Enjoy a collection of articles written by College Archivist David Roberts, published in Black & White throughout Newington’s sesquicentenary.

Celebrating Our 1913 Jubilee


The College’s Sesquicentenary this year has not been our first big anniversary full of celebrations; nor indeed was our Centenary in 1963. In 1913 the College celebrated in ‘golden’ Jubilee, marking 50 years since it was founded. We are fortunate in having a detailed record of the Jubilee, set out in a special edition of The Newingtonian published at the end of 1913.

While the anniversary of the College’s opening was in July, the Jubilee’s planners ‘felt that the weather at that season was not favourable, least of all for any outdoor function’. Thus the first event, the Jubilee Service, was held on 24 September. The Stanmore Methodist Church, serving as the College’s Chapel, was decorated with flags, flowers and ‘festoons of greenery’. This event was primarily for the present boys, who appeared in three divisions: boarders in the ‘historic School uniform’ [in fact, the old blue Cadet uniform], the day boy Cadets in their new khaki uniforms, and ‘the little boys going in their ordinary clothes’. The service was followed by Cricket matches and a supper in the evening, ‘and much amusement was given by two groups of boys who had prepared scenes of entertainment for the rest.’

A week later, the Old Newingtonians held their reunion. A dinner in the dining hall, ‘the sitting of which had been remodelled to provide for the unaccustomed size of the company’, was followed by a gathering in the ‘schoolroom’ (now the Prescott Hall). ‘The School colours, flags, ivy ferns, and palms gave a picturesque appearance’, while conspicuous among the decorations were the shields and banners won by the Cadets that year as State and Commonwealth Competition Champions. Instead of ‘Dear Newingtonia’, the Old Boys sang ‘Floreat Newingtonia’, composed by L H Allen (ON 1899) and sung to the tune of ‘Men of Harlech’.

Another week saw the Jubilee Dinner at the Farmer & Co. Café in the City. This event brought together staff and members of the College Council, along with Headmasters of other schools and representatives from the Parliament, the Methodist Church, the Education Department and the University of Sydney. Much of the evening seems to have been taken up with toasts and responses, reported verbatim in the Jubilee Newingtonian. Still more speeches were to have been made, but were prevented by the requirement to close the restaurant at 10 o’clock, ‘to the regret of all present’.

The final event, a garden party, was to have been held on 4 October, but was postponed for a week, due to the arrival in Sydney of the new Australian Fleet, the Centenary of which has been celebrated with the International Fleet Review over the past fortnight. The garden party was planned ‘so as to give the mothers, wives and sisters of old and present boys the opportunity of participating’, in contrast to the other, male-dominated events. Hundreds of guests enjoyed refreshments on the Colonnade and elsewhere, while the Newtown band ‘discoursed music in the distance’ and the 1st XI played the ‘I Zingari’ Cricket Club.

The Jubilee was also an opportunity to raise funds to help secure the College’s future. Unlike the fundraising for our Sesquicentenary building projects, the Jubilee Fund was only started in the Jubilee year, with the aim of raising £10,000 over the following three or four years. By the time the Jubilee Newingtonian was published, £7,000 had been raised already.

Trip to the Wesleyan Collegiate Institution, Newington, near Parramatta


At 9 a.m. on a day towards the end of September 1863, a group of passengers boarded the Parramatta steamer at the Phoenix Wharf at Darling Harbour. Some passengers were bound for Newington, ‘to inspect the last addition to our representative colonial educational establishments, the very recently inaugurated Wesleyan Collegiate Institution.’

An account of their visit appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 September. If the reader can wade through the florid Victorian prose — ‘Sip away thirstily of the nectar of learning then, ye young hope-buds of Newington’ — the account provides a snapshot of the new College less than three months after it opened.

Rev. John Allen Manton, Principal of the College, met the visitors at the Newington wharf. The writer was impressed by the ‘almost palatial pile’ of Newington House, with ‘the finest palm tree in the colony’ at its entrance. He paced out the house’s dimensions: one hundred and twenty feet long and sixty feet deep. ‘We were delighted with the gardens… The orchards, paddocks, poultry-yards, and various offices, are those of a really splendid demesne.’

