Exhibition remembers the legacy of an alumnus

The John Hugh Sutton exhibition, Ian Potter Museum of Art: 16 April–13 October 2013

On Friday evening, 6 March 1925, as 19 year old residential law student, John Hugh Sutton was riding his motorcycle down the College driveway, he lost control, collided with a tree and was thrown from his bike, sustaining a severely fractured skull and arm. Students who witnessed the accident rushed to inform College staff and although he was quickly conveyed to the Melbourne Hospital, he died shortly after being admitted.

The College’s sub-Warden, Mr RF Blackwood, eulogised the following day:

I consider that by the death of John Sutton last night Australia has lost one of its most promising literary personalities... Although young, he has already written some brilliant articles, and has dealt with topics in a masterly manner, unusual in a person of his age. I have had experience with many brilliant men who have passed through Trinity College, but I venture to say that none was so able as John Sutton. He had a remarkable scholastic career.

John Sutton entered Trinity College in 1923, having already achieved significant distinction at Melbourne Grammar School, earning the School’s Foundation Scholarship in 1921 and the Marion Flack Scholarship the following year; the same year he was Head Boy. His strength, as Blackwood had noted, lay not on the playing field as much as it did in more academic pursuits. He was active in College life, remembered as an energetic debater ‘where his brilliant speeches were always listened to with interest’.

An avid ‘Classicist’, at the end of his first year at College he had obtained first-class honours in Latin and Greek, second-class in French, and the Exhibition in Latin; successes that were repeated the following year. His essay, Monarchy, was published in the Fleur-de-Lys in 1924 as the Wigram Allen Essay Prize of the Dialectic Society. ‘His undoubted mental ability led everyone to expect that he would accomplish great things, and his sudden death, at such an early age, is one of the great tragedies of the year’.

In his memory, his grieving parents provided funding to the University of Melbourne to establish the John Hugh Sutton Classical Museum, the foundation to the University’s notable Classics collection. A similar bequest to Trinity College allowed for the establishment of the JH Sutton Scholarship, which continues today for students of Latin and Greek languages. At Melbourne Grammar, the John Hugh Sutton Memorial Scholarship was established, as were prizes in Latin, English and French.

An exhibition opening in April at the Ian Potter Museum of Art reflects on the significant legacy John Sutton’s short life but brilliant academic achievements left across all three institutions. Curated by Dr Andrew Jamieson, from the University’s Classics and Archaeology Program, and being opened by the Warden of Trinity College, Professor Andrew McGowan, the exhibition showcases items from the University’s John Hugh Sutton Collection, as well as photographs and memorabilia from Trinity College’s own collections.

The exhibition opens to the public on 17 April and will run until 13 October.

22 Mar 2013
Category: About