It has been the greatest pleasure working with you. I have felt reassured by your calmness, your precise sense of timing, your commitment to your work schedule, your generosity in reporting regularly to us and your trust in allowing us to read and comment on your drafts.

Commissioned history client


To celebrate the school’s sesquicentenary, Brisbane Grammar School commissioned a professional historian to provide a scholarly yet readable school history. Brisbane Grammar School could not have been better served than by Helen Penrose and HistorySmiths.

While Helen is based in Melbourne, it took her no time whatsoever to immerse herself into the culture of the school. That’s not to say she shied away from the truth. Helen has been a professional historian throughout. Her sense of empathy – a hallmark of a great historian – was palpable, as was her forensic examination of the school’s place in the history of Brisbane, Queensland and the Australian educational scene.

Helen Penrose and the staff from HistorySmiths were a pleasure to work with. I thank Helen for her dedication to this project, and the resultant publication, Light Dark Blue: 150 years of learning and leadership at Brisbane Grammar School.


Headmaster, Brisbane Grammar School

We are very happy with the end result … Thank you both for all the work, I realise now what a big job it is … Well done on producing something we will cherish for the rest of our days.


Reid Stockfeeds

Helen [Penrose] was in every sense an authentic historian; that is, she was evidence based. Her countless trips to state archives, working with the original documents made this a genuine work of scholarship. She is a chronicler of meticulous organisation and prodigious memory. 

Helen has a great sense of place and the importance of the connections to the physical spaces of the school. This quality gave her a greater sense of the intangible, the ‘idea’ of Brisbane Grammar. She understood the connection to Brisbane, the place of the school in our community, the aims and aspirations of a young colony. She values personal voice and her skilful development and use of oral histories and surveys was a hallmark of this project. This became in a real sense a community history.

She is a diplomat and when necessary a warrior. She worked consummately with the affable, passionate but frankly occasionally opinionated History Committee. Helen challenged us, responded to us, negotiated with us, compromised with us, but when necessary stood firm against us.

Ultimately, I can offer no higher praise than this is truly a history worthy of our school. 


Former headmaster, Brisbane Grammar School

The greatest compliment I can pay you is that I recognise the school in your language … It was no small undertaking you embarked upon and completed so well. You did brilliantly … to produce a finished product of the highest quality … The history teacher in me enjoyed your prodigious research capacity, enthusiasm for the task and genuine eloquence.


Brisbane Grammar School

The best school histories … illuminate the social and educational contexts of the times. They tell us something about how the school has contributed to the wider community. They are a valuable resource for those wishing to enter the profession or who seek to lead. Involving learning, a history of MLC written by Barbara Pertzel, is one of the very best.


Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne

I’m delighted with your writing and your project management skills. We’re looking forward to our 40th anniversary and can’t thank you enough for your contribution.


CEO, Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd

It was one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on and that was largely due to your attention to detail and meticulous content curation. Many thanks for delivering in such a tight timeframe too!


Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd

The Way to the Stars: 150 years of The Geelong College is a remarkable achievement, so thank you both personally and officially for the extraordinary job you and your team have done. I am very proud of it — a testimony to your patience and skill.


Council Chairman

It proved a wise choice to engage the services of HistorySmiths as editor [and they] provided constant encouragement, invaluable editorial input and sage advice on all matters relating to the book’s production.


Author, A Famous Old Club: a history of the Brighton Cricket Club

Thanks again for doing such a thorough and professional copy-edit on my manuscript. Your work has ensured that I will be able to send a much cleaner final version to [the publisher] … You have done a splendid job, especially with highlighting errors in the punctuation and some confusing sentences.


Deakin University

She who conquers: a centenary history of Firbank Grammar School is a scholarly and, at the same time, compellingly readable history written with a light touch. One of the greatest strengths of the book is its vivid pen-portraits of these diverse and remarkable women.’


General editor, Australian Dictionary of Biography

One of the many graces of Kostka: Xavier by the sea is that the authors show how Kostka was different. There are not many school histories that capture a sense of place as well as this.


Review in Eureka Street