A word from the Headmaster... | Wellington College

A word from the Headmaster...

Members of the Board of Trustees, distinguished guests, parents and whanau, members of the staff and gentlemen of the school. Once again, it is my very real honour and privilege to present the annual Headmaster’s Report, the 149th in the history of the school and my 22nd as Headmaster.

I must confess to being somewhat gobsmacked on my return to Wellington College after a term’s sabbatical to be greeted by a cavernous void where once stood our assembly hall and my beloved office! It must have been a day of great excitement and little work when the demolition finally began. Such a momentous event in the history of our school reminds me of the words of the famous nineteenth century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, who said change is inevitable, change is constant.
And yet, as I reflect upon his words as they apply to Wellington College, it strikes me that while constant change is ever present, so too are those core values which have defined our school for nearly one hundred and fifty years. Let me illustrate my point by reminiscing briefly over two critical years in our history.
1928 was ten years after the conclusion of the carnage, now referred to as the First World War and it was a very different world. Charles Kingsford Smith flew across the Tasman for the first time in 14 hours and 25 minutes, and was greeted in Christchurch by a crowd of 30,000. The All Blacks toured South Africa for the first time. Tom Heeney, the boy from Gisborne, fought Gene Tunney for the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship, in front of 46,000 spectators at Yankee Stadium. Massey University was opened in Palmerston North, and Wellington College Old Boy, Ted Morgan, won New Zealand’s first ever gold medal at the Amsterdam Olympic Games, in the Welterweight Boxing division.
What of Wellington College in 1928? W.H. Armour had just begun his fourteen years as Headmaster. The roll was reduced to 720, after the opening of Rongotai College that same year to cater for boys living in the eastern suburbs. There were only twenty-seven teachers on the staff, all male. The College fielded twelve Rugby teams (two more than today), but there was no Football (then known as ‘Soccer’) at all. As in 2016, Christ’s College won the Quadrangular Tournament and also as in 2016, Wellington College won the McEvedy Shield, winning it back from Wairarapa College. Unquestionably, however, the most important event of the year for Wellington College, was the opening of the magnificent new Memorial Hall and the unveiling of the Memorial Window, described in The Wellingtonian as a red-letter day in the annals of the College. The President of the Old Boys, in remembering the two hundred and twenty-four Old Boys who had perished in the war said this: We do not only make a memorial for the dead, but we look upon this Hall of Memories, chiefly as an inspiration to the living, and we doubt not that Mr Armour and his successors, will see that future generations of boys will never forget their glorious heritage. This magnificent hall would remain the spiritual centre of the College for many years. However, little would those assembled at the time, have realised that this beautiful building, like so many human endeavours, would come crashing down in a spectacular fashion.
Fast forward forty years to 1968. The Viet Nam war was raging and student protest was at its height throughout the Western World. Both Bobby Kennedy, frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, and Martin Luther King, hero of the Civil Rights Movement, fell victims to an assassin’s bullet. It was the year of the Mexico Olympics and the famed Black Power salute given by Tommy Smith and Don Carlos, in the victory ceremony for the 200 metre sprint. Particularly tragic for Wellington was the Wahine disaster, in which the inter-island ferry sank during a vicious storm with the loss of 53 lives.
Wellington College now had a roll of about 1,000 students. There were forty-seven teachers, but still no women on the staff. According to The Wellingtonian, there were sixteen Rugby teams but only seven Football teams. There was no School Orchestra, no College Choir of any kind and no Ukulele Orchestra. In what seems to have been a pretty ordinary year, Wellington College won the wooden spoon at Quad and Silverstream won McEvedy. Only one Wellington College competitor won an event. And it was, of course, the year in which the magnificent Memorial Hall was reduced to a pile of rubble, having been deemed an earthquake risk and knocked down as part of the Ministry of Education’s plan to rebuild Wellington College. This move caused great anger and distress amongst generations of Old Boys, despite assurances by the Minister of Education, that when completed, the new Wellington College will be the most modern in New Zealand and will prove to be just as striking a landmark as the present college has been for so many years. Despite that assurance, I’m afraid that the standard issue replacement hall paled into insignificance when compared to its striking predecessor, and that the much vaunted Tower Block, forty-eight years later, still remains one of the ugliest buildings on the Wellington landscape.
