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News > Docco's Diary > Docco's Diary: Memories of 1954 at St Peter’s College

Docco's Diary: Memories of 1954 at St Peter’s College

1954 was an excellent year in the life of our School. It is wonderful that old scholars want to return for their 70 Year Reunion and that many look back on their time at Saints with great affection.
Back: A Cheesman, B Taylor, R Begg, T Browning (Headmaster) Front: D Sarah, D Stott, R Scott Young
Back: A Cheesman, B Taylor, R Begg, T Browning (Headmaster) Front: D Sarah, D Stott, R Scott Young


Class of 1954

1954 was a memorable year at St Peter’s College. Enrolments were higher than they had ever been with 488 boys in the Senior School and 294 boys in the “Prep” (now Junior School). There were 131 boarders in two Senior School Boarding Houses: School, and Wyatt and Allen. There were also 53 boarders in the “Prep”. The Senior School Day boys were in six Houses: Da Costa, Farrell, Hawkes, MacDermott, Short and Woodcock.

After decades of suffering through the Great Depression and World War II, the 1950s were prosperous, optimistic and vibrant years in Australia. There were plenty of jobs available. Technology advanced rapidly and soon transformed the lives of many Australians. Cars became affordable for the average family. More suburbs and homes had electricity and running water. This meant more families could buy electric refrigerators and radios. New suburbs were built causing the major capital cities to grow out from their older centres.

Image: Queen Elizabeth visits Adelaide in 1954

The visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, aged 27, to Adelaide was one of the major events of the year. The Editorial of the 1954 St Peter’s College magazine commented: “The hearts of everyone must surely have been touched by the devotion to duty and charm of our Sovereign. We, in the School, had opportunities both to see, and show our respects, to our Monarch, and all must have been impressed by the loyalty of her people”.  Most members of the School had some part to play in the welcome to our Royal visitors. The cadets, as members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces lined the streets for the “Royal Progress”, while the Scouts welcomed their patron in a similar fashion. Our few Naval Cadets were stationed outside Government House to honour the Queen. The remaining members of the School were positioned on East Terrace, from where they could see the “Royal Progress”.

Holiday trips and interstate visits were becoming more frequent. The 1954 magazine commented: “It is only by seeing for ourselves that we can under­stand our country and the world around us”. As the Lord Bishop said in his Speech Day address, we must have that “pioneering spirit” so necessary in a country as young as Australia. By means of tours we can see what lies behind the closely-settled rim of Australia, and understand the need for develop­ing our vast interior. Tours included: Mr Peake Jones led a hiking party to Kangaroo Island in May; in September Dr Wiener and some boys went to Melville Island, Mr Potter and Mr Schubert led a party on a trip to Heron Island, and the Scouts went on a canoe trip down the River Murray; another expedition to Lake Eyre also took place in September; and some Vlth Form scientists visited Port Pirie during the public examinations.

Image: School Prefects 1954

In the Headmaster’s Report, Colin Gordon talked about the quality of the staff and the quality of the prefects. He referred to “the quality of leadership given to the School by the Prefects, under the Captain of the School, Douglas Stott”. He said: “I have never known a Captain of the School who surpassed his combination of strength, stamina and complete devo­tion to his job, or who was better supported by his team of prefects”.

The RH NITSCHKE MEMORIAL PAVILION (pictured above) was opened on the morning of Speech Day, December 17, 1954. The Headmaster said: “This morning there was officially handed over to the School the RH Nitschke Memorial Pavilion, the gift of Mr HC Nitschke and his sisters. The School is greatly indebted to Mr HC Nitschke and his sisters for their gift of a greatly enlarged and improved Pavilion, in memory of their brother, RH Nitschke, who lost his life in the Second World War”. A ceremony was held in the presence of relatives and friends of Richard Nitschke, the Council of Governors, representatives of the Collegians’ Association, and the Staff and boys of the School. Mr HC Nitschke presented the Pavilion and unveiled a memorial plaque bearing the following inscription:

In Memory of Pilot Officer


School Prefect 1934

Representative of the School in Cricket 1931-34   Captain 1934

Football 1931-4   Athletics 1933-4   Swimming 1930-2

This Pavilion was given to the School
by his brother and sisters December 1954

The Lord Bishop of Adelaide accepted the gift on behalf of the School, and the ceremony ended with prayers. “The Pavilion, with its greatly increased seating accommodation and its spacious and modern dressing rooms for both visitors and members of the School, forms a worthy memorial to Richard Nitschke, and will be a boon to all who use it”.

In House competition, The Tolley Cup, the Senior House Cup, was won by School House (Ian McLachlan was Captain). School won the Athletics, Football and Cricket. The Junior House Cup was won by Wyatt and Allen House (RJ Watts was Captain).

Short House won the Sir George Murray Shield. They were the top House for school work in all three terms. Da Costa House were runners up.

The Young Exhibition for the best scholar for the year went to ABC Wilson, Vice-Captain of School.

