Adapted from Beginning History of St. Mark's
written by Sr. Mary St. Gregory, Foundation Staff Member
St. Mark's School opened on January 29 1963.
In 1961 and 1962 Fr. Guilford Lyons had many meetings with Mother Damien of the Sisters of Mercy at All Hallows. He was keen to have a Catholic school in the area. Twice Fr. Lyons took Mother Damien to Inala to show her the parish. When she saw nothing but bush she was not excited at the prospect of some of her sisters living there. Due to Fr. Lyons' dogged attitude and his promise to look after the sisters, she finally gave her consent.
The hard work was done by Fr. Lyons and faithful parishioners. Day after day they worked to clear the land. The curate, Fr. John Hatch and helpers, built the tennis courts. The area between the power station and the present aged facility was made into an oval.
After much work the first wing of the school (the one closest to Lilac St.) was completed. It consisted of four classrooms, a staff room and a tuckshop. The present paved area was the assembly area. Beyond that, to the creek, was the playing area.
St. Mark's Staff - 1964L to R: Sr. Mary St. Hugh;Sr. Mary St. Gregory;Sr. Mary Bernadine; Sr. Martin Mary
The school began with three classes, Grades 1, 2 and 3. Three sisters were appointed. One was both the Principal and the Year 3 teacher. Each year an extra sister joined the staff and another class was added. During 1964 the second wing of the school was built and the school continued to grow.The classrooms were furnished with double desks and each class had over sixty children. Fr. Lyons was inundated with requests to have children taken into the school. The criteria for selection was firstly those children who attended Mass each week and whose families contributed financially, then those who attended Mass. There was a school Mass once a week and each Sunday after this the sisters would conduct religion lessons for children attending state schools. Children turned up by the dozens as parents knew this was a good way to have their child admitted to the school the following year! Before the school opened the sisters spent several days doing enrolments.
Everyday there had to be an assembly. The first day was chaotic! Trying to organise over 180 small children into PERFECT lines to march into class was eventful. After several failed attempts and to give both children and teachers a break, the children were told to run to the creek and back. The more enterprising ones kept going across the creek and home!
In those days Grade 1 children didn't write on paper. They used slates and slate pencils. To get a sharp point on the pencil the children would rub it on the cement. Slates were cleaned with sponges. Each child took their smelly sponge home each night to wash it and give it a dose of Dettol to make it smell beautiful, if only for a short time! Bottles of milk were delivered to the school each day. The children would drink this before morning tea.
St. Mark's grew with the help of many volunteer workers. They cleaned the school, ran the tuckshop, transported children to sport, washed, ironed, cooked, raised funds, mowed, planted and poisoned! Men cleared land, dug drains, laid cement and blew up tree stumps. The people of the St. Mark's community constructed the tennis courts, the oval and cleared the land.
The school was visited each year by the State School Inspector and the sisters were commended for the good work they were doing. Cuisenaire rods were used to teach number to children. The sisters were very progressive and this system was introduced to Mercy schools before the state system. The inspector asked if a seminar could be held to show this new method to state school teachers in the district. So, from an early age, St. Mark's had a good reputation for sound education!
The curriculum was not as varied in the early sixties. There was not a great deal of emphasis on science, music or studies of society and the environment. The '4 R's' were taught thoroughly. Physical Education was always a big part of the curriculum in Mercy schools. Children marched and marched until it too was PERFECT. Each year they took part in interschool sport and marching competitions, with much success. One of the sisters taught the boys how to play Rugby League. As she ran the length of the oval in long black habit with veil flying, cars would line the street to view the spectacle! It was from this small beginning that St. Mark's football club was born.
In the early days, many children who came to the school had come to Australia from England, Ireland, Italy and Holland. These families would spend time in migrant hostels at Wacol and then move to Housing Commission homes at Inala. In years to follow the school was highly populated by people of South American descent. The multicultural nature of our community continues today with students from many cultural backgrounds attending the school.
As we enjoy what we have at St. Mark's today we must remember the generosity of the people who were the foundation of St. Mark's. We give thanks for their cooperation, unselfish efforts and struggles. There was then, as there is today, a special atmosphere when people of different nationalities and experiences meet with a smile, a simple conversation or a handshake, in a gesture of friendship.
St. Mark's - Clearly and Boldly