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George Raymond King (1872–1950)

by K. Sillcock

This article was published:

George Raymond King (1872-1950), architect and educationist, was born on 16 October 1872 at Ballarat, Victoria, son of George Joseph King, blacksmith from Ireland, and his wife Annie, née Mercer, from Scotland. From an early age he lived in Geelong, for most of his life with his widowed mother, and he never married. After primary schooling at Ashby he was articled to A. J. Derrick, architect, and attended classes at the Gordon Technical College, then joined Thomas F. Seeley in a partnership which later became Seeley, King & Everett.

King served the Gordon Technical College (named after General Gordon of Khartoum) as secretary and director from 1898 and, in addition, as instructor in architectural subjects from 1902. In 1908 the people of Geelong sent him to England to study educational developments and discuss with British manufacturers the provision of machinery for the college's projected courses on textiles; on his return he gave up private practice to become principal of the college (Gordon Institute of Technology from 1921) and head of its architectural section from 1909 until his retirement in 1935.

King's initial appointment as secretary at a time when the college was being stultified by lack of funds allegedly prompted his question: 'Am I to preside at the funeral of the corpse, or be the doctor to put life into it?'. He had the staunch backing of G. M. Hitchcock, president of the college. The resuscitation and expansion of the institution, which was to produce leading scientists, engineers and architects, as well as hundreds of skilled technicians, was the result of King's optimism and his persistent and effective lobbying for government money. The establishment of the Textile College in 1951 also owed much to King's years of endeavour. His design of courses and supervision of standards influenced technical education throughout Victoria.

King is credited with being the first educationist in Victoria to provide for the complete training of the architect. He 'has indirectly fostered more good architecture than any other man in Australia', Robin Boyd wrote of him in 1947. Although classical and conservative, he trained many who became leading modernists and his students, as teachers or advisers, carried on his influence at the Gordon.

Among King's strengths were his constant aim for excellence, his purpose being to give boys and girls not only practical but cultural training; his flair for vocational guidance; and his ability to recruit strong senior staff and lead them in a tradition of placing the interests of the students above all else. In pursuing his ideals he was pragmatic, ever ready to bend rules and cut red tape. This and his very human foibles gave rise to many anecdotes about him as 'the last of the Bohemians'; but former students still revere the memory of one who inspired them to accomplish more than they thought possible and who then secured jobs for them.

A founding local Rotarian, King held at retirement twenty-six public appointments including membership of the Council of Public Education and the Architects' Registration Board of Victoria. But he influenced community affairs even more through the significant people who came unbidden to seek his common-sense advice. One whom he helped thus was Rev. J. J. Booth, later archbishop of Melbourne; another was R. G. (Lord) Casey.

He wrote little for publication, but much of his outlook on education can be read in records held by the Gordon Technical College in its historical museum. Appointed O.B.E. in 1935, he was a serving brother of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, held fellowships of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Victorian Institute of Town Planning, and was a member of the T-Square Club, Melbourne. He died on 11 September 1950 at Geelong and was cremated. His portrait by Charles Wheeler is held by Gordon Technical College on permanent loan from the Geelong Art Gallery.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Boyd, Victorian Modern (Melb, 1947)
  • D. F. Wild, The Tale of a City: Geelong 1850-1950 (Melb, 1950)
  • W. R. Brownhill, The History of Geelong and Corio Bay (Melb, 1955)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Legislative Assembly, Victoria) 1901, 3 (36), p 282
  • Argus (Melbourne), 3 June 1935
  • Geelong Advertiser, 12 Sept 1950
  • K. M. Sillcock, The Gordon of Geelong — a History of the Gordon Institute of Technology, 1887-1980 (manuscript, 1981, Deakin University)
  • Gordon Institute papers and collection of tributes to G. R. King (Deakin University).

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Citation details

K. Sillcock, 'King, George Raymond (1872–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 28 May 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

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