Sunday, 7 January 2018

World War One Memorial Gates at Coburg Primary School

On the afternoon of Friday 10 November 2017, before the Old boys book was launched, the most amazing commemorative gates were launched at Coburg Primary School. Like the book, the gates were funded by the ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program. They were created by local artist Margaret Christianson and you can see more of her marvellous artwork on her website and her Facebook page.  

If you haven’t already seen the gate, make sure you take a stroll down Elm Grove and take a look. Elm Grove runs between Bell Street and Urquhart Street and ends at the Glass Den Café, where, if you’re like me, you might just be forced to have a coffee! Or make your way through the former Pentridge Prison site to Pentridge Boulevard where you will find the Boot Factory Café – another favourite haunt of mine. 

 Peter Khalil MP, Member for Wills, speaking with Coburg Primary School Principal Jane Hancock. Peter officially 'launched' the gates.

Kelvin Thomson, President of Coburg Historical Society and former Member for Wills, with the creator of the gates, Margaret Christianson.

Principal Jane Hancock speaking at the gate ceremony.

Cheryl Griffin speaking at the gates ceremony.

Me making my speech at the gates ceremony. In the background you can just see the house I lived in from 1962 to 1968 - 512 Sydney Road, Coburg. It was then the Coburg Methodist parsonage. It's now part of Peppertree Place.

Past-President of Coburg Historical Society, Malcolm McIlvena about to present copies of  The old boys of Coburg State School go to Coburg Primary School.

The creator of the gates Margaret Christianson.

Margaret Christianson with Augustino from Coburg Primary School who helped make sure the gates were hung 'just right'.

Images sourced from:
Peter Khalil, MP for Wills’ Facebook page.
Coburg Historical Society’s Facebook page.

Coburg Historical Society’s website.

This is the speech I gave when the gate was launched by Peter Khalil MP on Friday 10 November 2017 at Coburg Primary School:

Almost one hundred years ago a tree planting ceremony was held at the back of the Infant School (now the junior campus of Coburg Primary School) in the presence of local politicians and a group of visiting French dignitaries.

On that day (23 October 1918), an avenue of trees was planted in memory of 35 of the old boys of the school who died during World War One.

Over time the footprint of the school grounds changed and in the early 1960s the Soldiers’ Avenue disappeared when the carpark closest to the Leisure Centre was built.

It was not completely forgotten, however, and in May 1991 a memorial plaque was placed in the Infant School grounds.

Last year, Grades 2 to 6 students took part in an art project run by artist-in-residence Kelly Gatchell Hartley in which the avenue of trees was re-discovered and re-imagined through their art work.

And now, as a permanent memorial to the old boys who served and died, local artist Margaret Christianson has created these beautiful gates that give each of the 35 old boys who were remembered in the original avenue of trees a new place in the school’s history.

I hope that every day as you come through the gates, you stop and look at the wonderful tribute Margaret has created. I hope you think, too, about those boys who once sat in the same classrooms as you and me (I attended 484 Coburg, too) and played in the playground just like you and me. We are all part of the history of School number 484, so these young men who fought in that long ago war are as much a part of our story as anyone living today.

Cheryl Griffin, 10 November 2017


  1. Lovely gates! Do the trees on the gates each represent a lost "old boy"? Congrats on the wonderful book too Cheryl. And lastly, am I the only one who thought those children looked like a sea of poppies? How appropriate!

  2. Thanks, Jenny. It was such a great day and a wonderful end to the project. Yes, there is a tree and an image of a soldier to represent each of the 35 old boys who were remembered in the original memorial garden. I definitely agree with you about the sea of poppies. It was quite coincidental, because red is the colour of their school uniform, but it couldn't have been more appropriate - and on the eve of Remembrance Day, too.