Friday, February 3, 2012

East Brisbane State School

From about the age of nine, I desperately wanted to attend this school, situated on the corner of Stanley St and Wellington Road at East Brisbane. No matter that I lived many kilometers away. It wasn't because of the curriculum or the facilities at the school, but rather what lies behind it in my photograph below. The Brisbane Cricket Ground, better known as...

 The Gabba...
the home of my heroes, the Queensland Sheffield Shield team, and occasionally the home of my super-heroes - the Australian cricket team.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The kids at this school could walk into the Gabba after school and see three hours play.  Plenty of time to see a Slammin' Sam Trimble century or a Peter Allen swing bowling display. Or, if the Gods were generous, a visiting state side, having been put in on a Gabba green-top in the sweltering Brisbane heat, struggling to reach a satisfactory score before the obligatory afternoon thunderstorm. To make matters worse, I don't think those kids had to pay! Meanwhile, I would have to race home on my bicycle to turn on the wireless (that means radio!) and listen to Clive Harburg or Alan McGilvray describe the action. At least I could go to the Gabba on the weekend to soak up the action, and I did that many, many times.
(Photo: Queensland Government; "The Pocket Queensland", 1921)

The East Brisbane State School was built in 1899 for £1800. There must have been a degree of embarrassment when the school opened though - the state government had estimated that it would need to accommodate 350 students, but on opening day in July 1899 there were more than 800 pupils; by the end of that year the number was in excess of 1,000!

It was clear that extra room was required, and a further £2,323 was spent over the next two years to add more classroom space as well as the bell tower visible in the photographs. The bell tower contains the bell from the SS Melbourne, donated to the school by the shipping company AUSN in 1910.

The school continued to grow in the early twentieth century, with an infants' wing being added in 1910-11 and further classrooms constructed at the end of the 1930s. 

The suburb surrounding the school has changed over the ensuing decades, and so has the school. The school's web site says that the current enrolment is about 240 students from 35 different cultural backgrounds.

Click here for a Google Map.



  1. Although the front of the school is covered in trees, the main building looks terrific. That suggests it was either designed nicely back in 1899 or it has been well renovated recently. Yet the number of students has gone down to a quarter of its peak. Have young families moved into other suburbs?

    I know exactly what you are saying about childhood passions! When my children were young, we lived half a k from the StKilda football ground. Every home game they could walk to the ground and get in for free, as long as they waited until half time.

  2. I was surprised at that number too.

    The houses in this area are small. The original subdivision had allotments as small as 12 perches.

    East Brisbane was always known as a working class and light industrial area, but like most near-city suburbs, it's gradually being gentrified. I guess that means DINKs.

  3. Interesting story--thank you!

    Life is just not fair, is it? I live near the Gabba, but would much rather live in Teneriffe--my favourite suburb!


  4. My two Sons both went to East Brisbane, when my eldest son started back in 1997, they had bought in a principle for the year, who was known for coming to schools to help them transition. That is close them down. Back them the student numbers were about 160 if I remember correctly and expected to fall. Luckily the parents put a good fight and the school was saved as a going concern. Of course every year after 1998 the numbers going to the school ticked up as young families started to move into the area for its closeness to the city and charm of the concentrated numbers of Queenslanders in such a confined space around Vulture st,Stanley st and Wynnum Rd in the suburb of East Brisbane. Exactly the opposite of what the various state government bureaucrats argued would happen at the many meetings held through the year.
    On things to be jealous of, each year's sports day was conducted on the Gabba. The year Steve Harminson bowled his famous first ball to second slip. My husband, our two sons and I were in the crowd, but more than watching the cricket my second son,who was by then in grade four or five had the most fun at little lunch and big lunch, shouting down to his mates who were stuck at school. Finally the belfry was restored when our kids were there and each student at the school got a chance to ring the bell once all the work was done.

  5. @Veronica: the grass is always greener, I guess! :-)

    @Katherine: thanks for those comments - great to hear from someone who has personal experience of the suburb.

  6. Unlike you, I did attend EBSS, but a bit earlier than you could have, 1948-56. The BCG was wasted on me, as I had no interest in cricket then, and what interest I later had dissipated after the tied test against the West Indies, and when Queensland finally won the Sheffield Shield (by which time I was living in Canberra). Others in the school were otherwise inclined; teachers could and did see into the cricket grounds from the back verandah of the upper storey, and some boys entered the grounds during the lunch hour through an opening in the corrugated iron fence and emerged via the gate with a pass-out that enabled them to return 'legitimately', after school, through one of the public entrances.

