Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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

Chapter Ten

'AT THE COLLEGE there has always existed a strong Old Collegian sentiment. Mr. George Morrison encouraged it from the very first, seeing in it the assurance of a great future for the school. By 1870 the Old Collegians' Cup had already become a feature of the annual athletic sports, and prizes presented by former pupils were being competed for every year.

The first reunion was held in 1878. That was the year in which the College football team played a series of famous drawn games against the Grammar School. Great enthusiasm was created, and the season was concluded with a match against a team of Old Collegians. The boys won, kicking five goals to one. After the match the Old Boys dined at the College and the evening was given over to an impromptu concert. "It is intended," said the Principal in his report, "that this shall be an annual reunion, and now that so many Old Collegians are scattered through the length and breadth of the land, it will, we are sure, be looked for with increasing interest."

"The Doctor", as he then was, died in 1898, and it was actually his death which brought about the foundation of the Old Geelong Collegians' Association. The many Old Boys who attended his funeral asked Mr. Neil Campbell and Mr. Stanley Calvert to launch a movement to honour his memory. This resulted in the building of the Memorial Library, the key of which was handed over to Norman Morrison on May 27, 1899.* One gentleman who spoke at the opening, Mr. James Osborne, said that the reunion of so many Collegians suggested to him that an association might be formed to keep them in touch with one another in the future. From this remark proceeded the organizing work which created the O.G.C.A. (The original Library building stood on the south side of the school, partly covering what is now the small quadrangle near the masters' common room. The outline of its gable end is still visible on the brick wall west of the south door of the common room. As the College grew, the library became too small and in 1936 it was moved.)

After a rather long delay, which was said to be due to unrest caused by the Boer War, the inaugural reunion took place on May 3, 1901. A football match, Past Boys v. Present Boys-again won by the younger generation-preceded a business meeting at which rules were adopted and office-bearers elected, as follows:—

President: Professor W. W. C. Kernot.
Vice-Presidents: Mr. Stewart McArthur and Dr. H. R. Salmon.
Hon. Secretary: Mr. Stanley B. Calvert.
Hon. Treasurer: Mr. Neil Campbell.

Committee: Messrs. H. E. B. Armstrong, Wm. Boyd, W. M. Bell, John Calvert, J. L. Currie, F. A. Campbell, G. R. Hope, S. Leon, A. Longden, W. MacMullen, James Osborne, Wm. Oliver, Wm. Philip, James Robertson, E. R. Sparrow, D. E. Stodart, J. F. Strachan, L. A. Whyte, Dr. A. D. Kearney, Dr. Peter Reid.
The Principal of the College, ex-officio.
Auditors: Messrs. H. F. Richardson and Thos. G. Cole.

The most important rule of the newly-formed body read thus:—
The chief objects of the Association shall be:-
(a) to hold an annual social reunion of past Collegians;
(b) to unite and foster good fellowship among the Old Boys;
(c) to promote the welfare of the Geelong College.

These aims were put into practice from the very beginning. For instance, it was proposed at this same meeting that the Association should present a prize for the Dux of the College, and this is still done every year by some member, usually the President. As will be shown, this was merely one of many contributions to the school's welfare.

It must be remembered that the College had been since 1864, and still was in 1901, a private school. Nothing speaks more highly for the personal and educational standing of the Morrisons, father and son, than the strong practical backing which they received from former scholars and other friends. This attitude was now to be stimulated and directed by the O.G.C.A.

* * * *

Till 1907 the Association did little more than conduct the annual reunion. In that year, when Norman Morrison was negotiating with the Presbyterian Church for taking over the school, he discussed the matter fully with the committee, which sought representation on the new College Council. The Association obtained, and has always kept, the right to nominate three members. Those first chosen were the President (Mr. J. L. Currie), the Vice-President (Mr. L. A. Whyte), and the Honorary Treasurer (Mr. Neil Campbell). The present representatives are Messrs. H. A. Anderson, A. A. Gray and K. S. Nall. In actual practice, however, the majority of Council members are Old Collegians, and the Association therefore has wielded a much greater influence in determining the policies of the College than its direct representation would suggest.

The death of Norman Morrison in 1909 was a severe blow to the O.G.C.A., in which he had been one of the chief movers. A faithful few were, however, resolved to carry on as he would have wished, and by using the Association to perpetuate his memory they made it stronger than ever. The school assembly hall, which he had projected to celebrate the jubilee of the College in 1911, became his memorial.

Three men who stood out above all others at this trying time were Mr. Stanley Calvert, Mr. Neil Campbell and Dr. A. Norman McArthur. The successful building of the Memorial Hall was in very large measure due to their enthusiasm and sheer hard work. Another willing helper was Mr. James D'Helin. All of these men continued through long years to serve the College in one way or another, and they are well remembered by many Collegians living today.

In the latter half-century the Association must have justified the hopes of its founders beyond their wildest imagining. It has carried on its work of promoting good fellowship among members, keeping them in touch with their school and its activities through "The Pegasus", newsletters and other mailings. In both World Wars it sent "The Pegasus" to Old Boys wherever they could be found and regardless of whether they were financial members. It has held regular reunion dinners. In later years there has been an annual Boatrace Ball, and most recently an annual Melbourne Ball, both of which have brought considerable financial benefit to deserving causes within the College, such as memorials and scholarship funds.

