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Br Trevor Gibbons

Written on the 2 May 2018 by Old Collegians Association

Br Trevor Gibbons

Exert from 2004 Rostrevor Magazine

Red & Black caught up with Br Trevor Gibbons on a visit back to Rostrevor in late 2003. He was invited to put together this profile to reflect on his Rostrevor experiences and to keep us abreast with what he is doing now. Many thanks to Brother for making the time to compile this profile.

Br Trevor Gibbons. 

I was born in 1936 in Port Elliot where my parents Alfred and Eva owned the Hotel Elliot next to the rail line. My brother Denis and I went to the Catholic primary school in Victor Harbour. Denis later boarded at Rostrevor until we moved to St Peters in I942 from where he continued as a day boy and later entered radio. A series of strokes brought his early death in 2002 (obit. "Rostrevor" March 2003). My father's class in CBC became the first group lo enter Rostrevor in 1923, but dad had lost both parents and was in the work force by that time.

In his latter business years, he was "Mr. Dishwasher" - the name survives in the Pultney St store. I went to CBC after a time with my sister Josephine at Ellengowan primary school, SI Peters. Inspired by the dedication of Br Hurley (RIP) I entered the Christian Brothers' Training College in Sydney to complete secondary schooling, novitiate and later at Melbourne Uni. obtained my B.Sc. Meanwhile the family had taken over the Victoria Hotel on Tapley's Hill and I was not to experience 1he 1954 earthquake which nearly demolished the hotel. It led to my father's business move to domestic appliances. 

Br Gibbons with friend in Papua New Guinea.

My early teaching was in Warrnambool, for a time with Br John O'Sullivan (RIP) as HM until his appointment to Rostrevor in 1962. Then to SI Patrick's Ballarat and my first experience with boarders. It was to be the start of a long twenty years association with boarding schools. A phone call from Br Tony Kelly in the WA/SA provincial council invited me to move 10 Rostrevor in 1968. ·can you teach Biology?" Eager to return to my home town I replied "I'll try! One science is as much as any other. I arrived some weeks late to find s1udents wading through "Web of Life" and I discovered my Physics major was little help. Students of the Year 12 class, Head Prefect Tony Adey and Roger Clark were very tolerant and the following year I enrolled in Biology I at uni!

Br Bob Morphett HM was converting the open senior Dormitory (currently the Mary Fountain Music Centre} to cubicles and asked me to take residence there, and life became very full. Cadets, brass band, orches1ra, sports teams, boarding duties plus teaching more than filled out my days. If I have any regrets of these times it was that I was too busy to spend relaxed time with students and was really just "someone who passed you in the yard"! I had always coached athletic s. In my first training session I was given Steve Casey (father Tom recent RIP) to train and he was way beyond any skills I had, later becoming a national 400m hurdler. However, band practice took my Friday afternoons and I was dropped from Tom Kendall's coaching list for non - attendance! On a later occasion I ran with the unit in the army cross country Fenner Cup which we won for the first (and only?) time. I'd run in a Rostrevor singlet and comfortable white shorts. When the photos appeared, Tom presented me with the regulation black shorts indicating I should wear them in future! Tom was totally dedicated to Rostrevor and it was a privilege to write the tribute to him in the Annual the year he left.

From the 1971 Annual: Brass Band
Back Row: E Robertson, R O'Sullivan. C Cheti, K Skinner, P Gleeson
Third Row: R Joyce. C Klemm, P Meaney, N Gooden, P Webste r. Second Row: A Young, A Robertson. P Dunn, G Nussio, P Rothall, L Atyeo, Br T Gibbons.
Front Row: M Moll, M Sand s, P Dominey, P Kelly, P Callen, P Doheny.

And so, seven years filled out quickly. As I type this names and faces come back. Top science students Charles Walker and Simon Coblac. From our little orchestra violinists Simon Collins (currently Melbourne Symphony?) and Paul Wright who held a whole school assembly spellbound as he played violin for us before the family took him to England to be trained by Yehudi Menuin. The young Paul Kelly came with his mother Jo to join the brass band. "Should he get his own trumpet?" she asked. I said he would progress better if he did. Guitar has since replaced the trumpet. Also, in that group was Richard Green who became one of Adelaide's top brass players and later (early B0's} directed the school band. 

I was in charge of swimming for a time and we were a strong team with club swimmers Nick and Tim Jordan and John McVann giving us a lead. Boarder Chris Klemm had feet like Ian Thorpe and could win a sprint, but the turns cost him! I was taking time from a science lesson to change the hoses at the pool one morning and saw a huge black cloud rising beyond the classrooms. I raced up to find the senior dormitory ablaze. The fire brigade arrived in force but could not contain it.  Meanwhile HM Br Hall had gathered all senior boarders and checked that all were present. He then contacted radio stations to spread the word that all were safe - great presence of mind! With nothing I could do to help 1 was on the roof of the Brother's house filming the whole event on super eight movie, reminiscent of Nero watching Rome burn! (the footage has been lost).

