In response to interest from Old Boys, we are introducing a new section profiling some well-known SGS Masters from yesteryear.
Herbert Alexander (‘Bill’, ‘Herb’) Ritchie - Teacher at Sydney Grammar School (1916-1960)
Bill was born in NSW country and, with a State Bursary, attended Sydney Grammar from 1903-9. He won the Senior Knox Prize (Dux of the School in Science and Maths) and was a prefect, and a member of the First XV and Second XI. He then attended Sydney University before embarking on a teaching career at Barker College, Toowoomba Grammar School and The Armidale School.
In 1916 he returned to Grammar and, despite his interest in the classics, he quickly made his mark as a brilliant and lucid mathematics teacher. Bill was also enthusiastic about rugby and coached many teams including the First XV in 1941. From 1946-54, while still teaching Maths to Sixth Form, he became the Master of the Lower School. In this position, he was responsible for the organisation and discipline of all the younger boys and, by reason of his office, Senior Master. In 1955, at his own request because of advancing years, he gave up control of the Lower School and became officially Senior Master. He also acted as Headmaster in 1959 during Mr Healey’s leave of absence.
As the Headmaster Mr Colin Healey stated in his address at Bill’s funeral:
‘He thus served with five Headmasters ….(with) kindness, patience and unswerving support and friendship.
(As a teacher) he was clear and thorough, he made no attempt to conceal from his pupils that there is no escape from necessary drudgery; yet it could be no drudgery to learn from him and to do the work he set, secure in the knowledge …that the written work…would be promptly collected, corrected, marked and courteously returned the next day without fail.
……He came to be a confidant of all his colleagues, young and old: he heard their troubles and he gave his advice which - even when it was unpalatable - was as gentle as it was firm.
….He, who sought no praise, no honours, earned the respect of everyone. In himself he had little confidence; in the rightness of his standards he had abounding confidence.
Over the years, Bill had many teaching slogans, including:
‘Speed plus accuracy equals “A”.’
‘If we say we have no homework, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’
‘If you want to get anywhere you can’t dodge the drudgery.’
After a life-time of faithful and devoted service to the School, Mr HA Ritchie died suddenly on 23 April 1964.