A picture paints a thousand words: The Doreen Yeates album collection

‘Words cannot express the gratitude for the understanding, help, and guidance you have given us this year and we thank you sincerely. All our love VID 1965.’
1965, Form Class VID Album


Teachers can hold a special place in the hearts and minds of students. They challenge, nurture, stimulate, disagree, set standards, and have high expectations. Girls Grammar teachers have a rich and long history of doing just this! Reunions are peppered with stories—both good and bad—of staff members and principals. Love them or hate them, they are indelibly etched into memories.

Doreen Margaret Thomas was such a teacher. She arrived at Girls Grammar in 1951 having been educated at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School and The University of Queensland, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1933. She taught at St Margaret’s and was the first female teacher at Toowoomba Grammar School (TGS). Her great niece, Kathy Walker, commented that ‘when she (Doreen) recounted this fact—her husband Alex Yeates (TGS old boy) would quip: Well, there was a war on, Doreen!’

Doreen commenced her 21 years at the School as a History, Geography and Mathematics teacher and finished in 1971 as the Second Mistress, the term given to what would be the modern-day Deputy, specialising in Junior and Senior History.

1966, Doreen Thomas portrait by an unknown artist, possible Mary-Jane Hickey

As the ‘unmarried daughter’ of a widowed mother, she looked after her mother until she passed away at 94 years of age in the mid-1960s. It was perhaps this innate nurturing characteristic that endeared her to her students.

In 1965, a group of VID girls (VID was a sixth form class group), with the support of their class, decided to create ‘something special’ for their Form Teacher, Miss Doreen Thomas. Rather than present her with a tried-and-true teacher gift, a group of friends, including Christine Purvis (Steindl, 1965), Creina O’Dwyer (Moore, 1965), Judy Barstow (Schubert, 1965), Carolyn Young (1965), and Kathryn May (1965), with Form Captain Pam Arkell’s (West, 1965) support, decided to create an album of their experiences across the year. Also, they decided to embellish the photograph album with outstanding sketches of their exploits created by talented VI Form artist, Creina O’Dwyer.

1965 VID

Zoology excursions, car washes, camping, science laboratory experiments, and Physical Education lesson images were linked by clever pen and ink sketches of Girls Grammar life. What was captured was an intimate view of student life in 1965, and the personalities of VID, over whom Miss Thomas, later to be Mrs Yeates, had a great influence.

1965, The Zoology Excursion by Criena O’Dwyer, Diane Allman (left) and Christine Purvis (right)

The last photograph in the album shows Form captain, Pam Arkell, presenting the album to Miss Thomas—a late addition! Miss Thomas holds the album carefully and appears to be totally engrossed. The Form no doubt were pleased with the outcome. What they perhaps did not realise, was that they initiated a tradition for Miss Thomas’ form classes.

Pam Arkell (Form Captain) presenting the 1965 album to Miss Thomas

In 1966, the new VID Form class continued the concept of a photograph album as a parting gift. It is unclear if they knew of its predecessor.

‘To dear Miss Thomas

With best wishes from VID 1966

May you never forget us!’

Once again, this album is a snapshot of Girls Grammar life, interspersed with beautiful artwork created by Mary-Jane Hickey and other artists. In the 1966 artwork, there are some wonderful sketches of Miss Thomas—one dancing at the Sixth Form Dance and a portrait, the whole project an illustration of the impact she had on her class.

1966, 'Remember the tenth of September' (One assumes Miss Thomas at the Sixth Form Dance!). Artist Mary-Jane Hickey

Late additions to this album were a professional photograph of Grammar girls at The University of Queensland in 1967 and a valedictory poem written by Edwina Butt and Form VID. Capturing the togetherness and comfort of the Form is the image of the class on the wide Sixth Form steps from the verandah, which once led into the staff car park, but now no longer exist. This veranda, on the lower floor of the Western Wing, now overlooks the Elizabeth Jameson Research Learning Centre and Judith Hancock Communications Centre. The purview of the Sixth Form only in the 1960s, the veranda now houses lockers for younger classes.

1966, VID Album with the class on the Sixth Form steps, Western Wing and Minerva

The 1967 VIA saw Miss Thomas appointed as Second Mistress, as well as their Form Mistress. Their album had a vibrant blue cover and included those classic sticky 1960s pages—an archivist’s nightmare! Once again, the photographs depicted Girls Grammar life and the girls who represented them in sport, work, and service. This snapshot of 1960s student life was portrayed with humour and fun, and culminated in images of the tradition of the final day: the VI Form picnic, a picnic which Robyn Aydon, VIA Form Captain, remembers nearly did not happen.

