A small ceremony held in the University’s Auchmuty Library to mark the donation of a book to Cultural Collections has conjured memories of the legacy of one of the Hunter Region’s educational giants.
The book was a presentation copy of the Poems and Plays of Oliver Goldsmith (1930) awarded as the Charles Oliver Prize to a 16 year-old Griffith Duncan, “for Magazine Articles” by the Headmaster of Maitland High School (Mr Charles H. Chrismas) on the 16th December 1930.
This young man would go on to become foundation Principal of the Newcastle Teachers’ College, later incorporated as the Newcastle College of Advanced Education and Hunter Institute of Higher Education before it amalgamated with the University of Newcastle 1989. The book was donated by Mrs Pat Wilson, who along with her daughter Amanda, and friends Emeritus Professor John Hamilton and wife Alison handed the book over to Special Collections Librarian Lyn Keily and Mark Sutherland Associate Librarian (Research and Information Services).
The book had been passed on to Mrs Wilson by Griffith Duncan’s aunt, Annie Robson, now deceased. Mrs Wilson discussed the possibility to donate the book to the University’s Collections with her friends Emeritus Professor John Hamilton and wife Alison, which was accepted.
As part of the occassion, a display of Newcastle Teachers’ College photo albums, as well as a recording of Huldha Turner speaking about the College days was played over a slide show of images of the 1949 Pioneer Session. This helped bring back memories of Griffith Duncan and his ongoing legacy and leadership in education to the Hunter Region and beyond.
The lasting impression he left on his students and staff has shaped their lives and the lives of all that followed. Huldah Turner summed it up in her parting address to Dr Douglas Huxley on the 4th March 1992:
“When I left the college in early 1967, we were still dreaming of our “permanent campus” and wondering if it was, after all, an unattainable pipe dream. However, in spite of our primitive campus those who knew the Union Street Experience claimed that it had camaraderie and a warm fierce loyalty unique in similar institutions. It had to be experienced to be understood.This spirit was initiated and engendered by its Foundation Principal, Grif Duncan, a man of massive intellect, wide ranging cultural interests and infinite compassion.He put students and staff before self and all who worked with him came to know his stature; unfaltering integrity, dedication to his college and profound understanding.He loved his college. He was fiercely proud of it and he fought all the way for his better world.The college motto of course was his:“AD MELIOREM MUNDUM”Towards a Better World
We thank Mrs Pat Wilson and family, as well as Emeritus Professor John Hamilton and wife Alison, for enabling this donation to the University of Newcastle. It has provided a humble reminder of what we are all here to achieve. In these times when the University of Newcastle is seeking to find its distinctive path in a new and challenging global environment, we cannot think of a better and more simple goal for the University, combining its motto with that of Griff Duncan’s Newcastle Teachers’ College, igniting the powerful Promethian myth that knowledge and education can break the bonds of an enslaved mind, and ignite an eternal flame of ongoing freedom and progress for the good:
“I Look Ahead Towards A Better World”
Gionni Di Gravio
12 August 2015