Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

Search the Guide

To find information in this Guide please select one of the green coloured options.

To Select a Page Group when displayed, right click and select 'Open'.

Copyright Conditions Apply.

BUNTINE, Martyn Arnold (Centenary History Text, 1961)

BUNTINE, Martyn Arnold (Centenary History Text, 1961)

See Also BUNTINE, Martyn Arnold (1898-1975)

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

Chapter Nine.

DR. BUNTINE challenged fortune by coming to Geelong in 1946. Like Mr. Bayly in 1910, he followed a man who had become a legend in his own lifetime by raising the College to a position undreamed-of a generation earlier. When Mr. Rolland took charge of a moribund school he had almost unlimited scope for success—or total failure. It might have seemed that Dr. Buntine had only to sit in the Principal's seat and pursue well proven methods. But schools, like families or nations, are exposed to the winds of change. It would be far from truth to assume either that Dr. Buntine had an easy road to travel or that he was willing to be the pale shadow of his predecessor. As events proved, it was most fortunate for the College that, besides being well trained as a teacher and administrator, he was also strong and energetic, with the determination to lead as he saw fit and not merely to follow even the good example of an earlier day.

Martyn Arnold Buntine was the son of Mr. W. M. Buntine, the Headmaster of Caulfield Grammar School, and received his early education at that school. After study at the Teachers' Training College and the University of Melbourne he graduated B.A. with honours in philosophy, and took the Master's degree in 1922. Post-graduate studies in education at Edinburgh led to a Doctorate in Philosophy. He won Blues for football at Melbourne and athletics at Edinburgh. After teaching in Australia and overseas, Dr. Buntine became Headmaster of Camberwell Grammar School in 1927 at the age of twenty-eight years. In 1931 he took charge of Hale School, Perth, W.A., and remained there for fourteen years, a period interrupted by war service with the A.I.F. in Australia and North Africa.

In his scholarship, experience and manly vigour, Dr. Buntine possessed outstanding qualifications for the Headmastership. Early in 1946.he and his wife and their two school-age sons, Robert and John, came to live in the old house below the ivied tower.

Time was working relentlessly to create difficulties for the new administration. It had been nearly impossible to carry out any building during the war, when manpower and materials were strictly controlled. Afterwards the position became worse, if anything, through rising prices and the unprecedented demand for housing; so, while waiting for the necessary permits, the College was forced to watch the rapid depreciation of money collected for the War Memorial wing and other projects.

Then there were staff problems. The group of senior masters brought together by Mr. Rolland around 1930 had now achieved the true seniority of years, which possibly guaranteed a certain standard of classroom work, but also created difficulties in the organization of sports and other extra-mural activities. Inflation brought the problem of matching salaries to rising costs, while at the same time producing even keener competition for qualified younger men in face of heavy expenditure by the Education Department on training and equipment. Earlier staff superannuation schemes now shrank to insignificance. Dr. Buntine showed himself "staff minded" and repeatedly urged the Council to provide better conditions. With the same object of staff security, several properties adjacent to the College were purchased as masters' residences.

Possibly the most serious of all post-war difficulties—because it was quite incapable of solution—was the unlimited demand to enrol boys at the College. The authorities in all prominent schools had to grapple with this problem and were accorded ample praise or blame according to their degree of success in coping with it. Dr. Buntine was willing to favour the applications of Old Collegians, provided that they gave sufficient notice to ensure avoidance of offence to others. Repeatedly he spoke in public of the position, and, at his request, appeals for co-operation through early action appeared prominently in "The Pegasus". Many prospective pupils were enrolled a few days after birth, some of them for admission ten or twelve years ahead. Yet it was impossible to please everybody. With the best intentions, there was nothing for it but to refuse admission annually to one hundred or more who sought to be boarders, as well as an indefinite number of would-be day boys.

* * * *

This, then, is the backdrop against which the normal daily and yearly tasks of the College were acted out during Dr. Buntine's headmastership. With classrooms and dormitories taxed to the utmost of their capacity, and with frequent changes in junior staff, it was a period of unrest and struggle. However there is no evidence that the need to fight was anything but beneficial.

The building of the War Memorial wing was the first major task of these years. A special servicemen's "welcome home" reunion was held in 1946, but the thoughts of all present were for those who would never return. A vigorous campaign for funds, organized by the Old Collegians under their President, Mr. J. D. Rogers, met with an equally hearty response. The Old Geelong Collegians' Association itself contributed the sum of £4,000. With inflation rampant, this project, estimated to take £20,000, finally required almost double that amount, yet the cost was very nearly met before the wing was opened in 1951. Its significance is twofold: holding the brass Roll of Honour tablets of the two World Wars in the memorial archway, it is the College's own shrine of remembrance; architecturally it perfects the quadrangle and cloisters and, therefore, the unity of the main school block. In both respects it provides an environment of beauty and dignity for the training of impressionable youth.

