Saturday, November 10, 2018


TONY BLAIR : FETTES FAG


Part Six | 1968-1970 


'..(Knox) Cunningham liked to go through (to) the boys' quarters to provoke them with his outrageously reactionary views and encouraged them to challenge school rules. Robert Philp, house tutor at Arniston, said, 'He used to come back rubbing his hands with glee, saying, "That's stirred things up a bit." Blair was not interested in politics at that time but, as a former parliamentary private secretary to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, Cunningham offered him an early glimpse of the glamour of Downing Street...'

 
John Rentoul Tony Blair


'Tony Blair says himself that he had a very privileged education, which is news to those of us in Edinburgh schools. We thought he went to Fettes, generally known as Fetish, and regarded then as a gothic penitentiary for the hopelessly depraved...'
 
Andrew Marr Notebook (26.10.2005)



During 1968 and the remainder of the years that Tony Blair was a pupil at Fettes College, Ronald Selby Wright's links to royalty and the highest levels of politics were maintained:

'The only Committee I have really enjoyed was that established in August 1968 by Mr Edward Heath, then Leader of the Opposition, to examine the proposal for the creation of a Scottish Assembly under the Chairmanship of Sir Alec Douglas-Home... It met on seventeen occasions between September 1968 and March 1970...

It was a great privilege for me to work under Alec Douglas-Home... Alec Home and his father had always been so kind and friendly and I had been the guest of each on more than one occasion at the Hirsel - on three occasions accompanied by the Canongate choirboys...'   

RSW Another Home 

new hall for the Canongate club was opened on November 29th 1968: 

'Messages of goodwill were received from H.M the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales...' (AH)

And, the Queen visited again, one morning in May 1969:

'..I arranged for some members of the congregation and a number of leading local Canongations to be presented to her, whom she met in the Hugh Blair Room, before meeting others while she drank coffee in the drawing room...

Before she left to a rapturous reception from the crowd outside, and not least the children of Milton House School, she planted a tree in the front garden to commemorate her visit...' (AH)

A fifth 'Royal tree' was planted by the Prince of Wales during a similar visit in 1970...

During that same year, Ronald Selby Wright attended a special commemorative service at Fettes:

'..Then there was the great Centenary Service of Fettes College on 31st May 1970, an evening service in memory of the Founder, Sir William Fettes, when, at the close, a wreath was laid by the Head of School on his tomb in the Churchyard...' (AH) 


Tony Blair at Fettes College was perceived as an attention-seeking miscreant, and not only by 'Masters':

"He was certainly keen on being noticed, whether it was for his views or his pranks. He liked the attention very much." 

Nicholas Burnett 

He has, similarly, also been characterised as having been "..a very superior wind-up artist.." during those Fettes College teenage years. In 1970, according to John Rentoul, Tony Blair's allegedly obnoxious behaviour was such that he 'risked expulsion'.... 

Fettes boys regularly engaged in something called 'Outside Service'. Ronald Selby Wright, who was a "great supporter" of Tony Blair according to Eric Anderson, is thought to have been a key factor in ensuring that Blair was able to stay on to study for and take his A' Levels. 

Tony Blair '..volunteered to help run a summer camp for Selby Wright's boys' club.' This activity is presumed to have been viewed sufficiently favourably to effectively counteract the negative impression from his highly annoying conduct in school, experienced by, among others, his last house master, Bob Roberts. 

Bob Roberts was reportedly the only master to beat Tony Blair, '..giving him six of the best at the age of 17 for persistently flouting rules.' (John Rentoul)

But, as a fellow pupil has put things, it seems that Ronald Selby Wright made sure that Tony Blair got through to the Fettes finishing line: 

"Some might say that if it hadn't been for going on one of those camps, Tony might have found himself leaving the school a little earlier than expected.. But it was also an astute move on his part. If he had been shown the red card, Selby Wright would have put in a good word for him..." (Nick Ryden)


ETON HEAD GETS NEW SCHOOL

By JAMES RENDER

MR Anthony Chenevix-Trench, 51, who has just given up the headship of Eton, will take over one of Scotland's top public schools after having a year off.

His appointment as headmaster of Fettes College, Edinburgh - motto: Hard Work - was announced yesterday. Fettes with 450 pupils, is about a third of Eton's size. Its fees are £615 a year.

Mr. Chenevix-Trench, who was headmaster at Eton for six years, will take up his new post in September next year when the present head, Dr. Ian McIntosh retires.

He said last night: "I am very happy with the appointment. I am also looking forward to having a year off."

