The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer (Dutch) states, the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, over the British Empire’s influence in South Africa. The British Empire owned Cape Colony and the Bechuanaland Protectorate:
The catalyst for the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states.
William Henry Heath was born on June 11th 1882. His father was Henry Heath and he was a farmer at Bestwood Park which is to the north of the city of Nottingham. Bestwood Park was originally a hunting estate in Sherwood Forest, owned by the Crown from the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century, when King Charles II gave it to his mistress, Nell Gwyn.
Nell was a famously shy girl, who always kept herself to herself and very much liked to read about embroidery and the lives of the saints:
More seriously, the topless painting is called “Portrait of a Courtesan, thought to be Nell Gwyn” and comes from the studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80). The more or less clothing free effort is called “Portrait Of A Young Lady And Child As Venus And Cupid” and is known as a picture definitely by Lely. Sir Peter was the finest painter of the Restoration and the official artist to King Charles II. And Nell Gwyn? Well, she is known to have been “one of the first women to abandon her modesty to advance her career.”
Two hundred years in the future, William Heath’s mother was Mary Ann Heath and according to the various censuses, by 1891, William had a brother, Leonard, and two sisters, Margaret Annie and Mary. By 1901, Henry, Evelyn and Dorothy have appeared and by 1911, another brother, Norman. Depending on the date of his departure to South Africa, William may never have seen Evelyn or Henry and he certainly never saw Dorothy. The farm in 1911 is given as “Sunrise Farm” although that is not necessarily the farm of William’s boyhood. For his education, he may possibly have gone initially to Grosvenor School, a preparatory school at Nos 107-109 Waterloo Crescent, a pleasant footpath off Mount Hootton Road on the western side of the Forest Recreation Ground. Here it is today:
William entered the High School on January 22nd 1895 as Boy No 1366. He was twelve years of age and he went straight into the Upper First with Mr Marriott as his Form Master. Mr Marriott taught at the High School from 1891-1897. He was originally a temporary teacher but he was given a full time job after his first year. He had a BA degree and was a late Scholar of Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge University.
There were 32 boys in the Form and of the 30 boys who took the end-of-term examinations, William came 19th. The School List gives us a number of his exact placings subject by subject… English (18th), French (12th), Latin (16th), Writing (14th), and he came third in Drawing. He had been placed in Mathematical Set XII. The following year, it was the Lower Second with Mr Wilfrid Tyson Ryles. There were 29 in the Form and 28 took the examinations. William finished 15th. Here he is in class with Mr Ryles standing back left of the photograph.
William improved very well over the course of the year though, because he was awarded the Lower Second Prize for the Summer Term. But then it was more of the same…. English (10th), French (18th), Latin (15th) and Writing (25th). He was still in Mathematical Set XII.
The next year of 1896-1897 was his third, and his last. He spent it in the “Shell” with Mr Hodgson, who was the first ever master of this newly invented Form which was designed to receive boys who entered the school late, usually from state schools, and with little or no previous French or German, and certainly no Latin. The following year they were expected to go into the “Modern Fourth Form” but Henry would not do this as he left at Midsummer 1897.
There were 32 boys in the Shell but they were divided into Divisions A and B. Henry finished 18th of the 21 boys in Division A. His last acts at the High School before his departure were his examinations….. English (19th), French (15th), German (20th), Writing (28th), and he came tenth in Drawing. He had been promoted at last to Mathematical Set X. A figure ‘1’ after his name in the School List signifies that he was awarded a prize for Writing in 1897 and one for being the best in Shell Division A in July 1897. Given his positions, I really don’t see how that worked!
Here’s the High School in around 1896. Note Sergeant Holmes, the Drill Sergeant, and the little boy in the bottom right corner. He should be in class but has no doubt been attracted by the photographer and his assistant.
I do not know what William got up to between his final year at the High School and his leaving for a distant, exotic and exciting war in South Africa. I suppose he may have helped out at Sunrise Farm, but that seems a rather easy thing to say.
Next time, William goes to protect the British Empire from a small group of awkward Dutch farmers or possibly, gets involved in a greedy overseas war, started by rich men eager for bucketfuls (or bucketsful, possibly) of gold and diamonds.
When I composed the four articles, I deliberately chose not to include anything negative from what Mr Henderson said. I cannot, however, fail to include this almost surreal tale. Hopefully, you will find it interesting to read it and then try for yourself to work out what is really going on, what the real motivations are behind people’s behaviour, and what is happening behind the scenes.
Arthur Willoughby Barton was the son of Professor Edwin H.Barton, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Professor of Experimental Physics. He lived in Private Road, Sherwood, where very large Victorian houses change hands nowadays for around £500,000:
After the High School, Arthur went to Trinity College, Cambridge and gained First Class Honours in Physics. He was then a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he helped Lord Rutherford to split the atom.
