One current project, in conjunction with the Old Boys’ Association, is to adorn the walls of Chanel Hall with a number of significant figures in our College history that Old Boys can identify with and our present pupils can aspire to, because these iconic figures encapsulate our values and the Bedean spirit. The first three are Father Graham, Father Spillane and Father Hoben.
Their pen portraits follow:
Father Charles Graham
The first is the first Rector Father Graham, who established the College twice – firstly in Ferry Road in 1911; but then significantly under the grim shadow of World War I faced the challenge of not only finding a suitable site for a residential College, but also to fund its construction and then to entice enough students to make the enterprise sustainable – no mean feat!
At various times the strain of this responsibility took its toll as he battled exhaustion both physically and mentally.
Recently discovered archive material made clear the difficult and sad circumstances in which Father Graham left St Bede’s College, which are shrouded in mystery, and as a result his significant contribution has at times not had the whole-hearted accolade he has richly deserved.
An unnamed Old Boy gave a firsthand view of him in the first Bedean magazine, published in 1923 – the year of his departure, and prophetically placed him in the College’s history writing:
“And we, who owe so much to him, will ever treasure in our hearts the memory of him who was in our youth the recipient of our confidence, the arbiter of our destiny, the source and inspiration of our ambition, and those of us are indeed fortunate who have caught something of his spirit, something of his outlook upon life and something of his high Christian principles. Let St Bede’s be his monument.”
Father Bill Spillane
The second icon panel features Father Spillane and many Old Boys who are fathers of present students experienced this man’s wise counsel as a priest, teacher, coach and friend.
Generations of Bedeans benefitted from his kindness and instinctively understood that he was at the very heart and soul of the College, its daily routines, its history and special traditions. He was a constant factor over his four tenures on the staff, an advisor to the Rector, a link to the Old Boys and a confidante to numerous students. As one of the men from the 50 year reunion said, “he was the true epitome of the best of the Marist order”. He had a larger than life personality without being at the forefront of St Bede’s. His focus was on service and quiet leadership.
It was therefore fitting that an Old Boy, Mike Crean (1960-1965), should write an obituary in the Christchurch Press that so accurately captured the character of this good man:
“Father Bill Spillane was the humblest of men, yet modest and mighty alike share affectionate memories of him. In nearly half a century ‘Spill’ became the face of St Bede’s College. He will always be known as a principal teacher of form two classes. Generations of boys who attended St Bede’s at this level …still regard him as a wise and patient figure …. His gentle, humble style is best shown in a talk he gave to his rugby team when it was down 8 – 5 at half time. He walked calmly onto the field and said, ‘Well boys, if you want to lose this match, just go on playing the way you have been’. And he calmly walked off again.”
Father Cormac Hoben
The third iconic Bedean is Father Hoben, a student here from 1920-22, and an excellent teacher, coach and mentor here from 1942-45.
His premature and sudden passing (he was only in his 40s) on the eve of the 1945 July snow storm was a great shock to the Bedean community. It was Sunday and he had conducted the evening devotions and preached a stirring devotional sermon! He then took study and at the end of the evening spoke to the boys saying to them:
“Gentlemen, I want you to become the best possible version of the person God made you to be”.