He intends to spend most of the year writing and had been invited to write a book on education with the title "The Pursuit of Excellence."

His new appointment means he will have been headmaster of both schools where the best known modern fiction hero - James Bond - was "educated" according to the books written by Ian Fleming.

DAILY MIRROR July 24th 1970


JOLLY BEATING WEATHER

By PAUL FOOT

..From 1952-1955 Mr Chenevix-Trench was housemaster of the biggest house at Shrewsbury School during which period beating by the housemaster, previously rare, became quite common. Trench developed the theory of the punishment alternative, offering those who were about to be beaten a choice between the cane (with trousers on) and the strap (with trousers off). Beatings with the cane normally took place in Trench's official downstairs study, while beatings with the strap took place in the more informal surroundings of his drawing-room, or, on some occasions, a bedroom. During the beatings, the door was locked and the boy would be required to lie on the couch or bed to receive his punishment.

PRIVATE EYE unknown date 1964-1970   

Monday, October 01, 2018


TONY BLAIR : FETTES FAG


Part Five | 1966-1967


'Fettes College to be investigated for evidence that it created the fanaticism that drove Tony Blair to send people to fight in Iraq'

Michael Rosen

'..The boys led a life that was cut off. They saw little of the city which surrounded the school. Richard Lambert, later editor of the Financial Times, who preceded Blair at Fettes, says: "It's extraordinary to think we lived in one of Europe's great cities for six or seven years and hardly saw it. We didn't know Edinburgh at all." Blair seldom talks of Fettes, but Oxford friends recall unflattering descriptions of his life there...'

James Naughtie

'When the architect David Bryce was commissioned to build Fettes College.. he was given a large budget, a bequest from Sir William Fettes, former Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Having recently visited France, and with an appreciation of Scottish architectural styles, Bryce's design for the school was Scottish baronial, mixed with French chateau, known locally as "Edinburgh Loire Gothic".

The result is one of Scotland's greatest buildings. It features soaring spires and turrets, with a tall central tower and smaller flanking towers and it's teeming with gargoyles.. their jeering faces do add an element of humour to the rather imposing building, which is rumoured to be the inspiration for J.K.Rowling's Hogwarts.'

Country Life Quirkiest School Buildings


When I first saw a photograph of Fettes College, the creepy appearance it presented called to my mind the Gingerbread House, where the Witch lives in the fairy-tale Hansel and Gretel. It turns out that also thinking in terms of fairy-tales when considering the building's appearance, was Tony Blair's biographer, John Rentoul:

'Founded in 1870 by Sir William Fettes, its elaborate fairy-tale Gothic tower is a landmark on the outskirts of Edinburgh.'

In 'The Rivals', James Naughtie evaluated the school, as it was in 1966:

'Tony Blair was settling into an institution which would frustrate him and turn him into something of an early rebel.. When he became a boarder in the summer of 1966.. the regime controlled by the headmaster, Dr Ian McIntosh, was one that would have been familiar to generations long gone. Junior boys could be caned by prefects, apparently with relish. The remnants of a 'fagging' system were still in place, with the young boys acting as valets for their elders, some prefects still enjoying the consequences of an inadequately polished shoe or a burnt piece of toast. Blair was beaten more than once...'

Further information on the warped set-up at the school is provided by John Rentoul, in Tony Blair: Prime Minister:

'..Blair was fag to a prefect called Michael Gascoigne, now an Edinburgh solicitor.. Although Gascoigne detected no "truculence or unwillingness", Blair said: "The house they put me in was very old-fashioned - we new boys had to fag for prefects and I always resented that." The boys at Fettes were called "men", especially the "new men", and they were required to call prefects "Sir". Prefects were allowed to cane junior boys, and Blair was beaten for a number of petty infractions. This was still a cruel practice, with the tradition of being allowed a day in the sanatorium in order to recover from a thrashing only recently lapsed. Depending on the gravity of the offence, prefects would line up to take their turn with the cane and the more sadistic would take a run-up...'

During Tony Blair's first year at the school, a man called Eric Anderson returned to Fettes as an English teacher ('master'), having spent some time teaching at Gordonstoun - another infamous Scottish boarding school where Prince Charles was an inmate. According to biographer, John Rentoul (..but, not biographer, Anthony Seldon), Eric Anderson '..shaped Blair's Fettes career..' more than anyone else. 

