Prayers of a Prime Minister
By Alan Currie
Chapter 1- Life begins in Victorian Colony.
Alfred Deakin was born on 3rd August 1856 in Fitzroy in Victoria. He was the new breed of Australian native born British subjects who was to grow up in the new world and was destined to become one of Australia’s greatest leaders and the father of a new federated nation.
As a young boy, Deakin was a precocious young man, who demonstrated leadership abilities at a young age. At age 4 his parents sent him to a boarding school in Kyneton which must have been a difficult experience for a boy of only 4 years old being away from his parents and could explain his private desire to be along reading and writing.
Eight years old in 1864, Deakin was enrolled at the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School which still operates from 355 St Kilda Rd Melbourne. He developed a passion for reading and most of his time was spent devouring the classics as he dismissed his school studies as unnecessary. His sole delight was to get lost in the world of Dickens, Cooper, Marryat, Fenimore, Ballantyne, Scott, Dumas, Jonathan Swift and dream of the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and the life of Lemuel Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels or Aladdin in Arabian Nights.
“In order to collect 'fresh knowledge & inspiration' for these reveries, from around 1865 when he was nine, Alfred began to visit public libraries most Saturdays and holidays, reading on occasion from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a short interval for pocket lunch.” Source: The Mystic Life of Alfred Deakin- Gaby
Deakin admits his preoccupation in his journal:
“Deliberate dreaming, by daylight and especially at night until sleep overcame me, was at this time the principle…the real part of my life…I lived in these creations more than in the world in which I moved, an often silent, absent and contented visionary”
His secondary teacher Mr Thompson writes:
“he was remarkably eager, quick and capable … he was fond of history and excelled in that subject. He possessed another rare quality among boys: he showed very great discrimination and fastidiousness in the choice and use of words; he delighted in noting the delicate shades of difference in the meanings of words. He was full of mischief; but it never took a consciously vicious or unkind form. Alfred Deakin was decidedly handsome boy, tall and rather slender…so finely poised and expression so open and gracious” Source: Alfred Deakin: A sketch by Walter Murdoch published 1923
It was Mr Thompson who inspires Deakin in his later secondary school’s years to try allot harder at his studies especially in mathematics and history. This encouragement helps him matriculate with honors in algebra, geometry, and history, just missing honors in Latin and English.
Deakin's says later about Mr Thompson:
"To my admiration of him as a man” “He could have made me do anything or be anything within my compass, had he known his power”
Deakin’s early school history is a clear indication of the importance of teachers who understand the opportunity and responsibility they have to inspire and empower the leaders of today’s future generation.