Miss L. E. Williamson, B. A. (Manchester) Former History Mistress of R.G.S , and Member of the I.O.M. Board of Education
The story of Ramsey Grammar School is the epitome of many of those grammar schools founded in the 17th century after the major upheaval of the 16th century religious Reformation in England. It is unique in the Isle of Man because, in some form or other, it can claim to have served the community for almost three hundred years.
It was early in the 17th century that merchants and gentry as an act of charity, often provided an endowment, coming from an annual charge on land, which would furnish a School house and master's salary (perhaps also that of an usher). With this offer went the nomination of trustees to supervise the school and appoint the master. Allied to this evidence of middle class prosperity and philanthropy was the Church's concern for a more educated clergy.
As so often, there was a time lag between changes in England and the Isle of Man. The impetus in the Island came from Isaac Barrow made Bishop (1663-1669) and next year, Governor (1664-71) by Charles, 8th Earl of Derby, Lord of Man following the Restoration of the Stuarts. From Barrow's exertions came the Royal Bounty, the Impropriations and £600 collected from English church dignitaries, nobility and gentry (names listed in I.O.M. Charities, W. Gill, (1831) of which moneys Mr Cholmondeley of Vale Royal in the County of Chester and William Banks of the County of Lancaster, were made trustees.
Ramsey was one of the six 'convenient' places to be granted money for a petty school i.e. one where English was taught before going on to Grammar School. M.S. documents of 1675 and 1680 refer to the difficulty of getting the moneys due under Bishop Bridgman (1671-1682) who received various petitions from the people of Ramsey. Developments but the same financial problems continue under Bishop Baptist Levinz (1684-92) who writes, October 13, 1687, to Thos. Cholmondeley, Squire of Vale Royal "I bring you humble thanks from our poor Islanders for your extraordinary favours to them, they have only one more favour at present to begg and yt is yt ye sum of moneys in your hands (which I think is neer 200 lb) may be put to use for theyre benefitt, with will bring in some 10 lb a year and this may be set aside as a salary to provide a school master for Ramsey." The inhabitants of Ramsey later ask that Mr Jon Parr, deacon, who teaches the free school "in ys place should be allowed to read divine service" and a Diocesan Register M.S. (Feb. 21, 1688) records that Thos. Allen, vicar of Maughold, has condescended that Mr Jon Parr, Schoolmaster, shall be curate to readyn Divine Service in St. Mary's, Ballure. Next year he was ordained priest, a sequence to be followed by many headmasters in the next two hundred years. In a letter from Oxford, Nov. 5th, 1690, Levinz says, "I have written to Mr Cholm'ly. . about Ramsey School and he is willing to continue the 10 o Salary to ye schoolmaster" and adds a postscript about a schoolmaster he hopes to get for C'astleton, "a very ingenious man, a Master of Arts of this University . . . a neighbour of Mr Cholmley."
The next appointment to the See was that of Thomas Wilson (1698-1755) who also had to put pressure on Cholmondeley to get the £10 referred to as a specific endowment for Ramsey School. Very significant for the School's story is the licence to teach granted to Thomas Woods and perfectly preserved in the Manx Museum. "These are to authorize you, Mr Thomas Woods, one of the Academic Youths of this Isle, to teach a Grammar School in the town of Ramsey, as also to instruct the children committed to your care in learning the English tongue and in good and pious manners and in particular that you teach and require them to learn and say their private prayers daily and to enquire strictly of their parents whether they do so ... You are hereby likewise required to warn the youths and children under your care against falling into the vices of the Place where they live such as . . . cursing and swearing, and taking God's holy name in vain . of tippling and drunkenness and especially of drinking Brandy which is a vice not easily left off . . . and . . you are hereby empowered to receive such sums as you may by law demand of the children's parents (over and above the Royal Bounty and Salary belonging unto the School in the town of Ramsea) or as you shall agree for, for teaching them to write and cast accompt
. Given under our Hand and seal this 16th day of May, A.D. 1743. And of our Consecration the fourty sixth." This concluding section indicates a continuity between the 17th century school and that of the 18th, bearing a title still in use. It Supports Rev. John Quine's description of Ramsey Grammar School "as an ancient foundation with a small endowment, originating in the 17th century. "Or again, another 20th century Manx scholar and educationist, Mr Ramsey B. Moore, during his campaign for a seat on Douglas School Board, referring to the alienation of endow-ments, particularly one of the early 18th century said, "the petty schoolmaster of Douglas was then (i.e. in 19th century) the master of the Grammar School. (I.O.M. Times, 21.11.1908).
It was in the 18th Century that the £10 was commuted for that value of salt to be sent yearly from a salt works at Winsford owned by Mr Cholmondeley and when, in 1766, the works were sold to a Mr Wood, these two gentlemen and Bishop Hildesley were parties to a deed by which the £10 grant for Ramsey School was safeguarded. On the death of Mr Wood, his affairs "were thrown into chambers" where they remained. In 1803 the last £10 worth of salt was received by Rev. Henry Maddrell, Chaplain of St. Mary's, Ballure. Efforts to obtain the endowment subsequently failed and when Lord Brougham's Commissioners, from 1818 onwards, were making their detailed enquiries into the use of legacies left for the benefit of the education of the poor etc. they reported that as far as the Island was concerned, all were being properly used "except in the case of Ramsey School."
After the second restoration of St. Mary's, Ballure, Bishop Wilson forbade the school to be held there (1747) but in 1762 Charles Cowle and his wife conveyed land to Rev. J. Crellin and his two wardens for the purpose of erecting "a chapel and schoolhouse for the clerk and children of the town of Ramsey and for such other purposes as the ordinary, the Chaplain and wardens. with the captain and six of the principals of the town of Ramsey (population 782 in 1771) shall at any time hereafter think fit to appropriate same to". In his "Tour through the Isle of Man" (1797-8) Feltham mentions, what would today be described as a purpose-built school in College Street, "the school house which goes with the Chapliancy is forty foot long and seventeen foot wide" and an Act of 1813 mentions Ramsey as havine a commodious house for a School, a dwelling house for residence of the master and a garden for his use."
