1930 – 1999

Class of 1946

Norman Charles Wilson was an Aquinian who loved life and lived it to the full.

He was much loved for his passion for teaching by all who knew him. As well as being academically strong he was stroke in the 2nd VIII Rowing team at the age of only 15, in his leaving year 1946. Early the next year he made the long trip to Strathfield across the Nullabor, by locomotive, to prepare for admission to the congregation.

His religious name Br Neil was short for Cornelius and, having trained as a teacher at the age of 20 in Ballarat, he eventually moved back to Perth. He taught at CBC Fremantle in 1957-58 and studied a Bachelor of Arts part-time at UWA. It was with mixed feelings that he returned to Aquinas the next year as Master-in-Charge of the Junior Dormitory. The school was now boarding and day and had grown so much in the interim, but he flourished and worked hard both in the classroom and across the sports.

He recalled: “Throughout my religious life I have always lived in community, loved it, made my contribution, and appreciated the support it has given me.” As he was leaving the College, it was announced that the newly-rebuilt Rowing Shed was to be named after him, in gratitude not so much for what he did for rowing as for what he did for the rowers.

After leaving Aquinas College Br Neil became Headmaster at Strathmonth (South Australia) and Deputy Head of Trinity College. He returned to Aquinas in 1988 and even in retirement became a full time member of staff, willing to teach Religious Education, manage the 1st XVIII and initiate the early Service Program to the aged and the youngsters of Manning.

Br Neil was recognised as the remaining link between an Aquinas led by the Christian Brothers and one entirely run by lay staff. He was enthusiastic and theatrical in his manner conveying the urgency of sharing his knowledge with the next generation. He immersed himself in whatever he took on and had a great love of music, art and literature.

For Br Neil Wilson, rowing was always his first love. As fellow coach Peter Spencer, who worked with him and the 1st XVIII, recalls: “he was someone who saw the beauty and joy of the simple things in life”.