The founder of Brisbane Boys’ College, Mr Arthur (Barney) Rudd, came to Brisbane from Melbourne in 1901. With very little money and a law degree from Melbourne University, he embarked on a ship bound for Brisbane. He was slightly eccentric, somewhat adventurous, and educationally ahead of his time.
Rudd arrived in Brisbane as Australia started a new life as a Federation of Australian States. It was also a new start in a new environment for a man with an eye to the future and an open mind about how that future would be framed. He decided to start his own school. He named his new venture Clayfield College, and commenced classes at “Knockarda”, a house on Bonney Avenue at Clayfield, in February 1902 with just 4 students.
Mr Arthur Rudd, was a man of broad Christian principle who had a vision that he could mould his students to be worthy leaders and good citizens. The country was facing unknown challenges at the start of the 20th century and Rudd was flexible enough to meet these challenges, address the individuality of each of his students and cultivate a sense of Christian morality and gentlemanly behaviour as the hallmark of his new school.
In 1906 the school moved to more spacious premises near the tram terminus at the corner of Bayview Terrace and Sandgate Road. The school grew to 35 students by 1908 and a cadet corps was formed prior to the 1914-18 war. Eight Clayfield Collegians died serving in the Great War.
Rowing started as a school sport in September 1916 in a shed at Breakfast creek with 35 rowing club members. At this time Australian Rules was the school football code and tennis was played on private tennis courts on a property across the road from the college. The first soccer match in Queensland between secondary schools was played in August 1918 between BBC and TSS. BBC joined the newly formed GPS sports association in 1918 and played Rugby until 1920. All GPS schools played Rugby League until 1928 when they reverted to Rugby Union permanently.
In 1918, the Presbyterian and Methodist Schools Association (PMSA) purchased the College and changed the name to Brisbane Boys’ College although the name Clayfield College was still commonly used throughout the twenties. The college also began a great tradition in that year by winning their first Head of the River.
In the late twenties it was clear that there was insufficient sports area and classrooms at Clayfield so another site was purchased at Toowong with some generous help from the owners, the daughters of the late Premier of Queensland, Sir Robert Philp. Despite the difficult economic situation of the depression years, the PMSA built a new school on the Toowong site with the help of loans from both churches. Mr P M Hamilton was appointed principal of the college from the start of the 1931 school year and the founder, Mr Rudd, became deputy headmaster.
Mr Hamilton made some changes over the next few years. He introduced the distinctive BBC boater in 1931 and also started the house system at the end of third term that year. Many old collegians and masters immediately joined the services after the outbreak of war in September 1939, creating some staffing problems for Mr Hamilton. The honour roll of BBC boys in the Second World War showed, by its numbers, the increase in size of BBC since its foundation and the immense contribution it made to the Queensland and Australian community in peace and in war.
Unfortunately, the principal, Mr P M Hamilton, was also a casualty of the war. He left the college in 1946 after fifteen years as head of BBC. Mr Hamilton’s replacement was Dr T R “Ross” McKenzie. Dr McKenzie was a strict disciplinarian, a teacher who was unafraid to use the cane and commanded great respect among students. He successfully increased numbers, academic standards and, above all, he raised the morale of the school which still suffered from the effects of the recent war shortages.
The academic standard of the college in mainstream education, nurtured by Mr Hamilton and advanced by Dr McKenzie, also gained recognition. By 1948 the college could boast three Queensland Rhodes Scholars, Graeme Wilson (1940) Gordon Donaldson (1946) and Hugh Dunn (1948). The college also could lay claim to university medals, scholarships and an overall academic standard matching other GPS colleges.
Dr McKenzie left BBC in late 1955 to take up the position of Head of Knox Grammar School in Sydney. His replacement was Mr Alf Birtles. Mr Birtles reign lasted for 17 years from 1956 to his retirement in 1973. During this time the school expanded although Mr Birtles believed that to be effective a school should not grow too big and he kept the number of students under 600.
Mr Graham Thomson took over from Mr Birtles in 1974. He followed the style and philosophy of Dr McKenzie in his leadership of BBC and became a very popular and respected headmaster, despite a somewhat stern manner at times and a belief in strong authority and traditional values for boys. There were 760 boys at BBC in 1977. Mr Thomson handed over the reins of office to Mr Milton Cujes in 1990, having expanded the school which had an historic 1066 students enrolled in 1988. He had also maintained the essential ethos and philosophy of the founder.
Mr Cujes style was seen as a radical change by some but although he resigned in 1995 to take up headmastership of his own old school, Trinity Grammar School in Sydney, he had left a significant mark on the college. During his tenure the rowers went to England and beat the famous English Public School, Eton, to win the prestigious Princess Elizabeth Cup at Henly Regatta.
Mr Thomson was asked to return for a year until a new principal could be found. When Mr Mike Norris was selected to take over the school in 1997, he was faced with meeting the needs of students in a new way of imparting knowledge as a new technological age flowered. He aimed to achieve a goal of all round excellence and a strong competitive edge at BBC while maintaining a strong pastoral ethos at the college. Following his departure in 2001, the PMSA appointed current headmaster Mr Graeme McDonald to lead the school through its centenary year and beyond.
In 2007, BBC opened its Early Learning Centre to cater for boys in Prep (pre-school) to Year 3 and a new Junior School building followed in 2008. With a current enrolment of 1550 students BBC now offers the full educational program from Prep to Year 12.
For a more thorough look into the history of Brisbane Boys’ College read Gentlemen of Honour – A history of Brisbane Boys College 1902 – 2002 by Dr Noel Quirke. This beautiful coffee table book has been produced as a limited hard cover edition and is available from the BBC Marketing Office.