Valentine Finch (1908): A gift of rare images tells a great story
Dr Anna Drummond College Archivist Valentine Finch (right) studying in a room at Ormond.
Late last year Ormond’s archives received a generous donation
Engineering, perhaps thinking it more relevant to a career in his
of photographs recording the University and College career
family’s mining interests.
of Valentine ‘Dick’ Finch (1908). Lloyd and Amelia Finch, Valentine’s son and daughter-in-law brought and donated to
It was a few short years after his University career that Finch
the College a series of photos of College and University life that
found himself at Gallipoli with Ken Aberdeen, who when they
Valentine carefully annotated with the names of all pictured,
met there noted in his diary ‘Dick looks an awful ruffian in a curly
making them even more rare and precious. As well as photos
beard. He has been here since the start and not wounded yet…’
of Valentine’s College and University year groups, there are
Three months later came Finch’s horrific injury, when a bullet took
photos of his stellar career as a hockey player for Ormond, the
out most of his teeth, damaged his jaw, made a hole in his neck
University and Victoria, as well as of his University regiment.
just below his ear and prevented him eating for months.
Amongst the collection is also a photograph of Finch and another student in their study, a photograph that has hung in
Despite this he counted himself lucky: he survived when many
the front corridor of Main Building for some years. Very few of
soldiers perished while waiting for evacuation to a hospital ship.
Ormond’s early students’ lives are so richly documented. In the
Safely in Egypt, Finch and Aberdeen gradually regained their
course of donating the photographs, Lloyd and Amelia related
health. Aberdeen’s diary even records outings in and around
the fascinating story of Valentine’s life, which included a lifelong
Cairo including ‘dinner on the piazza of the Zeitoun Grand Hotel.’
friendship that was born at Ormond and cemented at Gallipoli.
Eventually they sailed home for Perth on the same ship.
The friendship was between Valentine and Kenneth Aberdeen,
Whilst he returned to active service in the 1st Field Engineers
who first met at Ormond. The second place they met was at
and spent time both in England and France, after the war Finch
Gallipoli, where Finch received a bullet wound through the mouth
returned to civilian life, marrying Ethel ‘Pop’ Ross in 1919 and
and where Aberdeen got tuberculosis. By the time the pair had
establishing a sheep station near Wiluna, Western Australia, with
together recuperated in Egypt and sailed home to Perth, a close
his wife and siblings. Perhaps the best legacy of his war service
friendship had been born that would last a lifetime.
was his friendship with Ken – now Dr Ken – Aberdeen, which endured and prospered over the following decades, with annual
Dick Finch began his career as a brilliant Classics scholar: he
family holidays for both couples and their children. Appropriately,
won a scholarship to Scotch College where he matriculated
it was Dr Aberdeen who flew to Wiluna to treat Finch’s burst
at the age of 13, then spent years repeating his matriculation
appendix in 1937.
until he was old enough to progress to University. A scholarship opened the door to Ormond, where he began in 1908 with a
Having survived being twice wounded in the Great War, Valentine
flourish as the only person in first year Arts to be awarded first
Finch died at the age of 47, leaving a wife and four children and
class honours in both Greek and Latin. Despite this success,
bringing to an end decades of friendship begun at Ormond.
after completing the first year of his Arts degree he changed to
ORMOND COLLEGE MAGAZINE