Online Exhibition for St Augustine’s Boys’ Home Boxing and Wrestling Teams

 

The Manly Art of Self Defence

 

The teaching of boxing at Christian Brothers Boys’ Homes was a normal practice up till the end of WWII. However, the manly art of self-defence as it was called lasted longer at St Augustine’s Boys’ Home in Geelong up till the late 1960s when they won many championships.

St Augustine’s Boys’ Orphanage in Geelong had facilities to play a wide range of sports, e.g., cricket, football, basketball, baseball, tennis, along with a full gymnasium for boxing and wrestling. This online exhibition is about the very successful boxing and wrestling teams from St Augustine’s Boys Home.

The St Augustine’s boxing and wrestling teams travelled around Victoria and interstate for competitions in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The Geelong advertiser carried headlines such as “St Augustine’s won 27 medals,” in the state Amateur Boxing and Wrestling Championships at Caulfield Youth Centre.

“Jonno” pictured here (left) as a young boy was in St Augustine’s tells of going to Festival Hall in Melbourne to compete in boxing bouts.

These boxing and wrestling bouts were often fundraising events for the orphanages however, they produced holders of state championships as the article (right) describes.

 

Annual Competitions between St Augustine’s Boys Home and St Vincent de Paul’s Home in South Melbourne.

 

Huge crowds attended annual boxing championships and repeatedly showered the ring with coins. St Augustine’s boys would very often distinguish themselves in both boxing and wrestling at these annual events. There was always strong barracking for both teams.

These competitions were well covered in newspapers in both Geelong and Melbourne commending the toughness of all boys in the bouts who often ended up with gory noses and black eyes. They earned their coins!

 

 

The Australian Orphanage Museum was given a donation of boxing and wrestling trophies and medals, plus some newspaper articles by Care Leaver Cyril Ellis.

Cyril Ellis on the left in a boxing match.

 

Cyril Ellis was in St Augustine’s Boys’ Home during the 1950s and 1960s and was part of the successful boxing and wrestling team. He was taught boxing and wrestling by Brother Robinson from St. Augustine’s. Cyril travelled across the state to participate in boxing and wrestling matches. He represented the Geelong region in the Western District’s competitions.

The St Augustine’s team travelled to Bendigo for the country championships were Cyrill secured the winner’s cup. In the Melbourne Championships, he came runners-up. St Vincent’s de Paul’s organised a Golden Gloves competition, which was an 8-week tournament. Cyril won all the divisions for his weight and was Champion of Champions. The first time that title had been awarded.

 

 

Wrestling at Festival Hall

 

Westling bouts between St Augustine’s and St Vincent’s troupes would also be held at Festival Hall in Melbourne. This newspaper article from 1940 describes how St Augustine’s boys were too clever for their wrestling rivals chiefly using “half-nelson’s,” the most effective move in wrestling. St Augustine’s won sixteen points, – eight wins overcoming St Vincent’s four points, – two wins. The article goes on to say all but three bouts were won by decisive two falls.

Cyril Ellis donated the AOM his third placed wrestling medal in the Junior Victorian Championships in 1955.

The second trophy which has no engravings was typical of what boys would get for coming 2nd in a wrestling bout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Report by Karen the Curator

In March 2023, CLAN staff took Karen the Curator around Geelong to look at the sites and premises which were once children’s Homes and Orphanages. One such premises is now the junior campus of the Christian College in Belmont. Geelong and Western District Protestant Orphanage was originally in Herne Hill and in 1934 the Orphanage moved to a new premises in Belmont. Then in 1955 its name was changed to Glastonbury Children’s Home.

We were given several items for the Australian Orphanage Museum (AOM) including this branch which to all appearances, looks like an ordinary branch from a tree or bush. Accompanying this branch, were many articles about an item called the “Glastonbury Thorn.”


This ordinary-looking branch not only has a history associated to one of the oldest orphanages in Geelong, but a fascinating religious story connected to the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Over the years, the children who lived in the Glastonbury Children’s Home may have seen the bush from where this branch came from, but never knew of its importance.

What is the Glastonbury Thorn?

The Glastonbury Thorn has an association with the story surrounding Joseph of Arimathea. He was the man who allowed Jesus’ body to be put in his own tomb after the crucifixion. It is said that Joseph travelled to England after the death of Christ to spread the word of Christianity.

He carried a wooden staff made from a white thorn bush. Legend has it that Joseph and his followers went to Glastonbury in Somerset, where he pushed the staff into the earth where it miraculously took root and began to grow and blossom. Joseph left the staff there where it grew into a thorn bush and flowered every Christmas and spring. Cuttings from this bush were taken to Glastonbury Abbey, where it grew and continued to bloom yearly at the same time as Christ’s death and birth.

Many other cuttings were taken from this original bush to propagate; consequently, the Glastonbury Thorn grew elsewhere.

James Austin from Glastonbury in Somerset had a Glastonbury Thorn bush he had grown from a gutting from the original bush. He brought a cutting from that bush to his estate in Geelong, where it took root. Three generations of Austin men supported the Geelong Orphanage, and the tree that is now growing on the school grounds is from the cutting transported from England. So, this little branch at the AOM can trace its roots way back to the original Glastonbury Thorn bush in Glastonbury Abbey.

