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GEELONG COLLEGE (Centenary History Text, 1961)

GEELONG COLLEGE (Centenary History Text, 1961)

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

Chapter 1

ALMOST EVERY WORTH-WHILE human achievement is the result of a venture, a leap in the dark, and the Geelong College is no exception to this rule. It was founded one hundred years ago by an act of faith; it continues in the same way today. During the intervening years it has advanced from strength to strength, though not by a steady growth, for it has often met with difficulties and dangers. Yet always at such times there have arisen the men and the thoughts and a renewed faith to help it along the way.

The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

It is of those great things that the story is now to be told.

* * * *

In the middle of the nineteenth century, modern Australia had hardly emerged from its infancy. The little town of Geelong was beginning to grow as shiploads of migrant families arrived from the British Isles to try their fortune on the goldfields or the rich pastoral lands of western Victoria. One of the chief problems for newcomers was the education of their children. A system of national schools was being developed by the Government, but many felt the lack of the Church Schools to which they had been accustomed in the Old Country.

The establishment of the College was undoubtedly hastened by the failure of an earlier attempt to meet this need: the Geelong Grammar School, which had opened in 1858, was forced by financial difficulties to close during 1860. To the Rev. A. J. Campbell, the first minister of St. George's Presbyterian Church, this situation presented a challenge.

He convened a meeting, as a result of which a committee later brought forward the following proposal:-
1. That the English Grammar School be re-opened as a united school under the auspices of the Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Victoria.
2. That within a fixed date these churches shall pay half each of £7,000, which sum it is understood the creditors are willing to accept in full payment of the debt lying on the institution.
3. That the School shall be governed by a Council consisting of six Church of England gentlemen and six Presbyterians.
4. That the Principal shall be appointed by the Assemblies of the two churches alternately, and the masters be nominated by the Principal, such nomination to be submitted to the Council for confirmation.

The Anglicans in Geelong agreed to the proposal, but the ruling authorities of their church would have nothing to do with it, and the matter ended abruptly. The Presbyterians naturally were disappointed, but at once set about providing a College of their own.

At a meeting at 81 Moorabool Street, Geelong, on April 18, 1861, the Rev. Mr. Campbell stated that he had brought the subject before the General Assembly, which fully approved of the establishment in Geelong of a school connected with the Presbyterian Church. The committee then resolved:-
1. That this meeting consider it highly desirable that a Grammar School be immediately established in Geelong.
2. That the said Grammar School shall be conducted under the auspices of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria.
3. That the following Committee be appointed to make all necessary enquiries and to report to a future meeting, viz.: Messrs. John Calvert, James Simson, James Cowie, James Balfour, A. S. Robertson, William Blair, J. T. McKerras, the Revs. A. Love, A. J. Campbell, James Henderson, T. McK. Frazer and Mr. James Campbell.

This was the vital meeting and these were the resolutions which resulted in the foundation of the Geelong College. Mr. Blair, who was particularly active in advancing the project, examined the rules governing the Scotch College in Melbourne, and at the next meeting, on April 25, a subcommittee of seven was appointed to draw up a draft constitution for the proposed new school.

At this stage the committee was meeting every few days. The sub-committee having presented its draft of the rules, it was decided to constitute the school accordingly and to call it "The Geelong College".

The selection of a Principal, though of the highest importance, did not in fact prove difficult. The headmaster of the Flinders National School, a Scot named Morrison had won such high approval in the town that it was resolved unanimously "that Mr. George Morrison, M.A., be requested to accept the office of Principal of the Geelong College". Another sub-committee was elected "to confer with Mr. Morrison in reference to the above appointment, and to consult and arrange as to the fees and other financial arrangements". Only three days later it was able to report success.

The question of a site was then attacked. Knowle House, a building of two storeys on the north side of Skene Street, about sixty yards from Latrobe Terrace, had already been considered. While not particularly suitable, it seemed likely to serve the purpose for a short time. It was therefore decided that a two-year lease should be taken in the name of the committee, and the place sub-let to Mr. Morrison. The College was to be furnished by the committee, and Mr. Morrison was to pay ten per cent on the cost. He was also, after the first year, to pay ten per cent of the annual receipts when they reached £1,200 a year. It was the declared intention of the committee to erect a special building for the College, and when that was accomplished the payment by the Principal was to be twelve per cent of the gross income.