As he conducted the tour of the property, Rev. Manton undoubtedly explained the principles on which the College was founded. ‘We were much pleased to find that this Wesleyan College at Newington was not so tight as to exclude from its benefits the youth of Christian denominations,’ the writer noted.

In the chapel, which served also at the schoolroom, the visitors observed the classical tutor rendering a lesson in the Latin author, Horace. ‘The teaching, we observed, was thorough. Would that in all collegiate schools it were always so.’ During a devotional service in the dining room, ‘we could almost have heard a pin drop.’

Almost all the students were boarders. Mrs Anne Manton, ‘the excellent wife of the Principal’, was ‘an untiring ministering spirit to the children of others, to whom she endeavours to supply a mother’s care.’

With the day nearing its end, the visitors ‘enjoyed an evening promenade with the Principal and his lady.’ The boys were playing football and other games on the Green, while ‘the noble house dog … disported himself wildly with a stick … or joined his gambolling with the football racings.’

‘Tints of glory rested upon all the fair things around, the foliage glittered and danced in the setting sun.’ And so the visitors said ‘Farewell to the Academia of Newington.’

The Great Wyvern Fete


Back to Newington Day, which we celebrate this weekend, has its origin in the annual school fetes of the 1920s and 1930s.

Our earliest record of one of these concerns the ‘Great Wyvern Fete’ held on 1 November 1930. Planned initially as the ‘Stanmore Jubilee Fete’, one of the events marking the 50th anniversary of the College’s move to Stanmore in 1880, the name ‘Great Wyvern Fete’ quickly stuck and was used again for the following years’ fetes. The December 1930 issue of The Newingtonian provides a detailed account of the day.

The fete started more formally than nowadays, with prayers by the College Chaplain, then Lady Street, wife of the Chief Justice and Lieutenant Governor of NSW, opening the event, and a vote of thanks made by the President of the Methodist Conference.

Stalls included ‘that old favourite’, the Sweets Stall; the Fancy Stall (‘one really of interest only to the ladies’); the Kitchen Stall, conducted by the MLC Old Girls’ Union; the Bathroom Stall; a stall selling provisions, jams and jellies (‘it is certain that the larders will be well stocked in this department for many weeks to come’); a grocery stall ‘conducted on very original lines’; the Bachelor and Tobacco Stall conducted by Misses Wilson and Stewart and ‘very popular with most of the young men’; and the Flowers and Plants Stall, whose blooms and vines ‘were objects of admiration throughout the Fete.’

An element of competition was provided by Cakes No.1 and Cakes No.2, conducted by the girls of MLC and the Parents’ and Friends’ Association respectively. An ice cream and cool drinks stall attracted the greatest number of boys, while a cup of tea and a sandwich ‘enabled a great many people to spend the evening as well as the afternoon here’. Lucky Dips were conducted by the boys and a ‘Lemon Tree’ with mystery prizes by the ONU Younger Set.

Other entertainments included miniature golf on the Johnson Oval, a court in Mr O’Brien’s classroom, in which two ‘policemen’ arrested anyone they liked and imposed small fines, and a cinema that showed the Harold Lloyd film ‘Hot Water’ and several short films in the evening. With the cricket season in full swing, the College’s 1st XI provided further entertainment in a competition match against St Ignatius on the Buchanan Oval.

The Wall Street Crash, precipitating the Great Depression, has occurred just a year previously. ‘But, although business is so slack everywhere and money is so scarce,’ The Newingtonian noted, ‘all true supporters of Newington turned up and spent as much as they could and so helped to make the Fete the great success that it was.’

Celebrating our Centenary


Fifty years ago, Newington College celebrated its Centenary. Like this year’s Sesquicentenary, our Centenary celebrations were the result of years of planning and culminated in a series of events around the anniversary of the College’s establishment in July.

