John Lawton (1878 – 1944 ) Presbyterian clergyman, educationist and social reformer
John Lawton, Presbyterian clergyman, educationist and social reformer established St Andrew’s College at Kew. St Andrew’s trained a generation of students, mostly girls, into ideals of truth, individual freedom and self-government. The curriculum was varied and comprehensive and Lawton attracted talented staff.
John Lawton, Presbyterian clergyman, educationist and social reformer, was born on 13 March 1878 near Digby, Victoria, eldest of eight children of James Lawton, carrier and later farmer, and his wife Susan, née Whyte, both Victorian born. Educated at Grassdale State School and privately, Lawton excelled scholastically and at 20 became a pupil-teacher. In 1903 he entered Ormond College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1907; M.A., 1909) as a theological student and became the college’s champion athlete.
After a period as travelling secretary to the Australian Student Christian Movement, on 26 May 1910 at Hawksburn Presbyterian Church he married Bertha Maria Davies, daughter of a wealthy hardware merchant. That year Lawton was ordained and inducted into the new parish of Sunshine. In 1913 he became Presbyterian foreign missions secretary in New South Wales and in 1915-19 was minister at South Yarra, Melbourne, where he founded the School of the Pathfinder, a Montessorian day-school conducted by Margaret Lyttle (1875-1944).
A pacifist, Lawton joined the Australian Imperial Force as chaplain in October 1918. He resigned his ministry and in 1921 established St Andrew’s College at Kew; Margaret Lyttle was directress of the junior school.
St Andrew’s trained a generation of students, mostly girls, into ideals of truth, individual freedom and self-government. The curriculum was varied and comprehensive and Lawton attracted talented staff.
In 1933 Lawton returned to the ministry. From Hartwell he wrote on social and fiscal issues, broadcast over the radio and worked for the Christian Social Order Movement, the Kagawa Co-operative Fellowship and, less actively, the Workers’ Co-operative Movement and the Movement Against War and Fascism. Sometimes called ‘the red parson’, he took a Christian Socialist stance and shunned the Communist Party of Australia in order to keep his ministry.
Tall and eloquent, Lawton was a sincere, strong-willed, at times dogmatic, man whose social conscience often cost him his peace of mind. He died of cerebro-vascular disease on 24 December 1944 at East Melbourne.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A100021b.htm
John Thomas Lawton (1878-1944)
– biography of an educational and social reformer
Gibbs, Desmond Robert – The University of Melbourne 1978, 2005; thesis (masters)
John Thomas Lawton (1878-1944) was a pioneer of progressive education in Australia. His school, St. Andrew’s College, Kew, (1921-1933) trained a generation of students into new ideals in education of truth, individual freedom and self-government. Through his school, Lawton sought social reconstruction, following the trauma of World War I. He was convinced that human nature is perfectible in an imperfect society and that the youth of the country must assert their strength against the demands of industrial society with its exploitation and materialism. Apart from his educational experiment of the Twenties, Lawton was a broad social reformer with radical views. He was quick to espouse the new psychology from Germany and America and the social idealism from Britain, Europe and America. His originality lay not in the ideas but in his application of these in the emerging Australian nation. As a Presbyterian minister, his radicalism led to serious opposition from his clerical colleagues and a personal disillusionment. To some extent he withdrew from direct involvement with the Workers’ Co-operative Movement and the Movement Against War and Fascism. He took the stance of a Christian Socialist and avoided all contact with the Communist Party of Australia in order to keep his Ministry. Lawton came from a strict Presbyterian pioneering family in an isolated bush setting of the Western District of Victoria. He was a product of the 1872 Education Act, precariously implemented by consistent community pressure to open a school in the area.
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