Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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Front Porch Collapse, 1873.

The original plans for the 1873 southward extension to the George Morrison House Building included a large ornamental oriel window over the main entry porch. The window and the whole of the upper work collapsed during construction and the plan was subsequently abandoned. The student newspaper, 'Chez Nous' described the event:
' The pupils at the time took great interest in the progress made by the workmen on this window, and used to help them in their spare, time, which perhaps accounts for what happened later The day came when the window was completed, and the crowd of admiring boys had just moved away to have dinner, when with a thunderous crash the whole upper work of the window fell out on to the ground which all the boys had so recently vacated. A few workmen were badly shaken, but it was a miracle that no greater harm was done.'

Sources: Chez Nous 3 July 1940 p3; Centenary History pp15-16.

Shooting Near-Miss, 1880s.

In the early 1880’s, Victoria was in the choking grip of a great economic depression which decimated the lives of many of Victoria’s early colonists. For Harold Carstairs, a senior student of the Geelong College however, any thought of economic doom was far from his mind. It was more likely the impending idyll of holidays which formed his reverie as he sauntered across the school grounds near the rear of Geelong College’s original 'Room A' near the north-eastern corner of what is now the cloister. The sudden roar of gunfire and the whir of a bullet passing by his head to embed itself in the targer on the nearby wall were to stun him into frigidity. It was only the nervous ribaldry of nearby students that assured him that his life had been spared.

The bullet had been fired by a fellow student, a member of the recently formed Geelong College Cadet Corps and Carstairs in his daydream had absentmindedly blundered into the School’s junior firing range during practice. The posted lookouts had failed to notice Carstairs. This firing range, from behind All Saints Church in the vicinity of Hugh MacKay’s 'old' orchard and vegetable gardens facing Noble St to a timber target on the wall of 'old' 'Room A', was used until about 1901.

The experience seems not to have affected Carstairs for he not only volunteered for service in both the South African War and World War I, he also achieved military honours and rose to the rank of Captain by 1918. His name appears on the plaque in the College’s Dining Hall honouring Collegians who served in the South African War as well as the World War I plaque.

That the practice range was in the middle of the school seems incongruous and hazardous to modern thinking but the College Cadet Corps in the period from the 1890s to the War was critical to the school’s pride and success and reflected the then much stronger rural heartland of the School. In 1905, the Geelong College demonstrated its outstanding sporting prowess in shooting to dominate all the schools in the Victorian Rifle Association competitions and win virtually every major shooting competition held in Victoria that year.

Floods, 1909.

Geelong College Boat Shed Barwon Flood, 1909 (Pegasus)

Geelong College Boat Shed Barwon Flood, 1909 (Pegasus)

In August 1909, a severe flood, the biggest since 1880 endangered the boatshed. Late in the morning of Thursday, 19 August, nineteen members of the Boat Club re-visited the sheds to secure boats and tethered several to a nearby fence. By then, the water was several feet deep in the boatshed.

Pegasus reported: - ‘When the party was returning, an unpleasant adventure was in store for them. The boat was suddenly brought up by an insidious wire fence just below the surface. The current was so strong that the boat drifted sideways on and capsized, two of the swimmers narrowly avoiding a collision with a dead sheep on its way to the Heads.'

Explosion, 1911.

Poem from Pegasus, 1911.

Poem from Pegasus, 1911.

Construction of Norman Morrison Memorial Hall in 1911 caused considerable consternation on one occasion: ‘great excitement was caused by the blasting of the tree-stumps which had been removed from the site of the Hall. They were taken to what was considered a safe distance - the middle of the football paddock (Mackie Oval), - and there, six very pretty explosions took place.

Five of these were harmless, but at the sixth (whether it was that the charge provided was too strong, or that this particular root was especially tough), a billet of wood sailed gaily through the air, and landed with a crash on the roof of Room I. The wood itself remained suspended over a jagged hole in the ceiling, but the plaster descended in wholesale fashion, thus disturbing the serenity of the atmosphere in more senses than one. Under the circumstances the class adjourned without formality of motion; but, fortunately, no one was hurt, although one youth's trousers were badly torn, possibly by a lump of falling plaster, but more probably through encountering a nail in the desk during his hurried exit.’

