Eugene Shirley '35

Written on the 2 May 2018 by Old Collegians Association

Eugene Shirley

Excerpt from 2004 Rostrevor Magazine

Rostrevor's sporting tradition and reputation is widely acknowledged. One sporting chapter in the history of the College was short lived and this prompted Red&Black to catch up with Eugene Sherley as cox of the only Rostrevor rowing team which competed in one event in 1935.

Eugene Shirley attended Rostrevor from 1931 to 1935 after attending Strathalbyn Primary, the Mercy Convent al Henley and CBC Wakefield St. In his final year at Rostrevor, Eugene approached Br Carroll and offered his services as cox to a rowing four which. according to Br John Bourke's "Rostrevor Story" was instigated by parent Frank Siebert (an Adelaide undertaker) who had been a rowing enthusiast in his younger days.

The other members of the team were John Siebert, Frank Kerin, Des Moloney and Bill Solly. 

From the 1935 Annual: Rowing First Four.
From left: E. Shirley (Cox). J. Sieben (stroke), F. Kerin, D Moloney, W Solly.

The team trained on the Torrens, from the Torrens Rowing Club, with Adelaide High rowing coach, Mr. Phil Reid, offering his assistance and expertise as coach. As Eugene recalls, the team was not accepted into the Head of the River Regatta that year as it was deemed that the sport was not soundly established in the school. There only race was at Port Pirie and the team travelled north in one of Frank Siebert"s mourning coaches.

The pre-race confidence of the crew was somewhat shaken when it was discovered that they would be rowing in the Solomontown inlet on what was quite a blustery day and that a few of them were not confident swimmers in such open water. The failure of the mechanism of two of the rowers sliding seats in the borrowed boat, shortly after the race start, added to the team's woes. The race was completed without further complications but in the poetic analysis of Br Bourke, "The crew returned to the College late that night, appropriately enough in the mourning coach, and rowing at Rostrevor was given a quiet burial."

From the 1935 Annual: Leaving Certificate and Honours.
Top Row: E. Shirley, G. List, D. Michaels, L. Howards, W. Solly, J. R. O'Donnell, B. Lewis.
Middle Row: O. Farrell, R. O'Connor, J. Cronin, W. Schulz, D. Moloney, D. Hannon, J. Griffith, J. Swan, J. Siebert.
Front Row: J. O'Donnell, J. Fleming (H), P. Maegraith (H), J. McGhee (H), J. Kerin (H), J. Ryan, J. Preiss.

John Siebert went on to join the Air Force in 1937 and was seconded by the RAF in England at the outbreak of war. He was the first old scholar to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (others were Tom McGovern, Pat Davoren, Vic Grimmett and John's older brother Peter.)

Tragically John lost his life over Holland in 1941.

Des Moloney, the Head Prefect of 1935, went on to maintain a long relationship with Rostrevor as reported on in the last edition of Red&Black as a Yorke Peninsula farmer and the father of four Rostrevorians and the grandfather of current Boarding House Supervisor and old scholar, Xavier Moloney.

Eugene Shirley and 1937 Head Prefect Kevin O'Neill.

As far as Eugene can recall Bill Solly went on to become an engineer and his brother Jack became a Qantas pilot. Eugene was not well acquainted with Frank Kerin but has a suspicion he was a farmer from the mid-north.

On leaving school Eugene became an apprentice dental technician. In 1940 he joined the Air Force. Upon his discharge in 1945 he continued as a dental technician working both in private practices and laboratories until 1950 when he chose to join the Commonwealth Public Service, eventually moving into Personnel where he stayed until his retirement in 1978.

From the 1937 Annual: Aerial Photo of Rostrevor College.

He and wife Katherine have 5 children Michael ('71), Anne Marie, Julie, Jessica and Stephen ('78). His grandson, Elliot is currently in Year 9. Katherine has also had a long connection with Rostrevor as five of her brothers attended Rostrevor: Gerald, Kevin, Peter, Bill (dec.) and Timothy Ward.

Br Mackey, Br Meier and Br Ridley were some of the Brothers at Rostrevor during Eugene's years there. Another was Br Bernstein who Eugene remembers assisted him greatly in his sporting pursuits, in particular cricket.

As Eugene recalls there were approximately ISO students at Rostrevor 1n 1935. First Year, Second Year and Intermediate were conducted in a large partitioned shed roughly where the Junior School is today and behind the classrooms were the gym. Leaving was conducted in what is now the Headmasters Office being the ground floor room in the south-east of Rostrevor House. Leaving Honours was conducted in the Gold Room.

From Br Bourke 's book ' The Rostrevor Story·: Block of three classrooms furnished from the former stables. Used as classrooms until 1935 and afterwards as the picture theatre for many year.

Eugene's recollections of his Rostrevor experiences 70 years ago are a small but important part of a much larger story. Red&Black thanks him for sharing his time and recollections and invite other old scholars to contact the Editor to share their piece of Rostrevor history.


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Author:Old Collegians Association


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