January 28th 1921


JANUARY 26th 1921

A schoolboy, whose name was not divulged, speaking the inaugural lines at the opening of the World Service Exhibition at the Town Hall, Oxford. This youth was intended to represent anonymously the spirit of youth as the Unknown Warrior represented the spirit of sacrifice in the War.

The photograph and caption above are from yesterday’s edition of the ‘Daily Mirror’ and is of great interest to us all here.

Just why a schoolboy came to open this prestigious event and how he was chosen was reported in another local newspaper (the ‘Nottingham Evening Post’) a few days ago:

“The schoolboy’s rank or wealth will not be considered. His only qualification will be a voice that can be heard throughout the town hall. The decision to select the anonymous schoolboy followed the inability of the Prince of Wales, owing to the pressure of his engagements, to open the exhibition, which aims at improving conditions of life throughout the world. A prominent exhibitor will be the International Labour Office, whose ideal and function is the methodical improvement of world labour conditions.”

We are quietly very proud of our own young Per Mallalieu (aged 12) who is the ‘anonymous schoolboy’ in question.

The inaugural lines he recited in opening the event (which runs until February 6th) were those of  ‘The Trust’ by Dr Cyril Alington:

They trusted God. Unslumbering and unsleeping
He sees and sorrows for a world at war,
His ancient covenant secretly keeping;
And these had seen His promise from afar,
That through the pain, the sorrow, and the sinning,
That righteous Judge the issue should decide,
Who ruled over all from the beginning - 
And in that faith they died.

They trusted England - Scarce the prayer was spoken
Ere they beheld what they had hungered for -
A mighty country with its ranks unbroken,
A city built in unity once more;
Freedom's best champion, girt for yet another
And mightier enterprise for Right defied,
A land whose children live to serve their Mother - 
And in that faith they died.

And us thy trusted: we the task inherit,
The unfinished task for which their lives were spent;
But leaving us a portion of their spirit
They gave their witness and they died content.
Full well they knew they could not build without us
That better country, giant and far descried,
God's own true England: but they did not doubt us - 
And in that faith they died.

Per has had plenty of practice recently, having just played the role of Macbeth in our annual Shakespeare production, alongside Esmé Vernon as his Lady.

Esmé Vernon and Per Mallalieu

The ‘Oxford Chronicle’ reported that “Esmé played the part of Lady Macbeth with great and feeling power, whilst Percival Mallalieu as Macbeth did splendidly. He knew his long part perfectly, and acted and spoke with intelligence and effect. His appearance was perhaps too youthful and amiable, and indeed he obeyed his fierce Lady in looking ‘like the innocent flower,’ but at the same time there was a good deal of ‘the serpent under it.’”

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