Mottoes Maketh The Man

The Dudley Public School Patch

Like many Australian schools, Dudley Public School (est. 1892) has a motto— ‘Manners Maketh Man’. A school motto is a brief phrase, often selected from religious or classical literature, which acts as a vision statement to represent the school’s values. It represents both brand identity and an aspirational ideal for students.  

Australian school mottoes, especially those bestowed before Federation, often reflected colonial society’s view of itself as an extension of the British Empire, and the desire of Australian schools to borrow from and replicate its educational traditions.

The old English proverb, ‘Manners maketh man’ was the personal motto of William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester (English, c.1320-1404). It is the motto of prestigious schools that Wykeham founded—New College Oxford (est. 1379) and Winchester College (est. 1382). Both are among the oldest institutions in England.  

The term ‘manners’ in this credo does refer to courtesy or etiquette, but in the original proverb also meant something akin to ‘morals’ or ‘attitude’.  The proverb also hints that behaviour and integrity matter more than one’s origins or standing in life. Another version from 1605 translates as ‘Be he rich, or be he poor, be he high, or be he low, be he born in barn or hall, ‘tis manners makes the man’. Through education, William Wykeham had risen from a somewhat lowly status to become an adviser of King Edward III and he used his new-found wealth and influence to build and endow schools.  His renowned philanthropy was based on gratitude for his own opportunities.

If school mottoes can indeed shape the lives of students, perhaps it is not surprising that this tiny school in the humble, working-class village of Dudley, NSW produced not one but two Victoria Cross recipients. Perhaps mottoes really do maketh the man.