Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Otto Georg Krome (1863–1917)

by A. G. Thomson Zainu'ddin

This article was published:

Otto Georg Hermann Dittmar Krome (1863-1917), educationist, was born on 27 October 1863 at Dorum, Hannover, eldest son of Rev. Christian Wilhelm Ferdinand Krome, Lutheran minister, and his wife Helene Maria Mathilde, née Kröger. Educated at gymnasia at Verden and Hameln, he was sent in 1880 to South Africa to avoid Prussian military service. He taught at Panmure Public School, East London, where his uncle, Pastor Müller, was principal, and from 1884 at Dale College, King William's Town, becoming vice-principal in 1885 when he graduated B.A. from the University of Cape Town. He may also have engaged in diamond prospecting.

In 1890 Krome migrated to Victoria where he worked for another German immigrant, the architect William Vahland, at Bendigo until his papers arrived; he then taught at two local colleges, St Andrew's and Girton. In 1893 he left to teach German at Oberwyl, Kalymna, Newnham College and Wesley College, Melbourne. He also lectured at the university colleges, Ormond, Trinity and Queen's.

In 1894 Krome and Thomas Palmer in partnership leased Melbourne Teachers' College, Carlton, from the Education Department and opened University High School, a private, co-educational secondary school which quickly became one of the largest and most successful in Melbourne. Accepted into Melbourne cultural circles, Krome in June became with Palmer a foundation member of the Wallaby Club. In 1895 he became vice-principal of University High School, supervising the girl boarders with his wife, Vahland's eldest daughter, Eleanor Mary, whom he had married at Bendigo on 24 March 1894. That July he was naturalized. He also joined the Melbourne University Masonic Lodge and became senior grand warden in Grand Lodge in 1912-13, remaining a Freemason until his death.

After Palmer became headmaster of Wesley College in 1897, Krome was co-principal of University High School with L. A. Adamson until 1901 when Adamson returned to Wesley. In 1902-06 Krome was sole principal. In 1904 as secretary of the Schools' Association of Victoria, he initiated with Adamson the formation of the Associated Independent Secondary Teachers of Victoria, and remained an active council-member until his death. In 1905 he was one of the deputation to the minister of education opposing the establishment of state secondary schools.

In 1906 Krome succeeded J. R. Corr as headmaster of Methodist Ladies' College, Kew, and inaugurated a period of outstanding academic achievement and strong school spirit — among day-girls as well as boarders. He introduced the prefect system and a sports club to encourage team games, inter-form competition, swimming sports and lifesaving. He maintained close contact with Adamson, discussing educational matters by telephone most evenings.

Described as 'a tall, plump, chubby-faced man, good-humoured, hospitable, fond of good cheer and of singing German songs', Krome, although a loyal supporter of the British Empire, suffered anti-German persecution during World War I. He was strongly defended by W. H. Fitchett, Adamson and the school council but the harassment hastened his death at Hawthorn on 19 December 1917. Survived by his wife and five daughters, he was buried in Brighton cemetery. His daughter Eleanor Victoria became headmistress of Queen's College, Ballarat, and of The Hermitage, Geelong.

A posthumously painted portrait is in the assembly hall of Methodist Ladies' College; a school house is named after him and the wrought iron Krome Memorial Gates were opened in 1923.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. T. Zainu'ddin , They Dreamt of a School (Melb, 1982)
  • MLC, Old Collegian, 1 (1917), no 1
  • Looking Back/Kykies in die Verlede, 12 (Mar 1972), no 1, p 21
  • W. H. Fitchett, The Headmaster of the Methodist Ladies' College (1916, copy in MLC history collection)
  • MS 8577 (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

A. G. Thomson Zainu'ddin, 'Krome, Otto Georg (1863–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 21 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]


27 October, 1863
Dorum, Hanover, Germany


19 December, 1917 (aged 54)
Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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