The Madras College Archive


Former Pupil Biographies

Peter Corsar Anderson C.B.E. (1871 - 1955)

Mr P C Anderson, C.B.E., was headmaster of Scotch College for over 40 years between 1904 and 1945. The College is an independent school for boys on Swanbourne, Western Australia.

The P C Anderson Memorial Old Boy's Scholarship is awarded to sons of former alumni in year 11.

Peter Corsar Anderson (1871-1955), educationist, was born on 16 February 1871 at the manse of Menmuir, Forfarshire, Scotland, son of Rev. Mark Anderson, Presbyterian minister, and his wife Jane, née Corsar. He was educated at Madras College, St Andrew's, from which he won a bursary to the United College in the University of St Andrew's. Here his career was distinguished and versatile. A prizeman in Hebrew and church history, he was also president of the students' representative council, a champion rifle-shot, and a golfer of such prowess that in 1893 he won the Amateur Championship of Great Britain.

After graduating B.A. in 1892 he studied theology at St Mary's College and in 1895 was licensed in divinity by the Church of Scotland, but did not pursue this calling because of a breakdown in health. He took a recuperative journey to visit a brother in Western Australia, but moved on to Victoria, where in 1896-1900 he became an assistant master at Geelong Church of England Grammar School. He was a master at the senior school from 1896 to 1899 and in charge of the Preparatory School from 1899 to 1900. Anderson left Geelong Grammar in 1900 to set up his own school, St Salvator's, also in Geelong.

In 1904 Anderson was appointed headmaster of Scotch College, Perth. A formidable task confronted him: established in 1897, the school was sited in grossly inadequate temporary premises, and suffered from the ineffectualness of the first headmaster John Sharpe. Some of the college council considered that the venture should be discontinued; others sought a solution in a move to a new site at Swanbourne, seven miles (11 km) west of Perth, where a benefactor offered land. Anderson at once insisted that, unlike his predecessor, he should participate in council meetings, and soon proved himself a vigorous organizer amply capable of ensuring the success of the move.

Anderson was headmaster for forty-one years, retiring in 1945. During this period enrolments rose from 59 to 410; more than 3000 boys passed through Scotch in his time. The first decade of his régime was marked by the provision of science laboratories, a cadet corps, sports grounds and a boatshed. By 1914 Scotch was established as one of the four leading independent boys' schools in Western Australia, and for the next thirty years Anderson was doyen among the Protestant headmasters, setting an educational model whose influence extended well beyond his own college. He was especially insistent on the need to provide an alternative system to the government high schools; it gratified him that many Scotch graduates later became prominent in the business and professional life of the State. He was less memorable as a teacher of English and history than as a masterful administrator, careful in times of financial stringency but insistent on bold planning whenever opportunity permitted. Impressively built and inclined to be set in his opinions, he earned the nickname 'Boss', but was respected for his scrupulous fair-mindedness and capacity for hard work. Legends generated around him, such as the yarn that he once caned the entire school in an attempt to put down smoking. If one or two of his younger masters found him intellectually mediocre, the majority held him in great respect even during his last difficult wartime years. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1947.

Anderson brought to Scotch College a model of 'godliness and manliness', for he was a ‘typical product of a Scottish Presbyterian background’, tall at 6’4’’, a strong disciplinarian whose main interest was in sport, and, although not an educational innovator, he was a 'reliable' leader. The notion of 'godliness and manliness' is at the heart of late nineteenth-century 'muscular Christianity', a term coined in response to the work of Charles Kingsley, associated with magazines like the Boys' Own Paper and a host of popular books like Tom Brown's Schooldays and Coral Island, and in recent years portrayed in films like Chariots of Fire.

Before moving to Australia, Anderson often played at the Old Course at St Andrews: for half a season he held the course record of 80, which was 4 under bogie. When he visited his brother Mark (also a keen golfer) in Albany, the latter suggested Anderson settle in Melbourne, where Mark he had been champion of Royal Melbourne Golf Club in 1893. Anderson joined Geelong Golf Club and was champion for six successive years until 1903. He was reported to be among those who selected the new site for the Royal Melbourne course when that club's old links were being hemmed in by building projects. He is also credited with laying out the Barwon Heads course at Geelong. In Western Australia Anderson and others thought vacant land near the ocean might be the making of a golf course. Anderson and N C Fowlie designed the nine-hole course, named it Sea View and it was opened as the Cottesloe Golf Club by the Governor on 11 September 1908. Anderson also laid out the first nine holes of the Royal Fremantle course. Anderson won the last of his four club trophy events in 1928 at the age of 57.

On 5 July 1899 at Hawthorn, Victoria, Anderson had married Agnes Henrietta Macartney of Mansfield; they had six sons and seven daughters. Bedridden in his last years with rheumatoid arthritis, he died on 26 August 1955 at his home at Swanbourne, close to Scotch College, and was cremated. His wife and eleven children survived him.