Mary MacKillop: Russell Street School

A Catholic school known as St Romuald’s was established on Russell Street in 1876. Housed in what were originally the stables for a nearby soap and candle factory, this school was conducted by a lay teacher. In 1877, the Sisters of St Joseph took over its operations. The school eventually closed in 1965 and the building was demolished in the late 1990s.

One of the school’s most well-known former students was Bert Edwards. Albert Augustine Edwards was born on 6 November 1888. Rumoured to be the illegitimate son of South Australian premier, Charles Cameron Kingston, Bert lived with his mother on Sturt Street and attended the Russell Street school. He eventually left school and worked in stalls at the city’s markets and on racecourses. He went on to own a tea room on Compton Street, and several city hotels including the Duke of Brunswick on Gilbert Street and the Newmarket Hotel on North Terrace. Bert also became active in politics, representing Grey Ward in the Adelaide City Council. He was also the Member for Adelaide in the House of Assembly from 1917 to 1931. A much-loved public figure, Bert was known as “The King of the West End”.

Growing up in the south-west corner, Bert saw first-hand the difficulties faced by many of the city’s residents. He gave generously to charitable institutions, helping to establish a men’s refuge in Whitmore Square and the Daughters of Charity Meal Centre on Hutt Street. Bert regularly collected surplus food from the Adelaide Central Markets and distributed it amongst the poor, including the West Terrace House of Providence. It was said that Bert would also bring cakes and sweet treats from Gehlert’s bakery on Gouger Street to the students at the Russell Street School. After he passed away on 24 August 1963, his estate was divided among Adelaide’s poor. South Australian Premier Sir Thomas Playford said, “Scarcely a good cause in the city did not receive some help from him.”