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​The Red and the White

The Red and the White

For Ipswich Grammar School

1863 – 1913

(i)

Wars topped and tailed our history like two children

Sharing a bed to keep winter’s unmoved breath at bay.

One was fought over the freedom of men; our first

Students’ fingers smudged black with newspaper ink

As they broke military faith with their lunch bread.

The other, their grandchildren would fight through,

Only pausing in some broken, muddy advance to

Wonder at what they were battling for; their school

Pride transformed into a love of nation, a care for

Comrades too heart-stricken by the heat of war.

Warrior-scholars who led men against ignorance,

Who soothed boys of their fears, who questioned

Hamlet’s resolute silence. Snatches of Latin phrase

Labore et Honore.


(ii)

An Ipswich renaissance; the gothic revival bricks

Were laid by local workers whose sons would later

Stride Queensland’s first grammar hall. More than

Just the city’s industrial genesis limestone, poured

Into the mortar; the Great Hall’s foundations laid

With hope. Education is the eternal time capsule

Which the future opens. The pounds raised from

Rich and common folk paid back a thousand fold,

As the new state invested in centuries long learning.

Our tower was the first torch of wisdom held aloft,

Its flames burned away privilege; the right to school

Universal. We are the strong hand of knowledge

Who passes on the mace; that holds truth’s trophy up.

We are those who pull on the red and the white.



1913 – 1963

(iii)

Both wars took our best. Our captains needed

To test their edge as though their minds were

A sword honed to razor sharpness. Europe’s

Poppy fields paraded their metal, as crimson

Blooms decorated boyish chests. Or, from

God-like heights an Old Boy’s slow release

Of breath was the signal for his pregnant bomber

To crown Armageddon’s birth. Sometimes,

Truth’s blade was a sword of Damocles which

Hung over wisdom’s head.When it fell by wars’

End, ideals of civilisation lay shattered like so

When numbers took on a new significance and

Language was transcribed with chaos’s pen.


(iv)

Though its fire burned low post-war, our torch

Never gutted out; a solid base had been crafted

And as the world modernised so did contemporary

Thought. Men and women arrived to rebuild respect;

They breathed on the school’s smouldering embers

And fanned new life. One, Matron Fox came mid-war

And stayed on. For three decades she healed the wounds

The world threw at her boys; whether from war, sport

Or unrequited love. Her heart, steady as the school’s

Foundation stone, on which students tested their

Self-esteem and more than often, won. Another, inspired

By his vaulted schooling, watched the masters hook

Their gowns over wooden coathangers; the high arches

Of his youth propelling his vision to engineer steel icons.


1963 – 2013

(v)

Once, an ancient education was spruiked here,

Inside the woodland classroom, before even

A red brick was slung; lessons of fire-hardened

Spear beneath sun-speckled eucalypt were given.

A century on, our first people returned; Les Bunda

Threaded through the defence on Maud-Kerr oval,

His feet writing on the green page where his ancestors’

Stories were woven. Each season, more boys alighted

On the castle on the hill; at winter’s end the throaty

Cackles of Channel-billed Cuckoos or a Dollarbird’s

Silver coins led them. PNG lads, who like feathered

Migrants, left their highland homes and landed on our

New battlement. If school is the airspeed of thought;

Then both bird and boy flew an incredible distance.


(vi)

The 1863 brass plaque has been rubbed mirror bright

As the seniors brush over it on their way to the quad.

Every student’s shoe adds a little more buff. Warm

To the touch; a yellow sun, it has captured thousands

Of souls in its historical pull. School bonds are gravity

Strong, as the tug of war rope that coils snake patient,

Waiting annually to be won. Or a cheek-plate of bronze

Armour forged from the pages of Homer. Our school is

A victory cup; a sacred vessel where the ‘Milk of human

Kindness will not go sour from neglect.’ And the bell that

Sounds off each generation is a sanctuary’s gong that beats

Out a new beginning like a starter’s gun. And each tear

Shed on that final day, is a tiny looking glass that frames

The spirit of IGS for every boy; like a photo of their class.


BR Dionysius