Sister Kathleen Quinn’s association with the Mornington Peninsula began more than 100 years ago when her grandfather Edward James Bradley became the stationmaster at Mornington in 1904. Her mother was born in Mornington, and even though Kathleen spent her early life in West Melbourne after her grandfather was transferred to Spencer St and then to Essendon, she remembers her time on the Peninsula like it was yesterday.
Kathleen explains: “I was 12 years old. Our mother had died in March 1939 and 18 months later it had become too difficult for Dad to manage with work, even with rostered aunties coming each evening to cook dinner, make beds and clean, so we all moved to my grandparents’ home in Essendon. This worked well for a few years for Brian, Billy and I at St Theresa’s Essendon Primary School and being lovingly cared for by our grandparents, aunties and Dad. Then Dad decided to send us to boarding school in Mornington.”
In 1944, Kathleen was enrolled at College of Our Lady of the Sea Mornington, which was a girls-only school for day students and boarders from 1898 until 1945. Brian went to Padua House, which was a boys-only school for day students and boarders from 1899 until 1960, after which it became known as Padua College.
Kathleen continues: “Billy, my older brother, refused to stay and Dad took him home, but I was very happy at COLS, especially with Dad and Billy coming every Saturday afternoon, staying at a guest house overnight and spending all Sunday with us, and Brian close by at Padua House. The Sisters of Mercy were very loving to us and one sister used to say to me: ‘Kathleen, I’m sure I knew your Mammy. Tell me about her so I can bring her to mind.’ This would end up with a big hug and cuddle, and of course the tears. I was there until 1946 and one of the most important memories I have is of being chosen to go down to the beach and tell the sisters, who had taken some children for a swim, that the war was over. Overcome with joy, I raced whooping and screaming down Tanti Ave shouting ‘The war is over! The war is over!’ That evening I was severely reprimanded for unladylike behaviour in the public street.”
This pillow-fighting champion of 1945 who loved midnight feasting, fun, games and sport, went on to study theology and relevant subjects in 1951 for three years to become a religious sister with the Sisters of Mercy. She continues: “I became more confident at COLS/Padua and my schoolwork reached a high standard. I even agreed to sing in the end-of-year production of The Wedding of the Painted Doll (pictured), even though my brother told me my dancing partner was a dill.”
At 87, Kathleen looks back on those two years at COLS/Padua with great fondness, and even though those memories are decades away, the lessons she learnt and the friendships she made along the way stay.