The College in 1916
The death of Sir Maurice O’Rorke on 24 August 1916 marked the end of an era for Auckland University College (AUC). As a member of the Senate of the University of New Zealand, O’Rorke had been a key figure in the establishment of the College and the Government representative and chairman of the College Council since 1883.1 Across Auckland, flags were flown at half-mast in his honour and his funeral service at St Paul’s church was well attended.2 In September, Auckland businessman and former Minister of Education George Fowlds joined the Council as the new Government representative, while in October, long-serving Council member and editor of the Auckland Star, Thomas Leys, was elected chairman.3
During the year, there were also changes to the academic staff at AUC, mostly as a result of staff members enlisting for military service or resigning to undertake war-related work. A report on the Engineering Department noted that two of the school’s three lecturers had been ‘released from their duties’ and that one of the temporary lecturers engaged as a replacement had also enlisted.4
It is apparent that during the period between enlisting and being sent overseas, some staff juggled their military commitments and their college responsibilities. Physics Professor Gwilym Owen, for example, wrote to the Registrar regarding College business from Trentham Military Training Camp on New Zealand Expeditionary Force notepaper.5 Likewise, Biology Professor John Johnson, who enlisted in February 1916, arranged with the Military to undertake his duties - including presenting a course of lectures on military hygiene - during university vacations so that he could complete his `College work’ until he was wanted for `camp-sanitation work at the front.’6
In the end, however, it was the staff that remained at AUC who had to fill the gaps left by their colleagues and, for some, the extra workload was obviously a strain. In Owen’s absence, Chemistry Professor Fredrick Worley was made responsible for teaching Physics until a substitute was found.7 In December, Worley wrote to the Minister in Charge of Munitions and Supplies demanding that Professor Owen resume his professional duties rather than go to the Front. Worley said he had undertaken to carry on the essential part of Owen’s work in addition to his own until the end of 1917, but that it would be ‘physically impossible to do so longer’ and that Owen’s absence was having a serious effect on the College and work of numerous students.8 The Minister promptly wrote to the College Council asking if they endorsed Worley’s application for Owen’s return.9 The Council in turn must have contacted Owen as the Registrar’s correspondence includes a telegram from Owen declaring that Worley’s action was unwarranted and that he had acted without Owen’s knowledge or consent.10 It is unclear if Worley was reprimanded for his actions but he remained at the College until his retirement in 1946 and Owen embarked for the front in June 1917.11
At the neighbouring Auckland Training College (ATC), Herbert Cousins took over as Principal from Herbert Milnes, who enlisted in March 1916. The remaining staff were promoted and an ex-student was appointed to fill the vacancy at the bottom of the hierarchy. This arrangement apparently proved most satisfactory and ensured `a continuity of aims and methods both in the school and in the College.'12
At both AUC and ATC, the war continued to affect the size and composition of the student body. At ATC, student numbers were actually higher than in previous years with a record 119 students enrolling in the first term, comprising 88 women and 31 men, of whom just nine were second year students.13 Cousins noted that the large number of women students was placing a strain upon facilities at ATC which had been built to accommodate a total of 80 students, which the women alone exceeded.14 In comparison, enrolments at AUC for 1916 were almost the same as 1915 at 536 students. In contrast to ATC, this number comprised 337 men and just 199 women, almost 100 fewer women than in 1914 when 283 women were enrolled and made up 45 percent of the student body.15 It is not clear why there was such a drop in the number of women studying at AUC during the war but the trend was not repeated at the other University Colleges.