‘Centenary Week’ extended over ten days and started with the Old Newingtonians’ Union’s Wyvern Centenary Ball, attended by 1,200 people at the Trocadero on George Street and featuring the presentation of twelve debutantes to the Governor of New South Wales. The next day was Old Boys’ Day (today’s Back to Newington Day), which was moved from its usual September date to be part of Centenary Week.

A particular highlight was the ‘Pilgrimage to Old Newington’, in which four hundred people visited Newington House, the College’s first home and, in 1963, part of the Newington State Hospital. The excursion was organised by the late Dr John Moulton (ON’ 47), great-grandson of the College’s first Head Master, while a memorial plaque was unveiled by Rev Dr David Manton (ON ’53), great-grandson of our founding President.

An Open Day included displays of students’ work and of gymnastics, presentations by a range of student clubs, and a display of archives and historical objects. The day finished with afternoon tea, in which an immense, multi-tiered cake, donated by the Bowes family, was submitted to ‘the ravages of hungry appetites’, as The Newingtonian reported.

The culmination of Centenary Week was the opening of the Centenary Hall by Sir Owen Dixon, Chief Justice of the High Court, attended by some 2,300 people. This included a Dedication Service, in which the assembled Newington community rose and formally presented the Hall to the President of the College Council, who accepted it on behalf of the College.

The first event held in the Centenary Hall after its opening was a Thanksgiving Service marking the end of the main celebrations. Other events included the ONU Centenary Dinner, a commemorative luncheon hosted by the Council, and a Centenary Banquet in a marquee on the Johnson Oval. In the following months, there were a ‘Centenary Musicale’ in the new Hall, a reception for the staff, a Ceremonial Parade and presentation of flags to the Cadet and Air Training Corps, and a Centenary Festival of Music, Drama and Art.

The College’s connection with Tonga was marked by the visit of Moulton Finau, one of the original Tongan students from 1896, and his son, Lupeti Finau (ON ’36). Lupeti’s son, Steve Finau (ON ’66) was studying at Newington at this time.

Throughout Centenary Week, the Founders Building, Centenary Hall and Nesbitt Wing were floodlit at night.

Inauguration of the College


On 23 July 1863, a week after the Wesleyan Collegiate Institution opened its doors, the new college was formally inaugurated in a ceremony reported by the Empire newspaper the following day. Oddly, the Sydney Morning Herald did not publish its account of the event until 21 August.

A hundred and twenty guests, ‘several of whom were ladies’, came in the morning by steamer from Darling Harbour to the wharf at Silverwater, where they were met by cheers from the twenty students and another fifty guests who had come from Parramatta.

The inauguration service took place in the college chapel, which doubled as the schoolroom. After a hymn — ‘Except the Lord conduct the plan’— the Chairman of the Wesleyan Education Committee, Rev Stephen Rabone, expressed the hope and prayer that ‘this might prove the beginning of a great and glorious institution’.

The main speaker was the founding Principal, Rev John Allen Manton. He confessed to being fatigued from his labours in setting up the school and hoped that his audience would not expect too much of him that day. Nonetheless, he provided a detailed outline of the background to the College’s establishment and of its aims and values. It would be an institution, he declared, ‘in which the influence of Christianity would be felt, and those principles of religious truth be implemented, while they received that secular education necessary to fit them for the business of life.’ He urged parents, when praying for the sons they had sent to the new school, ‘not to forget those who had the charge of them.’ He also told them not to believe everything boys wrote home. ‘All that could be done for the comfort and happiness of those sent there would be carefully attended to.’ There, he said, pointing to the students, were his family, and he meant to have an increasing family.

The service was followed by an ‘excellent luncheon’ in the dining room of Newington House, ‘to which admission was by ticket’, and by an inspection of the buildings and ‘the beautiful adjacent grounds’.

The day finished with a meeting ‘for the purpose of taking the financial state of the institution into consideration.’ The Principal gave a detailed statement of what had been done, what it had cost, and what was still required to be done. After exhortations by several prominent guests, the sum of £200 was raised. At half past four, the steamer took the guests back down the river to Sydney.

