Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Chandler, Thomas Charles (1873–1936)

by David Mossenson

This article was published:

Thomas Charles Chandler (1873-1936), headmaster, was born on 24 April 1873 in Sydney, son of Thomas Chandler, mining engineer, and his wife Selina Sarah, née Brown. Educated at Emmaville Public School, New England, in February 1889 he was appointed a pupil teacher there and won a scholarship to the Fort Street Training School in Sydney, graduating in December 1894. He was selected to teach at the Fort Street Public School, went to Hillgrove in 1898 under Henry Tonkin, an energetic and innovative head who emphasized the role of the school in community life, and returned in 1902 to Fort Street where he took charge of the matriculation class. On 4 September at the Australian Church he was married by George Walters to Grace McNaught.

Western Australia was still attracting immigrants: a number of teachers from Fort Street School quickly won important posts in its Education Department. At the end of 1902 Chandler applied for a position and was appointed to the Beaconsfield School. His promotion within the department was rapid. Later that year he was transferred to Perth Boys' School where he taught before being promoted to headmaster at South Boulder (1907), Boulder Central (1909) and Fremantle Boys' Central (1912). In January 1913 he returned as headmaster to Perth Boys' School, the largest three-year secondary school in the State; he held the position until his death.

Chandler was a born teacher and the school flourished under his leadership; during his time enrolment increased from 300 to 750 and about 10,000 boys passed through. He won the confidence of his pupils because he took a keen personal interest in their welfare, and maintained contact with many of them after they left school. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he regarded corporal punishment as a sign of weakness on the teacher's part and preferred to control the boys by appealing for their co-operation. He specialized in teaching English and his enthusiasm for physical training sometimes disrupted school routines.

Throughout his career Chandler publicly questioned authority when he considered it unfair or discriminatory. He was bitterly disappointed in 1919 to be categorized as too old to be appointed a departmental inspector although he had the requisite qualities. In the early 1920s he again clashed with authority over the fact that his school was not classified as a first-class high school taking students to matriculation level. He threatened to sue the government for the appropriate allowance, and eventually a settlement was reached, but not without leaving him embittered.

To some extent frustrated in his profession, Chandler took up a new activity in the 1930s which won him a considerable reputation. Dismayed to see so many of his former pupils unemployed with no prospects, he conceived and promoted the Chandler Boys' Settlement Scheme, launched in 1932. With public support, 1500 acres (607 ha) were leased at Roelands, between Collie and Bunbury, and named Seven Hills. The scheme aimed at giving unemployed boys a chance to learn the fundamentals of farming with a view to establishing them on farms of their own. It won temporary acclaim but collapsed when he died.

Chandler was an ardent lover of sports, playing cricket for West Perth, tennis, golf and bowls. In 1897-98 he had been one of two honorary secretaries of the New South Wales Public Schools Athletic Association. In later life he developed an interest in angling. While on the goldfields, he was major in charge of the goldfields association of senior cadets. In 1916 he was briefly in command of a training battalion at Blackboy Hill Camp but was discharged at the end of the year. Survived by his wife and a son, he died of cardiac disease on 27 October 1936 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • J. K. Ewers, Perth Boys' School, 1847-1947 (Perth, 1947)
  • West Australian, 28, 29 Oct 1936
  • Education Department (Western Australia), Personal files 795/02, 752/13, 2545/26 (Battye Lib, Perth)
  • private information.

Citation details

David Mossenson, 'Chandler, Thomas Charles (1873–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 11 June 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Life Summary [details]


24 April, 1873
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


27 October, 1936 (aged 63)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.