Despite the postponement of some traditional campus events, such as the graduation carnival, there were still plenty of exciting activities for students to participate in, including `a scientific exhibition of the most instructive and interesting experiments in all branches of science.’16 Sport continued to be an important aspect of student life at both institutions. At ATC, the senior ladies hockey team won the Auckland Ladies Hockey Association’s banner in the championship competition.17 At AUC, members of the Rifle Club retained the Haslam Shield for another year and the Football Club won the Auckland Senior Championship.18 The Rifle Club also organised a very successful ladies’ competition while members of the Ladies’ Common Room took up knitting, an activity which they reported ‘threatened the popularity of lectures.’19
The report submitted by the Men’s Common Room executive was less enthusiastic. As a result of increasing food prices due to wartime shortages, they had to ask the Students’ Association for assistance to pay their bills.20 Wartime shortages were also affecting the College’s ability to procure new equipment. In July, London-based company James Swift & Sons, manufacturers of scientific and optical instruments, apologised for not being able to fill AUC’s order for an ‘Improved Dick Petrological Microscope’, noting that as a controlled establishment, they were `engaged largely upon the manufacture of artillery and other sights.’21
During 1916, the debate about a permanent site for the College continued unabated. The College Council refused to budge on their decision that the only acceptable site was the ‘Metropolitan Site’, where AUC already had a tenuous foothold.22 The Mt Eden Municipal Council offered a large tract of undeveloped land to the south of Mt Eden, but the College Council dismissed it as too far from Queen Street.23 In the 1920s, this site became the new home of ATC and later the University’s Epsom Campus. The reality, however, was that even with the purchase of Choral Hall in 1915, the College was so desperately short of space they could not even commit to buying much-needed library books.24 Furthermore, AUC still needed a replacement for the Old Parliament Buildings which were scheduled for demolition. With this in mind, the College Council approached the Auckland Grammar School Board in December about leasing the building on Symonds Street that the school had vacated in February when it moved to purpose-built premises on Mountain Road.25
Despite the uncertainty caused by the war and the lack of a permanent site, during 1916 the College Council considered the establishment of courses in architecture, agriculture and dentistry. Of these, it was decided that although the time was not opportune, temporary provision should be made for teaching architecture with the intention of establishing a chair in the subject in the future.26
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
- Frank Rogers, 'O'Rorke, George Maurice', in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30 Oct 2012, accessed 30 May 2016.
- Auckland Star, 26 August 1916, p.6, accessed via Papers Past; New Zealand Herald, 26 August 1916, p.9, accessed via Papers Past.
- Auckland Star, 19 September 1916, p.7, accessed via Papers Past; Auckland Star, 17 October 1916, p.7, accessed via Papers Past.
- Lamb to AUC Council, 15 November 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 725, University of Auckland Administrative Archives. Lecturers Silston Cory-Wright left for the Front in May 1916 and William Wilson went to England to work as a superintendent in a munitions factory.
- Owen to Registrar AUC, 15 October 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 649, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- Johnson to AUC Council, 10 May 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 260, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- Auckland Star, 22 February 1916, p.7, accessed via Papers Past.
- Worley to Minister in Charge of Munitions and Supplies, 9 December 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 769, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- Minister in Charge of Munitions and Supplies to Chairman AUC Council, 12 December 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 769, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- Owen to Registrar AUC, 16 December 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 789, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- Keith Sinclair, A history of the University of Auckland, 1883-1983, Auckland, 1983, p.309; ‘Owen, Gwilym - WW1 33199-Army’, R21383123, Archives New Zealand, Wellington.
- Education: Primary Education, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR), 1917, E-2 D, p.vii, accessed via AtoJs Online.
- Education: Higher Education, AJHR, 1917, E-7, p.24 and 1914, E-7, p.4, accessed via AtoJs Online.
- The Kiwi: Official organ of the Auckland University College, 11, 1916, p.68.
- AJHR, 1917, E-2 D, p.vii, accessed via AtoJs Online.
- The Kiwi, 11, 1916, p.66; The Kiwi, 12, 1917, p.57.
- The Kiwi, 11, 1916, pp.67, 72.
- Swift & Sons to Registrar AUC, 4 July 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 576, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- New Zealand Herald, 25 May 1916, p.9, accessed via Papers Past.
- Auckland Star, 18 April 1916, p.4, accessed via Papers Past.
- New Zealand Herald, 10 February 1916, p.4, accessed via Papers Past; Secretary Auckland Grammar School Board to Registrar AUC, 23 December 1916, General correspondence - 1916, folio 797, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- New Zealand Herald, 16 May 1916, p.6.