How did I fit into this environment? I was the son of a farmer who, because of his aging mother’s Alzheimer’s disease and his own alcoholism, lost the farm to the bank. Consequently, he became a pauper and was unable to afford my schooling. However, his sister was a “reverend mother: in the convent, also in Ballarat East. This fact was obviously to my advantage in gaining admission to Villa.
My term of 7 1/2 years at Villa was a mixed one, with numerous ups and downs, yet at its conclusion I passed my Merit Certificate, I also obtained a scholarship which provided me with secondary education and accommodation at St Patrick’s College, a boy’s boarding school, also in Ballarat.
Happy memories of Villa do not come readily, although of a weekend we would often go on walks in the beautiful surrounds of the Ballarat countryside. I recall having fires into which we would throw potatoes and roast them, splurging them with the ever-available butter. Ever available because the nuns ran a farm ion conjunction with the school. The farm provided milk, butter, potatoes, fruit and vegetables and was a distraction from more mundane doings.
On the darker side, as a tiny slip of a kid I rarely ate my meals. As a result, I would regularly be forced to stay behind in the dining room while other kids had gone out to play. I did, however, have a stroke of luck in that some how a packet of envelopes came into my possession. Yes, I would wait until all the other kids had gone out to play and surreptitiously fill an envelope with my uneaten meal. The envelope would eventually find its way into the incinerator. All very good until I was caught out!
The nuns placed large import on their straps as a means of punishment. Sister Brendan claimed to have a strap 6 feet in length. Or it was until she broke it on me!
Sister Brendan also possessed a nasty streak in her character. She took a disliking to my brother, Basil. She took it out on the “horse”. Remember the “springboard” and the “horse” gymnastics! Well, Basil did not shine in gymnastics, and she chose to show him up in front of the whole school. I was quite adept at this sport and she decided to pit him against me. As was to be expected, he performed very poorly and I was in good form. I won’t say I did it deliberately, but I managed, as I hurdled the horse, to kick her fair and square in the mouth. I can still see the imprint of my wet sand shoe on her face. Poetic justice!
The above are a couple of poorer examples over my term at Villa. There were many other incidents, both good and otherwise, but I must admit that the nuns, obviously, despite all their faults, gave me a sound grounding for what has turned out to be a fulfilling life.
25 May, 2020