Harold Connop was the son of an Elementary School teacher, Mr Arno B Connop, and Mrs Ada Connop. There seems to be some confusion about the address. Some sources give it as 33,Westwood Road, a street in Sneinton, one of Nottingham’s working class areas. It is the first house on the left with a white door:
In 2001, this terraced house, with, perhaps just four or maybe five rooms, sold for £25,000. It is now worth around £57,000. Another address listed for Harold is 20, Stewart Place, a location which has now been demolished, probably in the slum clearance under the Socialist government immediately after the Second World War. Ironically, these houses were originally built by a local philanthropist, as “good houses for poor people”. This kind gentleman was the Reverend Robert Gregory, who was eventually to become Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Harold’s education at the High School was financed solely by scholarships, awarded on the basis of intellectual ability. He entered the school as a Sir Thomas White scholar, and then became a Foundation Scholar. Two years later, in 1913, the Sir Thomas White Scholarship was renewed and then subsequently extended for a fourth year.
Harold won prizes for six different subjects and the Form Prize for the Fifth Form in 1913, and the Sixth Form in 1915, 1916 and 1917. Here is the school in 1915:
In his public examinations in 1913, he gained First Class in six subjects, and subsequently five distinctions at Higher Level. He became a Prefect in 1915, and Captain of the School in 1917. In the words of Roy Henderson, he was:
“a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter in rugby, and a very fast runner.”
Harold won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, and was also awarded an exhibition, worth £65 annually for four years. At Oxford he was regarded as “the first Scholar of Corpus Christi College”, in other words, the cleverest and best one there:
Compared to both Barton and Connop, Roy Henderson was, quite simply, not in their league. He enjoyed school, but himself admitted that he was never very good academically and was totally hopeless at exams. The high point of his career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize for an English essay on “Militarism”. Henderson only won because the rest of the Sixth Form boycotted the competition, saying “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…let him have it.”
Around this time, Roy Henderson, along with William Donald Willatt, founded a new school magazine called “The Highvite”. As editor of the original school magazine, Connop was apparently furious at this new rival. Henderson didn’t get on very well at all with Connop, for a reason which Henderson was not willing to divulge, even after the best part of seventy years. Henderson added that Connop was not very well liked in the school as a whole and he was never a particularly popular figure.
William Donald Willatt was one of six brothers at the High School, the sons of John Willatt, who lived at 4, Pelham Road, Sherwood Rise. John Willatt was a wine merchant, whose business was presumably prosperous enough to pay the school fees of his six sons.
I do not know why Harold Connop was so unpopular although at least three, possibly four, reasons spring easily to mind. I will tell you about the quarrel next time.
The period when the seventeenth century turned into the eighteenth was not the easiest of times for the Nottingham Free School, the ancient predecessor of the present day High School. You only have to look at the wooden board behind the school receptionist’s desk at the High School, and the list of names and dates that is up there. During this period, some three hundred years ago, Headmasters come and go, thick and fast. Just to refresh your memory:
Edward Griffith 1691 – 1707 Richard Johnson 1707 – 1720 William Smeaton 1718 – 1719 William Saunders 1719 Thomas Miles 1719 John Womack 1720 – 1722 John Swaile 1722 – 1731
Let’s look at the diary of these turbulent and potentially disastrous twenty years. Edward Griffith, the first Headmaster on the list, seems to have been an astonishing man. He could have talked his way into so many jobs in our own time, most of them probably in politics. Or maybe even financial advice:
Edward Griffith, the Headmaster for the last six years, was summoned to court “for neglecting the school, whereby the school is much decayed in its reputation.” Griffith promised to concentrate on the school and never to work again as a full-time clergyman as well as his main job as the Headmaster.
Griffith took up a lucrative post as the new Vicar of Stapleford.
Friday, December 19th 1698
The Town Council gave Edward Griffith the sack, alleging that
“…he has very much neglected his duty, whereby the said Free School is very much decayed and lessened, ….. the School Wardens do give him a discharge, which they have done accordingly. And if he shall refuse to leave the said Free School, that they shall withdraw his Salary.”
Griffith made no reply whatsoever to this decision. Sit tight and it will all blow over. May 1699
The Town Council issued a second decree that Griffith should quit his post. He took absolutely no notice of this one either. January 1700
It was agreed by the Town Council that Griffith should keep his job and salary until further notice. Result!! January 1705
The Town Council told Griffith that he was “discharged from being Schoolmaster any longer”, an order which, not surprisingly perhaps, he again ignored completely. He did, however, make a promise to depart in the very near future. June 1705
Griffith was again told to leave his job, and that his salary would henceforth not be paid. March 1706
The school wardens were told by the Town Council to pay the £85 of Griffith’s wages which had not been paid to him over the past two years. Once he had been given this cash settlement, Griffith had promised to leave. March 1707
Griffith at long last departed, a mere ten short years after being told to do so. And now, Richard Johnson…..
The new Headmaster, Richard Johnson, seems to have been, for the first five years or so of his reign, a vast improvement on his predecessor. Johnson was the author of an impressively long Latin poem describing a horse race on the Forest Recreation Ground, which was then called “The Lings”. Here is the site nowadays:
Race meetings used to take place in July of every year, and they attracted prominent people from miles around. Here is the Racecourse in the late nineteenth century:
In 1708, the race was won by the Earl of Cardigan on his horse, Carlessus. Johnson’s long Latin poem mentions the Duke of Rutland, Sir Thomas Willoughby of Wollaton Hall and Sir Thomas Parkyns of Bunny. It refers specifically to the fact that, because of the recent outbreak of smallpox in the town, comparatively few women were present…
“Now, to enhance the glories of the race,
See, many lovely women bring their grace.
