As news recently emerged of the demolition of the historic Hawthorn West Primary School bell tower, Parade College’s iconic equivalent greeted the sun from its newly-relocated vantage point at the Bundoora campus.
The tower - recently repositioned from behind the Rivergum Theatre to a prominent position on Garvey Terrace (on the northern side of the College’s main driveway) - now affords students, staff and teachers an unimpeded view of the structure as they enter Parade from Plenty Road.
Fastened to the top of the steel structure is the old school bell, which for nigh on 100 years summoned students to classes at East Melbourne as it rung true from the south belfry facing Eades Street. The bell was later relocated to Bundoora and affixed to the tower (fashioned by a contractor to the College architect Rene Stella) which was erected in 1967 just prior to the campus's formal opening in February the following year.
‘Spence’ Williams is uniquely placed to discuss the bell and the tower. A student at Flowerdale in its first year of 1953, and a final year student of the ‘Old Bluestone Pile’ in 1960, Spence used to ring the Angelus at East Melbourne on a daily basis for the best part of five years.
In his later life as a physical education/mathematics teacher, Spence was also on hand at Bundoora for the College’s opening at the time the bell was positioned at its new home.
“For memory the bell tower was put up just before the opening day at Bundoora, maybe the year before,” Spence said.
“My memory of the bell at the old bluestone building at East Melbourne is a lot more vivid, because I had to ring the Angelus. The bell was high up above the fourth storey and the rope, which was about an inch in diameter, hung all the way down to the basement where I was.
“I always rang the bell at midday and I used to get out of religious class early to do it.
“The Angelus comprised three rings and a pause, three rings and a pause, and three rings and a pause, followed by nine rings. You had to time the pulling of the rope to get the pauses right because if you didn’t the bell would go ‘ding ding’.
For the record, the Angelis prayer, which can be sourced to 11th century Italy, was designed to commemorate the mystery of the Incarnation and pay homage to Mary's role in salvation history - and has long been part of Catholic life. Old monastic records dating back to the fifteenth century show that the bell-ringer was directed “to toll the Ave-bell nine strokes at three times, keeping the space of one Pater and Ave between each of the three tollings”.
An excellent photograph of the bell tower, in its original setting at Bundoora (to the rear of the site of what is now the Rivergum Theatre), appears here. Another image of the tower appears on page 441 of The Parade Story, in prefacing the stories of the formation of the Alphington and Bundoora campuses.
On the following page, beneath the heading “Along the years”, the book’s author Br. Naughtin wrote:
“From the beginning the dominating feature of the Bundoora Campus was the bell tower, standing in Parade’s new location as a ‘symbol of faith’ and thus proclaiming that the fundamental purpose of the school had not changed with the transfer to a more spacious site. As a link with the years in East Melbourne the new tower housed the old school bell from the ‘Bluestone Pile’. So the Bundoora bell tower is here used as a preface which relate the story of the ultimate amalgamation of senior and junior Parade and the movement of a Catholic school into the modern educational world.”