The Congregation of Christian Brothers arrived in Australia in 1868 and gradually established schools around the country.
The Brothers came to Tasmania in 1911 and established St. Virgil’s College in Barrack Street in Hobart. They dedicated it to Saint Virgil (hence the name).
The College officially opened on 22nd January 1911. Brother Mark McCarthy stated that the Christian Brothers aimed to make it “synonymous with all that was broadest, best, most liberal, and most progressive in educational work in the state.”
“They hoped, year by year, to send forth a stream of young men of well-trained intelligence, of strong moral character, and of high ideals, young men who would enter as a vitalising force into the social, intellectual and civic life of the century and contribute the part of good to its purpose.”
St. Virgil’s had 58 students when it opened, but by the end of 1911, the number had increased to 158. Classes were large, but there were limited financial resources. The school’s only income during its early days came from fees and charity. It nonetheless grew a reputation for scholastic achievement.
The Brothers emphasised gaining academic qualifications, which the boys could use to join public service or gain other employment. The College offered boarding facilities from day one, which allowed Catholic boys from all around Tasmania to gain those academic qualifications.
St. Virgil’s also became well-known for its successes in sport. Fierce rivalries with other non-government schools quickly emerged, especially with The Hutchins School.
The religious life of St. Virgil’s was also strong (and remains so today). Along with regular religious instruction and Masses, the Catholic ethos was infused in all areas of College life.
The Junior School
In 1916, the Christian Brothers took charge of the school that was on the grounds of St. Mary’s Cathedral and started teaching primary classes there.
The school was first known as St. Mary’s Boys’ School, but its name was eventually changed to the St. Virgil’s College Primary Department.
In 1923, the Brothers moved the junior boys across to the St. Mary’s campus to join the primary school children. The Brothers received criticism for splitting St. Virgil’s across two campuses, so the decision was made to remove the junior boys from the St. Mary’s campus.
The two sites became separate schools from 1939, with St. Virgil’s resuming its position in Barrack Street. The Primary School became known as St. Peter’s School.
In 1996, the St. Virgil’s name returned to the St. Mary’s site, becoming the St. Virgil’s College Junior School.
Student numbers at St. Virgil’s grew considerably after World War II, reaching 720 in 1960. The Barrack Street site became over-crowded, and there was no room to expand. So the Brothers purchased a 58-acre site at Austins Ferry.
This campus, catering for Grades 7, 8, and 9 students, commenced classes in 1962.
With the added space and facilities, the College was able to provide a broader range of subjects.
Relinquishing of the Barrack Street campus
In 1994, the decision was made to relinquish the Barrack Street campus to the Catholic Education Office, who turned it into Guilford Young College.
St. Virgil’s celebrated its centenary in 2011.
St. Virgil’s College today
St. Virgil’s is currently expanding into a Kinder to Year 12 school.
Former students (the author of this article included) are called Old Virgilians. The Old Virgilians Association exists as a way for them to meet regularly.
July 31, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Also in terms of balance, given the fierce rivalry between St Virgil’s and Hutchins and since the magenta ones have recently had their fair share of bad PR on the teacher molestation front, Steve Randell was a football coach at St Virgil’s in 1980 one year before the period which saw him convicted of 15 counts of sexual assault up at Marist.
As a pretty ordinary footy player myself I received a spray from him for letting through a goal without touching the ball when playing at full back – and rightly so I might add!
August 3, 2020 at 1:39 am
Having been one the last boarders at St. Virgils, I won’t hear a good word said about the institution.
August 3, 2020 at 10:21 pm
Well Peter, I for one would be a really captive audience.
The last boarders were back in 1970, so I think many of us would be thoroughly interested to read a review about life as a boarder back at SVC, particularly if it wasn’t politically watered down but a warts-and-all review.
I’d even bet that Tasmanian Times’ Managing Editor would probably waive the word limit to allow you to write as much as you want.
How about it, Peter? We’re all eyes.
August 4, 2020 at 4:54 pm
I’m afraid mine is mostly a story of boredom and negligence.
Fortunately, abuse in my time was not extreme by the usual Catholic standards. I think the boarders at Marist in Burnie would be better placed to speak.
by the way, Steve Randell was my classmate. Nice bloke, just a tad cricket obsessed. Who’d have thought it would turn out that way?
Oh dear! Marist again.
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August 4, 2020 at 11:14 pm
So no ‘Brides of Christ’ type of episode to come out of your time as a boarder, then.
Well I am glad to hear that you aren’t too scarred by the experience. I don’t think a review of being a boarder at SVC would have to be salacious to be interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of a Tom Brown’s schooldays type of experience but c’est la vie.
I liked Mr Randell, too. He was certainly passionate about his footy, and evidently his cricket as well.
August 5, 2020 at 5:23 pm
Sorry. The 1850s’ imperial past was somewhat divorced from the groovy 1960s.
Give me the Kinks any day. However, the bullying didn’t seem to have decreased.
January 30, 2023 at 1:43 pm
I was a student at St Virgil’s at Austin’s Ferry on opening day, 1962.
The only abuse dished out to me was ‘six of the best’ for stealing a tuning fork from the science lab. I have fond memories of St Virgil’s College, and completed my time at Barrack St in 1965.
It’s now 2023, and I’m still going strong. The nicknames for the teachers were incredible, for example Hepcat for Br Sullivan, Hitler for Mr Hamilton, and Spud for Br Murphy … and the list goes on.