Loreto College History

Loreto College History

Loreto College History2023-07-26T23:18:24+10:00
After the Loreto Sisters arrived in Australia, from Ireland, in 1875, they established schools in Ballarat, Portland, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth before coming to Brisbane in 1927 at the invitation of Archbishop James Duhig.

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Six Loreto Sisters led by the Mother Provincial thus arrived to establish a convent at “Kemendine” in Cavendish Road, a significant two storey colonial home with wide verandahs, previously occupied by Colonel Edward Deshon, C.M.G., a British Officer of the 68th Light Infantry. Built in 1889, the impressive old house stood proudly on a commanding hillside site overlooking the lush green rolling hills of Coorparoo. The Deshon family lived here for almost 40 years before the property was sold. In February, 1928 the sisters opened their school in the old “Kemendine” home with eight pupils.

Loreto Brisbane has a unique and interesting fact as part of its capital development story– it once won the “Golden Casket” – a big prize in a State Lottery. This was in the early struggling days, which coincided with the world-wide depression of the late twenties. With the money from the windfall of the Casket ticket – given by a Past Pupil from South Australia –the first stage of a new two storey building began in 1930 to house a boarding kitchen, dining room and five classrooms. This building was completed in 1933 with the addition of a third floor. Today it is known as the Casket Building.

In 1942, with the threat of invasion by the Japanese from the north during World War II, nuns and boarders were evacuated to a disused grammar school at Glen Innes, N.S.W. where the school remained for two years. During these years Loreto Convent was used as a convalescent home for Australian Servicemen. The return of the school to Cavendish Road in 1944 meant much hardship and considerable readjustment after the wartime occupation by the troops.

During the 1970’s there were a number of significant changes that took place at Loreto: The phasing out of the Junior School, and thus the presence of Loreto boys, took place from 1972 to 1977 and the boarding school closed in 1979; The secondary school expanded to three streams and the original Deshon home was demolished due to rotting timber supports and floorboards. In 1974 the Loreto Sisters took over the Primary School of the Mount Carmel parish. This school had formerly been conducted by the Franciscan Sisters. From 1974 to1987, the Loreto Sisters proudly led this school with whom we still have many strong connections.

I shall be very pleased to welcome you to Queensland on the 15th July. I anticipate you will be very pleased with your visit to Brisbane.

Archbishop Duhig to Mother Provincial, 2nd July 1927
In addition to the Casket Building, the major facilities developments at Loreto over the years have included:

1954 – Construction of the front red brick building, the well-known facade of Loreto Convent, which included parlours, classrooms and a Senior dormitory; it is now known as the Main Administration Building;

1965 – Construction of the first stage of the main classroom block, housing Science Labs, Library, Art Rooms and Staff rooms, followed by a second stage in 1969 and third stage in 1973;

1973 – Construction of Babylon, home to new senior classrooms and Science Laboratories;

1977 – Completion of the Mother Gonzaga Building and Chapel which feature heritage timbers and wrought iron from “Kemendine”;

1980 – Completion of the Pool;

1991 – Construction of the Mary Ward Centre, home to PE, Music and Drama;

1997 – Addition of the final stage of the main classroom block to provide improvements to the Tuckshop and Home Economics and to house Technology;

2000 – Remodelling of Babylon to provide six modern Science labs;

2009 – Completion of Mulwith, a new home to Art, Learning Enrichment and Year 11 students.

The original circular drive has undergone several changes over the years, eventually becoming the distinctive crescent path that sits atop the Deshon Oval as constructed in 1994. Where the original “Kemendine” once stood, a tropical courtyard and central Rotunda, erected in 2002, now stands. The Mary Ward Statue, installed in 2007, takes pride of place at its heart.

2014 – Completion of Cruci, a new home to the Year 11 cohort.

2020 – Remodelling of the Crescentia building including a fresh new facade, upgrading of classroom facilities and the addition of new learning spaces.



This photo is of the original Loreto Coorparoo building. It is situated on land purchased by the Deshon family in 1885. The house was built in 1889 and was named “Kemendine.” The Deshon family lived there for almost forty years, until it was purchased by Archbishop Duhig. In September 1927 two Loreto Sisters visited Brisbane and agreed to establish a school on the site in Cavendish Rd.  In December 1927 six Loreto Sisters came and prepared the house. In January these six sisters returned south and were replaced by five sisters who constituted the first Loreto community at Coorparoo. The Loreto Sisters purchased the house and 3 acres of land for 4,500 pounds. The building became known as the “Pink Building” until it was demolished in January 1977. It stood adjacent to the “Casket Building” where the “rotunda” now stands.

Deshon Family 

The original Loreto Coorparoo building, “Kemendine”, was built by Edward Deshon and his wife Emily Marion Sawyer in 1889. The house was sold to the Catholic Church three years after Edward’s 1924 death but the Deshon family connection with Loreto was maintained. There was a later Loreto purchase of another Deshon property on Cavendish Road, multiple inter-generational Deshon children attended Loreto and John Deshon, architect and a past pupil of Loreto junior school, designed the current Gonzaga Barry Building, including the Chapel. It was in honour of this ongoing connection that the 1994 redevelopment of the Loreto landscape fronting Cavendish Road was named the “Deshon Oval”.

Casket Building

The unusually named “Casket Building”, the oldest extant Loreto Coorparoo building, stands in the the middle of the school’s grounds.

The ground and first floor of the building were built in 1931 adjacent to the pre-existing “Kemendine”.

