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Gryphon Gallery: Early Years of the Closing Ceremonies at NHS and Glenlyon

Gryphon Gallery
Gryphon Gallery graduates of the past.

We are in the final days for 78 Grade 12s engaged in a very busy countdown towards their graduation ceremonies. It is a far cry from the early days of NHS and Glenlyon when sometimes as few as three would be recognized as ‘graduating’ their final year offered by the school, and the end-of-year school assembly might include as few as a dozen students.

Although by inference Prize Giving, as it was known in earlier times, existed before the first reference in the historical records of NHS, it was not until the mid 1920’s that a mention was actually made. It was a comment about drill displays demonstrating deportment and dancing skills that became an important part of the end-of-year event in front of parents. Prizes were few and speeches even less, as there was sometimes a greater interest by parents on the preparation for womanhood or even entry into debutante training than on academic achievement. At Glenlyon there was definitely a focus on academic achievement combined with magnificent displays of student artwork highlighting a more traditional Closing that included Form Prizes and speeches by the Headmaster and his honoured guest. 

Both schools held their events outside: NHS, upon moving to Pemberton Woods in 1932, on the hockey field, and Glenlyon, upon moving to Beach Drive in 1935, on the back lawn facing the waters of Oak Bay. On very few occasions would they need to change proceedings to an indoor venue, and in those early days, neither had a big enough facility to house an indoor event but would usually go to a local church hall. Although at the 1971 Glenlyon Closing, a last minute downpour forced the event into the old gymnasium, cramming just short of 500 students and parents into a gym that was permitted to have only 175 seated occupants. Hopefully there is a Statute of Limitations on whether the Oak Bay Fire Chief can now call-forth municipal action!

Moving forward, Glenlyon’s top class was at various stages in its development Grade 8, then 9 and eventually Grade 10 in 1970 to 1971. Graduation from these classes was duly applauded with recognition and well-wishing for future education but lacked that final conclusion to their school journey, that was left for other schools. As years went by at NHS, there was certainly an increase in academic focus and efforts to offer matriculation level programmes, but that did not successfully happen on a regular basis until the advent of the Winifred Scott years. As headmistress, it was through her efforts to provide a consistent Grade 12 education and to make that seem special, that a decision was made to have all graduates wear white dresses at their Closing Ceremony and Graduation Dance after 1959 giving a memorable recognition to this senior class.