FIDDIAN, Mr Samuel William

1842 - 1904

Fiddian Mr Samuel William - Creswick Historical SocietySamuel Fiddian was born in England in 1842, at Castle Donnington, Leicestershire, son of the Reverend and Mrs S. Fiddian.  As a Methodist Minister’s son, he was educated at Woodhouse Grove school near Leeds, and then moved on to the Huddersfield Wesleyan College, where as a student teacher he spent some years.                          

In 1859, at the age of 18, he came to Tasmania as a student teacher at Horton College – a Wesleyan educational institution.  After a stay of three years, he returned to England to further his education, and on arrival entered Cambridge University where he secured his B.A. and M.A. degrees and became a “Wrangler”, a much coveted mathematics distinction.  He then filled, for one year, the position of head mathematical master at Wesley College, Sheffield, at that time one of the largest educational institutions in England.

He returned to Australia in 1869 and in January, 1872 and became headmaster (from 1869 to 1870) of Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, then, on relocating to Victoria, he taught for a short time at Scotch College, Geelong.  Prior to moving on to Creswick, he married (Charlotte) Sophie Robin, daughter of an Adelaide businessman and on arrival they purchased the Creswick Grammar School from the Rev. Alexander Pyne, M.A. who had established the school, and became its headmaster in December 1872.

The Grammar School under Samuel Fiddian’s influence was a success from the start.  His gentle method of teaching was popular with the students and parents, and numerous students over many years complimented his teaching style and personality.

The Grammar School which started as a boy’s school, became co-ed in 1873 and was more than just a local institution.  Its pupils travelled from all over the district; Clunes, Allendale, Dean, Newlyn, Kingston, Ascot and Smeaton.  To paraphrase Mr W.J. Parry, in the History of the Creswick Grammar School, students “came … by all means, to have their lives and minds moulded and shaped by that good man, Samuel Fiddian, M.A.  He was a teacher who could touch the heart, as well as train the mind.  No boy or girl could escape the influence of his radiant personality, nor will they forget him.  His life was indeed gentle. 

Patience, forgiveness and kindly helpfulness were a few of the noble elements in his nature.”

Samuel was assisted at the school for some time, by his devoted sister who had also come to Creswick and by his sons.  Mr Fiddian’s huge contribution to the education and mentoring of hundreds of local children has been generally recognised, the most extraordinary aspect being the large number of students who went on to achieve great success in their careers.

Some of the Grammar School students who went on to establish themselves nationally and abroad were:

  • Sir Alexander Peacock, Premier of Victoria three times, Minister for Education six times, and Treasurer from 1904-09.
  • Rt. Rev. J. R. Fiddian, (Samuel’s son) Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria.
  • Sir Arthur Trethowan, M.L.C.  New South Wales
  • Mr  James McRae, M.A., Director of Teacher Training, Melbourne University
  • Miss Leila Browne, nurse, Red Cross Award
  • Mr J.P. Camm and Mr Henry S. King, both Surveyors General in Western Australia
  • Mr J.M. Reed, Surveyor General in Victoria
  • The Lindsay family of artists,
  • Mr J.A. Leach, Ornithologist and author, Melbourne University
  • Capt. James Edwards, Magistrate of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Dr David Sutherland, Principal, Lahore Medical College
  • Mr John E. Tremearne, Music Editor for The Herald newspaper
  • Mr Norman Yeo of the Central Wool Committee
  • Mr H. B. Jackson, Deputy Commissioner of the Federal Dept. of Taxation.

and numerous others.  All from a school with a peak attendance of ninety pupils.

On the home front, Sophie and Samuel were settling into Creswick, raising a family, three sons and a daughter, and making their presence felt in the community.  Devout Christians, they joined the Wesleyan church and became fully involved in its activities.  Eventually Samuel became a Lay Preacher and Wesleyan Circuit Steward.  As a Lay Preacher he was conscientious in fulfilling all his appointments, whilst as a visitor to the sick and aged he was unfailing in his attention.

Among institutions and organisations to which he gave his time and expertise were:

  • Teaching at the Mechanics Institute, which for a time used the Grammar School premises
  • Development of the Free Library and Reading Room, and on the Committee
  • Committeeman of The Creswick District Hospital
  • Mentor to the Wesleyan Chinese Mission which used the Grammar School for services
  • Committeeman at the Creswick School of Mines and Technical Instruction
  • Principal Mathematics Examiner at the Ballarat School of Mines
  • Mentor to the founders of Clarendon College, Ballarat, and to other teachers who travelled to Creswick for assistance, particularly in mathematics
  • Mentor of School of Design (Mechanic’s Institute) which used the school building
  • Founder of the Methodist Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society

Samuel was honoured in 1893 by his former pupils with a presentation at the Town Hall, which said;

To Samuel Fiddian, M.A.

Dear Sir,

We, a number of former pupils of the Creswick Grammar School, are desirous of expressing in a public manner the very high esteem in which you are held.  We feel a sense of obligation for your unwearying patience in impounding (sic) a sound and liberal education, and for the unvarying example of an upright, honourable and Christian life you have ever set before us.  We desire to express our true regard for Mrs Fiddian and trust you may both be long spared to continue work so successfully and cheerfully undertaken in the past.

On behalf of the old boys,

A.J. Peacock, Alex. Lewers, P.C. Lindsay, A.W. Martin

Again, in 1940, a gathering of 500 townspeople including 47 old scholars unveiled a Memorial to Samuel Fiddian and the Grammar School.  The inscription reads;


In affectionate remembrance of SAMUEL FIDDIAN, M.A. Wrangler,

 St John’s Cambridge 1866,

 Principal of Creswick Grammar School 1872 – 1903.

Christian gentleman and profound scholar.


The school stood 51 yards due west from here,

founded 1869 by Rev. Alexander Pyne, M.A.  T.C.D.


This memorial erected by old scholars 9th March 1940.


Indeed a memorial to be coveted by many a Principal in Australia.

In 1903 Mr and Mrs Fiddian travelled to England where Samuel, having become unwell on the voyage, worsened and passed away, in Liverpool in January 1904.

A memorial service for Samuel Fiddian was held at the Victoria Street Methodist Church, Creswick, attended by many former students and a large number of townspeople. 

His quiet influence went out and touched everyone with whom he had to do – a man of integrity and uprightness, who scorned an untruth or a mean act.

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