The Rev. Henry Maddrell (1790-1803) was the master when Captain Mark Wilks advised the Vicar of Maughold and father of his nephew, Mark Cubbon, to move the boy " to Mr Stowell's at Castletown" where he thought there would be more effective preparation for a military career in India, and whom Mark, later in life, wished "had taken more pains to flog Latin into me". Ramsey was growing quickly early in the 19th century and when the new church of St. Paul's, was built (1822) the trust deed re-stated a traditional relationship when it said, " the chaplain must secure in the town (population 1,523) a well-conducted Grammar School and if he declines management he is to find a qualified person to be licensed and approved by the Bishop. Both clergy and trustees varied in conscientious perform-ance of their educational duties, dangerous when there were so many 'private academies'. (As late as 1863, Thwaites mentions seven) springing up less devoted to the study of the classics. There were exceptions e.g. Rev. Archibald Holmes (1825-43) when the number of pupils got down to 14 in 1838 recruited Mr Richard Mark, who had run his own academy but stayed at R.G.S. till 1857. Rev. Holmes was succeeded at St. Paul's by Rev. Wm. Kermode (1843-71) who was a tower of strength especially after Rev. W, C. Sparrow resigned as Headmaster in 1865.
At a higher level, in 1849 Bishop Lord Auckland circulated to vestries the draft of a bill "to determine the trustees of the Grammar School in the town of Ramsey" and in the Act of 1850 they were named as the High Bailiff, the Vicar of St. Paul's and its two wardens. Their minute book for 1863-1922 contains no entries for 1873-78; 1879-81; 1883-1888 and 1911-1917. They seem to have met in 1878 and 1881 because things had got to a stage when something had to be done. Actually in 1878 the Trustees were henceforth to be the Bishop, the High Bailiff and the vicar of St. Paul's under whom were to be four managers; J. C. LaMothe M.H.K. (who with all his family and relations received his early education at the School); Dr. Wood; Mr Thos. Teare, draper and Mr John Hampton, post-master (the inclusion of the last two is significant of social change), The High Bailiff's suggestion in 1889 of regular meetings was not acceptable, as Mrs Blanchard said, "the Trustees didn't trouble them" (1911-22) nor had Mr T. R. Kneale (1883-1888) seen much of them which he deplored, while the Rev. A. S. Newton really only had to consider parents, his customers.
These parents are described in various documents as 'the elite', of 'the respectable families residing here' from 'the best families of the Island', 'those who could afford to pay to separate their children from those of the other classes' in short, of 'the Establishment.' No wonder that outspoken witnesses at one of the early 20th century Commissions of Enquiry said that caste and sectarianism were the curses of Ramsey. They made massive efforts to defend their position. The 1850 Act empowered the newly-defined Trustees, "to sell the inconveniently placed school-house and premises and invest the proceeds until such time as other money can be found to provide premises more eligible for a Grammar School." A mammoth bazaar was held to Ballure Glen (19.7.1860) whither crowds came by boat from Douglas and Whitehaven, by carriage from Douglas and Peel and on foot. With C501 profit the Trustees bought part of Joe's Lough, which stretched from Market Square towards the new approach road to Ramsey, from F. D. LaMothe (13.12.62); had plans drawn up, contracts placed and on May 10, 1864 the Foundation Stone was laid by Governor Loch, accompanied by his wife, in the presence of 2,000 people according to, the three column report in the 'Manx Sun.' Already it was clear that more money was needed so a second two-day bazaar was held (23.7.64.) in "the charming umbrageous rural retreat of Claughbane" by permission of Rev. Wm. Kermode and his second wife. Part of the Lough was sold for £460 to Misses Cubbon (10.6.1864) who wished to build alms houses as a memorial to their brother, Sir Mark Cubbon, then the School's most illustrious alumnus who had died on his way home after a distinguished career as H.M. Commissioner (Governor) in Mysore (1834-61). Mrs Cecil Hall, an Archdeacon's widow and a generous patron of education, subscribed £25 and loaned £150 at 4%.
As so often happened with English Grammar Schools in the 19th century the new buildings did not bring the desired increase m pupils. The Rev. W. C. Sparrow living at Auckland House with a wife and three children, four maids, the young German master and five pupils as boarders (detailed in 1861 Census return) and the curacy of St. Paul's realised that R.G.S. was not a paying proposition "for a School conducted at the sole risk of the Headmaster" so he left after less than a year in the new premises. The German master, Otto Wickert, also left to start his own Collegiate school in Belmont - but the trustees. realising that there wasn't room for two such schools, persuaded him to join forces with Mr Henery as joint-Head of Ramsey Collegiate Grammar School, an arrangement which lasted one year (1872-73) after which Mr Wickert carried on with the help of an assist-ant and of OR.'s who as Deemsters, High Bailiffs, External Examiners etc. rallied round at the Annual Speech Day with flattering remarks. Numerous applicants for the headship came, saw and declined the position. Mr Wickert sent in his resignation in 1878 and finally in 1883.
