Br John Webb

Written on the 16 April 2018 by Old Collegians Association

Brother John Webb

Excerpt from 2003 Rostrevor Magazine

Red & Black approached Br John Webb because of his long-time association with Rostrevor both through his father and in his role as a staff member in the 1970s.
Many thanks to Br Webb for providing this text outlining a rich and rewarding life in the service of Edmund's ideals.

From the 1971 Annual: Rev Br J.P. Webb.

Br John Webb

My Father, George Webb went to CBC and would have been one of the students climbing the hill to become part of the original Rostrevor contingent 80 years ago if he had not gone to join the Christian Brothers the previous year. 

George left the Brothers because of ill health after ten years, having taught mainly in North Queensland. He came out into the world of the depression. He studied hard and became qualified as an accountant, doing the three years' study in one year. In the early 1930s he became the first lay teacher at Rostrevor and taught there for 10 years until the early 1940s.

During his time teaching at Rostrevor, he taught mainly the First Year (Year 8) boys but also taught Accountancy to the Senior boys. He was affectionately nicknamed 'Gus' by the boys. I had the privilege of teaching many boys whose fathers had been taught by my father and I heard nothing but praise of him as a person and as a teacher who taught with the best interests of his students in mind.

From the 1941 Annual: Mr. and Mrs. George Webb (centre).

During this time, he married Phyllis Drummond in the College Chapel (one of the early Weddings there). Phyllis (my mother) was quite a famous actress in the 20s and early 30s in Adelaide. She claimed to know off-by-heart the major female parts of the most frequently performed Shakespearian plays. She acted with Sir Robert Helpmann before he became famous.

I started school at Loreto and went on to do Grade 3 and 4 at St Ignatius College at Norwood. My Father had died when I was only six years old but because of his association with the Brothers, it was decided that when I was old enough to travel into the city each day, I should transfer to CBC in Wakefield St. I commenced at CBC in Grade 5.

Towards the end of Intermediate (Year 10) I decided that I would like to join the Christian Brothers. At the end of 1960 I went to Melbourne to join the Brothers. After my training years I had five interstate moves in my first six years of teaching: Clifton Hill in Melbourne (1966), St Virgil's College in Hobart (1967), St John's College in Whyalla (1968-69), Kalgoorlie (1970) and then I was transferred to Rostrevor (1971-79).

At Rostrevor I was able to put down roots. I was in charge of the Year 10 Dormitory and my main teaching was in Year 10. I remember telling Br Hall that I would be happy to teach anything except Maths (which I found very difficult). Needless to say, I ended up as the Year 10 maths teacher for the next six years. One of the boarders in that first year was Charles Walker (Dux 1973 Ed.) and he used to go over the next day's Maths lesson with me the evening before. I would teach the lesson to his class first and he would gently let me know if I was getting off the track. After that it was relatively easy to teach it in the other two Year 10 classes.

I was asked in that first year to be in charge of the grounds and with a staff of Joe and Simon, despite my ignorance of the area, we managed to have the grounds ready for the various games on the weekends. I remember with great gratitude the help that George Amfield gave me in how to prepare the cricket pitches. By the end of the first year I had very much filled my life. In addition to roles of teaching, dormitory master and grounds coordinator, I was an Officer of Cadets, I coached footy and cricket (with limited ability), I was one of the bus drivers and I ran the book room. In later years I added studies towards my Bachelor of Arts degree and the job of Form Master of Year 10 to my work-load.

From the 1971 Annual.
Back: CUO W Ryan,
CUO T. Carter.
Middle: CUO P. Mclnerney, 
Ll. J. Web CUO P. Kenny.
ont; Maj R. Whittington, Capt.O. Stanley.

