Toni Ridge’s second grandson is due to begin Year 7 in 2023, which will mark a 100-year connection between her family and St Joseph’s College.

Toni’s father began at the school in 1923; her two sons attended Joeys in the 1970s and 1980s; and her grandson, Hugh, is the 2019 Captain of the Rugby First XV. Mrs Ridge, from Dubbo, reflects on how Joeys continues to shape the lives of every member of her family. 

Our Dad, who came from Angledool near Lightning Ridge, passed on to us great stories of Joeys – of Br Henry who coached him rugby, of mateship and of boys who came from all over the state – and he also passed on to us those Joeys attributes of mateship and loyalty, and of being proud and passionate about what you are doing.

And then our cousins, we had seven cousins who went to Joeys too – every decade I can think of, from World War II until now, there has been a cousin at Joeys and they have also passed on the same kinds of passionate stories.

When our boys Bligh (1978) and Angus (1980) began at Joeys, they had just come from schooling through distance education and school of the air, and a little village school in Enngonia, 100km north of Bourke. It’s a good life in the bush, but it’s limiting; at Joeys there were social and sporting activities, and spiritual activities, and we saw all of that shaping our sons. Joeys was just a wonderful experience for them. They’ve never forgotten it. They think it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them, and so do we.

Even now, with their own children, we see the same kinds of attributes coming out in them that we saw in our own boys.

With our granddaughters as well as our grandsons, I see how they’re looking out for their peers – whether that be their friends in class or the younger kids at school. It’s wonderfull to see the mateship, loyalty, and the pride they have for their own schools. 

“Parents have always placed a great trust in the college, and they were never disappointed. Every hour of every day is full of meaningful activities and a sense of fun, developed especially for the boys”.


To be so young, yet have a great sense of humility, is one of the great characteristics of Joe boys. It could only be the Joeys influence from their parents that have given them these wonderful traits. 

The College has always been incredibly egalitarian, there are no school or house captains like many other schools have. Every boy is equal, and each had the opportunity to step-up, to make their mark and be a leader amongst their mates. 

Parents have always placed a great trust in the college, and they were never disappointed. Every hour of every day is full of meaningful activities and a sense of fun, developed especially for the boys.

I always remember the Br Emilian Hall and all the wonderful things that happen in there – the  graduations, grandparents’ days, city and country mothers lunches and the sports rallies, there were so many wonderful opportunities for all of us to come together to experience our boys, grandsons and their friends growing up.

Some of my favourite memories were the beautiful masses in the College chapel, which would be overflowing with boys singing their hearts out – they still gives me goosebumps. It didn’t matter whether it was Year 7 or 8, or Year 11 or 12 boys, I loved it all the same, each and every time – I guess it was a spiritual feeling as well as the sound of those beautiful voices.

When Bligh finished school, he told us he wanted to be a pilot, that was a very foreign dream for bushies like us. A couple of Joeys friends heard about Bligh’s ambitions, so they phoned up,  and offered him a job on their construction site, just so he could put himself through his pilot’s licence. Needless to say, we are so proud that he achieved his goal, and he’s still flying for the Royal Flying Doctor Service today. That’s Joeys mateship for you. 

Even though my sons are all grown up, those wonderful connections between families on the sidelines, or at College functions are continuing to happen; it’s just wonderful.

Above: Daughter, mother and grandmother of Joeys Boys, Toni Ridge with her grandson Hugh Bokenham (2019)

Our boys and their mates loved their cricket, so we would sit with their families all day at the cricket, and in turn we got to know them very well. The fathers of the boys became such good friends they formed their own Golden Oldies cricket team and played around Australia and the world; they travelled to England, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada to name a few, and to think that it all started on the sidelines of a school cricket match at Joeys.

We are still great friends; the boys don’t play cricket anymore but we are celebrating our 80th birthdays together!

I wouldn’t miss grandparents’ day for the world. They didn’t have it when my boys were there, but we went to both grandparents’ days when Hugh was in year 7 and 8. I am already looking forward to the next one, in 2023!