School’s Birthday

15 September 2017

This article was first published in the Queenwood weekly newsletter on 15 September 2017

As I write, Year 10 girls and parents are driving across Sydney and delivering bunches of flowers to nursing homes and hospitals across northern Sydney. As every Queenwood family knows, we mark today the School’s 92nd birthday, and this beautiful tradition brightens up the day of hundreds of people. It is a particular pleasure when we are able to give a posy to one our Old Girls and you can see below a picture of Jill Salmon (Class of 1949 and a red shoe girl!) with Bronte Forbes, Alex Smits, Sophie Pye and Emma Shew, who are just some of the Year 10s delivering the flowers today.

Schools have rich seams of tradition and usually this is a force for good. In my speech this morning, I argued that the traditions with most impact are the ones that grow out of the institution’s history and which are therefore unique to it. All schools have Speech Day ceremonies or Foundation Day rituals, for instance, and because they share a purpose they are broadly similar. The Show of Flowers, however, could never have come about except through the particular history of Queenwood and the particular characters in its story.
Miss Lawrance founded the School with Miss Rennie in 1925, and the first day of classes happened to be Miss Rennie’s birthday. The first five pupils naturally gave a gift and flowers to Miss Rennie and remembered the following year that it was not only Miss Rennie’s birthday but also the School’s birthday. They spread the word and year after year, as the School expanded, all the girls would bring in gifts and flowers for Miss Rennie. Eventually she grew uncomfortable with these attentions, especially because the School had grown so much that she no longer taught each of the girls personally. She asked that it stop but the girls insisted they wanted the tradition to continue – and so it did.

One year, Miss Rennie was too ill to come down from her flat to receive the flowers the girls had brought so she moved to the window of her top-storey flat and the girls stood underneath and held the flowers up high for her to see. Thus was born the traditional Show of Flowers. At a given point in our ceremony today, every girl raised her flowers high as we remembered all those who, like Miss Rennie, have committed their time and talents to the education of girls, offered their gifts of service and generosity to build up this school, and honoured its values of truth, courage and service.

You couldn’t plan or dream up a ritual like the Show of Flowers and its significance is not apparent to the uninitiated. It may even appear trivial to those who only see girls holding flowers in the air for a few seconds. In our school, however, it is a true celebration and quickly becomes one of the most treasured memories of a Queenwood girl. We know that its significance arises from its beauty, its meaning and the knowledge that it is entirely our own.

Ms Elizabeth Stone


Queenwood birthday celebrations
Queenwood birthday celebrations


Queenwood birthday celebrations
Queenwood birthday celebrations