Meanwhile, Ronald Selby Wright's remarkably prolific involvement in Scottish boys' schools continued to be facilitated:

'Though still continuing my evening classes at Loretto, I was invited in 1966 to be Honorary Chaplain of The Edinburgh Academy. I gladly accepted...' ['Another Home']   

During the following year, the Oxford University Press published a book containing 33 of RSW's school sermons (Take Up God's Armour), and, predictably, his association with Royal Family members was maintained -

Prince Charles invited him to '..a small dinner-party consisting of a schoolboy friend and his detective - the first time he had been the host at Holyrood...' After '..a garbled and inaccurate account..' appeared in the press, Charles sent him '..a typical charming letter from school...':

'...It was a great pleasure to see you again on Sunday... I hope the press didn't bother you afterwards.

The short stay in Edinburgh went all too quickly and the brief change to Civilisation in Holyrood was short-lived by a rapid return to Gordonstoun. Thank you once again for two such splendid books and for the useful advice as to whom one might speak to here. I do hope I shall see you again before too long.

Yours very sincerely,
Charles'

Public schools, like Fettes had 'houses' as well as classes or forms, and in September 1967, a new house - Arniston - was set up by the English master, Eric Anderson. This meant that Tony Blair was no longer required to fulfil the traditional fag role:

'When Blair joined the new house, his schooldays became easier. Instead of fagging, junior boys were required to do some cleaning and menial tasks for the house collectively...'

John Rentoul

'One friend said, "Fettes was incredibly tough, fagging and cold showers, but Arniston was comfortable and easy-going. It had duvets, unheard of at the time."..'

Anthony Seldon

A boy who was educated at Fettes College during the 1920s happened to become an adult friend of Eric Anderson, and John Rentoul has disclosed significant details of the return visits made by this 'old boy' to the school:

'Anderson further encouraged Blair's independence of mind by inviting his friend Sir Knox Cunningham, the Unionist MP for South Antrim and President of the Old Fettesian Association, to stay at Arniston. "He had no children of his own, to his sadness, and made a point of coming four or five times a year," said Anderson (one of Blair's contemporaries commented wryly on Anderson's innocence: Cunningham was "the sort of man who liked boys - he never did anything about it as far as I know, but that was what he was about")...'

Tuesday, August 07, 2018


TONY BLAIR : FETTES FAG


Part Four | 1957-1966


'..Panmure House was opened on 6th October 1957 by The Princess Royal accompanied by the Duke of Hamilton, the Club's Honorary President, and less than a year later, on 1st July 1958, the Club was again greatly honoured by the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh who stayed some time in the Club, presented personally the first winners of his Award with their badges, and unveiled the War Memorial and sent a message later to say how impressed he had been "by the happy atmosphere of the Club and the well-being and liveliness of the boys"...'

Ronald Selby Wright 'Another Home' [AH]


And it came to pass that Ronald Selby Wright's committed associations with Church-Religion; Royalty, Clubs and Schools continued through the late-1950s and the early-1960s. Boys, God and Royalty seem, always, to have been his three unremitting preoccupations.

In 1959, he was able to buy a new Organ for the Church:

'At the "opening" of the organ by Mr Michael Lester-Cribb the choir and orchestra of Fettes College also attended.' [AH] 

In the following year, RSW gave up his Chaplaincy at Fettes College; but, forged a stronger bond with another Edinburgh Public School:

'..Forbes Mackintosh, the retiring Head Master of Loretto, whom I had known for many years, asked me if I would come to Loretto and take the Church of Scotland Confirmation Classes there... I gladly agreed...' [AH]

1961 was the year that Tony Blair started at Chorister School, having previously attended Western Hill pre-preparatory school - both schools situated in Durham, North-East England where the Blair family lived. Like his older brother, William, he was a 'day boy', rather than being a member of '..the cathedral choir to which the school owed its origins.' [John Rentoul]

Ronald Selby Wright was appointed an 'Extra-Chaplain' to the Queen, from whom, in November, he also received a gift:

'The Sovereign's interest in the Church could be seen too in the Queen's gracious gift of a silver chalice to mark the occasion of my Silver Jubilee as Minister of Canongate...' [AH]

In October 1962, another royal visit was photographed:

'Princess Margaret And Lord Snowden Leave Canongate Kirk In The Royal Mile With Them Is Rev. Ronald Selby Wright. Princess Margaret And Lord Snowden Made An Impromptu Visit To Canongate Church.. To See Restoration Work Carried Out There Since Her Last Visit 13 Years Ago. The Princess Had Phoned The Rev. Ronald Selby Wright - Well Known As The Radio Padre - To Tell Him She Was Arriving. "They were impressed with all they saw and they were shown the communion cup which The Queen presented to the church last year, and the baptism silver, which is very old," said Mr.Wright.' [Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock]