This stage of remodelling involved the removal of the detached brick Chemistry Laboratory built in 1905 (situated a few feet west of today's Room "L"), which had played a part in training hundreds of scientists and engineers, including several of world repute.

This extension and improvement of accommodation, soon to be matched by the addition of a large classroom-assembly hall at the Preparatory School, allowed the school population to continue its upward movement. The roll of 325 in 1939 had grown to 524 in 1946, and then to 593 in 1950, but it then moved on to exceed 690 in 1959, after which any increase on the old site without a lowering of standards was a physical impossibility.

School work and sport followed the old pattern, but with more subdivisions at each class level and keener competition for places in representative teams. Examination results, always well above State averages, showed a further upward trend in the later 'fifties, as attested by a long succession of high honours and exhibitions at Matriculation level.

The College was still the smallest of the six "old" Public Schools and considerably lower in numbers than some of the newcomers to the group in 1958. The boarding side, however, was then and is now one of the strongest in Australia, with numbers exceeding 250.

* * * *

Relief from war-time limitations on expenditure and travel produced at the College an outburst of educational experiment, innovation and adventure. This was the Exploration Society's finest hour. Mr. Béchervaise had returned to the staff, Dr. Buntine favoured the work, sometimes taking part in expeditions, and two "blitz buggies" were acquired. With or without these lumbering vehicles, there were exciting trips to Rodondo Island, Central Australia, the Bogong High Plains, Tasmania, the Flinders Ranges and a dozen other places. Other masters who led expeditions were Messrs B. R. Keith, B. R. Wardle and A. J. Firth. Some of the senior boys on their own initiative rode bicycles to Adelaide and hiked to Lake Tarli Karng. The cricket team made a holiday trip round the Western District, and two music tours to Tasmania were undertaken by Mr. Logie Smith, his staff and a score of boys, with valuable assistance from Mr. K. Field of Devonport. Regular oral examinations in Geelong by the Alliance Française began in 1946. The years 1949 and 1950 produced the two memorable "festivals", periods when outside bodies were invited to bring to the College their music, dances, films, exhibits and opinions. Inter-House music competitions were launched in 1950. In 1952 the dayboys achieved status equal to that of the boarding houses, with the ancient and honourable title of Knowle House, and with Mr. Nicolson as housemaster. There still remains the task of giving them a "home" of their own.

The College branch of the Presbyterian Fellowship of Australia had developed into a strong and influential group among the boarders. When Mr. D. D. Davey, its initial leader, was transferred to Queensland, the responsibility of leadership fell to the Rev. E. C. McLean, who was assisted by Mr. D. Webb and later Mr. K. Clayton. There were regular meetings on Thursday evenings and two week-end conferences a year, usually at Point Lonsdale. Later one of these "camps" was replaced by a combined day conference with the Morongo P.F.A. Other activities included social service and the provision of Sunday School teachers in various churches and in the Rolland House Sunday School. Many boys who were active at P.F.A. at College went out to continue the work in their home parishes.

In 1954, for the first time in its history, the College had a full-time Chaplain when the Council appointed to this position the Rev. E. C. McLean, who had for some years taught in the Preparatory School. Among his tasks was the arranging of special services, including that to commemorate Founders' Day, which was introduced in this era. The proximity of St. David's Church and the co-operation of its Session made it possible to go there on special occasions, such as for year opening and valedictory services. There was no interference with the practice of boarders' attending morning worship in parish churches, but an evening service was arranged in the Morrison Hall. Sometimes this took the form of a film service, but often it was addressed by visitors from various walks of life.

Presbyterian boarders continued to attend St. George's Church, where the Rev. A. C. Eadie (1945-52) was succeeded by the Rev. A. D. Hallam. At All Saints' the Rev. Canon H. R. Potter was the incumbent through most of these years.

The numerous clubs and societies continued faithfully on their way, with the Glee Club's annual performances still outstanding. "Cottage Pie", a daring revue presented by the staff and boys of Warrinn, still burst intermittently upon the College scene, usually with Mr. J. H. Campbell and "Maggie" as star performers. "Chez Nous", a scurrilous internal news-sheet which had originated during the war, reappeared for a season in letterpress form. "The Pegasus" in 1958 completed half a century as the School's official reporter, a more serious training ground for young writers. Awakened interest and activity in the library, guided particularly by Mr. Ipsen and Mr. Davey, culminated in the appointment of Mrs. P. Wood as librarian in 1959.

The rocketing post-war enrolment, besides contributing to the rowing successes of the 'fifties and some remarkably good performances in all the other traditional major sports, permitted—or demanded—a widening of the programme. Tennis and swimming, which had always had some standing became increasingly important, while, to cater for a variety of tastes and talents, cross-country running, baseball and golf received tentative recognition.