I used to get great help from the boarders in preparing for various sports on Saturday mornings and I also had a reputation for having a short fuse when I was under pressure. I clearly remember driving the tractor one morning with a number of boarders on the trailer and running very late for preparing for the Saturday sport. One of the McCarthy boys from Bangham (I think it was Michael) stood in front of the tractor and told me he needed to use the tractor for some other job. I told him with considerable energy and volume that I had a huge amount to do before he could use the tractor. He took a great risk (given my rather volatile temper at the time) of telling me in his dry voice, 'You ought to get yourself organised!' He was a boy who obviously liked to take risks.

In 1977 I was given full time studies and was to live at CBC. Towards the end of 1976 there was a very warm farewell with generous gifts given. Some people suggested that I ought to return these presents I received when I returned to Rostrevor at Easter the next year. Bernie Tobin had left the staff and I saw this as an opportunity to return to my beloved Rostrevor. I continued the full time studies but took on the Year 11 Dormitory and taught Drama. The following year I was to have continued with the full-time studies but took over Peter Gaughwin's Year 9 class when he had to take some time off for sickness. That year and the next I enjoyed the excitement of involvement in the newly introduced Integrated Studies organised by Tony Shanahan and Dean McGlaughlin. 

A highlight in my last year at Rostrevor was directing the play, Becket with the Year 10 Drama students. I had taught this group of boy's drama through the previous two years with a workshopping and ensemble approach, and they were an outstanding group. The performance was extremely professional with all actors developing their parts brilliantly. There are two performances that stand out in my memory though. The first is that of Philip Ahem who took two parts: that of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Act One and that of the Queen Mother in the second act. He developed both characterisations in with their vastly different characters brilliantly. The other performance was that of Michael Evans. His spontaneous and sparkling portrayal of the young Monk sticks in my memory as outstanding. My Mother came to see the performance and, given her background in acting, her high praise of the performance meant a great deal to me.

From the 1979 Annual; Phillip Ahem as the old Archbishop of Canterbury.

One of the things that I really enjoyed was my involvement with the Year 10s in the Outward-Bound School from the mid·70s when Daryl Hicks introduced this challenge. I very much believed
in Outward Bound as a real challenge for the students when such a challenge is most valuable for them. As Year 10 Form master after Daryl, I put it high in importance in the extra-curricular activities. I formed a great friendship with the director or Outward Bound, John Dutton. and I became an instructor on their summer courses. Later, when Outward Bound SA could not keep going, Dick Whittington and I together set up our own Outward-Bound type challenge for the Year 10s of Rostrevor and Whyalla that became known as the Murray Venture in 1981.

At the end of 1979 I was transferred to Whyalla. I found leaving Rostrevor very difficult because of the wonderful relationships I had formed with so many of the Rostrevor Community. I taught for 10 years in Whyalla but continued to spend my May holidays with Rostrevor Year 10 students on the Murray Venture. In the 90s I was transferred to WA. I taught in Perth from 1990 to 1992. Then I took some time off to do a CPE course and became qualified as a Chaplain. Towards the end of 1993 I had some time for studies and spirituality overseas. I did a three months spirituality course in Wales and had some time in Israel at the St Georges Institute studying and experiencing the Palestine of Jesus.

I spent over a month in India on the way home and worked for several weeks in Calcutta with Mother Teresa's Sisters. I found that work with the poor very challenging. Over the next seven years I was in Broome. During that time, I taught at Notre Dame University (Broome Campus). My main work was running the introductory Unit to help people who had not studied for years to understand the requirements of study and essay writing al University Standard. Al the same time I was involved with St John Ambulance and in my last five years in Broome, I was in charge of the Ambulance service with territory that extended 300kms South-West towards Port Hedland and North-East 120 kms, towards Derby with all the station property between. II was challenging work, but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

From the 1976 Annual: J.P. Webb.

I returned to Adelaide in the middle of last year (and let me assure you that a transfer from Broome to Adelaide in July is not something that a sane person would do!). I returned to study towards a Master of Counselling degree with Uni SA. I am living over the road from the College in the Brothers' house and I am enjoying being back in-home territory and also enjoying the challenge of the full-time studies.


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