Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

Bishop Hale and secondary education

Cowan, E. D. [Edith Dirksey] OBE 1930, 'Bishop Hale and secondary education', Early Days, vol. 1, part 7: 1-11.

[Read before the Society, June 27, 1930]

I must preface this paper by saying that its scope is necessarily very limited. It is not possible in it to give a biographical sketch of our first Anglican Bishop, Mathew Blagden Hale, who expended thought, money and time in stabilising, by endowing liberally from his own means, the Church of England in this Colony; neither can I give an account fully of the practical interest taken by him in education generally, as well as that of the aborigines. A detailed paper of that description must be left to the able pen of Canon Burton (our chairman here to-night) or to some research student of the future. I can deal with only one phase of the Bishop’s work here—his college—and his interest in furthering secondary education.

It is difficult, in a paper such as this, to do justice to the fine Christian ideals evident throughout the life of the late Right Reverend Mathew Blagden Hale, the first Anglican Bishop of Western Australia, who was beloved and appreciated by not only his personal friends, but by the community as a whole. It was no light task he undertook, that of overseeing and helping to evolve and foster the ideals of Christianity in the schools of the State and of founding its first secondary school for boys.

The Bishop, then Archdeacon Hale, arrived here to take on the responsibility of his new office in July, 1856. He had previously visited the West in 1848 with the Adelaide Suffragan Bishop Short. Meeting then Miss Sabina Molloy, eldest daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Molloy, he induced her to become his second wife, and they were married at Busselton on December 30, 1848. Mrs. Hale was a handsome woman possessing ability, charm of manner, and great dignity. I can remember her from 1868 onwards as a close friend of my grandmother, Mrs. Thomas Brown, and we often visited at


Bishop's House and Mrs. Hale and her husband came frequently to see my grandmother. The Bishop always took an intense interest in denominational education for every section of the settlers, wherever he found himself, and was never narrow or sectarian in his outlook, but truly spiritual. At Poonindie, in South Australia, while in that diocese, he had founded an aboriginal mission settlement with, on the whole, good results, and on coming here naturally took an immediate interest in our Western Australian aborigines, doing much for their welfare by inculcating in the minds of the pioneers a higher sense of responsibility in every way as to their education and training. If I remember rightly he established for' a short time a half-caste mission in the grounds of Bishop’s House and aided one conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Camfield at Albany, Mrs. Millett in her book—“An Australian Parsonage” (Edwd. Stanford, London, 1872)—speaks of this. In 1857 he journeyed to England, where his consecration to the Bishopric of Western Australia took place in March of the same year. While in the Old Country he engaged five additional clergy to come Out and also a headmaster for the secondary denominational school for boys that he was even then planning to launch in his new see, his choice for the post falling on the Rev. G. H. Sweeting, M.A., of Oxford, at (I am told by Mr. George Sweeting, his son) a salary of £1,000 per annum guaranteed by the Bishop himself. The Rev. (afterwards Canon) Sweeting was a learned and cultured man. He educated Mr. Septimus Burt, Mr. G. Barrett-Lennard, Sir J. Forrest and Chief Justice Sir Henry Parker; and your humble servant also had the privilege of tuition under him at the rectory of Guildford, where he took regular pupils.

This school, called Bishop’s College, was opened on June 28, 1858, by the Revd. Mr. Lynch (who acted as temporary headmaster) with 23 pupils. On his arrival, November 28, 1858, Mr. Sweeting took over the duties, with Mr. Roach as second master. In a letter dated February 9, 1929, Mrs. Wilkinson—the Bishop's eldest daughter by his first wife—having mentioned in a previous letter to me how disappointed she had been that Bishop’s School, when the change of name was made to Church of England Collegiate School, had not been named directly after him, and that she thought the