He also met Prince Charles in 1962, having previously seen him five years earlier, at Balmoral:

'The second occasion [RSW saw Prince Charles] was when he came to see me at Gordonstoun, a rather homesick small boy in his first term there.' [AH]

He was promoted to the position of Chaplain to the Queen, in 1963, and had that same year, as he later reported it:

'..a most interesting and rewarding conversation one evening with Mr Harold Macmillan, shortly after he had resigned as Prime Minister, when I found myself alone with him in the Smoking Room of the Athenaeum...' [AH]

Not long thereafter, Prince Charles attained the distinction of another walk-on scene in the dubious drama of RSW's life:

'One of the most interesting dinners was when Prince Charles was staying with the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton and for the first time at Holyrood in 1964.' [AH]

And, in July 1965, Queen Elizabeth II returned to the Canongate Kirk. The purpose of this visit, according to RSW, was to '..unveil a plaque giving the history of the Church...' [AH]

Docile, obedient choir boys lined up. The Queen, small and smiling, alongside Ronald Selby Wright, large and lumbering, walked past the captured boys towards photographic documenters of the pretentious folly. [AH/Trinity Mirror]


May 6th 1966 was Tony Blair's thirteenth birthday. Specific dates when he finished and started attending the three schools he was educated at seem to be hard to locate; but... as he is said to have begun as an inmate at Fettes College, Edinburgh in the Summer of 1966, I guess that Tony Blair left Chorister School, Durham sometime between May and July of that year.


Daily Star, May 19th 2013

Andy Gardner

BLAIR'S OLD SCHOOL SHAMED

An ex-pupil at the Chorister School at Durham Cathedral claims he was systematically abused by a long-serving headmaster.

The man, now aged in his 60s, reported the alleged abuse to current headmistress Yvette Day and to Durham Police.

He claims Canon John Grove, who was head from 1957 to 1978, abused him during the late 1950s in his private quarters and in a school bathroom.

The man's lawyers are appealing for witnesses to come forward.

Canon Grove died in 2001.

Mr. Blair, 60, attended the elite school, which is more than 600 years old, from 1961 to 1966...

The alleged victim told the Daily Star Sunday: "I was abused at the Durham Chorister School in the late 1950s/1960s.

"At seven years old, who do you turn to at an institution like the Durham Chorister School?

"It has taken me many years of anguish before I have been able to talk to anyone about the abuse.

"The abuse has left me emotionally scarred. The latest scandals have brought these terrible memories flooding back....           


Child Abuse Lawyer Liz Dux comments on the Daily Star article

May 20th 2013

The Daily Star  featured an article.. which told the story of one of our clients. Our client, who is now aged 60, was abused by a long-serving headmaster at The Chorister School in Durham.

Like many other victims of abuse, our client felt unable to report the abuse as a child as he felt he would not be believed. The recent publicity surrounding Jimmy Savile has allowed many victims, like our client, to finally come forward and speak out....


Daily Star, September 15th 2013

Andy Gardner

Pervert teacher comforted Tony Blair over poorly dad

Mr Blair prayed with Canon John Grove hours after his dad Leo collapsed following a stroke.

The former PM, now 60, joined Canon Grove during a vigil at The Chorister School at Durham Cathedral.

The pair offered prayers for Leo, then 40, who was not expected to survive, although he did in fact recover.

The revelation, in a respected biography, shows the key role played by Canon Grove.

He has since been accused by 20 former pupils of sexually abusing them. Canon Grove was headmaster from 1957 to 1978 and died in 2001...

...(Anthony) Seldon concluded: "Blair later said he looked back at the school with 'affection and gratitude' for the 'comfort, help and belief it gave him'."

Last week we told how another former Chorister pupil, a man in his late 40s, claimed the headmaster leered at boys as they showered and chose favourites to join him in his bathroom.

The 20 alleged victims who have gone to the police all accuse Canon Grove of sexual abuse. Liz Dux, head of the abuse unit at Slater and Gordon, has urged witnesses to come forward.

The lawyer, who is representing six alleged victims, added: "We need to know what people knew or saw."

