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MELBOURNE

UNIVERSITY

-.

THREE DECADES

By GERTRUDE MORRISSEY

I.

It was after the death of Sir Redmond Barry, in 1880, that the controversy began as to whether La Trobe, Childers, or Barry was the actual founder of the University. The colonists had watched Barn', as Chancellor for nearly 30 years, foster its growth from premature birth to robust maturity when it could take an honourable place among the universities of the world. Most of his fellow citizens had come to look upon him as Its founder. His untiring zeal for its welfare and prestige blinded them to the fact that more than one man was likely to have had a part in founding such on Important institution. A sum of £10.000 for the proposed university was included in the Estimates which Childers, as auditor general, laid before the Legislativo Coun- cil on November 4, 1852. Thirty years later, after both La Trobe and Barry had died, Childers claimed to be the founder of the University of Melbourne on the score of his having asked La Trobe's per- mission to put this £10,000 on the Esti- mates of 1852. When the discussion began Childers had long since left the1 cplony. having used his seven years of

service with the Victorian Government as a stepping-stone to a political career in England. Early in 1858 he departed for London with a Victorian pension of £806 per annum to assist his political ambi-

tions.

La Trobe, during the 13 years he had held office in Port Phillip, had always been a keen advocate of education, and on Separation, in 1851, had surrounded himself with advisers of similar views. The Sydney University, which had been opened In October, 1852, was freely commented on by the colonists of Victoria, who were eager not to be outdone by the older colony. The subject must have been discussed at many of the conferences be- tween La Trobe and his Executive Coun- cil, of which Childers was not then a member. If we could find a record of these conferences we would most probably kno\. the real founders of the University and learn that the "permission" sought by Childers was merely a matter of for- mal routine. Finally, the new Univer- sity was established by Act of Incorpora- tion on January 22, 1853, with power to confer degrees in arts, medicine, laws, and music. The act provided for an annual endowment of £9,000, while a special grant of £20.000 was made for buildings that year. At this time only students who were members of the Church of Eng- land could enter Oxford and Cambridge. But the aspect of the new University that aroused the liveliest interest of the free- dom-loving colonists was the absence of any religious test for students or officers.

In tile following April the Licutenant Govcrnor appointed the first council of 20 members, representative of the Eng- lish, Irish, and -Scottish sections of the community. Mr. Justice Barry was made Chancellor, and H. C. Childers vice-chan- cellor. From this point there con be no doubt that Barry's was the dominant in- fluence In shaping the future of the Uni- versity. The Government offered a site between the present Fitzroy Gardens and the city, but this did not accord with Barry's ambition. He wished to found a permanent University, with room for ex- pansion. The University of Melbourne was to be the Oxford of Australia, and a site of less than 100 acres was useless. La Trobe then granted 40 acres, bounded on the south by Grattan street, and ex- tending north along Royal parade to Tin Alley. The eastern boundary was about midway between the lake and the medi- cal school. This grant was accompanied by a promise that the remainder of the hundred acres would be reserved for affili- ated colleges.

The council offered prizes of £300 and £200 for designs of a university with the accommodation it considered should "at present be provided." Apart from the necessary lecture-rooms, library, and office, there were to be residential apart- ment for four professors and an examina- tion hall to be used on special occasions as a dining hall. The design of Francis White of what Is still the main quad- rangle was selected. The hall was obvi- ously intended to be at the buck of the cloisters on the site of the present post office block, but it was 1873 before the Government voted the monoy to complete this section. By this time the festive hail had to give way to the more pressing needs of library and engineering school.

