Reginald Heber Roe

Reginald Heber Roe

Name: Reginald Heber Roe

Epoch: Late 19th Century (the \'Long Nineteenth Century\')

Grouping Field: Humanities (Ideas Formatted as Ideas) and Social Science (Models)

Location Grouping: Individual\'s Work Location

Map Coordinates: 27°27\'30.5\"S 153°01\'08.1\"E

Years At Location: 1876-1909

One Historical Setting: Mr. Reginald Heber Roe, Brisbane Grammar School, 2 Gregory Terrace, Spring Hill (1876)

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As headmaster of Brisbane Grammar School (from 1876), Roe was the leading educator for late nineteenth century Brisbane. From 1909 to 1917 Roe was appointed Inspector-General for Education. He was a member of the 1891 royal commission on establishing a Queensland university. When the University of Queensland opened in 1911, he was Vice-Chancellor.

Impact On Brisbane Society

Roe was a high-achieving graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, (first-class honours in final mathematical schools in 1872 and second-class honours in final classical schools in 1874). Roe’s educational philosophy reflected the thought of John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold, Charles Kingsley, Edward Thring, and Benjamin Jowett. It was a view of education for democracy and good citizenship, and as a duty to God and the individual (including members of the working classes). It had a social reform ethic, looking for the upward social mobility and the moral, intellectual and physical development of each student. Nevertheless, the British education system was highly meritocratically elitist, with only intellectually gifted able to move through the scholarship system.

Eddie Watson provided in his biography of Roe a statement of his pedagogy. It is relevant to the societal impact even beyond Roe, and it reflected the educational priorities that dragged into the first half of the twentieth century; one could say the mentality of the ‘long nineteenth century’. Watson stated:

“Roe favoured modern languages and literature, mathematics and science above Latin and Greek for better intellectual results. However, he included Latin and Greek as well as modern languages in the school curriculum for university candidates. For those leaving school after two years, he developed the modern school in which classical languages were not required. To foster public spirit and physical development, Roe established cadet training and encouraged sports, introducing tennis and gymnastics.”

Watson’s assessment of Roe speaks to the educationalist vision in Queensland, prior to the New Education movement, as well as contrasting to the instrumentalist push of technical education in the same era. Outside of his world of formal schooling, Roe was a hub that connected societal points across Brisbane and Queensland. These were points more than the colonial ‘establishment’ but, more importantly, the connections feed perspectives into formal schooling system. Roe was an active participant in the Brisbane Literary Circle, Australian Home Reading Union, Australian Education Fraternity (Queensland section), Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, Children’s Welfare Association, Playground Committee, Council for Public Morality, and the Queensland Rowing, Swimming and Lawn Tennis associations. He was a member of the Queensland Club. Furthermore, he was a close confidant of Sir Samuel Griffith.


Eddie Clarke, ‘Roe, Reginald Heber (1850 – 1926) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 11, MUP, 1988, pp 437-439. Retrieved 11 November 2009. (’.

Clarke, Eddie; Watson, Tom. (ed.) Soldiers of the Service, Volume 2: More Early Queensland Educators and their schools, History of Queensland Education Society, Church Archivists’ Press, 1999.

Penrose, Helen. Light dark blue: 150 years of learning and leadership at Brisbane Grammar School, Brisbane: Brisbane Grammar School, 2019.

Priest, Joan. From Balliol College to Brisbane Grammar: Reginald Roe, Headmaster B.G.S. 1876-1909, Charles Roe, Yeronga, Qld, 1993.

Image Citation

Portrait of Reginald Heber Roe. Archive: State Library of Queensland