VISIONS OF GIRLHOOD: Bev and John Mouritz in the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School's Paterson Hall Heritage Museum which is quickly filling with exhibits ahead of its official opening on Saturday.
VISIONS OF GIRLHOOD: Bev and John Mouritz in the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School's Paterson Hall Heritage Museum which is quickly filling with exhibits ahead of its official opening on Saturday. Chris Ison ROK180417crggs1

Secrets behind one of Rockhampton's oldest schools

"WHEN we look back and forgetfully wonder what we were like in our work and our play."

They're the words thousands of girls have chorused, but after 125 years Rockhampton Girls Grammar School will be able to provide some answers.

The school will this weekend officially open the Paterson Hall Heritage Museum as part of the celebrations into the milestone.

Founded on this day in 1892, the school's rich history has become part of the story of Rockhampton as a growing city.

But for many years that history was packed away in storage and fragmented amongst the school's Old Girls.

Former teacher Mark Avery, who has since relocated to Brisbane, came up with a way to tell the school's story and celebrate a milestone birthday with the museum.

Over three years later, the committee behind the bold move are putting the finishing touches on displays.

But it's not just the artefacts and photos that have been dusted off to create the museum.

Paterson Hall itself has also had a makeover.

Bev and John with an example of a 1980s-era Rockhampton Girls Grammar School uniform.
Bev and John with an example of a 1980s-era Rockhampton Girls Grammar School uniform. Chris Ison ROK180417crggs3

The original assembly hall for many years sat empty and underused, with roof problems threatening its longevity.

Years of fund raising by the school community have seen that leaky roof replaced, the hall stage removed and the original building given a new lease on life.

Former teachers Bev and John Mouritz were a driving force on the committee, which sourced information and items for the museum.

The committee is made up of past students and teachers, bringing an array of colourful memories to the black and white facts of the school's history.

Everything from school trophies and a range of uniforms to hundreds of photos and sporting flags has been included in the displays.

Bev yesterday said she hadn't been able to imagine what the museum would look, but had been guided by Mark's "incredible" vision.

"The school is very, very rich in history and tradition and I'd love to see that continue," she said.

Classroom in the original school building circa 1900.
Classroom in the original school building circa 1900. Contributed

"125 years is a very long time and those people who started originally, even their descendants, are not with us any more.

"So there needs to be a tactile memory kept of what happened in the school, how it's grown, how it's changed."

As could be expected with 125 years of school history, finding correct information was a challenge for the committee.

Bev said often it was the items they found in storage which were the most difficult to place in context, with donations from former students coming with plenty of stories.

Accessing correct information was also a challenge, although Bev said the original school history, The Wider View by Betty Cosgrove, was a thoroughly researched resource.

The committee have also updated and re-published this book, published for the centenary in 1992.

Bev, who was also school principal from 2005 to 2010, took on the role after one of the most difficult periods in the school's history which almost saw its doors closed.

To see the school grow from that has been "very rewarding", as has watching the dozens of donations come in for the museum.

"I think it says a great deal about the family friendly environment of the school," Bev said.

"The girls, particularly the boarders, who have come through this school over the years have formed such strong friendships and affiliations that they're just like sisters and they often maintain that post-school.

"So it's wonderful to see they have those very affirming feelings about the school."

Along with the museum at Paterson Hall, the school has created a corresponding website with full digital archive which will continue to be updated as more donations and items are catalogued.

  • Celebrate the school's 125th anniversary on Saturday, April 22 from 10am. The Paterson Hall Heritage Museum will be opened officially at 2.30pm.


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