    In my last year there, I got to be one of the bell monitors, climbing half-way up the helical ladder in the bell tower, at half-hourly intervals to pull the bell rope to toll a change of period or the end or the beginning of the school day. There was a room at the top, accessible only via that ladder, unless you were a pigeon. I never saw it used for anything, perhaps for obvious reasons.

    Mervyn Doobov, Jerusalem, Israel

  7. Regarding the fall in students, I would guess that as well as the gentrification of the neighbourhood, acceptable class numbers would have fallen dramatically since Victorian times. They would have crammed 60 or 70 to a class back then, easy. With no air conditioning or fans... and they were the lucky ones!

    Really interesting post and comments. Love it!

  8. I went there in the 1970s (1971-77), following my brother and sister (1958-1967), my father (1930s) and my grandfather (1901-1908). Now my Japanese-born stepchildren are there, discovering a new language and a new culture.

    The school lost 12% of its land area to the cricket ground redevelopment in the late 1990s, and became a specialist school for ESL. I'm told by teacher friends of mine that it is the best primary school -- public or private -- in Queensland for ESL education.

    Student numbers there are now capped at 285. The school cannot have any more than that number.

    Until the 1990s, the cricket ground was largely off-limits for the school. We would watch through the cyclone-wire fence as the GPS schools held their sporting carnivals on the cricket ground, but we had to march up to Raymond (Pineapple) Park for our sportsdays.

    But we were able to go and watch the final session of Sheffield Shield and Test Matches (on Monday afternoons) for free, as the gate between the school and the cricket ground was left open at that time and the ticket booth was unstaffed for the final session.

    And the cricket ground's practice nets were next to the school, so we could watch through the fence as the home and visiting players (this was the era of Lillee, Thompson, Viv. Richards, Geoffrey Boycott et. al) perfecting their craft.

    Now the school is overshadowed by the tall and bare back wall of the cricket ground's eastern grandstand, and the school's truncated sports field is used as a vomitorium for the cricket and football ground's spectators.

    1. Hi there. i see you were at EBSS from 71-77 the same time as my brother and I. Not sure if you knew Greg Russell, Jerry Wilson, Roy Wilke etc.? cheers T. Panuve

  9. Hi, did anyone go to this school in the 1950's? If so please contact me - I now live in London. I was there around 1952 - 1957 approx. Then many years after as a student of home science (cooking etc., ) went there from Greenslopes State School for our cooking class. I in particular would like to find Maria Christie, whose parents owned the Christies Café. Would love to hear from anyone who was there then.

  10. My grandmother went to this school in 1907. I attended there, along with my older sister and younger brother for 7 years, from 1963 - 1970, completing my primary school years there. (Harrington: Karen, Susan & Morris). I remember the Bell Tower very well, as not being a sports person, my girlfriend and I both in year 7, were given the task of cleaning out all the "junk"" of a Friday afternoon during sports. We had so much fun up there laughing and giggling and prolonged the task for many Fridays! While I was there, we acquired one new building which became the Music room and it was built opposite the swimming pool. Oh, the Friday night carnivals at the swimming pool were fabulous, so much fun! The march down Wellington road to Raymond park for our sports day in our team "Houses" and the march past in the parade grounds of the school in front of the Principal to gain points to be the overall winner of the day. Sports day was the highlight of the year!! I have only fond memories of this school and was so pleased to hear that it survived closure.
    Susan Manton nee Harrington

  11. Thanks for the personal stories - they bring history to life!

  12. I remember going to E.B.S.S.where we were taught ballroom dancing 0n the parade ground, so we were ready for our fancy dress ball held at cloudland. they were the days.I left the year before the swimming pool opened. and after selling so many raffle tickets. Ronald Lyons

  13. I went to EBSS from 1962 to 1966 after transferring over from Kangaroo Point State School. In those days there were always 2 classes per grade and in 1966 (Grade 7) because of the numbers there were 3.
    Across the road from the school was the Palm's chutney factory. when they were cooking the strong smell of the chutney wafted over us. My young self found it overpowering. But down Wellington Road towards Logan road was the Vita Brits factory.This smell also wafted over us. A much more pleasant smell.
    The highlight of the year was the Sports Carnival. As mentioned we marched down Wellington Road to Raymond{Pineapple)park. Before the big day we would practice our marching around the quadrangle.
    Each morning we would have an assembly in the quadrangle. Mondays were especially good because announcements would be made by the sporting teams that had played the previous Friday afternoon

  14. Went to EBSS 1960 to 1964. Things I remember are: Principle Mr Paterson, who quite often used the cane as punishment;teachers Miss Kerr, Mrs Dickens and music teacher Mr Thomas; warm milk delivered to each class daily;using slate pencils on slate boards; the dark corner underneath; learning how to weave wicker cane, wetting the long strands of cane in the long drinking troughs; sports houses Lawson (red), Kendall ( green),Gordon (blue),Paterson (yellow); I remember my Mum sewing strips of red on each side of my white shorts for the annual sports day; playing hand ball against the hugh brick wall near the manual arts building;walking to and from school about a kilometre without any thought of being unsafe. Great memories.

