I write this on the evening of 25 April 2018, having participated in three services of ANZAC Commemoration in under 24 hours – a personal best!
For four years now, St Leo’s College has held a commemoration on the eve of ANZAC Day. As has been the pattern, the Head of St Leo’s, Mr Steve Foley, generously invited heads and student presidents of the Great War era colleges – St John’s, Emmanuel, King’s, and Women’s – to gather at St Leo’s with their student body for a solemn remembrance and festive dinner. The student presidents laid wreaths, provided by St Leo’s, and recited the names of the fallen from their respective colleges. The guest speaker was Dr Steven Cook, a Brisbane anaesthetist, and a veteran of the conflicts in Iraq and Timor, and co-ordinator of the evacuation after the Bali bombings. Then, at 7.00am on ANZAC Day, the Old Collegians’ Association of King’s College held a commemoration, followed by breakfast.
At St John’s, we marked the day with a traditional service in Chapel at 10.30am. The service which we use goes right back to the origins of the commemoration in 1921, which came about thanks to relentless campaigning of a committee led by a Brisbane Anglican priest, the Reverend Canon David John Garland (1864-1939). He connected with the most influential politicians, business leaders, military chiefs, and clerics of his generation – throughout Australia and New Zealand – to help harmonise the approaches individual State, Commonwealth, and local authorities took to marking ANZAC Day. Federal harmony was achieved by 1930. The civic commemorations we witness today all have their roots in Canon Garland’s original designs, and is fitting that, as an Anglican college, St John’s upholds this strongly Anglican tradition.
The singing was led by the College Choir, accompanied by Mr James Goldrick, Director of Music, on the organ. The Student Club President, Mr Thomas Glasheen, laid a wreath, while the names of the fallen and the Ode were recited by the Student Club Vice-presidents, Mr Callum Wallis and Ms Dodie Wilson, respectively. The Vice-Warden, Mr Glen Cronan, the Student Club Secretary, Ms Emily Coggan, and fellow student, Mr Julien Sennane, gave readings. The Chaplain, the Rev’d Dr Ceri Wynne, reflected on the choices we make to beat swords into ploughshares, spears into pruning-hooks, and not lift up sword against nation or learn war any more (Micah 4:3). A gathering on the Chapel Lawns followed for morning tea – with ANZAC biscuits!
It was both heartening and moving to see the Chapel full for the service. Tradition means a lot to the Members of St John’s. I have been privileged to have been a student at Magdalen College and a Fellow of Jesus College (both at Oxford), and to have lived and soaked up the traditions of those fine institutions, which have accumulated over more than 500 years each. Of course, the founders of St John’s brought their Oxbridge experience of tradition to this place, and gave us a fine inheritance. As the Chair of Council has written elsewhere in this newsletter, there is significant external scrutiny of traditions of residential colleges Australian-wide, and rightly so. It is encouraging that the present Student Executive is committed to enumerate and evaluate its traditions, so that they retain the truth and value which must be inherent in any tradition worth keeping, in a society which has rapidly evolving expectations for the respectful treatment of person. History shows us that traditions change and evolve: where they remain rigidly unbending, they are doomed to museum-piece lifeless stasis. The ANZAC tradition evolved this year by having women lead the marches in most places, as a testament to the frequently unsung contribution of women in military service to the nation. I am looking forward to seeing the gentle shaping and re-shaping of living tradition which the College can proudly show to the world.
Many readers may recall the tradition of formal dinners four nights per week (or more), in line with Oxbridge practice, even today. We retain a weekly formal dinner, and are treated to musical performances offered by Members of College. In addition, we have guest speakers who briefly address the students and tell something of their life stories. So far this year, we have hosted Professor George Mellick (Old Johnian, College Councillor, and Head of Griffith’s School of Environment and Science), who recounted his days at College; Dr Lyndall Bryant (Head and CEO, The Women’s College, UQ), who spoke on taking work and learning opportunities as students; Mr Christopher Johnstone (Barrister-at-Law and RAAF Officer), who spoke on the ANZAC theme; and Ms Josie Thomson (Executive Coach) who spoke on her life journey and a neuro-scientific approach to executive coaching.
The student body is emerging from the torments of mid-semester examinations, and all the while maintaining busy co-curricular activities. In 2017, the College achieved its third consecutive year as winner of the weighted (for gender) shield for college sport. Sport continues strongly this year, with premierships in women’s tennis and men’s table tennis to date. The College placed in the top three in the College Idol, and is currently securing victory after victory in debating. Intensive rehearsals are in progress for Choralfest. Jazz Night will soon be upon us at A Secret Location.
We are working on ramping up the College social media presence, and some students have bravely taken to posting to our main College page (www.facebook.com/StJohnsUQ) – please keep an electronic eye on us!
by Rev’d Prof Rodney Wolff