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Victoria University of Wellington 1899 ~ 1999 A History

Chapter One

Chapter One

1 Hector quoted by Thomas Easterfield in Spike, jubilee number, 1949, p.20. The foundation and early history of the University of New Zealand is told most thoroughly and entertainingly by J.C. Beaglehole in The University of New Zealand, Wellington, 1937. See also H.N. Parton, The University of New Zealand, Auckland, 1979.

2 Beaglehole, 1937, p.109.

3 NZPD, 1870, Vol.9, p.68.

4 Robert Stout was to serve on the college Council continuously from 1898 until 1923 with the exception of two war years, and was its chairman for three.

5 NZPD, 1886, Vol. 54, pp.603–4; 1887, Vol.57, pp. 135–6.

6 Citizen, Vol.1, No.1 (Oct. 1895), quoted in J.C. Beaglehole, Victoria University College, Wellington, 1949, p.13. Evans, also later a member of Victoria's Council, was the husband of Kate Edgar, New Zealand's first woman university graduate.

7 NZPD, 1894, Vol.85, p.11; Vol.84, p.120.

8 NZPD, 1897, Vol.100, p.540.

9 Ibid., p.544.

10 Annual report for 1901, AJHR, 1902, E–10, p.2.

11 This was the Waitotara Reserve. To Victoria's chagrin, the 10,000 acres of Taranaki reserve lands set aside under the 1868 University Act – the Opaku Reserve – were, by the Taranaki Scholarships Act of 1905, reserved for Taranaki scholars through scholarships tenable at any of the four university colleges. H.H. Ostler, ‘Memorandum on the Opaku Reserve’, 1914, reprinted in Beaglehole, 1949, pp.292–6.

12 Victoria College Act, 1897, clause 36.

13 NZPD, 1887, Vol.67, p.170.

14 Mackenzie later wrote: ‘Professor Easterfield and I started an intensive refresher course in Domestic Science and in Plunket Nursing. He was bringing two small children, and I four, to this country. We therefore established a Plunket laboratory.’ (H. Mackenzie, ‘A missionary journey from the motherland to the “Middle University District” of New Zealand’, Evening Post [undated clipping], VC file 189: box 10B, P46; Spike, 1933, p.17.

15 T.S. Easterfield, Spike, 1949, p.20.

16 J.R. Brown, ‘The place of the classics in modern education’, Addresses Delivered by the Professors on the Occasion of the Inauguration and Opening of the College in April, 1899, Wellington, 1899, pp.6–8.

17 Beaglehole, 1949, p.38. In describing Victoria's founding professors it is hard to go beyond J.C. Beaglehole's compelling portraits. But one is wise to take notice of Eric McCormick's review of the jubilee history in Landfall. In an otherwise enthusiastic review, McCormick took Beaglehole to task for his characterisation of Victoria's early teachers – the way in which Tommy Hunter, for example, is portrayed as a hero and John Rankine Brown, subtly and unfairly (he charges), as a pathetic figure: ‘Dr Beaglehole has used two distinct methods, one tending to deflate, the other to elevate, one veering towards contempt, the other towards adoration.’ Landfall, Vol.4, No.3 (Sept. 1950), p.256.

18 E.H. McCormick, An Absurd Ambition (ed. D. McEldowney), Auckland, 1996, p.85; Beaglehole, 1949, p.36.

19 Mackenzie, ‘English language and literature’, Addresses Delivered by the Professors, pp.19, 28.

20 Mackenzie, ‘Short farewell address’, undated newspaper clipping, VC file 189.

21 Easterfield, ‘Chemistry and physics’, Addresses Delivered by the Professors, pp.42–3, 36.

22 P. Munz, ‘A personal memoir’, in Munz (ed.), The Feel of Truth, Wellington, 1969, p.11.

23 G.W. von Zedlitz, ‘Personalities of Victoria College’, Spike, 1949, p.24.

24 R.C. Maclaurin, ‘Mathematics’, Addresses Delivered by the Professors, pp.46–7.

25 K.T. Compton to Hunter, 21 Oct. 1947, Spike, 1949, p.67. In fact MIT was founded in 1861, but it was suffering from a financial malaise bordering on crisis page 384 in the first decade of the century. Maclaurin rebuilt it, and remained its president until his premature death, at 49, in January 1920.

26 von Zedlitz, Spike, 1949, p.25. He also had an Oxford degree.

27 von Zedlitz, ‘Respice, prospice’, Education, Vol.2, No.1 (Mar. 1949), p.6.

28 A grandson was Sir Guy Powles, a Victoria graduate, diplomat and New Zealand ombudsman.

29 Brown, ‘The beginnings: some notes’, Spike, June 1924, p.14.

30 von Zedlitz, ‘“Tommy”: a personal memoir’, in The University and the Community, Wellington, 1946, p.285.

31 Beaglehole, 1949, p.61.

32 Council minutes, 18 June 1902, p.160; 17 July 1904, p.244; Beaglehole, 1949, pp.60–1.

33 Quoted from the 1975 graduation programme by M. Smith, ‘The Ritual Humour of Students: Capping at Victoria University, 1902–1988’, PhD thesis, Indiana University, 1992, pp.118–9.

34 Beaglehole, 1949, p.99.

35 New Zealand Free Lance, 29 Mar. 1902, quoted in M. Childs, Educator, Exile, Enlightener: Professor G.W. von Zedlitz, Wellington, 1990, p.4.

