Past students Helen Smith, Rachel Koster, Lori Crofts, Amy Ezzy and Maree Koster with Joy Mary (Sister Edith) and Zyah Koster at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School Gayndah's centenary celebrations on September 14.
Past students Helen Smith, Rachel Koster, Lori Crofts, Amy Ezzy and Maree Koster with Joy Mary (Sister Edith) and Zyah Koster at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School Gayndah's centenary celebrations on September 14. Alex Treacy

Sister Edith steals the show at centenary celebrations

SCATTERED all across the St Joseph's School oval in Gayndah on Saturday were loose groups of past and current students, teachers and parents, enjoying the sunshine and each other's company.

Some had not seen each other for decades.

But one group throughout the day seemed larger and busier than most - the group formed around 92-year-old Joy Mary who, when she was principal of St Joseph's from 1985-90, was known as Sister Edith, of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan order.

Ms Mary, who has retired to Marsfield, in Sydney's northern suburbs, made the trip back especially with family.

Originally from Sydney, Ms Mary remembered well her welcome to St Joseph's.

"They called me a city slicker, they would try and put one over me,” Ms Mary said.

"It was my first adventure into a country area.

"When I first arrived, I came by train to Brisbane, stepped straight into a car and drove here.

"I thought I would never, ever get here.

"'Where is it? Where is it?' I kept thinking.”

Coming from Sydney, where there were eisteddfods and other cultural pursuits every other week, Ms Mary said she tried to introduce St Joseph's to the world of high culture.

"We tried to put a performance on for Anzac Day, a poem called 'Two Clocks',” she said.

"One went fast and the other went slow. Well, they made a mess of it.

"I ended up laughing, of course they all ended up flat on the floor.

"It took me a little while to realise I was at a country school.”

Ms Mary said the attempted teaching went both ways.

"I didn't know much about cattle, I had to learn about the cattle otherwise the boys walked over me,” she said.

A debate was set up between local farmers to educate Ms Mary.

The topic? Bos indicus versus bos taurus cattle.

"But they soon taught me,” she said.

Ms Mary said it had been a "joy” to return to her old school.

"You have a very special relationship to people when you come to a country school,” she said.

One familiar face for Ms Mary was past student Rachel Koster, who Ms Mary taught in Year 5 and 6.

"She was awesome, she had a really good sense of humour,” Ms Koster said.

"Sometimes she would reprimand us and then she'd walk out the back and we'd see her crack up laughing so we knew she wasn't really too worried about us.

"She taught in really creative ways, she always had a little story or item to show or performance.”

Ms Koster saw Sydney for the first time with Ms Mary, who took students on a class visit to see her hometown.

The schoolgirl was taken by her teacher.

"I was going to be a nun because of her,” Ms Koster laughed.

"But then I went to high school.”

Ms Mary wasn't the only former principal who returned to Gayndah for the celebrations.

Lawrie Knott (1997-2001), the school's third lay principal, made the trip up from Brisbane, where he works as an education consultant.

Former principal Lawrie Knott at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School Gayndah's centenary celebrations on September 14.
Former principal Lawrie Knott at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School Gayndah's centenary celebrations on September 14. Alex Treacy

"It's a wonderful community to work in (St Joseph's), as is Gayndah as a town,” Mr Knott said.

"It's all part of the Gayndah ethic, it's a very strongly supportive community, a bit different from big city schools where you're just another person there.

"Here, every person holds a special place.

"Gayndah holds very fond memories for us.

My children were seven and two when we moved here, and they were 14 and nine when left.

"Tt was the best childhood for them to grow up in Gayndah.”



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