Mr John Brophy ('41) has been a staunch supporter of CBC and Trinity through the years, and has been instrumental in making the College the amazing institution it is today. In 1951 he became the Vice-president of the CBC Old Boys’ Association and went on to become the President of TOBA in the late 1960s. In 1986 he became the first Chairman of the Trinity College Board of Management where he served until 1991. Our College Board Room proudly bears his name. We would like to share his story, as written by his daughters:
John transferred to CBC from St Pat’s School in Perth in 1939, as part of a plan to revitalise the College following the 1938 departure of the boarders to Aquinas. In the book, Strive Manfully, John recalls:
“A great spirit developed at the College due to the efforts of Br Duffy and his colleagues. I commenced at CBC at the beginning of 1939 where I renewed acquaintances with boys who transferred from St Pat’s in earlier years. More students came along in 1940 including Walter Hall who joined the Brothers and later became Principal at Aquinas and subsequently joined the Provincial Council of the Order. I valued friendships forged at the Terrace, many of which were renewed after the war and continue today.”
His time at CBC
On my first day at CBC, I met Bill Andrew (’41) and we became friends immediately. We found that we were born a day apart, on 22 and 23 July, 1925. An old birth notice from The West Australian, which one of our children unearthed for our 90th birthdays, showed that the announcements of our births were one above the other – Andrew, followed by Brophy.
We are still, at the age of 93, the best of friends and our wives, both called Patricia, both of whom have now died, were also the best of friends. We were godparents to each other’s children.
I would say that I enjoyed school, even though I was probably a middle-of the-road student and athlete. And, like every other boy, I endured the strap on my hand from the Brothers at some stage. It was probably for talking in class.
I remember that, whatever we were doing in class, every hour, the brother teaching us would click his fingers and we’d stop work, make the Sign of the Cross and recite a Hail Mary, before getting back to work.
We chanted our times tables, something kids don’t do these days. They don’t seem to learn their tables and I have no idea how they can do any mathematics without that basic knowledge.
I recall that we wore a grey suit all year round (although my memory may not be correct), with a grey shirt and jumper and a pith helmet. I don’t remember any school colours like the blues and green that now signify Trinity.
When the war started, I was about 14 and we began having some basic military training at school, a bit like cadets I suppose. I remember we had bomb shelters dug under the playground.
I left after Year 11 and did my final year at ‘Tech’ (Perth Technical College). My brother had gone off to the army and I decided to leave school and my parents said to me “well you’ve got to go and do your Leaving” and I said “well I’ll go to the Tech” because some of my friends had gone to the Technical School in Perth. So I went down to the Tech which was in the Terrace in those days and until I did my Leaving.
After my Leaving exams, I worked at the Gas Works in East Perth before I joined the Air Force. It was 1943, right in the middle of WWII. I trained in Melbourne, bunking in with other new recruits in the beautiful Exhibition Building in Carlton. Then I was posted to Darwin as a radio operator.
After the war, I enrolled in science at UWA, and in between studies, worked on the wheat bins, as most able-bodied male students did in those days over the long summer holidays, loading the wheat crops.
I didn’t finish my degree because I was needed at home to help care for my mother, who had some problems. Both my brother and my sister had moved away from home.
I had a few jobs, then joined CSIRO, where I worked happily until my retirement at the age of 62.
Although my work was chiefly administrative, I always took a keen interest in the scientific research the organisation did. It was a thriving organisation then, with thousands of employees across Australia, working in all areas of science. I travelled within Australia a lot, including regular meetings at head office in Melbourne and field trips to rural areas.
In the early days – until the 1960s – CSIRO was situated at Crawley, on the edge of the UWA campus, on Matilda Bay. We moved to new Floreat laboratories and the university took over the land.
I married and had four children and my two sons, Michael and Peter, went to Trinity College.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Helping to bring up my four children was probably the best thing I ever did – and imparting to them the Christian morals and principles that I learned at school.
We had a little book at school called Christian Politeness which gives us all a good laugh now. It was big on manners and one of the edicts that all my children and grandchildren can recite is: “Do not leave your cutlery protruding from your plate like oars from a rowing boat”!
Another of our favourites was one that the brothers would read out to us at the start of sports day each year: “Do not attempt to attract the attention of your classmates by means of your luncheon”! “What does THAT mean?”, one of my school mates asked. “It means don’t chuck your sandwiches at each other!”, I told him.
I suppose I was well thought-of in the public service and the science sector, because I was awarded an MBE in the late 1970s for my services to the CSIRO. That made me very proud. I guess a good work ethic and always striving to do my best, especially for others, came from my education at CBC.
What is your fondest memory of your time at CBC Perth?
Maths was my favourite subject and I also enjoyed playing whatever was the sport of the season (football or cricket) with the other boys in the playground at lunchtime.
We also played sport against other schools: all sorts of schools, not just other Catholic ones, because there weren’t many schools in Perth in those days – and I enjoyed that.
My favourite part of the day was walking through the city to catch the tram home with Bill and my other friends.
We all liked school and the Brothers and kept in touch with each other – and still do – after our school days. We always felt proud of our school while we were there and it’s a feeling that has endured, in fact grown. I get a warm feeling whenever I hear CBC or Trinity mentioned.
What type of changes did you see happen while you were at CBC Perth?
Well, there were very few changes while I was at school. Just the military training and the bomb shelters during the war. The Brothers talked to us about the war but I don’t recall any fear associated with it.
It wasn’t until long after I left that the Government wanted the land in St George’s Terrace and gave the College a generous parcel of land on the river near the Causeway in return, and the current College was then built.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your CBC/Trinity experience?
I joined the CBC Old Boys’ Association (now the Trinity-Terrace Old Boys’ Association) straight after leaving school and have been an active member ever since.
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I used to have all my children sitting around the table folding and labelling copies of the TOBA News two or three times a year. They grew up knowing how important Trinity was to me. I’m honoured to be a Life Member of TOBA. I had a rowing scull named after me, which was used by the 1st VIII and I was the inaugural President of the Board of Trinity College.
Trinity has always been and always will be a big part of my life.