Yet others, eager for the festive day,
With tearful prudence choose to stop away,
Lest swift and dreaded pestilence arise,
And desecrate that loveliness they prize.”
Here is another, mid-Victorian view of the Forest Racecourse with two boys, who may well have been members of the new High School. Notice the distant footballers busy playing in the middle of the racecourse:
The newly appointed Headmaster, Richard Johnson, gave so many promises about how well he would perform in his new job at the Free School that it was decided to improve his living quarters and to build extra classrooms for all the new pupils who were bound to be attracted by the extreme excellence of this new Headmaster. Plans were already afoot to appoint two more members of staff, namely a second Usher and a visiting Writing Master, giving an overall staff of four. That should cope with the almost countless hordes, all eager for a free education of a very high standard.
(This won’t end well. It all sounds like pie in the sky to me.)
Very little is known about what happened in the school in the years between 1711-1718, but, as an expert on the subject, I was 100% right about the pie.
The Council now sought to sack Richard Johnson, given that they thought he was a madman:
“…for all or most of the time…he very much omitted and neglected to teach and instruct the Sons of Nottingham….For the space of three Months and upward, he hath been, and is now, Delirious and Non Compos Mentis. He is incapable of performing and executing the Office of the Headmaster of the said school.”
Certainly, Johnson had fallen ill in 1714. He wrote ….
“I suffered such pains in my limbs that for a whole year I could not sleep without the aid of opium.”
(A drug addict running the school. That’s just what we need.)
More seriously, though, Johnson does seem to have suffered from a certain amount of ill health. The Town Council’s motivation for removing him from his position, though, may have had more to do with politics than any touching concern for his welfare or the school’s success. They conceivably exaggerated the Headmaster”s medical problems to create a trumped up charge of incompetence, which could then be used to remove a political thorn from the Town Council’s side.
Inadmissible circumstantial evidence it may well be, but Johnson’s difficulties certainly seem to have begun not long after the national Jacobite rebellion in 1715, which was led by the so-called “Old Pretender”, James Stuart. Here he is in his younger days:
Nottingham was a Whig town, and Johnson may well have been a Jacobite. Around this time many other schoolmasters throughout England lost their jobs because they were Jacobites.
For whatever reason though, madness, drugs or politics, the Town Council tried to throw Johnson out. Johnson may well have spoken to his predecessor, Edward Griffith, though, because he decided that the best policy was, quite simply, to refuse, point blank, to leave.
(If that happens, just ignore the situation, and bring in another Headmaster of your choice)
August 11th 1718
The Town Council appointed William Smeaton as Headmaster.
(In that case, Jacobite Johnson, just ignore them. Take no notice whatsoever)
August 12th 1718
Johnson refused physically to leave the school.
Later on in late 1718 or, more probably, early 1719
Fed up with the whole situation, Sulky Smeaton resigned in an apparent fit of pique, and eventually got out of Dodge, never to be heard of again.
The Council then appointed a local man, William Saunders, but at a much reduced salary. A legal action to eject Johnson from the school was taken, but in court Clever Clogs Johnson did not bother with a lawyer. He conducted his own defence with great skill. He duly won his case:
Johnson explained to the court how unreasonable it was to leave a man of his advanced age penniless in the world, and asked that he be given a decent reference, so that at the very least he could go elsewhere and earn an honest living. At one point, Councillor Abney, knowing of Johnson’s previous mental frailty, accused him:
“…what has happened to you is what Felix said of St.Paul ; much learning has made you mad.”
Johnson replied to the Councillor
“…you will never go mad from the same cause.”
(That got a lot of laughs)
The school now had, arguably, more Headmasters and ex-Headmasters than pupils. There were only five students left. The Deputy Headmaster, George Bettinson, taught two, and Johnson, gallant to the end, did the lion’s share of the work with the other three. Indeed, there were so few pupils that they could well have had a couple of windows each:
Very soon afterwards, the Town Council was again repeating its charge that Johnson had been delirious for the last eighteen months and that he was, to use the technical terms of psychology, as mad as a fish.
Finally, though, a compromise was reached. Johnson would leave and in return, he would be paid a pension of £10 a year for life.
William Saunders, the Town Council’s very, very recently appointed choice for the job, was now told that he too had to leave town before sundown.
later in 1719
Thomas Miles was made Headmaster.
(Problem solved !! Result !!)
Thomas Miles did not take up the post.