And so onto 2016. Wellington College, in many ways is ostensibly a vastly different school. There are now over 1650 students with over 100 teaching staff, one third of whom are women. We have over forty support staff. The Arts are flourishing, as well as many new and different sports. Our academic results are better than ever and our student leadership is richly diversified. However, despite having conducted nearly two thousand assemblies in the old hall, I am not in the least nostalgic about its demise. We deserve an auditorium where the whole school can meet together and celebrate our many successes. As an ongoing link with our heritage the wonderful Memorial Window will once again be the central feature of our new hall, completed we hope, in time for our 150th celebrations in October 2017. Ironically, perhaps, the window is symbolic of the fact that Wellington College is not so much about bricks and mortar, but rather those enduring core values and beliefs that define us and continue forever; a belief in the importance of academic achievement for all; a conviction that an active promotion of involvement in the arts is of inherent value in nurturing the human spirit; a view that participation in sport is not only valuable for an individual’s physical fitness, but also in building capacity to work with others in a collaborative fashion.
Most importantly, perhaps, at the heart of Wellington College has always been the importance of service. At the opening of the Memorial Hall in 1928, the Governor General said this: The supreme glory of life is giving, not getting. Ambition is laudable, but the one who really triumphs is he who serves and loves. The hall of remembrance should be a hall of inspiration to those who came after. It should be the heart of the school, a place in which to dream dreams and see visions, a place where the spirit of the old boys should inspire to higher and nobler thoughts and actions.
The spirit of ‘Doub C’ is stronger than ever. Our new hall will be a wonderful venue in which this spirit can be celebrated and perpetuated.
2016 Highlights
  • NZ Scholarship Examinations
Once again, our students performed brilliantly in the 2015 NZ Scholarship Examinations, winning more scholarships than any other school in New Zealand for the fourth time in the last five years. The 165 scholarships achieved was 124 more than the next school in the Wellington region. Our Dux, James Hartshorn, was named as a Premier Scholar, one of the top 10 in the country, and six other students, Sebastian On, Callum Parker, Logan Wu, Charles Cox, Thomas Boyd and Nitay Ben-Shachar were all named as Outstanding Scholars, which means they were in the next group of 50 students in the country. As was the case in 2013, to have 10% of the best 60 students in New Zealand coming from Wellington College was a superlative effort. Callum Parker was subsequently awarded The Sir Douglas Myers Scholarship to Cambridge University which is valued at about $210,000 over three years. Tribute must also be given to the dedicated and very able staff who enabled our candidates to win scholarships in 20 different subjects. I know that the class of 2016 have got that target of 165 well in their sights!
  • The Arts
The Arts continue to thrive in many disciplines at Wellington College. Pablo Picasso, perhaps the most famous painter of the 20th century, described the purpose of the arts as ‘washing the dust of daily life off our souls!’ For hundreds of young men at our school, the arts provide a wonderful outlet for creativity and individual expression. The Music Department is, at all times throughout the year, a veritable hive of activity. The Chorale, our auditioned choir from years 9-13, continues to provide a dynamic profile for Wellington College in the wider community. They again performed superbly at the Big Sing, winning a certificate of excellence for their hugely entertaining rendition of Fred Dagg’s ‘Gumboot Song.’ As well as this competitive forum, they also provided great entertainment for groups as diverse as the Stroke Association, a Samaritans’ concert and the Black and Gold Dinner. The Jazz Band, with many new faces this year, also played with great panache at two festivals, and members of the group won best bass player, best saxophone, best trumpet, best drums, best piano and best overall musician at the Manawatu Jazz Festival. While members of the Ukelele Orchestra may be highly offended by my words, their exuberance and sheer fun at making music, demonstrates poignantly that musical performance is not just for the elite. Every second year, alternating with Stage Challenge, the College enacts a major production. Lord of the Flies, a stage adaptation of William Golding’s classic novel about human depravity, was chillingly brought to life by a cast of over 40 students under the expert direction of Ms Katie Howes. As well as showcasing the acting talents of our students and eight young women from Wellington Girls and Wellington East, the cast mastered the art of stage combat and dance, with the powerful choreography of the Beast sequences.
Our Debating Club continues to attract a large number of students from years 9-13 and our Premier A team won the Russell McVeagh Regional Debating Championship. As well as the interschool teams, over 80 students were involved in a popular in-house competition. Our Kapa Haka group, Te Haeata Awatea, continued to perform with Wellington Girls, and our Polynesian Club did Wellington College proud at the Tu Tangata Festival. Their many hours of practice were rewarded when they were chosen as Arts Group of the Year, a very popular and richly deserved recognition.
