By Alfred Noyes
So I speak,
Not for myself, but for the age unborn.
I caught the fire from those who went before,
The bearers of the Torch, who could not see
The goal to which they strained; I caught their fire,
And carried it only a little way beyond;
But there are those that wait for it I know,
Those who will carry it on to victory,
I dare not fail them…Looking back, I see
Those others…with their arms outstretched
…. pointing to the future.
History of the Torch Ceremony
The Torch Ceremony was started by Marjorie Hallett, Headmistress of BHS, in May, 1937. The Torch Ceremony is usually, but not always, held on the third Thursday in April. In those days, Thursday was a half day holiday, and businesses in town worked on Saturdays.
Originally, the luncheon for Old Girls (as alumnae are known) was followed by the Torch Ceremony, and then during the rest of the afternoon, there was a School versus Old Girls softball game. The luncheon itself was prepared at the school by various Old Girls. Today the luncheon is catered and current students serve the lunch.
In 1937, the entire school amounted to about 220 girls, and the kindergarten students did not participate in Old Girls’ Day (as it was known back then). The original Torch was simply a tin can, nailed on to the end of a broom stick with a rag soaked in kerosene in the can. Later, D.J. Williams gave the School an Olympic-type torch with a short handle. The handle was later lengthened for safety reasons, and a harness was made for the Head Girl to carry the torch safely.
The Torch Ceremony has always been held in silence; everyone stands, facing front with their hands at their sides, except when touching the torch with their right hand. The lighted torch is carried past the Old Girls first, then handed to the Head of School who passes by Staff, and then it is handed to the Head Students who carry it past the entire school. Everyone in turn touches the torch, from the oldest Old Girl, down to the youngest student in Year 1. After the torch has been passed along the whole circle, “The Torchbearers” poem by Alfred Noyes is read and then everyone sings the School Song before filing out in order.
The Torch Ceremony is a solemn occasion steeped in tradition and meaning for the School. It symbolises the journey from past to present, young to old, and is an important day on the BHS calendar where we honour our traditions and celebrate our alumni.
Samantha DeCouto, Head Girl of the 100th Graduating Class of 1994, spoke about the Torch Ceremony and the significance for BHS students. “There is a sense of unity here. On Old Girls’ Day, when the torch is passed through the ranks of past and present students gathered on the big oval driveway, the solemnness, the unity and the pride that circulates around are beautiful to see. Traditions like these give you pride in being a BHS student, and to have come up through a system that has taught you so much.”