1946 Sr Maure Campbell and Colleen Murphy (nee Campbell)

Sr Maure Campbell

(Day girl from 1946 to 1948, Boarder in 1948 and 1950)


Colleen Murphy (nee Campbell)

(Day girl from 1954 to 1959)

Sr Maure Campbell and Colleen Murphy are sisters, and their stories of San Clemente have much in common.

Sr Maure Campbell started school in kindergarten (bubs) at St John the Baptist Church/School. She was there during the wartime when an air raid shelter of sorts was dug out in the playground and drills were practiced in case of bombing. There were masses there every day during the week and at the weekend, until 1940 when St. Columban’s was built. St John’s Church/School was also used for Housie (Bingo) and Sr Maure recalls that corn was used on the cards to act as counters. The school furniture was moved aside by the Sisters and pupils for these events, and they also cleaned the classrooms.

Following Hanbury St Sr Maure went to St Columbanus in 1943 and having won a Dominican Bursary to in 6th Class she went to San Clemente where she started as a Day student in 1st Year in 1946. She boarded there in 4th and 5th Year. The uniform was a navy tunic over a white blouse, with a blue and gold tie.

The subjects taught at San Clemente during those years were Religion, English, French, Modern and Ancient History, Business Principles (Commercial), Geography, Music, Home science, Art, Mathematics 1 and 2, General Mathematics and Physiology. Art of Speech or Elocution as it was known was offered as an option as were private music lessons. Choral work was of a very high standard and it, together with Physical Culture replete with use of dumballs, provided entertainment in concerts given to parents in November each  year. Sport mainly consisted of netball, known then as basketball, in Diocesan interschool competition with St Joseph’s Merewether, Star of the Sea Newcastle and St Aloysius’ Hamilton.  There was a tennis court at San Clemente and vigoro  was a popular playground game. There was swimming at the Newcastle baths on Wednesday afternoons and in interschool swimming competitions. All schools participated too in marching at the St Patrick’s Day sports in Maitland and the Corpus Christi procession there each year. At all out-of-school events prefects were responsible for the girls as the Dominicans at that time were an enclosed Order. Sr Maure and Colleen recall Sr Helena banging a drum at the school gate for the students to practise marching up and down Havelock St. The only lay teacher in the 1940s was Miss Cheetham.  One very strong memory of life at San Clemente in those days was of the fondness for the nuns, their closeness to them and the ‘family’ spirit that prevailed.

There was a very strong Catholic culture in the church generally in those days and so social life as well as education happened around the parish church. There were Sunday night dances for young Catholic adults in the Infants Classrooms at St Columbanus. For the pupils, mystique surrounded the Sisters at San Clemente, and they both loved the nuns and were fascinated by their habits and finding out their real names. Sr Maure and Colleen both became Children of Mary. When a boarder, Sr Maure remembers saying the rosary while walking around the cloister in pairs every day. The boarders attended Mass with the Sisters in the Chapel every morning. Mass and benediction, Retreats and other Catholic devotions were part of the fabric of life in the Catholic church. An abundance of priests, there were three in Mayfield then, gave access to the Mass and sacraments in a way not possible today. Every class began with a prayer. There was an occasional three day silent retreat, when pupils who were taking part wore mantillas to distinguish themselves. The retreats took place in A6, the chapel or the church, with different priests officiating.

Sr Maure recalls the cows on the paddock, and her uncle who lived in Mayfield used to milk the cows for the Sisters. Behind the school were washing lines, then vegetable gardens and a caretaker’s cottage. They lived close enough to the school to go home for lunch some  days.  Colleen recalls having to ask for permission to leave on those days before she rode her bike home.

Both sisters enjoyed sport and there was strong competition in basketball (netball) with the three other local Catholic schools. The nuns used tuck up their skirts and join the practice games with gusto. Colleen joined fellow students in forming a basketball team to take part in the Saturday competition at National Park Newcastle. The team was named “Redcliff” the name of the original home—still above the door at the entrance. This team continued for several years after the girls left school.

Sr Maure recalls learning music in the front room to the left of the main stairs, next to the Parlour, which was used for boarders’ visitors. Her 4th Year classroom was in the front room of the basement, which was also used for Commercial subjects and typing. The back room was used for Kindergarten students. The boarders wore scapulas over their uniform while eating to keep it clean. They had study from 4pm until dinner time in what is now A6.

Colleen started in 1st Year in 1954 and was a Day girl, finishing her Leaving Certificate in 1959. She repeated 3rd. As a 1st Year she recalls going into assembly in the morning and not being able to keep up with the recited prayers and only years later when she saw the prayer to the Holy Spirit printed did she realise what the words were.

Star of the Sea closed in 1955 and at least 10 pupils came to San Clemente. February of that year  also,  Maitland suffered  the devastating flood. St Mary’s Dominican school  was closed and some of the Maitland students came to San Clemente until their school was reopened after a massive cleanup. Some of the 4th Year students  became boarders and remained for 5th year.

MM Marie Therese was the Prioress, and she was very musical; Colleen recalls lovely hymns and Gelineau  psalms. There was a strong cultural side, with beautiful choirs, the St Dominic’s Day dance  held in 1st Year and later in the newly built Parish Hall.

Colleen studied Latin, English, French, Modern and Ancient History , Mathematics and Geography , Physiology to Intermediate Certificate, and Biology for Leaving. A visiting Frenchman from Alliance Francais  came each week to speak French with the students.

In 1956/7 there was a new classroom built off the western side of San Clemente, and Colleen did her 4th Year there.   The voting for the Prefects was by the Children of Mary, and there were three Prefects for each of the Day students and Boarders in each year level. It was a great responsibility being a Prefect, they had to make sure the pupils behaved in assemblies and were responsible for them whenever they went out, for example to Maitland for the St Patrick’s Day march.

When Colleen was in 3rd Year (1956/7) a new uniform was introduced for boarders for formal occasions. It was a maroon tunic over a fawn blouse. She recalls borrowing one, when in 5th Year, as Head Prefect of the Day Pupils, she went to “Santa Sabina” in Strathfield with Catherine Quain, who was Head Prefect of the Boarders. She belonged to YCS (Young Catholic’s Society) in the school which had a strong apostolic outreach, and at the end of 3rd Year attended the YCS summer school in Brisbane where representatives from NSW and Queensland schools took part.

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