Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edmund Michael Joyce (1889–1961)

by Christine Wood

This article was published:

Edmund Michael Joyce (1889-1961), Christian Brother and educationist, was born on 2 April 1889 at Hampden, Otago, New Zealand, fifth child of Michael Joyce, police constable, and his wife Mary, née Casey, both Irish born. Edmund was educated at Hampden Primary School, Christian Brothers' College, Dunedin, and the University of Tasmania (B.A., 1921). He represented his school at cricket, soccer and Rugby. In 1906 he passed the civil service examination and joined the Treasury in Wellington. An 'A' Grade cricketer who represented the North Island, he also excelled at tennis and was a crack shot.

In 1909 he entered the Congregation of the Irish Christian Brothers and in May 1910 began training at Mount St Mary, Strathfield, Sydney, taking the religious name of Edmund Dominic. On completion of his novitiate he was appointed to St Joseph's Primary School, Abbotsford, Melbourne, and in 1916 was transferred to St Virgil's College, Hobart. Though his days and evenings were fully occupied by teaching, he began studies at the University of Tasmania. Contemporaries recalled that from late at night till the early hours of the morning, Joyce pursued his studies in the boiler-room by candlelight. A gifted teacher and sports coach, the excellent results from his pupils, especially in mathematics and science, won him a growing reputation. Dedicated to his religious life, he devoted himself completely to his God, and to his pupils. His discipline was legendary, but so was his absolute fairness. He never sought eminence and though he was headmaster and local superior from 1927 to 1931 and again from 1935 to 1937, he much preferred to be vice-principal and sub-superior, posts which he occupied almost to the end his life.

Joyce soon became an educational authority in the State, as well as official spokesman for the Catholic sector. In 1930 he was appointed to the Teachers and Schools' Registration Board on which he served for thirty years, being chairman from 1942 until 1960. From 1931 to 1959 he was a member of the bursaries board of the Education Department. In May 1935 he was appointed to the Soldiers' Children Education Board of the Repatriation Department, as representative of the non-state secondary boys' schools, and remained on this board until his retirement owing to ill health in June 1960. He also served on numerous syllabus committees for university entrance exams. In May 1960 he celebrated the golden jubilee of his entry to the Congregation, but refused to have any public acknowledgment. Generous donations and gifts to St Virgil's were sent to him. In appearance 'Old Ted' was tall and gaunt with piercing blue eyes in an 'aescetic countenance'; later years added a pronounced limp from a knee injury.

He died on 2 March 1961 in Calvary Hospital, and was accorded one of the largest funerals the State has known. At the requiem Mass held in St Mary's Cathedral Archbishop (Sir) Guilford Young described Joyce in his panegyric as a man of towering principle and a great schoolmaster. A portrait hangs in the library at St Virgil's College, Hobart.

Select Bibliography

  • University of Tasmania, Calendar, 1917-21, 1961
  • Christian Brothers' Educational Record, 1962
  • Mercury (Hobart), 3, 6 Mar 1961
  • Standard (Hobart), 10 Mar 1961
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Christine Wood, 'Joyce, Edmund Michael (1889–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Edmund Dominic

2 April, 1889
Hampden, Otago, New Zealand


2 March, 1961 (aged 71)
Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.