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Old Geelong Grammarians A H P

Old Geelong Grammarians: An Historical Portrait


Remembrance: 1920–1929



1920–1929: Remembrance Headmaster Francis Ernest Brown (1912–29).

1925 Cuthbertson House destroyed by fire and immediately rebuilt


1920 Influenza epidemic delays opening of the School year by four weeks

1921 OGG London branch formed

1926 Proposal to change the School name to ‘Corio School’ tabled

The OGGs membership, 1920: 736 including 203 life members and 533 ordinary members. Subscription five guineas for life membership, five shillings per annum for ordinary membership.


1927 War Memorial completed and dedicated

1929 Chapel extension consecrated. Rev FE Brown and Rev Clarke Archbishop of Melbourne after consecration of Chapel of all Saints, 1915


1929 Old boys’ campaign against School name change succeeds

1929 James Darling appointed Headmaster, to begin in 1930

The OGGs membership, 1929: 1244 including 715 life members and 529 ordinary members. Subscription still five guineas for life membership, but ten shillings per annum for ordinary membership – increased in 1927.


1920–1929: Remembrance


he 1920s might have been roaring for some, but at one end it saw Australia shaking off the horrors of the Great War and at the other it saw the country slip into the grip of the Great Depression. In between, it was a time of growth for the nation, in some sectors a

time of boom. Automation, aviation and the automobile were on the march, with the Ford plant established in Geelong and the commercial Qantas airline founded. For the OGGA, it was a time to acknowledge the fallen and nurture the growth of the School. It was also a time for some OGGs to assert themselves when it came to the School’s name.

War Memorial At the first Speech Day of the new decade, the Headmaster spoke of the war: Practically all our Old Boys who were able to do

to those old boys who had served. The initial ambition had been to build a hall, monument and cloisters, but the money raised demanded that the OGGA give a humbler memorial to the School. Nonetheless, if time is the judge of quality in works

so enlisted for the war, and more than one out of

of art and architecture, then the Cloisters and the

five made the great sacrifice. This is a noble record,

Bronze Group sculpture at their centre remain a worthy

unequalled, it has been stated, by any other School


in the whole Empire, except one. But think what it

A leading architect of the time, the raffish and highly-

means, for that long list contains the names of some

regarded exponent of the Queen Anne school, Harold

of the finest boys I have ever known or expect to

Desbrowe-Annear, was commissioned to design the

know. We are erecting a Memorial to them which

Cloisters. The Bronze Group at their heart was designed

shall be worthy of them, worthy of the School,

and sculpted by the Official War Artist, George Lambert.

and worthy of the cause for which they gave their

By August 1923, the OGGA committee heard that

lives ... But we shall not have done our duty to

‘good progress was being made in the erection of the war

our honoured dead when we have erected this

memorial’ and, ‘even though the laying of the foundation

memorial to them, though that is incumbent upon

was a much more difficult job than anticipated as the

us. We shall best commemorate and honour them

foundations were now all complete, good work was

when we seek to be worthy of the sacrifice they

being made.’

made, striving to the best of our powers to do our

In December 1924, the committee heard that ‘the

own work in life and our share of the work they

delay in the completion of the figure had been caused by

would have done so well had they come back to us.

the illness of the sculptor, Mr Lambert.’ Lambert’s health was an ongoing problem – in

Almost as soon as World War I began, the OGGA, optimistic for its end, had set in train plans for a memorial


November 1925, the committee was informed that ‘Mr Lambert was in hospital and wanted a further advance.’

Remembrance: 1920–1929

endeavour to come to an understanding regarding the completion of his work.’ Things had turned for the better by 1927, when in May the committee was told that ‘the work of casting the bronze group for the memorial was well in hand and should be finished before the end of the month. The same meeting agreed that Old Boys’ Day that year be held on June 24, coinciding with the unveiling of the War Memorial. There was a large gathering at the School on Friday, June 24. The School was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the laying of its foundation stone in 1857. The Governor-General, Lord Stonehaven, came to unveil the Bronze Group – the work of Lambert – that forms the central portion of the War Memorial. The Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Harrington Lees, dedicated the War Memorial as a whole.