Amazingly and incomprehensibly, Thomas Miles said he didn’t want to work in an atmosphere of such considerable confusion. There was no confusion with the boys, though. Their parents voted with their feet. Numbers were still exceedingly low. On a good day, classes could have fitted inside a telephone box, if they had only been invented. Here is the site of the very confused Free School. No traces remain nowadays of the original building on the corner of Stoney Street and Barker Gate. Look for the orange arrow:
Next up to the plate was John Womack, a Bachelor of Arts from Corpus Christi College at Cambridge University, no less. I have been unable to trace if he was related to Bobby Womack, but this is still a superb soul classic. Enjoy:
Neither John Womack nor Bobby Womack held the poisoned chalice for long. John Womack died in April 1722. By now, the school was well on its way to six headmasters in three years. It was beginning to look like an unsuccessful football club.
But then the knockabout fun of “The Free School meets the Crazy Gang” came to an abrupt end.
Richard Johnson, Headmaster Number Two in a Series of Seven, Johnson the Madman, “Mr Delirious”, “Mr Non Compos Mentis”, “Jacobite” Johnson the Opium Addict, the Drug User, went out one day into the Nottingham Meadows, found a small stream which ran through it, and then, in a fit of despondency, he apparently drowned himself:
A witness spoke:
“of the extreme horror of meeting, one evening as I was walking in the Meadows, a venerable grey-haired man, carried dead on a stretcher. It was Richard Johnson. He appeared to have been sitting on the bank of the river, and was found in shallow water with his head downward.”
The incident was even reported in London newspapers:
“They write from Nottingham that some days since, the Reverend Mr. Richard Johnson, lately Master of the Free School there, being a little Melancholly, took a walk into the Meadows, and drowned himself in a Pit near the Old Trent.”
Here is the old Trent Bridge of the time, the so-called Bridge of Hethbeth:
Despite his apparent suicide, Johnson was eventually allowed to be buried in consecrated ground. He was probably given the benefit of the doubt, and his death was adjudged to be an unfortunate accident. And indeed, he may have had some kind of seizure or fit, perhaps brought on by trying some of those Ecstasy tablets which contain dog de-worming substances. (Unbelievably, yes, some of them do.) Equally, if Johnson’s death were suicide, then it may well have been decided that he was insane at the time he committed the act.
All of these strange circumstances have led a number of historical analysts to suggest, though, that Johnson’s burial in consecrated ground came about, not because his death was not the result of suicide, but because somebody knew very well that that his unfortunate demise was actually murder. Consider some more circumstantial evidence. Johnson was an awkward so-and-so as his appearances in court show only too well. He was a political problem as a possible Jacobite, eager to see a different monarch in place and a return to Roman Catholicism. He was a financial burden to the Town Council with his Golden Goodbye of a pension of £10 a year for life.
Shadowy figures might well have decided that their own lives would be easier with one less Johnson in the world. One fewer ex-Headmaster above ground. Scratch one Jacobite. The questions are there to be asked. Why the mysterious drowning? Why did a man racked with pain in all his limbs go for a long walk at the side of a river? How did he then manage to drown in the “shallow water” of a “small stream” ?
If only one sadly missed detective had been around:
Whatever the reason, this era marks probably the lowest level to which the school has ever sunk.
For years and years afterwards, wary of appointing another highly qualified and learned man who might turn out to be a second Johnson, the Town Council limited itself to local men, whose good character was well known, even if that meant that they did not have any university experience.
During this period, in the summer, the classes used to begin at 7 am, and then continued until 11 am The afternoon then began at 1 pm, and finally finished at 5 pm, or even later, if the Master so decided. From October 14th to February 14th, school started at 8 am, and finished at 4 pm. It was a six day week, but the Master was allowed to grant holidays and extra playtimes up to twelve hours per week.
(Not a bad deal. Twelve hours free every single week, if you feel so inclined! Twelve hours!)
A poignant plaque in St.Mary’s Church has always been considered to be a description of the education given at the Free School. I have translated it from Ye Olde Englishe:
“ Here lies interred
Henry eldest son of John
Born 22 July, 1708
Deceased January 3, 1718.
In these few
and tender years he had to
a Great Degree made himself
Master of the Jewish, Roman
and English History, the
Heathen Mythology and
the French tongue, and was
not inconsiderably advanced in
the Latin ”
Not quite the end! Let’s not forget, John Swaile. He succeeded John Womack, and steadied a very shaky ship over the next nine years, 1722-1731. He did, however, have his problems with George Bettinson, the Usher or Second Master , who, after serving under six different headmasters in just two and a half years, was well used to running the school himself, and did not take kindly to some fool of a new Headmaster trying to give him orders. But that, as they say, is a different story…
This photograph shows the High School Officer Training Corps in 1915. I have previously written about what happened to the teachers in the years after this iconic photograph was taken.
This time I want to write about the fates of some of the boys. You might be forgiven for thinking that these twelve individuals are all far too young to have left the school, joined the army, trained as officers, gone to the Western Front and then been killed. But you would be wrong. Three of these young men were to perish. And this, tragically, is a much better casualty rate than the rugby team of Boxing Day, 1913. On the other hand, though, it is still a staggering 25%!
On the back row of the photograph are, left to right, F.A.Bird, J.R.Coleman, D.J.Clarkson, J.Marriott, A.W.Barton, G.R.Ballamy, S.I.Wallis and W.D.Willatt.
