Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Noel Edgar Sampson (1901–1976)

by David Black

This article was published:

Noel Edgar Sampson (1901–1976), headmaster and union leader, was born on 19 November 1901 in Perth, second son of Henry Charles Sampson, a Victorian-born police constable, later a public servant, and his wife Sara Ellen, née O'Brien, from New South Wales. After attending Highgate State School Noel won an entrance to Perth Modern School in 1913 and completed his leaving certificate in 1917. His teaching career began as a monitor at East Perth Primary School and then at Perth Boys' School, to which he returned in 1923 after two years at Claremont Teachers' Training College. He studied part time at the University of Western Australia (B.Sc., 1924; B.A., 1931; Dip.Ed., 1932), majoring first in mathematics then in English. In 1926 he won the University prize in logic and philosophy.

In 1927 Sampson returned to the teachers' college, first as a junior lecturer and later a senior lecturer, remaining there until 1936. During the three years (1931-33) that the college was closed because of the Depression, he taught science and geography at Perth Modern School. Appointed inspector of primary schools in 1936, he succeeded Joseph Parsons as headmaster of Perth Modern School in 1940. On 30 December next year at St George's Cathedral Sampson married with Anglican rites 47-year-old Hughina Bell; she was also a teacher and vice-president (1937-39) of the Western Australian State Teachers' Union.

Sampson had joined the teachers' union in 1925 and become a vice-president in 1926 and president in 1933-35. While president, and also acting as secretary, he led the union in a major dispute regaining pay and working conditions lost during the Depression. From 1940 to 1948 he was inspector of country schools as well as principal of the Modern School. After his inspectorial appointment ended, he rejoined the union and was its president for a record term between 1951 and 1966. Under his leadership the union worked towards equal pay for women (achieved soon after his retirement), improved the inspectorial system and had formal promotional procedures established, winning equal representation with the government on the new Government School Teachers' Tribunal. Sampson acted for the union on the tribunal from 1961 until his retirement in 1967. He had thrice acted as president of the Australian Teachers' Federation, twice representing that body at the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession.

Under Sampson, Perth Modern School maintained its record of high academic achievement and output of distinguished students, including R. J. L. Hawke, later prime minister. Through the Teachers' Union, he opposed the restructuring by which from 1959 selective entry to Perth Modern School ended and it became just one of a number of comprehensive, district-based government secondary schools in the Perth metropolitan area. He resigned as headmaster in 1963. 'Sammy' was remembered as a remote figure with many nervous mannerisms—such as fiddling with his pocket—while addressing the school during assemblies. He died on 21 September 1976 at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and was cremated with Catholic rites. His wife survived him; they were childless.

Select Bibliography

  • West Australian, 25 Sept 1976, p 14
  • W. A. Teachers’ Journal, 3 May 1934
  • Western Teacher, 7 Oct 1976, pp 3 & 12
  • V. Horner, The Influence of the State School Teachers’ Union of Western Australia on the Policies of the Education Department of Western Australia 1898-1960 (M.Ed. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1961).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

David Black, 'Sampson, Noel Edgar (1901–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


19 November, 1901
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


21 September, 1976 (aged 74)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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.