Fathers have a special place: The EW Colley Memorial Prize

Nestled in a protective sleeve in an archival box in the Girls Grammar Archive is a heartfelt, handwritten note dated 24/11/98 from a parent. It begins, ‘Dear Mrs Hancock, What a wonderful Speech Day on Friday and how touched I felt to see Anna Palmer walk across the stage to collect the EW Colley Memorial Prize.’ The note was written by Mrs Susan Colley, wife of the eponymous Mr Edward Colley.

1998 Mrs Susan Colley’s thank you letter

Who was EW Colley? How did this prize evolve? Whose idea was it? What was the intent of adding this prize to the 1998 End of Year Assembly and Prize Giving? What are the criteria?

The story of the EW Colley Memorial Prize begins with the story of a strong Grammar family. Jack and June Colley sent their three children to the Grammar schools. Sisters Christine (1959) and Lindy (1960) attended Girls Grammar, and brother, Edward (Ed), attended Brisbane Grammar School. Later, both Christine’s daughter, Edwina (2003), and Edward’s daughter, Louise (1999) became Grammar girls.

By the time Ed had graduated from Brisbane Grammar School, he had established himself as a sportsman, leader, and scholar. His academic preferences lay in the sciences; specifically, Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. His sporting interests included rugby, athletics, and cricket. It is little wonder that when his children arrived at the Grammar schools, he followed their sporting pursuits avidly and was committed to both Grammar communities.

1965 BGS 1st XV Ed Colley seated front row right

One group within the Girls Grammar community which particularly appealed to Ed was the Fathers Group. The group had been formally established in 1977 under the guidance of Dr David Gordon and was thriving by the late 1990s, famous for the best barbecues on Open Day and impressive building exploits on both the Spring Hill and Marrapatta (then known as Imbil) campuses. According to Louise, her father was a ‘vocal and fun member’, volunteering his time to the group’s activities and cheering on the sidelines.

It was this group that decided to honour Ed when he was cruelly struck down after a prolonged illness. Glenn Capper, President of the Fathers Group in 1998, felt there was an opportunity to honour such a man who stood for strong values, as well as the contribution to the Fathers Group. Glenn approached the Father’s Group with the proposal of the EW Colley Memorial Prize, as well as a perpetual trophy for the Year 11 Best All-rounder. As Glenn put it, ‘there was not a dissenter in the room’ (2023).

The hard work then began with the discussion of criteria. Bowing to the difficulty of the task, Glenn approached then Principal, Judith Hancock, who strongly approved of the prizes proposed and suggested that she would look after establishing the criteria.

The outcome reflected the values Ed Colley cherished and promised to reward a multi-talented student. The wording of the criteria in the 1998 Prize-Giving program reads:

‘The Fathers Group has presented this prize in memory of a much admired and respected member. The prize is awarded to a student of Chemistry and another Science subject who has participated in QGSSSA or club Hockey or Cricket and displays commitment, sportsmanship, and school spirit.’

1998 Anna Palmer with Claire Wharton (left) and Karlie Burgoyne (right) in the Club Hockey photograph

The inaugural recipient of the prize was Anna Palmer (1998). Anna played club Hockey, received a High Distinction in the national Chemistry Quiz, and was presented with a prize for Academic Merit on Speech Day. In Anna’s words: ‘I was greatly touched to receive this particular prize, as my time at Grammar had been the happiest of my life and it had a lot to do with the breadth of wonderful things we were able to be involved in. The prize for me, acknowledging academic, sports, teamwork, and school spirit, embodied much of what I absolutely loved about BGGS’ (2023). Ed Colley would have approved.

Across its 25 years of presentation, there have been only two girls to receive the award in both Years 11 and 12. These students were Phoebe O’Hare in 2003 and 2004, and Jessica Morton in 2008 and 2009. Jessica recalled, ‘I do remember this prize and the context that came with it. The prize money went to a couple of places. Most of it went to my family as a contribution to my first car, but I also bought a couple of books … I was an avid reader—still am’ (2023).

2009 Jessica Morton versus St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School

The most recent recipient of the award was Caizha Lee in 2022. Caizha represented the school in the Open Hockey team and was the winner of the Lady Lilley Gold Medal (Dux of the School, joint prize winner). She reflected on the EW Colley Memorial Prize: ‘It was an honour to receive the Ed Colley Memorial Prize. I did not know about the prize or the criteria prior to receiving it, so it was quite unexpected. The recognition I received last year, particularly from the Fathers Group, made me realise that there is a huge network of support, extending beyond my teachers and peers at BGGS, that backs and believes in every student. I recall writing something similar in my Thank You letter to the Fathers Group because this realisation is what I am most grateful for.’

‘This prize is particularly special to me as its criteria are based on two of my passions—hockey and science. While I initially thought the paired criteria of Sport and Science was slightly random, as each sits on polar ends of one’s usual activities, I have come to understand commitment to both areas reflects a balance between studies, physical and social wellbeing. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is a core value of mine and I strongly believe that is what helped me to succeed last year’ (2023).

2022 EW Colley Memorial Prize winner, Caizha Lee

It is an important moment when the Director of Science and the Director of Sport come together at the end of each year to select a winner for this award. It reminds them of their respective disciplines and the high standards the School demands of each student. It exemplifies the importance of a broad range of skills each student can and does develop and, hopefully, it gives them an appreciation of the compatibility of the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual elements of the curriculum. Each winner is expected to write a letter of thanks to the Fathers Group, as eluded to by Caizha.

2022 Caizha Lee receives the Lady Lilley Gold Medal (joint prize winner) and six other prizes, including the EW Colley Memorial Prize from Chair of Trustees, Ms Julie McKay

These letters of gratitude, just like the one written by Mrs Susan Colley in 1998, have become treasured mementoes of the relationships within the School community. They acknowledge, in this special award, the qualities prized in a worthy Grammar girl. Not only must the student display academic and sporting qualities, leadership, and collegiality, it is hoped they will also appreciate the generosity of the Fathers Group and this acknowledgement of a special man.

Pauline Harvey-Short (1971)
Manager, School History and Culture



BGGS Magazines 1977-1998

Capper, Glenn email and interview 1 August 2023.

Condon, Sally email 8 August 2023.

Lee, Caizha email 10 August 2023.

Morton, Jessica email 3 August 2023.

Palmer, Anna emails 1 and 14 August 2023.

Tier, Louise emails 21 July 2023.