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Morrison, George (1830–1898)

by B. R. Keith

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

George Morrison (1830-1898), educationist, was born on 11 December 1830 at Morayshire, Scotland, son of Donald Morrison, farmer, and his wife Catherine, née Fraser. He attended the Elgin Academy and won a scholarship to the University of Aberdeen where, after an outstanding course in classics, mathematics and natural philosophy, he graduated with a master's degree. He had been president of the university debating society. His first appointment was as mathematics master at the Naval and Military Academy, Gosport, England. Later he taught at the Dollar Academy, Scotland.

On the advice of his brother Alexander, George migrated to Melbourne in 1858 and taught mathematics at Scotch College for six months before accepting the headmastership of Flinders National School, Geelong. An elder of the Presbyterian Church, he was soon marked down by his minister, Rev. A. J. Campbell, to direct a new church school which he was promoting. Geelong College opened on 8 July 1861 with Morrison as headmaster and a church committee in business control. Like many other schools, Geelong College early ran into difficulties. Morrison insisted on efficient management and a permanent site, matters not easily encompassed by the pastoralists on the committee, and by 1864 this body was ready to abandon the college to him on condition that he paid all liabilities. As a private school the college was, according to Morrison, 'condemned to outer darkness and phenomenal success'. In 1871 at Newtown he opened a fine new building which remains his memorial. He earned repute for uprightness and excellence of scholarship. His students won many exhibitions at the matriculation examinations and he also presented candidates for the first year of arts at the University of Melbourne with notable success.

Morrison early insisted on scholarship and character, through religion, as the only essentials of education, but later conceded the value of sports and military training. In a time of stern discipline, his canings were feared less than his carpet lectures on the rewards of unrighteousness. The ultimate testimonial to his work and character was the respect of alumni and the public for the college which he personified, even though it was a private business.

Morrison's work was recognized by the University of Aberdeen which awarded him an honorary doctorate of laws in 1891. He was then still teaching but gradually handed over administration to his third son. While taking a class he felt faint and died within a few minutes on 15 February 1898. On 7 December 1859 at Scotch College he had married Rebecca Greenwood whom he had met in Scotland. Of their five sons and three daughters, the eldest, George Ernest, became famous as 'Chinese' Morrison, Reginald was known internationally as an amateur athlete and Norman succeeded his father as headmaster of the college.

A posthumous portrait by Sir John Longstaff is in the Norman Morrison Memorial Hall at the Geelong College.

Select Bibliography

  • G. McL. Redmond, Geelong College, History, Register and Records (Melb, 1911)
  • B. R. Keith (ed), The Geelong College 1861-1961 (Geelong, 1961)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 7 Oct 1911
  • Annual reports and records, 1863-90 (Geelong College).

Additional Resources

Citation details

B. R. Keith, 'Morrison, George (1830–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/morrison-george-4256/text6879, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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