The laying of the foundation-stone on July 3, 1854, was made an occasion for Introducing some measure of the pomp and circumstance inseparable from public ceremonies in the homeland. A guard of honour stood before the Government offices in William street, and the band played while the company assembled. At last the long procession of carriages set off, headed by the brltschka of Sir Charles and Lady Hotham. Then followed the "tinselled and begowned officials of Church and State," members of the Legislative and City Councils, and a goodly array of influential gentlemen. "Discouraging as was the state of the streets of Melbourne to making an excursion, especially of a pedestrian nature," on that July morning we are told that the cavalcade was fol- lowed by a, host of colonists on foot. Although the procession took a "very cir- cuitous route" to reach the University, the Governor's carriage was bogged. A most unprepossessing site for a univer- sity it looked that day. There was no Parkville then, and for some years the residents of the growing suburb of Carlton had used the reserve as a rubbish tip, and had removed all the surface soil for their own gardens. Little was left of the origi- nal' fwest but tree stumps. Many exca- vations had been made to obtain clay for brlckmaklng, so that the grounds were dotted with waterholes.

In the meantime the council had de- cided that at first the University should provide lectures in the arts course only. Much thought was given to outlining a liberal course of study in keeping with the new educational Ideas of the 'fifties, while talcing care, as the Chancellor said, "to avoid a semblance of a depreciation of the worth of the ancient classics." Therefore, in addition to the traditional classics and mathematics, the range of subjects for the arts degree included natural science, his- tory, political economy, logic, and modern literature.' To attract professors of out- standing ability salaries of £1,000 a year, In addition to residences, were offered. As a further instance of the modern en- lightenment of the young University no ban was placed on married professors. These inducements so outweighed the drawbacks of life in this distant nnd primitive land that there were 90 appli- cants for the four professorships.

At the beginning of 1865 Professors Rowe, Wilson, Kearn, and McCoy arrived, but Professor Rowe died before term began. As the University building was not far enough advanced for lectures, the Exhibition Building, where the Mint now stands, was used temporarily. Here the first Commencement waa held in the April of that year, but not even ad eundem de- grees were conferred on that occasion. Instead the signing of tho matriculation book by the 16 students was made a public ceremony, the first student to enter the University being Thomas C. Colo, while the second was Joseph' P. Bainbridge, father of the present registrar. Matricu- lation was an easy matter for students that first year. Thoy had no examination to pata. Very few of the schools were capable of preparing pupils for a matricu- lation examination, and the council was afraid that there would be no undergradu- ates for Its University if it held an en- trance test.

Academic life began at the University proper In the October term of the first ynr. when ttu eut and wwt «Ide» of the

quadrangle were ready to reçoive the pro- fessorial families and students. The regis- trar's office, with ante-room as library, and the residences of Professors Wilson and McCoy comprised the west side. lu the cast side were the two lecture-rooms and the residential apartments ol Profes- sors Hearn and Irving (who had buen appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Professor Rowe). After the arrival of Professor Irving in the middle of 1850 the permanent division of subjects among the professors was made. Professor Wilson lectured in mathematics and ua tural philosophy, Professor Irving i« classics and logic, while Professor McCoy embraced the whole realm. of natural science. Professor Hcarn's department was history, political economy, and modern literature. It was the fate of the quick-tempered bachelor, Protestor Wilson, to have his lecturo-room under the Irving nursery. The hollow celling greatly retarded the solution of mathematical problems. The professor declared that

Mrs. Irving put tho baby on the flooç and

gave her a hammer, whereas it vi as alleged for the defence that the nol60 was merely the light footsteps of the nui se. In tho cause of the higher mathematics the children were banished from the house as soon as tho lecturo bell rang. When Sir Redmond Barry visited tho Sydney University In 1881 ho wrote: "Wo cannot boast of such a hall, but we have hnd from the first what they have not-quarters for our four professors." Ho knew nothing, however, of the difficulties of bringing up a family of eight children In theso quartes of four rooms and a basement kitchen In the cloistered quiet of a university quad- rangle. ________________________

Every Tuesday for the lost 100 years without a break, while tho British Parlia- ment has been sitting n small group o( M.P.'s has met to pray and read ti chap- ter from tho Bible. Sometimes only two have boen present, sometimes more, but tlie 100 years' record has never been broken. The centenary of these meet- ings was celebrated hi July, when M.P.s who have been In tho habit of attcndlns met at a luncheon. Mr. George Lanrbury (leader ol the Labour party) attended.

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