FEATURE ARTICLE: PAST PARENT - RORY ARGYLE (FB’54)

Rory-Argyle-PT

My great grandfather, Edward Argyle, emigrated from Derbyshire to Melbourne in 1841 age 20. A practical country lad alert to the opportunities of the day he quickly established himself in the pastoral game with squatting selections from Kyneton to Swan Hill and also in Queensland. From the 1860s the family seat was Rock House (still occupied but not by an Argyle) which he built overlooking the Campaspe near Kyneton.

My grandfather, Stanley Argyle, graduated in medicine from Melbourne University (Trinity College) in 1890. He specialised in radiography, served in the AIF during the Great War in Egypt, Lemnos and France as consultant radiologist, entered Victorian politics and as leader of the UAP was Premier in the early 1930s.

My father, Tom Argyle, then at Trinity Grammar, was sent with his brother Hector to board at Corio in 1915, the year after the school moved from Geelong, when Stanley went to the War. Tom was in Cuthbertson House, in his final year a House Prefect and a member of the School 1st XVIII. He entered the wool trade in Geelong in 1919; moved to Perth in 1928 and established himself there as a wool buying broker, mainly for Bradford. For many years he represented the OGGs in WA. I don’t think he claimed all the credit but from our small street in suburban Perth, over a decade or so in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, nine boys finished their schooling at Corio!

Below: Governor General, Field Marshall Sir William Slim inspecting the School Guard in 1953.
Rory Argyle, front row left.

Rory-Argyle-Governor-General-Field-Marshall-Sir-William-Slim-inspecting-the-School-Guard-in-1953-Rory-front-row-left

Not happy with the school I was attending in Perth, Tom sent me to Corio in 1951 age 14 where I joined five other émigré Western Australians in Francis Brown House. Dr Darling evidently thought it best to put all the ‘roughies’ in one House rather than contaminate the whole school! At first I found boarding so far from home difficult. My parents could visit only very occasionally and I would return home just twice a year - for the Christmas vacation and one term holiday. The link with home was effectively maintained by correspondence. My mother wrote to me every week for my 4 years; father regularly but less frequently. Incoming letters were posted on a board in the entrance vestibule to FB. Mother had a very distinctive and easily recognisable handwriting. Anyone in the House could tell me ‘oh there’s a letter from your mum on the board’! I still have those letters.

The early weaning process that was long distance boarding life meant that one fairly quickly learnt to cope and ‘get on with it’. One had to stand on one’s own feet and so one did; with the encouragement and support, I hasten to add, of an excellent pastoral care House system. The ‘House’ was to me the indelible feature of school life at Corio. Each House a cross section of the school’s form grades 3 to 6; largely administered by the boys in a descending order of seniority with concomitant powers; overseen by a Housemaster and several members of the teaching staff, all in residence and on hand 24/7. Apart from team visits to Melbourne schools (only for the duration of the game) and a limited number of exeats per term (3 as I recall) the House was Home 24/7, each term. I remain convinced that that was a true boarding experience. It cemented the relationships - boys with boys; boys with House; boys with School. There was a palpable sense of belonging and loyalty, in particular, to one’s House. To this day, when attending OGG functions I look for the Francis Brown man!

Below: As part of 1954 3rd VIII, Bow seat.

Rory-Argyle-1954-GGS-3rd-8I settled into and was fully absorbed by school life after my first year. Strong memories include: Saturdays (9am-4pm) rowing on the Barwon (with a break for lunch at the shed where one drew rations invariably consisting of a raw chop to cook on an open fire, bread and jam, maybe an apple), regatta days, Chapel (up to 3 times on Sunday if you went to early communion), exeat picnics with other boys' kind parents (one in particular, Mrs Kaye Breadmore), Saturday parties by bike to the You Yangs, crimped labour in the short holidays building the first huts at Timbertop with Balt migrant carpenters, poker games on 4 day train journeys home to Perth at Christmas with 4 or 5 other lads from the West (all of course FB) and the overall camaraderie of Francis Brown.

Although undistinguished in any particular endeavour, I took from the School and, in particular, the weekly sermons of our much respected Headmaster, a clear understanding that privilege has its price in terms of service to one’s community. I have tried to live to that dictate throughout my life.

My working life began in the UWA law school in 1955, graduating in 1958. I joined the established Perth law firm of Parker and Parker as an articled clerk and retired as its senior partner in 1995. Along the way I was involved in many of the mining developments that transformed WA, served as President of the WA Law Society and chaired the campaign to build a law school at Murdoch University.

In 1993 I went gold mining in Indonesia as chairman of Aurora Gold Ltd. That company, against the odds, developed a major gold mine in East Kalimantan 600 kms up the Barito, one of the great rivers of Borneo, and operated it successfully for 10 years through the Suharto and turbulent post-Suharto years.

In 1995 I joined the board of Woodside Petroleum and for the next 10 years saw first hand its emergence from single project operator of the North West Gas Ventures to an oil and gas producer with projects worldwide.

I married Penny Atkins, a lovely Leicestershire lass, in 1969. We had 3 children - Kirsty, Samantha and Angus. Kirsty lives in Melbourne with husband Adrian Holmes and children Henry and Wilhelmina; both now at Wesley College, I reluctantly admit! Samantha died in a car crash age 19 which affected us deeply. We remember her often and lovingly.

I wanted my son to grow up balanced, resilient and independent. My wife Penny came from the English boarding school system. We both thought Angus could handle GGS. So he commenced at Timbertop in 1991 and finished his schooling at Corio in 1994. I resolved to do unto Angus that which my mother had done unto me - write him a meaningful letter every week; which I did for his 4 years. I used those letters from time to time and in part to convey to my son ‘thoughts on life’ I thought important. In an age before emails and mobile phones the hand written, physical, enduring letter was an effective medium of communication and maybe still is. He still has those letters and I still have those he wrote to me. To read them now is illuminating. The pain and anguish of homesickness during that first term at Timbertop; the gradual coming to terms with life without family; the realisation that he can cope and in his final term his real love of the life he was leading - is all reflected in his letters and their regularity. First term - maybe two a week; second term - say, one every ten days; third term - when he had time! My letter writing continued during his time at Corio on a weekly basis; his, well now and again.

Angus finished his time at Geelong Grammar near the top of the school academically, a House Prefect, Captain of the 1st Boys Hockey Team and in the 7 seat of the 1994 crew which won both Champion Victorian Schoolboys and the Head of the River; the last GGS crew to take that trophy! Angus graduated from UWA with an engineering Honours degree in 1998; joined Shell; spent 13 years on offshore project construction postings in Aberdeen (where he met his Norwegian wife Melina), Oslo and Kuala Lumpur and currently he manages Shell upstream oil and gas interests in the North West Shelf Ventures and Browse. He is balanced, resilient and independent to a fault!

Rory-Argyle-rowing-on-the-Swan-River-Perth

My love of rowing, kindled at Corio, blossomed at university and continues to this day albeit in the relative comfort of a 4 oared Scottish Coastal Skiff which I row with other old ‘oars’ twice a week on the Swan River (pictured above).

Life has been mostly kind, I have been very lucky and, reflecting now, I find it hard to resist the conclusion that ‘the harder I worked, the luckier I got’ - as the saying goes!

Lessons learnt at Geelong Grammar School stood me in good stead; I remain grateful for them and for two close and enduring friendships forged in those years.

Rory-Argyle-fish

Old Geelong Grammarian and Past Parent Rory Argyle OAM is a Perth-based lawyer, businessman and keen rower.
He kindly agreed to write about his family and its association with the School.
Thank you Rory for sharing your beautifully written story with us. (Ed.)

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