Durham Police said they had been contacted by a number of people who are not victims but are helping with enquiries. A spokesman for Mr Blair did not return our requests for a comment.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


TONY BLAIR : FETTES FAG


Part Three | 1946-1957


In 1946, Ronald Selby Wright started the Boys' choir, of which he wrote 34 years later in 'Another Home':

'..we began with nineteen boys at first, in purple cassocks lent from St. Giles'; but soon these were changed to our own scarlet cassocks as befitted a Royal Foundation....' (AH)

Quite soon, the Canongate Club's rules were changed:

'Only members of the recently formed Boys' choir should be Club Members. This meant that we became in fact now a "closed club" and all were expected to attend Church on Sundays and take an active interest in the Church. The Boys' Club and the Church became one... As our members had to be limited, the Club became more than ever a disciplined family, and membership became more highly prized...' (Our Club, 1954)   

'After the war, for twenty years, nearly every boy was for some time a member of the Boys' choir, which for a time numbered over fifty boys. Not many were very good singers, but it meant that they came to Church each Sunday, many both morning and evening... they processed in scarlet cassocks, white ruffs, and blue girdles...' (AH)

In 'Another Home', Selby Wright documents his relationships with members of the Royal Family:

'..Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at the beginning of the renovation of the interior of the Church graciously and kindly came to see the work being done, accompanied by Princess Margaret, on 17th July 1947. Princess Elizabeth was to have come too, but by this time she had become engaged to Prince Philip...' (AH)

'..The Queen's visit in 1947 was a memorable occasion and was the first visit from the Royal Family since the creation of the present building. In 1937 King George VI had kindly sent a Christmas tree to the Church, a custom that has been maintained ever since, and is greatly appreciated; and in so many other different ways the Royal Family have shown great interest in its Parish Church...' (AH)

'Great was the excitement and the pleasure when we heard that our new Queen intimated that she would visit the Church on the first morning of her official visit to Edinburgh. And so it was that on 25th of June 1952 the first reigning sovereign on her first morning in Edinburgh as Queen entered the Church. As her Mother, now the Queen Mother, and her sister had done at their visit in 1947, the Queen planted a tree after she had seen the restoration of the Church...' (AH)

A photo agency image of that 1952 royal visit is captioned:

'Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II planting a tree in Canongate Kirk to mark her visit which was the first visit of a reigning Queen since the late 19th Century. Looking on is the Rev R Selby Wright' (TopFoto) 

Not mentioned, yet also 'looking on' and shown in the photograph, is a row of choirboys. The four of them whose faces are visible in this image, are grimly miserable in demeanour. Who Selby Wright was referring to that shared 'great excitement and... pleasure' with him on hearing that her Majesty would be visiting, is not clear. Perhaps, he was employing the 'Royal we' to describe merely his own feeling. The choirboys look about as far from 'great excitement and... pleasure' as it is possible to be, in the photograph, so it's implausible to imagine that these boys ever felt the 'great' positive emotion RSW claims to have been permeating in anticipation of the visit.

On May 6th 1953, a boy was born who would go on to be an inmate of Fettes College, and, who while held captive in that institution became significantly acquainted with Ronald Selby Wright - he was Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. As stated in Part Two, RSW alludes (in AH) to having delivered a sermon at Fettes as early as 1938. AH also reveals that he 'often preached' at the school from the 'latter part of Dr. Ashcroft's time' there through to 1957 (Headmaster Ashcroft left in 1945).

Later in May 1953, subsequent to Tony Blair's birth, Prince Philip visited the Canongate Kirk, and was photographed with Selby Wright. He, also, planted a tree. (Daily Mail/Rex/Shutterstock)

In 1954, the book 'Our Club' was published, providing details of the history and current status/activities of Ronald Selby Wrights' 'family':

'The Club is now divided into three groups - the Apprentices, or boys under 12, who owe a great debt to the Deaconess, Miss Gardiner, D.C.S., for the inspiring and patient way she, aided by some of the Gytes, moulded them into a very valuable section of the Club; the Gytes, or boys under 15, who wisely chose Pringle Fisher as first Head of Gytes; and the Uppers, or the up to 18 group, who with the rest of the groups come under the Head Boy. From the age of 18 to 21 most enter National Service and a certain number become Assistant Leaders; and at 16 the boys attend confirmation classes and become full communicant members of the Church...'

On Cricket:

'Thanks, too, to the Head Master of Loretto, Mr Forbes Mackintosh.. we have been able to play selected teams from Loretto, Fettes, Melville College, Glenalmond, Strathallan, Merchiston Castle, the Royal High School and H.M. Institution...'

The Choir:

'..through that side of the Club we have been privileged to meet H.M. the Queen; the Duke of Edinburgh, H.M. the Queen Mother, H.R.H. the Princess Margaret and H.R.H. the Princess Royal, as well as taking part in such functions as the Edinburgh Castle Tattoo, and being broadcast and televised and even filmed...'   