They volleyed this one back and ‘looked to the architect to see that work was completed.’ By March 1926, the Annual Meeting of the OGGA, held in Geelong at 51 Moorabool Street, was told by CF Cooper, the honorary secretary, that, ‘provided Mr Lambert got through his portion of the work, the whole should be finished within six months.’ After Lambert completed the figures, they were to be shipped to France Above: Lambert and Annear in studio, 1925. Right: Installation of Lambert bronze.

to be cast in bronze. Lambert was ever the artist – later in 1926, Cooper reported to the Committee that Lambert was ‘progressing slowly with his work.’ He stated that he ‘hoped to be in Sydney in October and would call on Mr Lambert and


Old Geelong Grammarians: An Historical Portrait

A report in The Argus carried a detailed description of the War Memorial: The Bronze Group, designed and sculptured by Mr GW Lambert, ARA, is symbolic of the triumph of youthful heroism over evil. Firmly set on a solid base are two war-weary Australian soldiers, one in the full fighting equipment of the French trenches, the other representative of the Light Horse of Palestine. Bowed down with fatigue they support on their shoulders the weight of an immense bird, in which all the attributes of an eagle are combined with those of a vulture. This bird, symbolic not only of German purpose in the war, but of all evil that seeks to destroy the virtues and beauty of a civilisation which it has taken centuries to build, has been arrested by the challenge of the spirit of heroism, and now, prostrate upon its back, with wings outstretched, struggles desperately to avert the deadly thrust of a long two-handed sword, held by a youth who crushes it beneath him. Although the soldiers bearing the weight of the bird and the youth are dressed in military uniform, the central

the Geelong Grammar School War Memorial,

figure of the group is naked except for a close-

Renaissance sculpture in bronze has been

fitting headpiece and armour about the loins.

combined with Gothic detail, with the result that the

Representative of the permanent spirit of heroism,

best features of two periods have been allied.

he is the young warrior who exists in all ages to fight for a noble cause. The Cloister forming a background for the


Bronze Tablets fixed at the end of the springing of the curve of the cloister give the passer-by an opportunity to stop to read the names of the fallen.

symbolic group was designed by Mr H Desbrowe-

Suitable inscriptions form headings to the four

Annear, of Melbourne, and is built on a slight curve

tablets of names, and inscribed on a plaque at the

between doors opening into the nave of the chapel

base of the pedestal are the words ‘Faithful Unto

at one end and the main quadrangle at the other.

Death.’ Looking straight at the cloister from before

It has been conceived in the English perpendicular

the central group, the piers of each of the eleven

style of the Gothic period, and carried out with

arcades are seen in vista at different angles. As one

chiselled and rubbed freestone from Ross, Tasmania,

walks along parallel with the cloister, these angles

and roughed spalled Barrabool freestone from

constantly change and fresh shadows and new

the Geelong quarries... In the construction of

lights appear in simple harmonies...

Remembrance: 1920–1929

London Calling Above: Chapel extension under construction, 1929. Right: Chapel interor, 1921.

The Name Game Change is a curious beast. Without the OGGA, it is unlikely that the change of location from Geelong to Corio would have occurred; it certainly wouldn’t have succeeded. That in itself was the greatest change in the School’s history to that point, but when the idea was floated that the School’s name be changed from Geelong to Corio, there was a ripple of resentment. A few years later, when the change was presented to the OGGA as a fait accompli, the gentle ripple on that once-polite pond whipped into a wild sea of opposition. And some were caught in the rip – chiefly those conflicted by being at once School Councillors and OGGs. The issue had been discussed by the Council in 1925 but it was at the 1926 annual meeting of the OGGA that

In 1921, the School Secretary, EA Austin, forwarded a letter to the OGGA, advising it of a branch being formed in London, with CEG Beveridge its honorary secretary. The OGGA Committee agreed that its Honorary Secretary ‘would confer with the Headmaster and Mr EA Austin with reference to writing a letter expressing the pleasure of this association that such a branch had been formed and to take some steps to have same properly constituted.’ Closer to home, in 1927 ‘Mr Webb Ware reported to the committee that a number of old boys in the Yea district would like their approval to form a branch in that district ... The president considered this would be of advantage to the association and the meeting approved of Mr Webb Ware’s suggestion.’

it was formally raised. W Max Bell, a member of the


Old Geelong Grammarians: An Historical Portrait

Cuthy The affection the School’s Old Boys had for James Lister Cuthbertson didn’t end with his death. In 1921, when the OGGA was alerted to the disrepair of Cuthbertson’s grave in Mt Gambier, its Secretary was instructed to make enquiries with an Old Boy, FB Davison, a solicitor in the South Australian town, and also with the cemetery trustees. At a later meeting, the Secretary read a letter from Davison stating that the grave had been put into good repair and the cemetery authorities would look after it for the sum of 10 shillings per annum. The committee agreed that the OGGA would meet the expenditure.

