Martyn Smith, writing about Wesley College

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REVEREND JAMES S. WAUGH
(March, 1977, for Junior School Assembly;  repeated at Founders Day Assemblies, May, 1978 and May, 1996)
When we think about the people who gave us Wesley College over 100 years ago, we mustn’t forget Daniel Draper and Walter Powell.   Both these men planned the building of the school but, strangely, neither of them was present at Opening Day, 11 January, 1866. 

The Reverend James Swanton Waugh, however, was.  He was there because he was President of the College.  He wasn’t the Headmaster.  That was Dr Corrigan.  Dr Corrigan looked after the teachers and boys during classes.  The President, however, was in charge of the whole school, day boys, boarders, maids, kitchen staff and teachers, all of the time and he lived at the school.  He was a very important man.  It was Waugh who gave the new school great leadership and inspiration after it opened.

Like Draper, Rev Waugh was a minister of the Methodist Church - it was called the Wesleyan Church in 1866 - and an editorial in the Church’s magazine of December, 1865, expressed pleasure when it was learnt that James S. Waugh would be the first President of Wesley College, and described his abilities:-

"A Wesleyan minister will reside at the College, and preside over all its interests.  When we mention that the unanimous choice of the Committee has fallen upon the Rev James S. Waugh, our readers will feel that the selection is that of 'the right man in the right place'.  Mr Waugh has consented to take the office of President, and in him the requisite scholarship, gentlemanly bearing, and Christian character, are united in no ordinary degree.  The domestic and other arrangements of the College, under the direction of Mr Waugh, will be all that can be desired to make the pupils feel that they are 'at home', and to train them in habits of Christian and gentlemanly conduct."
So, the pupils were to feel 'at home' in their new school.

All the remaining readings that we will hear this morning are James Waugh’s actual words.  He used the words you will hear in his speech to all those people who gathered to open the school in 1866, on the day Daniel Draper was drowned as he was returning to Australia.

As we have heard, it was expected that the pupils would feel at home at Wesley.  James Waugh made certain that one of the main foundation stones on which he would build his school was happiness and cheerfulness:-

"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."
Victoria had been inhabited by white people for only 30 years when Wesley College opened.  Men had been keen to plough the new land, to work it and to mine it in those early years.  But, by 1866, there was something else that was becoming important.  It was not gold, though we all know something of the thousands of men who arrived in Victoria in the 1850’s to seek their fortune at Bendigo and Ballarat.  Waugh had this to say:-
"No man is deemed respectable now who is unacquainted with science and with books.  The Ploughman, the Artisan, and the Miner of our day, know something of learning.  The people of this new land of ours agree to cherish and promote it.  Gold is not the only thing that men prize here.  There are two things which Australia honours, and they are - Character and Education."
Character and education - these two things were important.  Waugh went on:-
"Everybody is saying, 'educate, educate'.  Now let us take care that education be of the right kind, that it be conducted on right principles and that it shall tend to the highest good .   ... it is the means by which ... the better to judge rightly between truth and error, good and evil."
Education which helped boys grow, happiness and cheerfulness.  These were the foundations on which to build.  The first years, however, would not be easy for there were some problems.  Waugh, though, was strong; he was sure that Wesley would thrive:-
"The institution which we inaugurate this day may have initial difficulties to surmount;  it may not all at once be filled with pupils;   .... the building is yet incomplete, the preliminary outlay is considerable, and the working expenses for some time may be in excess of income .... We have much to do, but all is within our power."
"All is within our power."  James Waugh was a great leader of Wesley College in its earliest years.  He saw that the grey-cemented building, on the road to St Kilda, with its two square, grey towers, had unbounded and wonderful potential.

Transfixed by a commanding eye, the audience of 250, faithfully gathered in the mellow dusk of that balmy January evening, rose to thunderously applaud Waugh when he issued his final passionate challenge as he concluded the Inauguration Speech of Wesley College, 1866:-

"May our College be like an angel standing in the sun, sending forth streams of light for many a year throughout this land!"
Related links
A Happy, Cheerful Home
The Values, Philosophy and Ideology of the Culture of Wesley College
What it means to be a Christian School

Wesley's Heritage
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