In this chequered period other challenges to the School were evident. Rev. W. Sparrow's successor had changed its title to Ramsey Grammar and Commercial School, evidently with the idea of wooing more customers; secondly, in 1875 a Wesleyan Day School was opened by the growing number of thrifty if not over-affluent members of that church. In many small rural communities in England such new denominational day schools, asking smaller fees and offering a wider curriculum e.g. elemen-tary Latin and French, than the National School had the same effect on the Grammar School as in Ramsey, where the numbers fell from 67 in early 1872 to 30 in 1876. Incidentally from 1872 there is preserved P. G. Ralfe's Daily Record of Appli-cation to Study and General Deportment with about 25 subjects and such things as Cleanliness and Conduct at Worship to be filled in (they were not!) for six days a week. In 1876 Thomas R. Kneale at the age of 12 won a Barrow Scholarship of o25 to King William's College. From K.W.C. he went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, graduated M.A., became Maths master at Epsom College and in 1884 returned to his old school as Head-master - at age 20! Youth and loyalty to tradition did not prevent him from resigning in 1888. At his last Speech Day he mentioned that numbers had fallen to 25, of whom most were very young and some only stayed two quarters. Although a third bazaar (1877) and Christmas Tree (with goods left over) had enabled all debts to Mrs Hall and local tradesmen to be paid off and the play ground to be finished (surfaced?) Mr Kneale could not get any repairs done. Mr LaMothe said there was "not one penny of endowment nor any fund to provide for necessary repairs" and the Rev. G. Paton added "the trustees could not afford to whitewash the school." Mr Kneale was not lost to the church and education, because he was soon ordained, ultimately to become Rector of Ballaugh; was a member of the Andreas School Board and served on the Central Education Authority until his death in 1935.
Why didn't the School die in 1888? First of all, because a new Bishop (Wareing, 1887-92) took his duty as a trustee seriously, went through the fifteen applications, classified them A, B and C, read out the testimonials of the two he had classified 'A' and persuaded his colleagues to invite A. S. Newton, B.A., to Bishops-court for an interview. Offered the post, the candidate sent a refusal; the other in group 'A' was called, but before a final decision was taken, a letter was received from Mr Newton allowing his application to stand. About a year, later when interviewed for a Headship in Staffordshire he was placed second. The R.G.S. trustees "were flattered but relieved."
The Rev. A. S. Newton, B.A., (for he was soon ordained after a course at Bishop Wilson's Theological College and became curate of St. Olave's) stayed fifteen years, but his impact on the School and his pupils continued long after his departure.
He was a man of tremendous personality, vitality and drive; a realist, well aware of contemporary trends in society and therefore in education; a man of decision who saw what the School needed and got it done. Imagine what the impact of the forty pupils he brought with him from Leeds Middle Class School where he had taught for nine years must have been on the twenty pupils he found in R.G.S. When he produced figures show-ing the annual increases in total number of pupils and especially of boarders so that he intended to move his home and the School to two empty twenty-six roomed houses on the Mooragh Promenade the Trustees were powerless. One murmured that they alone were responsible for running a Grammar School in Ramsey, the others decided that their duty was to safeguard the institution for the education of their children (class?) even though it was to all intents and purposes a private academy (which again often happened in England) which the proprietor had to make pay.
The Rev. Newton extolled what was good from the past especially "Sir Mark Cubbon, that really great Manxman and Old Ramseian whose faithful performance of duty, industry and integrity are the qualities we try to inculcate." Esprit de corps was fostered for each new boy was given a booklet "Helps to young schoolboys" and on the inside cover was the never-for-gotten text, "He did it with all his might and prospered". (II Chronicles Ch. 3 v. 21); in 1890 he announced what is still the the School motto "Nil amanti difficile" freely translating it "Where there's a will there's a way". There were two Honours' Boards treasured as late as the 1950s), the School colours were black and white (stripes for football jerseys and black cap with white monogram), a long list of school rules, breach of which could bring " detention which interferes with the recreation of the lazy" (A.S.N.) and "much use of the cane, wielded by experts" (an O.R. who died in 1970). Chemistry was taught (the Lab., the room over the front door) ; music lessons from Miss Cannell and shorthand by Mr Cowin from the 'Courier'; School concerts and plays were frequent; in response to a suggestion from an O.R. exiled in S.W. Africa a School Magazine appeared in Nov. 1900 but its life was three issues in 1901 and one in 1902. Newton was a fanatic for sport; a corrugated-iron gym (now a barn at Balla-terson) was erected behind the houses, the football pitch was a hundred yards or so away and matches were played against teams from the National and Wesleyan Day School; hockey matches against Miss Farrington's Young Ladies: regattas and swimming galas; but the outstanding social occasions for the Establishment were the School cricket matches at Rheast Moar.
He was proud to have started with twenty local boys and to have built up a se hool of between eighty and ninety pupils, but he once described himself to a Commission of Enquiry as of "the so- called Ramsey Grammar School". He was aware of the growing threat from the Higher Grade School in Douglas with its better provision for Science teaching but the immediate harsh economic fact was the failure of Dumbell's Bank which led to the with-drawal of many pupils whose parents could no longer afford to pay fees which varied between £6 and £8 a year, according to age and subjects taken. There was a farewell function at the Mooragh Hydro on Dec. 17th, 1903, arranged by OR.s-many from his unique fifteen years' stay at the endowed (?) Grammar School which but for him would have gone the way of Castletown and Douglas Grammar Schools. In their future lives and careers most did honour to this "strong-minded Christian master with a belief in his mission" and they went forward determined that there should always be provision for higher education in Ramsey.
The next Head, Mr B. Watts, brought the School back (1906) to Waterloo Road after the building had been done up with the rents accumulated while it had been an Infant's School. He was persona grata at Government House from which the Hon. Nigel Somerset attended. In 1908 Mr Ernest Popham-Crosse and his brother, Mortimer announced their take-over with a scheme for three vocal music scholarships, tenable for three years open to boys between 9 and 12 years of age, with a good ear and voice. These two dandies, with their twirled moustaches and opera cloaks, gowns and mortar-boards and commanding physical presence changed the school colours to scarlet, revived the swimming club and gave at least one boy "a love of the French language which I have never lost." After three of the most strenuous years in their teaching careers they departed with characteristic éclat by inviting " all students and their mothers to a fancy dress supper party at 7 p.m. . , . fathers and other relations may come at 8 p.m."