School Council reported to the OGGA meeting that ‘at the next meeting of the Old Melburnians, the question of changing the name of the Melbourne Grammar School to Melbournia was to be brought forward.’ It was then suggested that a change to the name of the Geelong Church of England Grammar School might be discussed by the meeting in progress. The OGGA president, ER White, commented that probably all present knew there was a suggestion to change the name of the School, probably to ‘Corio School’. The meeting discussed whether or not to raise the matter at a forthcoming smoke night in Melbourne. The OGGA executive dodged the issue, leaving it to members to discuss it individually and informally. It was in the haze of that smoke night, on May 7 1926 at Menzies Hotel in Melbourne – after the first day of the annual Head of the River regatta – that OGGs were informed by the Headmaster of the proposal to change the name of the School to ‘Corio School’. The thinking behind the move was laid out in The Corian (by ‘Clematis’, probably the pen-name of John Manifold). There were points made about the length of the name – six words in full – and about confusion with Geelong College, but the nub of it was the word ‘Grammar’. When applied in England, it had connotations of a lower standard of education, incompatible with the ‘status of the great public schools.’ This was the exact status many in the GGS establishment aspired to: ‘We have Rugby School, Eton College, Harrow School, etc., which are known simply by their front names, i.e., Rugby, Eton, Harrow. Thus we should become Corio,’ Clematis wrote. The pages of The Corian (was the masthead preempting the name of the School?) remained open to debate on the topic, and in December 1926 rebuttals from ‘Senex’, ‘Early Nineties’, and ‘Old Boy 1906-10’ were published, along with an argument in support of the name change written by ‘Watch Dog’. After this, the seas of change seemed to calm slightly – at an OGGA committee meeting in 1927, TC Manifold asked if any action had been taken to change the School’s

James Lister Cuthbertson, 1875.

name. ‘He was informed that nothing had been done.’ And then, in 1929, came the bombshell. The OGGA


Remembrance: 1920–1929


The reply came from the School secretary, EA Austin –

At a committee meeting in June 1928, the OGGA was disappointed to receive a letter from the Headmaster, Dr Brown, ‘in which he stated that during the course of the Old Boys’ Dinner, certain of those present had invaded the dormitories of Perry House and disturbed the beds, also the School bell had been tolled.’ The Old Boys in question were interviewed by Committee members. Discussion followed about the wisdom of holding further dinners at the School.

who had been present as an OGGA Committee member at the very meeting calling for the reply – and in it he laid out the Council’s argument: ‘The inclusion of the word “Grammar” in the title of a Public School is obsolete and outside Australia is misleading ... the name “Corio” is rightly descriptive of the School and is far from being unknown to “Old School” memories.’ If that wasn’t enough, he advised the OGGA that ‘...the Council has already decided this matter.’ It was a well-attended but divided OGGA Committee meeting that followed on June 24, 1929 to consider this letter. There were 24 members present and, with only one apology, the discussion turned quickly to the nature of the name. The members present argued this way and that; early in the piece CO Fairbairn moved that the meeting ‘endorse the action of the Council in changing the name of the School,’ but the resolution failed to attract a seconder. EN Belcher asked that the OGGA membership ‘of about 1000’ be notified ‘before any serious discussion takes place.’ J Turnbull and J Manifold argued forcefully for the change and R Webb Ware conceded that he had come to the meeting to vote against it ‘but after hearing the discussion’ was prepared to give the change his support. Others spoke of retaining the name in essence, but removing the word ‘Grammar’ from it. The last word

OGGs dinner menus, March 1928.

went to Allan Spowers who wanted the Council to be told of the ‘strong opposition’ to the change ‘and that the matter should be deferred.’

committee met on May 6 at the Wool Exchange in

Before this meeting, however, John Godfrey, an Old

Geelong and EN Belcher drew its attention to reports in

Boy who lived in Bathurst, NSW, had started a campaign

the press ‘mentioning the likelihood of the Council of the

against the name change, publishing the ‘Hands Off’

School altering the name...’ Belcher wanted to know if the

circular about it, distributing it as widely as he could, and

OGGA had been consulted and wanted it known ‘...that

receiving some interesting replies.

he took strong exception to the suggested change.’

GR Wright of Sydney: ‘Stick out to the bitter end and every

He was told that the OGGA had not been consulted about this latest move and, after ‘the matter was very fully discussed,’ the Committee resolved to write to the School Council requesting they inform the OGGA of their intention and the ‘reason for any change’.

