150 years ago
today, in 1865, Wesley College didn’t exist.
But, it was
two-storey, grey building was rising in a large paddock alongside the track
leading from Melbourne to St Kilda, closer to St Kilda than Melbourne, and
opposite wetlands which, since then, have been shaped into Albert Park Lake.
Back in January of that year,
its Foundation Stone had been laid and it was planned that the building
would receive its first students in about nine months’ time … in January,
In late April
1865, however, it had no students, no teachers and no Principal.
The name it had
been given was a bit of a mouthful … the ‘Victoria Wesleyan Methodist
didn’t slip off the tongue quite as easily as ‘Melbourne Grammar School’ or
‘Scotch College’ ... two schools that did exist 150 years ago.
We don’t know
why the new school’s name was changed … but, in October 1865, it was.
‘Wesley’ is the name of a man who was born in England 312 years ago …
John Wesley. He lived to be 88 years old, before
he died in 1791.
Our school is
named after him.
life, John Wesley became famous for many great deeds … most of which saved
people from the misery of poverty, illness, addiction, unemployment,
loneliness, discrimination and oppression.
As well, Wesley
very, very keenly established schools for all sorts of people, young and
Not only did
John Wesley want people to be healthy and happy but also he wanted them to
use knowledge to be better people … for their own sake, and for the sake of
inspired hundreds of thousands of people to follow his actions.
Three of these
people were living in Victoria at the time of the gold rushes, over 150
were Reverend Daniel Draper, Mister Walter Powell and
Reverend James Waugh, and they became the leading founders of our
school, Wesley College.
Daniel Draper was an active and clever Christian minister who was very
proud that his Church, the Wesleyan Methodist Church, was providing many,
many schools for young students throughout Victoria, but he wanted to build
a school for older students as well. There were very few schools for older
students in Victoria at the time.
Walter Powell wanted exactly the same thing as his close friend
Daniel Draper. He was active, too, and was a very successful hardware
retailer who had become rich during Victoria’s gold rush era and who was
donating generously to the establishment of the new school
… not just money, but equipment
and books, as well.
For many years,
Draper and Powell planned constantly for the building of Wesley College.
In 1865 …
whilst the building was continuing on the St Kilda track … they were in
Great Britain seeking a Principal for the school and buying books for the
let me introduce you to the third leading founder of Wesley, James Waugh.
He had been a
key planner of Wesley, too, and, in 1865, he was the top leader of the
Wesleyan Methodist Church.
Wesley College opened its doors to teachers and students, in January 1866,
James Waugh was the President of the College. He wasn’t the Principal.
That was James Corrigan, selected by Daniel Draper and Walter Powell the
(he was called the Headmaster in those days) was in charge of the students
and teachers only during class times.
President, James Waugh, was in charge of the whole school all the time.
First, he was
in charge of the Principal and, second, he was in charge of the large number
of students who actually lived at the school because their homes were far
off in the bush. Finally, he also was in charge of all the money, buildings
and equipment needed to run the school.
It was a very
important job and to do it properly James Waugh lived at the school with his
held its Opening Ceremony on the warm evening of
the 11th of January 1866, James Waugh’s bold speech inspired all who heard
can still read Waugh’s entire speech and, to
finish today, I would like to pass on some of his words to you.
His speech was long and you will
be glad to know that I am going to quote only one short, remarkable
Remembering that Wesley was a
boys-only school in those days, here is what he said about what a good
school should be like:-
"The morals of
all rightly conducted schools are carefully fenced and guarded. They are
conformed to the character of a happy, cheerful home as much as possible, so
that every boy may feel that his teachers are among his best friends, and
that the lines have fallen unto him in pleasant places."
his school should be homely ... be as happy, and cheerful, as possible.
Teachers and students should be friends.
Campus of modern Wesley College knows something of these homely values.
After all, it’s
unique life commenced in a family … as Cromarty School, run by the three
sisters Annie, Jane and Louisa Day, using buildings owned by their family
and named after their mother’s home town in Scotland.
Cromarty and Methodist Ladies College joined together, the school moved here
… to a Gladstone Avenue family home, named Kooyong, purchased from Mr Robert
significant, isn’t it, that your front entrance is a homely porch and front
closely together here, don’t you, and can all look out for each other …
You have the
marvellous opportunity to live the dream that James Waugh had for you …
That your school life be happy.
That your teachers are your friends.
That the lines fall unto you in pleasant places.
I never taught at Elsternwick
Campus but well I remember what those who did teach here said about their
Always, they echoed strongly
the sentiments that I have just mentioned … happiness, friendliness and
So, in honour of our School’s
founders, I say to you now … quietly decide to keep on growing that
happiness, here at Elsternwick, through your kindness with one other
… and, seeking the kindness in one another.
Each day, in this place, play
your part in continuing to bring James Waugh’s words true.