Monday, December 15, 2008


This beautiful photograph by Ronald Esler of Howey Court, Melbourne, was taken at the time of Mum and Dad’s engagement in 1948.

Mum followed her sister, Anne, to the Geelong Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, The Hermitage, where their mother, my grandmother Helen Pearson (Borthwick), was head girl in 1912. Founded a little earlier in 1906, The Hermitage was in 1976 unhappily subsumed into Geelong Grammar School.

One of my happiest childhood memories is of witnessing Mum and Aunt Anne (usually after lunch at Metung on Christmas Day) singing several verses of “
Coo-ee,” The Hermitage school song – and singing them proudly and well.

With lyrics by Miss Agnes Cross (sometime headmistress of Tintern Ladies’ College), and music – marked “strict time throughout” – by Alfred Wheeler (1865–1949), “
Coo-ee” is a work which, though moving, nevertheless can, did, and does generate immoderate laughter among undeniably callow, but not unappreciative young persons.

To their infinite credit, Mum and Aunt Anne only rarely declined our eager requests for an annual repeat performance.

To school fellows near us or distant,
We send out our
Coo-ee today;
Wherever you be may you hear it,
Whether hard at your work, or at play.
In our own sunny homes, or in lands far away
D’you hear it? Just listen! We greet you today:
Coo-ee! Coo-ee! Long live the School.

Australia’s own call to her daughters
Is the call of your school now as well;
May its echoes ring cheerily round you,
Making feelings of gratitude swell.
May it be that your conduct will aye prove the worth
Of the love of your school, and the land of your birth:
Coo-ee! Coo-ee! Long live the School.

May lessons you learn in your school days,
Through life make your path ever bright;
May you grow in all virtue and beauty
Gentle, honest, and strong in the right.
In all games that you play, in all work that you do,
Do the work, play the game as a girl straight and true:
Coo-ee! Coo-ee! Long live the School.

May our song in far days waken mem’ries,
Of comrades and friends tried and true.
Days bright with the freshness of morning,
Pleasures many, and sorrows but few.
Then here’s to you, schoolmates, young, old, far and near,
Accept our glad greeting, and ring it back here:
Coo-ee! Coo-ee! Long live the School!
Note: According to the excellent Australian National Dictionary (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 166), coo-ee originated as an Aboriginal cry, first recorded in 1790, when it was heard among Dharuk speakers in the neighbourhood of Port Jackson (Sydney).

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