Sources: Pegasus October 1911 p3 Poem-Pegasus October 1911 p39.

Desperadoes attack College Boat, 1912.

‘The evil effect of the study of ‘Deadwood Dick‘ literature (or perhaps of attendance at moving-picture shows) was brought home in an unpleasant manner a few weeks ago to a crew of College boys who were down the river on a Saturday excursion. They were fired upon by a band of youthful desperadoes, and though they fortunately escaped uninjured, the boat (‘Khalifa’) suffered considerable damage. One of the attacking party, we hear, succeeded in shooting his own thumb, but under the circumstances it is difficult to summon up a great amount of sympathy for him. The offenders were dealt with at the Geelong Children's Court, and we trust that their opportunities for performing similar deeds of daring will be restricted for some time to come.’

Sources: Pegasus October 1912 pp 5, 43.

Floods, 1916.

Pegasus reported that continuous rain at the end of September brought the Barwon down in one of its spectacular floods. Prompt measures had to be taken for the removal of the boats from the boatshed and a report by ‘C’ in Pegaus detailed the rescue of boatshed contents on Sunday 24 September. Pegasus recounts: 'A party was chosen to go down and see if anything needed attending to. At the edge of the water in West Melbourne Rd all superfluous clothing was cast off and the voyage to the boatsheds began; all reached these without getting wet above their armpits. Inside the sheds there was very little light, and the swish of the water gave one rather an eerie feeling. The 'Lorna Mary' was cut loose and was floated out through the gate and over the post and rail fence to turn her, and then along to West Melbourne Rd, where she was left. One youth in his haste to get out of the sheds walked into a submerged boat rest; he heard afterwards that the top of his hat stayed above water, so he did not get absolutely wet that time.

A horse had been cut off in a paddock near the sheds, and it was decided to get him out. He was leaning against a tin shed up to his belly in water. It was useless to think of rowing the 'Pleasure' to him, so they broke down an old wooden gate, which was locked, waded over to the horse, and let it out. It was very frightened at first, but calmed down, subsequently it developed cramp, but by dint of pushing and slapping it was finally got out.

The party who remained with the boat rescued two wet hens from a shed roof, and a half-drowned rabbit found in a boxthorn hedge completed the bag. On reaching dry? land, somebody claimed the horse, and somebody claimed the hens; but when we saw somebody 'claim' the rabbit, our visions of chicken broth and rabbit pie passed into the pack of unfulfilled desires.'

Sources: Pegasus December 1916 pp59-61.

Explosion, 1934.

During the dedication ceremony for the South Wing, Pegasus of 1934 recounted a story by Dr Percy G Brett who 'recalled that he was one of the first students to commence a study of chemistry at the College. The laboratory was a small out-building in which he and other boys in their first chemical experiment placed a little of each chemical into a jar, and setting it alight, went out of the building after closing the door, to await results. The latter exceeded expectations for there was a violent explosion which blew out the window, and wrecked the equipment. He trusted the boys would have a more successful initial experiment in the new building.'

Dr Percy Gore Brett (1879-1968) was enrolled at Geelong College in 1891.

Sources: Pegasus December 1934 p61.

Floods, 1952.

Geelong College Boat Shed Barwon Flood, 1952. (Holmes).

Geelong College Boat Shed Barwon Flood, 1952. (Holmes).

During one of the biggest recorded floods in the Barwon Region, floodwaters broke through levee banks protecting Barwon Heads and flooded streets in Geelong on 18 June 1952. 'At 11pm on Wednesday (18 June) floodwaters broke through the 1.8 metre high levee bank and poured into Barwon Heads. A rescue party of army personnel and civilians evacuated 400 people from flooded houses. ... But most were billeted in the 'Lobster Pot', a large hall in the caravan park.

