St John’s school turns back the clock for 175th anniversary

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Email to friend
Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter
Home > Media > News > St John’s school turns back the clock for 175th anniversary
St John’s school turns back the clock for 175th anniversary
Photo by Sarah Ryan

Visitors to Richmond late last month could have been forgiven for thinking they’d stepped back in time as St John’s Catholic School embraced its heritage to celebrate reaching 175 years.

On June 27 the entire student body, along with staff, dressed up in the garb of the 1840s – the decade the small Catholic primary school began.

From humble beginnings of 20 pupils and one teacher, the school now educates 344 students and has over 50 staff.
The oldest Catholic school in Tasmania, St John’s began when the resident priest Fr Thomas Butler felt that there should be a school for the Catholic children in the area.
After being gifted land by local Catholic John Cassidy, who owned significant property in the area, Fr Butler engaged Michael O’Keefe, a lay man, as the first school’s only teacher.

The legacy from those early days are very much part of the school and parish’s life today. The original school building, located directly next to the church of St John’s, is still used by the parish and groups for meetings, and each year the school’s Kindergarten students do a sketch of the old schoolhouse. John Cassidy is remembered by the name of one of the school’s sports teams.

Principal Megan Richardson says she hopes that from the celebrations, the students have gained an understanding of the richness of the school’s tradition.

“Our founder, Fr Butler, had a dream that there would be a Catholic school … I’m sure he didn’t imagine that there would be this thriving, amazing school that we have now,” she said.

In dressing up in old-time clothes, the school is keeping alive a tradition of taking a whole school photo in costume in front of the Richmond Bridge at major milestones.

The costumes are organised by each family and some have been passed down through the generations.

“Some of [the students] had aprons and bonnets that their grandparents had worn when they came to school,” Mrs Richardson said.

A prayer service was also held to celebrate the anniversary, with prayers by the students and a Gospel reading by Richmond Parish Priest Fr Terry Rush, who this year is celebrating a personal milestone of 20 years at St John’s Church in Richmond.

The school had two sets of religious sisters teach during its long history.

“In 1866 the Presentation Sisters arrived and they ended up staying in Richmond because St Mary’s convent was not ready and they worked here for 18 months,” Mrs Richardson said.

“And then in 1888 the Sisters of St Joseph arrived and they stayed for 100 years.”

Mrs Richardson said the celebrations – which included more than 400 guests – had a warm community atmosphere.

The school plans to bury a time capsule beneath the peppercorn tree in the Kinder area – the location that the 150th anniversary time capsule is believed to be buried.
The second event in the celebrations for the 175th anniversary, a ‘Bands by the Bridge’ event was held earlier in the year and an event for past students and staff is planned for September.