FW Gamble, the first Headmaster left us an insight into his thoughts in the form of his annual reports. They reveal a forward-thinking, dignified, no-nonsense, compassionate gentleman, unfailing in his duty to the academic, sporting, cultural, social and moral development of the boys in his care; as loyal to his ‘staff of masters’ as they were loyal to him; a true servant (but no sycophant) to the Board of Governors and sometime scourge of errant parents and critical commerce.
On the one hand he said, in 1923. ‘Certain studies may be ‘ unpleasant medicine to the boy, but the mere conquest over repugnance is half the virtue”.
And on the other hand in 1928 he gave notice that a Manual Training Course was in the offing for the following year. There may have been some mutterings about this, since he pulled no punches in 1929 in expressing his pleasure in:
” one distinct step in breaking away from the time-honoured academic curriculum’ he was concerned for the welfare of the ” pupils who, setting out with the brightest hopes fell sooner or later beneath the burden of tasks uncongenial or beyond their powers to bear.’
His hope was that they would be released from subjects that were ‘intolerable and misdirected.’
Also in 1929 he sent a shot across the bows of dilatory parents:
‘A boy is too great a prospective asset for his character training to be left to his own inclination and, if every parent realising a son’s tendencies and deficiencies, insisted upon his using the facilities we have ready for him, we should soon have the satisfaction of knowing that our resources are employed for the maximum good ‘ we see positive cases of neglect of a boy’s appearance and cleanliness ‘ some parents are needlessly sowing for a crop of disappointments. It is not too much to ask that a parent should be punctilious as to the normal everyday obligation imposed on them by having a son at school, and in common justice to the boys themselves I must put forward this plea on their behalf.’
This is but one of a number of home truths aimed at parents. The business world came in for telling-off in 1944:
‘I am not concerned about the random tilts made against the school products of today. The commercial world has not collapsed because of the alleged poor quality of our younger generation nor do employers continue to engage boys from motives of charity ‘ the present race of critics might well recall that they in their own day inspired no greater confidence in employers.’
When it came to the labourers in the vineyard he was unstinting in his public goodwill. In 1926 he said this: ‘I would extend to the staff of masters my thanks for a service that has not been limited by actual prescribed duties ‘ the school is singularly fortunate in possession of a staff which waits eagerly upon the manifold interests of the modern boy.’ He was forever grateful for the work of prefects, too as this 1930 piece demonstrates:
‘The difficult task of ordering the ways of the unruly has been well attended to by the Prefects and they have added lustre to their badge of office.’
There was a wide range of clubs and societies and a wider range of sports than was common at the time, yet there was no doubt as to where his personal interest lay, as this 1927 extract shows:
‘In my reference to School games pride of place must be given to cricket. I view with content the manner in which this best of school games has acquired a stronghold among our boys.’
This remarkable, prescient, humane and cultural man said in 1929 (when the moneyed-classes were jumping out of windows). ‘Our main aim is to create an appeal for manliness and refinement’.
Could any modern mission statement top that?
Brian Murphy, Archivist