Peter Mackey was school captain in 1970 when he was called on to give the valedictory speech at St Patrick’s College.
This week he will finally deliver that speech – and more – at the St Patrick’s College Old Collegians Association St Patrick’s Day luncheon to mark the 125th anniversary of the school.
As Mr Mackey waited to make his 1970 speech, the guest of honour Monsignor Bill McCunnie collapsed and died next to him at the table. The dinner was abandoned and Mr Mackey never got to deliver his speech.
“It was an abrupt end to dinner, so I led my classmates up to the chapel to pray for the repose of his soul. That was 48 years ago and, as they say, better late than never. I’ve basically been sitting on the interchange bench for 48 years and I’m going to be reliving that moment and telling some stories,” Mr Mackey said.
“I was supposed to give a speech where I reminisced about my time at school and thanked the senior teachers, and that’s what I’m going to do this weekend but 48 years late.”
At the time of his death in 1970, Monsignor McCunnie was secretary to Bishop JP O’Collins, one of the two patrons of St Patrick’s College. He was an esteemed old boy of the school, having boarded there in the 1930s, and came back to St Pat’s as chaplain for six years in the 1950s having trained as a priest.
Mr Mackey is sure other memories will flow when he also produces a leather strap used at the school as corporal punishment.
“I don’t know what effect that will have on some of the old boys, if it brings back some horrible memories but I certainly got the strap for a whole range of things at school; smoking, leaving school premises without permission, and adopting a ‘team approach’ to learning Latin which teachers may have interpreted as cheating,” he laughed.
Mr Mackey went on to become a respected family lawyer for 30 years but retired after suffering ill health and now spends many hours working in his garden.
The class of 1970, and hundreds of other former and current students will be reunited as the school celebrates its 125th anniversary on Saturday.
The day begins with a mass in the college chapel at 11am, an exhibition football match against arch-rivals Assumption College at 2pm, a rugby match against Melbourne Harlequins U/18 team at 3pm, college tours, archival displays and the lunch.