Although St. Paul's
Technical School was opened on September 25th 1949, it was
eight years earlier that the desirability of a Catholic
Technical School for Ballarat had begun to develop. Many
discussions were held by various interested groups,
particularly the Ballarat East Old Boys' Association. Mr. J.
Hewitt, President of the BEOBA approached His Lordship Bishop
Foley who promised to do all he could to further the project.
Bishop Foley wrote to the Provincial of the Christian
Brothers, Br. M. B. Hanrahan requesting that a Brother be sent
to conduct classes in Woodwork. The Bishop had at his disposal
two large rooms adjoining St. Alipius school which he thought
would provide ample accommodation for the training of sixty
boys. Unfortunately he received a letter four days later
stating that no Brothers would be available to staff a new
school before 1943.
The matter was now becoming urgent because the Apprenticeship
Commission of Victoria had extended its jurisdiction to
Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo in 1940. This meant, that before
obtaining an apprenticeship, Catholic boys had to attend the
Ballarat Junior Technical School to obtain a Junior Technical
Certificate. This problem, together with the
imminent establishment of a large munitions factory in
Ballarat which would employ many people with technical
training, saw a pressing need for a Catholic Technical School.
In the meantime, the Ballarat East Old Boys' Association had
purchased sufficient tools and materials to make a start in
educating boys in technical skills. Classes were held over two
days and two nights and were conducted by Br. C. Robinson and
Messrs. A. Button, A. Newton, W. Stafford and D. Harrington.
On the 16th of May, 1943, Bishop James O'Collins visited the
night classes and gave great praise to the efforts of the
Association and to the instructors in particular.
It became evident that establishing the School at St. Alipius
would be pushing space to the limit as it would require at
minimum a Science room, a Woodwork room, a Metal room and an
Art room. The Rev. Fr. L. Fiscalini, Secretary to the Bishop,
purchased the three houses adjoining the presbytery in Lyons
Street and it was intended to build the school here if no more
suitable site could be obtained. In August 1945, Cooke and Co.
Auctioneers advertised the Lydiard Street site, then known as
Irwins Buildings, for sale by public auction. The Rev. Fr. E.
Glourey noticed the advertisement and notified Bishop
O'Collins who instructed his solicitors to make an offer to
the owner, Williams The Shoeman, of Bridge Street. The offer
was accepted and the building passed into the ownership of the
Roman Catholic Corporation Trust on August 11th 1945, for six
thousand, seven hundred and fifty pounds.
Soon after the purchase, a large number of surplus Air Force
desks were up for sale and these were purchased by Fr. Glowrey
for sixpence each. The price included transport to Ballarat.
They did not fall to pieces during the trip and that,
according to Bro. Cooke, was the only good thing that could be
said about them.
During February 1947, Bishop O'Collins
requested that the Brothers send Br. Bernard Hanley to
Ballarat to inspect the site and draw up suggested floor
plans. He arrived in May from Paddington and co-opted Br. K.
Butler and Bro. W. Cooke. They spent a week in the building
and at night Br. Hanley drew up the suggested floor plan. When
he presented these to the Bishop, His Lordship was very
pleased that something could be none with the old building
Br. Hanley returned to Sydney and the suggested plans were
given to the architects O'Connor & Brophy of Collins Street,
Melbourne. The first problem occured when it was found that
each floor would have to be concrete to conform to
regulations. The re-planning was done by Br. Butler and Br.
Cooke with the assistance of Br. Webster and Br. Kent. After a
number of alterations, these were acceptable to the architects
who proceeded to draw up plans and specifications.
After the floor plans were complete, the Brothers proceeded to
give the architects detailed drawings of all cupboards,
benches, presses and fixtures required for each room.
It was decided to buy all tools and machinery and store them
at Abbotsford. As the war had just finished, it was hard to
get good tools. These purchases necessitated a lot of travel
between Ballarat and Geelong, Bendigo, Hamilton, Coleraine and
During 1947, Br. Butler and Br. Cooke visited Ballarat
regularly to ensure all was going smoothly. Finally on
December 3rd, Strathfield decided that Br. Cooke should take
up residence at St. Patrick's College. He obeyed very promptly
and was soon afterwards appointed Clerk of Works. The first
general foreman was Mr. A. Newton, followed by Mr. W. Brooks.
Too much praise could not be spoken about these two gentlemen.
By the middle of 1948, all floors were poured and Bro. Cooke
took over as general foreman
1948. 1948 started off as a
student's dream with the beginning of school being postponed a
week due to the noise made by
labourers renovating the present front stairway. Each Saturday
during the first several months,
Bro. Cooke went to Melbourne in a truck loaned by the
builders, S. J. Weir, to pick up machines tools and desks
stored at Abbotsford. He was directed by Bishop O'Collins to
alter the building as required to get only the best and when
things were finished, not to come back for more. On a number
of occasion during the year, it was necessary for him to sleep
at the school as some machinery, flooring and fitting could
not be locked up because there were no doors.
1949. Bro. L. W. Cahill was transferred to St. Paul's from St.
Patrick's College. The school was officially opened on the
25th September, 1949, by the Bishop of Ballarat, Dr. J.
Q'Collins who described it as second to none other as a
technical college in the Commonwealth. The function was
attended by many hundreds of people from the Catholic
community. The following article appeared in the Ballarat
"Courier" on Monday, 26th September.