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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

The Colonial College, Hollesley Bay, Suffolk

The Colonial College, Hollesley Bay, Suffolk.

This institution has been established to meet a great want—the preparation of young men for Colonial life. In 1887, a Company was formed, and some 2,000 acres of mixed land were secured on the Suffolk coast, two-and-a-half hours' journey from London. Here a very complete set of College buildings page 38 have been erected; including, in addition to domestic offices, a range of workshops, a dairy, extensive stabling, and every requisite for acquiring practial knowledge of farm life. Visiting the establishment you see in every direction signs of life. Interviewed by a representative of the Press, Mr. Johnson thus expressed himself as to his modus operandi:

"Our objects are (1) so to qualify the student for the work before him as to minimise the chances of his failure, and (2) to endeavour to meet an obvious need of the Colonies. The experience of all old colonists is—that what is wanted in these new countries is not merely capital, but a class of capitalists who will use their money to the very best advantage. In a word, the thousands of young Englishmen who go out to live a new life under absolutely new conditions should have at least anticipated those conditions by some practical work at home. Many a young man has emigrated not only in complete ignorance of the life before him, but without even having attempted to form the habit of daily manual work. But few of them have known how to handle an axe, a saw, or a plane, let alone having ability to milk a cow, to sow seed, or to reap their harvest. Utterly unprepared, they have in too many cases as utterly failed. When I first brought this scheme before the notice of our Agents-General, our Colonial Governors, and our old colonists, they were unanimous in condemning the inefficiency of the average young fellow who emigrates, and in expressing their opinion that such a College as this was the first and most absolute desideratum for intelligent and high-class colonisation."

"And what may your programme be?"

"Briefly this. We endeavour to provide for the intending colonist a suitable training for the practical character of Colonial life, to advise him as to his future career, and, when needed, to give him an introduction to it. Now we cannot give an introduction to Colonial life unless we have, as the Yankees say, 'thoroughly reliable data.' And here comes in the point which I would wish to impress upon you. This is not only a Colonial College, but the nucleus of a very large Colonial organisation. We have numerous friends, as well as old students, resident in the Colonies; they keep us in touch with the progress of affairs there, and so help us to form accurate opinions of the state of matters in various districts. We have, in fact, correspondents here, there, and everywhere; and so, you see, it is not difficult for us to secure the very best and most disinterested information."

"Can you tell me something more about this particular feature?"

"Well, further, I can say that we have, in the College itself, a thoroughly Colonial atmosphere. We usually have with us some students who are Colonial born, and who are sent home to the old country to gain broader views of agriculture and its allied sciences than they would be likely to obtain in a colony. Many other students have brothers or friends who have preceded them to the Colonies. The doings in the various Colonies are matters of daily discussion among the students. Maps, plans, sketches, books, letters, pamphlets, prospectuses, and a large variety of other things kept us au courant with Colonial affairs. Our habits here are in themselves Colonial—including even our costumes!"

"Thank you. Now can you give me one or two instances showing that this College has been successful in its aim? "

"Certainly. Here is a letter which I have just received from an old student in New South Wales. I may tell you that when he was here he showed great love for animals and much interest in our veterinary work, but we could not get him quite to see the value of our surveying and geological classes. And now he finds how useful his geological training here, slight as it was, has been to him, as he has acquired a share in a gold reef, and is working at it. Another student, who went to South Africa, writes that his page 39 geological knowledge has assisted him much in the discovery of gold, and has obtained him a paying appointment and a share in a gold mine. I am dwelling on this point of geology rather because there are a number of students who periodically inform us that it is not a practical subject. The experience of old students, you see, will in time put this right. Again, one writes to say how valuable he has found his ability to milk; and another says: 'I have just taken over the book-keeping of this establishment, and I hope you will remember that one of your most unruly pupils is taking to it!' Another wrote from New Zealand in his first letter that the usual pay was fifteen shillings a week, but that his employers had found him so well up in his work that they gave him exactly double that pay, and he adds: 'You know what a trouble I was at surveying, and how I hated it and shirked it. Well, curiously enough, the first thing I had to do was to measure up a vast tract of land—some 18,000 acres in extent—for a ploughing contract. I found my knowledge of surveying (even such as it is) extremely useful.' Yet another student writes: 'The first thing I had to do when I got out here was to build a house. The plans and notes which I made when helping to build the College boathouse I found very useful. They were in constant request.' Again, some large employers of labour in the the Argentine wrote to us thus: 'We did not want the young fellow you have sent out to us any more than the sea wanted water, but your recommendations are so much to the point, and he bore them out so well, that we are determined to keep him, as we can't get hold of a trustworthy fellow here every day.' "

"These are, indeed," I remarked, "very strong testimonials to your success."

