The Story of the BAC Bell

Friday November 17, 2017, 9am. Light filtered through the feathery leaves of a Poinciana tree, dappling the old restored school bell silver and grey. It was ready for the brand new graduation ceremony, mounted in a beautiful Kwila wood frame beside the bridge that arcs between primary and secondary.

In an hour’s time, blue-gowned graduates would leave the student centre, walk a path between an honour guard of primary students, pause to one by one answer the roll call for the final time, swing the clapper against the dome and take their position on the bridge. With every student from the Class of 2017 accounted for, they would then pass between an honour guard of secondary students on the far side of the bridge. 

The reason the old BAC school bell is a newly-embedded focal point of our current tradition is because of its significance with our past. 

“When I was a new principal at BAC, I didn’t know much about College history,” says Mrs Entermann. “But at the 50th anniversary, College alumna Sherylea Girle chatted with me about the bell, its significance to the school, and its special significance to her family, the Hinrichsens. That’s what started us on a pathway that led to our ceremony today.” 

Five Hinrichsen children enrolled in 1966 when the College first opened its doors under the leadership of Mr Irwin Lowe: Val in Year 7, Bill in Year 5, Fred in Year 3, Sherylea in Year 2 and Carolyn in Year 1. This made the Hinrichsen family a significant portion of the 85-student school population.

Life was not easy for the Hinrichsen family. Their father Josias Earnest Hinrichsen died in 1966 after a prolonged illness. The children remember him as a gentle, soft-spoken man who was a Church of Christ minister and teacher before becoming Seventh-day Adventist and going into dairy farming, like his parents. In memory of their father, Mrs Grace Hinrichsen donated the bell to the school.

Sherylea remembers seeing the bell mounted on the eastern end of the primary classrooms. “Mum was so proud and honoured to see the bell on the school wall. It had a special plaque dedicated to my father. I suppose you could say we kids felt pretty special when that bell was rung every day.”

After Josias died, the family struggled financially. The children took on after-school work at small businesses in Mount Gravatt. “And we were all allocated jobs at home. We had to pull our weight. No treats or anything. It was exciting when you got to have a soft drink on Christmas day!” says Sherylea.

By 1969, Grace decided to move the children to her brother’s farm in Monto, west of Bundaberg, where it was cheaper to live and they could attend the local public school. The girls held out hope that one day they might return to BAC and that day finally came when Sherylea finished primary school and her mother arranged for her to board with a local family in Brisbane. This meant that she could rejoin her class (now Year 8) and be among the first students to attend the newly-opened secondary school. A year later, Carolyn joined Sherylea at BAC. The girls finished their formal schooling at the end of Year 9 and began fulltime work.

The two women returned as honoured guests last Friday, accompanied by their older halfbrother Doug Lavers McBain, who taught physics, chemistry and biology at BAC in 1981.

“Watching the Year 12 students graduate brought up mixed emotions,” says Carolyn. “We had some terrific times here as students, but we didn't get to graduate like they did here today and that is a little bit sad. Still, to know that each year this bell will be brought out and every Year 12 student will get to ring it from now on is just fantastic.”

Mrs Entermann paid her respects to the Hinrichsen family and the bell in her speech to the students and College community: 

“A fitting symbol of the past and present, the bell resounds with the memories of years gone by as well as with the celebration of milestones achieved. In the same way that the tolling bells of old personified worship, the end of war, marriage, or the end of a life, after the BAC bell is struck for the last time, it will continue to resonate with our shared history. We hope this tradition is treasured by our graduates for many years to come.”

Thanks Mr Whaytt for keeping the bell safe in the archive room, and thanks Mr Leeson for restoring it to its former glory!

AUTHOR: Debbie Cosier is a former teacher and now works as an education writer and editor. See more on her website.

[Photo L-R] Hinrichsen family members Sherylea Girle, Doug Lavers McBain, and Carolyn Chippendale standing beside the restored bell with Mrs Entermann. Graduation guests in the background.