omission showed a want of gratitude to her father, wrote to say: “Since I wrote last, we have had access to the series of my father’s letters of which I told you, and to diaries in addition. These gave us much information which we had forgotten, or did not know before. Amongst other items about the Bishop’s School for Boys, of which I spoke to you in my last, it appears the title was altered by himself and his co-operators in the government of the school, when some change had been made in its constitution; also we found he had opened it in 1858, and that it was carried on till (I think) early in the seventies, when on account of want of support or being taken advantage of by the settlers and their sons, it was obliged to be given, up—to my father’s deep regret. From his letters, written to us in England month by month with my stepmother’s, we gather with what immense labour and anxiety and great expenditure of his private means (he being a wealthy man) it had been carried on, hoping and hoping that the colonists would be led to take advantage of it for their sons’ education, instead of allowing them, as soon as they were old enough to be of any use to them, to be put to any sort of labour on the stations, with cattle, horses, etc., and no ideas beyond. The few who profited by the opportunity did the school much credit and became most useful, valuable and important members of the community. Amongst them, as I think I said before, were Maitland Brown, John Forrest and some others you would know of.”

From other sources I find that among these “some others” were Messrs. Sept., Oct. and Alfred Burt; William, Alexander and David Forrest; Richard Sholl; Gervase and Edward Clifton; John E. Mitchell; Charles Edwards; Henry George James; Stephen Henry, William and Fred Parker, also George Parker; William Chidlow; William Morgan; Andrew and John Maw; John and William McKail; Henry S. Ranford; Henry T. Saw; Morton and Frank Craig; Tames and William Ramsay; A. McPherson; George Teede; Edward Withers; Edward Newman; John Bateman; John Higham: Andrew and William Cornish: Edward and Frank Wittenoom; Chas. Shenton; Herbert Ashton; Clement Birch: William Lowe; Samuel Moore; George, Charles and Maxwell Lefroy; Edward Bruce:. Bob Quinn; Stockley and Robert M. King; Henry Stewart


Carey; Joe Bovell; Fred Liddelow; William F. Sampson; Fred, George and Augustus Roe; Major Logue; Mervyn Bunbury; Fred Brockman; Jack Hare; Samuel John Phillips; William and Henry Leeder; Charles Newland; Alfred Wakeford; Laurence and Geoffrey Eliot; Samuel Burges; Hawkins Sewell; Charles F. Ferguson; Ernest Shenton; Charles Knight; Harley L. Lochee; Frank Stone; Forster Johnston; Henry deBurgh; Edward Lee Steere; Arthur Knight, and others. Many of the above-mentioned certainly did hold quite high positions later on in the State.

There can be no doubt whatever that the school was very dear and near to Bishop Hale’s heart and that those principles of Christian teaching held to by him as the foundation stones of character to be inculcated in its scholars, and so essential to the making of a gentleman, were self-sacrifice, truthfulness, honesty and religious purpose. That his efforts to sow these seeds had good results is unchallengeable.

It seems opportune here to refer to the recent differences of opinion re the taking of the name of “Hale” by a secular institution, quite lately—the High School, Perth, which was founded by the Government of Western Australia in 1876. I therefore quote Mr. Alfred Burt (a pupil of Bishop Hale’s School), many years Registrar of Titles, who in writing (and he is an authority) to the Diocesan Secretary, Cathedral Avenue, on September 25, 1929, said: “I would like to bring before your Trustees the following facts: The Revd. Bishop Matthew Blagden Hale opened a school called Bishop Hale’s School on June 28, 1858. On August 18, 1865, an ordinance was passed (29 Vic. 12) to incorporate the Governors of the Church of England Collegiate School. On September 7, 1865, Bishop Hale conveyed the school property to the Governors of the Church of England Collegiate School and their successors and assigns for ever—viz., Perth Building Lots H1, and H7. Bishop Hale’s School then became the Church of England Collegiate School, but was better known and spoken of as Hale’s School. In 1875 Bishop Hale resigned his episcopate and went to Brisbane. In 1876 the Church of England Collegiate School languished for want of sufficient support; and in that year an Act (40. Vic. 8) was passed called The High School Act of 1876. This Act makes no reference to Bishop Hale’s