‘(Miss Thomas) wanted to demote me on the last day for disobeying her orders. She had told us we couldn’t have a picnic in the park adjoining the Physics lab—BCC (Brisbane City Council) land—and I ignored her instructions. I was left with no doubt what she thought, and I think Marge (Neil, staff) and Heather (Tuckett, staff) saved my bacon!’

Photographic evidence suggests that a compromise occurred, and the picnic was held on the lower netball court on GIrls Grammar turf.

1967 VIA Picnic image from the album

1967 VIA on the lower netball court

1968 is a mystery. There is no album and no memory of an album by the girls of VIB. Perhaps it is lost to posterity or was never created. Form captain, Marilyn Redlich (Stehr, 1968), said: I am quite certain of two things. Nobody made me aware at the time that there was such a tradition. And so of course, I did not compile or ask class members to help compile an album for Miss Thomas in 1968. We would, of course, have joined in with such a tribute. How curious! I can truly say that as a group, we were unaware of this tradition.

The following three years saw three quite different albums created, each reflecting the classes’ individuality.

1969 saw the VIB album created in a small-ringed binder, not the traditional photograph album. It was an insight to the Girls Grammar life with a twist. Girls wrote about each other rather than themselves, either in prose and/or verse. Illustrations were caricatures, baby photos, school life images or no image at all. Miss Thomas would have been highly entertained reading the insights of friends of her students.

1969, Album page on Ann Moores written by Wendy McCallum

Ann Stark (Moores, 1969) had no recollection of Wendy’s commentary however, and said: It’s always interesting to see oneself through the eyes of others—especially looking back over a gap of more than 50 years! I went on to become a counselling psychologist, so it seems the seeds of listening were already there. As for the “model citizen”, well others should judge that rather than me, but over the years I have been appointed to various state and national boards, I guess the most quirky appointment was the six years I spent as a member of the Office of Film and Literature Classification’s Classification Review Board.

Fun, frivolity, and friends featured in the 1970 album. The book returned to the classic photograph album format which protected the photographs more effectively. This VIB class enjoyed and cherished the Fraser Island expedition, the VIth Form Fashion Parade, Physical Education classes, and social time together. A very charming twist was the inclusion of an infant photograph of each girl. Although included to some extent in 1969, every girl submitted an image of a baby or infant photograph.

1970 Fraser Island Trip from VIB Album

1970, VIB 'Licorice Legs'

The final album was in 1971, the year Miss Thomas became Mrs Yeates, and it was the creation of Narelle Galloway (Kleinschmidt, 1971), VIB Form captain. Narelle commented: Yes, I did instigate and compile this album. Each day I would take a few girls out to take individual photos in various locations around the school. I remember being in strife for being outside after the bell had rung to return to class after lunch, while taking these photos, with Mrs Middleton coming to my defense. We had fun taking the shots and loved being able to present the finished album to Mrs Yeates. (These were the) early days before scrapbooking existed, with glued photo corners, as I remember. How wonderful (that) this album has been kept, becoming part of the school’s history.

The 1971 album was royal blue and had a Girls Grammar badge embossed on the cover. It featured a page labelled ‘Wedding of the Year’ devoted to Miss Thomas’ wedding to Mr Alex Yeates, which a group of the class attended. Narelle is prominent in one photograph with her trusty camera slung over her wrist. Like the previous albums, it captured a Grammar girl’s life and provided Mrs Yeates with images of her final VI Form class and her final year teaching at the School.

1971, 'Wedding of the Year'

These albums are valuable and unique examples of Girls Grammar’s material culture, and we are indebted to Doreen Yeates’ great niece, Kathy Walker, for donating them to the School. It is both the visible and implied essence of Girls Grammar that is beautifully and thoughtfully presented. Captured in these albums are the elements of school life that gave joy to both the creators and the recipient. The lessons, excursions, service, plays, social experiences of the Sixth Form dance, and barbecues with friends, are celebrated in images, unique drawings, and prose. The desire to create a lasting and distinctive memory of a class for a teacher says much about the esteem the students held towards their teacher and the importance of the teacher-student relationship.

The Yeates Album Collection is precious: it reveals the appreciation of a time all too short, gratitude for the Girls Grammar experience, and an embracing a moment in time.

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



Aydon, Robyn 07.05.23 email.

BGGS Annual Reports 1950 – 1971.

BGGS Magazine 1965-1971

Galloway, Narelle 09.05.23.

Gray, Jennifer email.

Marriott, Jayne 11.05.23 email.

Redlich, Marilyn 22.05.23 email.

Stark, Ann 01.06.23 email.

Walker, Kathy 12.05.23 email.

1965, The Science Lab by Creina O’Dwyer

1966, The Grammar Girl by Mary-Jane Hickey

1966, 'The Ones who invented the Sixth Form Badge' by Mary-Jane Hickey