Honouring the work across generations

Pole – a name synonymous with hard work, generosity, and commitment to MHS.

Lorraine and Bill (William John) Pole (ext 1934) were the backbone of an emerging parent group in the 1950s who were instrumental in raising funds to build a physical education centre that included a swimming pool and gymnasium. The building was opened in 1960.

A highlight of these fundraising efforts was an annual fair on the school oval. The event was advertised in shop windows across Melbourne and was a highlight of the city’s social calendar. According to the 1953 edition of the Unicorn the ambitious event, featured highland dancing, Punch & Judy shows, pony rides, merry-go-rounds and displays of fancy work, knitting, cake decorating and archery. No one worked harder at these events than Bill and Lorraine, who organised teams of Old Boy and parent volunteers for the stalls. Bill was well known for his BBQs that he constructed from three huge 44-gallon drums. Besieged by the hungry MHS boys at lunchtime, he and his team of volunteers cooked literally hundreds of chops and sausages each year. Thanks to the leadership of Lorraine and Bill, in 1953 alone the fair raised £1,706 pounds (equivalent to $63,000 today).

In the late 1950s and through to the 1970s Lorraine worked tirelessly creating costumes and a wardrobe mistress for staging of the School Musicals. Bruce Worland the school’s musical director during this time, spoke glowingly of Lorraine efforts. Following a request from the Vice Principal, Jack Charles, Lorraine was instrumental in revamping the school canteen, returning significant profits to the School. She continued to volunteer at the canteen for more than 40 years.

The Pole’s also served on numerous committees and boards. Bill was an active member of the Old Boys Association. He was President between 1971 to 1979 and was made an Honorary Life Member. He was also involved in the Old Boys Football Club as a player and later served as President. Lorraine was a founder of the Parents & Friends Association, that is still active today, joining in 1959 and holding the position of Vice President from 1962 to 1967. Lorraine unfortunately, never had the opportunity to be President, as in the pre-women’s liberation era, this position could only be held by a man! Lorraine also served on the School Council from 1959 to 1979.

To honour her tireless service to MHS, Lorraine was appointed a Patron of the School by Principal Ray Willis in 2002. In celebration of her 90th birthday in 2007, Principal Jeremy Ludowyke presented her with the School Medal, only the second time the medal had been awarded.

Bill and Lorraine’s legacy lives on in their son Laurie (ext1959) and daughter-in-law Olga, who regularly volunteer with the Melbourne High School Foundation. Laurie is also an active member of MHSOBA and GM&B. Last year, Laurie organised a highly successful 60-year reunion for his class, that due to his efforts was very well attended.
We would like to thank Laurie and Olga, who recently gave a generous gift to the MHS Classrooms Appeal, in memory of Lorraine. When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, and we can resume construction work on the classrooms, we will ensure the Pole family’s contribution towards educating our past and future students is recognised at a classroom opening. We hope you can join us at this time.

*This article includes exerts from Lorraine Poles MHSOBA obituary written by
Alan Gregory with contributions from Laurie Pole and Colin Green. We also acknowledge Luke Savage, MHS Historian, for his contribution to this article.

MHS Foundation responds to COVID-19

Funds raised during this year’s Annual Appeal are helping MHS Students cope with the impacts of COVID-19

The return to distance learning has been challenging. This is especially true for our VCE students, who are struggling with the uncertainty of how remote learning will impact their final ATAR score and their choices for the future.

Recent Australian studies have found that remote learning is resulting in vulnerable students falling further behind their peers. This is often due to limited finances, family pressures, crowded living conditions, and inadequate technology. Our wellbeing team has been working hard to identify students with living situations that are not conducive to home-based learning and identifying ways to support them to excel in their studies.

Since returning to distance learning, the Wellbeing Team has received urgent requests for technology support. They have also experienced a significant increase in demand for counselling services as students once again deal with the unique challenges of lockdown and remote learning. A lack of face-to-face contact with peers and teachers is also resulting in high levels of anxiety and depression for many of our students.

Using the funds raised through our COVID-19 Appeal, the MHS Foundation responded quickly to these pressing needs. We are pleased to advise that, to date, your generous donation has supported the:

– Purchase of five computers and internet dongles that can be loaned to students who are struggling to access their classes at home because they do not have internet access or a computer that supports online learning

– Provision of funds to increase the part-time school counsellors’ hours by one day per week, to meet the extra student demand for her services

Many of our students have been through one of the most challenging situations they have faced in generations. Jennifer Mill, the Health & Wellbeing Coordinator, asked us to share Tom’s story below. Jenny wanted you to hear first-hand how your support is helping students to continue to reach their potential while studying at home.

Not always an exemplary student, in his earlier years Tom was frequently disruptive and argumentative with his teachers and peers. To help him understand why he was acting out at school, Tom was referred to the Wellbeing Team. After a few sessions he disclosed that there were significant disruptions at home with family arguments and court involvement. With counselling support, Tom was able to gain an insight into his behaviour, develop tools for managing his emotions and build his confidence. As a result, he found his academic rhythm, started connecting with the school and his grades improved. He was well on his way to VCE success.

Unfortunately, moving to remote learning has not been great news for Tom. Shifting his learning environment to the family home removed the safety and stability of school. He found it difficult to connect to online learning and lost his motivation. Members of the Wellbeing Team recognised that Tom was struggling and kept in weekly contact. For Tom, this support has been critical, saying himself that at times this contact is all that has kept him going. The counselling support has helped Tom to keep pushing forward with his studies and stay encouraged and motivated in spite of the challenges of remote learning.

*Tom is not the students real name

Donor story: A lifelong love of trains is helping fund our classrooms for a new century!

Old friends since primary school, Phil A’Vard AM (ex 1954) and Graham Watsford (ex 1952) shared a lifetime love of railways. While at Melbourne High School, they both had a passion for building model trains, and won many competitions with their collective work.

On leaving school, they were foundation members of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and in the 1950s helped rally volunteers to get the decommissioned train line between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave operational again. It became only the second operating preserved railway in the world and has become one of Victoria’s most popular tourist attractions since.

Graham Watsford and Phil A’Vard doing restoration work on Puffing Billy.

Alongside their love of trains, both Graham and Phil had long and successful careers. In his final year at MHS, Graham shared the role of Dux, taking an exhibition in mathematics at the Matriculation examinations. In his University days he was awarded a scholarship in mechanical engineering at an American university and on return was employed as a production engineer at the Government Aircraft Factory.  In later life he was the chief engineer at the Peter McCallum Hospital.

Phil studied to be a teacher but abandoned this (for a time) to work at the Princess Theatre as an actor and stage manager. A successful career in theatre and television alongside teaching, followed. In the 1960s he was engaged by Monash University to head up their newly opened Alexander Theatre where among other things, he pioneered a long-running children’s theatre programme.

Graham Watsford

The two men remained firm friends throughout their lives, with Phil supporting Graham during his battle with cancer.  Before Graham died in 2018, he bequeathed his significant collection of model railway equipment to Phil, saying he could do what he liked with it.

After careful consideration, Phil decided to sell the collection and donate the funds to MHS, the school that Graham loved and supported throughout his life.  In memory of Graham Watsford, Phil A’Vard has provided a matched donation for the 2020 MHS Giving Day on the 25th March when our community will come together to raise funds for our classrooms. For 15 hours only donations will be matched by our generous matching donors.

Donate and follow the countdown at www.charidy.com/mhs or volunteer your time to make the day a success here

Archival Film: Australia’s Puffing Billy Preserved (1966)