The ferment in England which led to the Education Act of 1902 caused the Manx Government to invite Mr Cyril Jackson, late chief Inspector of the Board of Education, to report on Secondary and Higher Elementary Education in the Island and there he says (1906) of R.G.S. "the School is not aiming high. Latin and French are begun in the third class . . a few theoretical Science lessons are given to Classes IV and V, about 12 hours a week. The School is insufficiently staffed and equipped and there is little hope of success under present conditions." "Townsman" in a letter to 'The Courier' (4.2.1910) asks "What advanced education is there for a young man in Ramsey? Our Northern Higher Education Board has done practically nothing, valuable lives are passing along, neglected, unimproved and with-out opportunity for progress . . Anyone who sees the number of boys going up to Douglas by train and car, not only to the Secondary School but even to Douglas Grammar School must feel that Ramsey is sadly behind."
The Northern Higher Education Board had rejected levying a rate of 2d in the o in favour of 4d which, from the whole area, produced o90 spent on Supplementary Classes in gardening and cookery and some winter evening classes, generally taken by the Head teachers of the village schools for an addition to their salary of £20. The Council of Education hoped that "the efficiency of the Elementary Education would not suffer from this new develop-ment." As early as 1905, the year the Board School in Albert Road was opened, a House of Keys' committee reported that the estimated cost of a new secondary school for 120 pupils would be o3,600 if the Waterloo Road site was used "as a gift from the Trustees" but adding o 400, the cost of the site in the 1860s, if it had to be bought. When H.M.I.s suggested new buildings for the Eastern District Secondary School (formerly the Higher Grade School) in Douglas, to serve the whole Island, at a conference (2.3. 1912) the Northern representatives dissented because of the hours spent travelling every day and the break-up of family life if children had to stay in Douglas during the week. They were backed by a growing number of middle-class parents, many of whom had never attended the Grammar School, but were ambitious for their children in a changing world. The spokesmen were O.R.s like T. B. and P. Cowley, Hugo and Cecil There; pro-ducts of the other day schools like J. B. Clague and R. G. Corkill: farmers and clergy like Arthur Cottier and Rev. J. H. Cain. whose vision was "The North must provide a secondary school in its own area. We are not advocating cultivating soils which are unculti-vatable but common manual work for some and for others the spade and the hammer and all should, in addition, be helped to live a full life by awaking them to large and human interests."
Eight years elapsed before the Education Act of 1920, by which the powers and duties of School and Higher Education Boards were vested in a Central I.O.M. Education Authority which first met on Dec. 14th, 1920. Six months later (29.6.21) it appointed a committee of six (three from the North) which discussed the whole question of Secondary Education in the Island with Mr Carson, H.M.I., who visited various buildings and schools in Castletown, Peel and Ramsey. It decided to proceed first in the Northern district:
1-renting the Wesleyan Day School on a five year lease with the option of extension.
2-to take over and incorporate the existing R.G.S. . . . for the purpose of laboratories.
3-to buy a suitable site near the town for playing fields, with a view to the erection of a new Secondary School (within a reasonable time." Of the six, only a Mr Costain from the South dissented.
On Sept. 10th, 1921, the existing trustees of R.G.S., Rev. M. W. Harrison, M.A., Rev. S. N. Harrison and High Bailiff LaMothe met in the latter's office to consider the C.E.A.'s proposals andresolved that the buildings of R.G.S. with gardens and play-ground attached be transferred to the C.E.A. for the purposes of Higher Education, together with the right to apply the name R.G.S. to any Secondary School hereafter to be established and carried on in Ramsey or neighbourhood by the C.E.A. on condition that -
1-it obtains the approval and consent of the present Head-master to such transfer.
2-the buildings be kept in good order and repair and insured against fire.
3-C.E.A. defray all legal charges.
4-if necessary apply for modification of trusts (this was done by Act of Tynwald, 1923).
5-Religious instruction in R.G.S. shall be subject to directive of the Religious Instruction committee of the C.E.A.
The £910 originally voted from the Accumulated Fund to furnish the new State Grammar School had to be increased by £774.
The endowed Grammar School died and rose phoenix-like with dignity, in large measure due to the people involved. The last Head was Mr W. E. Blanchard, B.A. (Dublin, Inter), B.Se. (London) who began his duties in April, 1911, married in St. Paul's Church the following August 5th. Agnes. his wife, taught in the School from the September. A gentle unassuming -couple, they were devoted to the School and to each other. After an interval of six years, the trustees had to meet on January 2, 1917, to consider Mr Blanchard's letter of resignation "on account of his wife's health." As they had only o3.17.5 in the Bank, the Rev. M. W. Harrison was empowered to spend not more than o5 on advertising for a successor but to try and persuade Mr Blan-chard to stay. "He remained" is the terse footnote to the page, in the Vicar's writing. The Blanchard$ inherited Miss Graham, who was in charge of a Kindergarten until she moved it to other premises in 1916 but their great innovation was announced in a "Courier" advertisement (17.1.13): "A class for girls will be held and although an entirely separate department these pupils will be taught by the several members of the staff." A boy pupil of the time, affirmed fifty years on that "they were well segregated ... confined to their room facing the front entrance, certainly we boys never saw them." Incredible! Another youth who stayed on as an assistant until 1916 "occasionally took a class of girls, but found no great pleasure in teaching them." He wrote in the 1960s that "the curriculum was roughly on the lines of the modern Prep. School . . sufficiently wide to enable a reasonably intelli-gent boy to get into St. Bees', Stoneyhurst or other Public School, though the entrance to these was much less difficult than it is today, certainly in my own subject, Latin. Mrs Blanchard took English and French and "was a first class teacher", Mr Blanchard who taught Arithmetic, Geography and History "was very effective when he first came and had the respect of the boys but later seemed to deteriorate", were testimonials in middle age from two of their pupils. These "at one time numbered ninety-nine but never a hundred, according to Mrs Blanchard who also said that "consent to the transfer was written in a green-backed (they introduced green and black as the school colours) book, handed to Mr White", a fact confirmed by the new Senior Mistress.
