Rare Dialectic Society medal comes back to Trinity

A very rare medal awarded as a prize to one of the College's earliest students has been found in a country antiquarian bookstore and acquired for the Archival collections.

The Dialectic Society Vice President's Medal for Essay Writing was awarded in 1883 to 20-year-old William Charles Lewers (TC 1882), then in his third year studying Arts at the University of Melbourne. Lewers would go on to practice as a barrister, and was an authority on the construction of wills. Not surprising, when he died in 1927, his will was found to have been penned in his own handwriting.  

As a 'token of remembrance', his friends had a bronze tablet installed in the College Chapel, writing that Lewers was “A greatly loved member of this college in whom liberal learning and histrionic and literary gifts were informed with the charm of a gracious personality”.

The medal is one of only three known Dialectic Society medals in existence, two of which are now held in the College Archives. Museum Victoria holds the Society's President's Medal for Oratory awarded to law student Theyre à Beckett Weigall in 1885, father of the well-known Australian writer Joan Lindsay, author of Picnic at Hanging Rock. The College already holds the President's Medal for Oratory, awarded in 1930 to John Maynard Hedstrom, who later became the General Manager and Chairman of Fijian wholesale and retail form, Morris Hedstrom.

Lewer's medal is the oldest of the three known examples, being awarded only four years after the Dialectic Society was founded in July 1879. Lewers was the first generation of a family association with Trinity. His nephew, Alan George Lewers 'AGL' Shaw came into residence in 1935 before returning in 1944 as the Joint Acting Dean, while the College Dean was on active service. Coincidentally, in his time as Acting Dean, AGL was also Vice-President of the Dialectic Society.

The medallion is a wonderful addition to the College's cultural collections, illustrating the rich experiences of Lewer's College experience that would provide the basis for his later career.


Read more about the Trinity College Archive Collection here

15 Jun 2015