When Queen’s College opened in the autumn of 1887 one of the institutions which most enthusiastically applauded was Wesley College Melbourne. So began a relationship which continues to this day.
Not only did Queen’s acquire from Wesley the training of Wesleyan theological candidates which had hitherto resided at Wesley, but cross representation on the two Councils began and it was to last for decades. After his appointment as Headmaster of Wesley in 1902 L.A. Adamson joined the Queen’s Council and the founding Master of Queen’s, Dr Edward Sugden, became a member of the Wesley Council. This arrangement remained in place until Sugden’s retirement from Queen’s in 1928 and Adamson’s death in office in 1932.
This history continues to this very day with numerous former Wesley students continuing to serve on the Queen’s Council. It possibly reached its zenith in the 1970s and 1980s with Wesley graduates of the early 1950s and of the mid 1960s serving in all sorts of governance roles at Queen’s. From the Wesley of the 1950’s these included Dr Tony Carden, John Gellie, John Hall, John Hicks and John Gellie. Those from the 1960’s included Dr Jack Ayerbe, Peter Boag, Tony Oakley and Frank Opray.
Meanwhile former Wesley students who have served as President of the Queen’s Council include Prof Geoffrey Blainey, Justice David Habersberger, John Castles and, currently, Ian Marshman.
The relationship was further cemented by Wesley men Dr Owen Parnaby becoming the fourth Master of Queen’s in 1965 and Jack Clarke appointed as Vice-Master in 1964. Dr Tom Coates, Wesley Headmaster from 1957 to 1971, was also a Queens resident arriving there in 1940.
The two institutions share a long history with hundreds of students over time exiting year 12 from Wesley and going on to take up residence at Queen’s. Famous names in that category include former Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, renown historian Prof Geoffrey Blainey and playwright and actor Alan Hopgood.
In recent years Alan has written a series of plays which offer a humorous outlook on challenging health issues. The sensitive topics include prostate cancer, diabetes, depression and suicide. One of these, ‘The Carer’, was performed on-line for a joint function for the two respective bequest societies in mid-2020.
Other products of both institutions, (described as ‘Purple Wyverns’ – a phrase coined by Alex Webster), who have made substantive contributions to society include public heath advocate Prof Ian Webster, business leaders Geoff Allen and Peter Clark, former Wesley Chaplain Rev Peter Swain, cardiologist Dr Peter Habersberger and the father and sons team of Sir Kenneth Bailey, Prof Peter Bailey, Dr Vernon Bailey and John Bailey. Kenneth and Peter were Rhodes Scholars in 1918 and 1950 respectively. Sport is represented by VFL/AFL players Ray Allsopp, Geoff Prior and Ken Rowe and those on the bench of the Supreme Court of Victoria have included Justices Geoffrey Flatman, Robert Osborn and David Habersberger. In addition to Sir Kenneth Bailey Heads of Federal Government departments included Sir Louis Loder and Ian Castles. Politics was represented by Ian Cathie, academia by economist Prof Geoffrey Harcourt and educationalist Prof Field Rickards, diplomacy by Philip Knight and the arts by Michael Reid.
The Cato family gave extensively to both Queen’s and Wesley and philanthropist Edward Cato came to Queen’s from Wesley in 1908. The remarkably philanthropic Nicholas family was represented by Dr Marston Nicholas who came from Wesley to study veterinary science.
Possibly the very first former Wesley student to arrive at Queen’s was James Macfarlan, (subsequently Sir James), in 1890. Macfarlan was elected a follow of Queen’s in 1901 and following a successful, albeit feisty career, at the Victorian Bar, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1922. Feistiness continued and a petition from the Bar to the Victorian attorney-general to have him removed from the bench was finally amicably resolved. The attorney-general was old Wesley boy (Sir) Robert Menzies!
His biography reports: “A keen golfer, Macfarlan was a member of the Royal Melbourne (for which he played pennant) and Barwon Heads golf clubs. He was also a member of the Melbourne Club where he resided from 1935. He enjoyed shooting and was fluent in French and Italian.”
Arguably the most productive non-academic cooperation was relative to rowing. Charles (Charlie) Donald had rowed for Victoria in the King’s Cup and came to Wesley in 1901 to oversee the introduction of racing eights in place of the fours. Charlie stayed on for an astonishing forty years with his success earning him the title of “the Prince of coaches”. It is little recognised that he also assumed the role of rowing coach at Queen’s in 1906 winning the Head of the River in 1908. There began the beginning of a golden age of rowing at Queen’s. Between 1908 and 1928 Queen’s won 12 of the 17 races rowed. It was of great assistance to Donald that many of those he coached at Wesley he subsequently met again in Queen’s colours!
One Wesley/Queen’s tradition which has not survived was the annual ‘practice’ football match between the respective first XVIIIs. It is not difficult to conceive that the schoolboys found the going rather ‘robust’ when up against their older peers. Some of course on the Queen’s side were old Wesley themselves, such as the Rev Denis Oakley who, whilst possibly saintly off the field, was certainly not so on it!