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Aidan’s gift sheds light on unique College connection

With the 50th anniversary of the opening of Parade Bundoora looming, Year 8 student Aidan McElligott thought the timing right to hand over to the archive photographs of the campus’s first Principal Br. Bill Greening, which had been in the family’s keep for more than 40 years.

There are two photographs – an undated black and white image of Br. Greening and a lady believed to be his mother Iona; and a 1973 color portrait thought to have been taken within the grounds of the College.

The latter photo carries the following inscription;

“To Mrs. Grimmer,
With personal thanks and prayerful good wishes.
From Brother Greening”

Fourteen year-old Aidan said that he was recently given the photographs by his grandmother Merle Swale.

“Because my grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease, my grandmother has got to the stage where she’s clearing the house and finding old photos – and these were amongst them,” Aidan said.

“These were actually photos that belonged to my great grandmother . . . the family has no use for them now, and I thought they best belonged to the College.”

But how did the photographs end up with the McElligott clan in the first place?

Aidan’s mother Georgina explained that her son’s great grandmother was the Christian Brothers’ housekeeper through those first few years of the Bundoora campus’ existence.

“My grandmother kept house for the brothers and cooked all their dinners,” Georgina said. “Her name was Florence Grimmer, but we called her ‘Nanna Colly’ because she lived at Parade College back then. Later on she relocated to St Mark’s Parish in Fawkner where for four years she worked as housekeeper in the presbytery.”

Florence then retired to Rosebud, but health issues forced her return to Melbourne where she died in February 1999. The two photographs were in her keep for many years before being handed down to Merle.

Georgina remembered her mother telling her that the woman pictured in the black and white photograph was Br. Greening’s mother.

“My mother showed the photos to Aidan and said ‘That’s Br. Greening, first Principal of Parade Bundoora – you should have these photographs’ – and Aidan then thought he should hand them over to the College.”

Br. Greening is still alive. At 89, the Newcastle-born Christian Brother lives quietly in Sydney.

He is fondly remembered by former students like Phil Carter. Now a member of the Old Paradians’ Association committee, Phil was schooled at Parade Alphington, East Melbourne and Bundoora through a nine-year period until 1969, the year he captained the College.

“Bill coached me in the Under 19s football team of 1966. I was full-back in a great side that was one of Bill’s crowning glories, because it went through the year undefeated,” Phil said.

“Bill was a terrific administrator, a great educator and a great bloke. When I left school he found out that I had to leave ‘Uni’ because of nervous troubles. He rang me and got me out to Bundoora for dinner, and he told me: ‘Just because you’ve left school doesn’t mean we don’t care about you anymore’ - and I thought that was really nice.”

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