Julia McCullough (class of 1997)

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Julia with her daughters Caitlin (Year 1), left, and Eliza (Year 5).

When Julia McCullough (nee Skeggs) commenced her education at St Mary’s College in Year 7 in 1992, she was simply carrying on a long and happy family tradition, which continues today with her own daughters. Her grandfather, Leonard Saunders, had already told her about his education at St Columba’s School, St Peter’s School and St Virgil’s College in the 1920s. Julia’s great-great aunt, Claryce Devereaux, was a student at St Mary’s in 1914, and later, Julia’s mother, Diane Saunders, was educated at the College from 1958-65, having commenced in Year 4. Diane’s sister, Sharon, was also educated at St Mary’s.

Julia surely feels the spirits of her ancestors around her at St Mary’s College, in particular her grandfather Leonard, when she teaches in the rooms where he was taught a century ago. There is every possibility that he may have been taught by one of the last of our founding Irish Presentation Sisters in the rooms of St Columba’s School.

Not long after Julia joined Year 7 at St Mary’s College, a very dramatic event occurred:

“When I was in Year 7, the Archbishop announced that we would be the very last students at St Mary’s College as the school was to be closed and to be used for Guilford Young College. This saddened our entire school community greatly; the Year 12 prefects came to speak to us and explained what action we could take. Among other actions, the entire College marched in complete silence through the city streets in a united silent protest. The staff, students, parents and Presentation Sisters fought extremely hard against this decision which was eventually over turned.”

 

Decades later, Julia looks around this fine K-12 school and shudders to think what might have been had it not been for the tenacity of all those who fought to keep the school as it was.

It is obvious from Julia’s words that she threw herself fully into life at the College and immersed herself in the many opportunities on offer. She became heavily involved in sport, participating in netball, athletics and rowing.

When it appeared that rowing was becoming an unsustainable sport, Julia, then in Year 9, together with some friends, attended a ‘Come and Try Day’ and loved it so much that they enrolled at once (and helped save rowing as a St Mary’s sport!).

Julia started rowing in the U16 team, moving on to the Open Eights in Years 10, 11 and 12. Her commitment was rewarded by her appointment in Year 12 as Captain of Boats. Many of her rowing companions remain her lifelong friends.

College was Julia’s House and, of course, is now the House of her two daughters at the school. During her Year 12 year, Julia was very proud to be an elected Prefect.

Julia also threw herself enthusiastically into St Vincent de Paul activities. She was always as a member of her year level committee, and took on more mature involvement as a leader at SVDP Buddy Camps in her later school years. Students involved with Buddy Camps gave up their holidays to attend and to work very hard to provide a wonderful experience for children who might not otherwise have had the chance to enjoy such a holiday.

Julia recalls helping run an enormous Easter raffle one year, making enough funds to stage discos during term time for the Camp children and so, making it possible to maintain extra contact with them with extra opportunities for fun.

Julia’s happy and positive memories of the College are legion. She remembers many happy lunch times with her friends, sharing chocolate glazed donuts and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. She felt that a strong and tangible sense of community and pride pervaded the school and that the opportunities which the school offered her probably even exceeded the hopes and dreams which her parents had of her education.

Among her strong memories are the amazing teachers who taught and nurtured her and who are now her colleagues at the school, including Teresa Klimek, Lorise Clark and Anna Berger. One of her most memorable teachers is Jill Muller, who taught Julia pretertiary English and Sociology in Years 11 and 12.

An enduring memory for Julia is having Sister Barbara taking her small Religious Education class into the Convent living quarters, where they made themselves comfortable on the lounge, watching and cheering the swimming at the Olympic Games. Sister Barbara, always a keen swimmer, loved the swimming races, making for an unforgettable RE lesson.

Julia’s mother also remembered Sister Barbara’s love of swimming. Now in her 92nd year, Sister still enjoys a swim at Kingston Beach in warm weather!

On graduating from St Mary’s College, Julia studied at UTAS, majoring in Psychology and Social Ecology (Medical Science, Sociology and Law), hardly realising at the time how valuable this background would be in teaching. She then completed post-graduate studies in teaching at RMIT and further post-graduate studies at Australian Catholic University.

Her first teaching position was at Hurstbridge Primary School, in a beautiful bushy suburb north of Melbourne. It was here that she feels she learnt the true meaning of resilience: the teachers had to return on the first day to a school which had burnt down, a true example of “growth through adversity” as her Principal said at the time.

In 2006 Julia and her then fiancé Sam relocated to Belfast, staying with his family and teaching and working there. Basing themselves in Belfast, they enjoyed wonderful family time, as well travel in the UK and Europe.

Returning to Hobart the following year, Julia and Sam were married at St Mary’s Cathedral on St Patrick’s Day, no doubt a great day for the Irish! It was poignant for Julia too, to be married in the same church as were her parents and grandparents. Julia felt that she had come full circle this year when she and her daughters celebrated St Patrick’s Day in the Cathedral with the St Mary’s College community.

In fact, it was another St Patrick’s Day celebration which drew Julia back to St Mary’s College: she and her family attended the St Patrick’s Day of fun and hospitality staged as part of the celebrations of our 150th year. Julia loved observing those key Presentation elements of simplicity and hospitality and the welcoming atmosphere: the school uniforms through the ages took her back to a similar fashion parade during her schooldays when the College celebrated its 125th year.

Prior to coming home to St Mary’s as a teacher, Julia spent 16 years teaching students at every year level in Hobart Catholic schools. Her passion for supporting students with additional needs was ignited one year by a Prep student whom she feels taught her far more than she taught him. This experience prompted her to further develop her skills, training in student support, an area of teaching in which she feels that she can utilise her teaching strengths to make a difference in the daily school experience for many children.

Every blessing to Julia, as she continues as an integral part of the St Mary’s community.

Margaret Rootes
Heritage Officer

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