Chapter IV

Early Days


CANON WYNNE-EDWARDS retired in 1922 before he was 60. I think his early retirement was due to the strain of the war years. During his time, the numbers at the school increased from less than 200 to more than 600. He wanted to limit the numbers to 300, but the governors were unwilling for this. He went as Rector to Kirklington, near Bedale, where he was for 15 years. He and Mrs. Wynne-Edwards were a most charming host and hostess, nothing delighted them more than visits from Old Boys. Canon Wynne-Edwards once asked me why more of them did not come to see him oftener. One day when I was spending the week-end there, an Old Leodiensian arrived. Canon Wynne-Edwards could not remember his name and said: �I know your face very well.� The man replied �You should know my back better, Sir��He had often been in trouble, had paid frequent visits to the Study, and yet was devoted to his �Head�.

In 1937 the Canon retired to Austwick and lived amongst his beloved hills. His death was a sad loss, but those of us who knew him well will always feel his influence with us.

I am grateful that I have been able to be helpful in raising a fund for a memorial to him. There is a tablet in the Chapel and the Wynne-Edwards Exhibition has been founded. I think his sympathy and kindness were his outstanding qualities. I am told he used to give cases of champagne to masters convalescing after serious illnesses. He had a keen sense of humour. Once, before afternoon school, he told me he had a gift for me, if I would promise to wear it in front of the boys. I promised. It was a �Yashmak� (supposed to prevent influenza during an epidemic). I wore it!

OLD BOYS will remember his staying in camp with them every Whitsuntide at Crina Bottom Camp, near Clapham; his enthusiasm for all things connected with Botany or Zoology, his accompanying them when the �Three Peaks� were climbed. I visited the camp once or twice and longed to be a boy there. I saw my form�s tent, duly tidied before I went in; I went to a Sing Song and heard Mr. Stockdale and Mr. Hilton at their best.

The Staff meetings used to be a joy in those days; held the night before school began, at Sheafield, the Head�s house. There was whisky and soda for all the men who wanted it before the meeting, and coffee and cakes for us all afterwards. Coming from a girls� school, I was amazed, and somewhat shocked, at the way the masters and the Head went at it �hammer and tongs�; quite outspoken in their views. But there was no ill will, they had their say, and that was all.

We used to have readings of Shakespeare�s plays and other plays in the big drawing room at Sheafield. All the Sixth Form and the masters and their wives were invited. We read and partly acted the various parts. As a newcomer, and rather shy, I recall my embarrassment as the whole room-full, dark suited, rose as one man on one�s entering. I rather wished I could be invisible. The Head and Mrs. Wynne-Edwards provided refreshments for all of us afterwards. On 18th November, 1922, just before they left, we read Julius Caesar. So much of that play was apposite.

�His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix�d in him that nature might stand up
And say to all the world, �This was a man!�
How I have thought of this and of these times
I shall recount hereafter; for the present
I would not, so with love I might entreat you,
Be further mov�d.�

HERE IS A really extraordinary example of the Head�s kindness. I was staying at Sheafield, and I went to a dramatic society dance where Mr. and Mrs. Wynne-Edwards received the guests. They left before the dance was over and gave me a latch key. Some friends saw me back to Sheafield in the �small hours�, and I slunk quietly to bed.

The next morning I was wakened by Mrs. Wynne-Edwards coming into the bedroom with my breakfast. It was about 9-15 and school began at 9-0. I exclaimed about the time, and how I ought to have been teaching, and wondered what on earth had happened. Mrs. Wynne-Edwards soothed me and said: �The Head�s orders, dear, that you were to be allowed to sleep. He is taking your Latin lesson for you.� Yes, that really happened!

Dr. L. A. Lowe told me that she first met Canon Wynne-Edwards on the day she arrived at Leeds, to be Headmistress of the High School. That same evening the bell rang and it was Canon Wynne-Edwards. He had come to see if there were anything he could do for her, lay carpets, hang pictures, or any odd job. �Wasn�t it just like him?� she said.

Once during a coal strike I was in digs near Hyde Park Road; my landlady was without coal and I was in bed with influenza. Mrs. Wynne-Edwards carried a heavy bucketful of coal all the way from 67, Clarendon Road!

IN THE OLD DAYS, when the Staff was smaller than it is now, we were a real brotherhood. In anyone were away ill, he (or she) was always visited by the Head and by many colleagues. Major Ward tells a tale of how, when he was away, 24 of the Staff visited him between the end of school chapel and dinner-time one Sunday! Now we resort to the telephone and don�t always remember that.

During World War I the whole school used to turn out to help the Corporation after a heavy snowfall, owing to the shortage of roadmen. The Corporation provided the shovels, etc., and contingents of boys were sent to all parts of Leeds. We were envious of their tales of kind people who brought them hot coffee and other refreshments. The Junior School, unfortunately for them, had to clear the paths near the school. Clarendon Road was usually our pitch. So we had no refreshments, but, even then, the clearing of snow was considered an improvement on lessons!

At Christmas-time the older boys used to act as porters at the station. It was fun to see a well-known young figure step forward to carry one�s luggage. They also acted as postmen during the Christmas rush. They did this, too, during the second war.

The Head was a very good skater; and on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, during a frost, all stretches of ice bore numerous boys and members of the Staff. Every available scholarship �half� was celebrated in this way. I remember S. Dixon�s �half�. He went to �Boothroyd�s� Pond near the Ridge; he was learning to skate, and he fell more often than anyone else there! Mr. Hilton was a wonderful figure skater and several other masters were very considerate instructors in the art. Mr. Marshall had skates built for speed and he could move at an enormous pace. Once he gave me as much as half the circumference of Roundhay Lake as a start in a race, and then he beat me!


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