Dr E. Neil McQueen

Dr e. neil mcqueen 1920 - 1929

PLC Sydney’s second Principal was Dr E. Neil McQueen, an educational innovator who had served as Vice-Principal under Dr Marden since 1916.

Ewen Neil McQueen (1889-1967) was born in Melbourne of Scottish parents. His father was a minister. McQueen was dux of his class at Scotch College in Melbourne and then received his MA at the University of Melbourne. He did further study in psychology and received his DSc from the University of London.

As well as a career in education, McQueen was the author of The Golden Key or Educating for Life, published in 1930, and returned to university to study medicine and worked as a general practitioner for many years.

Dr McQueen wrote that “The only measure of the success of our school career is the extent to which we carry away an equipment and an inspiration to be of service to others”.1 This belief formed the basis for his many educational innovations, changes that touched every part of the life of the College . He introduced Houses in the early 1920s and they played a big part in school life, with competitions in sports, music, poetry, drawing, dancing and elocution.

In 1922 Dr McQueen piloted the school’s own school certificate, which was awarded not on the results of just one exam but on a student’s abilities in scholarship, sport and school life.

He engaged Lindley Evans to teach music appreciation. Evans’ methods were imaginative and popular with the girls; in fact, the ABC later contracted him to produce similar programs for broadcast.

McQueen’s idea of a school camp was instituted in 1926, when each form spent a week in a furnished house in Mittagong. Camp life would “teach . . . the lessons of unselfishness and consideration of others”.2 Assignments and field work carried on as at Croydon, but the real value in the camp was in the domestic arrangements, which the girls organised among themselves.

The Principal’s major reform was introducing a modified version of the Dalton Plan. This scheme, from the US, was based “on the importance of experience and of allowing the pupil to be ‘free to continue his work upon any subject in which he is absorbed.’ It also encouraged the “interaction of group life”.3

In 1927 both the John Marden Memorial Library and the first swimming pool were opened.

Sadly, implementing his educational philosophy, seen by some as too progressive for its time, put him on a collision course with the College Council. As the decade wore on, relations between McQueen and the Council deteriorated. Likewise concerning, in the six years from 1923 and 1929 enrolment plummeted from an all-time high of 295 to 143;4 debts rose accordingly. A “resignation agreement” was drawn up and Dr McQueen departed in December 1929.

His departure was controversial: some parents withdrew their daughters and some members of staff resigned in protest, there were demonstrations at Speech Day and spirited articles in the press. 5 All parties had the best interests of the school at heart, but the outcome rocked stability. However, during the next decade, with new personalities and economic difficulties, the College regained strength.

  • The E. Neil McQueen Block and the McQueen Seminar Room honour the College’s second Principal.

1 The Golden Key or Educating for Life, E. Neil McQueen, Angus & Robertson, 1930, p. 6.
2 Series 43 Principals, Dr E. Neil McQueen, Box 400, Folder 2, Principal’s Report, 8 December 1925, p. 4.
3 The Golden Hope Presbyterian Ladies’ College 1888-1988, John McFarlane, 1988, p. 51.
4 Ibid, p. 68.
5 Ibid. p. 71-73 and Series 31 Newsclippings, Box 227.

dr-e-neil-mcqueen

Dr E. Neil McQueen