Know Your School – Founding of the OBA
Monday, 24 August 2015
With the constitution of the Old Boys Union (OBU) being adopted on 25 August 1908, this week we look at the origins of the Old Barker Association (OBA).

As the Head of Barker, William Carter believed that the Barker community was larger than the present student enrolment. Carter therefore adopted the practice of inviting past students to participate in school events. In 1905, the first old boys race was held at the Annual Athletics Meeting, with an old boys Rugby match introduced the following year. Following these events, the old boys were invited to dine in the School’s dining hall. By 1908, the number of old boys attending these functions had become so large that Carter suggested the establishment of an old boys union, enabling these men to meet and dine outside the School on other occasions. So it was in August 1908, the constitution of the Barker College OBU was adopted.

The inaugural Annual General Meeting and Dinner was held on 13 April 1909 at Baumann’s Café in Pitt Street. More than 30 members attended, along with the Head and current staff members. Walter Herbert Friend, a student at Barker from 1892-1894 when the School was at Kurrajong Heights, was nominated for the position of the OBU’s inaugural President.

The introduction of coeducation 40 years ago meant to it was no longer appropriate to call the school’s alumni association an old boys union. On 29 May 1975, the name was therefore changed to the Old Barker Association.

Over the years, the OBU-OBA has worked hard to ensure its members are keep informed of school news and alumni happenings. In 1911, Barker College published its first edition of The College Barker. Originally called The Barker College Magazine, it was designed to not only detail the School’s sporting program and calendar of events, but to also “retain the fellowship between the School and its old boys”. From the very first issue, right up until 1950, a section of the Magazine was dedicated to the news, events and notices of the OBU. In 1951, the OBU published its own magazine supplement entitled the Barker College Old Boys Union Magazine. The first edition of The Old Barker was published in 1961, and it remained a separate publication until 1988 when it was included in the School’s quarterly magazine, The Barker.

Since its inception, the OBU-OBA has worked hard at giving back to the School. Since 1919 when ownership of Barker College was transferred to the Anglican Church, members of the OBU-OBA have given of their time serving on the Barker College Council. Furthermore, alumni coach school sport, mentor students in robotics and teach them music. The OBU-OBA has given generously to fundraising appeals, financing a number of buildings and facilities across campus. The first of these was the Memorial Sports Oval in 1924.  More recently, the OBA has provided students with training shirts for sports practice and presented baggy blue caps to the boys making the transition from Year 2 to Year 3.

There has always been a social side to the OBU-OBA, providing the opportunity for its members to remain connected. Over the years, invitations to reunions, dances, balls, golf days and annual dinners have been extended to all members. In 1960, 910 guests attended the annual ball at Trocadero. Through the formation of many sporting clubs, ranging from Rugby to Netball and Athletics, members of the OBU-OBA have formed bonds of friendship over sport.  For those members more inclined towards the performing arts, participation in the OBA Big Band or OBA Theatre is encouraged.

The OBA is now an integral part of the Barker community. It provides an opportunity for alumni to not only connect, but to also give back to the School that once played an important part in their lives.

Caption for the photograph: Program and menu card from the inaugural Old Boys Union Annual Dinner.