William Torr (1853 – 1939) headmaster
William Torr, headmaster, for nearly forty years from 1902, he wrote ‘Talks To Young Men’ for the Methodist weekly, the Australian Christian Commonwealth. His wide-ranging homilies swayed thousands of Methodist men and women.
William Torr, headmaster, was born on 26 May 1853 at Tavistock, Devon, England, fourth son of illiterate parents John Torr, miner, and his wife Ann, née Green. The family migrated to South Australia in 1855 and settled at Burra. Educated locally and at Stanley Grammar School, Watervale, at 17 William worked on a sheep-station in Tasmania. Returning to South Australia, in 1875 he trained as a teacher and was appointed to the one-teacher Ulooloo Public School, to the Model School at Grote Street, Adelaide, and—as headmaster—to Moonta Mines Public School where he gained his first-class certificate. On 30 March 1877 at Mintaro he married Charlotte Chewings; they were to have a daughter and son who survived infancy. In 1884 he took his family to Europe.
A Bible Christian, Torr became a lay preacher. In 1885 when his Church proposed to establish Way College, a boys’ school in Adelaide, he undertook to accept the position of headmaster; having attended the University of Adelaide, he planned to go to Britain to acquire further qualifications. On 10 August Charlotte died, leaving him ample means. He attended the universities of Oxford, where he was a member of St John’s College (B.A., 1889; B.C.L., 1891; M.A., 1892), Cambridge, where he entered Downing College, and Trinity College, Dublin (LL.B., 1891; LL.D., 1892). Called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1891, he never practised law. Back in Adelaide, on 20 December 1892 he married an English widow Albertina Santo, née Kidner.
Way College opened that year. The school had three divisions: the ‘University’ course prepared students for the public service, commerce and tertiary study; the ‘Practical’ section supplemented basic education with instruction in areas such as carpentry and horticulture; the ‘Theological’ course trained older students for the ministry. In 1899 Torr reported to the government on educational trends he had observed in Britain and other countries. With Methodist union in 1900, Way College was made redundant by the Wesleyans’ Prince Alfred College. Way, which had seen 1100 boys pass through it, closed in 1903.
The headmaster became an evangelist, conducting missions throughout Australia and in New Zealand. In 1909, the year of Albertina’s death, he set up and was governor (until 1920) of the Methodist Training Home at Brighton, Adelaide; here he prepared some young men for the ministry and others as lay workers and preachers. When the institution was given to the Methodist Church in 1922, Torr continued as an honorary tutor. Interviewed that year, he reclined on a lounge in his study, wearing an emerald-green smoking-cap, while clouds from his pipe curled through his thin, pale whiskers. He admitted to having been a martinet in his college days, but claimed that he had produced men who could stick at things; his students seem to have remembered him fondly.
For nearly forty years from 1902, as ‘Old Oxford’, he wrote ‘Talks To Young Men’ for the Methodist weekly, the Australian Christian Commonwealth. His wide-ranging homilies swayed thousands of Methodist men and women. Torr endorsed a non-fundamentalist view of Christian scripture; he was essentially a popularizer whose colloquial, down-to-earth articles (correspondents were ‘chums’) expressed his modernist views of the Bible. By influencing lay preachers and future ministers, he helped to liberalize local Methodist attitudes.
Interested in harmonizing religion and science, he became a considerable collector of chiton shells, overseas, along Australia’s coastline and with (Sir) Joseph Verco’s dredging expeditions. Even when elderly, Torr delighted in wading through rock pools collecting loricates. He published four scientific papers and three shells were named after him.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120272b.htm
Building the Invertebrate Collections South Australian Museum
Dr William Torr accompanied Joseph Verco on several of his dredging expeditions, and independently contributed many specimens to the Museum’s collections, concentrating on chitons. This species, Ischnochiton torri, was named after him. Collected at Giles Point, York Peninsula.
Way College boomerang
Dr William Torr with students outside the Methodist Training College
Leave a Reply, comments are welcome.