Dan Desbois was for much of his adult life a member of the ‘front line infantry in the colonial “armies of education”’ in Australia. He was untrained, learning how to teach and manage a school through firsthand experience. Dan was Head Teacher at five Queensland schools from 1873 to 1896 – in Warwick, Rosewood, North Maclean and Eton. Dan and his wife Mary Pritchett (1844-1880) had eight children. This story documents Dan’s professional and personal successes and challenges. He was a volunteer soldier with the Warwick Company of the Queensland Defence Force. He rose through the ranks to that of colour-sergeant before his election as Captain in 1883. However, his tenure ended in ‘non-publicised’ dishonour in 1886.
Dan was of Huguenot heritage. He started his working life as an apprentice watchmaker-finisher in his father’s business in London. Ten years later he became a Church of England Missionary for the colonies, educated at St Augustine’s College, Canterbury (1860-1863). Soon after his graduation and marriage, he embarked with Mary for New Zealand. Here Dan held three postings sponsored
by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. His prime responsibility was to the spiritual needs of the settlers, a role he continued for a short period following his relocation to Queensland in 1871. His spiritual legacy was the construction of St George’s Anglican Church in Beenleigh.
This book provides insight into Dan’s beliefs and opinions through his published letters. These reflect his humanity and interest in the betterment of colonial society, as well as reflecting a keenness for intellectual debate, often taking a contrary position.