Stories From The Archives – 1954 – The Royal Visit

Our School has a wonderful history and many stories that our community is deeply connected to. As we celebrate our 125 Year Anniversary, we invite you to step back in time through some of the many stories that make up life at St Catherine’s.

Extract taken from St Catherine’s News, 1954: In the years to come our History books will record the occasion when, for the first· time, Australia was visited by a reigning monarch. The visit of Queen Elizabeth II will always be remembered by our generation. The Queen’s youth, charm, and dignity have left a distinct mark on us, the Australian people.

It was with great energy that we welcomed our Queen when she arrived in Victoria. Our dormant loyalty rose to the surface. For thirteen short days St. Catherine’s girls mixed happily with the “madding” crowds, cheering as loudly as the loudest. We saw the Queen dozens of times from vantage points all over the State, and every time we were more enthusiastic, and more sincere than the time before.

The School, as a school, also took part in the welcome to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh; for example, a school group took part in the demonstration at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, in a Red Cross guard of honour, and also held a strongpost alongside other schools to cheer her on her way to a garden party at Government House.

The Senior Girls’ Display

The outer grounds of the Melbourne Cricket Ground were packed, and we, thirty-two St. Catherine’s girls, were to be found some­where amongst seventeen thousand school children, for you see this was, our day, the day that we had longed for since the Queen landed in Australia.

Sitting in a little group in the shade of two big gums, we looked just the same as anyone else, dressed in our costumes of red, white and blue. Somehow we did not want to speak, but we read, or pretended to sleep. The most enterprising amongst us tried valiantly “to swot” but they, too, had to admit that to concentrate, on a day such as this, was impossible.

As the time drew nearer for us to march on to the M.C.G. we became our normal selves.

Excitement ran high within us, and it must have been this which caused our hearts to pound, and to make butterflies to flit round inside us. The two most courageous of us contrived to smuggle a movie camera on to the ground. (Perhaps now puzzled onlookers may understand why two senior girls walked awkwardly, and why one squad was roaring with laughter as it took its place in the “Welcome” to our Queen.)

We could not see the Queen as she entered, the ground, but we knew that she was with us, for a sudden roar went up from the eighty-three thousand spectators and passed right round the stands; and the Royal Stan­dard flew proudly as it slowly moved to the top of its mast. We excitedly joined in the cheering, and did not stop once until the Queen was in the Royal box, ready to speak to us.

Night follows day, and so a vast silence followed our deafening welcome. The Queen spoke to us and we listened eagerly to the speech that she directed to every portion of the living welcome. She drove among us, and it was only the human barriers that we formed which were able to keep back the multitudes of tremendously thrilled Victorian school children. We saw the Queen at arm’s distance, and realized how fortunate we were when others were seeing her from yards away. Our cheering grew louder.

The atmosphere had changed, and we had changed with it. Within seconds we were to march on to the ground, in a way which not even our instructors had seen or expected at the rehearsals. We were the representatives of the school children of Victoria, and we were going to strain every muscle in order to carry out our part of the display with pre­cision. No fumbling with sashes this time, and every part of the body was to move in unison, just this once.

How near we came to our goal, I do not know. But as we came nearer to the finish, people’s faces everywhere began to glow, and in just a wee corner of each heart there was a little space reserved for pride. What were we like? Did it look all right? These were the two questions most asked. But all these questions ceased when a small group of our girls later appeared on the scene with a word from Royalty. In passing, the Duke had turned around and said, “Well done”.