Hum Lynam (Skipper’s brother and the magazine’s editor 1896-1901) observed that the Draconian differed from other school magazines, whose “raison d’etre is to enable Johnny to see his name in print and for Johnny’s mother to point it out to less fortunate mothers.”
It was originally not the school’s magazine at all, as it was started by three Old Dragons who were at Winchester: Robert Johnson, Robert Holland and Henry Spurling. They wished to keep in touch with fellow Old Dragons and the object of their magazine was “to tighten the bond of union between friendships that would otherwise be severed… to hold constantly before the minds of all old Dragons the duty they owe to their old School, and to remind them that it is their after successes that are conclusively to establish the real worth of the teaching at that School.”
The first edition came out in 1889, and Skipper was happy to encourage such a venture. However subscriptions failed to cover the costs and the boys got into financial difficulties. So in 1893 Skipper agreed to take it over.
Old Dragon rugby, hockey and cricket matches were all written up; life achievements and publications were recorded along with births, marriages and deaths.
Old Dragons were also encouraged to contribute letters, articles and poems to the magazine.
“Ye noble brains, that deign to patronize This paper, here you have a sweet surprise: For now, you see, the Journalistic Muse Doth sing not only of Draconian news, But enters on a literary sphere, To which, she hopes you’ll lend a favouring ear.”
And so, Old Dragons were used to reporting their experiences back to Skipper and Hum well before the Great War. Hum was even happy to include the occasional humorous send-up:
“My Dear Hum,
I know you always like to hear what O.Ds are doing in the great world outside; so, as the only O.D now in prison, I think I have a claim to be heard. I write this in the customary manner, with an old toothpick, on a scrap of paper hidden carefully from any gaoler, and with my own blood…
After breakfast we go out and dig drains in the country. It is a healthy and pleasant occupation, and brings back the old, old days when I was ‘proxime accesit’ for the Gardening Prize (Under 10). I took a walk the other day – at least it was more like a run: but a warder came up and made a race of it. I held him well at first, but he kept a little in reserve, and just caught me in the straight. So I am still here….
I like the fellows I work with very much. They have all led interesting lives, and are singularly free from social prejudice and from merely conventional morality…
I hope to be out next year, unless they send me to Broadmoor. That is a very nice place, and in charming country, but they say its intellectual level is lower. When I come out, I shall, of course, be delighted to come and lecture to the School on my experiences…
Through the war years the editor was GC Vassall, who had joined the staff in 1900. As with many OPS teachers, he acquired a nickname: ‘Cheese’ – a play on his initials. Up at Oxford he had been both the President of the Athletic Club and Captain of the Association Football Club. He won the University Long-jump three times and was second in the Amateur Championship of 1899. In 1904 he played for the Corinthian XI which defeated the F.A Cup holders, Bury, 3-1. He was good enough to be selected to play for England, but he turned this opportunity down to play in the Varsity Match with which it clashed.
He taught both Classics and English and was to become one of Skipper’s greatest supporters.
Under his editorship, Old Dragons wrote back from all the theatres of war and indeed were pleased to receive their copies of The Draconian even when in the trenches. The magazine was in its way a social networking phenomenon of the time.