36 Report of the committee on biology and geology teaching, Council minutes, 15 Nov. 1899, p.71.

37 Beaglehole remarks that it was made with ‘some distress’ (Beaglehole, 1949, p.53); J.T. Salmond in The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (Vol.2, p.259), with ‘some trepidation’; in Professor H.B. Kirk: a tribute (1940), it is recorded that there was some regret that a ‘world famous scientist’ was rejected.

38 von Zedlitz in Spike, 1949, p.25; Beaglehole, 1949, p.55. Kirk's legacy to Victoria includes the Kirk Cup, for which the science departments competed in an annual faculty rugby tournament; and an ineradicable infestation along the southern wall of the Old Kirk building of Equisetum arvense (field horsetail), a popular teaching material and an invasive and persistent weed: Kirk collected his specimens in Wanganui and planted them within a concrete enclosure, but they escaped.

39 T.H. Beaglehole, ‘Hunter, Thomas Alexander’, in The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol.3, Wellington, 1996, p.243; J. Williams, obituary, Spike, 1954; obituary, Evening Post, 20 Apr. 1953; obituary, Salient, 8 June 1949.

40 R.S. Parker, in M. Clark (ed.), School of Political Science and Public Administration: jubilee, Wellington, 1989, p.17.

41 Hunter, Spike, 1949, p.12.

42 He was planning to name his laboratory the ‘Titchener laboratory’, ‘when the dignity of the place admits it’. Hunter continued to correspond with Titchener until 1925, sending the stamp-collecting American New Zealand and Pacific Island specimens, and venting his frustration at the difficulty in establishing psychology here as a proper science. He was disappointed when a metaphysician was appointed to the Auckland chair in 1921, and when experimental psychology was introduced at Canterbury under the professor of education (James Shelley) not philosophy (who was adamantly opposed): ‘I am afraid it will be “applied” in the worst sense.’ The reorganisation of the mental and moral philosophy classes into three streams – logic, ethics and experimental psychology – prefigured the more formal separation of the department into philosophy and psychology in 1949. L.B. Brown & A.H. Fuchs, The Letters Between Sir Thomas Hunter and E.B. Titchener, Wellington, 1969, pp.24, 29, 32; Hunter, evidence to the 1925 Reichel–Tate commission, typescript, VC file 194: box 10B, P47.

43 Beaglehole, 1937, pp.244–5. Stout had now abandoned his plan for the college to subsume the Colonial Museum: instead, he proposed that scientific research carried out by government departments be handed over to the various colleges.

44 Not only had they lost an eminent figure but he had broken the terms of his contract by not giving the required six months' notice. An award-winning biography of Salmond by Victoria law faculty member Alex Frame, Salmond: southern jurist, was published by Victoria University Press in 1996.

45 It is said that one did not need to attend Adamson's lectures, but just to ride up and down the cable car from where they could be clearly heard. Beaglehole, 1949, pp.102–3; R.W. Edgley, ‘Professor James Adamson’, in R. Cooke (ed.), Portrait of a Profession, Wellington, 1969, p.192.

46 Beaglehole, 1949, p.104.

47 Spike, 1949, p.643.

48 P. Vella, Sir Charles Cotton: a brief memoir, Wellington, 1979, p.[1].

49 Annual report for 1908, AJHR, 1909, E–7, p.15.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid.

52 Annual report for 1909, AJHR, 1910, E–7, p.16.

53 Beaglehole, 1949, p.46.

54 Spike, 1903, p.8.

55 C. Pharazyn to the secretary Victoria College Governors, 27 Feb. 1901, quoted in Beaglehole, 1949, pp.79–80.

56 Beaglehole, 1949, pp.80–1.

57 Ibid., p.85. To be precise, it was six acres, one rood and 35 perches. Under the Victoria College Site and Wellington College and Girls' High School and Wellington Hospital Trustees Empowering Act, 1901, the City Council was compensated with 10 acres of Wellington College reserve land, the college in turn with a 10-foot frontage on Willis Street, and a small piece of land adjoining the Kelburne Park site was acquired by exchange from the hospital trustees.

58 J. Saker, A Handsome Pile, Wellington, 1995, p.5.

59 The tender was for £25,371. When, in the nature of these things, costs threatened to escalate, the government increased its contribution and a public subscription was discreetly, but unsuccessfully, launched; the students contributed £210.

60 Evening Post, 1 Apr. 1906.

61 Beaglehole, 1949, p.87.

62 Annual report for 1907, AJHR, 1908, E–7, p.2.

page 385

63 Annual report for 1909, AJHR, 1910, E–7, p.16.

64 Ibid. Sir Francis Bell anonymously gave £250; the governor, Lord Plunket, £10; Shackleton, passing through on return from the Antarctic, donated the proceeds of a public lecture. There is a story (unverified) that the silver cigarette case the students presented him with (inscribed with the chorus of a college sporting song) was one of the items he discarded when leaving Elephant Island.

65 This came from a wealthy resident by the name of Manson of Palmerston North. Apparently there was a promise of a much larger sum, but he died before the codicil was signed. Beaglehole, 1949, p.115.

66 Annual report for 1921, AJHR, 1922, E–7, p14.

67 Annual report for 1927, AJHR, 1928, E–7, p.25.

68 D.C.H. Florance to the registrar, 21 Nov. 1931, VC file 598: box 3B, R95/55.