|28 Mar 2023
Many Old Scholars would remember attending a Blue and White Dance in their time at St Peter’s College. The Blue and White Dance has an interesting history. The following material is taken from “The Messages of its Walls and Fields”. A History of St Peter’s College 1847-2009 by Katharine Thornton.
The origins of the Blue and White Dance lie in a dance organised by a committee of senior day boys in 1907.
After getting Headmaster Girdlestone’s permission, the SPSC Dance Committee proceeded to draw up the rules for the dance. Any member of the school was eligible to buy one of the 90 available tickets. Paying five shillings entitled a boy to invite one young lady and to suggest another who might also be invited. The Dance Committee, however, reserved the right to vet and veto any proposed guests! The committee determined that ‘the lady invited must be thought in all ways desirable by the committee’ before she was sent an invitation. Preferably, all the young ladies invited ‘should have their hair down’, which meant they were to be girls rather than young (marriageable) women.
The 1908 dance was on 26th June from 7.45pm to 1.00am. Supper was a light meal of ‘refreshments, ices and aerated waters’, and was served in the dining hall from 10pm to midnight. Dancing took place in the Big School Room, decorated for the evening with flags, flowers and plants by a committee of ladies led by Mrs Girdlestone. The program included the polka, lancers, waltz, barn dance, and two-step, the floor having been scrubbed beforehand with candlewax!
Successive dance committees followed the model established in 1907.
In 1910, the Honorary Secretary of the committee, AG Moyes, recorded that “the dance was held on Friday August 26th and was a complete success”.
Things went less smoothly in 1911: “A difficulty arose about couples spending their time outside in the grounds instead of in the ballroom”. Headmaster Girdlestone asked for a solution to this problem but as none was found he refused permission for a dance in 1912!
After negotiations between Headmaster Girdlestone, Senior Resident Master Mr Frank Wyatt and the prefects, some new rules were drawn up for the 1913 School dance:
The new rules made the 1913 dance a success, however the planned dance of 1914 did not proceed due to ‘state of affairs existing in Europe’ as World War I was about to start.
The newspaper of 29 December 1923
DANCE AT ST. PETER'S COLLEGE
A blue and white dance was held at St. Peter's College on Wednesday night. Dancing took place in the dining-room, which was decorated with blue and white paper streamers, with balloons of the same colour, and a 'Saint's' flag across the far end of the room. Supper was served in the boarders' common room, the decorations being in blue and white, with yellow poppies. Miss Gertie Campbell's Orchestra supplied capital music. Looking after the interests of the young dancers were the Headmaster (Rev. K. J. F. Bickersteth), Mesdames Dudley Hayward, A. Grenfell Price, Arthur Rymill, and J. Hill, and Messrs. A. G. Price, J. H. Hill, and F. B. Oldfield. Among those present were Misses Hope Rutherford, Betty Pulleine, Betty and Ada Bonython, Georgie Connor, Gwen and Joan Goodman, Gwen Walker, Dorothy Moorhouse, Katie Teesdale-Smith, Madge and Nancy Rymill, Kath Giles, May Douglas, Betty MacDonald, J. Homburg, Marjorie and Betty Phillips, M. Slee, Mona Dobbie, Dolly Thomas, Joan Kelly, Margaret Weston, Barbara Brooks, and Joan Cutten, Messrs. A. G. Price, J. H. Hill, and F. B. Oldfield, and boys from the college.
Image: 1962 Dance Card and 1961 Invitation to the Blue and White Dance
The Blue & White has always been a highlight of the year for senior boys and while there are no longer dance cards, the evening takes a similar format as it has done for many decades.
The modern-day Blue & White is held in Memorial Hall during September for all Year 11 & 12 students and their partners. Guests arrive to a welcome committee and introduce their partners to the Headmaster and his wife before entering the transformed hall and marquee areas. Over recent years themes have included, Prom Night, Harry Potter, and Star Wars and side shows, and a live band performance or DJ adds to the atmosphere.
Ahead of one of the most anticipated events on the School calendar, Tim Browning, Headmaster has been known to share some general etiquette advice with students:
It is highly likely your partner devoted more time than you in getting ready. So, make a few compliments and repeat the compliment later in the evening. If you don’t know your partner very well, it is your task to get to know them and connect with them and with other attendees. No one should be spending extended periods of the evening in solitude. It is your responsibility to ensure your partner gets home safely after the event.
As you know, Memorial Hall is one of our sacred spaces and your respectful celebrations should reflect this. You all know how to behave; this has been made perfectly clear. This is not Hindley St, someone’s backyard, or the Adelaide Oval, this is Memorial Hall. Remember where you are. On occasions like this it is super important to be a good mate. That is, pull into line those less mature friends who are drawn to mediocre behaviours, for their sake and all of ours.
Perhaps this is a good reminder to our old scholars who may attend the St Peter’s Old Collegians White & Blue Ball on Saturday 5 August!
It is not the first time a Blue and White has been held for old scholars. In 1911 the dance was reported in the local newspaper:
“On Friday last the St. Peter's old scholars entertained about 200 guests at the Protestant Hall. The gathering proved most successful and enjoyable. The hall and supper rooms were tastefully decorated with the club's colours, blue-and-white and the tables with cornflowers and poppies, as well as tiny college flags. Guests were received at the entrance by the president and his wife (Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Hall)”
And in 1926 “What is generally known as the Blue and White dance, the annual entertainment given by the old scholars of St. Peter's College was held in the Liberal Hall, North-terrace, on Friday night. The committee included Messrs. F. H. Finlayson, Ian Hayward, J. C lrwin, N.H. Lloyd, A. Grenfell Price, E. A. Koss, R. H. B. Russell, C. B. Sangster, and K.O. Wilson, Messrs. J. C. Irwin and F. H. Finlayson being the joint secretaries. The decorations were carried out in the college colours. The orchestra occupied the stage, which was also a blaze of blue and white.”
The 2023 SPOC White and Blue Ball will be a night of nostalgia for many old scholars and their partners as they remember the anticipation, before and after parties and that teenage awkwardness - though I expect most have grown out of this stage by now!
Researched and written by David Docwra
David Docwra retired from St Peter’s College in December 2015 after 37 years’ service and is fondly remembered by many as a dedicated teacher, a committed coach of squash, cricket and soccer, and most especially as a passionate Head of Hawkes House for 21 years. David remains connected to St Peter’s College and regularly provides historical articles for the St Peter’s Old Collegians newsletters.
Join the fun at the 2023 SPOC White & Blue Ball on Saturday 5 August. Tickets available here. Do you have photos of your Blue & White? Share your photos to help promote the event on social media and SPOCconnect - email images to email@example.com.
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