Graves, Arnold Felix (1847–1930), early promoter of technical education in Ireland, was born 17 November 1847 in Dublin, third son of Dr Charles Graves (qv), FTCD, later bishop of Limerick, and his wife Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Dr John Cheyne (qv), physician general to the forces in Ireland. With his brother Alfred Perceval (qv) he was educated at Windermere College, England, and at TCD, where he was prominent in football, cricket, and athletics, graduating with a first in mathematics (1868). He was called to the Irish bar in 1872 and was appointed secretary to the commissioners of education for endowed schools in 1879. There he noted that many school endowments included provisions for technical education which were never applied. He later sought to remedy this. In 1886 he was appointed secretary to the commissioners for charitable endowments and bequests, and held the post until his retirement at the age of 70 years in 1918.
From 1884 he led the movement to introduce technical (i.e. science, trade, and handicraft) education into schools, at both primary and secondary levels. First he was secretary to the Artizans’ Exhibition of 1885, which attracted a large attendance and the political support of Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) and others. His success in obtaining the cooperation of the various trades in the exhibition led to the foundation of the Dublin United Trades' Council in 1886, with Graves and Michael Davitt (qv) as honorary members. He arranged that the surplus funds left over from the exhibition be dedicated to technical education, and persuaded Dublin corporation to establish a technical school at Kevin St., the first in Ireland (1887). He was responsible for the establishment of the Pembroke technical and Ringsend fishery school (1893) and of the technical schools in Limerick and Galway soon after that.
In 1893 also he formed the Technical Education Association of Ireland (TEAI), of which such diverse persons as Edward Henry Carson (qv), QC, and the superior general of the Christian Brothers were members. With Horace Plunkett (qv) he campaigned for a separate Irish government department of technical instruction, leading to the Agricultural and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Act, 1899. By 1902 every local authority in the country (which had replaced the grand juries under the 1898 local government act) had adopted the act and raised a rate for technical instruction. This was the foundation on which the 1930 vocational education act was later built.
In the 1890s Arnold Graves was instrumental in founding the Royal Society for the Training and Employment of Women, showing his liberal and progressive attitude. He was also a committee member of the Irish Industries Association and promoted the integrated vision of a modern industrial nation. He made a submission to Horace Plunkett's ‘Recess committee’ of 1895–6, and to the 1898 Belmore commission on a new code for primary schools. In 1899 he was, however, unsuccessful in his application to become resident commissioner of national education, but was confirmed as secretary to the board of governors of the Kevin St. schools, being reappointed a member of the new City of Dublin Technical Instruction Committee in 1900, by special resolution of Dublin corporation, and then each year until 1908, when he was aged 60.
He was co-author with his brothers Charles and Alfred of two books of satirical verse about politics, The Blarney ballads (1888) and The green above the red (1889), and individually author of six books: Clytemnestra (1903), Helen of Troy, Prince Patrick, The long retreat (1915), The turn of the tide (1916), and a relatively rare book on the secret of happiness and wisdom in life, Healthy, wealthy and wise (1925).
He was on the list of the lord lieutenant (the earl of Aberdeen, qv) of proposed knighthoods, but Aberdeen left office in 1915 and Lord Wimborne (qv) did not pursue the idea. He died on 24 May 1930 in his eighty-third year. He had gained optimism and wisdom even if fame eluded him.
He married Miss Constance Wetherby; they had four sons and one daughter, only two of whom survived the first world war and its effects.