter Hamilton said...

With reference to Harry Freame, his father was not a secret service agent in WW1. He (also Henry Wykeham Freame) fought and was decorated for gallantry at Gallipoli. He later settled on land at Kentucky, New England, running an orchard. Freame senior was recruited by Australian military intelligence in 1939 to spy on the Japanese community in Sydney. He, himself, was half-Japanese (having being born in Japan). Fluent in the language, he was employed, among other things, to read intercepted mail going to and from Japan.

Melissa Cooper said...

I believe the Rex Hobden referred to in this photo was my Uncle Rex born in Boggabri in 1921. He married my mother's sister and had one daughter Kay. Rex passed away in 1986 after living the majority of his life in Birrong, Sydney.

David Skeoch said...

Hello, my name is John Skeoch. I am photographed at the back row, 8th from the left in the light suit. You have listed me as J S Keogh. Please be assured my name has not changed since then. Also I could give more info about the others here, but I cannot get into this blog site. You can email me at if you want.

David Skeoch said...

The above message was from my father John, with his email address if you wish to contact him re St John's Hostel; he is keen to help and to contact any of his colleagues still around.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hello, David and John. Before responding, I wondered if the Armidale Express might help. They ran the original photo, now lost in the latest Fairfax web restructuring. I have emailed Janene Carey to see.

Anonymous said...

Hello All. I have seen this photo before and am reasonably certain the C (Chicka) Henderson is my father Lawrence Joseph (known as Bill) Henderson. He was born in 1923 and attended the hostel and AHS. He lived in Garah near Moree and as far as I am aware he had to leave and return home in his early teens for family reasons.

Dad is still alive and will turn 89 today. He and my mother live in Goondiwindi after living and working in Moree until about 2004.

Would love to get an enlarged clear copy of the photo to show him. Also if it is Dad would also be great to know a bit more about others in the photo etc.

Peter Dowling said...

I was a boarder at the infamous 'Jacks Jaol' between 1966 and 1971
I cannot say that my stay there was at all good.
I was pleased that it was closed down in 1972.
The Anglican Church have a lot to answer for for allowing systematic abuse of children.

Jim Belshaw said...

That's disappointing, Peter.

Ian said...

I was a boarder from 1955-57. My mother withdrew me after the infamous mass caning incident, where a boy almost lost a finger. In my memory, the "systematic abuse" Peter Dowling refers to was at the hands of a particularly sadistic group of self-styled prefects, who were allowed to run the place after the Warden retired to his quarters after dinner. If the church was guilty of anything, it was systematic neglect.

Jim Belshaw said...

That's interesting if also depressing, Ian. Clearly very mixed memories

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim, I went to the hostel and come from Werris creek. There is a Werris Creek site under Facebook may help you. Keith

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Keith and thanks. Will have a look at that