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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 New & Old Magazine: June 2017