A letter to Sir David Russell, then Accessor to the Chancellor of St. Andrews University, dated January 28th 1954, is quite revealing:

'..It is all so very much a "family", e.g. of the forty-eight boys in the choir, at least forty I baptised as babies! There is the Boys' club which I have run now since I went to St. Giles' in 1927, and where I spend still four evenings a week and where now some of the sons of former boys are members. To me, as a bachelor, the Canongate Church is like a wife and the parish, the choir, the club and the others, like my family. And I have had no higher ambition - for I feel that there is none - than to do my best for that "family"...' (AH)

Equally revealing, is this line from a letter, sent by Selby Wright to Sir Malcolm Knox, Principal of St. Andrews University, dated January 15th 1956:

'..The fact is that I have built up a monster (though a very pleasant monster) here...' (AH)

That same year brought recognition from another University:

'The University of Edinburgh.. awarded me an Hon. D.D. when I was further honoured by being capped by the Duke of Edinburgh as Chancellor of the University...' (AH) 

Ronald Selby Wright's special involvement with the Royal Family proceeded through 1957:

'In 1957 when I was staying at Balmoral I had seen him (Prince Charles) setting off for school for the first time, when, with the young Princess Anne beside me, I saw him leave with his father and the Queen to go to Cheam; and that evening I went with Princess Margaret to have dinner with the Queen Mother at Birkhall...' (AH)

Meanwhile, Fettes College became a more prominent aspect of his life:

'I did.. accept another Chaplaincy, which this time didn't involve the Canongate; for in the summer of 1957 Donald Crichton-Miller, the Head Master of Fettes College... called to ask me if I would be prepared to come as Honorary Chaplain.

...I said I would be very pleased to come for a term or two: provided I had transport to and from the school, came on a voluntary basis of they gave a donation to the Church, took morning prayers, some classes in Divinity, and had a room where boys could come and see me. 
...The boys were all most friendly and responsive.. So many latterly came to talk to me, make their "confessions" and pour out their troubles, whether of school or home, that it became more than I could tackle along with a busy parish..'
 
He maintained that role at Fettes for: '..three very happy years...' (AH)
 
In the extensively informative book 'Another Home', Ronald Selby Wright discloses his own tangle-minded views on Boys' clubs, Religion and Public Schools - which are male-fixated to a fanatical extent - largely through his own words. There is at least one notable exception, though, where he lets another crazy mixed-up Authoritarian bastard speak on his behalf:
 
'A "perpetual source of interest" too, if not of "surprise", has been the many visits I have had the privilege and pleasure of paying when preaching at Schools and Colleges, especially the Boarding Schools...
 
No one, I feel, summed up better the benefits derived from these great schools than Lord Lovat when writing of his old school, Ampleforth:
 
"What did school teach me? I reply without hesitation 'essentials not to be found in the Comprehensive system: to love God and serve the King. To learn a sense of responsibility and loyalty to superiors; to give of one's best and take a beating cheerfully; to feel, but not to show emotion; to lead and not to be driven; and, above all, to show tolerance and consideration for others, to realise that authority can never be abused, to have good manners and never lose one's temper'..."...'
 
And, if you think that is a rational description of 'benefits' and a 'great' education, then you are probably just as unsuitable to look after young people as Lord Lovat and Ronald Selby Wright undoubtedly were....
 
 
'Ampleforth College is a coeducational independent day and boarding school in the village of Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, England. It opened in 1802 as a boys' school, and is run by the Benedictine monks and lay staff of Ampleforth Abbey...
 
Sexual abuse
 
Several monks and three members of the lay teaching staff molested children in their care over several decades. In 2005 Father Piers Grant-Ferris admitted 20 incidents of child abuse. This was not an isolated incident....'
 
(Wikipedia)
 
PUPILS at a leading Roman Catholic school suffered decades of abuse from at least six paedophiles following a decision by former Abbot Basil Hume not to call in police at the beginning of the scandal.
 
Hume, the future Cardinal and guiding light of Catholicism in Britain, was Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire when he received a complaint from parents in 1975 about Father Piers Grant-Ferris, the son of a Tory peer...
 
It was not until 2003 that a police investigation was launched into Grant-Ferris, another paedophile Gregory Carroll, and a third monk after psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Mann - engaged by Ampleforth to carry out risk assessments - turned whistle-blower.
 
