Scots College celebrates 90 years

DURING the past 90 years members of the local community have seen young men walking along Albion Street on the weekly pass to head down town in their grey hat, long grey socks and blazer.

Ninety years to the day, Scots College opened in front of an informal gathering of members of the committee, clergymen, parents and the foundation, students and staff.

The formal opening did not occur until the following year, September 4, 1920, in a ceremony which was conducted by the Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church, the Right Reverend John Walker.

The Presbyterian Girls College (PGC) and Scots College were established as boarding schools in 1918 and 1919 to serve the needs of the large Scottish population in the area and to provide a solid education.

By early 1919 it was clear there was considerable support in south-west Queensland for the education of girls at the PGC.

A meeting of interested Presbyterians was convened on March 3, 1919 by B.T. De Conlay and R. J. Shilliday in Warwick to meet W. R. Black who had “a very important proposal to make affecting the education of our boys”.

The meeting was held in the William Memorial Hall and was addressed by Mr Black, who said he was so inspired by the success of the girls college, he wished to make a similar offer to the one which had helped in the establishment of PGC.

Mr Black announced that if ?4,000 could be raised amongst the potential supporters of the school, he would subsidise it by ?2000 with a further ?2000 being made available for scholarship endowment.

The meeting adopted a motion that a boys' college be established for both day boys and boarders and that it be “conducted by the Presbyterian Church, with local assistance in management”.

Mr Deconlay advised the meeting of suitable properties available in Warwick and recommended W. Redmond's property Arranmore, situated on the northern bank of the Condamine and which fronted Canning Downs Road, be purchased.

The meeting accepted the motion and appointed Messrs Shilliday, Robertson and Crawford to undertake the purchase, which they had completed by March 25 prior to the next committee meeting.

The Arranmore property at the time comprised a substantial two-storey sandstone house and several detached buildings, including a brick building on an estate of 16.5 acres.

The name, The Scots College was formally adopted at a meeting on May 8, 1919 on the motion of Hugh Miller.

By June, a principal had been appointed, William Walter Victor Briggs MA, Dip Ed, who had been senior English and history master of Scotch College in Melbourne. Mr Briggs arrived in Warwick the next month.

In a little more than three months from the initial interest meeting, Scots College took its first students.

Sixteen boarders and eight day boys were enrolled for the third term. The first boy enrolled was Ken Gillam, 12, who enrolled at Scots on July 24, 1919.

During the next five years, under the guidance of Mr Briggs, the average yearly maximum enrolment increased to more than100 of whom 90 were boarders.

The college had to find 86 beds in 1921, up from the 22 in 1919, and far in excess of the approximated 35 which the committee had anticipated might enrol in the first few years.

In his final comments as principal, Mr Briggs said:

“It is with no little regret that… I sever my connection with Scots College as its principal… One may be pardoned if one confesses to a measure of pride in having seen the school grow from a very small beginning to its present respectable size. But a school is not rightly judged by mere numbers or buildings, but by the quality of manhood that it produces and the training in character that any good public school gives.”

The Briggs connection with Scots College did not end in 1924 as Alan Walter Briggs, Mr and Mrs Briggs' oldest son, who was a toddler when the Briggs family came to Warwick in 1919, returned to Warwick to become principal of Scots in 1956, a position which he held until 1965.

Patrick MacFarlane Hamilton followed as principal from 1925-1930.

During this period the grounds committee of council focused on the beautification of the grounds, maintenance of existing buildings and the addition of a limited number of new facilities.

In 1931 in Australia the effects of the Depression were at their worst, consequently enrolments dropped to 68 boarders and 14 day students. Alan T Tait, the third principal of Scots would have to be remembered for his strength of character, his courage and his commitment to the college as the enrolments remained stable under the difficult times.

John Angus Dunning arrived at Scots in 1939 with his wife and daughter after travelling by ship from New Zealand. He came at a curious and confused time in the history of Australia with the nation coming out of a severe economic depression and facing imminent international conflict. Mr Dunning nursed the college through five years of the war on two sites, Toolburra and Kingswood. He had established a separate junior school at Scots during this time which was then known as Kingswood.Desmond Drummond Davey was 28 when he was appointed headmaster at Scots, one of the youngest men to be appointed to an independent school in Australia. During Mr Davey's time at the college, the Scots College Cadet Unit Pipe Band was formed.

The growth of the cadet corps, the establishment of the library and the institution of the Warwick Association of Music and the Arts were some of this era.

Alan Briggs, the only past student to become principal of the College, began his appointment in 1956.

During his time as principal, a trend worth reporting was the arrival of students from Papua New Guinea.

From 1961 to 1965 there was an average of 20 day boys at Scots, at this time the greatest number of local boys to attend the college since its foundation.

Mr Briggs strongly identified with the townspeople in Warwick and many in turn reciprocated by sending their sons to the school as day boys. He worked hard for the building appeal and was responsible for implementing the first part of the master plan which resulted in much-needed new buildings.

Henry Rodger arrived in Warwick with definite ideas of what he wanted to achieve at Scots.

The first Cardinal and Gold dance was introduced in 1967 and was proclaimed a huge success and to this day is a fixture in the social calendar.

At the end of Mr Rodger's period of tenure the increase in boys' numbers was spectacular. It is generally held that this growth resulted in large part from the refurbishment of the three dormitories, Kingswood, DeConlay and school houses.Mr Rodger left Scots PGC in good educational and financial shape and it is recorded that his 19 years' stewardship was the longest of the college and must be credited for amalgamating the colleges and building in this part of Queensland an Independent (co-educational) church school serving the far distant families and the Warwick children.

Neil Bonnell was appointed college principal in January 1985 at a time when the college had started to expand reaching 436 students in 1989. On his retirement, after 10 years of leadership, Mr Bonnell's main impressions were of the impressive student achievement.

Nigel Fairbairn commenced at the college in 1995, and was well aware of the friendly, family atmosphere.

During the five years at the College he saw the relocation of the Wesley Methodist Church from the city centre to the college grounds and the opening of the John Muir Sports Centre.

Michael Thompson came to the college in 2002 with a reputation of being a charismatic teacher with a passion for education, a capable administrator and a sharp mind.

In 2003 the official opening of The Betty Crombie Middle School was a significant event in the college history.

His successor was Michael Harding who was appointed from the beginning of fourth term in 2004. Mr Harding has formed strong relationships with the college students and staff, their families, college council and the Past Students' Association continuing the growth of the college.

The archive centre opened in 2007 and the wonderful transition of the new junior school in 2009 with all students now educated on the one campus has been a highlight. The college enrolment now stands 475.

For 90 years students of the Scots PGC College have shared church services, picnics, concerts, dances, debates, sport, and speech days.

We look forward to the next 90 years.

Do you have recollections from the early days of Scots College? Leave a comment below and share your story.

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