Know Your School – The Barker Oval
Friday, 23 October 2015
Ninety-one years ago in October 1924, the Barker Oval was officially opened. We commemorate this occasion by recounting the events of that day as they were reported in the May 1925 edition of The College Barker.

“The twentieth Annual Sports Day of the School marked in a most fitting manner the opening of the new Memorial Oval – a gift to the School of the Old Boys in commemoration of those from amongst their number who served and fell in the Great War…

“As Mr Carter predicted, October 18, 1924 was a memorable day in Barker’s history. “Back to Barker” was indeed the general cry, and in the presence of about 2,000 people, the presentation was made and the sports were held.

“The Oval represents an expenditure of £3,000, irrespective of the value of the land, and even in its present stage of development may be regarded as, perhaps, the best school sports-ground in New South Wales – a lasting testimony to the generosity of the Old Boys, and a magnificent memorial to their fallen comrades.

“Mr Clifford Minter, President of the Old Boys’ Union, in formally handing over the ground to the School authorities, said that he trusted the Oval would not be regarded as a mere playing field but that it would be an everlasting tribute to and reminder of the valour of those boys who had spent some of their happiest days at the School, that it would be an inspiration to present and future boys of the School, and that he trusted that all those taking part upon the ground in athletic sports and matches would be imbued with the same spirit of  comradeship and self-sacrifice, which marked the unselfishness of those whom we sought to honour, who, seeing before them their duty to their fellows, had not faltered in making the supreme sacrifice. Mr Minter then read the names of the Old Boys who had gone to the war never to return…

“Mr F. S. Boyce (Chairman of the School Council) in acknowledging the gift, declared that the time was ripe for Barker College to be regarded as the great public school that it was. The opening of the Oval represented the removal of the last barrier of rational opposition to the inclusion of Barker College in the G.P.S. sports and athletic competitions…

“Mrs Carter then performed the ceremony of cutting the ribbons that secured the gates, and declared the oval opened.

“The sports were opened with the inaugural hundred yards handicap for the Old Boys, the trophies for which were presented by the present boys. Mr Carter (the limit man) is firmly convinced that he would have won the event had his watch not dropped from his pocket, thereby causing him to “lose time.” A most successful programme followed, marked not only by the exceptional keenness of competition among the competitors, but also by the more than usual interest and enthusiasm displayed by the large crowd in attendance. The twentieth annual sports meeting – the first to be held on our own oval, was the most successful in the history of the School. Three of the School records were broken, and the competition for the College Cup, for which there were six entries, was not finally decided until the last cup event of the day…

“At the conclusion of the afternoon, the prizes were presented by Mrs Minter (the sister of an Old Boy and the wife of an Old Boy), who congratulated the various winners.

“Subsequent to this, Mr M Abbott, on behalf of the mothers of past and present boys, presented Mr Carter with a cheque for £150, to be devoted to the foundation of a fund for the erection of a pavilion to overlook the Oval. The presentation was made through Mr Carter in recognition of a debt owed to him for what he had done in the past years for those to whose memory the Oval was dedicated. Mr Abbott, in referring to the Oval said that the foundation of much of the great work done in the war was laid on the playing fields of such schools as Barker College, which possessed an honour roll of which another school much larger might well be proud; and in concluding added an appeal to continue the work of increasing the fund thus started.”

The Barker Oval remains at the centre of the sporting life of the School. As Barker students take to the field with courage and determination, the sacrifice of the Old Boys who lost their lives in World War One will forever be remembered.

Caption: The inaugural Old Boys 100 yards event at the opening of the War Memorial Oval, 1924.