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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 (April 1, 1940)

Panorama of the Playground — New Sports Ground for St. Patrick's College, Wellington

page 62

Panorama of the Playground
New Sports Ground for St. Patrick's College, Wellington

To start “Panorama of the Playground” with a reference to the Eucharistic Congress recently celebrated at Wellington might at first seem out of place, but I have a reason. Twelve months ago it would not have been possible to accommodate more than a few hundred spectators in front of St. Patrick's College, Wellington, but nearly 40,000 people were able to worship, or witness the dignified proceedings that marked the Congress, and among the many excellent Centennial Memorials in Wellington and surrounding districts none has a greater value than the grassy sward that has replaced the “Farm” and bushland that, for half-a-century, had graced St. Patrick's College.

When it was decided to demolish the tennis courts and level the hilly country, past students of St. Patrick's College—a college with a wonderful sporting record—might have had sentimental misgivings at the removal of the old whale ribs, the few native shrubs and rather worn tennis court. But, thanks to the vision of the Reverend Fathers, St. Patrick's College now possesses something that it had never possessed in its 55 years of existence—a sports ground. It was on this sports ground that the Eucharistic Congress was celebrated. This was the first official function held on the new sports ground and one of the principal figures in the proceedings was Archbishop T. O'Shea, who was a member of St. Patrick's First Rugby XV—in the year the college opened, 1885.

Thousands of yards of soil have been excavated to make a sports ground that will be unique in New Zealand. A hill has been levelled, a track, 220 yards in circumference, has been pegged out and arrangements have been made for the provision of jumping pits, discus and shot-putting circles and a sprint track of 75 yards. It will not be a sports ground as possessed by some of the more fortunate colleges, but it will be a sports ground valued for that very reason. Over almost insurmountable obstacles, the optimism of Father T. Cleary, Wellington's most energetic sporting official, triumphed, and in view of the amazing sporting record made by St. Patrick's College under past difficulties it is only reasonable to expect greater things in the future.

I am not an “old boy” of St. Patrick's College, but if I were such I would feel it only fitting that I should show my appreciation of a good job well done by supporting the Rector and his Reverend Fathers by subscribing sufficient funds to complete the transformation of the “Old School.”

St. Patrick's College was opened in 1885 with Father Felix as Rector. This reverend gentleman died of wounds received in Dublin during Easter, 1916, but left his mark on the scholars who studied under him. One of these lads was T. O'Shea, a native of San Francisco, who commenced his studies at St. Patrick's in its initial year. In that year he was a member of the First XV, along with C. Diamond (later to captain the Victorian Rugby reps.), and P. McMahon (later a pillar of the turf). Four years later, T. O'Shea was captain of the First XV and First XI. To-day, he is His Grace Archbishop O'Shea, S.M., Archbishop of Wellington, the first student of St. Pat's to be made bishop.

(Photo., Alan Blakey). The first Railway Band in New Zealand, pictured above, was formed at Otahuhu Workshops less than a year ago. A sum of £400 was raised in six months by the Band Committee for the purchase of instruments and uniforms. The President, Mr. J. B. Graham, and the present conductor, Mr. W. A. Jones, are seated in the centre of the front row. The first conductor, Mr. W. Hussey, is at present in the military camp at Papakura.

(Photo., Alan Blakey).
The first Railway Band in New Zealand, pictured above, was formed at Otahuhu Workshops less than a year ago. A sum of £400 was raised in six months by the Band Committee for the purchase of instruments and uniforms. The President, Mr. J. B. Graham, and the present conductor, Mr. W. A. Jones, are seated in the centre of the front row. The first conductor, Mr. W. Hussey, is at present in the military camp at Papakura.

Rugby representatives from St. Pat's have acquired a reputation for toughness—not to be confused with roughness. Is it any wonder that the lads were tough players? They did not have any grassy swards on which to train. They trained on the gravel that covered the “playing field” at the rear of the college.

I will mention just a few of the famous Rugby players that learned the game at this college: Eric Harper, famed member of the “Original All Blacks” was a student at St. Pat's. So was Maurice Brownlie, who is included in all the composite teams when a “World XV” has been chosen. J. R. McKenzie and Tom Lynch went to California with the New Zealand team in 1913 and also to Australia in 1914. Father P. Kane (P. Markham as he was known on the football field) played against Australia in 1921 and Father P. McCarthy played for the All Blacks in 1923, while two Hawkes Bay representatives, Tommy Corkhill and Jack Blake, also won All Black honours.

Two other students to win fame as Rugby players were P. F. McEvedy (a member of Bedell-Sivright's team in New Zealand in 1904 and vice-captain of the Anglo-Welsh team in New Zealand in 1908) and A. B. O'Brien (manager and three-quarter in Bedell-Sivright's team in 1908). It would be impossible to cover the list in the space available, but five former pupils of St. Pat's have won Rugby honours in Australia. They are C. Diamond (captain of Victoria in 1899), V. Redwood (played for Queensland and Australia in 1904), L. McCarthy (N.S.W. representative), page 63 A. Tancred (toured Great Britain with the Waratahs in 1927–28) and Bobby Westfield (Australian and N.S.W. representative).

