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NEWS AND PUBLICATIONS > From the Archives > Flashback Friday - The 1910's

Flashback Friday - The 1910's

A decade of war, vaccinations, pandemics, progress and loss; read about life at Loreto Normanhurst from 1910-1919.
1910 - girls carrying on the LN tradition at 'Names Cave'
1910 - girls carrying on the LN tradition at 'Names Cave'

A New Decade

Finding its feet, Australia entered the new decade with a new monarch. George V succeeded his father King Edward VII as head of the Commonwealth in May 1910. The decade witnessed the first Australian women compete in the Olympic Games (Stockholm, 1912) and an intense five-year drought. The population was estimated to be 4.36 million; this number completedly excluded First Nations Australians however, as was the custom until the 1971 census. Pennant Hills Road and much of Sydney slowly saw the introduction of more motor cars. 

1912 'Loreto Convent, Normanhurst' postcard, featuring a Siddeley-Deasy motor car

At Normanhurst, school-life was also changing. Day-scholars were recorded in the enrolment registers for the first time, including several boys. The Leaving Certificate was introduced for girls in their final year of schooling. In 1912, the first official meeting of the Past-Pupils Association took place; former students met with the Sisters at the School, elected office-bearers and donated items to the Foundling Home at Waitara. 2022 marks the centenary year of the Ex-Students Association. 

Identity as a Loreto-girl was strengthening. The Eucalyptus Blossoms magazines kept Normanhurst girls connected with other Loreto schools in Australia and abroad, and uniforms were becoming a bit more regulated; 

"There was great excitement at this time when Reverend Mother Gertrude decided to introduce blazers and hat bands with crests. Also, pale blue ties for Sundays, black-and-gold stripes for week days." 1

1916 Photo 1 - tennis players

Normo girls continued their love of sports such as basketball, tennis and hockey, and carving their autograph at Names Cave. They decorated the chapel altar for Feast Days, and the first jubilarians were crowned. Extracurricular lessons were often taught by visiting 'masters', and girls showcased their musical and artistic talents for guests.

"Dec. 6th is to be devoted to the display of our handiwork with needle, paint brush and pencil. A concert is to follow for the delectation of parents and friends."  2

Hardship and Hardiness

As we know, the 1910's proved to be a decade marked by social upheaval and tremendous loss. 

A small-pox scare wreaked havoc in 1913. Sydney was thrust into quarantine, and our Normo girls had some eerily familiar conversations about vaccinations! 

"July - After Midwinter occurred the small-pox scare, resulting in quarantine for Sydney and wholesale vaccination for its inhabitants. Oh, the tiresome vaccination days, when the question, "Have you been done?", "How was yours taken?" was repeated ad nauseum. How relieved we were when it was all over, and we were normal once more." 3


1914 Photo 3 - LN whole school photograph

The half-way point - 1915 - was a notably difficult period. The Eucalyptus Blossoms reflected that"Joy and sorrow have been mingled in a marked degree this year."The tragic passing of a beloved Normo girl - Lua Hollingdale (Class of 1914) rocked the school community; newly graduated at the time of her death in January 1915, Lua's name would later be etched into the stone at the Normanhurst grotto in her memory. 

Further tragedy struck in March 1915 with the passing of Mother Gonzaga Barry (1834-1915). Founder of Loreto schools in Australia, including Normanhurst, Gonzaga wrote a letter to her Loreto 'children' one month before her death. 

"I thank you all for your prayers... and I know you will not forget me when I shall have passed to the other world. I will not forget you when I have power with God; not only past and present, but future Loretto girls also will be always objects of concern to me until we all meet in Our Heavenly Father's Home. 

I am, as ever, my dear children, your affectionate old Mother in J.M.J.

M. M. Gonzaga Barry." 5

In 1919, the nation braced itself for a pandemic with the first cases of the Spanish Flu appearing in early January. With our remote location, the School was relatively protected from exposure. However, boarders spent their holidays at school, appointments and visitors were severely restricted and most day-pupils were sent home. You can read more in the article 'Normanhurst in Lockdown' from Loreto Life 2020.

The World at War 

Of course, the most significant political event of the 1910's was the First World War (1914-1918). With Australia called to assist the United Kingdom and its allies, our community of Sisters and pupils waited anxiously for news - of their brothers, fathers, uncles and neighbours who had gone to war. Many would not return, and others returned with injuries or difficulty readjusting to civilian life. Contact with the Loreto European schools was completely cut off for a time; Bar Convent in York also operated as a military hospital for the wounded. 

1917 - Dorothy Bourke (Class of 1918) with Captain Austin Gardner and Eileen Bourke (Class of 1916)

In 1917, a returned Chaplain, Captain Reverend Patrick Tighe, visited Loreto Normanhurst. Whilst here, he spoke to our girls about his experiences in the war. 

"On the afternoon of Tuesday week Chaplain Captain Rev. P. Tighe, S.J., visited Loreto Convent, Normanhurst. For an hour and a half he spoke to the students of his experiences in France and in the trenches in Belgium. His audience listened spellbound as he told them of what he had seen and heard and done; of acts of unhesitating heroism, of generous devotion to God and to comrades, and ever and always the unfailing good-humour of the Australian soldiers. All felt the visit and lecture to have been a rare privilege, and Father Tighe carried away with him hearty good wishes and the promise of many prayers for the further success of his work." 6

The 1910's were certainly a decade of immense 'joy and sorrow' - of change, uncertanity and anticipation. Through the 'ups and downs', Loreto Normanhurst continued to develop its character. 

Next #FlashbackFriday we will be looking at Loreto Normanhurst in the roaring 1920's! 

In what era were you an LN student or parent? We invite you to share your LN memories and photos with us - perhaps you have several 'Loreto' generations in your family?

Reach out to us via the Share News function below for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post. 

Ms Rachel Vaughan 

Records Manager 

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  1. Gerda Byrne (Brewer, 1919) cited in Loreto Normanhurst 1897-1997: A Century of Memories. Allen & Unwin: Sydney, NSW. 1997. p.13. 
  2. Eucalyptus Blossoms. 1913. Ballarat, VIC. p.35 
  3. Eucalyptus Blossoms. 1913. Ballarat, VIC. p.34
  4. Eucalyptus Blossoms. 1915. Ballarat, VIC. p.8 
  5. M.M. Gonzaga Barry IBVM. "A Mother's Letter to her Children". Eucalyptus Blossoms. 1 February 1915. Ballarat, VIC.
  6. The Freeman's Journal. "The Gossip of the Week: Round About Australia." 29 March 1917. Sydney, NSW. p.22. 

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