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BAYLY, William Reynolds (Centenary History Text, 1961)

BAYLY, William Reynolds (Centenary History Text, 1961)

See Also BAYLY, William Reynolds (1867-1937)

The following text is an excerpt from the Centenary History of the Geelong College published in 1961:

Chapter 6.

FOR THE LAST MONTH Of 1909, after Norman Morrison's death, the College was without a Principal. Mr. W. T. Price, B.A., the Vice-Principal, was in charge of the educational work and gave the annual report. The Rev. D. A. Cameron, M.A., a representative of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria on the College Council, exercised general supervision while the Council set about procuring a new Principal.

Their ultimate choice was Mr. William Reynolds Bayly, B.A., B.Sc., a scholar and teacher, a fine athlete and an enthusiastic cadet officer, with a long and varied experience in all aspects of the life of a large Public School. Born in Port Adelaide, S.A., in 1867, he was educated at Prince Alfred College and the University of Adelaide. He obtained the B.A. degree in 1896, with first-class honours in classics, and the B.Sc. in 1898, and was stroke of the University crew for three years. joining the teaching staff of his old school, he eventually became senior resident master and Acting Principal. He was President of the Prince Alfred Old Collegians' Association for five years. At the annual dinner of this Association in 1907 the guests included Norman Morrison, who was in Adelaide with the Geelong College football team. The two men became acquainted and Mr. Bayly was filled with admiration for the visitor. They did not meet again, but that contact may have had important consequences.

Mr. Bayly was introduced to the College by the Old Geelong Collegians' Association at a reception in the grounds on February 5, 1910. In reply to an enthusiastic address of welcome by the President of the Association (Dr. A. Norman McArthur), he expressed the hope that, while he could not be a Morrison, he might become a fitting representative of what the Morrisons had been.

His task was a difficult one. The life of the College had been tragically disrupted, and those who were most closely associated with its direction could not easily recover from the shock. Mrs. George Morrison, who had managed the boarding house since it opened in 1861, had left the College after her son's death. Hugh Mackay, for forty-five years the trusted servant and friend of the Morrison family—a real power behind the throne—left soon afterwards. Moreover Mr. Bayly saw clearly that he, a newcomer, would not be able to govern on personal lines, with rules and regulations non-existent or suspended at will, as the former Principal had done. On the other hand, he wished to avoid sudden changes and rigid control. Thus he found himself compelled to move cautiously in putting his own ideas into practice.

None the less, a vigorous attempt was made to cope with the various problems. Mr. Bayly had a cheery, friendly manner with the boys, who probably remembered him best for his grand oratorical style. His love of the spoken language was further demonstrated by his support of the Debating Society and of dramatic work in school concerts. He took an interest in sports, especially rowing, and assisted in the coaching of crews. The teaching staff remained loyal to the new order. Mrs. Bayly, assisted by "Maggie" (Miss Mary McOuat) , assumed control of domestic affairs, and the position of head groundsman was taken over by "Teddy" Rankin.

Although accurate information on the subject is now hard to obtain, it appears certain that Mr. Bayly introduced the well (if not favourably) known Record to the College, basing it on a similar institution at Prince Alfred College. There can be no doubt that this vade-mecum has served its purpose in raising the level of work and discipline in the classroom.

By 1911 the College appeared to have made a good recovery from its upset, and there was special reason for renewed confidence when hundreds of Old Collegians assembled in a burst of enthusiasm to celebrate the Jubilee.

* * * *

Although the College was opened on July 8, 1861, the chief jubilee festivities took place later in the year 1911. On Friday, October 6, a civic welcome was extended to visitors and friends, and it was in acknowledging the congratulations of the Mayor of Geelong that Mr. Charles Shannon, Chairman of the College Council, stated his hopes for the future of the school in these words:

It is the object of those into whose hands the College has now passed to conduct its affairs so that it will be maintained in every necessary particular, and in all its features, as a very desirable home; a school where the best of teaching by the best men may be provided, and where boys shall be surrounded with such wholesome influences as shall tend to make them aspire to become useful and good men to serve their day and generation, so that the College shall ever stand to be a credit to this City of Geelong.

Afterwards, the guests proceeded to the College, where, following a formal reception, they assembled in front of the partly built Norman Morrison Memorial Hall. Mr. Stewart McArthur, President of the O.G.C.A., told how a band of loyalists had rallied the Old Collegians and raised funds for the building, which was to perpetuate the memory of a distinguished citizen, a famous Headmaster, and an honourable, true and warm-hearted friend.

To Dr. A. Norman McArthur fell the honour of laying the foundation stone. The youngest pupil, Wallace Sharland, handed him a silver trowel with which to perform the ceremony. In a cavity under the stone were placed a bottle containing copies of "The Pegasus" and various newspapers and coins of the realm.

A ball that night, and a smoke social on the Saturday evening, continued the round of events.

On the Sunday morning, the Rev. W. S. Rolland, an Old Collegian, preached to a crowded congregation at St. George's Church. On the Monday, Mr. Bayly gave a picnic for the boys, who were conveyed to Barwon Heads in a long line of horse-drawn "drags". At the Old Collegians' request, Tuesday was declared a "town-barred" holiday, when the boys were free to cycle, walk or row to different parts of the country as they pleased. The Athletic Sports, previously held in the last week of the school year, were made another feature of the programme.

The Jubilee History of the College was published during the celebrations. This account of the first fifty years, written by an Old Boy journalist, Mr. G. McLeod Redmond, in close association with Dr. McArthur, included an authoritative record of the very early days, as several of the first pupils were still living. Despite the haste of its preparation, it remained throughout the second half-century an invaluable reference book, and many of its facts and findings are incorporated in the present volume.

