St Margaret Mary’s Primary School in Merrylands celebrates 75th anniversary

Everyone is invited to a special 75th birthday party in Merrylands this Saturday.

From the archives: It wouldn't be a school sports carnival in the 1970s without a game of tug of war. Go to parramattasun.com.au for more old school photos.

From the archives: It wouldn't be a school sports carnival in the 1970s without a game of tug of war. Go to parramattasun.com.au for more old school photos.

St Margaret Mary’s Primary School will hold a fete to celebrate its big milestone and fundraise for a shaded area in the playground.

Class of 2017:  Today, St Margaret Mary's Primary School in Merrylands consists of 570 pupils. Kevin Mills is the 11th school principal.

Class of 2017: Today, St Margaret Mary's Primary School in Merrylands consists of 570 pupils. Kevin Mills is the 11th school principal.

Celebrations began on Monday where former pupils and staff joined the present at the school for mass, followed by a community picnic at Holroyd Gardens. The day coincided with the Feast of St Margaret Mary.

Special occasion: Pupils attended a school mass before they had a wonderful time at the 75th anniversary picnic at Holroyd Gardens this week.

Special occasion: Pupils attended a school mass before they had a wonderful time at the 75th anniversary picnic at Holroyd Gardens this week.

The school was opened on February 3, 1942 by Sisters Vincent and Christina and Father McGovern.

Party time: Following a school Mass, pupils had a wonderful time at the 75th anniversary picnic at Holroyd Gardens this week.

Party time: Following a school Mass, pupils had a wonderful time at the 75th anniversary picnic at Holroyd Gardens this week.

“The priest needed 40 children to start the school,” teacher Lyn Burton said.

“On the first day, there were 38, so he went off and came back with two preschoolers to make up the numbers.”

Originally, children were taught in the church on site. Alternative arrangements were made when the church was used for funerals.

The Sisters of St Joseph handed over the care of the school to the Marist Sisters in 1950. By now, enrolments had increased to 160 with the influx of the migrants. 

The first lay teacher at the school was Nance Roche in 1957, who later became the first lay teacher to be appointed as deputy principal. Annette Kenny became the first lay principal in 1988.

In a class of their own: These year six girls from 1959 were along the first to attend Cerdon College, which opened the following year.

In a class of their own: These year six girls from 1959 were along the first to attend Cerdon College, which opened the following year.

By 1965, enrolments had grown to 600. As a result, the parish purchased cottages on the block bounded by Merrylands Road, Davies and Henson streets and Chetwynd Road. These cottages were used as classrooms until they were demolished to allow for new buildings in the 1980s, including the school hall.

Former pupil Stephen Tompsett was one of 11 Australians killed in the September 11 terrorist attack at New York’s World Trade Centre in 2001. A memorial scholarship named in the computer scientist’s honour is awarded to a graduating year 6 pupil each year. His parents Jack and Rae remained involved in the parish until their deaths in the last few years.

Fete visitors are urged to check out the historical museum in the library set up by Mrs Burton, who has compiled old school photos, artefacts,uniforms and other memorabilia.

One wall is dedicated to the school’s 11 principals.

Mrs Burton has a long connection with the school.

“It’s played a significant role in my life,” she said.

“I attended the school as a pupil in the late 1960s and early 1970s. My husband and our three children also came here. A lot has changed but the community spirit it’s always had is still here.”

  • The 75th anniversary fete is at the school this Saturday, 10am-3pm. There will be rides, entertainment, food, games, showbags, a chocolate wheel, stalls, roving superheroes and princesses and more.