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News > Alumni > A Debutante Ball to Remember

A Debutante Ball to Remember

In 1978, the School held their first Debutante Ball with 11 girls celebrating their 'entry into society'. Ruby Middleby recounts her experience sharing this moment with the girls.

There was much excitement in 1978, when 11 Senior girls celebrated their ‘entry into society’ at the School’s first Debutante Ball.

The girls, who wore white floor- length debut gowns, faced the dilemma of finding male partners from outside the then girls-only School to accompany them.

Former student Ruth Middleby, who now lives in Queensland, said her partner was her boyfriend of the time, Mark Hickey (now a leading Newcastle lawyer).

However, she said many girls didn’t know any boys their own age, so the School arranged for them to meet a group of military cadets as potential partners. The girls were taken by bus to a hall in Pelican each Friday night to practise dancing, where the boys would be lined up on one side of the room and the girls on the other. In the end, Ruth said not many of the cadets were selected as partners.

“They were all a lot shorter than us, so we ended up organising partners for lots of girls from my boyfriend’s school, Marist Brothers,” she said. “That was a bit controversial but a lot of romances grew from it.”

After two months of dance rehearsals, the Ball was held at the University of Newcastle’s Wisteria Room, which was decorated by the Ladies Auxiliary in the School colours.

Fellow debutante Dymphna Parkes (nee Hoyle) said her mother had her dress made, but felt the shoestring straps were too revealing so made her wear a sheer cape over the top. “We all found it really exciting,” she said. “It was a really big event for us.”

Nerida Gosling (nee Roberts) was thrilled to be invited back to Newcastle Grammar School to take part in the debut, despite having left School after Year 10. Like many of the debutantes, she made her own dress and recalls being warned about not having too much skin showing and the need for make-up to be understated. “It was a lovely, lovely time,” she said.

The 1978 School publication, The Mitre, notes that “the evening was voted a great success.”

The tradition of an annual NGS Presentation Ball continues – with a few changes. Today all Year 11 boys and girls attend, and girls can wear dresses of any colour.

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