On the front row are, left to right, L.W.Foster, V.G.Darrington, Second Lieutenant J.L.Kennard, Captain G.F.Hood, Second Lieutenant L.R.Strangeways, G.James and R.I.Mozley.
I have not been able to find information on all of the boys in this photograph, but here is what I have come up with:
In January 1918, the school magazine, “The Highvite” carried a list of the school prefects, with their nicknames. They included the Captain of the School, F.A.Bird (Dicky) and A.W.Barton (Fuzzy). Both of them feature in the photograph.
They seem to have been very good friends and we have already noted their advertisement “for poisons, the quality of which was endorsed by Mr.Strangeways”. I know nothing further of Mr Bird except that his first name was Francis and he was the best friend of Harold Arno Connop, a Flight Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service, who was killed at Dunkirk on Sunday, March 31st 1918:
Arthur Willoughby, “Fuzzy”, Barton had an unbelievably varied life. In his last year at the High School, he was Captain of the School and during the First World War, he became a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers Signal Service, until he was demobilised in December 1918.
Arthur then went to Cambridge University to study Physics and helped Lord Rutherford to split the atom. He became a top flight football referee and officiated in the only football match that Adolf Hitler ever watched. I will be telling you his story in another blogpost (Fuzzy Barton, not Adolf Hitler).
Arthur had been, however, the recipient of a gangster type extortion racket in the early part of his school career. The Prefects’ Book records that on Tuesday, October 27th 1908:
“…A meeting was held at 2.30 p.m. in the Library. All the prefects were present. M.M.Lyon was reported for bullying A.W.Barton during the preceding day. He had tried to make Barton accompany him home & as Barton refused, he dragged him along Forest Road towards Waverley St. Lyon also hit Barton with the knob of his umbrella on his head just behind the ear. This blow had raised a big lump on Barton’s head. Lyon only allowed Barton to go home on receiving a promise that he would bring him a penny in the afternoon. As Barton did not bring the money, Lyon thrashed him again in the afternoon.
Lyon admitted the offence, & was treated as a first offender & received 6 strokes.
On the next day, however, Mr Woodward told the school captain that Lyon had treated other boys in a similar way, & had obtained 2d, from J.B.Cooper. Dr.Turpin stated that he had warned Lyon previously, & threatened him with expulsion on a repetition of the offence. Mr Dark had also complained about Lyon’s bullying propensities. H.J.Hoyte reported Lyon at the end of the summer term for swearing, but Lyon had not been punished as he was away from School. Taking all this into consideration, the prefects offered Lyon the alternative of 15 strokes or expulsion by the Doctor. Lyon chose the strokes.”
Richard Inger Mozley was born on May 10th 1898, the son of Albert Henry and Laura Mozley. He entered the High School on January 14th 1908, at the age of nine.
In the School Register his address is given as Grosvenor Avenue, Mapperley Park (1908), and then later, “Hollies”, Burton Joyce, Nottingham. One other website gives the family address as 17a, Woodborough Road, Nottingham. His father, Albert Mozley, was a Coal Merchant.
Richard was a Sergeant in the O.T.C. and, as such, was recommended for a commission in the Army both by Captain Hood and by the Headmaster, Dr G.S.Turpin. Richard had already applied himself to the O.T.C. of the 3rd Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, but they were already vastly oversubscribed, and he duly joined the 3rd York & Lancaster Regiment.
He was then attached to the 36th Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry):
During the course of “Operation Michael”, the Germans’ last do-or-die effort to win the war before the Americans began to influence the outcome of the conflict, Richard’s unit was assigned to defend the Forward Zone. Richard himself was stationed in the forward trenches, but he and his colleagues were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers of the enemy. They perished more or less to a man.
Richard was listed as missing, presumed killed, on March 21st 1918. At the time he was nineteen years of age:
By the time he died, he was living in Hoveringham and his parents remained at the “Hollies”, Burton Joyce. In due course, a letter arrived from Sergeant Crenston:
“When Lt. Mozley came back to the Coy. in Dec. last, he took charge of “A” Section and I being the section Sgt. was nearly always with Mr. Mozley and when in the line that terrible morning 21st March Mr. Mozley, myself and about 19 others were in the same position and dugout, the most forward position of the Division, 4 guns with us; at about 4:30 the barrage started. We were being pounded most cruel with gas and high explosive shells but we stuck it till about 9 when your son was hit …… a piece of shell penetrated Mr. Mozley’s right breast …… I helped to bandage your son and asked him to get down to the dressing station a short distance away (it was a nasty wound and it would have got him home) but no, he refused to go, saying I will see it through Sergeant.”
“Now this splendid spirit and example inspired us all and setting our teeth we all determined to stand by to the end …… The first indication we got of the German approach was a death scream from one of the boys and after that my memory is nearly a blank for we all seemed to work by machinery, Mr. Mozley and self took up positions with revolvers and did our best, we were however surrounded by the Germans, a bomb or shell burst amongst us and I found myself with a wound in the back feeling dizzy”.
