In the lead up to the College's 50th Anniversary, Anne Hunt, our Foundation Co-ordinator, has been writing a series of articles for the local paper. In case you haven't spotted them in The Ensign, or if you live out of town, we'll be sharing them with here on our Foundation Blog. Keep an eye out for upcoming parts in our 'Brief History of St Peter's College'.
The Early Years
Despite an ongoing shortage of funds after its opening in 1969, St Peter’s College continued to flourish. Many of the Rosminian teachers came from Europe and brought a world view to Gore, which could be quite parochial back then. The nuns from the Sisters of Mercy brought their own traditions and introduced the annual Eisteddfod and cultural pursuits flourished.
Strong community connections were forged, with sporting events, musical productions and the St Peter’s Fair, where Brother Tedesco was the driving force. Mark La Hood recalled that when Brother “Ted” wanted prizes for the Fair, he would visit La Hood’s chemist shop in Main Street and convince them that lots of items on the shelves were no longer needed and could be donated for his Tombola stall. Brother Ted was also well known for organizing school tours of the North Island and further afield and took an active part in the life of the town too, serving as a Gore Borough Councillor, before his untimely death in 1984.
St Peter’s didn’t escape when major flooding affected much of Gore in 1978. The site was surrounded with water and many of the buildings, including the new Home Economics block were inundated. Boarders sought refuge in dry homes of friends in town, taking their sleeping bags with them.
The opening of the college’s new chapel, with its striking circular design, marked a milestone in 1979. It was much used by the wider community for weddings and other ceremonies while the Catholic Church of the Blessed Sacrament was being re-built in Ardwick Street.
Change came in the 1980s when the college became integrated into the state education system while retaining its “special character”. At the same time, more lay staff replaced the priests and nuns and Kerry Henderson became the first lay principal. College students had long been recognisable in their grey and red uniforms, but change there too, saw them sporting blue blazers with plaid kilts for the girls.
171 pupils had enrolled at opening, but as pupil numbers rose to 576, new facilities were needed to accommodate the growing numbers and the range of subjects taught.