July 21st 1920 – Prize-giving Day.
The Prize-giving this year was decidedly the best we have ever had; and it was a great joy to me to be present among the audience (for the reason, see below). If I had realised that Hum was such an orator he would have been turned on on many previous occasions!
We were also delighted to welcome back Jack Smyth, fresh from Buckingham Palace (again) to give away the prizes. He was kept on his feet some time as there were some 182 of them!
The final presentation was that of the Somerville Officers’ Cup. As required, it was awarded to the boy who ‘has the most gentlemanly bearing and best influence on other boys’ as decided on by the vote of the whole school. This year’s winner is Francis Wylie, who sadly leaves us now to go to Rugby.
Our guest then proceeded to make his speech and Old Jack’s soldier-like “few words” were exactly all that was wanted to complete the success of the day, including, as it did, this touching tribute to the school and those we have lost:
“I needn’t tell you how much we ODs who are stranded out in India look forward to coming back to the OPS. There is something quite different about the OPS from any other preparatory school I have ever heard of. Someone said at the Old Boys’ Dinner that the remarkable thing about the OPS was that ODs have almost as much affection for it as they have for their public schools. Well, I should like to go one better and say that, as far as my experience goes, ODs have more affection for the OPS than they have for their public school. And to say that is to say a great deal, because I have never known a preparatory school where that has occurred before.
Before I left India I met one or two people who had just returned from leave in England and they gave one rather a depressing account of things at home. They said that the old spirit of unselfishness and cheerfulness which had burnt so brightly during the war, had rather died out, that our sacrifices in the war had been forgotten, and that there was generally rather a spirit of Bolshevism abroad. Now, I’m glad to say I haven’t found that at all. We as a nation are not given to talking sentiment and weeping for sorrows that are past, but I think that the sacrifices England made in the great war have been in no way forgotten because we don’t talk about them, and I know at any rate that the wonderful example set us by that gallant band of ODs who so gladly and ungrudgingly laid down their lives for their country in the great war will be an ever existing memory at the OPS.”
They will indeed not be forgotten. A brass, prepared by Messrs. Mowbray, is already fixed in the School Hall. It gives the names of our lost ones in the order in which they fell. Hopefully our Memorial Cross will be ready for its installation on the banks of the Cherwell before the end of the year.
Lastly, why was I in the audience this year?
At the age of 62 and after 40 years schoolmastering in Oxford I feel that the School should be run by younger men, so I have got Hum to be Joint Headmaster, and am leaving the greater part of the management of the School to him. He with the stalwarts, GC Vassall and Lindsay Wallace, with the help of Mr Haynes and the younger men (not forgetting the ladies) will, I am certain, maintain the traditions and carry on the success of the School.
I still hope to spend some happy years in the position of (shall I say?) Warden of the School – and do some teaching and supervision and to keep up intimate connection with Old Boys and Girls – but I do not want to interview or correspond with new people; I cannot pretend to know intimately all the boys as I have always done in the past, and I do not mean to interfere with details or with general management. I once heard a splendid little girl of 9 say, when it was suggested that she should carve a ham, “All right, give me plenty of elbow room and NO ADVICE!” meaning of course, “no interfering and unasked-for advice,” and there is much justice in the demand!