The time produced the man in the person of Mr W. F. White, B.A., B.Sc., of Loughborough who came out of the 1914-18 war with the rank of sergeant-major and was in 1922 a thirty-nine year old Maths master at Ulverston Grammar School. Mr Carson, H.M.I. concurred in their choice with the Governors, many of them the men who had fought so hard for greater opportunities for the children of the North of the Island. They were not to know that Mr White was to devote the remaining twenty-two years of his professional career to their service. His ambition, or rather, mission, was to create a School which should be comprehensive, in whose spirit rather than its exam. results he could rejoice. Planned for 225 pupils (there were 91 boys and 117 girls when the first 'general inspection' was held in 1925) it was comprehensive though not on the scale of the 1970s for in addition to those who got the highest marks in the 'Scholarship' exam., those with lower marks were admitted with help from Parish Endowment Funds and a minimal entry test was given to those whose parents could pay the £5.5.0 (increased to £6.6.0 in 1924) yearly fee. The first intakes came from families which never before had had the opportunity of anything beyond a Board School education, some from the endowed R.G.S., several, especially girls, from various 'private' schools, a few transferred from the Douglas Schools to which they had been travelling.
The School functioned in three separate and quite inadequate buildings. In the biggest, the former Wesleyan Day School, the H.M.I.s reported "the Headmaster's office, 8' x 4', is the only room reserved exclusively to the Grammar School, where certain stores must be kept and interviews with parents and staff are possible; the kitchen is so small as to be almost valueless even for supplying hot water for the midday meal; it is off the Ladies' common-room which is also used as class room, dining-room and for medical inspection." The Library was housed in a tiny alcove behind the dais, between the Head's office and a similar sized vestry, containing only a table round which sat the Sixth Form. Part of the Hall was curtained off to be a Form room the rest served for Assembly, for Music lessons and for Gym (with a box, two balancing forms, a couple of mats and a bar). There was a rough, untarmacced 'playground' at the back of the building and a succession of fields. otherwise used for grazing, were rented for games, the first between Claughbane and the Mountain Road had a vicious slope; the next at Pooildhooie, was subject to heavy flooding; the next, on Lezavre Road, was full of boulders and thistles; the last on Grove Mount, was a long walk from School.
The promised new accommodation did not materialise until 1933 but before the 1920$ were out many boys and more girls had embarked on worthwhile careers, all had shared in a rich social life of school plays, folk dancing, Speech Days, Sales of Work, Christmas parties; the Island had been opened up to them by School rambles, visits to the Museum and above all by Games' and Athletic'$ fixtures with other Schools and organisations.
How was the transformation wrought? By a staff as mixed as the pupils of which the kingpin was the Senior mistress, Miss E. Spencer, whose subject was English and enthusiasm, Drama. Mr and Mrs Blanchard as Deputy Head and her needle-work mis-tress accepted their new roles with loyal dignity. The pupils knew what standards of behaviour and work were expected from those wearing the green, yellow and black cap or School uniform. The parents rejoiced in what was being done for their children and all roads from Laxey, Michael, Point of Ayre led to Ramsey for School functions. The community was united as never before. Young and old were joining in a work of creation, of which the spiritual inspiration came from Mr White, a man with the common touch who shared his gifts and unostentatiously drew others to give better than they knew.
In their 1925 Report H.M. Inspectors remarked that "with adequate buildings, progress should be such as would three or four years ago have seemed incredible." For eleven years the three buildings in which Forms were accommodated, the hired tennis courts and rented fields for games (one owner asked for compensation if the grass had to be cut as it would reduce the grazing value when given up!) became increasingly inadequate. What was achieved was remarkable remembering that those who stood for economy in public spending (especially on educa-tion!) topped the poll in Ayre in the General Election of 1925 and relegated the chairman of the Authority to bottom place of four candidates. World Depression made economy almost a national duty before that Authority had served its term. Numbers increased from 188 to 210, the original two Preparatory Forms for pupils under 11 years of age and admission of pupils as old as 122 were gradually phased out; Forms IV V and a small Form VI were built on the original five Forms of the main school. The 1922 staff of six plus two part-timers very soon became nine full-time (there was prolonged discussion before a Modern Languages' teacher was appointed in 1924) and three part-time. Miss Spencer got o25 increment for her responsibilities as Senior Mistress so that the staff was a Round Table rather than a hierarchy. Under her inspiration, four plays were given at the first school concert (1924) interspersed by musical items from an Orchestra of twelve which included two staff and three pupils. Proceeds went to a fund for travelling expenses of games' teams and Form prizes. At the first Speech Day (1923) Mr Ramsey B. Moore, a dedicated educationist, was the speaker (also in 1929 and 1944) and after the formal proceedings the pattern was set of a group of items which included a scene from a Shakespearean play, Senior and Junior School choirs, teams of Country dancers or Gym experts. The pupils were early divided into three Houses (Red, White and Blue, later re-named Cushag, Raven, Barrule with Senior and Junior sections) and younger members of a family were placed in that to which older brothers and sisters had belonged so that it became a matter of family honour not to lose House points for sloppy uniform, to work hard for House contributions to the School's good causes and to strive to win the House Shield for e.g. football, tennis. Inter-house competition was perhaps keenest on Sports' Day. The first (June 26th, 1924) lasted from 1.50 p.m. to 7 p.m. and included such un-athletic events as Potato, Slow Bicycle, Egg and Spoon, Sack races which disappeared from the programme when the Prep Forms ceased to exist and visiting Gym teachers helped to introduce higher standards. A shield and two cups were handed over by the trustees of the endowed R.G.S., there was an Old Boys' race and others from the Newton era -onwards who helped as time-keepers, stewards, etc., bore witness to the continuity of the institution. Soon the State school was pro-ducing its own Old Scholars who continued to attend meetings of the School Union held after 4 p.m. or to play hockey and foot-ball. In July 1927, news about Old Scholars appeared in the second number of the Magazine, in January 1929 they held their Tennis Club, in September 1929 their own Badminton Club and the same autumn, after hockey and football matches one after-noon, they held the first Old Scholars' Social in the evening with games, dancing, competitions and Mr White singing "Here's to the Maiden." In 1930 there were enough Old Girls to form their own Hockey Club and to initiate Old Boys so that Mixed and Men's teams were fielded from 1932. Shirts were quartered in the School colours green and yellow and a blazer in stripes of green, yellow and black showed the pride O.S. took in their links with the School This had already helped many to graduate in arts and science, to gain Academy qualifications in Music, to complete professional examinations of the Institute of Bankers, Chartered Surveyors, Engineers with the additional award of a gold medal to a girl, the only one who sat and gained the highest marks, who became the Island's first woman Incorporated Ac-countant (1932) and, for the first and last time, to gain in the same year (1933) the Henry Bloom Noble Scholarship (.o100) and the I.O.M. Education Authority Scholarship (o50). These achievements were but the extensions of a school life which also made provision for swimming, chess, netball, cricket, Red Cross work, Girl Guides and whose Head at its 1930 Prize-giving put his statistics on the programme and devoted his Report to a defence of Examinations. In his 1924 Remarks he had hoped that we "are rapidly becoming a worthy School, deserving (I must say it with bated breath) of a new and worthy home."