The next step was to appoint a committee of management. The Presbytery of Geelong nominated the Revs. Andrew Love, A. J. Campbell and T. McK. Frazer, and the following gentlemen were added: Messrs. John Calvert, A. S. Robertson, George Hope, James Simson, James Balfour, Wm. Blair, W. A. Tolmie and James Campbell and Dr. J. G. Carstairs. The treasurer was Dr. Carstairs, and the secretary Mr. James Campbell.

A few trifling alterations having been made to the rules, the full constitution was adopted and printed as follows:-

1. The name of this school shall be "The Geelong College, in connection with the Presbyterian Church of Victoria".
2. The object of the College shall be to impart a first-class education, so as to prepare its pupils for mercantile pursuits, and for entering the University.
3. Boys of all religious denominations shall be admitted to the College. The Bible and the Westminster Assembly's Catechism shall form the basis of the religious instruction, but attendance on such religious instruction shall not be compulsory.
4. The College shall be under the management of a Committee of twelve gentlemen in connection with the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, three to form a quorum. With this Committee shall rest the appointment of the Principal, and the confirmation of the appointment of the other masters.
5. Of this Committee nine members shall be appointed annually by the subscribers, and three by the Presbytery of Geelong.
6. Twelve gentlemen shall also be elected annually by the subscribers as corresponding members of the Committee.
7. The scale of fees shall be regulated by the Committee of Management.
8. Scholarships, to be held by distinguished pupils during their attendance at the University, shall be founded as soon as practicable.
9. An annual meeting of the subscribers shall be held in the month of June, when a report for the previous twelve months shall be submitted, which report shall also be laid on the table of the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria at their annual meeting.
10. Every subscriber of one guinea annually shall be entitled to one vote; of five guineas to two votes; and of ten guineas or upwards to three votes, provided such subscription has been paid at least one month previous to the annual meeting.
11. No change shall be made upon these rules without the consent of two-thirds of the subscribers present at the annual meeting-notice of such alteration to be publicly advertised once, at least, one week before such meeting, but the first and third rules, being fundamental, are hereby declared unalterable.

By the end of May, only six weeks after the first effective resolutions of the provisional committee, all business details had been worked out and the agreement with Mr. Morrison was signed. An advertisement was inserted in the Geelong and Melbourne newspapers, while copies of the constitution and a circular setting out the advantages of the College were distributed wherever it was considered that pupils might be obtained.

In order to extend as widely as possible the area to be served by the College, a "corresponding committee" was appointed in accordance with Rule 6. This was composed of gentlemen who would use their local influence in inducing families to send boys to fill the benches. Its original members were:-Dr. Curdie, Camperdown; Dr. R. C. Hope, Batesford; Dr. Thomas Shaw; Messrs. Robert Adams, Skipton; George Russell, Shelford; John W. Strachan; Hugh Murray, Colac; J. L. Currie, Cressy; Alex. Anderson, Skipton; John Cumming, Darlington; Peter McArthur, Camperdown; John Elder, Rokewood.

Towards the end of June, Mr. Morrison announced that he proposed to appoint two full-time assistant resident masters, in addition to specialist teachers.

* * * *

On Monday, July 8, 1861, the Geelong College was formally instituted. The ceremony took place at Knowle House at eleven o'clock in the morning. Members of the two committees were present, as well as parents of the pupils, a large number of their friends, Mr. Morrison and his two masters. There were forty pupils, thirteen being entered as resident boarders, seven as day boarders and twenty as day boys.

The Rev. A. J. Campbell conducted a service of praise and prayer and Scripture reading, followed by a brief sermon. He concluded by saying: "Now, in the name of God, I declare our new school, which is to be called 'The Geelong College,' fully established, and may God bless it with all possible success".

Mr. Morrison announced that school work would begin at nine o'clock on the following morning, the benediction was pronounced, and the Geelong College had begun.

* * * *

Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith. Chapter 1, pp 1-5.
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