A Brief History of Fairholme College

Beginnings

1908-1915

Fairholme College had its origins in Spreydon College, opened on 4 February 1908 at ‘Spreydon’ a spacious home in Rome St, Newtown, Toowoomba.

  • Miss Beth Thomson and Miss Jessie Thomson were joint Principals of Spreydon from 1908 to 1914, and their sister Margaret was responsible for boarders.
  • Patronage from the Presbyterian Church in Brisbane was sought and granted from May 1909. The Church opened The Presbyterian Ladies College Limited in January 1915 and Miss Amy Carson was appointed Principal during first term 1915.
  • With enrolments increasing, the PLC Board acquired ‘Fairholme’ a larger property which had been generously offered for purchase by Mrs Margaret Cameron.

History continues…

Moving to ‘Fairholme’

1917-1919

In July 1917 the Primary students relocated from Spreydon to Fairholme, and at the beginning of 1918, the whole school relocated to its new home in Wirra Wirra St.

  • ‘Ardens sed Virens’ (Burning yet Flourishing), which had been the motto of The Presbyterian Ladies’ College Limited was chosen as the motto for the Presbyterian Girls’ College, Toowoomba (PCG).
  • Miss Amy Carson [1915-1919] became the first Principal of Toowoomba’s Presbyterian Girls’ College, officially opened on 12 August 1918 with 28 boarders and 38 daygirls on the roll. (The name ‘Fairholme College’ was not used officially until 1978 although it had been called ‘Fairholme’ since 1917.)

Growth and Depression Years

1920-1939

Miss Nancy Jobson, the second Principal at Fairholme [1920-1921], was instrumental in the construction of the first ‘new’ building on site in 1920.

  • The Patrea O'Shea Performing Arts Centre was designed as three classrooms separated by folding walls so that it could be used as an Assembly Hall.
  • The Fairholme Old Girls' Association (FOGA) was formed in September 1921, with Miss Jobson the inaugural President.
  • At the end of 1921 Miss Jobson resigned to become Principal of PLC Pymble, in Sydney.

Miss Daisy Culpin, Principal from 1922-1940, guided the College through years of growth (1920s) and very difficult years during the Great Depression (1930s).

  • SG Stephens’ Palm Avenue was created and the first Kindergarten bungalow was built and extended in the 1920s, and the first WR Black Dormitory opened in 1929.

Wartime and beyond

1940-1953

Miss Jean Tassie was PGC Fairholme’s Principal from 1940 to 1948. Recognition should be made of Miss Tassie’s ingenuity and hard work in sustaining the College through the war years.

  • Enrolments at Fairholme peaked at 170 in 1942, partly due to an influx of students from Brisbane schools forced to close during WWII.
  • Building programs were restricted due to a dearth of materials during the war.

The Rev Norman Joughin, Principal from 1949 to 1951, was able to oversee a much-needed post-war building program.

  • Additional classrooms (now C Block) were completed and the Music Block (under the old Black Dormitory) was refurbished.
  • The Highfields Shire Hall was acquired and transferred to Fairholme in 1951 and became the Home Science Room (where the Dining Hall now stands). In the 1970s, it was moved to a site near what is now the indoor swimming pool, where it was used as an Art Room and Christian Education Teaching Room. Finally it was moved to the north-east corner of the grounds and became the College Chapel until 2008 when the New Chapel was opened in Fairholme’s Middle School Complex.
  • Mr RA Kerr became Acting Principal when Rev. Joughin resigned at the end of April 1951. Rev. Richard Crawford was Principal from 1952-1953.
  • A significant development occurred when the Fairholme Parents & Friends' Association was formed in 1953. Over the years the Fairholme P & F Association has provided wholehearted support for the College.

Expansion at PGC

1954-1972

It was becoming apparent that Ministers of Religion were not able to make the necessary full-time commitment to the position of Principal while also maintaining their parish duties, so the next Principal of Fairholme was a professional educator, not a clergyman. Miss Nancy Shaw [1954-1968] became Principal in Term 2, 1954.

  • The Assembly Hall was opened in 1958, the oval was levelled by Mr Ray Powell and Fairholme’s first swimming pool was opened in March 1961.
  • Enrolments reached 360 students in 1963 and the large numbers of boarders (157) meant that additional dormitory accommodation was required. C Block was being used as temporary boarder accommodation. The South Dormitory Block was completed in 1964, the same year that the Daisy Culpin Gates at the Wirra Wirra Street entrance were officially opened.
  • Fairholme acquired the Talara property on its south-eastern boundary, and a cottage for the Principal was built on this site.
  • A substantial Commonwealth Government grant led to the building of a new Science Block, now called S Block, opened in 1966.

After serving as Principal for almost 15 years and firmly establishing Fairholme as a leading independent girls’ school in Queensland, Miss Shaw resigned at the end of 1968. Miss Pamela Harris [1969-1972] succeeded Miss Shaw.

  • The Library (now the Amy Carson Room) and the Administration Centre (now the Principal’s office and FOGA archives display foyer) were built in 1970.
  • The Principal's Office was enclosed on the north-west verandah of Cameron Homestead.
  • Enrolments in 1972 totalled 348 and included 202 boarders.

Interesting times in the 1970s

1973-1979

Mr Robert Clinch was appointed as Fairholme’s first lay Headmaster [1973-1974]. Mr Clinch resigned in May 1974 and from May to December, when a new Principal was appointed, the school was run by the College Council’s Education Sub-Committee: Rev. Neil Key (Chairman), and Council members, Mrs Moreton and Mrs Meynink. Rev. Key was Acting Principal.