School, nor the Church of England Collegiate School. After the Church of England Collegiate School closed in 1876, the late Colonel Haynes, who had been second master, then carried on a private school, renting the Collegiate School Building. Bishop Hale’s School ceased to exist in 1865 and was followed by the Church of England Collegiate School, which also ceased to exist in 1876 and was then followed by a private school up to March 1, 1878, on which date the High School was opened by the Government, Colonel Haynes going over to the said school with his boys on its inception. I would point out that Act 29, Vic. 12, stated the head master of Bishop Hale’s School must be a Clerk in Holy Orders holding the licence of the Lord Bishop of Perth; and Act 49, Vic. 19, Sec. 2, which repeals Act 29, Vic. 12, vests the land in the standing committee of the Synod of the Western Australian Branch of the Church of England, ‘for such educational purposes as such committee shall consider to be most nearly in accordance with the objects for which the said school was originally established.’”

This, and the facts that the Church of England Collegiate School Act was in force for some time after the High School started, and that parts of it are still in force, give strength to Mr. A. Burt’s contention that the present High or Hale School had no right to claim that their school was founded in 1858 (vide an advertisement of February this year) or that the old Hale School boys should be called High School boys. As a matter of fact the late Dr. Athelstan Saw admitted in Parliament last year that: “The fundamental differences in the Acts governing them was the fact that Bishop Hale’s Schools were to see the Scriptures were taught in their original tongue, that they had to be governed by a body of persons all being Church of England members, three of whom must be clergymen of that Church, and that the headmaster must be a Church of England Clergyman.”

In the High School Act of 1876 the Government provided that it should be exclusively secular, and its headmaster a University graduate and not a minister of religion. Dr. Saw also said: “The High School was established under the auspices of the State, its Governors were nominated by the Governor in Council, the school was devoted to secular education.”


It is only those of us who remember Bishop Hale personally and his deeply spiritual and religious type of mind (yet broad and tolerant of the views of others) who can realise the travesty of giving his name to an institution whose foundations are so unmistakably opposite to the principles he invariably upheld. Can it be wondered at that the Diocesan Council takes exception, as do other members of the Church of England, to the present High or Hale School’s use of the old Bishop Hale’s School badge, to the foundation date on its new buildings and the incorrect statement that Bishop Hale founded the High School.

I append the following letter from Mr. J. O. Fisher, Diocesan Secretary of the Church of England, dealing with the subject: “Whatever grounds may exist for changing the name of the High School, Perth, there is no reason for and grave objections to the suggested name of ‘Hale School.’ Secondary schools, such as those founded by the revered Bishop Hale and devout men of other religious communions, are the outcome of a belief that: (1) True education should be founded on definite Christian teaching and principles; and (2) traditions worthy of influencing the boys throughout their live" are the outcome of such teaching and the atmosphere which it alone can create. Thus Bishop Hale’s object in founding his school was not so much to provide secondary education in the State as to ensure that such education should be definitely based upon ‘the principles of the Christian religion’ and naturally (being an Anglican Bishop) as those principles are interpreted by the Church of England. For this reason when Parliament by the Act of 1865 (49 Vic. No. 19) incorporated the Governors of the. Perth Church of England Collegiate School that Act provided that ‘the headmaster shall be a Clerk in Holy Orders holding the licence of the Lord Bishop of Perth’ and made definite regulations with regard to Christian teaching as referred to above. 1 For these reasons alone the suggestion to associate High School with the name of the late Bishop Hale cannot commend itself to the Anglican Church authorities and those who believe in definite religious education. The Act of 1876, which brought the High School into existence, not only makes no reference to Bishop Hale’s School but provided ‘the education to be given at such school shall be exclusively secular and that it shall not be lawful


for the said Governors to appoint or have as headmaster any minister of religion.’ If, as I am informed, the proposed change is advisable owing to the State having established high schools of its own and it might be thought boys attending the High School, Perth, are receiving a free education, and in reality is not the outcome of a desire to associate the High School with a religious founder, why the necessity to choose the name of ‘Hale’ to which, for the reasons given, such strong objection is taken ? As a matter of fact, is not the proposed Bill, as a reference to the foreword in the school prospectus will show, an attempt to obtain legal sanction to use a name to which the school is neither morally nor legally entitled and thus seek to establish a claim (as the foreword referred to endeavours to do) that High School is the successor of ‘Hale School.’ This claim is effectively disposed of by the letter you published from Mr. Alfred E. Burt.”

