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Stephenson, Stuart (1867–1944)

by P. J. Barnett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Stuart Stephenson (1867-1944), headmaster, was born on 19 December 1867 at Higher Buxton, Derbyshire, England, son of Robert Stephenson, Wesleyan minister, and his wife Mary, née Scott. From Kingswood School, Bath, Stuart won an open scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford (B.A., 1889), where he read mathematics. In 1890 he sailed for Melbourne to assist his elder brother Arthur who had founded New College, Box Hill. He edited the school magazine, the Tatler, and continued his studies at the University of Melbourne (M.A., 1892). In 1896, when Arthur became headmaster of Wesley College, Stuart joined its staff as senior mathematics master. Appointed second master at Prince Albert College, Auckland, New Zealand, in 1898, he was to be made headmaster in 1906. On 25 January 1901 in her father's house at St Kilda, Melbourne, he married with Wesleyan forms Annie Emily, daughter of Robert McCutcheon. He returned to New College as headmaster in 1907, but, despite his efforts, the number of pupils declined.

In 1910 Stephenson took up the post of second master at Brisbane Grammar School. He began to rejuvenate the Old Boys' Association whose records and finances were in chaos after a fire at their rooms in 1909. Elected president (1911) of the association, he continued to be a member for the rest of his life. From 1916, as secretary of the school's war memorial committee, he worked tirelessly to obtain details about every past student who served in World War I. This information was entered in the 'Golden Book' which became the central feature of Grammar's War Memorial Library, opened in 1924. Drawing on the meticulous records he gathered, Stephenson compiled and edited an extensive register, Annals of the Brisbane Grammar School 1869-1922 (1923). He 'possessed the rare gift of taking infinite pains. His capacity for work, thorough and unceasing, was amazing'. To mark its silver jubilee, the Old Boys' Association presented the book to the school.

Stephenson was appointed headmaster in June 1928. Following his wife's death in August that year, his daughter Jessie supervised the boarding house and assumed the role of official hostess. He ran the school at a time of great financial stress when the Depression took its toll. The number of staff was continually reduced; those who remained were regularly dismissed at the end of the school year and re-employed on lower salaries. Led by Stephenson, the teachers made additional sacrifices so that many students could remain to complete their education. Stephenson's health began to fail. In 1935 the second master George Carson-Cooling and his wife took over the boarding house.

In 1940 Stephenson retired, intending to edit a second volume of the Annals, for which he had been collecting material since 1922. He served as secretary of another war memorial committee and involved himself with the unit of the Air Training Corps, formed at the school in 1943. Survived by his two daughters and two sons, he died on 31 December 1944 at Auchenflower and was cremated with Anglican rites. A school house at Grammar was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • F. N. Bamford, New College—Box Hill—Kingswood College (Melb, 1966)
  • G. Blainey et al, Wesley College (Melb, 1967)
  • K. Willey, The First Hundred Years (Melb, 1968)
  • D. Cotter, Farmers, Ringmasters and Builders (Melb, 1985)
  • P. Barnett, Images of a School (Brisb, 1989)
  • Brisbane Grammar School Magazine, June 1940
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1 Jan 1945
  • Brisbane Grammar School, EDU/80 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Brisbane Grammar School archives.

Citation details

P. J. Barnett, 'Stephenson, Stuart (1867–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stephenson-stuart-11760/text21033, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 31 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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