Police found Grant-Ferris's offences dated back virtually to the start of his 1960s teaching career...
 
In other cases, Ampleforth housemaster Christian Shore was sacked in 2002 for sexually abusing a teenage pupil a decade before, while fellow monk Bernard Green was given community punishment in 1996 for a torchlight sex assault on a sleeping 13-year-old boy.
 
Carroll, 66, was jailed for four years in September for abusing at least 10 boys aged 11 to 14 between 1980 and 1987. Detectives believe two other monks and a lay member of the community who are now dead also abused pupils.
 
Yesterday at Leeds Crown Court the case against Grant-Ferris, 72, was adjourned for reports after he admitted 20 indecent assaults involving 15 boys under 13 between 1966 and 1975.
 
The allegations involve the priest beating boys aged eight to ten on the buttocks with his bare hands and taking their temperature rectally with a thermometer in his quarters at Gilling Castle or in boys' dormitories...'
 
Mark Branagan, Yorkshire Post, 18 November 2005
 
'..Exactly how many young boys were abused is difficult to say. Police say they have identified between 30 and 40 victims, although former pupils estimate the true tally could reach three figures...
 
In October 2000, Frank Hopkinson, retired former head of the school's finance department, was jailed for 12 months for downloading 836 indecent images of children. Hopkinson, who worked at the school for 40 years, had previously been jailed for sexual offences against a 14-year-old boy.
 
Not all of Ampleforth's paedophiles have been brought to justice....'
 
Ian Cobain, The Guardian, 18 November 2005 

Wednesday, May 02, 2018


TONY BLAIR : FETTES FAG


Part Two | 1908-1942


'Ronald William Vernon Selby Wright (12 June 1908 - 24 October 1995) was a Church of Scotland minister... He became one of the best known Church of Scotland ministers of his generation and served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1972... He was a probationer assistant at Glasgow Cathedral in 1936, prior to becoming minister at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh in January 1937. His only ministerial charge, he remained at Canongate until he retired in 1977...' [Wikipedia]


Much information about Ronald Selby Wright's life and work can be found in his memoirs, 'Another Home' (1980). His family history that involved religion, teaching and royalty foreshadows his own individual trajectory and entanglements during the 20th century.

Here is RSW describing the last school that he attended as a pupil:

'..Today I think with gratitude of men like John Henderson who ran the games, was P.T. instructor, acted as School Secretary and Bursar, Captained the Corps, was everyone's friend and often had boys to tea at his home. How he did it all so willingly and so cheerfully I don't know. When I left school in 1927 he asked me to help him as a Royal Scot Cadet Officer in the Corps Camps; and I was the last to see him leave with his wife for Australia - an old man now - to stay with his only daughter, and there he died soon after, "Johnny" was the most-loved, respected and dedicated schoolmaster you could ever meet.

Then there was Robert Rose who taught classics with the drive and ferocity and dedication that made even the poorest scholars pass exams. His voice could be heard sometimes throughout the whole school, shouting at his class and calling some of the boys "dolts" and "duffers", throwing chalk at them and making frequent use of the tawse. Yet when off parade he was the kindest and quietest of men greatly loved and respected...'

We can see here that, in the case of the P.T. instructor, the author seeks to lead us to think that a man, who was, for unstated reasons, known by the informal name 'Johnny' and who 'often had boys to tea at his home', was a major marvel of humanity, beyond the reach of anyone's critical enquiry. Apparently, everyone thought this hard-working fellow was an absolutely fabulous man - there was no doubt about it, chaps, so don't even try to think otherwise for a single moment.

In the case of the ferociously driven and dedicated classics master, he was - according to RSW's fawning description - clearly a disgusting abuser of the boys in his classes; and yet, perhaps, because he 'made even the poorest scholars pass exams', we are expected to consider this warped character acceptable.

It is not possible that someone who behaves like this in school classes, could really be 'the kindest and quietest of men' elsewhere.

Hence, Ronald Selby Wright's own schizoid proclivities and priorities have been well-indicated within the space of a mere two paragraphs on page 17 of his memoirs. This is not a straightforward thinker, speaker, teacher, writer or human being that confronts us.


Ronald Selby Wright and his younger brother first attended, as pupils at the Edinburgh Institution (later Melville College) in the autumn term of 1921. In 1922 (or thereabouts), a boy began to be educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh, who, like Selby Wright, would much later come into contact with Tony Blair, at that same boys' school:

'Sir Samuel Knox Cunningham, 1st Baronet, QC (3rd April 1909 - 1976) was a Northern Irish barrister, businessman and politician. As an Ulster Unionist politician at a time when Unionists were part of the Conservative Party, he was also a significant figure in United Kingdom politics as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Harold Macmillan...' [Wikipedia]       


After leaving school, Ronald Selby Wright '..continued (his) interests there... as an Officer under John Henderson in the School Corps, and also in running a cricket team for the Prep...'