Interest in tennis led to the laying of the three courts in en-tout-cas and the construction of the extended hitting area. Other improvements about the grounds, making them always more beautiful, were the laying of new lawns, the building of stone retaining walls and the removal of boundary fences from the ovals. Most of these jobs were carried out by Les ("Snow") Hobbs, the curator, who joined the ground staff in 1931, with his first assistant, Stuart Rankin (whose twenty-six years included four years of war service) and their men. Trees continued to grow up, softening the landscape, framing the rich green of the ovals, a perfect setting for a gay crowd at any sports fixture.

* * * *

The end of the war brought the return of all four masters who had been absent with the forces, Messrs. Dunkley, Watson, Profitt and Simpson. The three first named, along with four new men engaged about this time—Messrs. C. A. Bickford and A. J. Firth (1946), J. R. Hunter (1947) and F. R. Quick (1949) —are still on the teaching staff. Mr. G. J. Martin (Bursar) also returned from service.

The College community sustained some grievous losses during Dr. Buntine's years. The retirement of Mr. R. Lamble in 1947 ended an association of 50 years during which, boy and man, he had been a member of the school under its first six Headmasters.

The death in 1950 of Dr. A. Norman McArthur deprived the College of one of its leading Old Boys, who had also been a member of the Council from its inception in 1908 and had often acted as Chairman.

Two of the College's best friends, "Perce" Carter and Mary McOuat (known only as "Maggie"), died in these years. Both had been on the staff long enough to know a second generation of boys. "Maggie" revelled for over forty years in "mothering" the younger boarders. Perce, as carpenter, left behind him work which still adorns the school, and handed on to his classes something of the craftsman's pride in thoroughness.

The year 1957 saw the retirement of Mr. A. T. Tait, another who had spent the greater part of half a century at the College. He was a noted scholar and sportsman in his school days (1903-1908), joined the staff in 1921, was Head of Scots College, Warwick, Queensland, from 1931 to 1938, and then returned to Geelong to be Vice-Principal. His influence in scholarship, manners and good sportsmanship has spread through the land wherever Old Boys have moved.

By a happy chance Mr. D. D. Davey, who had made an excellent impression at the College in the 'forties, was available to become second-in-command. He, too, had been Headmaster at Warwick, and brought both experience and enthusiasm to his new task.

At the end of 1958, Mr. G. Logie Smith went to take charge of music studies at Scotch College. His work through the Geelong College and the Geelong Association of Music and Art had completely changed the status of public music-making in this city. His departure was influenced largely by the greater opportunities in Melbourne to realize his ambitions as a conductor. Hundreds of Collegians will always remember the years 1937 to 1958 for the magic of their music under Mr. Smith.

In the final quarter of the College's century, the boarders were well served by a staunch band of House Masters in Messrs. C. F. H. Ipsen (Senior), J. H. Campbell (Warrinn), J. A. Carrington (Mackie) and L. J. Campbell (Rolland). Mr. Ipsen's retirement at the end of 1955 was the first break in this oustanding partnership; he had spent himself utterly for his House and his classes, and died only a few months afterwards. In 1960 Mr. J. H. Campbell gave up House duties but remained on the teaching staff, and Mr. L. J. Campbell was absent for several months because of ill-health.

* * * *

Just as Dr. Buntine's years began with a decisive stage in the shaping of the College, so they closed with achievements worthy of a great century of building. Many years earlier, in 1944, the Council, with Mr. Rolland always looking ahead, had bought fifteen acres of land between Minerva Road and the Barwon River from an Old Collegian, Mr. L. M. Whyte, on the most generous terms. Two years later Dr. Buntine and the Council, foreseeing the post-war demand for Public School education, moved to acquire a much larger area in this block. Mr. Whyte was again most helpful, and the College found itself in possession of a total of almost fifty acres in an unrivalled position only half a mile from the "BigSchool". It is virtually in both city and country, and its magnificent views across Corio Bay and the Barwon Valley cannot be obscured by future building.

For some years "the new site", as it came to be known, was merely an additional, rather rough and inconvenient football practice ground. But gradually the thought of a new Preparatory School, quite near, yet distinct from, the senior department, seized the imagination of the College public. There were excellent social, psychological and educational reasons for such a separation, which nevertheless would not prevent the College from acting as one body when occasion demanded.