“Now as to what happened to your son I cannot say”.
Richard has no known grave and is remembered on the Pozières Memorial. This was one of his buttons:
John Roberts Coleman was the son of John Bowley Coleman and Florence Annie Coleman of 29, Derby Grove, Lenton Sands, Nottingham. His father was a schoolmaster. John was born on April 16th 1899 and he entered the High School on September 23rd 1909 at the age of ten. He was a Foundation Scholar in both 1911 and 1914. He left in July 1916 and became a Second Lieutenant in the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers. In the era before antibiotics, he died of pneumonia in Tourcoing, after the end of hostilities, on November 26th 1918. He was only nineteen years of age, and this fresh faced young man had seen so very little of the world beyond mud, blood and death.
He is buried in Pont-Neuville Communal Cemetery in Tourcoing.
Donald James Clarkson was born on May 11th 1899. He was son of James Clarkson, whose occupation was listed as “a manager”, and his mother was called Alice. The family lived at “Wyndene”, which is now Number 52, Caledon Road, Sherwood. He entered the High School on September 23rd 1909, at the age of ten. He was always known by his many friends as “Pug” because of his upturned nose.
Donald played for the Football 1st XI as a goalkeeper during the last ever term of the sport at the High School. He was a replacement for Roy Henderson, who, by his own admission “..did horribly.., conceding eight goals… for the First Team in an away game at Trent College.” Both of them were in the Fifth Form, Year 11, at the time. In one unrecorded year, Donald was also the High School Fives champion. This is the Fives Court, which was demolished during the 1980s.
The only other specific mention of him that I have been able to find is in a rather surreal report about a meeting of the Debating Society on Saturday, February 27th 1915, when the school magazine stated that “Mr.Barber was glad Mr.Clarkson had a long arm.” Perhaps you had to be there.
Donald left in December 1915, and then seems to have gone to University College, Nottingham where he immediately joined their Officer Training Corps. After that, he went to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst where, in his passing out examination in early 1918, he was placed first of all the candidates in the college and was awarded the King’s Sword and the King’s Medal.
On April 23rd 1918, Donald became a Second Lieutenant in the 1/6th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters.
Just four months later, Donald was killed in action on August 9th 1918. He is buried in Fouquières Churchyard Extension in France. This cemetery is in the village of Fouquières-les-Béthune, about one kilometre to the south-west of Béthune in the Pas-de-Calais.
Donald’s death is commemorated on the memorial of University College, Nottingham’s Officer Training Corps as well as the High School’s war memorial.
Like the two other casualties in the photograph of the OTC, he was just nineteen years of age.
I was a teacher in the High School for thirty eight years. Neither there, nor in the rest of my life, do I ever recollect knowing anybody who was called “Clarkson”. On the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, a simple search for any casualty with the surname “Clarkson”, in the Great War, in the Army, yields 226 results.
In the Victorian era there were hardly any birdwatchers in Nottinghamshire. Most ordinary people seem to have been too busy just living their lives to have a hobby such as watching birds. Among the richer individuals such as the landed gentry and the nobility, their particular interest was not watching but shooting birds:
Even so, the very fact that they enjoyed shooting birds would actually have led them to develop some identification skills, however rudimentary, if only to avoid shooting a species which was out of season, or the same species over and over again:
At this time, there was great interest in having a large collection of stuffed birds or animals. Here again, identification skills would have been important:
The earliest actual birdwatcher in Nottinghamshire seems to have been a man called William Felkin junior who lived in Nottingham from at least 1845-1870. Like his father, he was a lace manufacturer, but he became a Fellow of the Zoological Society and possessed a collection of stuffed birds of some 313 species. In 1866 he wrote the first ever book about birds in the county, entitled “The Ornithology of Nottinghamshire”. It was incorporated in Allen’s “Hand-book to Nottingham” published in the same year. This, I believe, is William Felkin senior. Hopefully. he looked a lot like his son:
A contemporary of Felkin was William Foottit of Newark-on-Trent (fl 1840-1860). He was the local Coroner and ordinary people from miles around would bring unusual birds to him. Foottit was a frequent contributor to “The Zoologist” magazine:
In 1869, clearly an outdoorsman of some competence, William Sterland of Ollerton wrote the marvellously entertaining “Birds of Sherwood Forest”:
This book contained many anecdotes, and a number of records of rare birds. Sterland was the relatively uneducated son of a “grocer/ ironmonger/ tallow chandler/ dealer in sundries”, and, when the great man deigned to review it, his book was slated by Edward Newman, owner of “The Zoologist” magazine :
This was possibly because Sterland was a frequent contributor to “The Field” magazine, a fierce rival of “The Zoologist”:
It is more likely, though, that this was a slightly more complex issue. Newman had himself left school at sixteen to go into his father’s business. Now he mixed with some of the most prominent scientists and zoologists in the land. I suspect that if Newman’s well healed and well connected upper class friends found out that William Sterland still worked in his Dad’s village grocer’s shop, they might well have been strongly reminded of the humble origins of Newman himself.