  • Sport
This year has been highly successful for our sports teams at both local and national level.
A win in the McEvedy Shield is always a great way to commence the sporting year, and our team retained the title in comprehensive fashion. Unlike 1968 when Wellington College won a solitary title, 20 events this year were won by Wellington College athletes.
After a couple of lean years, the 1st XV Rugby bounced back against the odds in 2016, to go through local competition undefeated, winning a nail biting final against St Pat’s Town by 12-9. The team then proceeded to make the top eight in the country before losing to a fine Hastings Boys side that went within one point of winning the national title. The 1st XI Hockey enjoyed another highly successful season, beating Wairarapa College in a pulsating final to win the local championship. For the fourth year in a row, the team then made the round of eight at the Rankin Cup, losing to the eventual winners, St Paul’s Collegiate, in a very close quarter-final when the winning goal was scored just two minutes from full-time.
Football continues to be our largest sport in participation with over 500 students. Throughout the season our 1st XI played with real credit, winning The Championship Trophy, before being pipped at the post by HIBS for the second year in a row, in the College Sport Wellington final. However, at nationals, the 1st XI were the top performers from Wellington, making it to the quarter-finals for the second year in succession.
Basketball continues to have a very strong following, and our Senior A team played consistently well throughout the year before losing in the Wellington final to perennial top performers, St Pat’s Town.
Our Senior A Underwater Hockey team regained the College Sport Wellington Premier title and also reached the quarter-finals of the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Championship.
Despite competing against schools nationally which enjoy much bigger budgets, our rowers again performed with real distinction at the Maadi Cup Regatta, with our Quadruple Sculls crew winning a gold medal. And under the evergreen inspiration of Mr Martin Vaughan, our swimmers dominated local competition, won most medals at the North Island Secondary School Championships, and were runners up to Westlake Boys’ High in the New Zealand Secondary School Championship. So too were our Ultimate Frisbee team, which lost in the national final to Auckland Grammar as did our Handball team to Scots. These rapidly developing sports both enjoy a massive following throughout the world.
For all sports, traditional and modern, it has been a stellar year at Wellington College.
  • Service to Community
The World Vision Runathon has now been a highlight on the school calendar for 18 years, and this year our lads raised over $70,000. This is a phenomenal effort in an endeavour which combines both great enjoyment with raising awareness of those overseas who are living in dire poverty. I am sure that many of us have been deeply affected this year by images of children struggling to survive in the bombed out ruins of Aleppo. Many senior students have also been involved in collecting for charitable causes, serving as Peer Support leaders, coaching teams and working with organisations who support those who are struggling in our own community. The words of St Francis of Assisi, spoken 800 years ago, still resonate when he said: Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received but only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.
  • Appreciation
Any great school requires great governance. I am deeply grateful to Mr Peter Schuyt, and the members of the Board of Trustees, who continue to provide such sage advice, guidance and support in so selfless a manner. With the triennial elections this year, we farewelled Mrs Charlotte Gendall, Mr Colin Green, Mr John Mills, Mr Mark Rees-Thomas and Mr Ian Russon. Continuing to service on the Board are Mr Peter Schuyt, Mrs Rena Day, Mr Gary Crawford and Mr Sala Sidler. They have been joined by Ms Linda Clark, Mr Daryn Bean, Mr Salo Taufale, Mrs Taruna Bhana and Mr Karl White.
With the major building developments on site, it is an exciting year ahead in prospect. I am also deeply grateful to that expansive team of parents and supporters who have done so much to ensure that school events are supported and sports clubs run efficiently. Without such vital engagement, Wellington College would be a much diminished place.
  • Concluding Comments
My very best wishes to those for whom this will be their last formal occasion at Wellington College. It has been an inspirational Year 13 and collectively, you have achieved a great deal. In one sense, you are the last of an era, leaders of the school when the second hall came down. As you young men leave and the first stage of the new hall has begun, I am mindful of the memorable words of Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada who said, Each of us is a carving stone, erecting a column or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something bigger than ourselves. For those who are returning in 2017, you will be the new leaders in a highly significant year, when hundreds of past and present students will celebrate both 150 years of Wellington College’s distinguished history and, hopefully, the completion of a magnificent new hall that will launch us memorably into the next 150 years.
Good luck in the forthcoming examinations. I look forward to next year’s prizegiving being celebrated in our eagerly anticipated new surroundings.

Roger J Moses  ONZM, M.A. (HONS), L.T.C.L, FNZIM