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Henry Arnold Crowther (1887–1966)

by C. E. Sligo

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CROWTHER FAMILY: George Henry (1854-1918), educationist, was the father of George O'Dell (1882-1950), lawyer, and Henry Arnold (1887-1966), schoolteacher and grazier. George Henry was born on 8 June 1854 in Jamaica, eldest of the six children of Joseph Crowther and his wife Mary Ann, née Bebb. His parents had migrated to the West Indies from Yorkshire in the 1840s. In 1857 the family went to Horsham in Victoria and later to Melbourne; his father taught in country schools at Lexton (1858-61), Carngham (1862-76) and Macarthur until his death there on 17 April 1877.

George Henry was educated at Lexton and Carngham, where he was a pupil-teacher from May 1868. With the help of Philip Russell he completed his secondary education in 1872 as a day scholar at Wesley College, Melbourne, and went on to the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1876; LL.B., 1878; M.A., 1879; LL.D., 1884). He was licensed to teach on 1 July 1875 and after some time as a private tutor, became master of the matriculation form at M. H. Irving's Hawthorn Grammar School in 1879. Gaining much repute as a schoolmaster, he moved to Brighton early in 1882 and opened his own grammar school, day and boarding; some two thousand boys passed through its classes in the thirty-seven years of his proprietorship. On 12 January 1882 at Christ Church, St Kilda, he married Alice Elizabeth, sister of T. H. Armstrong, later bishop of Wangaratta. She and her unmarried sister Eva, who was housekeeper and matron in 1882-1920, assisted in administering the school.

Crowther was a foundation member and later president of the (Incorporated) Association of Secondary Teachers of Victoria, formed in 1904 to counter the government's moves to establish its own secondary schools. In 1907 he led a committee which presented to the State government a plan for a comprehensive system of education including all government and non-government educators and community leaders. He was an antagonist of Frank Tate, first director of education in Victoria: his establishment of state secondary schools in 1910, Crowther believed, hindered any effective co-operation between government and non-government schools in Victoria and eventually closed most of the latter, about 337 of which had existed in Victoria between 1885 and 1910.

Crowther was deeply involved in many community activities in Brighton and beyond. He was founder of the Secondary Schools Amateur Athletic Association, a member of the councils of Trinity College in the University of Melbourne and of Firbank Church of England Girls' Grammar School, and a founder of the Old Wesley Collegians' Society. Among other interests he was chairman of the Brighton Gas Co., a trustee of the local cemetery and for thirty years a churchwarden of St Andrew's Church, Brighton. He was a member of the Anglican Diocesan Synod. Crowther died of coronary vascular disease at Brighton on 6 November 1918 and was buried in Brighton cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £12,712. He was survived by his wife, two sons and his daughter Elsie, who married the surgeon (Sir) Victor Hurley.

George O'Dell was born on 17 November 1882 at Brighton and was educated at Brighton Grammar School and Trinity College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1904; LL.B., 1906; LL.M., 1917). He established a flourishing legal practice with W. F. Weigall and became a director of several companies. At Christ Church, South Yarra, on 4 September 1912 he married Kathleen Russell Daly. He died at his home in Toorak on 3 November 1950, survived by his wife, a son and two daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £32,166.

Henry Arnold was born on 29 July 1887 at Brighton and was educated at his father's school and Trinity College (M.A., Dip.Ed., 1911). He distinguished himself as a swimmer, footballer and marksman. He taught at The Armidale School, New South Wales, before returning to Brighton Grammar School as second master and co-proprietor. In May 1915 he was commissioned in the 21st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. He received special mention for his work assisting the Southland into Mudros after being torpedoed in September 1915; in December he was in one of the last parties to leave Gallipoli and was promoted captain. In March 1918 he became lieutenant-colonel commanding the 14th Battalion. He was mentioned four times in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in April 1917.

In December 1918 Crowther returned to Australia to take charge of the school after his father's death. He was headmaster until the end of 1923, when he sold it to an association of friends and old boys. He then went on the land at Hillston, New South Wales, and later at Wildings, Flinders, Victoria. In 1941-42 he was assistant provost marshal of Southern Command. He had married Doris Douglas Umphelby at the Presbyterian Church, Toorak, on 22 March 1927. Survived by his wife, a son and a daughter, he died on 17 April 1966 at Hastings, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • W. Bate, A History of Brighton (Melb, 1962)
  • Brighton Grammarian, Dec 1915, Dec 1966
  • Argus (Melbourne), 7 Nov 1918
  • Assn of Secondary Teachers of Victoria, Council minutes (Melbourne)
  • private papers on Victorian non-government secondary schools, 1885-1950 (privately held).

Citation details

C. E. Sligo, 'Crowther, Henry Arnold (1887–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 25 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 July, 1887
Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


17 April, 1966 (aged 78)
Hastings, Victoria, Australia

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