In 1954 a committee of parents and friends, led by the Rev. G. A. Wood (Chairman) and Mr. G. J. Betts (Hon. Secretary) set to work to raise funds for the new school. Large numbers of supporters contributed personally and organized private money-raising projects. Two great fairs in 1956 and 1958 helped bring the total of contributions almost to £60,000. Although this came nowhere near the estimated requirement of £250,000, it was none the less an encouraging beginning. Mr. John Mockridge, architect and Old Collegian, was commissioned to prepare plans, and by the end of 1959 a beautiful day-school of twelve classrooms had appeared on the new site, with extensive ground improvements to match. It was occupied by the Preparatory School at the beginning of 1960, allowing the Senior School to expand correspondingly and yet to enjoy a comfort which had been lacking in the recent, overcrowded years.

Before the construction of the new school had begun it was realized that the job would not be completely satisfactory until boarding accommodation was provided. The Rev. G. A. Wood, urging supporters to emulate Dr. George Morrison as "builders of the College", enthused other members of the O.G.C.A., whose committee joined the Council in planning an intensive fund-raising campaign. This took place in the early months of 1960, when hundreds of Old Boys, parents and friends, working from Geelong, Melbourne, Ballarat, Hamilton, Horsham, Mildura, Shepparton, Sale and Sydney combined to give and get promises of contributions to the Geelong College Centenary Building Fund.

The idea of sending the College into its second century, fully equipped to carry on its traditional education on a larger scale, needed little argument to support it. The appeal met with an overwhelming response. An initial "target" of £100,000 for the new fund was soon amended to the more optimistic £150,000, and before the middle of the year this, too, had been exceeded. The campaign was a triumph for those who had worked in one way or another since 1944 for the realization of the ideal; it stimulated interest and goodwill in many who had for a time been less close to the College; it created confidence everywhere.

* * * *

At the end of 1958 Dr. Buntine announced his retirement, expressing at the same time his willingness to continue in office till a successor was appointed. He had worked hard at Geelong, trying often to see ways round insurmountable difficulties, fearing at times that he had failed. But his courage and enterprise had resulted in many real advances, like the realization of the new Preparatory School, the wider view of exploration, the new staff superannuation scheme and the kilt for the Cadet Corps. His health was suffering and he looked forward to a restful retirement. The very decision seemed to act as a tonic, so that he threw himself as vigorously as ever into the planning of the Preparatory School, present and future. He worked closely with the Council and the architect during the erection of the classrooms and then played a leading part in the fund raising campaign.

In May, 1960, Dr. and Mrs. Buntine left Geelong, amid the thanks and praise of every section of the College. Both gave unstinting service to the College and the community. Dr. Buntine completed the fine record of over thirty-three years' headmastership, of which the fourteen spent at Geelong saw the College matching the demands of a fast moving age and gathering strength to meet those of the future.

* * * *

The Council's search for a successor to Dr. Buntine had taken almost eighteen months and extended beyond Australia. Several men with high qualifications were considered, and in the end the new Principal was found quite near to home. This was Mr. Peter Nelson Thwaites, Headmaster of Ballarat College, who previously had spent seven years as Head of Guildford Grammar School, Perth, W.A., one of the largest boarding schools in Australia.

Mr. Thwaites was educated at Geelong Grammar School, Trinity College, Melbourne, and Trinity College, Oxford. During the Second World War he saw active service with the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy in the North Atlantic and the Pacific. He was, for a time, an instructor in radar and later became a naval liaison officer in London and Washington.

After the war he returned to Geelong Grammar School as an assistant master. His first-hand experience of the educational atmosphere of Geelong and the Western District is supported by the fact that his father, the late Mr. R. E. Thwaites, M.A. (Oxon.), was an earlier Headmaster of Ballarat College.

Mr. Thwaites holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, from the University of Melbourne (with first-class honours and the final exhibition in mathematics), Bachelor of Education, also from Melbourne, and Master of Arts, from Oxford. As winner of a Gowrie Travelling Scholarship he returned to Oxford in 1949 to continue his work in education and was enabled to make a study of secondary schools throughout Great Britain, with particular reference to boarding schools.

He is married and has three children of school age. Mrs. Thwaites also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Melbourne, and when at the University was secretary of the Ormond Women's Association.

On taking up his new office at the beginning of the second term, 1960, Mr. Thwaites immediately showed himself an untiring worker, keen and quick to learn, applying himself with equal vigour to the past, present and future of the College. In addition to the job of coping with routine details of school life, he has the immediate task of adapting the school, its grounds and its classes, to function on a two-site basis. A little further ahead is the problem of rebuilding a large part of the teaching staff. Beyond that lie the undefined opportunities of the second century.

To strengthen him in the work, Mr. Thwaites can look to the best example of the past and expect the loyal co-operation of the College's thousands of present well-wishers.

* * * *

Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith. Chapter 9, pp 66-76.
© The Geelong College. Unless otherwise attributed, The Geelong College asserts its creative and commercial rights over all images and text used in this publication. No images or text material may be copied, reproduced or published without the written authorisation of The College.