The Norman Morrison Memorial Hall cost approximately £3,000, which was raised almost entirely among the Old Collegians. As there was some delay in completing the required amount, an alternative plan for making the building twenty feet longer was of necessity abandoned. The tower was presented by Mr. Charles Shannon on behalf of his four sons, all former Collegians. The official opening took place on May 31, 1912, when Mr. Shannon, as Chairman of the Council, formally handed over the Hall to the Principal. For the first time, the College had an adequate Assembly Hall, with provision downstairs for an armoury, dressing rooms and prefects' rooms. It is not only a monument to a great Headmaster: the daily assembly conducted within its walls has become the focal point of College life and provided boys with some of their most treasured memories. Housing, as it does, the portraits, honour boards, sculpture and memorial furnishings, it is now one of the principal shrines of College tradition.

The Jubilee was a triumph for the College of the past and for the memory of the Morrisons, the climax of fifty years of struggle and especially the last fifteen years of exciting success. The spirit of "the good old days" had been recalled, old friendships renewed, old scenes relived. By the building of the Hall, something substantial had been done for the future as well; but, as later events proved, the celebrations marked an end rather than a beginning. When the excitement had died down, the College slid easily into a quiet backwater, its neutral tints faithfully reflected in "The Pegasus", which had little now to record but predictable, routine events.

As work on the foundations of the Hall had involved the destruction of the original tennis court, a new court was opened during 1912. This, the first of those laid down behind All Saints' Church, was the gift of Mrs. T. S. Hawkes, whose sons later were noted tennis players. The main oval was enlarged in the same year by rounding out the formerly straight wing near the front garden. A further improvement to the property resulted from Mr. Bayly's foresight in privately acquiring land to the west of the main oval when the Council, probably for financial reasons, could not agree to purchase it. Later he sold this block to the College at the price he had paid for it.

In 1913 the school year was first divided into three terms instead of four, after long discussion of the merits of both systems. During the first term Mr. Bayly set off on an overseas tour, which had been deferred by agreement when he became Principal. Mr. Price took charge for what was a typical year: the total enrolment was gradually declining, examination results were moderately satisfactory, but sporting successes were now distinguished by their rarity. Possibly the outstanding event was a visit to the Duntroon Military College by twenty boys under Mr. C. A. Cameron, part of their journey being made in one of the Australian Army's first motor transports.

Mr. Bayly returned from abroad at the end of the year. Perhaps his trip had been badly timed; certainly College supporters were now less enthusiastic than at any previous time in his career at the school. The possibility of an embarrassing situation was relieved by the announcement, early in 1914, that he had been appointed to take up the headmastership of his old school, Prince Alfred College, in the following year.

The year 1914 saw the beginning of an enduring friendship between the Geelong College and Campbell College, Belfast, Ireland. In the interests of Empire goodwill, the two schools exchanged Union jacks and competitive trophies. This link was forged by Dr. (later Sir John) MacFarland, a member of the Geelong College Council, whose brother, Mr. R. A. H. MacFarland, was then Headmaster at Belfast. It has since been strengthened on many occasions by visits and chance encounters in peace and war.

The same year brought forth events unprecedented in the history of Australia. First came the great drought, the most severe ever experienced, which reduced a great part of the country to poverty and pessimism. Then, on August 4, after a long period of political tension in Europe, war broke out between Britain and Germany. Australia, loyal to the cause of the Mother Country, immediately offered the support of a volunteer force.

On August 7, Geelong was sharply aroused from the even tenor of its daily life when members of the Citizen Forces were called out for duty at an hour's notice. Several of the senior College boys had to leave their desks, don uniforms and equipment and prepare to defend the most likely point of attack by an enemy, namely Queenscliff, guarding the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. The seventeen so distinguished included eight men picked for the football match against Wesley the same afternoon, their departure having a disastrous effect on the result. However, all returned to school a few days later, and, after this initial flush of excitement, the College settled down again.

The teaching staff, which had always been notably stable, began to show some restlessness. Mr. L. St. G. P. Austin, the rowing master, and Mr. G. W. Irving, who had fostered the Dramatic Society, both resigned at the end of 1914. (It must be remembered that the staff comprised only ten assistant masters at this time.)

* * * *

This, then, was the atmosphere in which Mr. Bayly left the College. On Speech Day a number of Old Boys assembled on the stage to make a presentation to the retiring Principal. At night the Chairman of the Council (Mr. Shannon) tendered him a complimentary dinner. Speakers agreed that Mr. Bayly had served the College with sincerity and dignity, and wished him every success and happiness in his new work in Adelaide.

There was general disappointment that a man with the qualities which Mr. Bayly possessed had not spent a more fruitful period at the College. Yet it is possible that the experience gained at Geelong was a firm stepping-stone to higher things at Prince Alfred, where he grew in respect and honour till his retirement in 1929. The printed history of that school praises his gifts of varied kind and of no mean order, his "devastating oratory", employed almost always to condemn and scourge a wrong, his enthusiasm and his courage, his sincerity and his all-consuming energy.

It is wrong to think of Mr. Bayly's term at Geelong as a failure. More correctly, it appears, he did not remain long enough to come fully to grips with the peculiar difficulties originating from sources beyond his control (in almost every case, before his arrival.) Of his five years in office three were carried along by the backward-looking spirit of the jubilee. The last two were spent, one in travel, the other with transfer in mind.

Mr. Bayly's own feelings were expressed in material form shortly after his departure, when he presented to the College a new racing eight. Named "W R. Bayly", this boat gave service in Head of the River races and later as a unit of the practice fleet. It had a still higher value as a token of warm friendship.

* * * *

Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith. Chapter 6, pp 33-39.
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