160 Years of History

Convocation Traditions at Albert College

It is a tradition at Albert College to conclude each school year with an all-school, Albert College family photo on the front steps of the school. Faculty, staff and all students, from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12, gather for the photo which is added to the collection and proudly displayed in Alumni Hall. Alumni returning to the school one year or 50 years after graduation find themselves in these photos and fondly reminisce about their time at Albert College.

Albert College’s annual Convocation ceremony is a true celebration of success. Dating back to 1939, it has been tradition that female students wear white dresses. The female graduates also wore white gloves from 1946 until 1966 as pictured. As well, a flower corsage was pinned to their dresses until 1950 when the corsage changed to small bouquets that each carried, then called posies. Male graduates wore a jacket and tie until the Albert College uniform - a crested blazer and school tie - was introduced for the boys about 1956. The details of this photo have changed slightly throughout the years, but the tradition remains today.

Capping-off the school’s 160th anniversary celebrations with the class of 2017 in June, Albert College graduated 38 students from Canada and nine countries around the world. As graduates move beyond the stone walls of Albert College they will reflect on the memories they created steeped in timeless traditions.

Portrait of Prince Albert

Founded in 1857, Albert College was named after Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert (1819-1861). The half-length portrait in oils was donated to Albert College by His Majesty King George V in 1930. It was presented as a gift to mark the opening of the new school in 1926. The markings on the back of the painting attest to the fact that it was from Queen Victoria’s personal collection at Frogmore House, which is located in the Home Park, Windsor, Berkshire, England less than a kilometer from Windsor Castle. Reputed as one of the Queen’s favourite portrayals of her husband, it was painted by eminent English artist, Frederick Richard Say, circa 1850.

F.R. Say enjoyed a considerable influence in his day. He was a notable society portrait painter in London between 1830 and 1860, undertaking commissions for portraits of many famous and important figures including the Royal Family. In this portrait Prince Albert is nearly full-face, turned slightly to the viewer’s left, in academic gown, with decorations, garter ribbon and star. It has been restored in 1978 and again in 2017. This portrait hangs proudly in the Memorial Chapel at Albert College today.

The Albert College Junior School

The story of elementary education at Albert College began in the 1950’s with the “Jack and Jill” daycare. In 1995, the vision to create a Junior School was underway. Grades 5 and 6 were offered in one classroom in the A wing at the Senior School being taught by Ric Anderson who later went on to become the principal for 12 years. In 1997, Grades 1 to 4 were introduced, and were located in two rooms at the girls’ residence, Victoria Manor, located on Highland Avenue. The Junior School was initiated by parents looking for an independent elementary program in Belleville for their younger children.

Thanks to the dedication of parents, staff, the Board of Governors and many generous donors, The Parrott Junior School was built in 2003 on the school’s main campus and opened on time and on budget. The cornerstone is made of stone from the original Albert College that was located on College Street East in 1857. A time capsule was also placed behind the cornerstone and includes student, parent and teacher testimonials, an Albert College flag, a map of Belleville, coins and a Junior Kindergarten clip-on tie. The Parrott Junior School was named in honour of local philanthropists, Jack and Bernice Parrott. Mr. Parrott served as an active board member at Albert College for 34 years working with eight headmasters during his tenure. With the beautiful Parrott Junior School in full operation, Albert College welcomed part-time Senior Kindergarten students for the first time in September 2003.

In 2010, Albert College evolved again with a full-time Junior and Senior Kindergarten program and a new Pre-Kindergarten program for students as young as two and a half years old. The Junior School once again had taken back space at Victoria Manor to facilitate the Pre-Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten programs, now called the Early Primary Learning Centre (EPLC). Today, just over 100 students from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6 are enrolled at the EPLC and Parrott Junior School lead by Principal, Crystal Shea, who was also a teacher at The Parrott Junior School before becoming principal.

This year, as part of the 160th graduating class, four students who have attended Albert College since Kindergarten will be graduating. These students were also a part of the first class to graduate from the Parrott Junior School. One hundred and sixty years in the making and still growing. Happy 160th Anniversary, Albert College!

Loved by All, Jessie B. Tuite

Jessie B. Tuite was a teacher and the Dean of Women who “made real men of boys in voice, expression and in poise,” according to the yearbook of 1922 then called The Albert College Times. Miss Tuite was loved by all. So much so that the senior boys used to threaten the younger boys, if they didn’t behave in her class they would be dealt with. Miss Tuite coached Albert College student dramatists off campus from a downtown studio. She was instrumental in arranging student plays and other dramatic productions at the school.

Former Faculty member, Molly McIntyre joined the faculty of Albert College in 1972 and recalls meeting the retired Miss Tuite: “Mr. Joe MacKay was Headmaster at the time and would visit Miss Tuite in her home frequently. As the new and nervous Dean of Women, I went to meet Miss Tuite and asked for her advice. I remember her response distinctly. She was indeed a very wise woman, and her counsel certainly held me in good stead. ‘Be able to laugh’, was what she said.”