"We have plenty more of them. Mere is a letter from a student who says,

'I am the boss ploughman of my neighbourhood.' Here is another who tells us that when he arrived at the seaport he had to ride on horseback for several days to his destination. If he had not learnt rough-riding here, I take it he would have been left at the port. To put the whole matter briefly, I may say this. A young Englishman too often finds that no one wants his services when he reaches a colony. Now colonists are beginning to apply to us to supply them with young fellows."

"That, I lake it, as one who has travelled in the Colonies, may be regarded as a sure sign that you have made your mark. Now, I should like, if you will allow me, to put to you a series of questions with regard to the various departments of your work here. For example, on what lines do you proceed in teaching agriculture?"

"Well, the general principles of agriculture are the same all the world over. We therefore give a certain amount of theoretical teaching in the lecture-room and exemplify those theories by our daily practice. Above all, we drill into the students the difference between recuperative and exhaustive cultivation. Ignorance has ruined, and even now is ruining, much of the best land in our Colonies. The very simple, but very valuable fact, that, by observing a rotation of crops, land may greatly be replenished of its exhausted elements is unknown to many who attempt agriculture in the Colonies. Our fellows are taught that land is not merely land, but that it is a compound of various constituents, which may be found in an infinite variety of combinations under an infinite variety of circumstances. We teach them to recognise with ease and accuracy the leading elements of value in pastoral and arable land. We insist upon their knowing how to distinguish between the chief soils. We teach them the practice of mixed farming; we grow a large variety of crops. We do not pretend by two years' work to make them competent farmers; that would take ten years. But by making them live the life here; by placing them in the midst of a large farm, and surrounding them with an unusually varied assortment of farm industries, we put them in possession of the elementary and vital essentials of agricultural science and practice."

"And now," said I, "let me refer to the breeding and care of live stock. I see you have a large quantity on the estate."

page 40

"Yes, we have. We have about seventy or eighty cart-horses, about fifty of which are good specimens of the Suffolk Punch. We graze a large number of bullocks, and we also use some bullocks for ploughing. We have above fifty milk cows of various breeds, Shorthorns, Red-polled Suffolks, Jerseys, Kerrys, &c., &c. We have a fine registered flock of Suffolk breeding ewes, and some hundreds of other sheep, different kinds of pigs, a large variety of fowls, and so on. With this material to work upon, students who use their eyes and their ears should be able to learn a great deal of live-stock management. In connection with this I may mention that our veterinary classes are exceedingly popular, and bear excellent results. We not only work upon our own large stock, but we also have the practice of the neighbourhood. I could give you several instances of a student conducting with success extremely awkward veterinary cases. Only quite lately, for instance, a disease that we had among our sheep has been most patiently and successfully treated by one of our elder students; and on more than one occasion, in the absence of our veterinary professor, all the daily cases have been treated by one of the senior students."

"May I now draw your attention to the workshops? "

"The workshops are always popular and always full. A great deal of work is done in them—all the work, in fact, of this large property is carried out here by the students under supervision. And I would point out that there is much voluntary work done apart from the regular work. The students turn out such things as waggon wheels, waggon shafts, window frames, and so on, in their 'off' hours. Some of them are very fair smiths, and can shoe a horse satisfactorily. And we repair the whole of the harness used by our farm horses."

"And now, may I ask you to give me some idea of the sort of day a young fellow would spend at the College here?"

"To speak generally," was the reply, "no work is done before breakfast except voluntary work. The more earnest of our students frequently get up at 5 o'clock in the summer to do voluntary work, such as milking, &c. Breakfast, 8 a.m. At 8.30 there is roll-call, and after that I put out the work of the day, consigning to the professors and the bailiffs and foremen of various departments their squads of students for outdoor work. I have to take a good deal of trouble with this division, as I endeavour to keep the classes as small as possible. By 9 o'clock the students of the College are scattered all over the farms—some surveying or levelling, some at veterinary work, some with the boatman, some in the dairy, some in the garden, some with the sheep, or the oxen, or the horses; and others with the plough, the harrow, or the drill. Others, again, would be found in the various workshops. At noon the students come in for the hour's lecture on the theory and science of the different subjects taught practically. At 1 p.m. there is dinner, and from 2 to 3 another class. At 3 work is voluntary till after tea-time. Football and cricket are played, and the workshops are largely patronised by the more industrious students. From 4 o'clock till 5.30 a good deal of voluntary dairy work goes on. At 5.30 we have tea, and after tea the students have to write up their diaries and enter the notes of their lectures. After this they can do as they like till bedtime."—From article in "Education" January, 1891.