The school gave us this article with the Glastonbury Thorn (Left). The article is from the Mid Somerset Series, March 29, 2007, and explains the connection of the original bush Glastonbury in the UK with the school in Geelong!

The second article (Right) from the College describes how the Glastonbury Thorn tree in their school is a descendant of the original thorn tree in Glastonbury, England.

We were given five other articles from different sources describing Glastonbury Thorn’s history. If you are interested in the other articles, go to ehive.com and type Glastonbury Thorn in the search bar to read about the items discussed in this report.


The Glastonbury Thorn bush at Glastonbury Abbey, Summerset, UK. 

The Australian Orphanage Museum has welcomed the mysterious donation of a nearly century-old item to its collection. The candle invitation joins a rich collection of orphanage memorabilia from around the country housed at the museum.

Recently, the Australian Orphanage Museum was given a donation of boxing and wrestling trophies and medals, plus some newspaper articles by Care Leaver Cyril Ellis.

Cyril Ellis Boxing Articles

Cyril was in St Augustine’s Boys’ Home during the 1950s and 1960s and was part of the successful boxing and wrestling team. He was taught boxing and wrestling by Brother Robinson from St Augustine’s. Cyril travelled across the state to participate in boxing and wrestling matches.

He represented the Geelong area in the Western District’s competitions. Cyril went to Bendigo for country championships and was awarded the winner’s cup. In the Melbourne Championships, he came runner-up. St Vincent de Paul in South Melbourne organised a Golden Gloves competition, which was an eight-week tournament. Cyril won all the divisions for his weight and was Champion of Champions. The first time that title had been awarded.

The AOM thanks Cyril very much for his donations.

Cyril Ellis Boxing trophy and medals. Photographer: Karen Wykes, 2023

 

On 1 April 2023, Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, officiated at the long-awaited opening of the Australian Orphanage Museum in Geelong. The opening included a luncheon and dinner at the Geelong Cats ALF club and the day was attended by around 150 Clannies (care leavers).

You can read more about the opening in James Taylor’s Geelong Times article from 6 April 2023.

Curator, Karen Wykes, recently provided us with some fantastic photos from the day, which you can scroll through below.

Don’t forget to come and visit us, Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm, to see our permanent exhibition, as well as the recently opened temporary exhibition, Our Lives, Our Stories: Geelong Care Leavers Talking Back to Their Records.

 

Australian Orphanage Museum Opening

Visitors at the opening of AOM

CLAN CEO, Leonie Sheedy, at the opening

The Hon Richard Marles MP officially opens the AOM

The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP speaks at the opening

Richard Marles, Joanna, Frank Golding, and Leonie Sheedy at opening

Richard Marles giving a speech at the opening of AOM

Bob Atkinson and Jennifer Coate, Commissioners from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

CLAN CEO, Leonie Sheedy, and The Hon Amanda Rishworth, MP

John Eren, retired MP, and ex-member of the AOM committee

Frank Golding, OAM, committee member

Dr Joanna Penlgase, Co-Founder of CLAN, and Pat Griffiths, Secretary of CLAN, in background

The Hon Richard Marles, MP, and Leonie Sheedy, with offical opening plaque of AOM

Permanent exhibition at AOM

 

Permanent exhibition at AOM

Permanent exhibition at AOM

Frank Golding and Karen Wykes, Curator at AOM, at luncheon at Geelong Football Club

Clannies listening to redress information at luncheon at Geelong Football Club

Luncheon at Geelong Football Club after the museum opening

Luncheon at Geelong Football Club after the museum opening

Santa Terry giving out presents at at the luncheon

The Hon Justice Jennifer Coate giving a speech at the Geelong Football Club

Did you know that the green jacket worn by ex-Royal Commissioner Jennifer Coate is in Australian Orphanage Museum in Care Leavers Activism Room? Jen also donated $150 towards the framing of the jacket for the exhibition.

Thanks to Jen for this kind donation!

Jennifer Coate at the Royal Commission in the green jacket now in the AOM collection

A new temporary exhibition opens at Australian Orphanage Museum, tomorrow Tuesday 6 June 2023.

Our Lives, Our Stories: Geelong Care Leavers Talking Back to Their Records features stories from people who lived in some of Geelong’s thirteen children’s Homes and Orphanages. The exhibition enables the voices of Care Leavers to be heard, reflecting on and talking back to the archival records of their childhoods.

Further information on the exhibition can be found on its dedicated page.

Come and see the exhibition and the museum during opening hours, Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.

The exhibition will continued until late 2023.

 

Australian Orphanage Museum gratefully acknowledges the Local History Grants Program and Public Record Office Victoria, supported by the Victorian Government through the Community Support Fund.

 

 

On Saturday 1 April 2023, the Australian Orphanage Museum will finally open its doors and welcome guests from all over Australia to its official opening by the Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles.

Watch this space for photographs and reports about our long-awaited grand opening!

In July 2022, the AOM welcomed a group of Australian historians, who were attending the annual conference of the Australian Historical Association at Deakin University’s Geelong campus.