Albert Weigall is best remembered as one of the finest and longest serving grammar school headmasters of the nineteenth century in Australia. He was headmaster of Sydney Grammar School from 1867 to 1912. At the time of his appointment he was also one of the youngest grammar school headmasters to be appointed at the age of 26. He was the second headmaster of Sydney Grammar School which was established in 1854, but opened for enrolments in 1857. As one of Sydney’s most prestigious schools it had close links with the recently established University of Sydney, as a secondary school preparation institution for those boys proposing to enter the professions via a university education.
Weigall was born in England in 1840 and attended Macclesfield Grammar School, from which he entered the University of Oxford where he graduated with a second class honours degree. He emigrated to Australia to take up the position of classics master at Scotch College Melbourne where he remained for three years, before being offered the headmastership at Sydney Grammar School. He developed this school along the lines of the Thomas Arnold educational philosophy, which championed the values of scholarship, personal industry and effort, and the “duty of honest service”. During his tenure as Headmaster greatly improved the teaching standards expected in a grammar school, and he widened the curriculum beyond the traditional “classics” emphasis of the old traditional “great public schools” of England. He placed great emphasis upon the development of “school spirit” or what we would now define as aspects of “school climate”.
Weigall died in 1912. Turney and Burns sum up Weigall’s contribution with the following statement; “as a result of his dedicated efforts, the Sydney Grammar School had emerged as one of the leading Australian secondary schools. Not only had he made substantial improvements in the School’s scholarship standards and in the scope and purpose of its curriculum, but he had done much to develop a school tone and corporate spirit designed to have a powerful influence in the lives of the pupils.”
A more detailed account of Weigall’s headmastership may be found in C. Turney’s Pioneers of Australian Education, chapter 5. Also, a contemporary biography of Weigall was published by M.W. MacCallum soon after he died, titled, In Memory of Albert Bythesea Weigall, Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, 1866-1912, (1913).