  15. Cheryl Sayer-Schache 18th March 2017
    I was a Student at East Brisbane Srat Schpol in 1967 along with my Sister and Brother.
    Back when we were drlivered milk each day.
    I still remember the sound of the Bell when we were to present at Parade , grade 1 to the front followed by 2, 3 ,4 etc.
    I remember learning to swim in its pool, along with our Sport day colors and names .Patterson ( yellow ) lawson ( Red ) Gorden (blue ) Kendall ( green ). I enjoyed and have many fond memories from my 7 years spent at that school, i can even Remember my year 5 teacher....Mr Day.

  16. I was a student there from 1988 until finishing year 7 in 1992. I loved my teachers and have the fondest memories of my time there. Admittedly, the bell tower used to always give me the creeps as did the dungeon.

  17. Hi i went to east brisbane state primary from 1976 / 77 thru to 1982 / 83.would anyone have the old class / year photos???

  18. I gave taught at EBSS regularly in recent years. The fabric of the school is in very good condition with many plaques, photos and rolls on the walls from bygone years. Year 6 students (as stated above) are allowed to ring the bell and leave a letter for themselves in the bell tower which they can come back and visit in future years. As with many schools in this area, there is a lot of parent involvement but the demographic is changing with so many units going up, and this is bringing in a lot more students where English is not their primary language, or even spoken at all. A nice school to teach in.

  19. I was a pupil at East Brisbane State School from 1959 to 1961, beginning in grade three. I can never forget Mr. Patterson standing on parade every morning in his ridiculous safari suit, but luckily I was too young to be one of those unfortunate boys he would yell at each morning to go and stand outside his office every morning to wait for punishment by the cane. Miss Kerr (Grade three teacher), had a special ruler with metal strip inserted in it, with which she hit pupils on the hand. She threatened me with it one day because I pronouced the word "married" in my normal West Country English accent.I tried three or four times to copy her way, but failed, so decided that, as I was about to be strck with her punishment device, I might as well be hit for a good reason, so I parodied her accent, making it sound, I thought, ridiculous . "There", she said, lowering her punishment device, "I knew all along you could do it." East Brisbane State School, 1959 to 196-; the cane, gangs in the playground, teachers addicted to meteing out corporal punishment....I met a young lady at a party along time ago who said to me, "Oh, you went to East Brisbane State Scool! We did a study of that at Uni as an example of education through violence!"

  20. I was there 1956-1961. Are you sure the head master was not called "Patton" as I seem to remember. There was a younger teacher Miss Smith who taught grade 4 and an oldr Mrs Smith who taught grade 3 (in 1956) and a Mr Clark. Robert Brown

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  22. I attended EBSS from 1963 until 1969 as did my older sister and younger brother. My mother was a student at the school in the 1930’s as well. I can relate to many of the comments posted by other former students who attended the school at roughly the same time. In fact I recognize the names of some of the people who posted. They were in my classes. Some of my teachers included: Mr. Day; Ms Kerr; Mr. Winning. Mr. Topping was the deputy principal and Mr. Patton was the principal during the years I attended the school. I would watch the cricket games at the Gabba through the chain link fence. I remember the old incinerator behind the girls toilet block and playing “four square” underneath the school on rainy days. I swam at the swim meets on Friday nights and I played cricket for the school on Friday afternoons. Those were good days for me.

  23. Yes I had Topping, a lovely man, for grade 7 and grade 8 in 1960-61.
    And yes Patton was the headmaster. Reminded me of President Rooseveldt with his rimless glasses as I recall.
    When mum took me there to register for grade 3 as a 9 year old in 1956, I remember being questioned by Patton, probably a standard "What are 3 times 4" or whatever. And he then wrote stuff in a book in front of me which of course I wasn't privy to at the time. Unbelievably about 63 years later through the power of the internet I was able to find and view that registration entry in his own handwriting done on that day. It was truly like going back in a time machine. rgds Robert Brown


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