Parry Gold Medal
The Parry Gold Medal is the most prestigious academic prize conferred at Boston Grammar School. It is awarded annually to the highest performing student in the Upper Sixth. Recipients' names are recorded on dedicated display boards in the school library.
1875 - Origins of the medal
In 1875 it was announced that Thomas Parry, who had been unseated on petition after winning the secondary Boston parliamentary seat at the previous year's general election, had vested the sum of £1,200 in trustees to provide a number of scholarships to Boston Grammar School and a gold medal, "to the value of ten guineas", to be awarded annually to the best scholar of the year.
It was, said the Boston Guardian, "a charitable act... unparalleled in the wisdom of its conception and in the admirable purposes which it has in view".
At Christmas speech day in 1875 the first gold medal was presented; it had, said Major Hopkins, who made the presentation to his "old friend Fred Pattenden" been "fairly and honourably won". The Rev George Coltman, rector of Stickney, who gave the address referred to Parry's "truly noble and magnificent gift". Fred Pattenden was "not allowed to share in the distribution of prizes, because he was the headmaster's son", but his poem and that of Richard James Newcomb - both entitled "Visit of the Prince of Wales to India" - were read by the headmaster.
1942 - When gold was not gold
Extract from a letter by John Dickson dated 2003
I was awarded [the Parry Gold Medal], ...in 1942, just as I left to go to Cambridge. I hasten to say that winning the medal that year was not an indication of outstanding merit. The second year sixth form had only two or three members and I, alone, was the third year sixth. The Head had little choice. However the interesting point was that I was awarded a bronze (gold) medal. Although the previous year's winner received a gold, gold medal. By 1942 the nation's finances were such that gold could not be used for such frivolous purposes. I was promised that after the war I would be given the 'real thing'. When the dust of war had settled, my father and I enquired about this, to be told that as a result of the 1944 education act the expenditure of money from endowments such as the Parry Medal fund for frivolous matters such as medals was now forbidden. Retrospective action could not be taken. [I think] my position is unique; I was told that gold medals were awarded again in latter years of the war...
2005 - The first female winner
Boston Grammar School is predominantly a boys' school with three girls who entered the sixth form in 1954 believed to be its first female pupils. This trend continued intermittently until the sixth form became fully co-educational in the late 1990s. Subsequently the proportion of girls in the sixth form has steadily increased.
Sunita R Deshmukh became the first girl to be awarded the Parry Gold Medal in 2005, achieving what had previously seemed the impossible feat of following in the footsteps of her brother, Sandeep R Deshmukh, who won the medal in 2002. Sunita later related that the first time she looked up at the Parry Gold Medal board in the school library she saw "SR Deshmukh" and thought for a moment her name was already there when of course it was her brother's. Two years later her name did indeed join Sandeep's on the roll of honour.