Historical information

Depicted are 14 students comprising the the 1952 Ruyton Girls' School hockey team. The photograph is an official school portrait taken outdoors on a patch of grass with a leafy bush visible in the background. The students are all dressed in light coloured shorts with a collared, buttoned blouse, wool blazers, white socks and white sneakers. Six girls are kneeling in the front row, and eight are standing up in the back row. All of the students are holding their own hockey stick.

The idea of field hockey for female players was brought to Victoria by two sisters, Lillian and Margaret Irving, who had first seen girls playing it during their travels in England in 1902. By 1903, the Irving sisters were joint headmistresses of Lauriston, a school they had founded two years earlier. Both had deep connections to Ruyton Girls' School through their time as teachers at the older school during the 1880s-1890s. For Lilian Irving, this had included seven years as Ruyton's co-Principal with Miss Eliza Bromby from 1888-1895. With these links it was only natural that Ruyton students would join Lauriston to try out the new game.

On a vacant block on the corner of Mercer and Malvern Roads, students from Ruyton and Lauriston Girls' Schools had assembled to play Victoria’s first ever inter-school hockey match for girls. Some students from Melbourne Girls' Grammar School came along to watch the spectacle and assess the new game's potential. Hockey quickly caught on, and friendly games were soon being played amongst a number of Melbourne's girls' schools. An Association was formed in 1905, and the rules formalised. These included arrangements around the competition fixture and the length of games (35 minutes for each half). In celebration of their joint role in bringing field hockey to Victorian school girls, Ruyton and Lauriston have met for friendly re-enactment matches in 2003 and 2018.

The photograph also illustrates the shift in hockey uniform and apparatus. In the early 1920s, Ruyton established instructions for playing attire: "skirts must be eight inches off the ground. No white petticoats...", and importantly, least any team get an unfair advantage, "hard-rimmed hats and hatpins must not be worn during play." Ruyton appears to have taken the latter instruction to heart, and adopted the soft tam o’shanter hat as seen in surviving photographs of early teams. The tam o’shanter may have been removed for play, but the blouse and long skirt had to be put up with. According to Lilian Irving they had "a horrid habit of parting company", and she was delighted to see the transition to a more comfortable tunic in later years. Another change she observed was the hockey stick itself, which originally were all of "uniform thickness from handle to head, about the thickness of a stout walking stick" and so very different from the hockey sticks that are used today.


The record has strong historic significance as it depicts a former notable student, Helen Gordon (maiden name Cole), pictured third from the right in the front row. Helen started at Little Ruyton in Prep 1940 and finished Year 12 in 1952 as School Captain, Bromby Captain, Form Captain for Matric, Tennis Captain, Hockey Captain, Swimming Vice Captain, and an award for Best All-Round Girl. She also played baseball for Victoria. After finishing school, Helen went on to graduate from the University of Melbourne as a physiotherapist in 1956. Her first position at age 19 involved setting up clinics with the Victorian Health Department Poliomyelitis Rural division.

Helen’s strong ties to Ruyton continued when she held the position of President of the Old Ruytonians’ Association from the start of 1966 to the end of 1967.

In 2019, Helen received an Order of Australia Medal for service to community health as a physiotherapist. She was also the recipient of the 2022 Victorian Senior Achiever Award at Parliament House.

Helen passed away in July 2023 at age 88.

The record's significance is further enhanced by its strong provenance, having been produced by Ruyton Girls' School and donated to the Archives by a familial connection.

Physical description

Black and white rectangular photographs printed on matte photographic paper.

Inscriptions & markings

gton /
Margaret Hanesho (?) /
Helen Gordon /
1952 /
Mary Macpherson-Smith /