Paul Niall, a final year student of Parade’s Class of 1971, has returned to the Bundoora Campus to bequeath the first Life Membership certificate and medallion awarded by the College’s Ladies Auxiliary to his late mother 45 years ago.

Dated November 1, 1974, the certificate, carrying the signatures of the then Parade College Principal Br. Frank McCarthy and Ladies Auxiliary President Patricia Milroy, was presented to Mary Ellen Niall, the inaugural Ladies’ Auxiliary President at Bundoora in 1968.

Paul recalled that he joined his four brothers Michael, Peter, Christopher and Martin – all schooled at Parade – when their mother was presented with Life Membership on Speech Night at Dallas Brooks Hall. He also noted that his mother’s uncles – the Healys – were also schooled at the ‘Old Bluestone Pile’ in the late 1800s.

“Mum committed her energies to the old tuck shop in at East Melbourne, then got involved in 1963 when I started out at Parade Prep. (in Alphington). Dad died that year, they were tough times and those who were in the Ladies Auxiliary were very good to Mum,” Paul said.

“The ladies were very close. Mum, Judy McDonald and Fran Dowlan were known as ‘Mrs Purple’, ‘Mrs Green’ and ‘Mrs Blue’. Vin Monagle was Principal at Alphington, and Vin and Mum went to primary school together.

“Mum put a lot into her work at Parade, but she got a lot out of it . . . and she was pretty chuffed about Life Membership.”

Mary and her fellow Ladies’ Auxiliary members gave generously of their time to assist the College in a myriad of ways, whether assisting student dances and staff luncheons, supervising entrance exams or committing to theatre nights.

In the 1974 edition of The Paradian, Br. McCarthy noted: “I commend to you all the twenty-four years of unbroken service given to the school by Mrs. Mary Niall who recently retired from the post as Secretary. I offer you the thanks of the Brothers and the blessing of God on this tremendous contribution to School life”.

Pat Milroy, in her report, noted that with the retirements of women like Judy McDonald, Edna Collins and Mary through 1973 and ’74, “to some extent I feel this is the end of an era, as these families have been part of the life of Parade for 15 to 20 years, many of their sons bringing honor to Parade while attending the College and the useful lives they have led since”.

Mary, who passed away three years ago, would have celebrated her 100th birthday this Sunday (November 24) – and with the passing of time, Paul thought it fitting to return his mother’s certificate and medal to the College.

As he said: “I thought these things might be more significant to the Parade community going forward”.