Page 1: Biography
McQueen, Henry Charles
Teacher, university lecturer, vocational research officer, commissioner of apprenticeship
This biography, written by William Renwick, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.
Henry Charles McQueen was born in Beaconsfield, Tasmania, on 6 July 1898, the son of Agnes Hadrill, from Denmark, and her husband, Alexander McQueen, a New Zealand-born engineer. When he was about one year old the family migrated to Dunedin, where his father became a partner in an engineering firm. Harry had his schooling at Dunedin primary schools and Otago Boys’ High School.
He began his teaching career as a probationer at Macandrew Road School (1915–16), and then at Kaikorai School (1917–18). He was also an officer in the Senior Cadets, and in June 1918 volunteered for military service. When the First World War ended he was still at Trentham Military Camp, but he was active in the Territorial Force from 1921 to 1926.
After attending Dunedin Training College in 1919, McQueen was secondary assistant at Lawrence District High School in 1920, sole charge then head teacher at Evansdale School (1921–24), a member of the staff of Dunedin Training College in 1925, and an assistant master at King Edward Technical College (1927–35). As a part-time student at the University of Otago, he was awarded a diploma in social science in 1926, graduated BA and diploma in education in 1927, and MA in 1929. He was married on 28 September 1923 in Dunedin to Esther Cecilia Botting; they were to have two sons and a daughter.
McQueen was one of the pioneers of research in educational and vocational guidance in New Zealand: first in Dunedin, then in Auckland during 1936, when he was a lecturer in education at Auckland University College. It was primarily to develop a research programme in vocational guidance that the New Zealand Council for Educational Research appointed him a research officer in 1937, and he moved to Wellington. In 1939 the minister of education asked the NZCER to evaluate the country’s nascent vocational guidance and placement services. McQueen’s reports, Vocational guidance in New Zealand (1940) and Vocations for Maori youth (1945), became the basis of official policy for the next 30 years.
In 1944 the government appointed a commission on apprenticeship and technical education, and McQueen was seconded to be its research officer. The commission’s recommendations were incorporated in the Apprentices Amendment Act 1946. Trade training courses became compulsory for apprentices, and employers were encouraged to release them on pay during work hours to attend. National and local apprenticeship committees were set up to oversee apprentice contracts, and a commissioner of apprenticeship was appointed to administer the new system. McQueen was the obvious choice as first commissioner, and he held the post from 1947 until his retirement in 1963. He was a foundation member of the Trades Certification Board and chairman from 1963 to 1973. During these formative years he played a pivotal role in modernising the institution of apprenticeship and in meeting the post-war upsurge in demand for trade training.
In 1949 McQueen attended an International Labour Organisation conference on vocational and technical training held in Singapore. From 1950 he was actively involved in setting up New Zealand’s technical assistance programmes for Asian countries under the Colombo Plan. He was made an OBE in 1973.
McQueen was also involved in a variety of other organisations. He was a founding member in 1941 of the Wellington Nursery Play Centre Association – the first playcentre association to be formed in New Zealand. For many years he was an active member of the social science section of the Royal Society of New Zealand and he was a vice president of the society’s 1947 science congress. While at the NZCER he developed a close interest in museums, and in 1942 published Education in New Zealand museums. From 1946 he was the Royal Society nominee on the management committee of the Dominion Museum and its chairman in 1957, and he was a trustee (1952–72) of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. In 1968 he was elected a fellow of the Art Galleries and Museums Association of New Zealand, having served on its council (1959–61, 1966–67) and as its president (1962–64). He assisted the formation of the Churchill Fund Committee as its executive officer from 1963 to 1965.
Harry McQueen died in Wellington on 30 March 1976, survived by his wife and children.