At Joeys, we are incredibly fortunate to have the Health Centre. For many current students, Old Boys and their parents, the Health Centre is a place of care, whether it be the application of a band aid of an evening after sport, or the care of a sick boy until further assistance arrives. Unknown to many, the development and building of an onsite ‘hospital’, came about due to the urgent needs and aftermath of the 1919 Spanish flu.
Br Michael Naughtin makes mention of Br Osmund’s list of ‘urgent needs’ for the College, in the 1981 book A Century of Striving:
“Despite their ‘urgent’ need, new science rooms were not built until 1961; the large assembly hall had to wait until 1981! The chapel and the playing fields demanded the most urgent attention, and we shall consider them further after having reflected on the perhaps surprising item listed by Br Osmund: a school hospital.
It has not become necessary to build one in the intervening sixty years, adequate space for infirmary and dispensary being made available in the main College building. In 1920, however, a school hospital may have appeared as a desirable asset. Br Osmund’s inclusion of a hospital in his list may reflect the frightening experience of the 1919 influenza epidemic which swept across the world. New South Wales was proclaimed ‘an infected state’ on 28 January 1919, and schools were closed by Government order. On 17 February the Minister allowed boarding schools to open, placing them, however, in strict isolation.”
At the time, Joeys was a boarding school with more than 300 boys from across Australia, and the Spanish flu epidemic and the closing of borders created hassles for many of the parents and carers of boys based interstate. True to the Joeys spirit, families found ways of getting their sons back to school. The Burn family based out of Wilson’s Downfall on the New South Wales and Queensland border were desperate to get their son James back to the College before further restrictions on transport.
29 January 1919
Dear Brother Edwin, I thank you for your letter of the 23rd instant, and also for the “Cerise and Blue” and leaflets. As the Queensland Government has, by proclamation, prohibited persons entering Queensland from New South Wales my boys may not be able to leave next Saturday as I intended but if they should you will be apprised by wire and I will forward cheque with item for fees. We have heard that it is in consequence of the outbreak of influenza in Sydney and Melbourne that the Queensland Government has taken the action it did and as we are behind hand here in the news of the day, I would be thankful if you will acquaint me by telegram whether or not you advise sending the boys to Sydney on Saturday next as I may be able to send them from Tenterfield. Please find enclosed a postal note for 15/- to defray cost of telegram and of having the boys met when they reach Sydney.
Dear Brother Edwin
Joeys dad Percy Burn of Wilson’s Downfall wrote to Br Edwin about sending his son James back to school during the 1919 influenza outbreak. (above) Joeys student James Burn, four from the left in the second row.