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'.
In the Beginning
In the late 1940s it was the parish priest of Gore, Fr. Frank Finlay, who identified the need for a Catholic boys’ secondary school in the town. Older boys had traditionally gone away to boarding schools in Oamaru or Dunedin.
Since the late 19th century, Catholic education in Gore had been provided by the Sisters of Mercy at St Mary’s School. The parish had no land or buildings for a senior boys’ school.
When a three-acre block of land came up for sale in West Gore in 1950, Fr. Finlay purchased it and with his fund-raising committee, set about adding further blocks as they became available. This would be the site for their new school.
So began many years of dedicated work by local families to raise funds to enable building to begin. Initially there were quarterly appeals and parish workers also called at Catholic homes once a month. There were “half crown” collections outside the church. Many of the school’s founding families remember visits from priests and brothers who toured Southland and Central Otago parishes and farms, tirelessly collecting money. There were years of fund–raising activities, bazaars, concerts, dances the famous ‘Tug-of-War” for football teams – won by the Kubala brothers, who donated their winnings of 50 pounds to the school fund.
Farmers gave calves and lambs and there were muddy “Wild Goose Chases” at the Nicholson’s farm at Knapdale. The geese sold well for Easter and Christmas. The land purchased in West Gore was farmed for free by local farmers, producing an income from sheep, grass seed and wheat.
In 1961, they had 30 acres of land and building started. The Rosminian order of priests sent members south from Auckland to help with fund raising and to staff the school. By 1968 $410,633 had been raised.
Fr. Lance Hurdidge from England was appointed Head Teacher and on arrival is reputed to have said “…but what about the girls?” This lead to the Sisters of Mercy joining the staff and New Zealand’s first co-educational Catholic boarding school, St Peter’s College, opened with 99 boys and 72 girls.