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Louis Emile Lesser, RGS master in 1957/58

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 5:25 pm
by John Saunders
In 1957/58 there was an Australian teacher on secondment for one year, teaching History and Geography at the RGS. Mr L E Lesser, B.A. (Melbourne) joined the school in 1957 and went back to Wesley College, Melbourne, in 1958 after a year's stay. He is at C53 in the 1957/58 senior school photo.

I've looked him up on and discovered he was Louis Emile Lesser and was born in Australia in 1911. He had lived in Balaclava, Victoria, for a couple of decades preceding his time at the RGS and seems to have returned to live there in the 1960s and 1970s.

I googled further and found an obituary for him (link below), published in the Wesley College (Melbourne) alumnus magazine, dated February 1979, so he would have been about 68 when he died. The photo given helps to confirm that I have found the right man as it greatly resembles the one in the 1958 RGS photo. ... /176/rec/3

"Academically an Honours graduate in History and Economics, [he] mostly taught English." He taught at Wesley College for more than 40 years, apart from the year at the RGS. Apparently he was universally known as 'Narse'. His wife was called Enez and his children were Ainslie and John. I've since discovered he was with the RAAF from 1942-45.

Re: Louis Emile Lesser, RGS master in 1957/58

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:26 am
by jless3226
Dear John

A very good bit of research indeed, on a very bit player in the life of a school of over 450 years of age! I was fascinated to come acroos it by pure chance a week or so ago.

My name is John Lesser. I was 5 years old in 1957 when my father, whose nickname at Wesley was Narse, and my mother took my sister, Ainslie, then aged 7, and me to England for almost 2 years. For our family, and me in particular, 1957-58 was a defining experience, fuelling a lifelong interest in travel, England and Europe etc, as we visited most of the UK and western Europe during our time in England.

I hope you don't mind my indulgence to fill in a couple of pieces of the history you discovered. It may be of small interest to your OW followers. Narse was at Wesley College (old boys also referred to as OWs), one of the most famous of the Australian Public Schools in the State of Victoria founded in 1866 (old by Australian standards!), over a period of 55 years, man and boy, between 1918 and 1973. He taught English and History (mostly) for 40 years, though his Honours Arts degree was in History and Economics. I was interested that he taught Geography at RGS. His family lived in Caulfield, of which Balaclava is a part, before marrying, but our family lived in Elwood, part of Brighton, before and after our time in England. He very much enjoyed his year at RGS and, I know, he gave at least one talk (but probably many more) at Wesley in 1959 about RGS, the English education system and his overseas travel experiences.

That school year, we lived locally in, I think, Penn Road, Hazelmere, and I did my first year of school at the local Hazelmere primary school. Dad and mum stayed in touch with a number of the RGS (and Hazelmere) teaching families, including the Harveys and the Perfects (both in the 1958 photo), generally exchanging Christmas greetings and calendars each December until well into the 21st century, when age started to intervene on one or other side of the world! I have stayed with Peter (Ferret, according to the photo, though unbeknown to me) and Margaret Harvey, and his son, Paul, several times on trips to England since. Peter (who died in his 80s only a year or two ago) was a very young French teacher when he started at RGS in 1957, compared to Narse who had been teaching for about 25 years, but they were both involved in the RGS Scout Troop together and developed a strong friendship as a result. My father had run training courses for Scout leaders at Gilwell Park in Essex in the months before starting at RGS. We lived at Gilwell during that time.

You are correct that he died at age 68 in January 1979. I had just returned from 2 years overseas, during which he was unwell for much of that time. He had retired from teaching at the end of 1973, but had to return to work for several years as his retirement savings were inadequate (compulsory superannuation was in its infancy in Australia). He travelled overseas with my mother and sister in 1975, and may have visited RGS while in England.

So, 60 years on, and RGS still has an important (if, small) place in my personal history. Thank you for making the effort to remember my father and his brief but important time at RGS all those years ago! I hope any alumni of that era remember him fondly.

Re: Louis Emile Lesser, RGS master in 1957/58

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:55 pm
by John Saunders

Many thanks for writing this, which confirms my original researches and adds considerably to them.