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New South Wales ‘secular’ education and the Public Schools League

Peter Garrett, a former Australian Federal Minister for School Education, puts Marion Maddox’s thesis in her book Taking God to School[1] in this way:

The Australian settlement established early consensus on the question of government support for religious schools, namely that it was undesirable. Education that was ‘free, compulsory and secular’ was the foundation stone on which a school system should be built. Maddox applauds the guiding instincts of politicians of the day who determined that government should enable this education model, led as they were by fears of sectarianism and the isolation of specific religions if the state supported religious schools. They also expressed an ideal about the kind of nation they wanted Australia to become: a fair country where every child would be well educated, each bound to the other in the same setting, without the added complication of religious affiliation getting in the way.[2]

The government of the colony of New South Wales under Henry Parkes certainly thought this way as did much of the population. The catch phrase used in the nineteenth century was ‘free, compulsory and secular’ and this slogan has been rejuvenated by the work of Maddox. While the argument of Maddox is worth weighing and given serious thought, and while Garrett’s review of her book begins to do this, there is a danger of misunderstanding the intentions of the nineteenth century discussion. In particular, there is the risk of believing that by the use of the word ‘secular’ the nineteenth century advocates of educational reform were seeking to eliminate religion from a state-funded school education system. Such a usage can been seen in Craig Campbell’s work ‘Free, compulsory and secular (more…)

Sharp Hutchinson Lewis (1830-1921)

Sharp Hutchinson Lewis (1830-1921), Glover and an early Secretary of the YMCA Sydney

Sharp (Sharpe) Hutchinson Lewis was born in 1830[1] at Ramsgate, Kent, England, the son of John Lewis and Ann Hutchinson and died September 6, 1921, at Petersham, Sydney, Australia. In 1858, he married Mary Morshead Gypson[2] and together they had five children: Mary Ann (1859-1937), William Arthur (1861-1955), Mortimer Kent (1866-1867), Agnes Fanny (1868-1941) and Lillian Eleanor (1870-1932). Before his marriage, Sharp was employed as a Clerk with the London house of the Sydney firm of David Jones and Co in Fenchurch Street when it was decided he should go to NSW to join the company’s staff in Sydney.[3]

Lewis arrived in Sydney in 1854 and went to work with David Jones and Co as planned. In January 1857, Jules Pillet, a highly successful glover at 10 Hunter Street, advertised that he wished to retire and was willing to dispose of his business, The French Glove Depot, with a lease of his premises for six years.[4] On January 1, 1858, Sharp took over the business which, despite some early financial difficulties,[5] he ran successfully for some 16 years. The shop was considered ‘a very fashionable place’ and was just opposite where Henry Parkes had his shop.  Sharp said of Parkes that ‘many a chat I used to enjoy with him in those days. He was a clever fellow’.[6] In 1861, Sharp opened a

Sharp Hutchinson Lewis

Sharp Hutchinson Lewis

branch in Brisbane advising his customers that he had made arrangements with his predecessor, Jules Pillet, to select the stock which covered a wide range of quality goods from gloves and umbrellas to haberdashery in Paris and London, ensuring thereby that ‘nothing would be lacking in taste and quality’.[7] He finally disposed of the business to his sister Frances Johnson (nee Lewis) and his assistant Edward Carroll in March 1874.[8]

Lewis later accepted an invitation from James Woodward[9] to return to the firm of David Jones, but he did not remain long with his old employer for in 1879 he sold the family home ‘Kentville’ in Petersham for £1,100[10] and went, it was said, on an extended trip to England.[11] But this information is incorrect as he, his wife and three of his children, went to live in Dunedin, New Zealand,[12] where he worked for Hallenstein Bros and Co at the New Zealand Clothing Factory[13] as an Inspector of Branches.[14] During his time in Dunedin, he involved himself in the local YMCA as a committee member[15] and also became the secretary of a company to set up a Coffee Palace which sought to ‘combine all the advantages of (more…)

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