Social occasions, however, have been merely tributary to the ultimate objective of promoting the welfare of the Geelong College. The Association has become the originator of large-scale operations in support of the school, the trusted co-worker of the Council, the adviser and assistant of Headmasters. Its vital role is demonstrated in such projects as the Morrison Hall, the War Memorial tablets and bursaries of World War 1, the endowment schemes, the Mackie Oval, the War Memorial Wing of World War II and the Centenary Building Fund. There are the memorials to "Joker" Kerr, "Bully" MacRoberts, Teddy Rankin, Perce Carter and "Maggie", expressing the affection of thousands for these rare characters. There have been gifts of portraits, scholarships, prizes, trophies, boats, oars, as well as coaching, umpiring, transport and other personal assistance in a hundred forms.

To some of these causes the Association has contributed from its own wise investments; for some it has appealed to members and friends throughout the world; for others no appeal has been necessary. With the backing of the Council it is responsible for the production of this history—as it was for the Jubilee History—and it is a directive force behind the organization of the centenary celebrations, of which this volume is but a single aspect.

It is impossible to give adequate praise to all those who have applied their powers to such work, but mention must be made of the outstanding contribution of the Honorary Secretaries, Messrs. S. B. Hamilton-Calvert (1901-39), H. C. Fallaw (1939-42), F. D. Walter (1942-46), M. T. Wright (1946-59) and D. G. Neilson (1959- ). Others who should not be forgotten are the scores of office-bearers and committeemen; members of sub-committees, like the young men who have recently managed the principal social functions; the loyalists who brought into being the branches in Melbourne, Sydney, Hamilton, Sale, Shepparton, Mildura, Horsham; and those who have worked to keep interest alive in areas where there are relatively few Collegians.

  • * * *

In the world at large, Collegians are found in every walk of life, a large proportion of them distinguished and honoured by those who know them and by the competent authorities. In times of war, hundreds of young men went to serve their country, far too many of them never to return. Many have become preachers, teachers, doctors, and scientists; others have been musicians, artists or authors; there are knights, professors, judges, generals, politicians and international sportsmen. It would be improper to claim that the College is wholly responsible for the successes of its pupils in later life, yet it seems fair to presume that it contributed something to their equipment for the work.

The author of the Jubilee History suggested the need for a "Who's Who" which would give "the history and whereabouts of every man who has been at the College". This is hardly likely to be realized, though a running record is to be found in the Old Boys' notes which have appeared in every issue of "The Pegasus" for fifty-four years.

From the great number of careers which would be mentioned if all were given their due, it is possible here to quote only sufficient to demonstrate that from first to last there were Collegians who rose to fame and importance in public life. For instance, William Kernot, one of the very first pupils, a matriculant of 1861, was by 1868 a lecturer in the University of Melbourne, and later, till 1909, Professor of Engineering. Two boys who were at school together in 1870, Thomas Armstrong and Reggie Morrison, became, the former a Bishop of the Church of England, the latter a doctor, the acknowledged champion athlete of Scotland and an international Rugby player.

It was usually considered, fifty years ago, that the greatest of all Collegians was George Ernest Morrison, the Doctor's eldest son, whose remarkable career is briefly mentioned in this volume. It must not be forgotten that his brother, Norman, the second Principal, was also an Old Boy, a member of the O.G.C.A. along with others of his day. Norman Morrison remains the central figure of College history, the one effective link between 1861 and 1961. He handed on to the second half-century something which the College has never lost, that Scottish doggedness which his father had displayed, particularly in the early, difficult days, a refusal to accept seeming defeat, a determination to return to fight another day, and to win.

In the last generation there has been a great broadening of the field of achievement, from Lindsay Hassett's captaincy of the Australian Eleven and Russell Mockridge's Olympic cycling victories, through the other sporting successes and the professorships mentioned in their appropriate chapters, to a group of knighthoods, the most recent recipient being Sir Arthur Coles, Chairman of the College Council and a former president of the O.G.C.A. There have been other honours of world significance, such as Sir Horace Robertson's command of the British Occupation Forces in Japan and Korea, and Sir Macfarlane Burnet's award of the 1960 Nobel Prize for medicine.

The College has creditably played its part in providing ministers for the Church. Naturally the great majority of these men have looked for nothing more than to serve their own parish and their district. Several, however, have been honoured by the Church with the position of Moderator of their State Assembly. From 1910 to 1912 the Rev. W. S. Rolland was Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. A matter for particular pleasure in more recent years was the appointment of an Old Collegian, the Rev. E. C. McLean, as the College's first full-time Chaplain. In March, 1961, the Rev. G. A. Wood, one of the strongest workers for the College in recent years, became Moderator-Designate of the Church in Victoria for 1961-2.

If one other field of endeavour deserves mention—because it comes closest to the life of a school—it is the adoption of teaching as a career by a goodly proportion of former Collegians. The list of those who have returned to the College staff is rapidly growing. At its head stands John Garbutt, another of the 1861 pupils, who was a mathematics master in 1868. (Later he was Headmaster of Ballarat College for thirty-three years.) Today there are six Old Boys on the staff, whose years of leaving school range from 1912 to 1955.

* * * *

Ormond College, in the University of Melbourne, has strong ties with the Geelong College. Its foundation in 1881 was brought about by the generosity of Sir Francis Ormond, a member of the congregation of St. George's Presbyterian Church, Geelong, who had been strongly influenced by the Rev. A. J. Campbell. Mr. Campbell was therefore the spiritual father of both institutions.

Since then there has been a constant stream of Old Collegians whose progress towards their life's work has been advanced a stage further at Ormond. There they have played their part so well in study and sport, and on the general committee, that their good influence has often been considered out of all proportion to their numbers.'

* * * *

Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith. Chapter 10, pp 79-85.

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