Unabashed, though, in 1879, William Sterland produced “The Descriptive List of the Birds of Nottinghamshire”. Needless to say, Edward Newman still had quite a few buckets of bile left to throw, but all the local newspapers in the Nottingham area really liked the book.
Sterland’s collaborator in this venture was a young man called Joseph Whitaker, now universally acknowledged as “The Father of Nottinghamshire Ornithology”. Whitaker (1850-1932), the son of a farmer, was born at Ramsdale House, nowadays a golf centre and wedding venue to the north of Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:
In later life Whitaker moved to Rainworth Lodge, a large country house with a lake, slightly further north in the county. Look for the orange arrow:
Here, he was known to one and all as the man to contact about birds in Nottinghamshire, whether it be a member of the nobility or a simple farm labourer who had found an unusual bird dead in the road as he walked to work:
Whitaker would travel around Nottinghamshire by horse and trap to see various interesting species of birds, or to talk to people who had seen, and/or shot, unusual birds on their estate.
Whitaker wrote a number of books about nature, including “Scribblings of a Hedgerow Naturalist” and “Jottings of a Naturalist: Scraps of Nature and Sport on Land and Sea”. His finest title was most assuredly “Nimrod, Ramrod, Fishing-Rod and Nature Tales”. I believe that the young lady on the front cover of the book is the maid, rather than Whitaker himself:
Whitaker was a frequent contributor to “The Zoologist” and in later years to the newly fledged “British Birds” magazine:
Before the rise of the pager, the mobile phone and the Internet, this publication was the only way to announce the presence of rare birds.
Whitaker also corresponded with his social betters, the Lords and Ladies whose many estates were the origin of the expression “The Dukeries” to describe north Nottinghamshire. There is a large collection of Whitaker‘s letters in the local collection at Mansfield Library. As well as the nobility, Whitaker also exchanged letters with many of the great ornithologists of the Victorian era, the men who wrote textbooks on birds, either in Britain, or in Europe as a whole. Joseph Whitaker’s greatest triumph, though, was a book entitled “The Birds of Nottinghamshire”, which he had printed privately in 1907. It contains information about every single species of bird which the author knew to have occurred in the county. In Mansfield Library, we still have Whitaker’s own copy of this book, to which he has had a professional bookbinder add extra pages. In this way, the great man could cut out interesting stories from newspapers or magazines and then just paste them in. Alternatively, he could simply handwrite in any interesting items of bird news which he had gleaned. Unfortunately, I have been able to trace only four photos of Joseph Whitaker, none of them as a young man. In all of them, he has a reassuringly large walrus moustache:
Whitaker’s greatest claim to fame was the Egyptian Nightjar which was shot in 1883 in Thieves Wood near Mansfield by a gamekeeper called Albert Spinks. At the time this poor lost individual (the bird, not the gamekeeper) was the first known sighting in England, and just the second in Europe. Even now, a hundred and thirty years later, only one more has been seen in this country. Whitaker erected a stone to commemorate the event but it was smashed to smithereens in the 1980s (to celebrate its centenary, presumably) and replaced by a wonderful modern sculpture costing well in excess of £8.50:
The bird itself was stuffed and, as an item of immense prestige, it went into Whitaker’s enormous collection. After his death, it eventually finished up in the foyer of Mansfield Library, safe behind highly reflective glass.
I thought it might be quite interesting to bring to a wider audience some of the birdwatching anecdotes which Whitaker mentions, both in his original book, and in the very many additions which he made to it. In future blog posts, therefore, I will bring you the true story of the famous Egyptian Nightjar and any number of other notable birds.
One final point is that the Nottinghamshire of the Victorian era was a very different place to the Nottinghamshire of today. The current Nottingham ring-road was just a muddy footpath alongside the Daybrook. Had our own suburban house existed then, there would have been no other private houses in sight in any direction. Just Bagthorpe Prison, Bagthorpe Hospital and the City Workhouse. It is amazing just how few people must have been alive in the county at that time.
A second final point is that many of these early ornithologists would not have had optical aids of any great standard, whether binoculars or telescopes. They may have had nothing beyond the Mark One Eyeball. In addition, they may have had no access to identification books, where they could carefully check what they had seen. This is why, if the presence of a rare bird was to be proven beyond doubt, it had to be shot. That is the origin of that grand old saying, “What’s hit is history, what’s missed is mystery”.
On Wednesday, April 22nd 2015 at 1.00pm, yet another High School Sports Day will begin. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to purchase, in an online auction, the aging programme which was sold (not given away, as they are now) to spectators who turned up at the School Ground in Mapperley at 2.30 pm on Wednesday, April 5th 1930. The programme was priced at 3d, which is around 2p in decimal money. We have already seen the long walk along Mansfield Road to the sports ground. Look for the orange arrow. The High School is in the bottom left corner of the map, near the meeting point of Mount Hooton Road and Forest Road East. The school is the incomplete beige rectangle which is outlined in black:
I found it extremely difficult to scan this aging document. I have therefore divided it into a long series of smaller scans where, hopefully, all of the print will be large enough to be legible. An unknown parent has gone through each event and added the order of the finishers, and, in some cases, the performance they achieved. I taught at the High School for almost forty years, and how familiar are some of the boys’ names! I suspect that they may have been the grandfathers, or even great grandfathers of some of my own erstwhile pupils.