Four representatives, Kaipara, Ratima, P. Blake and J. Blake won places in New Zealand Maori teams at intervals, while innumerable players have won places in North or South Island teams.

Three past players, H. C. Hickson, B. McCarthy and C. H. Tattersall have represented New Zealand at cricket, while Cam Malfroy was one of New Zealand's best tennis players after captaining the College First XV. Even soccer has called on St. Patrick's for a New Zealand representative—J. Burke.

In track and field sport the college has a proud record. A Evenson (hurdles champion), W. J. O'Kane (44oyds. hurdles champion), J. Prendeville (3-mile champion), E. T. Harper (440yds. hurdles champion), and C. S. Harper (broad jump and high jump champion) have all figured in national sport.

As was the case in 1914–1918 past pupils of the college are rallying to the colours. In the Great War nearly 500 past pupils answered the call of duty and more than seventy paid the Supreme Sacrifice. One hundred and twenty were wounded, 60 gained commissions and 13 were decorated. The total number of pupils from 1885 to 1916 was 1,384, and of this number, almost one-third, 454, had enlisted. It is indeed an honour to be an Old Boy of this college.

Twice a day I pass the college and each time I look across to marvel at the change that has been wrought. I pass, too, the thickly populated suburb of Berhampore, and recall this extract from the college magazine of 1910:—

Clergymen, (most of them anyway) are notoriously heavy smokers, and have always been, says an 18th century writer: “The generality of parsons can no more write a sermon without a pipe in their mouths than without a Concordance in their hands.” Tobacco is undoubtedly a great aid to literary effort. But it's not all gold that glitters, and it's not all tobacco that is reliable. The great fault of so many brands is that they are overloaded with nicotine, and nicotine constantly absorbed through a pipe into the system is not a good thing. Ask any doctor. The perfect tobacco should not only be fragrant and soothing, but as free from nicotine as may be. And the outstanding example of the kind is found in genuine toasted. This tobacco—Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead), Cavendish, Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Riverhead Gold and Desert Gold—combines a fine flavour with a beautiful bouquet, and being practically without nicotine (toasting is responsible for that) is as harmless as tobacco can possibly be. There is nothing finer manufactured.*

“Berhampore has been made a highly respectable suburb, probably with a policeman to look after it. Once it was a romantic region. The ‘Pats’ boys were the pioneers of Berhampore. They wrought the beginnings of to-day's splendid Recreation Ground there. They had the first playing field there, a ground with a sharp slope, and there was always enough gorse remaining to give a memorable point to the play in the low tackles. We grew to know the peculiarities of that tricky field and made our knowledge disagreeable to our opponents…. Every time we played we carried heavy goal-posts about a quarter-mile to the ground.”

That was the spirit in the early days; the spirit that carried the old school along is evident to-day and with the formation of a sports ground that will enable track and field sport—including Rugby—to be carried out on grass instead of on cinders St. Patrick's College celebrates its 55th birthday and looks forward to the future with confidence.

* * *

The “Centennial Mile,” won by Vernon (“Pat”) Boot at Wellington saw brilliant racing under atrocious conditions, and the time, 4min. 15 4/5sec., stamps it as one of the most brilliant track efforts ever seen in New Zealand. The run was made even more meritorious when it was learned—before the race—that Boot, who has been undergoing military training at Trentham, was suffering from influenza. He triumphed over the strongest field of milers ever assembled in the Dominion. Four of the five contestants had returned better than 4.20 for the distance, but few spectators considered that this time would be made under the conditions. A driving rain and a heavy track were not conducive to a fast race but Boot came within two seconds of the New Zealand record.

* * *

The tragic death of Stan Jenkin, holder of New Zealand professional boxing titles at light-heavyweight and middleweight, following on his welterweight title bout against Vic Caltaux is a bitter blow to the ring sport. Jenkin was a good winner until the last half-minute of the 15-round bout, when he ran into a barrage that persuaded the referee to halt the bout. The deceased boxer was of pleasing personality, popular in and out of the ring and a credit to ring sport. To Caltaux will sincere sympathy be extended. His is a heavy cross, and he carries with him the sympathy of all who saw a cleanlyfought contest end in tragedy.

* * *

Our democratic sporting army! A brief message in Wellington a few days ago announced that our soldiers had already swung into action on the Rugby fields in Egypt and stated that Lieut.-Col. King, Major J. T. Burrows and Private J. Griffiths had been appointed to select a New Zealand Army XV. Morrison, Coull and Wales were three prominent players mentioned as having played good games; they are but three of New Zealand's well-known players to don khaki. Jim Wynyard and Eric Tindill are also doing their bit and will later join their old team-mates across the water.