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Zercho, Charles Henry (1866–1962)

by Michael E. Humphries

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

This is a shared entry with Frederick William Zercho

Charles Henry Zercho (1866-1962) and Frederick William Zercho (1867-1953), educationists, were born on 15 April 1866 and 16 August 1867 at Barkers Creek, Victoria, sons of a Saxon migrant Henry Zercho, stonemason, and his Scottish-born wife Agnes, née Nicol. Although of Lutheran descent on their father's side, the brothers were baptized as Anglicans at Castlemaine where they were educated.

Charles's career combined schoolmastering and ministering to a parish. In 1891-92 and again in 1911-13 he was chaplain and resident master at Brighton Grammar School. Made deacon in 1896 and ordained priest in 1897, he was minister of the parishes of Mitiamo (1896), Dookie (1897-98), Malmsbury (1898-1902) and St Peter's, Eaglehawk (1902-04). In 1904-10 he was minister of All Saints Church, Tatura, and principal of the Anglican high school. He was permitted to officiate in 1910-26 in the diocese of Melbourne.

In 1913 he was appointed headmaster of All Saints Grammar School, East St Kilda, a small, declining parish school. He graduated from the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1917). Zercho was a strict disciplinarian and a man of drive and vision who quickly gained the confidence of the parents. Tall and athletic, he had played football for Essendon in 1890 and strove to improve his school's sporting reputation. Under Zercho the school expanded from 70 to 190 pupils and outgrew its limited accommodation. The school council approved his plan to purchase a nearby property, but feared that he would open a school of his own and forced him to resign in 1919.

In 1920 Zercho became headmaster of Berwick Grammar School. His dynamic personality assisted its development, student numbers trebling within a year. He again fell foul of a parsimonious council which in 1921 terminated his services. He then went to Box Hill Grammar School as headmaster; once more, lack of financial support inhibited progress and in 1925 he left in despair. Thereafter he devoted himself to ministering to various parishes: Surrey Hills (1926-28), Healesville (1928-30) and, from 1930, St Oswald's, Glen Iris. In 1948 he retired to Queensland where he published two devotional works. Predeceased by his wife Margaret Emma, née Clark, whom he had married on 17 April 1900 at St Paul's Church, Bendigo, Zercho died at Murwillumbah, New South Wales, on 30 March 1962 and was cremated. A daughter survived him.

At the age of 14 Frederick began an apprenticeship at Thompson's engineering works, Castlemaine; he later qualified as a licensed shorthand writer, winning distinction at the law courts examination. In 1895 he became manager of Stott and Hoare's Business College, Melbourne, where he taught shorthand, typing, book-keeping and English. Next year he joined the United Typewriter Co. as head teacher at its Central Business College which topped the Melbourne law courts' shorthand examination in 1896-1902.

In 1906 Zercho resigned from the college and, with his former assistant Andrew MacDougall as co-proprietor, set up Zercho's Business College, first in Flinders Street and from 1911 in Collins Street. It became the largest business college in Australia. MacDougall sold out in 1909 to the Chartres family who took up a majority interest in the college. Zercho retained one hundred shares and the position of headmaster, while becoming a director of Chartres Pty Ltd.

Frederick Zercho had married Nellie Branford Grenfell (d.1903) at Christ Church, Castlemaine, on 5 September 1893; on 21 October 1909 at Christ Church, St Kilda, he married Beatrice Maud Bentley. Survived by his wife and daughter, and by the son and daughter of his first marriage, he died on 15 April 1953 at Kew and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. In 1968 the college was sold to Stott's Business College.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Hetherington, The Morning was Shining (Lond, 1971)
  • St Oswald's Anglican Church, Glen Iris (Melb, 1976)
  • All Saints' Grammarian, 1913-19
  • Review of Reviews (Melbourne), 20 Apr 1902
  • Berwick County Times, 19 Dec 1919, 22 Oct, 24 Dec 1920, 24 Mar, 23 Dec 1921, 6 Jan 1922
  • Punch (Melbourne), 10 Mar 1921
  • Box Hill Reporter, 9 Feb, 21 Dec 1923, 19 Dec 1924, 18 Dec 1925, 29 Jan 1926
  • M. E. Humphries, A School that has Passed: All Saints' Grammar School, East St Kilda, 1871-1937 (M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1985)
  • All Saints' Church, East St Kilda, Annual Reports of Vestry, 1913-19, and Minutes of Vestry, 1913-37
  • University of Melbourne Archives.

Citation details

Michael E. Humphries, 'Zercho, Charles Henry (1866–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/zercho-charles-henry-9227/text16307, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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