College History

The heritage of this College would probably be the most rich and diverse of any school in Australia.
Our College is one of the few that can boast a tradition based on almost 180 years of excellence in education. Thousands of successful past students, both boys and girls, girls till 1967, can attest to this proud tradition of education on the St. Mary’s site.
Our heritage fosters an environment that accepts each person’s uniqueness and brings with them special gifts and talents, where each member of the College community is nurtured in a caring environment where positive relationships between staff and students are forged. The friendly yet respectful demeanour of the students is truly indicative of this unique St.Mary’s College climate.
Now as a leading Catholic Systemic College for boys in Years 3 to 12 with choir students also attending in Years 3-6, it offers:

  • A commitment to the wellbeing of the whole person through academic and pastoral care
  • Academic excellence;
  • A strong emphasis on religious education and Christian service;
  • The fullest possible development of each student:
    • Intellectual
    • Physical
    • Social
    • Emotional
    • Aesthetic
    • Vocational
    • Moral
  • Excellent sports coaching and achievement;
  • Quality music education.

St. Mary’s Cathedral College is founded in the Christian Brothers tradition and administered by Sydney Catholic Schools, Eastern Region. The Christian Brothers association with the school dates back to 1911.

Catholic education on the same site as St Mary’s Cathedral has been continuous since the 1820’s, except during the construction of the existing College buildings and the associated Bishops’ quarters (1987-1991). Schools on the site have been provided with staff by the Benedictine Monks (1824-1882), the Marist Brothers (1883-1910), Sisters of Charity (1883-1967), lay teachers, Christian Brothers and now our College is being led by our first lay principal, Mr. Michael Kelleher with lay staff.

In 1910 Cardinal Moran wrote to Br Barron (Christian Brother’s Provincial) “to send 5 Brothers to staff St Mary’s Parochial Primary School”. In 1911 4 Christian Brothers took up the invitation and were responsible for teaching Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth boy classes. This was to be the beginning of a long and fruitful association between the Christian Brothers and St Mary’s Cathedral that continues to this day. In this time the Brothers have witnessed and been responsible for many changes.

In 1912 the 3-story school building was completed with Christian Brother’s Boys School on the ground floor and the Sister of Charity Girls School on the other floors.
By 1914 a fourth floor was added to the building, which was the Brother’s residence.
By 1916 the primary school education (years 3 to 6) initially requested of the Christian Brothers had been extended to the Intermediate certificate level with the presentation of students for these external examination established by the 1910 Labor Government. Primary education and High School education to the Intermediate Certificate remained the main emphasis of education till 1945 when the leaving certificate was firmly established.

Even before the Christian Brothers association with St Mary’s Cathedral demographic changes in the inner city associated with commercialization and industrialisation were causing the population to decline and having an affect on enrolments. To overcome falling enrolments the Cathedral school became more dependent on enrolments of students from anywhere in the Sydney geographical basin. This coupled with the proposed building of new secondary schools at Rose Bay, Bondi Beach, Daceyville and Pagewood for the mid 1940s led Br. Gygar Principal (1938 -1942) to seek and gain registration of the school as the “Cathedral Choir School”. This enabled students to obtain rail and bus concessions from any part of the metropolitan area to travel to St Mary’s Cathedral and to pass other secondary schools on the way. This change in registration ensured sufficient enrolments after the building of the pre-mentioned schools. However the title “Christian Brothers High School, St Mary’s Cathedral” persisted until the adoption “St Mary’s Cathedral College”.

In 1947 the school was granted full Secondary School Certification and Registration under the Bursary Endowment Board. 1947 also saw the inauguration of the house competition system a competition that still exists today.

Together with all other high schools in NSW the Wyndham Scheme was introduced in 1962. Perhaps the most serious consequence of this change was the additional classrooms that had to be provided as the duration of secondary schooling increasing from five to six years. Additional classrooms were partly provided by taking over the remaining first floor classrooms, a process started in the 1940’s as enrolments at the Girls school run by the Sisters of Charity declined. As an interim measure two rooms in the Chapter Hall were used for Form One secondary boys in 1963 and for Form 2 in the following year. Extra rooms were provided in 1964 when the Charity Sisters had a demountable building put on the north side of building for Kindergarten, First and Second classes. Other classrooms were provided at St. Benedict’s Broadway for the boys in Fourth, Fifth and Sixth classes, until a new building to provide Science laboratories and extra classrooms started in 1965 was completed in 1968.

In 1973 an extra floor was added to the building. This floor was named the Cardinal Freeman Resource Centre (school library) an old boy of the school.
1968 also marked the end of an era with girl education no longer being provided on the St Mary’s site and the boys school taking over the top floors. The girls’ Commercial classes were transferred to the Charity Sisters’ site at Paddington.

During the principalship of Br Hall (1973 – 1978) SCS closed the primary section of the school. The closing of the primary school had the potential to cause serious problems for St Mary’s Cathedral Choir as the school had traditionally provided the boy sopranos for the choir and altar boys for St Mary’s Cathedral. As a concession, SCS allowed the school to maintain a combined year 5/6 class with a maximum of 30 boys as long as each boy was a member of the St Mary’s Cathedral Choir. The combined year 5/6 class continues to be an integral part of the College to this day but it has expanded as Bishop Fisher has sought to expand the choir. We now house a Primary cohort from Years 3-6 and they are a much loved and very dynamic part, of our College structure.
In December 1981, the Brothers were forced to vacate the residence on the top floor of the main building as fire regulations meant it could no longer be used as a residence.
Fire regulations and building regulations requirements by the 1980’s meant the 1912 building, that housed the majority of classrooms, had “passed its used by date”. Br Hoffman, Principal (1985 – 2000) and his executive team looked at all possible alternatives before making the critical decision that the 1912 building had to be demolished.
You can see images of the old buildings here.

Waverton building

To utilize the site to its full potential the executive decided to demolish every building and start afresh. This created a number of problems; the major one, involved finding a suitable alternative interim site for the education of students while work at the existing site took place. It is recognized that Archbishop Edward J Clancy (1983 – 1988) actively supported Br. Hoffman and his executive in his final decision.

1992 building

Finding a city or inner city building that was sufficiently large and could be readily converted into a school for a short time was “a big ask”. In addition a school needed some playground area. Br. Hoffman was not daunted by the challenge and investigated a number of sites. Br. quickly came to the conclusion that the disused Naval storage sheds and associated grounds at Waverton were suitable. Br. had the necessary plans drawn up, gained the needed approval and had work done to meet the school’s requirements. In 1987 our school was to become St Mary’s Cathedral School, Waverton to the end of 1991.
1992 saw the school return to the St Mary’s site and the school being renamed St Mary’s Cathedral College.

2001 school building & St Mary’s Cathedral

The College enters the 21st Century with a second to none educational tradition, optimistic that the total College community will come to see that the College as “home”, where uniqueness is recognised, unique talents are nurtured and developed to their full in a caring environment where relationships form an integral part of our care of these fine young men. The College will continue to provide ample opportunity for experiences that will assist the student in his growth towards spiritual, emotional and intellectual maturity, so that they become responsible members of society.