1959 Roslyn McGovern

Day girl from 1959 to 1964

1962 St Patrick Small


Roslyn McGovern in the upper left corner of the group of girls

"Happy smiles on St. Patrick's day.

"A happy group from St Clemente Convent school, Mayfield, sets out by train for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Maitland."
(The Newcastle and Maitland Catholic Sentinel, 1/4/1962)

I attended San Clemente from 1959 to 1964 and my sister Carolyn was there from 1956 to 1960. We had both been at Star of the Sea in Newcastle which was also run by the Dominican Sisters, and we wanted to continue our High School years with them. My sister is now deceased but we both had very happy memories of our High School days.

Religious Education

Of course this played a very important part in our schooling We had Christian Doctrine (as it was called then) every day, celebrated special feast days at Mass with beautiful singing, especially St. Dominic's Day.

At 12 o’clock each day the whole school said the Angelus. Someone was sent to ring the Angelus bell which was in the quadrangle. We all stopped what we were doing, prayed the Angelus and then continued what we had been doing.

A big part of our Religious Education came from the example that came from the nuns as they had given up their lives for God.

Singing and Music

Each Year had a Singing lesson once a week, where we learnt many different types of songs and hymns. We participated in Eisteddfods at the Newcastle Town Hall and prepared items for upcoming events. At the End of the year we had Prize Giving Night which was held on the lawns at the from of the school near the grotto. It was always a big event with beautiful singing, dramatizations and then prize giving. In later years it was moved to the St. Columbanus' Hall.

As well as class and whole school music, there were opportunities for students to have individual piano lessons from the nuns, There was a row of music rooms where lessons were given at different times during the day. There always seemed to be the sound of the pianos being played as we moved around the school.


Sport was taught by teachers who were trained through Graham Burroughs. The teachers came and taught us exercises, where we lined up in straight lines with a space between us and we performed different exercises in perfect timing and precision. There was a lot of lunging and bending to touch toes and staying in time with the leader out the front. We also practised marching in readiness for St. Patrick's Day which was held at the Maitland showground. All the Catholic Schools in the Diocese took part and marched from Maitland Station to the Showground.

We also played basketball and did lots of skipping with individual and long ropes. We were taught folk dances and learnt ballroom dances in readiness for the Marist Brothers and Pius X dances. Very exciting.

Our Sports Carnival was held on the oval between our grounds and the Primary School. As the nuns did not go out of the grounds, the Graham Burroughs teachers took us into the Ocean Baths by bus for Swimming lessons. Some students trained for the Bronze Medallion and Life Saving Certificates. It was a big Day when we had our Swimming Carnival at the Baths.

School Uniform

The nuns were very strict about our uniform We had a green and white check apron that we wore over our uniform at school to keep our uniform clean. We always had to wear our hats and gloves when going to and from school and stockings were worn with winter and summer uniforms.


During the later years at San Clemente the nuns were able to accompany us on excursions. The first one was when Sister Giavanni, the Biology Teacher, took us on an excursion to the rock platform between Nobbys Beach and the Ocean Baths. It was a very memorable day, not only did we learn so much about the marine life but watching Sister wandering around the pools in her habit with her skirt hitched up so it didn't get wet was a bit of an eye opener.

The Second excursion was for Geography, two nuns took us by bus up to Patterson to study the Hunter River. I know Sister Diana Mary was one of the nuns, but I can’t recall the other nun's name.

Funny Happenings

The grounds of the school covered a large area and the nuns kept some cows. One day as I was sitting in the playground, the man who looked after the cows walked across the playground followed by one of his cows. I got quite a surprise. When the cows were milked the nuns used to make cream. I was often given a large jar of thick cream to take to the nuns at Star of the Sea in Newcastle as I passed the convent on my way home from school.

When we were in Fifth Year we had a classroom upstairs. Sometimes we were given the job of polishing the floor with a heavy electric polisher. First we moved the desks to one end of the room then flicked thick orange polish on the floor. The polish came in an old cake tin, and looked like mashed pumpkin. Then the hard part. To use the polisher you had to lift the handle and it would move one way, then push down hard on the handle and hopefully it would go in the opposite direction. While this action was taking place the big round wiry brush would rotate and polish the floor. It was very difficult to control and it certainly had a mind of its own, there would be screams of laughter as it crashed into desks as the operator tried to steer it and keep it under control. No O.H&S in those days.

Being a student at San Clemente was a wonderful experience for my sister and I. We loved going to school and have been very grateful to the nuns for the very good education we received.  


Roslyn McGovern,

23rd October, 2017