Ed Hay’s Speech

Mr Peter Daniels, President of the Canberra Grammar School Old Boys Union, Headmaster, honoured guests, Veterans, old boys and partners.

I would particularly like to welcome the class of 68 and those that may have left before 68, but were still part of all of our school experiences. It is wonderful to see so many of you here tonight and we all thank the group of organisers for their efforts this weekend in bringing us all together – no easy task. Fred, Wayne, the three Peters and Geoff, thank you.

It is with some surprise, albeit a pleasant one, to be asked to night to propose the toast to the School. There are many more capable people in the class of 1969 that should be undertaking this task tonight. However, on this our fortieth anniversary, I guess that the captain of school still has some duties he is required to reluctantly perform.

First in the spirit of reconciliation I would like to apologise to all of you whose time at school included 1968 and your school days were saddened by any excesses I may have perpetrated. My only excuse is that I did not know any better.

I am the fifth member of my extended family to be involved with the school:

  • My brother, Geoffrey’s, father in law was at the school in its very early days;
  • Geoffrey and I attended almost continuously from 1959 to 1975;
  • Geoffrey’s son, William, left only 3 years ago; and
  • My father was a board member in the early 70s.

So we have seen enormous change in all aspects of the school.

Any reunion, and this is my first for some thirty years, opens the flood gates of memories, some good, some less so, and I have been reminded of many more over the past two days. Most if not all cannot be repeated. Perhaps a few a little later!

It is worth reflecting on what it was like as we left school in 1968:

  • Universities had no fees and HECs was many years away;
  • National service or giving it its correct name, conscription, was upper most in our minds – or perhaps its avoidance was our goal;
  • Our drugs of choice were alcohol and nicotine with perhaps a little grass;
  • Booze buses, speed cameras and even traffic lights were yet to dictate our lives;
  • The wallabies thought that the best way to win test matches was to kick possession away; and
  • Richmond and Carlton were more often than not vying for the flag.
  • How times have changed and I wonder how well we were prepared for the rest of our lives.

The school’s bricks and motor were substantial, yet we sat on chairs at desks, both made in the school workshop of metal pipes and wood off-cuts, in class rooms that were inadequately heated, let alone cooled, being taught by teachers, at best described as interesting characters. I vividly recalled more than one occasion where bricks prized out of the fire place sailed back and forth across the classroom directly in front of one teacher, who shall remain nameless. Not to mention using the desks for firewood. There is one story of a teacher, who again will remain nameless, some boys and a javelin! And another teacher with a qantas bag that somehow clinked as he walked, as if it had bottles in it! Surely not!

It is worth referring to a quote from the 1968 Canberran referring to the 1st fifteen, but it equally applies to all the class of 1968 – ‘It is true that occasionally the team relaxed. However, once the pressure was really on both forwards and backs fought back doggedly, backing up strongly both in defence and attack.’ Remember this team was the first to remain undefeated in the history of the school and the celebrations are still remembered today by us all. The class of 68 was a much larger team, but just as prepared to relax until it was almost too late.

Yet at the end of it all we got through – some more happily than others, but nonetheless we all succeeded in our own way. I sometimes wonder whether it was despite the school, but as I age, I give a little more credit to the school.

In contrast the school today looks magnificent, and from what my nephew tells me, it is almost run on democratic lines. Consultation with students takes place, choice is abundant and students can even choose from a curriculum that is driven by need as well as scores in final exams. Something that was unheard of in 1968. Teachers are well able to teach. It almost makes me wish I could do it all again – no that’s not true.

So what has happened – as the world has got more complicated and dangerous, the school has not battened down the hatches resorting to age old solutions of discipline, but rather has increased freedom of choice, access to information, exchange of ideas and individual responsibility, trusting in young men to make informed decisions. Those attending the school now are extremely lucky and I applaud the school for its enlightened approach to educating our future leaders.

Before proposing the toast I ask the President’s indulgence for just a little longer. There is one other matter that I would like to refer to tonight.

It is not often that a speaker has a captive audience that includes both old boys and their partners. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to speak in support of a cause which is extremely close to my heart.

For those of you that follow AFL football you will be aware that there has been much media comment about the health of Sam Newman. I hope that we can put football rivalries aside for a moment and be pleased that his operation for prostate cancer was successful. However, not all of us suffering from prostate cancer can be as lucky. Each year 3 000 men die from prostate cancer – the same, as the number of women that die from breast cancer and 18 700 are diagnosed each year. These are frightening statistics. There is a vital message in this and it is that early detection is the key, don’t wait. We men have made this almost a silent killer.

It would be a truly wonderful educational institution that taught men to be open about their health and discuss it with as much vigour as they do the football results. Perhaps that is something for the next curriculum.

A school is much more than the sum of its parts – the infrastructure, the teachers, the curriculum and the students make up the visible part, but what truly makes a school an outstanding institution is its ethos, integrity and values, and its capacity to impart these to its community and creating an environment where friendships made last a lifetime. From my experience of my old school friends and from what I have seen and heard, the school succeeds in doing this.

I would therefore ask that you now stand, raise your glass and toast the school.

2 responses to “Ed Hay’s Speech”

  1. Fred Barnes says:

    Well said Edward.
    I must admit to having a selective memory; I remember the funny occasions, the memorable and eventful happenings, the characters, friends, hi jinx and the common foe! Much the same as my time in the CMF/Army Reserve. Along with someone else at the reunion, who also remembered, we were not burdened with the heavy responsibility of authority.

    I remember my time at school fondly. I had a good time, probably too good a time.

  2. I endorse Ed’s comments and mention that among my fondest memories of my time at the school, ’67 & ’68, were the several trips to the snow with Ed with our own skis. Just he and I would drive south at 5am in my 1951 side valve Morris Minor and have breakfast at the base of the snow lifts then have a day of skiing and drive back to Canberra the same evening. I feel privileged to have known Ed and quite sad at not having seen him since. See you in the spirit world old friend!

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