In my capacity as School Historian, I recently submitted for publication an account of Camberwell Grammar School during the First World War - Sustaining the Glorious Empire: Camberwell Grammar and the Great War, 1914-18This history of these important years in the history of our School and of our nation details the experiences of the hundreds of Grammarians back home (1918 school population: 298), but naturally the focus of the work  centres on the experiences of the 245 Old Boys who served in the forces of the Empire at that time, including those forty who paid the ultimate price. In the course of the conflict the youngest Grammarian enlisted at the age of fourteen years; the oldest was aged over forty. The youngest casualty was only fifteen; the longest living veteran died just short of his hundredth birthday in 1998. A quarter of the Grammarian recruits would leave the ranks as officers or NCOs, a high proportion that indicates qualities of leadership. They served on land and in the air, in Egypt, Gallipoli the Middle East and on the Western Front as infantrymen, drivers, gunners, buglers, mechanics, depot workers, pilots, horsemen, bombardiers, sappers, pioneers, medical officers, machine-gunners and stretcher-bearers. They had been recruited when immediate school leavers (including the whole of the 1913 football team), tertiary students (of the law, medicine, arts and commerce et al.), accountants, architects, engineers, farmers, orchardists, electricians, fitters, lawyers, bank and other clerks (the most common occupation), medical practitioners, drivers, warehousemen, commercial travellers, storekeepers, salesmen, dentists, labourers, wool-buyers and businessmen. There was a single chemist, one telegraphist, one shop assistant, one gardener, one jeweller, one boundary rider, one bookseller, one manufacturer, one printer, one journalist, one optician, one secretary, one sign-writer, one railway worker, one veterinarian, a single coach-builder and a lonely geologist. The whole makes for thought provoking reading, as the passing of a century is a suitable occasion to review this notable period in the development of our school and of our wider world, for the shadow of the First World War (the ‘Great War’ as it was commonly known) remains, as dark as ever.

I am now undertaking my next major historical project, which is an examination of the careers of Camberwell Grammar’s first six headmasters, 1886-1966 – these titans of education were A.B. Taylor (1886-91). A.S. Hall (1891-1926, alongside his managerial partner W.W. Gosman, 1891-97), M.A. Buntine (1927-31), H.L. Tonkin (1932-49), M. Searle (1950-54) and T.H. Timpson (1955-1966). They were respected men of their time,  a mixed bunch – managers, entrepreneurs, fix-it men, academics, builders, soldiers and teachers, generally men of vision with great affection for the institution over which they presided. A school such as ours is obviously guided and directed by more than a single individual, but the position of “Headmaster” was distinct and of paramount importance in the life of the learning community that constituted the peripatetic Camberwell Grammar in its first eighty years. It remains so to the present day. This history of educational leadership should provide some useful insights into the evolution of the School and into the challenges that remain half-a-century following the retirement of the Reverend Timpson.

A.B. Taylor
1. A.B. Taylor
Michael Searle
3. Michael Searle
2. M.A. Buntine
2. M.A. Buntine


The program of steady digitalisation of certain parts of our archival collections continues. The most recent addition has been the digitalisation of the early ‘pupil registers’ of the School, extending from 1887 (our second year) to 1926, when Camberwell Grammar ceased to be a strictly ‘private’ school and became associated with the Church of England.

The ‘Entrance Roll Book’ entries for 1887 and the immediately following years are of particular interest (1887 school population: 84 – there were 34 new enrolments in that year). The boys are listed by name, age, address, religion and previous school. The Williams, Ernests, Georges, Hughs, Walters, Donalds, Arthurs, Stanley and Horaces of that era came to the Fermanagh Road, Prospect Hill campus from Camberwell, Kew, Auburn, Glenferrie, Canterbury, Melbourne and Yarra Glen. Previous schools included the ‘state schools’ at Balwyn, Glenferrie, Auburn and Camberwell; some came from other ‘private’ institutions such as Carlton College, Hawthorn College, Wesley College, Fintona and even Balwyn Girls’ School; many had received either ‘private tuition’ (some from a ‘Governess’) or the nearest equivalent with the likes of ‘Miss Sperring’, ‘Miss Reevs’ or ‘Miss Tozer, Port Melbourne’. Many of these acquisitions took place in the period from 1891 when Alfred Hall steadily annexed many of his local rival institutions, small-scale schools or centres of tuition that could not survive the severe economic downturn of the ‘Nineties. The majority of the boys of these years were listed as ‘Church of England’, but the Presbyterians were well represented, as were the Congregationalists. Baptists and Methodists were rare; Roman Catholics were unknown. The ethnic background of these Camberwell scholars is almost entirely Anglo-Saxon-Celtic, as would be expected from any study of the years leading up to Australian Federation; the occasional boy of continental European descent has often anglicised or amalgamated his name – Claude Van der Kelen, for example, entered the School in 1901, but is listed thereafter as ‘Vanderkelen’. Any analysis of the growing Camberwell Grammar School registers in the early decades of the institution therefore indicates a homogeneous, geographically compact school serving the middle class of Melbourne’s comfortable eastern suburbs, an institution aspiring to produce ‘gentlemen’ who would proceed to further study or to the world of commerce. Parents were promised that their sons would be instructed in ‘all the subjects necessary for a boy’s complete education’ – despite the enormous transitions in the School and in the nation that occurred over the following century, that promise still stands.


1: "The Entrepreneur" -  A.B. Taylor in retirement as President of the Shire of Lilydale.

 2: "The Doc" - Buntine was disillusioned by the poor standards of Camberwell Grammar.

 3: "The Soldier" - Michael Searle soon became a controversial choice, but he was a man of vision.

Camberwell Grammar School Archivist Dr David Bird