H.M. Inspectors periodically supported the Head by condem-ning the inadequate premises, but it was not till February, 1930, that Tynwald voted o26,500 for new buildings and asked the President of the R.I.B.A. to suggest an assessor for a design competition. Seventy two plans were submitted, the award went to a Lancaster firm, McArd and Sans' tender of o20,685 was accepted, work on the Lezayre Road site just outside the town boundaries started on February 1st, 1932, and the buildings were occupied by pupils and staff in September 1933. What bliss to be in such a well-planned and relatively palatial building, with extensive playing fields on three sides and beyond, the mag-nificent panorama of golf links, North Barrule and Sky Hill. There were under one roof seven ground-floor classrooms and above an Art room, Physics and Chemistry labs and one in-tended for Biology which however, for at least twelve years was dedicated to History. Then there were Domestic Science and Woodwork rooms, a fine Gym, a combined Hall/Dining room (with Projection room which was never used as such) and kitchen, changing and cloakrooms, store-rooms and five office and staff rooms. Eight hundred people visited the school on two 'open' afternoons in November and the Governor and Lady Butler saw the school at work during the Spring term (1934) before being the honoured guests at Speech Day which had been deferred to March. The Hall would not hold all who wished to come so, after an interval of three years, this func-tion was held in the Palace (later "The Plaza") for the next four years. In 1936 the Hall was embellished by the coats of arms of the Lords of Mann, displayed in Castle Rushen and copied by the Woodwork master the Art mistress and their pupils. Some false economies had to be dealt with: two bicycle sheds were added and the arches of the cloisters opening on to the Quad had to be glassed in after gales had driven winter rains across corridors, under doors and into classrooms. The two hard and grass tennis courts were never satisfactorily surfaced and proper draining and levelling of the games' pitches was not undertaken till after the 1939-45 War.
This depleted the male staff, restricted after-school activi-ties because of the black-out outside and the lack of black-out curtains within the buildings; petrol rationing reduced inter-School games' and athletics fixtures; food rationing meant more austere School dinners and Christmas parties, which now became afternoon functions. Speech Day had to be held in the School Hall, certificates replaced book prizes, massed unison and four part singing by those scholars who could be accommodated when seats had been provided for parents of prize-winners for whom the Cookery mistress could still conjure tea and light-as-a-feather fatless sponge cake. Not all was loss, for the War also brought more involvement with the community through Red Cross work, War Savings and other activities, visits from Ministry of Information lecturers e.g. Bernard Fergusson, one of Wingate's Chindits, and George Eliot's nephew, author Ber-nard Newman. Then there were many new pupils, sometimes, more backward academically but more sophisticated in outlook if they had moved about with fathers in the Services. Those who had been evacuated from danger zones in Britain to live with relatives in the safety of the Island were often miserably un-happy - especially the boys from one-sex schools - but many brought gay variety to the classrooms.
In July 1944, Mr White retired - his twenty two years' Headship, the longest and most memorable in the Schools history. His successor, chosen out of well over a hundred applicants, was Mr H. E. George, M.A. (Oxon), B.Sc. (London), Senior Maths master for nineteen years at Nottingham High School, a direct grant all boys' school. He was the exact opposite of his pre-decessor in the classroom, the school and community. A sincere man, no doubt, but an authoritarian with the trappings and manner of a caricature schoolmaster who alienated many inside and outside the school who cherished those who had created what was felt to be good. Two years after appointment he was to find the School more than doubled in size with the adoption of four years free, compulsory secondary education "according to age, ability and aptitude" for all from the age of eleven. The almost completed new school built on an 8J-acre site a few hundred yards along Lezayre Road from R.G.S. at an estimated cost of o29,596 10s. 9d. had been taken over by the Air Ministry in 1939 so that it was never used, as intended, as a "Central" School for all those who at age 11, could not pass the entry test for the Grammar School. And there were others for, as early as 1934, H.M.I.'s had suggested "The development of an alternative course of study, more suited to some less . . . aca-demic pupils." The Director of Education's memorandum (1946) to the Council of Education said: "There is no doubt that the percentage of admissions-40 per cent to the Grammar School-is far too high for the number of children likely to benefit by the strictly academic curriculum . . pursued in the School in accordance with existing Regulations." So, the two buildings, under one Headmaster, became a bi-lateral (Comprehensive?) School of about 500 pupils, retaining the ancient name, now definitely a misnomer. With the disappearance of the Scholar-ship examination and fee-paying pupils, informal tests held during the last year at Primary School and that Head's report on his pupils were used to place children of supposedly similar ability in one of the four Forms I. In the first term at R.G.S. another test or a decision after Staff discussion could lead to a pupil being moved to a Form more suited to his capabilities and this could be repeated at the end of the first year or even later. Some would question whether such selective placing or streaming justified the description "comprehensive". In order to create a "comprehensive" image, the original graduate staff, now in-creased by many non-graduate teachers from Primary Schools, reduced by the loss of their 11 + pupils, were required to teach throughout the school from Form Id upwards so far as their time-table allowed. Those who walked had to follow a prescribed route which involved crossing Lezayre Road twice but later, reason prevailed and a tarmacced path on the N. side of the football pitch, then across Crossags Lane, was permitted. In many spheres the School was comprehensive e.g. music (vocal and instrumental) drama, athletics, games, literary contributions to Y Feeagh. All were expected to wear the same uniform, follow the same code of behaviour and as a sub or Junior Prefect or House official help to enforce School rules. It was an ad-mirable system in that all the chil ren of the community (with the exception of the very few"ent to K.W.C. or other boarding schools) shared a common experience which could be expected to unite families and in adult life, the ,community.