The Bishop’s Letters

I will now give you extracts from Bishop Hale’s letters to his daughters on the old school, which I received lately:—

“Bishop’s House, Perth W.A., August 17, 1860.— The Boys’ School goes on very well. . . . '

“December 23, 1861.—The volunteer movement has extended itself to West Australia. It began at the Vasse. ... In Perth and Fremantle the Corps are something like 70 or 80 men each. . . They have two drills, one at 5.30 in the morning and another at 4 p.m. Young Roach and several of the School Boys have enrolled in the Perth Corps.

“June 23, 1863.—The Boys’ School has been to me a heavy expense and a source of great anxiety; and I am truly thankful that it is beginning to produce some fruit. There are several youths about the Colony who would do credit to any School and the schooling has been to this lad Parker* a first step from which, if he is spared, he may confidently expect to rise to the highest position and influence in the Colony. Without this step he would have been just a farmer, a stock breeder like the rest. ... So that if the school does not effect all the good one

* “Parker”. Later Sir Henry Parker. Chief Justice of Western Australia.


can wish, it certainly will with God’s help be extremely beneficial to the Colony.

“September 25, 1863.—I am thankful to say we have made a great step forward in that important object which 1 have always had so much at heart, viz., to convert the Bishop’s School into a Public and Permanent Institution. I had Statutes and regulations printed a long time ago—viz., those of the Adelaide Collegiate School adapted to our use, but one thing or another has prevented my going on with it. It is quite uncertain whether Mr. Sweeting will or will not continue under the new regime.

“Fremantle, December 17.—I am sorry to say we shall have to close the Bishop’s School until the new Master arrives from England. . . We are now in communication with John Bussell with a view to his carrying on the boys in their Latin and Greek during this interval. He seems quite willing to come to Perth for the purpose, but at present there being no opportunity of taking boarders, we can muster only six pupils and I do not know if we can make up a sufficient sum from so small a number of parents.

“December 24.—It is well I wrote the foregoing pages from Fremantle for I really have scarcely had a spare moment the last few days. The whole weight of the Government Schools Examinations has fallen upon me this year, which at this otherwise busy time has. kept me going pretty briskly. . . . About our own scholastic affairs—the School, properly so-called, is shut up, but I have written finally to John Bussell and I presume it is settled that he will come up to act as a sort of private tutor to our six boys. The principal weight of the expense falls upon the Judge* and myself. . . . Bussell will, I am sure, feel the greatest interest in his work and in the care of his own children he has certainly shown an aptitude for drawing out the mental powers of young people and giving them a taste for reading, etc. Tell Aunt Eliza that he and his family are great readers of Shakespeare; I am sure this will give her a favourable opinion of their literary tastes

“Extracts, 1864.—John Bussell has taken most admirably to his scholastic duties. "You would think he had been engaged in them all his life. I think, upon the

* “The Judge": Sir Archibald Paul Burt, I think.


whole, he likes it though he is sometimes very vexed when the boys will not do their work. I am afraid Robbie, for one, has caused him a good deal of annoyance, and I am very sorry for this, for he is a real good fellow is John Bussell. He lives in the House with us, so we are going to dispense with Robbie’s boy tutor—Henry Parker.

“March 16, 1864.—John Bussell gives himself most heartily to his work and is certainly extremely competent as a teacher. He is a most agreeable companion and

I find it very pleasant to have him in the house......

Bussell, with his dear, good, kind manner; and love of imparting information, has benefited Robbie very greatly. They are fast friends and have a good deal of talk together.

“August 24, 1864.—I received from Mr. Bussell, who is acting for me as Commissary in England, the very gratifying intelligence that he has succeeded in securing a Master for the School—the Revd. T. T. Taylor. This is truly a relief to my mind for, although the people here are most apathetic about the School, yet feeling as I do the immense importance of having at least a portion of our youth really well educated, I have been most anxious that my attempt should succeed.