  • Much attention was devoted to refurbishing the primary school and upgrading teaching methods at the College.
  • In 1974, the construction of G Block classrooms began and the Dining Hall complex was opened. (The Homestead’s Cameron Room now occupies what was the old dining room.)

Rev. Neil Key, Chairman of the College Council, designated himself Acting Principal when Mr Clinch resigned in May 1974. Working with an Education Committee consisting of himself, Mrs Moreton and Mrs Meyninck, Rev. Key ran the school until a new Principal could be appointed. This was a difficult time for the College community, particularly the Teaching Staff, as neither Rev. Key nor Mrs Moreton was a qualified teacher and both of them held full-time positions outside of the College.

Mrs Belle Gillies [1975-1979] became Principal in 1975, and in what was a very difficult time for the College, internal and financial problems worsened and enrolments fell.

  • A severe hailstorm followed by cyclonic rain in January 1976 caused considerable damage to the school buildings. Necessary repairs were not completed until Term 3 1976.
  • Enrolments dropped from 371 in 1974 to 286 in 1976, a further indication of problems occurring within the College, particularly with boarder discipline.

In May 1979 the Board terminated Mrs Gillies' appointment as Principal, and Miss Ann Waxman reluctantly accepted the position of Acting Principal for the remainder of the year.

Officially Fairholme

The Uniting Church in Australia was established in June 1977 when members of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches joined together.

  • Not all Presbyterians joined the UCA, and the Presbyterian Church of Queensland continued as a separate denomination.
  • St Stephen's Presbyterian Church in Toowoomba joined the UCA, but Fairholme College remained with the Presbyterian Church of Queensland.
  • It is the only College in Queensland owned by the Presbyterian Church and it remains one of a very small number throughout Australia.

In March 1978, the name of the College was changed officially from ‘Presbyterian Girls' College, Fairholme, Toowoomba’ to ‘Fairholme College, a College of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland’.

Building and Growing

1980-1999

Mr Allan Faragher [1980-1994] was appointed as Principal of Fairholme in 1980. A vigorous and dynamic Council, led by its Chairman, Mr Linsday Statham, the P&F Association and the Head Matron, Miss Margaret Lawson, assisted him in restoring and renewing the College’s reputation as a leading girl’s school. Discipline tightened, morale improved, enrolments increased and the College’s financial and general management improved markedly. By 1992, there were over 700 students at Fairholme and an extensive building program was in progress.

  • New classrooms were built - Art classrooms in C Block adjacent to the present Staff Room, and Upper G Block classrooms.
  • New pool and gymnasium complex was built on the old primary school site.
  • Assembly Hall and stage area were enlarged, and the Chapel was refurbished.
  • Black Dormitory was renovated and the Nancy Shaw Building was constructed, incorporating new boarding facilities, Home Economics Block and laundry.
  • Daisy Culpin Courtyard created.
  • Principal's residence and town houses were constructed.

Mr Stan Klan [1994-2009] was appointed Principal when Mr Faragher retired at the beginning of Term 2, 1994. In 1997, Fairholme had 752 students. Further development projects at Fairholme included:

  • Construction of the Jean Tassie Dormitory and refurbishment of South Dormitory
  • Building of the Refectory
  • Re-establishing the Fairholme Pre-School in 1996
  • Construction of a science laboratory and restructuring lower G block to accommodate a new and larger library.
  • The Amy Carson Room, a lecture theatre, in the previous library space.
  • Creating a two-storey Performing Arts Centre from the Patrea O'Shea Music.

21st century Fairholme

2000-2007

  • At the end of 2000, the computer laboratories were re-located to Lower G Block and incorporated into a greatly extended Library, creating the Greta Statham Learning Centre, where print and electronic media now operate in parallel. This move was taken to enhance a culture of independent learning.
  • The Cameron Homestead underwent extensive restoration and renovation during 2001-2002, as its verandahs were opened up and meeting rooms created out of the old dining room and principal’s office area.
  • In 2001 the College was reconstituted under a Board of Directors. Mr Bill Munro became Chairman of the Board from 2001-2007. He was followed by the present Board Chairman, Mr Ian Andersen.
  • Fairholme Junior was established in 2003 when Fairholme Primary, Preschool and Kindergarten were amalgamated. A Kindergarten was re-established at Fairholme in 2003. Fairholme still has boys in its Kindergarten classes.
  • In 2007, the Preparatory Year (Prep) began at Fairholme and girls in Year 7 became the inaugural members of Fairholme’s Middle School.
  • The new Middle School, catering specifically for girls in Years 7, 8 and 9, was established in July 2007. Its new home, a 14-classroom complex incorporating Fairholme’s New Chapel, was officially opened on 2 May 2008 by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AM, then Governor of Queensland.

Celebrating 100 years and more

2008-2012

Fairholme College celebrated its centenary in 2008, marking 100 years since Spreydon College was established by the Thomson sisters in Newtown. With an enrolment of over 800, including 240 boarders, in 2008, Fairholme began its second century as a leading independent girls’ school.

  • Mrs Linda Evans was appointed Principal of Fairholme in April 2009, on the retirement of Mr Stan Klan. Mrs Evans came to Fairholme in 2003 as Deputy Principal (pastoral).
  • On 10 September 2010, Fairholme’s new Junior School Library was officially opened by Senator Claire Moore assisted by the Honourable Ian MacFarlane, Federal Member for Groom; Mr Ian Andersen, Chairman of the Board; Mrs Linda Evans, Fairholme Principal; and Mrs Melanie Hassall, Fairholme’s Head of Library and Information Services.

For a more detailed history of Fairholme, the following books are recommended:

"Fairholme - The First 75 Years 1917-1992" - John Moore.
"School Ties - A History of Private Schooling in Toowoomba".