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Thomas Ainslie Caterer (1859–1924)

After several years of illness, Mr. Thomas Ainsle Caterer died on Tuesday morning. He devoted the whole of his life to education and educational purpose, and for 39 years was associated with the staff of St Peter's College.

A fine tribute was paid to the late schoolmaster's memory on Tuesday, by the head master of the college (Rev. J. K. F. Bickersteth). To a representative of The Register, Mr. Bickersteth said, 'I first got to know Mr. Caterer in 1920, and he charmed me at once by his courtesy, and by the hearty welcome he gave me. After having been acting head master for four years, he handed over to me the reins with characteristic self effacement, and took up the position of second master. His excellent advice and sound judgment were always at my disposal during the next two years, until ill health once again laid him low, and necessitated his final retirement from the teaching staff. His retirement caused universal regret, not only among his colleagues on the staff, and the boys then in the school, but also the many old boys who remembered him with affection and respect; and not least by myself, who feel that I owe him a great deal for the help he gave me during the early days of my head mastership. He possessed, in my opinion, many of the qualities which go to make a successful school master, including a love of accuracy, and a great capacity for detail. He always kept a wide vision clearly before him, for the school as a whole, and what each of its members should help it stand for. He was absolutely fair, and as a teacher, he had a driving force which taught many a boy how to concentrate, and to give his best. Although he was always strict, both in the school room, and as a house master, he won the respect and goodwill of all his pupils; even of those who, perhaps, needed most of all his discipline. As a cricketer, he kept up his interest in the school cricket to the end, and coached the team until his retirement. Many of the bigger college boys learned from him not only how to play cricket on the school oval, but also, how to play cricket in life. His judgment on all matters of sport was much sought after, and it was always impartial and sound. His rooms at St. Peter's College were filled with pictures of old boys, especially of those who had gone to the war, and he was always happy to tell stories of what they had done as schoolboys, and of what they had done, later, in wider fields. His last years were saddened by increasing feebleness, and he was not often seen about after his retirement. His memory will remain green at St. Peter's College, for many a long day.

The late Mr. Thomas Ainslie Caterer devoted the whole of his life to education and educational purposes, and of him it might well be said that, with the aid of the keys emblematical of the college he loved so dearly, he opened the doors leading to the professions, the arts, the science and commerce, and honourable and gallant behaviour for many thousands of the youth of South Australia. The one regret of his life was that he was not educated at St. Peter's College, so that, attached to his other distinctions, he might have written the letters 'O.S.' (old scholar) after his name. Although in his earlier days other educational establishments—notably that of his father, the late Mr. T. Caterer claimed him, practically the whole of his life was spent in the service of St. Peter's College. Mr Caterer was the first graduate of the University of Adelaide, and obtained his B.A. degree at the end of the year 1879. Subsequently to that he was engaged on the staff at his father's school, and in 1885 applied for a vacancy at St. Peter's College at the time when the Rev. Francis Williams was headmaster, and received the appointment. From that year until May 1921, when ill health severed his active association, he was in close personal and regular touch with everything that went on at the institution, teaching daily, managing the house, assisting the boys in their sports as well as in their studies, and taking a part second to none in the State in forming the characters of thousands of youths. Naturally, considering the vast numbers who passed under his control, there are few persons in South Australia better known than he, and it is a grand testimonial to his sterling character and worth that none was ever heard to speak of him in other than terms of praise. He was a man of retiring and self effacing disposition, and was prone to belittle his own attainments in favour of the worth of others. This characteristic, however, did not serve to hold him hack, and his progress at St. Peter's College was most marked.

He served successively under the Rev. F. Williams. M.A., the Rev. P. A. Raynor, and Canon Girdlestone, M.A.; and, although at the time there was no such title, he was for many years the second master of the school. On the retirement at the beginning of 1917 of Canon Girdlestone, the Council of Governors, realizing the difficulty of setting a permanent man as headmaster during those strenuous times of war decided to make a temporary appointment and the position was offered to Mr Caterer. It may he mentioned that, under its constitution, the headmaster of the college has to be a clergyman of the Church or England. The position was accepted by Mr. Caterer and he occupied it until the appointment as head master at the beginning of 1920 of the Rev. J. K. F. Bickersteth. Just before Mr. Caterer's retirement from the acting position the Council of Governors gave a dinner to him and presented him with a substantial cheque and a silver salver, suitably inscribed, as a token of their appreciation of his services to the school. Since then he held at the school the title of second master. For many years he was in residence and had been in charge of the boarding-house since the year 1893 while, during the whole of his sojourn at St. Peter's, he was the master mainly responsible for seeing to the sports education of the scholars. The one object of his life was the welfare of the school, and he must have died contented in the knowledge that an establishment which numbered only 160 scholars when he joined it, had over 600 at the time when ill health necessitated his withdrawal.

In the higher branch of educational work— that at the Adelaide University—Mr. Caterer took an active part. He was chosen clerk of the Senate of the University in 1888, and every year thereafter he was re-elected to the position. On occasions he filled also the office of acting warden. At one time there was a chance that he would sever his connection with St. Peter's College, for when the position of Registrar of the University fell vacant, he announced his intention of applying for the post, but withdrew his application for the reason that he considered Mr. Hodge (the late registrar) would, he thought, be of greater benefit to the institution than he. In the year 1917, however, he allowed himself to be nominated and was elected.

From his schooldays, Mr Caterer took the keenest interest in cricket, and reached a high position in the game while at the university. He was a gifted left handed bowler, having an easy delivery with a natural break. For many years he was a member of the old Kensingtons, and when that club amalgamated with the Australs, and became known as the Adelaides, he was one of the most reliable trundlers. He played in one inter-colonial match and represented South Australia against a famous Australian XI. team bound for England. In the latter match he caused both enthusiasm and disappointment by bowling W. L. Murdoch—whom the public greatly desired to see bat—with his first ball. For many years Mr. Caterer took an active part in the administration of cricket affairs and his association with the S.A.C.A. proved most valuable to that body. He was a member of the ground and finance committee from its inception 13 or 16 years ago, and in the three years preceding his severe illness was Chairman of that body. He was a man of many interests, and among his hobbies were floriculture and the breeding of fancy fowls and turkeys. He was one of the two honorary life members of the South Australian Poultry and Kennel Club. The deceased gentleman was born at Woodville in 1859. He married Miss Amy Elizabeth Edmunds, and his two daughters are Mrs. S. S. Ringwood (North Adelaide) and Miss Brenda Caterer.

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Citation details

'Caterer, Thomas Ainslie (1859–1924)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Woodville, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


26 August, 1924 (aged ~ 65)

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