Mid-Winter Entertainment


On the evening of Wednesday 13 June 1866, the boys of Newington College, ‘…assisted by several Gentlemen’, presented a Mid-Winter Entertainment. One of the treasures of the College Archives is a printed program for the event. It is our earliest documentary evidence of the performing arts at the College, although the program describes the event as ‘their usual Mid-Winter Entertainment’, indicating that it had been done before.

The program comprised a series of recitations and dialogues, several songs and duets, and two ‘drawing room scenes’. All eleven recitations and three dialogues were performed by the boys. They included well-known pieces, such as ‘the Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna’ by Charles Wolfe, recited by William Neill, and ‘Hamlet and the Ghost’ by William Shakespeare, performed by William Andrews and Brier Mills, along with pieces apparently composed for the occasion.

Mr McManis, the Music Master appointed the previous year, performed two solo songs and joined with a student, Alfred Golledge, for Hérold’s ‘Overture to Zampa’ and with Miss Fletcher, the President’s daughter, for ‘The Cure Quadrille’. Joseph Coates, teacher of History and Classics and better known outside the classroom as a first grade cricketer, sang ‘Thou art so near, and yet so far’. There was more music, but the program provides no further details.

The stars of the ‘drawing room scenes’ were Joseph James Fletcher, the President’s son and William Henry Higman, one of the original students from July 1863. Fletcher played Mr Harold Hairy, ‘a hirsute gentleman out of employment’, opposite Higman’s Mr Shav’em-close, ‘Hon. Sec. to Anti-Beard and Moustache Association’, in the untitled first piece. In the second piece, ‘Married by Mistake’, Fletcher was Captain Heavyside, while Higman played both Mrs Smith (opposite Mr Coates’ Mr Smith) and Mrs Annabella Potts.

We are indebted to Mrs Elizabeth Tomlinson for donating the program to the College in 2011.

First President and the First Council


A hundred and fifty years ago, in another step towards the establishment of Newington College, the Committee of Education of the Wesleyan Methodist Church appointed the Reverend John Allen Mantonas the first President of the Wesleyan Collegiate Institution.

The Committee had had a pivotal role in the movement towards the establishment of the College and it now functioned, in effect, as the governing council of the new school as it came into being. Indeed, it was not until the beginning of 1866, two and a half years after the College’s opening, that a separate Council to oversee the College was formed. Its first Chairman, the Reverend Stephen Rabone, had led the Committee of Education through the work leading up to the start of the College.

Manton’s appointment as President also represented the start of the system of ‘dual control’ of the College that continued to the end of the nineteenth century. Under this system, the President — always an ordained Minister — had overall charge of the College, including oversight of boarding, facilities, employment, domestic arrangements and the training of theological students. The ‘Head Master’ (as the title was usually shown in this period) had charge of the academic side of the school, along with sport and other student activities, subject to the overall supervision of the President.

This is why we have portraits both of Presidents (Rev John Manton, Rev Joseph Fletcher, Rev Dr William Kelynack and Rev Dr James Egan Moulton) and of Headmasters (Thomas Johnstone, George Metcalfe, Michael Howe, Joseph Coates, William Williams, Arthur Lucas and Edward Cornwall) for this period on the walls of the Prescott Hall and the Council Board Room.

It was only with the appointment of the Reverend Dr Charles Prescott as Headmaster in 1900 that the two roles were combined and the dual control system ended in practice. Technically, Prescott was also the College’s President until the Newington College Council Act 1922 (NSW) changed the basis of the College’s governance.

‘Sweet Evelina’: the Origins of ‘Dear Newingtonia’


Newington’s school song, ‘Dear Newingtonia’, was first sung at Speech Day on 13 December 1895. The words had been written for the occasion by Frank Williamson, a teacher who had charge of concerts and entertainments at the school. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that this ‘glee’ was ‘perhaps the selection most appreciated’ of the entertainment pieces performed that day.

