The book, Yarra Valley Grammar: The First Fifty Years was launched during Yarra's 50th Community Festival on Saturday 15 October 2016. Written by Dennis Carroll, a former head of English at the School, its format similar to that used in the author's previous publication, The Associated Grammar Schools of Victoria: A Sporting and Social History (2008).
Each year from 1966 onwards is documented and more than 600 photographs are included. As well as examining the development of the School, the author provides a comprehensive exploration of life at Yarra, including sport, theatre and music.
To order your copy of Yarra Valley Grammar: The First Fifty Years please click here.
How did you become involved in the project?
After 24 years at Yarra Valley, I retired from teaching at the end of 2003. Then in 2005 I became a volunteer researcher in the Melbourne Cricket Club library. During that year I discovered that the Heads of the Associated Grammar Schools of Victoria (AGSV) were looking for someone to write a history of their association. Encouraged by a number of my fellow volunteers who had written books, I decided to throw my hat into the ring. Fortunately the Heads liked the format I proposed and I was appointed to the position. That book was published early in 2009.
In 2014, Yarra Valley’s Principal, Dr Mark Merry, asked if I would be willing to take on the task of writing the history of the School’s first 50 years, using a similar approach to the one I had adopted for the AGSV history. I began work on the project in July, 2014.
Could you elaborate on the format and why you chose it?
The MCC library has an extensive collection of school histories, probably because the MCG was the venue for AGSV and APS athletics meetings for many years. After perusing a number of those books, I felt that the traditional format could be altered in order to make the content more accessible. A well known history of Australian cricket gave me the template I was looking for. In that book, each year is self contained and its large format allows for the inclusion of numerous photographs. The authors utilise stories of varying lengths, as well as columns headed “Short Singles”, which are made up of brief items. Full pages are set aside for stories about outstanding individuals, such as Bradman and Miller. I adopted a similar format for the AGSV book, which is both a sporting and social history.
How did you adapt the format for the Yarra Valley history?
I have used almost all the elements of the cricket and AGSV histories. There are some lengthy articles about major events and issues, shorter articles about aspects of each individual year, and columns headed “Briefly” which are modelled on the “Short Singles” concept. Pages are set aside for stories about former students who have gone on to become very successful in their chosen fields. Among these are a top selling author, a number of academics, several Olympians, an internationally acclaimed musician, a judge and a Hollywood actor. Included each year is a detailed coverage of extra curricula activities, in particular sport, music and theatre. There are 622 photographs in the book’s 288 pages.
What are some of the major events and issues covered in the book?
I think the founding of the School is an interesting story. At the time the area surrounding the chosen site was devoted to agriculture, particularly fruit growing. The School was built on former farmland “in the middle of nowhere”, but the suburban sprawl was making its way towards it. The number of students in the first year was fewer than hoped for (135) and finances were stretched, but the School quickly gained a good reputation and numbers grew quite rapidly. The founders were imaginative, brave and extraordinarily energetic.
The journey towards coeducation is one of the book’s major themes. Coeducation was first suggested as early as 1971, Ken Jago, the second Headmaster, making the School’s initial approach to Tintern during that year. Of course full coeducation would eventually be introduced, that decision being taken following the demise of a planned merger with Tintern in 1992.
You did not use a publishing house. How did that arrangement work?
As for the AGSV history, I worked directly with a graphic designer from Allardice. The book was printed by their parent company Bambra Press. The School then “purchased” the books at a much lower cost per unit than would have been the case if a professional publisher had been involved. In that way we have been able to keep the retail price under $50.