In his own words...

I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of the education system administered by the Christian Brothers. My colleagues and I had (and still have) great admiration for the Brothers who taught and guided us in the years from 1945-49. They were fine men and obviously good teachers both academically and on the sporting field.

In the academic sphere, in our small leaving class, our Dux became a lecturer in Chemistry at UWA, one of the others became Speaker in the Legislative Assembly in the WA Parliament and most others succeeded in their chosen careers.

Sporting wise, the “small” CBC had an amazing record of producing a couple of Olympic hockey players, league footballers, Sheffield Shield cricketers and other distinguished sportsmen.

In all areas of academia and sport, we were encouraged by our teachers who led by example – particularly in the sporting arena.

The Brothers were strict disciplinarians, being firm but fair.

At CBC Perth

My education at CBC started in 1945 when I was 13 years of age. Moving from the camaraderie of many friends at primary school to the new environment at “High School” with no friends was somewhat daunting.

This experience was obviously shared by many others with the same concerns, but in no time we all had a new coterie of friends. In my case, I have maintained some friendships from 1945 to the present day.

In those days, it should be remembered that the world was recovering from the after effects of World War II. In my family’s case (as with most others) the economy was tough. My parents never owned a car, and public transport was by bus, tram, train or trolley bus. I travelled by trolley bus from Claremont to Perth (corner of William St and St Georges Terrace) and walked along beautiful Terrace to Victoria Avenue every school day.

The College was by today’s standards very small. My leaving class comprised only about twenty students.

There was a small training oval, about three quarters the size of a football oval at the rear of the school, two handball courts on the west side and concrete cricket pitches on the north side. Sporting fixtures were played at Langley Park and Wellington Square and occasionally at the WACA ground. In the south west corner of our oval there was a miniature "Rifle Range”, with a steel carved backing shield behind the targets and a substantial high timber “wall” to stop any bullets going above the steel shield which was about one metre in height.

It is difficult to imagine such a facility in this day and age, but in those days, the Cadet Corps was operating with military precision, and senior cadets were permitted to take their .303 rifles home on public transport – no bullets of course! With the .303 rifles, the cadets would get their rifle practice at the Swanbourne Rifle Range.

As previously mentioned, sports were strongly encouraged, but facilities were limited. Ball skills and athletics were possible on the small oval, Langley Park and Wellington Square. The only swimming facility used by the school was at the Crawley Baths in the Swan River.

On the academic side, my teachers, Brothers Molloy, Nangle, Carroll and Murphy must have been pretty good as I passed my leaving in all subjects! The Brothers were obviously very competent and, although strict disciplinarians, in retrospect, were outstanding tutors for life beyond school. They were excellent coaches in all sports at the time, as the results at the highest level show.

In my case, I was honoured to be chosen as Head Prefect, involved in the St Vincent de Paul Group, Captain of the First XVIII Football and Athletics Teams. Needless to say, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my mentors.

I had three sons, Peter ('75), Michael ('79) and David ('80), all of whom attended Trinity College, and had success as sportsmen and in their chosen fields of employment – Peter as a physiotherapist and league footballer at the Perth Football Club in the West Australian Football League (WAFL); Michael as an artist, schoolteacher, and footballer at the Claremont Football Club in the WAFL and the West Coast Eagle in the Australian Football League (AFL); and David as an architect and footballer at the Claremont Football Club, then West Coast Eagles and Fitzroy in the AFL. 

David ('80), Michael ('79) and John O'Connell

Frank ('51) and John O'Connell

In addition, five of my grandchildren also attended Trinity College; Daniel ('05), Edward ('07) and Samuel O’Connell ('09), and Jack ('05) and Bill Mitchell ('07).

So the whole clan is indebted to this institution. I should also mention that my brother Frank ('51) also attended CBC and his son Paul ('84) attended Trinity. Frank was an outstanding track and field athlete (880 Yards Champion of Australia in 1956) and Paul was Head Prefect in 1984.

Life After School

As explained previously, life had been tough for our family and for most families at that time, having survived the Great Depression and World War II. Fearing another recession, my father encouraged me to get a “secure” job in banking, teaching or the public service. I heeded his advice and joined the Commonwealth Public Service. In hindsight this proved to be a sound move, as working for the Commonwealth I was able to seek promotion interstate.

Sport, particularly Australian Rules Football was my chief interest at the time and I was lucky enough to play league football for the Claremont Football Club immediately after leaving school and state football from 1951. I was later recruited by the Geelong Football Club in 1955 and because of my employment, was able to move interstate to play there without having to undergo the strict regulations protecting the movement of players from WA to VIC at the time.

I was also able to obtain a promotion to return to WA at the end of the 1960 season to continue my working career in the Department of Social Security and my football career with the Claremont Football Club. I retired from playing league football at the end of 1963, but continued my involvement in the game, in coaching and the football media, whilst having a successful working career until I retired from the Department at age 55 in 1987.

This enabled me to become General Manager of the WAFL from 1987 to 1992, an unenviable assignment, as 1987 was the inaugural year for the West Coast Eagles and WAFL football was never to be what it was before.

Greatest Achievement

I suppose my greatest achievement was having a successful career in employment and sport and raising a family of six children, all of whom have given me and my wife Pam immense joy, as have their children. I believe the values instilled in me by my educators at the time have filtered through.

Fondest Memory

All memories of CBC are pleasant. The school itself was small enough to mostly know the students above and below our class and to take pride in their achievements at school and in later life.