Founder's Day Celebration Dinner,
Statham Lodge Hotel
Old Prescotians and their partners attended the
Celebration Dinner which was to bring to an end
the Anniversary Celebrations. There were three
A member of
Staff from 1927 - 1969 Geoffrey Dixon proposed
The Health and Wellbeing of the School"
Chairman, My Lord Bishop, Mr Headmaster, Ladies
As I was
going through that rigmarole, it occurred to me
that it was a pity that Brian Preist was not made
a bishop - 1 know he entered the ministry - then
we could have had a Preist who became a bishop
and a Bishop who became a priest.
had a visit from a psycho-therapist, not before
time you may say - but no cause for alarrn. It
was a social call from an Old Boy. John Mitchell
(45-50), who was practising in Manchester but now
lives in Somerset.
business in hand: it is a great honour and
privilege to be asked to propose the health of
the school on this its 450th anniversary After
all these years we are not going to quibble about
the precise date or whether the 'free school' was
a completely new institution or whether it was to
be grafted on to an existing fee paying school.
The arguments are clearly set out in Frank
Bailey's excellent history which I have been
re-reading. Once again I was impressed by Frank's
clear and cogent style, the logical marshalling
of his facts and the scholarship which informed
those facts. By the way, I believe the headmaster
stil has a few copies left of the most recent
Lathum's will was made in response to that
outburst of intellectual and spiritual freedom we
call the Renaissance. New schools were founded
all over the country but, alas, many have not
survived. It is to the credit of the people of
Prescot that they have resisted all attempts to
move it elsewhere or to transfer its endowments
to other purposes.
those early pupils dressed ? In a uniform
resembling that of today's Bluecoal Schools ? I'm
sure you remember Wordsworth's sonnet on King's
'Tax not the royal Saint with vain
With ill-matched aims the Architect who planned
Albeit labouring for a scanty band
Of white-robed Scholars only - this immense
And glorious Work of fine intelligence!
hardly see them as 'white-robed Scholars.'
Probably boys' dress was a miniature version of
their fathers' and a likely scenario could have
where's your ruff today ?"
"Please, sir, it's getting washed."
As I run my
eye over the last 450 years (I've have 90 of
them) I turn from fact to speculation and try to
picture our school against the great national
events of the past. How did Headmaster Thomas
Webster announce the news of the defeat of the
Armada ? Perhaps Ashurst Beacon had already done
it for him And after the ill-fated rebellion of
1745 trailed back to Scotland, how many boys from
the school went to gaze upon the poor bewildered
Scottish straggler hanging from the beam in a
barn in what is now known as Scot's Barn Lane.
Poor fellow, after trailing all the way from the
Highlands to Derby and back to Manchester, he
turned west instead of north - as I did somewhat
later. Was it the sight of Prescot that proved to
be the last straw and caused him to hang himself
days of difficult decisions. Stuart or
Hanoverian, Charles or George - it was touch and
go. When the outcome seemed certain, can you
picture the scene when the Headmaster, the Rev.
Robert Chapman, addressing morning assembly
the boy who wrote in the lavatories. 'Up yours,
George' please erase the word 'yours' ? "
....................Or eighteenth century words
to that effect ! And then Trafalgar and Waterloo.
I can definitely refute the suggestion that a
Prescot boy was the original Sam in Stanley
Holloway's monologue. Remember the scene; the
Duke of Wellington inspecting the troops.
Somehow. Sam's musket falls to the ground.
Sam, pick up tha musket".
"Nay. Tha knocked it down - tha picks it
up". The story may be apocryphal but I do
recognise the type. It persisted.
of the generations of Prescot watch-making
families. Many of our Old Boys must have helped
to maintain the traditional skills in precision
approach times within living memory we must once
again pay tribute to the part in our history
played by C.W.H. Richardson He took on a school
under threat of closure and in a few years turned
it into a viable secondary school acceptable to
the authorities for entry into the State system.
Those of you who remember him with affection as a
lovable old eccentric may fail to appreciate the
dynamic and forceful personality he must have
been in his younger days
joined the staff in 1927, the school was making
steady progress growing rapidly in numbers to
take its place as a fully-fledged grammar school.
As a step on the career ladder I planned to stay
two years. In the event you know I stayed for
forty-two When I retired the clouds had begun to
appear on the horizon. Grammar schools were under
threat from educational theorists and politicians
bent on social engineering. That we had provided
for the sons of people of modest means an
education equal to that of the great public
schools was of no consequence. We were elitist
and by implication socially divisive, if I sound
bitter it is because I am bitter. Nobody likes to
have his life's work torn up and thrown into his
face. I have nothing but admiration for the way
in which the present headmaster and staff strive
against great odds to maintain some of the
traditions: and values of the school as you knew
it. Your continued presence here, sir, assures us
that you will continue to do so. Perhaps the
future is less threatening than it might appear.
Will the reaction against populist conceptions of
equality restore the best features of the past?
Is It the eternal optimist in me or do I detect a
change in the climate of public opinion ?
note of hope I beg to propose the good health of