It was at this time that a Parent-Teacher Association was started with the sole purpose, in the Headmaster's view, of raising money and superfluous, the Senior mistress felt "if the School's extra-mural activities and occasions had been cherished in their previous friendly manner." Only in the late 1960's did it become an active and helpful link between School and parents, provid-ing a platform for authoritative speakers on educational develop-ments and making a great contribution to the success of School concerts and the annual Gilbert and Sullivan productions. These were the enthusiasm of three men on the Staff and have for twenty years been a major co-operative effort, combining artistic talents and practical skills for the cultural education and enjoy-ment of the School, and indeed the whole Island. Mr George retired in 1955 to continue teaching Maths at University level. No doubt many able Sixth Formers benefitted from his teaching at a time when there was an urgent demand for mathematicians.
His successor was Mr G. R. Hovington, M.A. (Oxon), an able teacher of English and Latin who had been acting-Head of a mixed Grammar School in the West Riding. Physically less commanding than his predecessor, his word carried weight, there was less use of the cane and the tone and discipline of the School improved enormously. He joined in playing hockey and tennis with pupils and staff and produced "Iolanthe," so that the School became a happier place. The bond between School and parents, many of whom were former pupils, was strengthened when the P.T.A. was complemented by a revived Old Scholars' Association whose first President was Sir Wilfrid Garrett. He was one of the few in the Newton era who went straight from the School to Liverpool University, but after bridging that wide gap had graduated and risen to be H.M. Chief Inspector of Factories. In keeping with a more middle-aged membership than the youth-ful one of Mr White's day the chief function was an Annual Dinner when the guest speaker was an O.S. from the many who had distinguished themselves at home e.g. Mr C. Kerruish, S.H.K., or outside the Island e.g. Dr. Donald Teare, Senior Home Office Pathologist and Professor of Forensic Medicine at London Univer-sity. The most memorable was that of February 1964, when Mr White, back in England after twenty years in Tanganyika, was re-united with a large gathering of his affectionate former pupils. Recently, the Christmas O.S. Reunion which had been discontinued early in the Comprehensive era, has been revived.
After abortive attempts under Mr Newton and Mr Blanchard, started with the same purpose, the School magazine has pro-vided an unbroken link between O.S. themselves and between them and the School since 1926. Its name "Y Feeagh" (and pronunciation) was suggested by the Venerable Archdeacon Kewley O.R., and a block of a raven, made by a younger O.R. has been used to adorn the green and black cover since January 1939. During the war this cover had to be beige, yellow, blue - what-ever paper was obtainable - the price had to be increased from 6d. - for fewer pages - but twice yearly, the magazine was sent free to all O.S. serving in the Forces. Since the early sixties there has been only one large issue a year - price 2s. - whose wide range of contents pictures the work and activities of a com-prehensive school.
Mr Hovington's qualifications and experience enabled him to obtain the Headship of a much larger comprehensive school in the Midlands and to prepare for its opening in the following September, he left R.G.S. at Easter 1959, later to recruit the Music master and several graduate O.R.'s to his Staff.
Many parents and staff remembered the next Headmaster as a young Chemistry graduate from Manchester University in his first post when the Lab. was in the Waterloo Road premises whence he moved to the more ample accommodation in Lezayre Road. Mr Brierley, B.Sc., B.A. (London), now brought with him several years' experience as a Headmaster in Middlesex. After fifteen unsettled years he was welcomed as one who had come to stay and would continue the work of restoring the tone ana reputation of the School to what it had been pre-1944. His ten 16
years saw notable additions to the buildings. The most sigrnifl-cant was the Library wing added to the Western end of the Senior building at a cost of about o5,000. Between 1891 and 1899 the library of Mr Newton's day had, increased from 80 to 200 books. In 1933 the dispersed beginnings of fiction, several reference and works necessary for independent VIth Form study in Arts' subjects were collected in Room IV (the Sixth Form room) on shelving, the gift of Lieutenant-Commander Parkers, sometime Chairman of the Education Authority. They were augmented by a quota from the Carnegie Rural Iibrary head-quarters in Douglas, changed every six months, and by a 'library' of ten records e.g. Professor Conway speaking passages from Vergil and John Drinkwater "On Speaking Verse." The 1962 extension consisted of a room for reserve and new stock, where rooks could be repaired and a large main room attractively planned, curtained and furnished in light oak by the craftsmen of J. D. Kelly Ltd., Michael, for study, reference, reading of journals and newspapers. Generous gifts from friends, staff and pupils resulted in 7,000 books being catalogued within two years and by 1970 the total was over 8,000. This asset, which many a larger and wealthier school might envy is largely run by pupils, supervised by a member of staff.
