Early in Term 1 of 2023, as in previous years, the Brisbane Girls Grammar School Swimming team disembarked from the buses that had carried them to the Chandler Aquatic Centre. They were there to compete in the QGSSSA Inter-school Swimming Carnival. It is not difficult to imagine the girls’ excitement as they formed in lines, ready to march as a team into the venue, already chanting and cheering (perhaps hoping to be heard before they were seen). Notably, the School’s contingent was led by the Swimming Captains and in their hands—held proudly—a Brisbane Girls Grammar School banner that is nearly 40 years old.
The banner was a gift to the School from the Year 12 cohort of 1984 and was presented to Principal, Mrs Judith Hancock, by Head Girls, Ann Harrap and Christine Farmer. It is a charmingly crafted piece. Measuring 175 x 90 centimetres, it is constructed of royal blue and white flag linen. The white crest and school name are hand-cut and have been sewn onto the royal blue fabric. The lettering uses the then formally accepted nomenclature—Girls’ Grammar School Brisbane—in a Blackletter or Gothic script font. Its shape is maintained as it hangs from an ornate timber rod. The base of the banner is embellished with tassels and, perhaps with a nod to the success that it was hoped the banner might inspire, a laurel victory wreath surrounds the School crest.
From the outset, it was designed to be a formal and decorative banner. Beyond its investiture, it made its first recorded appearance at the 1988 Speech Day, perfectly placed behind Mrs Hancock as she addressed the audience, and it undoubtedly lends the proceeding additional gravitas. The banner seems quite quickly to have been co-opted for less ceremonial occasions as well. Less than a year after the formality of Speech Day, the banner was pictured being held (but not completely clear of the grass) by the Girls Grammar Ball Games team. This is perhaps the time that it began its dual life as both a working banner (leading the charge at QG carnivals) and a decorative one. Unfortunately, these two roles are not always compatible and, with the original beginning to show signs of wear, in 1997 it was decided to replicate the banner keeping the new one for formal occasions and using the older one for sport. In 2006, then Principal, Dr Amanda Bell, commissioned a third banner—featuring the School’s contemporary crest and wordmark. The newest banner is displayed in the Gehrmann Theatre and was proudly donated by the Parents & Friends Association.
It is, of course, not the only banner to have been carried by Grammar girls and the School holds many others in its archives. A favourite is the large (400 x 200 centimetres), decades-old banner that is simply adorned with ‘B.G.G.S.’. Striking in its simplicity, and large enough to be seen from a great distance, it too has been carried into sports venues and hung from railings to proudly proclaim our presence. Possibly the most innovative use of this large banner came from Mrs Alice Dabelstein, the Cross Country Coordinator throughout the early 2000s. Mrs Dabelstein used to lay it out on the last heart-breaking incline just before the home stretch at the QGSSSA Cross Country course at Limestone Park in Ipswich. Just as the Girls Grammar runners thought they had given their all, the sight of the banner that close to the finish line reminded them that they still had more to give. It was a none-too-subtle prompt—a visual reminder for each girl to continue to work hard until the very end of the race.