The work of the School Mission at Moore Street in the city of Adelaide continued to go well: “The Ladies’ Guild have carried out their duties with the Kindergarten children with their usual quiet efficiency, while a party from the School distinguished itself at the Patronal Festival Parish Party with a superb concert. In addition practically the whole prep school has visited the Mission at one time or another, and we have been pleased to welcome several smaller groups who have come looking for work and have not been disappointed. The Missioner wishes to stress the point that such visits whether in groups or in ones or twos are greatly appreciated and much to be encouraged………Poverty and loneliness are by no means unknown in this part of Adelaide, and people look to the Mission to help them in combating them both. This is undoubtedly the hardest part of the Missioner’s work.”

There continued to be a wide range of societies that held regular meetings. These included: Senior Literary Society, Junior Literary Society, Debating Society, Historical Society, Chess Club, Music Society, Junior Biology Society, Science Society, Automotive Society, Exploration Society, Current Affairs Society, Philatelic Society.

Old scholar Ian Wilson won a Rhodes Scholarship in 1954.

Sporting results were good.

In 1954 Intercollegiate matches in Cricket, Football and Athletics were held on Adelaide Oval. Rowing was held on the Torrens. Tennis was held at Memorial Drive.

We won the Intercollegiate Tennis 10 rubbers, 23 sets to 5 rubbers, 13 sets.
At the Head of the River Rowing Regatta we lost to PAC in a heat and Scotch defeated PAC in the final.

Image: SPSC Rowing First VIII 1954
In the Intercollegiate Athletics Meeting, we defeated PAC by 103 points to 65 points. RF Haselgrove won four events. RG Greenfield won two events.

Image: SPSC Athletics team 1954

We lost in football to PAC and Melbourne Grammar, but we had a young and inexperienced team with only four returning from the 1953 team. In the Intercollegiate Cricket match, Ian McLachlan (Captain) made 142 not out and took 11 wickets (7 in the second innings) to lead us to victory by four wickets.

Image: 1954 Intercollegiate Cricket Team 

It has often been said that St Peter’s College produces leaders and there were some outstanding young men in the 1954 leavers’ group.

Doug Stott, School Captain 1954, Andrew Cheesman, Captain of Woodcock 1954, and Michael Muecke, Vice-Captain of Farrell 1954, were to later return as masters at St Peter’s College.

Doug Stott was to become Headmaster of St Peter’s Girls School.

Andrew Cheesman was later on the Council of Governors of St Peter’s College and was Rector at St Michael’s, Mitcham 1976-2001.

Ian McLachlan, Captain of School House, was to go on to be the 12th man for Australia in The Ashes Test match at Adelaide Oval 1962-63. He won a cricket blue when at Jesus College at Cambridge University, where he made his cricket debut. He played 72 matches of first-class cricket for Cambridge University and South Australia between 1956 and 1964, scoring 3743 runs at an average of 31.72, with 9 centuries. He was a member of the SA cricket team that won the Sheffield Shield in 1963-64. His business career included being managing director of Nangwarry Pastoral Co. Pty. Ltd., deputy chairman of SA Brewing Pty. Ltd (1983–1990), director of Elders IXL Ltd. (1980–1990) and president of the National Farmers Federation (1984–1988). He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in January 1989 for "service to primary industry". He was a long term President (till 2014) SACA. There is the “Ian McLachlan Room” in the Western Stand of Adelaide Oval. Under his leadership as President of SACA, Adelaide Oval was successfully redeveloped 2012-14. He was the member for Barker from 1990 until 1998 and he was Federal Minister for Defence from 1996 to 1998.

In his 1954 Speech Day address, Colin Gordon made a couple of points that could be considered as relevant in 2024 as they were 70 years ago in 1954! He said: “I have been asked to add something on a topic on which there has been some discussion among parents and school people during the year — the place of entertainments in the lives of school children…………It may be useful to affirm two principles in this matter.

Most of our lives contain both responsibilities and privileges, but, if we are to be men and not parasites, we must put our responsibilities before our privileges. In order to train children towards this sense of values,  first they should be set a proper example, by seeing that their parents and schoolmasters themselves put their own responsibilities before their amusements, and, second, that they should have their privileges curtailed if they are not doing their job properly.

The second point is that if children in their ’teens are regularly fed with passive, expensive entertainments, to the exclusion of active, home-made recreations, they are led into habits whereby what should be privileges come to be regarded as necessities, and therefore take precedence over responsibilities.

This whole question is a difficult one, requiring both responsibility and judgment both of the parents and of the school, and co-operation between both, and I do not pretend to be able to give a simple answer. But may I give one tip—that parents should make a supreme effort to share in their children’s proper recreations, rather than allowing their children to tack on to their own. Above all, may I condemn entirely the practice of throwing the house open for a teenage party, and then going out elsewhere oneself, whether or not the key of the cellar is left on the mantelpiece. An excessive appetite for privilege or entertainment is certainly a serious danger, against which we must be constantly vigilant”.

Could not these comments have been made seventy years later in 2024?

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. In 2023 David was made an Honorary Member of the St Peter’s Old Collegians’ Association.

The recent March Lunch and Muster was well attended by old scholars and marked a special celebration for six attendees who graduated in 1954. Photos can be viewed below.

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