From the 1972 Annual: Interschool Swimming Team.
Back Row: Br T Gibbons, P Mayfield, C Venuti, A Cibiras. A Veitch. R Walter, C Klemm. Seated: T Jordan, P Dunne, B Dundon, L. Liverton

Boarders were re-located in an empty seminary wing for two years while the building was repaired and restored to senior boarding cubicles. Speaking of movies, a hobby of mine was to capture school events on film, and recently I had these put-on videos for easier viewing.

Most years at Rostrevor and I returned for three more years 1983-5. I directed the Massed Choir for annual speech nights. The move to the Festival Theatre never achieved the "big sound" we used get in the resonant school hall -  but the seats are more comfortable for the parents and there was the bar service at interval! 

When I think back to Rostrevor days, uppermost in my memory would be the annual expeditions to the inland. Br Morphett, HM in 1968, had experienced Aquinas College expeditions to the Abrolhos Islands off the WA coast. He invited me to try for something similar. With Brs Brian Clery and Brian Brandon we headed out in the old grey van to discover the Flinders Ranges.  It was the beginning of a new obsession for me. In the following years I led groups of students to Bunyeroo Gorge, Yudnamutana (twice), to Outalpa near Broken Hill (guest of John Crawford Snr), and to Mt Woodroofe in the remote north west of SA. In my second time at Rostrevor in the B0's we took 16 4WDs over the Simpson Desert. These activities took much planning by staff, parents and students and I am sure, developed in many, a great love for and appreciation of our Outback.

From the 1973 Annual: Chapel Choir
Back Row: Miss R Wreford. G Jurko. P Willis, M Bourgeolis, M Vial, P Kiss, S Collins, Br T Gibbons.
Center Row: E Mercuri, A Brown, S Maher, A Maguire.
W Kunhegyesy, T Finocchiaro.
Front Row: E Mercuri, A Kelly, S Sowerbutts, P Donato, E Pomari, 
G Holmes, J Gall.

So, what of my time since the Rostrevor days? Between the two postings to Rostrevor I was Headmaster of St Patrick's College in Geraldton, a hard time, when boarding schools across the country were struggling for numbers and many country schools dosed boarding facilities. I happily returned to the familiar Rostrevor scene. But I was restless, seeking a break from teaching. Contact with Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara fired me up to work with the underprivileged and I became pastoral assistant to the Otherway Aboriginal Centre in Pirie St. All too soon I was invited to move to Nulungu College, an Aboriginal school in Broome which was upgrading to Year 12. That became my scene for the next five years. I then responded to a call for volunteers for a school in Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Refugees from the drought and was in Eritrea had flooded into Sudan and were hungry for education. Readers will rec,111 Bob Geldof and "We are the World" which helped these refugees. It was very fulfilling work and I loved it. In my final year I was acting HM for a school of 900 with half the boys and girls being Muslim s taught in Arabic (not by me!). Living under a repressive Islamic government had its moments but We ran a good school and high-ranking Muslims wanted their sons and daughters in it - we were fairly untouchable!

I took a break to have a hip replacement and take a sabbatical in USA and then returned to Sudan - this time to Yambio in the war torn south. Access was by UN charter plane. The school had few resources (not even desks) and mostly untrained teachers. With dirt tracks for roads, no power, running water or phones life was basic, but solar power gave the Brothers computers and for three years I helped build the school up, expanding curriculum and adding senior classes. 1 could relate to Edmund Rice beginning a school in Waterford in 1803 with no resources. Br Andrew McBeath joined me there and was a great support but work took its toll on me and I was moved out. A break revived my desire to teach and I offered to move to PNC where there is a great shortage of science teachers. The country struggles for self-determination and wishes for an end 10 corruption and crime which is triggered by lack of education and employment. Australian Brothers are sought to accompany the local Brothers, who are few in number but there are more young locals coming through training programs.

Br Gibbons on one of his many northern treks.

For two years I have been teaching in Jubilee Catholic Secondary School in Port Moresby. I teach all Year 12 science yes, even Biology (one of my students topped the country this year) and, as a retired" volunteer, have no sports teams, administration, or other duties. The students are responsive, and I love the work. I recall Dr Martin teaching Chemistry in the 70's at Rostrevor. That was all he did and with total focus he did it well. As I type I await exam results (as a marker I saw the Biology!) hoping my beloved students will once again do well as they did last year. I am fit and well, and hope for more years of teaching in the time ahead. On home trips I love to call back at Rostrevor to meet staff I know and see developments. My time there has been an important part of my life.

 

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