Bill's back where it all began as Belmont High turns 70

Belmont High School’s 70th anniversary open day was embraced by the school and wider community. Sven Wright reports.

Three rows of teachers posing for a photo. Three rows of teachers posing for a photo.
Image: The staff of Belmont High School in 1954. Bill Bryant is in the back row, third from right.

When Bill Bryant started teaching at Belmont High in 1953, the school did not even have a working telephone.

Mr Bryant was one of many community members to celebrate the Belmont High’s 70th anniversary at a school open day late last month.

Principal Gareth Erskine said the open day was the main celebration in a series of events for current and former staff, students, parents and notable alumni to reflect on the school’s enduring role in its community.

“We’re delighted that Bill Bryant, who started teaching at Belmont High in its first year, joined us to share his stories and personal insights into the lasting influence our school has had in the community over seven decades,” Mr Erskine said.

“There was significant interest in this milestone even before the main event, with our anniversary promotional video receiving more than 12,000 views 10 days out from the open day.”

Mr Bryant told the Newcastle Herald the early years were a great time at the school, even if in the first month of opening there was no phone.

“In its first year I was teaching kids from Belmont, Swansea, Gateshead and Redhead and it grew every year,” he said.

“We used to make phone calls using the public phone opposite the school.”

Mr Erskine said the open day was the culmination of many weeks’ preparation.

“We created historical photo recreations, we have an honour board for ex-student Vietnam veterans, a recording of the original school song (which hadn’t been used for 30 years), and an alumni recognition wall featuring well-known ex-students such as Paul Harrigan, Russell Blackford and Jane Diplock,” he said.

“I’m sure our displays triggered many happy memories for our visitors, and we’re welcoming other contributions of memorabilia from members of the community to add to our archives.”

Belmont High was the first public secondary school in the Newcastle area to open outside the city, as a junior high school from January 1953 to December 1955, and a high school from January 1956.

“School education has transformed in almost every way over 70 years, but our core values of hard work and respect haven’t, and our Latin motto ‘Quantum potero - I will achieve my potential’ is just as relevant now as it was back in 1953,” Mr Erskine said.

The open day included tours for visitors, historical displays and other presentations and performances, a selection of works by students, as well as community members catching up and reminiscing.

Three rows of students posing for a photo. Three rows of students posing for a photo.
Image: The Student Representative Council at Belmont High School in 1954.
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