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William Tearle (1911–1979)

by Beverley Kingston

This article was published:

William Tearle (1911-1979), educationist, was born on 11 September 1911 at Hillgrove, New South Wales, son of native-born parents William Tearle, goldminer, and his wife Stella Malvena Margaret, née Moore. Bill junior was educated at Lithgow Intermediate High School, and at the University of Sydney (B.Sc.Agr., 1933) while at Teachers' College. In 1933 the Department of Education sent him to Wagga Wagga High School as science and agriculture teacher, overseer of the school's farm and supervisor of its junior farmers' club. Some three hundred of these clubs were established throughout the State to promote the use of science in agriculture and other rural industries, retain young people on the land, foster citizenship and leadership skills, and provide opportunities for social functions and travel.

On 15 May 1939 at St Mary's Catholic Cathedral, Sydney, Tearle married Sheila Eileen Byrne, a teacher. Throughout his postings at Hurlstone Agricultural High School (1936-39 and 1947-48) and at high schools at Temora (1940 and 1948-53) and Griffith (1941-46), he continued his work with junior farmers. While at Griffith, he rode his bicycle to inspect club projects at centres such as Yenda and Yoogali (for which the department allowed him 1½d. per mile) and mobilized members to assist the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in studies of soils and irrigation. He also contributed articles to the local press on junior-farming activities, and conducted a weekly programme on radio-station 2RG.

In September 1953 Tearle was transferred to the department's head office in Sydney and appointed State organizer of junior farmers' clubs. The movement for which he was responsible was highly regarded in educational circles. The junior farmers were required (with some adult supervision) to undertake and document projects, a number of which were entered in club competitions. State championships at the Royal Easter Show marked the climax of the year's work. Junior farmers participated in other show activities, learning to become judges and officials, as well as competitors. Tearle set up annual conferences for junior farmers: the first was held at Dungog in 1957. These events, with field-days, residential schools, and a programme of interstate and overseas visits and exchanges, enabled young people to broaden their horizons and to meet others with similar interests.

By the 1950s the gender imbalance in the clubs had become a matter of concern. That girls made up only about 35 per cent of the members inhibited the clubs' social attractiveness. Tearle secured the appointment of a woman supervisor and expanded the range of projects to include home-making subjects (girls had previously engaged in the same activities as boys—such as keeping poultry, raising calves or growing vegetables). In 1966 the movement was renamed the Rural Youth Organisation of New South Wales. Helped by his wife, Tearle established and edited a bi-monthly journal, Rural Youth (1966-72), which conveyed information to the clubs and provided a forum for their members.

Tearle saw the value of forging links with government departments and commercial corporations, among them the Rural Bank of New South Wales, which sponsored the clubs generously. He retired in February 1976. Survived by his wife and their son, he died of cerebrovascular disease on 25 June 1979 at Kogarah and was buried in Woronora lawn cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Bank Notes (Sydney), 19, Sept 1937, p 34
  • Area News (Griffith), 27 June 1979
  • Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga), 25 July 1979
  • Tearle papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • teachers' records, Department of Education (New South Wales) Archives, Sydney.

Citation details

Beverley Kingston, 'Tearle, William (1911–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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