By Friday, the floodwaters stretched from Taits Road to Bridge Road, west beyond Golf Links Road and 500 residents were homeless. Snakes became a hazard in the main street when dozens were seen swimming down Hitchcock Avenue. Constable Robert Bartrop from Barwon Heads Police had a narrow escape when a large snake wrapped itself around his thick leggings while he was wading in the flooded Hitchcock Avenue.

Sources: Pegasus 1952; The Whistler by Greg Wayne.'

Mortar Over-fire.

Fire in Memorial Wing, 1974.

Two classrooms on the Northern side of the Memorial Wing were gutted in a fire on 11 June 1974 causing an estimated 8,000 dollars damage. The fire was deemed suspicious by the fire brigade when it was discovered that one of the classrooms was unlocked.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 12 June 1974; Geelong News 14 June 1974.

Fire in the Northern Wing, 1975.

In a very understated manner 'Pegasus' commented under 'Building Developments' that 'In September (20 September), a fire destroyed a suibstantial portion of the internal woodwork and roof of the northern wing of the qaudrangle. The loss was adequately covered by insurance and steps are in hand for its retoration.'

The 'Geelong Advertiser' more graphically reported: - 'A fire which swept through a dormitory section of Geelong College early on Saturday caused damage estimated at $100,000. The bedrooms were unoccupied. Student boarders left the School on Friday night for a weekend at home. The fire gutted two upstairs classrooms, an old wooden staircase was destroyed and dormitories 20 metres from the fire were left with smoke-blackened walls, blistered paint and burnt carpets. A downstairs master's room near the stair well was also destroyed. A passing milkman saw the fire at 3.27am. The matron in charge of the wing, Sister Valerie Eddy and her three children were the only people in the building.' Two youths were the following year convicted of arson.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 22 September 1975 p1;

Storm damages Rolland Centre, 1979.

A severe thunderstorm that struck the Geelong region was reported by the 'Geelong Advertiser' with 'severe damage reported at Geelong College where strong winds ripped part of the roof off the Rolland Sporting Centre and uprooted a 120 year old elm tree. The wind also knocked about 20 other trees over.'

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 13 March 1979 p1.

Fire destroys Tennis Pavilion, 1989.

A fire which the fire brigade described as suspicious destroyed a storage area and tennis pavillion on 24 February 1989. The 25 by 10 metre pavillion on the corner of Talbot St and Mercer Parade was stacked with schoolroom furniture, and firemen estimated the loss at $100,000. The brigade received the call at 4.14pm and were onsite 4 minutes later. The building was part of the original College House of Guilds established in 1935.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 25 February 1989 p3.

Lightning Strikes George Morrison Building Tower.

Floods, 1995.

Geelong College Boat Shed Barwon Flood, 1995.

Geelong College Boat Shed Barwon Flood, 1995.

'In early November 1995, Geelong experienced several days of heavy rainfall, resulting in record floods, second only to the floods of 1952. The banks of the Barwon River swallowed up its surrounds, in the city and beyond, peaking at 5.23 metres. It was fortunate the new College boat shed was almost complete, as the old one may have been washed downstream! As the water level rose, Richard Morris, Bob Morse, David Curnow and several others prepared the shed, tying boats onto the racks.

There was minimal damage to the shed with bent boat racks the main casualty. Once the water started to recede, leaving a thick layer of mud, the big clean up began. The shed was constantly hosed and swept to remove mud. Coaches’ bikes also welcomed a wash at the finish of each training session. The staging which had been lifted off its base and moved inland by a few feet, made the launching of boats rather difficult. A week later the Water Board returned it to its rightful place, and it was business as usual on the river.'

Sources: Pegasus October 1909 p18; Pegasus December, 1916 pp 3, 59-61. Boat Shed, 1951 Holmes Album; Albert Bell Club Newsletter, March 1996.

Fire in storage area, 2006.

The Fire brigade was called to the Senior School Campus at about 9.45am on Wednesday 19 July 2006 where smoke was rising from an administration building housing the Principal's Office. The fire was contained to a storage and toilet area of about 5 square matres and was controlled within 45 minutes.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 20 July 2006 p7.

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