“January 26, 1865.—The school work will begin (again) on Monday—we shall open with 22 or 23 boys, which we consider very good under the circumstances. The school having been supposed to be almost defunct during the last 12 months.

An Early Cricket Match

“Perth, June 30, 1865.—We were more than commonly anxious about the weather last week, because we had a cricket match appointed for the 17th, which created considerable interest. The ‘Bishop's School,’ Masters and pupils, past and present had, as was supposed, the audacity to challenge any eleven which could be got together in the Colony. Happily the weather moderated before Tuesday and the match was played; the School winning with the greatest ease. . . . All the School Eleven are resident in Perth except Laurie Eliot (Magistrate’s Clerk and Post Master) who came up from Bunbury—he is considered one of the best players. The others were: Mr. Taylor, present master, Sept. Burt, present pupil, Knight, Moore, Roe, Sholl (Clerks in


Government Offices), Hillman, Stone (Clerks in. the W.A. Bank), Mitchell (2nd Assistant at Hospital), Parker (articled to a Solicitor in Perth). So not only has the School furnished to the Community a set of smart manly fellows, who have beaten the whole Colony in this game of games, but see to what an extent it has furnished the Colony with smart, intelligent fellows for the professions. It has been and will be yet, I trust, a most important institution. Several old cricketers were on the ground, who were constrained to declare that they had never seen in the Colony, such an Eleven together, as the School produced on this occasion. Mr. Taylor seems a most happy selection for the Mastership and his being a good cricketer is a qualification by no means to be despised.”

An interesting thing is that in February, 1905, a cricket match took place between a Bishop Hale’s School XV., and a Perth High School XI and we find among the list of names comprising the Hale School XV., J. J. Higham, C. Knight, Augustus Roe, Henry Ranford, Frank Craig, Sept, and Oct. Burt, R. A. Sholl, George Parker, Samuel Moore Gervase Clifton, Mervyn Bunbury, S. J. Phillips, David Forrest, J. E. Mitchell and W. J. Chidlow. Apparently the old Hale School and the High School were not regarded as having similar foundations as late as 1905. Mr. Laurence Eliot, who took part in both matches—1865 and 1905— was the first boy to attend Bishop’s School in 1858 and it is to the credit of that fine pioneer woman, his mother, that she had taught him Latin previously and grounded him so well that Bishop Hale complimented her on the excellent result. In her letters to me Mrs. Wilkinson mentions that her stepbrothers, Matthew, Robert and Harold, were among the School’s pupils, but the two latter were later on sent to St. Peter’s College, Adelaide, Matthew having been drowned' in the Swan River at Mill Point In this same letter from Mrs. Wilkinson she also tells me that the letters “record the setting up by her father of a school for girls, daughters of the colonists, and of his getting out from England a second mistress for it, paying her passage and the salaries of both mistresses and no doubt many other expenses which were bound to occur,” and adds that “it had cost him over £700 and that when all was ready there was not one single offer of a boarder, but only a few day


scholars, and as it was quite impossible to keep it up, he paid the return voyage also of the second mistress back to England.”

This ending of Bishop Hale’s College in 1875, and of the girls’ school earlier, marked the close of a generous and painstaking effort on his part to supply this then Crown Colony with secondary or higher education for both girls and boys, particularly the latter. Nevertheless, despite the seeming failure, it was the harbinger of those further efforts on the part of State authorities and religious bodies, which later finally paved the way for our University. By the way, it is sometimes forgotten that the pioneer worker for that University was Monsignor Anselm Bourke, who arrived here with Bishop Serra in 1855, he being a Catholic Cleric, who was admired and revered by all who had the privilege of knowing him. He was the Chairman of the Local Board of Education when the system of University Tests was introduced. He lived to see the University founded here. Many of us present in this room to-night will see the permanent University buildings at Crawley opened and will remember that towards that red letter day in education Bishop Hale’s unselfish endeavours played their part and some of our minds will revert to the efforts made by Monsignor Bourke Bishop Hale, Archbishop Riley, and Sir Winthrop Hackett, who, in their different ways added further stones to this final edifice of Western Australian learning. “Well done thou good and faithful servants!”

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