Celebrating 135 Years of Ascham

Ascham is 135 years old this year, which is cause for much celebration and reflection.

Our annual yearbook, Charivari, has been published since 1903 (yes 118 years!) and its value as an incredible archival resource cannot be underestimated. Charivari provides us with so much knowledge about the School’s history. It allows us to not only understand the role that Ascham has played in the lives of thousands of Old Girls, past staff and families, but also sheds light on the geography and development of this area of Sydney, and historical events that are fascinating to read about in relation to our own contemporary experiences.

A dip back into Charivari 100 years ago, reveals the impacts of the Spanish Flu (in conjunction with World War 1) on Ascham girls and families. Here are two extracts from the May 1919 edition of Charivari. They reveal the late start to the School year and the segregation of day girls and boarders because of the influenza pandemic, how much they all loved tennis, and how fundraising for charities has long been an Ascham tradition.


Charivari, May 1919


School has been very broken this term, which is the reason for the late appearance of this number. Instead of beginning on February 4th, we were prevented by influenza restrictions from beginning till March 4. Then about two-thirds of the boarders and rather more of the day girls turned up, and all went merrily for a month, when new restrictions came into force. Now boarders and day pupils (the few who are allowed to attend) look upon one another from a distance, and sigh for the absent friends or congratulate themselves upon their segregation, according to the mood of the moment. The one advantage all reap is that we get more tennis, and the improvement in some people’s tennis is amazing since they began to play every day. The other day girls send in their written work by post or bring it by hand, and it is hard to say whether they or the mistresses will be more relieved when everyone can return to school.


School this term is progressing under very strained conditions on account of the outbreak of the pneumonic-influenza.

Not only did we return late to a thirteen weeks’ term, but we are now separated entirely from both the visiting teachers and the day girls. As we are unable to go out we have been reduced to providing our own amusements, and to this end has been formed the “Septem Stellae Company,” which, by its efforts, has already secured 14s. 6½d. towards the support of our New Guinea boy. We have also had several competition evenings and tennis tournaments; but the most thrilling evening of all was the one given us by the members of the staff during the Easter week, of which a description is given elsewhere, and which we all enjoyed immensely. We thank them very much for giving us such a splendid time.

Of late much trouble has ensued owing to the scarcity of tennis balls, but after an early morning hunt their numbers were increased from six to thirty-two, and since then they have been more promptly returned.

Most of us this term have been very busy knitting cuffs for the old women in the Home at Newington, and we hope to have a very large parcel to send them this year. Nearly a hundred have come in already, and the day girls still have some to add to the number.

Image: Ascham girls (and possibly staff) under the fig tree, circa 1918. The fig tree has stood at the heart of Ascham since the school’s beginnings.

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