The third floor was added in 1933.

The “Casket Building” is so named as it was built from the 5000 pounds winning proceeds of the Golden Casket in 1929. The winning ticket had been gifted to the Sisters by Alice Cummins, a past pupil from Loreto Adelaide and a friend of Mother Crescentia Collins, Superior of the Coorparoo community of Loreto Sisters.

Over the years the Casket Building has housed a boarding-school dormitory, the boarder’s dining room, the nun’s kitchen, bathrooms, offices, classrooms, a drama room.

First Students

Loreto College Coorparoo commenced in February 1928 with an enrolment of seven students, pictured below.

Pictured from top to bottom – Frances Page, Marie Hanlon, Mary Herbert, Esther Tully, Ray Gaskin, Margaret Mackay (First pupil enrolled) and Evelyn Tully.

By 1932 the number of students had increased to 42 students, pictured below.

Back row: Moya Doyle, Ruth Winship, Mary de Silva
6th row: Peg Leseberg, Syble Douglas
5th row: Gwen Hanman, Nancy Verry, Peggy Maguire, Joan Carrick, Joan Hooper, Lorraine Francis, Margaret Challand
4th row: Joyce Fullagar, P. O’Neill.
3rd row: Moya Weller, Nell Monaghan, Bernadine Hanman, Margaret Mackay, Madeleine Hoey, Margaret Campbell, Helen Fitzpatrick, Suzanne Ahern, Mary Scott, Ray Gaskin, Jean Laidlaw.
2nd row: Joan Nowotny, Mary-Lou Weller, Peggy Webb, Peg Monaghan, Carmel Maguire, Joan Maguire, Mary Maguire, Joan Kenneally, Daphne Watts, Claire Quilty, Patsy Nowotny
Sitting on mat: Helen Grant, Pam Smyth, Joan Gregg, John Lahz, Stan Carrick, Colless Lahz.

A few eclectic anecdotes of individuals in this group of 1932 students include one going on to star in films in Hollywood and England, another becoming the archivist at Loreto Coorparoo, two becoming Loreto Sisters and another receiving an MBE and working as personal secretary to Senator Flo Bjelke-Petersen.

The Early Sisters At Loreto Coorparoo

In December 1927 six Loreto Sisters came and prepared the property “Kemendine” for the opening of the school in 1928.  In January these six sisters returned south and were replaced by five sisters who constituted the first Loreto community at Coorparoo. This community was led by Mother Crescentia Collins who was accompanied by Mother Bonaventure, Mother Paula, Mother Pia and Sister Ambrose.

(Pictured in 1931: Sister Pius, Mother Gertrude, Mother Stella, Mother Rosario, Sister James, Mother Crescentia, Sister Leonard, Mother Paula)

Sisters who lived and worked in Brisbane Loreto 1928-1959

M. Crescentia ColIins
M. Bonventure Martyn
M. James Nicholson
M. Margaret Mary Fields
M. Ambrose Broderick
M. Gertrude Mooney
M. Paula Leahy
M. Pia Cody
M. Imelda ColIins
M. Rosario North
M. Malachy Wilson
M. Agatha Donnelly
M. Stella Fleming
M. de Chantal Classon
M. F Regis McDonnell
M Rosa Serong ( Angela)
M. Raymond Drew (Marion)
M. Sylvester O’Malley
M. Leonard Washington
M. Pius Miller
M. Thaddeus Murtagh
M. lta Kehoe
M. Teresa Gertrude O’Sullivan
M. Louis Elwood
M. Juliana Coughlan
M. Dolores Molloy
M. Judith Sullivan
M. Joseph McEvoy (Kathleen)
M. Ephrem McDermott
M. Ignacio Hallion
M. EulaIia HyIand
M. Melissa Mullany
M. Loyola Webb
M. Joseph Michael Ritchie
M. Margarita FarIey
M. Labre Bowron
M. CarmelIa GaIIivan
M. Winifred Stack (Catherine)
M. Paul Ziesing (Paula)
M. Isidore Byme (Lucy)
M. Xaveria Hannan (Margaret)
M. Mellitus Reid (Teresa)
M. Peter Hogan
M. Teresa Lowery
M. Dominic Jones
M. Bernarda Suffern (Doreen)
M. Stanislaus Murray (Mary)
M. Therese Daly
M. RomuaId Sharkey
M. Enda Desmond
M Consolata O’Connor (Veronica)
M. Beatrice Hannan
M. Fidelma Walshe
M. Eugene Power (Mary)
M. Anthony Flynn (Clare)
M. Consuelo Braithwaite
M. Augustine O’Brien (Celia)
M. Borromeo Gardiner (Claire)
M. John Berchmans Anderson (Anne)
M. Helen Stevenson
M. F. Xavier O’Brien (Mary)
M. Alphonsus Dillon (Sonia)
M. Josephine Collins (Jennifer)
M. CoIumba O’ReiIIy
M. Cecilia Browne (Deirdre)
M. Perpetua Mooney
M. Reparatrice Reid (Veronica)
M. Martina Diggs (Shirley)
M. Jude Lane
M. Dympna Conroy

Pictured 1943 or 1944: S.M. Ephrem, S.M. Thaddeus, M.M. Loyola, M.M. Carmella, M.M. Rosario, M.M. Paul, M.M. Margarita, S.M. Labre, M.M. J Michael, M.M. Winifred, M.M. Melissa, M.M. Gertrude [sitting]

Mother Dominic Jones

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