Old Boy is with you.’ Stewart Stevenson of Hay: ‘I think it would be a sin if Geelong Grammar was “done away”.’ Alfred Hall of Healesville: ‘Very gladly do I seize this opportunity of protesting ... When in England last year ... I


Old Geelong Grammarians: An Historical Portrait

was invited to Eton and Harrow. In all these places I found

Despite the support Godfrey was receiving, the June

the reputation of the old School well-known ... they all

1929 OGGA committee meeting was persuaded to record

spoke to me of the “Geelong Grammar”.’

that ‘the Council be notified that this meeting disassociates

WA Mackinnon of Hamilton: ‘Many congratulations on your ... well thought-out protest. I feel certain that it will do the trick.’ Stafford Young of Bundaberg, Queensland: ‘I heartily agree with the general sentiment of all the protest remarks ... Even from an advertising point of view, the School will fall back in applicants.’ GP Harwood of Balwyn: ‘I for one shall always be an

itself from this (Godfrey’s) circular.’ Geelong-based Belcher went on to publish another circular, sending it to about 1100 OGGs. There was a vibrant response with opposition to the change running at about 80 per cent. The agitation continued. In August 1929 the OGGA Committee was advised by the association’s New South Wales Branch that at a meeting in Sydney ‘...a resolution

Old Geelong Grammarian, regardless of any change to the

strongly protesting against the proposed change of name

name of the School.’

was carried.’


Cricket team.

Remembrance: 1920–1929

The Old School Tie

They won the campaign, but Belcher and Godfrey were

HP Douglass visited England in 1922 and reported back to the OGGA committee on ‘what could be done in regard to a necktie for Old Boys. He submitted various designs given to him by tie makers in England, but it was eventually agreed ‘that the Old Geelong Grammarians have a special necktie ... (with) a light blue band on black with a narrow gold stripe on one side.’

stuck with the bill.

The Treasury At the start of the decade the OGGA had assets of £1465.19.1 and a balance of £6509.15 in its war memorial fund; the war memorial was the most important item of business, but it also had its eye on underpinning the financial security of the School. ‘There was an idea among certain people that the Geelong Grammar School was sufficiently wealthy not to require an endowment fund,’ EA Austin reported to the OGGA in 1928, but he thought that ‘Old Boys should make it their business to disabuse people’s minds in regard to this.’ Indeed, Dr RNS Good said that ‘from a scholastic point of view the School was eminently a success, but financially it was very heavily embarrassed.’ One of their particular concerns was that GGS was seen as doing nothing to encourage day boys, but W Max Bell pointed out that this was not true as the ‘School motor boat and now a motor bus were being run at a loss to enable day boys to attend.’

In December 1929 Godfrey wrote to his co-conspirator

The endowment fund was proposed to create an

Belcher, underlining that ‘The overseas protests must also

amount of capital that would ‘supplement the salaries of

convince them that their much stressed point about “English

masters, thereby enabling the School to obtain the best

practice” is all rot. Please let me know the cost for our

type of man...’ and beyond this support the School in its

triumphal protest. I would like to square up my debt before

general business.

Christmas so that you can purchase your Christmas Goose!’ Early in the following decade the School Council

The OGGA was also forced to look at its own funds and funding. At its annual meeting in 1927 it resolved to

resolved to ‘defer the proposal,’ and where the

increase its annual subscription, the chairman (OGGA

OGGA Committee had once equivocated, in light of

president Allan Spowers) remarking that ‘with the cost

the opposition to the change, the annual meeting of

of The Corian, 5/- was too small and did not allow the

the OGGA after ‘considerable discussion’ agreed to

Association to give its active support to matters outside.’

fund Belcher’s printing expenses – an account of £70

The treasurer, Harry Béchervaise, had been campaigning

outstanding to the printers Mercer and Company.

for OGGs to be life, rather than ordinary, members as

It didn’t finish there, however. Early in 1931

it gave the body funds to invest and saved the cost of

the Committee considered the annual meeting’s

collecting subscriptions. So the annual subscription rose

‘recommendation’ that they pay Mercer and Co’s account,

to 10 shillings for ordinary members, but life membership

but ‘Mr J Turnbull stated that in his opinion it would be

was held at a fee of five guineas. The strategy worked: in

creating a dangerous precedent to pay a liability incurred

1920, 28 per cent of OGGs were life members and 72 per

without the authority of the Committee’. His motion was

cent ordinary members; by 1929, 57 per cent were life

put to the meeting and was carried ‘by a majority of five.’

members and 43 per cent ordinary members.


Old Geelong Grammarians: An Historical Portrait  

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