While the words were new, the tune was well known. It had been published as a sentimental love song, ‘Sweet Evelina’ (words by ‘M’, music by ‘T’) in New York in 1863. It is likely that the song was older still: the published song describes it ‘As sung by all the Minstrel Bands’.

It was not the melody alone that was borrowed for the new school song. The words of the chorus, ‘my love for thee shall never, never die’, also came from the original song, with its refrain of ‘Sweet Evelina, Dear Evelina, my love for thee shall never, never die’.

‘Sweet Evelina’ was popular among Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War and was reportedly a favourite song of J.E.B. Stuart, the famous dashing Confederate cavalry commander. The Confederates also had a more martial version to the same tune, ‘The retreat of the grand army from Bull Run’ (‘Poor Mr Lincoln, Poor old Abe Lincoln…’).

After its successful debut, ‘Dear Newingtonia’ quickly became popular in the Newington community and by 1899; it was being referred to as ‘the old school song’. For many decades it appeared at the front of each issue of The Newingtonian and it continues to be sung with great emotion today.

Newington’s First Advertisement


On 12 March 1863, among the shipping notices, entertainment advertisements (‘Signor Ohio: the inimitable SWISS WARBLER, whose imitations of birds and animals are unrivalled’), and personal notices (‘Notice to the public: I, JOHN BURNS of Botany, will not be answerable for debts my Wife, JANE BURNS, may contract after this date’), the Sydney Morning Herald published an advertisement placed by ‘J Allen Manton, Principal’ of the ‘Collegiate Institution, Newington House (late Blaxland’s), Parramatta River’.

The advertisement announced that the ‘spacious and beautifully situated premises’ were now undergoing thorough repair and would be opened as a school the following July. The same advertisement would appear each week until just before the school’s opening.

Because of its location, the new school would initially be entirely a boarding school. The fees were to be 50 guineas ($105 in today’s currency) per annum, to cover ‘Board and education’, plus 4 guineas ($8.40) for washing and a guinea ($2.10) for medical attendance. Fees were payable quarterly, in advance.

The advertisement set out the articles that each student was expected to bring with him: a silver fork and spoon, two pairs of sheets, two pillow cases and six towels. Each was to be marked with the student’s name in full.

Six weeks’ notice was required for the withdrawal of a student; otherwise half a quarter’s fees would be charged.

Despite the new school’s connection with the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the advertisement noted that it would be open to the sons of parents of all religions.

History of the Newington Bus


A familiar sight before and after school is the chartered buses that take many of our boys from locations across Sydney to the College and back each day. But how did this start?

On 21 January 1936, a sub-committee of the Finance Committee of the College Council was formed to investigate ‘conveyance of junior boys to and from School’. This issue arose from the closure of Ashfield Grammar Preparatory School and the transfer of thirty of its boys to Newington. The sub-committee recommended against buying a bus but in favour of introducing a charter service. The cost to parents was not to exceed one sixth per boy per week.

On 25 February, the Headmaster, Philip Le Couteur, reported to the Committee that the service was proving a success, with twenty eight boys using it daily. It was costing the College 16/- per day, higher than the original estimate because the route from Ashfield now went via ‘Dobroyde’ (Dobroyd Point). Le Couteur also reported that the bus was taking boys to the rowing shed at Abbotsford, costing a further 10/- per day. He expected the total cost to be £20 until Regatta Day.

In July the Headmaster reported that the bus was being used to transport boys to Long Bay for rifle shooting practice on Mondays, at 12/- per trip. The boys were reported ‘providing their own way home’ from there.

During the Second World War, petrol shortages resulted in the bus being fitted with a large gas bag on its roof. Old Newingtonian Don Dwyer (ON ’49) recalls that the bag was sometimes torn by overhanging shop awnings, with the result that the gas escaped and the boys did not get to school until morning break.

Our illustration shows a later bus, loaded with racing boats and filled with boys about to depart for the 1951 Head of the River (From the collection of Barrie Titcume (ON ’51).