Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Leslie James Wrigley (1875–1933)

by Jeffrey Robinson

This article was published:

Leslie James Wrigley (1875-1933), educationist, was born on 22 July 1875 at Richmond, Melbourne, son of James Wrigley, bookbinder, and his wife Sarah Jane, née Bedggood, both English born. Educated at the local primary school and at Wesley College, where he was dux in 1892, Wrigley graduated with honours from the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1894; M.A., 1896). After teaching at several private schools in Victoria, he studied at the London Day Training College (diploma of pedagogy, 1904) and at the University of Jena, Germany. He lectured at the former institution and at Bangor College, Wales, before returning to Melbourne in 1907 as senior master of modern languages at Wesley College. There he introduced a teacher-training scheme. On 4 April 1908 he married English-born Florence Adelaide Willmoth at Elsternwick with Methodist forms. She was later a foundation member, honorary secretary (1915-18) and honorary treasurer (1923-24) of the Lyceum Club.

Having joined the Education Department in 1909, Wrigley was appointed principal of the University Practising School which opened next year and admitted twenty-seven diploma of education students. He required trainees to take classes and attend demonstration lessons. The school won esteem for its standards and innovative teaching. Wrigley was also vice-principal of the Melbourne Training College and chief lecturer in education at the university. In 1913 he extended the diploma course to a third year of academic training, thereby enabling participants to graduate in arts or science.

In December 1914 Wrigley resigned from University High School (as the practising school was known after 1913) to become an inspector of secondary schools. From 1915, as senior inspector, he assisted M. P. Hansen, the chief inspector. As chairman of the schools board's modern languages committee, Wrigley framed the intermediate and leaving certificate courses in ancient and modern languages and in history.

Appointed to the faculty of education in 1923, he took over as principal of the Melbourne Teachers' College in February 1927; following the death of John Smyth, in November Wrigley became professor and dean of education. Unassuming and kindly, though 'alarmingly rapid in speech', he was tall, fair and very thin: his wiry frame embodied energy and a tremendous capacity for work; his rimless pince-nez enhanced his reserved, scholarly appearance.

While the quiet industriousness with which Wrigley guided the college through the Depression years silenced those who had questioned his suitability for the post, he was realistic enough to acknowledge that economic stringencies had driven his 'dream of a new training college building to the limbo of empty visions'. He remodelled the diploma of education course, and also acted as chairman of the schools board and censor of films.

Worn down by his many responsibilities, early in 1932 Wrigley sailed with his wife to England. On 24 July he was seriously injured when his thigh-bone was fractured in a car accident. A long convalescence delayed his return until March 1933 and he insisted on paying the salaries of lecturers who took his classes in his absence. Despite continuing discomfort, he came back to work and accepted membership of the professorial board in April. At Bethesda private hospital, Richmond, on 12 July 1933 Wrigley died of postoperative pneumonia. After a service in Queen's College chapel, he was buried in Springvale cemetery. A plaque to his memory was placed in the music room at the college. His wife survived him; they had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Sweetman, A History of the Melbourne Teachers' College and its Predecessors (Melb, 1939)
  • A. Hoy, A City Built to Music (Melb, 1961)
  • Education Department (Victoria), Vision and Realisation, L. J. Blake ed, vol 1 (Melb, 1973)
  • J. M. Gillison, A History of the Lyceum Club (Melb, 1975)
  • D. S. Garden, The Melbourne Teacher Training Colleges (Melb, 1982)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Victoria), 1910, 2, p 93
  • University High School Record, (1911?), Christmas 1912, 6, Christmas 1914, 7, June 1915
  • Melbourne Teachers' College, Trainee, Nov 1930
  • Education Gazette and Teachers' Aid (Victoria), 24 Aug 1933
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Oct 1911, 13 July 1933
  • Age (Melbourne), 13 July 1933
  • G. A. Reid, The Origins and Early History of the State Secondary School Teachers in Victoria, 1872-1926 (M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1968)
  • University of Melbourne Archives.

Citation details

Jeffrey Robinson, 'Wrigley, Leslie James (1875–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 July, 1875
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


12 July, 1933 (aged 57)
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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