The very first stained-glass window installed in the Memorial Chapel at Albert College was dedicated to Jessie B. Tuite. Created with donations from former students, the window is a testament to her 40 years of dedication from 1912 to 1952. She lived to be 99 years old and passed away on November 23, 1981. Miss Tuite is fondly remembered and remains a significant figure in Albert’s history today.

Iconic Former Headmaster, Reverend Dr. Bert Howard

In September of 1930, things were dark at Albert College. The Great Depression had begun, the economy had crashed, and many students had to leave the school. Enrolment was almost half of what it had been the year before. The downward slide continued for the next few years, and by 1934, tuition had been reduced to $500, insurance policies had been cancelled, the taxes were in arrears, and salaries and trade accounts were falling behind. In the summer of 1934, Reverend Dr. Charles W. Bishop submitted his resignation.

Reverend Dr. Bert Howard took on the headship of Albert College for the 1934-35 school year. Extremely reluctant to leave his Saskatchewan parish and come to Belleville, he was convinced by the church administration that his skills were needed. On arrival, he was strengthened by the presence of four iconic teachers- Miss Jessie Tuite, Dr. Tom McMullen, Mr. Bert Simpson and Mr. Taylor Franklin.

Under Reverend Howard’s guidance, important changes started to take place as Albert College began to recover from the Great Depression. Day girls were welcomed back to Albert College in 1934, and The Manor was purchased in 1936 for $3,515 as the girls’ residence (now known as Victoria Manor). The school also hired a professionally qualified coach, Mr. N.A. “Pete” Beach in 1935 who came from the University of Western Ontario. An enlarged academic program and new athletic program brought more students to the College as economic conditions began to improve. Dedicated faculty and staff added to the atmosphere of confidence and achievement.

Under Reverend Howard’s prudent and dedicated leadership, the school’s debts were paid and the College became prosperous once again. While Reverend Howard may have been reluctant to take the helm, he remained the guiding force of Albert College for 18 years. He took the school from the verge of bankruptcy to a position of prominence in Belleville, and established Albert College as the fine academic institution it is today. All those who have benefited from their connection to Albert College owe a debt of gratitude to Reverend Bert Howard. 

The Heart of Albert College

The war was over and construction plans for the new school building moved forward. In 1923 the walls began to go up at the present Dundas Street West location. Seventy per cent of the building’s granite stone was quarried from the excavation on site. The cornerstone was laid on May 22, 1923 and came from the original Albert College building which was located on what is now College Street East. It reads, “Christ the Chief Cornerstone” in recognition of the Methodist Episcopal Church which founded Albert College in 1857.

The Alumni of Albert College raised $65,000 (nearly one million in today’s dollars) to fund the construction of The Memorial Chapel. The money was donated in memory of former students who served in World War I. Twelve former female students became army nurses and 288 male students and former students joined the armed forces. Twenty-five gave their lives in World War I (24 in World War II). The Memorial Chapel is aptly named and is located at the heart of the Senior School for symbolic purposes.

Today, faculty, staff and students in Grades 7 through 12/Post Graduate begin their day in the Memorial Chapel four days a week. This 15-minute gathering includes announcements and presentations. Each Wednesday morning, students wear their formal dress one uniform, a blazer and tie, and gather in the Chapel for an assembly focused on the school’s core values and on building a sense of local and global community responsibility.

Many alumni, when returning to the College after many years, will walk first to the Chapel and reminisce of fellowship. Albert College remains a special place in the hearts of alumni and students today. 

Mr. Joe MacKay and the Christmas Tradition at Albert College

At Albert College traditions have established the identity of the school over the past 160 years, creating a unique culture. Many traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and have been celebrated throughout the decades, creating a common thread of shared experiences among students regardless of age. The Boar’s Head procession is one of these many traditions.

Mr. Joe MacKay (1947-1980) introduced the singing of the “The Boar’s Head Carol” and is pictured with a chorus of male carollers in Ackerman Hall at Albert College in 1967. Carollers would have just processed from the kitchen and crossed the dining hall to present the boar’s head to the Headmaster and his guests at the head table.

In keeping with this tradition, each December Albert College celebrates the Christmas season as a family. In Ackerman Hall, the lights are strung and the tables are decorated and set. Students, staff and faculty gather together to enjoy a meal together complete with all the fixings. The Banquet begins with the procession and singing of “The Boar’s Head Carol”.

Mr. MacKay was hired to teach Mathematics in 1947 by Headmaster, Dr. Bert Howard (1934-52). In the course of his 33 years at Albert, Mr. MacKay was also the Dean of Men, Assistant Headmaster, and for the last two years of his tenure he became the Headmaster.

