Floreat Bostona (book)
Cover of Floreat Bostona (black with gold lettering)
|Author(s)||George S Bagley|
|Subject(s)||The history of Boston Grammar School|
|Publisher||The Old Bostonian Association|
Floreat Bostona - and still flourishing
George S Bagley wrote this article in the 1985 issue of the Bostonian.
I wouldn't want to shout it out too loud, but there's only one word to describe my academic record at BGS - undistinguished. History was the one subject in which, with all modesty, I may say I was a cut above the rest. Even that, I must admit, was not due to any inherent brilliance, but simply to the fact that I was interested and so prepared to 'swot'. 'Swotting' was somethign which (to my later regret) I was not willing to do in subjects in which I had little or no interest.
My history master was Hubert Turpin, a man of many fine qualities, I have little doubt, but with one obsessive bete noire: he never (well, hardly ever) stopped lecturing us about the deficiencies of the local newspapers.
He was very probably right. But it just so happened that the classmate who was hottest on my heels in the history exam results and I both became newspapermen, a regrettable lapse for which, I suspect, we were never quite forgiven.
Now, all of this had more or less vanished from my memory until about five years ago, by which time my main hobby was local history. It so happened that one day I needed some information about BGS, and the only readily available source was the little booklet 'Tilly' (Turpin) had written to mark the 400th anniversary of the granting of the School's charter in 1955.
I read it through (it took only a few minutes), and decided that if I couldn't produce something a little more worthwhile, I would be an even bigger disgrace to my alma mater than I already knew myself to be. An unworthy thought, maybe, but perhaps it was the subconscious recollection of all those classroom jibes about the Fourth Estate... After a couple of restless nights, I decided to have a go; and so I invited Jim Howes, (then President of the Old Bostonian Association) to lunch to test his reaction. Jim was full of enthusiasm and undertook to 'sound out' the Foundation Governors and the OBA: financial backing and all manner of other help would be needed if the project was to get off the ground. (And may I say, in parenthesis, what magnificent support both bodies gave).
I 'got cracking', though probably I would never have done so had I realized fully the vast amount of work it entailed. Boston Corporation's minute books yielded much essential information about the appointments and resignations (and 'sackings') of masters and ushers from the time the School was established on its present site in 1567. But much more background information was needed to 'clothe' such stark facts, and, unfortunately, the School's own archives are decidedly sparse - sorry, Mr Headmaster; it's not your fault...
As a result, I had to travel far and wide, to the British Library in London, more often to the County Archives' Office at Lincoln, more often still to Stamford and Spalding to consult newspaper files. All pretty time-consuming and tiring; but how satisfying when some unexpected discovery (and there were a good many) suddenly transformed a shadowy figure from the past into someone one could identify with. Of course, my wife thought me quite mad - and her judgements are not often far wrong!
The reaction to the book? Well, no-one has yet told me to my face what a bore it is, though this would not trouble me in the least; after all, I've had my fun, researching and writing it, and seeing it through the various stages of publication.
I've had a fair sprinkling of congratulations from Old Boys, ranging from a bishop to - no, Smith, not an actress... Old Boys mainly, it has to be admitted, not particularly interested in history as such, but pleased to chat about their own schooldays.
One thing, I must admit, has disappointed me: the almost total lack of response from the present staff and boys. Can it be that they are still in a communal coma, indiced by the effort of reading it?
Now for the 'plug', and a plea. They (sic) are, as I write, still a few copies left, but only a few, and no reprint is planned. So don't delay, buy today! When all are sold, there should be about £1,500 to hand over to the School. My 'author's perk' is the privilege of deciding how this should be used. Any suggestions will be most welcome - even if not acted upon!
According to his son, Matthew, the late Ron Ledbury, former education officer for Holland, and divisional education officer for Boston and Spalding following local government reorganisation in 1974, criticised George Bagley for appearing not to have spoken to anyone from the local authority to get their perspective on the school and the issues it faced. He considered this to be particularly relevant for the period after the school came under direct control of the LEA in 1955 because it couldn't afford to fund the building improvements which were very obviously needed.
Northampton versus Northumberland
On page 1-2:
Henry VIII was “succeeded by his ailing son, Edward VI… As a result of the enactment of a Chantries Act early in the new reign, all the former Boston guild lands and possessions were confiscated by the crown... The remainder, formerly belonging to the guilds of Blessed Mary Virgin, SS. Peter and Paul, and the Holy Trinity, went to William Parr, brother of Henry’s dowager queen, and now lord chamberlain and Marquess of Northampton, who duly demanded, and secured, ‘all the late guild lands that perteyned to the corporation’.”
We know that Northampton was the owner of the land because he is named as such in the Letters patent, reproduced from an authoritative copy on page 255. He is indeed brother of Catherine Parr (the dowager queen).
Since we are talking here of when Edward VI first came to the throne, which was in 1547, it seems that John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland was Lord Great Chamberlain around this time, not Northampton, who got the title in 1550. So maybe this, together with their closeness contributed to George Bagley’s confusion? He continues:
Clearly he is now confused, as Lady Jane Grey is married to Guildford Dudley, John Dudley’s son. Even considering the possibility of “daughter-in-law” meaning something different to the current meaning (it can after all mean what we would call “step-daughter”) doesn't help. Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary.
So on page 2 of Floreat Bostona, “now lord chamberlain” may not be entirely accurate and “his daughter-in-law” is certainly incorrect.
There is a minor typo in a quote from Nicholas Carlisle's 1818 "A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools in England and Wales". It should read "But there is no house appointed for the residence of either the master or Usher." - this has been checked with the on-line text.
Another minor typo exists on page 75 where the quote from the Improvement Committee should read "from the year 1803 the school appears to have gradually declined and the actual number of boys at present in the school learning Latin is reduced to ten".
Secretary of State
Bagley writes (page 236) that the Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1977-8 was Barbara Castle, when it was Shirley Williams. This error is repeated on pages 245 and 246. He also writes (page 246) that after the 1979 general election the Secretary of State was Norman St John Stevas when it was Mark Carlisle.
Appendix D - Assistant Masters
On page 268, Paul Nguyen Van-Tam initially left BGS in 1980, not in 1979 as stated. This is confirmed by students of the time but is also strong indicated by the report on the CCF Royal Naval Section in the 1980 issue of the Bostonian.
On page 269, the correct name of a master who served at the school between 1975 and 1978 was Conor Regan McGaughey, not Cornelius, which is understood to have been a nickname given to him by the students.
Speech Day Guests
On page 273, Appendix G. The speaker at the 1922 speech day was R Cary Gilson, not Gibson as stated.
The speaker in 1972, George V Cooke, was at the time the Director for Education for Lindsey County Council since Lincolnshire County Council did not come into being until 1974, when he became its first County Education Officer.
First winners of the Arthur Hill Memorial Prize
On page 303, note 14 states that the first winners of the Arthur Hill Memorial Prize were R M Sheehan and E A Hackford in 1957. Those two pupils did indeed win the prize in 1957, but that was not the first year the prize was awarded. It was first presented in 1956 to T A Gibson, R M Sheehan, D Jones and E G Ostler
- Floreat Bostona - Not the tuck shop - the Old Bostonian Store