Here is the top of the front cover. The school badge is the same as nowadays, and so is the Latin motto. What I do not understand, though, is the presence of two swastikas. And they are proper swastikas, right-facing ones and not Hindu good luck symbols or badges taken from the horse bridles of the Lakota Sioux. And I don’t know why they are there. Perhaps the event had a secret sponsor:
This is the bottom of the front cover. Three pence from so many different spectators must have been a nice little earner:
Here is the second page, with the names of the two track judges. Nowadays there are twelve of them. but in 1930 things were a lot more sedate. The Brewills were a family with at least two famous athletes (G.F. and G.W.) who, in the latter years of the Victorian era, had both achieved a number of triumphs at national level in both sprinting and hurdling . A.S.Brewill had been the commander of the 7th Sherwood Foresters throughout most of the Great War. Almost thirty years previously, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 25th 1903, our current track judge, E.Brewill, had participated in the School Sports held at the same venue. Along with G.F.Brewill, he had been a member of “The Past” (Old Boys) tug of war team against “The Present” (Masters and Boys). The latter were a team of three boys, namely R.Marrs, W.Oldershaw and H.A.Watson, and three masters, Messrs Hughes, Jones and Yates. The Old Boys soon pulled the School over the line, but were found to have included a seventh member of the team, J.Johnstone. (Cheats!!!) The result was overturned, and the School soon won a fair contest by 3-0. (Hurrah!) Tinsley Lindley was a very famous figure in High School history and in the history of Nottingham itself. He will perhaps warrant his own blog post one day:
I have been unable to find any background information about J.H.Scothern, although there was a “Scothern” who played amateur football internationals for England before the Great War. As a frequent team mate of the High School’s Olympic Gold Medal winner, Frederick Chapman, both for Oxford City and for England, he would certainly have known him, and probably Tinsley Lindley as well. This bottom half of the page, with its list of House Colours, attests the presence of boys from both the Main School (the four on the left) and the Preparatory School (the four on the right):
Here are the first two events, with winners and times, the latter expressed as fractions (much more of a challenge than those silly decimals):
H.W.Bellamy was a misprint. It should be H.W.Ballamy. Even here, more than ten years later, the Great War’s foul tentacles stretch out. Harold Ballamy came from a poor family. His father was a commercial traveller. Harold won many school prizes such as Silver Medals for Mathematics and Science, and Dr Gow’s Prize for Geometry. He was Captain of Football, Secretary of First Team Cricket, the School Librarian, the Colour Sergeant in the Officer Training Corps and the Captain of the School.
At Cambridge University, he won the Bishop Open Exhibition for Natural Science. He obtained a First Class Degree in Mathematics. He then changed to Natural Sciences, where he was placed first in the whole University of Cambridge. What more ideal choice, what better qualified man, to put in charge of a pile of mud near the village of Passchendaele ? And then he was killed:
And now, Events 3, 4 and 5. I have taught a Wildgust and a Weinberg:
And I have taught a Sharman and a Lawrence. I wonder who the latter was related to. And why don’t they have “Throwing the Cricket Ball” any more? Health and Safety, I wouldn’t wonder:
Notice that the High Jump was an Open Event with no age restrictions. I think the pencil mark means that the winners both achieved equal heights:
And here are the next events, except that another foul tentacle reaches out and grabs another victim. Captain Frederick Cuthbert Tonkin lived at 13 George Road, West Bridgford. He represented the High School at football, cricket and athletics. He interrupted his Dentistry studies at Guy’s Hospital to enlist and was killed on November 4th 1918, only seven days before the end of the war. He was just 24 years old:
There were two long jumps, sensibly based on height, rather than age:
Why don’t they bring back the Sack Race? H.C.Wesson, by the way, had been Captain of the School in 1928:
I just don’t know how the Tutor Set relay races worked:
Another Open Event, with no age restrictions:
An obstacle race. Much more fun than boring old athletics!
And another Sack Race. You can’t have enough of them, I say. Have you noticed how the parent has gradually began to lose interest. Fewer pencil marks. Fewer performance times.
Two more tug of wars. Or should that be tugs of war? Or just tugs? Sounds like fun for everybody, though. W.H.B.Cotton was a hero, a genuine hero, as well as a record holding athlete. Spending his holidays in Glamorgan in Wales in 1928, he had managed to rescue two sailors from a ship which was sinking, just offshore from Porthcawl:
The back of the programme is a grid where all the keen and interested parents can keep the inter-house score, event by thrilling event:
And that’s it! The Annual Athletic Sports were over for another year. And, indeed, the days of holding them at Mapperley were over for ever. The Valley Road Playing Fields had been purchased for £5.600 in 1929. The ground had been levelled, the marsh had been drained and they were ready for athletic action by Thursday, April 30th and Saturday, May 2nd 1931. But that, as they say, is another story.