Pilot Officer, Lloyd George Bishop ’37

Attended Albert College 1936-37. Killed in action March 12, 1940 (World War II)

Word was received in a cable message from the War Office to his father, Reverend Alfred Bishop, United Church Minister, of the death of his son in air operations somewhere in France. On August 8, 1940, Rev. Alfred Bishop received the belongings of his late son including a diary which Pilot Officer Bishop had in his pocket the day he was killed. He made his last entry in the diary on March 11, saying that he has been over the line and there was very little doing, but he had heard anti-aircraft fire.

Following his son’s death, Rev. Bishop received a letter from his heroic son, who had been with the Royal Air Force since November 1938, describing an oil tanker blowing up under him while he was piloting a Hawker Hurricane single-seat fighting plane.

“I was in the air at about 3:04 p.m., leading a V formation with three Hurricanes including myself. We were out over the channel carrying out radiotelephony air drills, manoeuvres, etc. I was using an oil tanker below us as a marker to execute a steep turn in formation, when suddenly the plane was blown literally out of my hands. We had been at 300 feet and my altimeter spun around to 3300 feet. I regained control and looked down. The oil tanker had exploded amid-ships, and planks were still raining down. She was blazing furiously, huge flames and black smoke. Oil, too, had spread over the water and it was afire. She was settling down in the water and sank about 15 minutes later. I immediately signaled line astern formation. We circled around and I called base on my radio. I told them about it, gave them my position and requested orders. By this time two boats had been lowered from the tanker, this I reported also. The radio officer got the squadron leader who ordered me to get the name of the vessel and to carry out a wide circle of the tanker in case she exploded again. I was to keep a sharp lookout for a submarine and if one surfaced I was to lead the formation and machine-gun it. In the meantime, (this I learned later) the nearest naval unit was warned and a destroyer set out at full speed. Lifeboats were ordered out from lifesaving stations on the shore and some bombing machines were loaded and set off to trail me and blow the submarine if she surfaced and if there really was one. Well I went down, having ordered the formation to carry on. I circled her at about 50 feet. The flames were all over her and the name I got off her bow was Invergary of Dublin. It turned out later it was Invergargle, but many of the letters were burned off by then. To make a long story short, we saw no submarine and neither did the bomber boys who arrived soon. At about 3:20 p.m. the tanker suddenly broke in the middle and sank immediately. Then we got our orders to return to base, land and report while the tankers carried on.” A crew of 18 aboard the Invergargle were killed by the explosion of the German torpedo.

Bishop was in his third year at Queen’s University (Arts ’39) when he received the call and joined the Royal Air Force in England. His memorial service was held on March 20 in the Morgan Chapel, Old Arts Building at Queen’s University. He was 22 years old. Bishop was a member of the 73rd Fighter Squadron and was the only Canadian in that unit.


Miss Ella Gardiner

Albert College is Canada’s oldest co-educational boarding and day school. Among the list of impressive graduates is Miss Ella Gardiner. 

 In 1885, Miss Gardiner was one of the first women to earn a degree in Ontario - a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto’s first class that included women. At age 25, Ella Gardiner joined the faculty of Albert College, then located on College Street. She became the Dean of Women and taught her favourite subject, modern languages. As the devout daughter of a Minister, she delighted in teaching bible study as well.

Ella Gardiner is remembered as a gracious lady who taught at the school for more than forty years from 1885 to 1928. After retiring, she helped establish the school’s Alumni Association. She devoted her whole life to Albert College – teacher, board member and friend. She died in 1933. Miss Gardiner is considered a pioneer in education in Ontario who fought for the rights of women.

Today, Albert College is a respected independent school teaching students from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12/Post Graduate. Miss Ella Gardiner remains a treasured part of its past. Her portrait still hangs in the front hall of the Senior School, and as a tribute, a classroom bears her name. 

Video - History Lives Here - Ella Gardiner


The Early History of Albert College

When Albert College opened, British North America was a group of colonies; forests were still being cleared in Hastings and Frontenac Counties and logs floated down the Moira River. Albert College is Canada’s oldest co-educational boarding and day school.

Albert College was founded in 1857 by the Methodist Episcopal Church as the Belleville Seminary. Due to its strong academic record, Albert College received its university charter in 1866 and was renamed Albert University in honour of Prince Albert, the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria. Albert University was an affiliate of the University of Toronto. After the Methodist Episcopal Church merged into the Methodist Church of Canada in 1884, the school federated with Victoria College (University of Toronto). At that time the school stopped offering university credits and became a high school. Under the able direction of its principal, Reverend Albert Carman (1858-1874), the school flourished, producing several eminent graduates.

The original College, located on what is now College Street East, was designed to accommodate 150 residents with classroom facilities for 400 students. It was partially destroyed by fire in the spring of 1917. Construction on the present Dundas Street West site began in 1923, the new school opened in 1926 and was affiliated with the United Church of Canada. When Albert College relocated it admitted boys only, and in 1934, girls were welcomed once again.

Today, Albert College is a co-educational boarding and day school from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12/Post Graduate with boarding students representing 20 nations from around the world.