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Collocott, Ernest Edgar Vyvyan (1886–1970)

by Niel Gunson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Ernest Edgar Vyvyan Collocott (1886-1970), missionary, scholar and peace activist, was born on 7 June 1886 at Northcote, Melbourne, son of Victorian-born parents Alfred John Collocott, a Methodist minister who had recently returned from Fiji, and his wife Alice Jane, née Bickford. Educated from 1898 at Geelong College (dux 1902) and at the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1907; M.A., 1909; Litt.D., 1928), Edgar graduated with honours in classical philology. On 29 December 1909 at Randwick, Sydney, he married a cousin Edith Idabelle Bickford; they were to have five sons. After a stint of schoolteaching, he entered the Methodist ministry in 1911.

That year Collocott sailed with his wife to Tonga. He served as a missionary in the Ha'apai circuit before becoming principal of Tupou College, Nuku'alofa, in 1915. While there he completed a bachelor of divinity (1916) by correspondence with the University of London, and began a study of the traditional history and culture of the Tongan people. From 1920 to 1921 he entertained E. W. Gifford and W. C. McKern, anthropologists employed by the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu, providing them with valuable contacts and ethnographic material. In 1921 he began teaching in English at the college's new site at Nafualu. An ardent educationist, cricketer and tennis player, he had left his mark on the institution when his family's ill health led him to return with them to Melbourne in 1924. Collocott's reputation as a scholar increased with the publication of Koe Ta'u'e Teau . . . (London, 1926) and Tales and Poems of Tonga (Honolulu, 1928), and with his doctorate of letters.

Financial secretary (1924-29) of the Albury district of the Methodist Church of Australasia, Collocott was chairman (1929-30) of the Cootamundra district while he was based at Temora, New South Wales. From 1931 he was successively minister at Bowral, Strathfield, Stanmore, Kiama, East Maitland and Dural; he retired to Epping in 1952. A widower, he had married Dorothy Miriam Williams on 7 May 1949 at the Methodist Church, Dural.

Although he lectured on Tongan affairs, worked on an English-language history of Tonga and taught philosophy to divinity students, Collocott devoted much of his later years to the cause of peace. He was president (1933) of the Peace Pledge Union, chairman (1953-55) of the New South Wales Peace Council, a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and an editor of the pacifist journal, Peacemaker. Sometime president of the Democratic Rights Council in New South Wales, he took a leading role in the Methodist Christian Socialist Union and joined the Australian Labor Party in 1957.

In 1938 at the Railway Institute, Sydney, he had made his first public speech on international friendship. Vice-president (1939-45) of the Wollongong branch of the Friendship with Russia League, he was active in the Medical Aid to Russia movement. Collocott was national chairman in 1953 of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society (later the Australia-U.S.S.R. Society), and visited the Soviet Union that year and in 1962. Survived by his wife and by two sons of his first marriage, he died on 9 October 1970 at Dundas and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Pacific Islands Monthly, Aug 1937, May 1944, July 1953
  • Australia-USSR Society, Friendship, 1, no 7, Aug 1957, 7, no 2, Autumn 1963, 13, no 1, Jan 1971
  • Pambu, no 9, Apr 1969, p 6
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 Oct 1924, 22 June 1929, 23 Mar 1959
  • Methodist (Sydney), 8 Dec 1962, 7 Nov 1970
  • Collocott papers (State Library of New South Wales and National Library of New Zealand).

Citation details

Niel Gunson, 'Collocott, Ernest Edgar Vyvyan (1886–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collocott-ernest-edgar-vyvyan-9796/text17315, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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