Nott Street School “Old Boys”

The Port Melbourne Standard newspaper of 31 July 1915 carried a story that the State Minister for Education had requested schools compile and display a Roll of Honour of all “old boys” who had enlisted.1

The article continues with a request for parents or other relatives to provide the headmasters of Port Melbourne schools with the details of soldiers who had attended local schools. A list of soldiers who had attended Nott Street School is appended to the story.

Further lists of names of Nott Street “old boys” were published from time to time in the Standard especially in the months following the Anzac commemoration service each April. At the 1917 Anzac day commemoration at Nott Street School, Cr Owen Sinclair announced that 187 “old boys” had enlisted.2

In May 1917, the committee and teachers of the school announced their intent to hold a sale of gift on Saturday 9 June to ‘raise funds for placing in the school a fitting memorial to the “old boys” of Nott Street School who have enlisted in the Australian expeditionary forces’.3

A typed letter dated 15 May 1917, in the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society collection, requesting financial contributions or articles that could be sold, and signed by Mr A Richards, Head Teacher and Cr J P Crichton, Chairman of the School Committee originally stated the number of Nott Street “old boys” at ‘nearly 200’ however the word ‘nearly‘ has been struck out and ‘over’ has been handwritten below. This illustrates, not only the large number of local men who enlisted, but also the difficulty the organisers faced recording the names and keeping the numbers up to date.

The bazaar organised to sell the gifts was a great success, raising £60 towards the “old boys” memorial.4

By the time the blackwood memorial was unveiled by the Mayor, Cr J P Crichton, on Anzac Day 1918, the number of “old boys” who had enlisted had climbed to 350. 5

Nott Street School Old Boys Honour Board. Photo John Kirby

Ten feet high and eight feet wide, the memorial is a most impressive piece of work. A replica of a Roman triumphal arch, it was fashioned to the design of  Mr A S Richards (a son of the head master), and bears an appropriate inscription surmounted by the Australian military crest. In a recess reposes a book containing the names of the 350 “old boy” soldiers, to which will be added others just as soon as it is known they have enlisted. After each name is a space to take a short account of the “old boy” soldier’s career.6

The knowledge of that recess faded over the years and when the “old boys” memorial was moved to the Town Hall after the school was closed in 1993, former Port Melbourne Mayor and Councillor, Perce White, was surprised to discover the book still reposing safely within the structure.

There were other treasures within the recess:

  • A temporary Roll of Honour from Anzac Day 1917 handwritten in an exercise book,
  • A loose leaf list of “old boys” (C 1918) held together with a small pin,
  • A second loose leaf list of “old boys” (C 1919) written on the back of foolscap school assignments and originally held together with stickers from the 1919 Anzac commemorations,
  • The official Education Department’s Record of War Service, and
  • Dozens of pieces of paper bearing the names of Nott Street “old boy” soldiers.

These items are a special part of the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society archives. They give a fascinating insight into how the Honour Roll was compiled but not the reason it wasn’t completed.

Some of the papers found in the recess of the Nott Street School Old Boys Honour Board. Photo by John Kirby.

The pieces of papers are particularly interesting. Some are literally scraps of paper while a few are fully composed letters. There are envelopes, a flyer for war savings, tickets to fundraising films at the Town Hall, an order of service for an Anzac Day commemoration at the school, and a ticket for a school sports day in 1918. Through a Cultural Development Grant from the City of Port Phillip’s Cultural, each one has been conserved, cleaned and placed in custom-made archival boxes for safekeeping.

Custom-made archival boxes to hold the Nott Street School Roll of Honour papers. Photo by David Thompson

The Nott Street School “Old Boys” Memorial is part of the City of Port Phillip’s collection and is on display in the foyer of the Port Melbourne Town Hall. It is as impressive today as it must have been over one hundred years ago when it was unveiled at the school. If you look carefully you might even find the small keyhole that points to that elusive recess.

References:

1 1915 ‘ROLL OF HONOR.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 31 July, p. 1. , viewed 04 Dec 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91167803

2 1917 ‘ANZAC DAY.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 5 May, p. 1. , viewed 04 Dec 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368753

3 1917 ‘NOTT-STREET “OLD BOYS.”‘, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 19 May, p. 4. , viewed 04 Dec 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88366917

4 1917 ‘NOTT-STREET BAZAAR.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 23 June, p. 4. , viewed 05 Dec 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88366305

5 1918 ‘ANZAC DAY.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 4 May, p. 3. , viewed 05 Dec 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88367313

6 Ibid

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