Other physical developments of the 1960's underline a century's difference in what is considered necessary for the edu-cation of adolescents. These include three classrooms, a specialist Geography room, showers and modern stage lighting in the Junior building; in the Senior - the modernisation of the heating system and of the kitchen; the adequate equipping of the Biology Lab., the Metalwork and Domestic Science rooms. Child population growth, the proposed compulsory attendance to age 16 make further extensions necessary in the early 1970's, which will include a Community Centre. There were other changes not all of which became permanent; a 'tuck shop' staffed by Forms IVC and D during morning break in the Senior building, here the women teachers lost their separate staffroom which became the Sixth Form 'den' where they could relax in a setting of their own interior decoration. The Sixth were also given greater freedom in the choice of what was acceptable school wear though a greater variety of ties, badges girdles and caps became de rigueur on formal occasions to proclaim their sporting achievements and or rank within the hierarchy of prefects, school captains, house officials. The green blazers were replaced by black ones. Gone were the days of box-pleated tunics and long brown or black stockings for the girls. Shift dresses in green of mini-length worn with beige tights, white ankle or calf-length socks; polo-necked jumpers in winter, scanty vests, shorts, chitons for games and athletics - all looked so neat, functional and attractive. In 1944 there were seven boy and girl prefects, twenty years later the count was:eighteen school prefects, thir-teen sub-prefects and fourteen junior prefects! In 1970 there is no mass 'detention' and paid ancillary staff do all supervision between the end of morning and beginning of afternoon lessons. House marks can be gained for virtues as well as lost for short comings. Formal examinations and lists of positions in Form at the end of each term and, at one period, after January and late June exams., now only occur at the end of the school year reports on pupils' progress based on tests held during the term, are sent to parents at Christmas and Easter. The pattern of ex-ternal examinations has also changed. The School Certificate of the 1920's and 1930's demanded that a subject be taken from each of several groups e.g. English subjects; Foreign languages; mathematics; sciences; art; woodwork, etc. A matriculation which would qualify a student for admission to University was more precise in its subject requirements; Latin was compulsory for Arts' students and a minimum standard in a modern lan-guage other than English, for Science students. After the Second World War, a General Certificate of Education at Ordi-nary (S.C. level) or Advanced (after two years in the Sixth for average pupil) was less stringent in its subject demands. The study of the Classics which since the Renaissance had been the raison d' etre of the "Grammar' Schools, lingering on in the changing industrial society of the 19th Century was now relegated to a crash course in Latin of perhaps two years if urgently required for some particular discipline in some particular University. To G.C.E. was added in the late 1950's the Certificate of Secondary Education geared to pupils of the very wide range of interests and ability to be formed in such schools as R.G.S. The supposedly 'academic' pupil may thus be encouraged to gain an external assessment of subjects which interest him, while the 'non-academic' by success at this level may decide to stay longer at school to sit for the G.C.E. examination. Already about fifty per cent of the pupils are voluntarly lengthening their school life to age 16 and over, so leaving as more mature young people, better qualified to follow, the various avenues of further education and apprenticeships for which financial help is available to the far-seeing pupil and his parents. What a contrast to the 1920's when only intending teachers - but not if they wished to teach Art or Music or Horticulture or attend a P.E. College - were helped financially.
So the School enters the 1970's once again with a Manxman, Mr K. D. Corkill, D.F.C., B.A., as Headmaster and a staff of thirty-two men and women. Some graduates in the traditional Arts and Science subjects, others with specialist qualifications in sub-jects of equal importance in a 20th century Comprehensive School e.g. Music, Art and Crafts, Metalwork, Physical Education, Rural Science. In January 1970, 263 boys and 275 girls are once again (after experiments with 'setting') taught in mixed ability groups, all enjoy the spacious playing fields, the well equipped gymna-sia and showers, instruction at Ramsey's indoor Swimming Pool, the opportunity to play any one of a variety of roles in the many dramatic and musical occasions of the school year. Shared too is guidance in the choice of an ever-widening range of careers e.g. in catering, electronics, computer sciences, social work. It is unlikely that the pupils of today will follow only one career during the whole of their working life in which, it is certain, the machine will give them more leisure and that, for relaxation rather than physical recuperation. School helps to prepare for this new pattern by encouraging individual initiative, in the teaching of most subjects, by the greater attention given to the arts and manual skills and by the 'free-activity' afternoons when Staff and other adults share their extra-mural enthusiasm e.g. judo, genealogy, public speaking, ballet, rock-climbing with all who come. Much is caught rather than taught. The use of the environment in the teaching of many subjects makes for a greater knowledge of the Island where pupils are domiciled but audio-visual aids in the classrooms, visits to various parts of the British Isles for cultural occasions or athletic encounters, School trips to Europe, help to make them more self-reliant world citizens.
Broader based in those whom it serves, wider in its outlook than ever before, through nearly three hundred years Ramsey Grammar School, while reflecting the conditions and satisfying the needs of a changing Society, has managed to retain not only its title but also its essential purpose "the educacyon and bring-inge uppe of youth in virtue and lernyng."
I am grateful to the following: (a) who lent or gave me photographs or other material; (b) with whom I corresponded or had much conversation about the School. I mention first those who have died since 1964. Sir Wilfrid Garrett, Mr S. Corkill, Mr D. Kissack, Mr J. F. Crellin, Mr C. D. Roe, Mr A. C. Teare, Mrs R. S. R. Kneale, Mr W. F. White, Miss E. Spencer, Mrs A. Blanchard. Also: Mr A. V. Wilkinson, Mr E. Aitken, Mr D. A. Cole- bourne, Mr F. Dagleish, Mr S. Boulton, Rev. J. F. Foster, Miss M. K ermode, Mr A. and Miss J. Gray, Mrs S. Fenton, Mrs N. Pittard, Mr and Mrs F. E. Callow, Mrs F. Sutton, Miss M. Quilleash, Mrs M. E. Teare, Mrs F. Cringle, Mr and Mrs J. W. Radclife, Mr G. C. Swales, Mr A. Brierley, Mr K. Garwood, Mrs N. Faragher, Mrs R. Ball.
The Librarians of Rylands Library and the Central Library, Manchester; Douglas Public Library, and especially Mr A. M. Cubbon Director; Miss A. M. Harrison, Librarian/Archivist and Mrs Narasimham of the Manx Museum.
January 1972. L. E. WILLIAMSON.