Under the influence and guidance of Dr. Charles Warr and Dr. George MacLeod, he began to pursue his 'main outside interests':

'..And so in a room in Fisher's Close which belonged to St.Giles', I started in 1927 what became the St. Giles' Cathedral Boys' Club, and later the Canongate Boys' Club...'

In the book 'Our Club' (1954), Selby Wright details the history and general activities (e.g. camping, sport, religion) of his Boys' Clubs:

'..By December I was back again in the Canongate, this time as Parish Minister, and although I was Hon. Warden of the St. Giles' Club, we also started in the basement of the old Manse at 3 St. John Street a small club which we called the Canongate Club.

Although remaining loyal to St. Giles' Club, all the older boys, with the approval of St. Giles', transferred to Canongate Kirk since most lived within the parish of Canongate and naturally began to seek the Church near their own door. Still, St. Giles' kept on the grand job of keeping the Club going in Gullan's Close, and giving all the help they could. When our much loved premises in Gullan's Close had to be given up as War came nearer and nearer and they were requisitioned, the St. Giles' Club transferred to the old Canongate Manse at St. John Street, the Manse having moved to Acheson House. The St. Giles' - Canongate Club, still largely sponsored by St. Giles' Cathedral, began to take shape...'


In ' Another Home', Selby Wright included selections from his diaries of the period March to December 1942. They reveal a lot about his attitude and his activities. The first two of these three excerpts tell us something of how he saw education, and the third identifies the year and ostensible purpose of an early visit by him to Fettes College:

'What is wrong is not the Public School, it's just that there are not more Public Schools, and that there is not an opportunity for everyone to attend or have a similar experience. In a sense Boys' Clubs try to do that; but only in a sense... The only thing wrong with "the old School tie" is its exclusiveness - let's give everyone an old School tie (not do away with it)...'

[RSW 21.03.1942]

'A good Head Master should stamp his pupils like Arnold did.'

[RSW 26.03.1942]

'Went back to Barracks, Exeter.. After dinner in the Mess where I met an old Fettes boy called Hepburn - a Lieutenant aged about twenty, who told me he remembered my sermon at Fettes in 1938!'

[RSW 10.07.1942]

His diary entries for 23rd and 24th July 1942 describe meetings with the Archbishop of Canterbury:

'..Caught the train at tea-time for London and after leaving my kit at the Authors' Club went to Lambeth Palace to see the Archbishop of Canterbury (William Temple). He was most friendly and I sat for a long time in his study talking to him...'

'..After the (BBC Radio) recording (Dr. James W.) Welch, the Archbishop and I, went to the Athenaeum and drank coffee and had a most interesting conversation...'


Selby Wright's involvement with BBC Radio - most famously as the 'Radio Padre' - is (unsurprisingly) documented in 'Another Home':

'The whole idea of the Radio Padre originated through General Sir Frederick Pile, Dr. James W.Welch, the Director of Religious Broadcasting, and Melville Dinwiddie, Director of Scottish B.B.C., who between them felt that something should be done for the Forces who didn't have padres. I had already done a series of broadcasts with my Boys' Club before the War - a series of ten discussions which was later published by the Oxford University Press under the title Asking Why, and I was asked to do a similar shorter series with some of our troops in our Division in 1941.

...And so it was that.. I went down South to join the Staff of the B.B.C. in 1942 with a secondment to them for six months, which later turned out to be seven, and later still, though not now as a secondment, for at least a couple of years...'  

In October 1942, his work for the BBC became less clear cut, as was explained in a diary entry and elaborated upon at greater length in the book:

'Received a most mysterious Top Secret and Most Secret message in two envelopes to go to Aberdeen and meet two people there from M.I. and not to tell anyone - but of course I had to tell Neil Ritchie. Can't write anything about this as SECRET! It will mean carrying on Radio Padre broadcasts from the Division, but with a slight but important difference!'

[RSW 22.10.1942]

'Well I went to Aberdeen and met Colonel Winterbottom and Miss Howatt and the gist of the conversation was that the War Office wanted me to go on broadcasting as Radio Padre and to combine this broadcasting with certain work for M.I.9. It happened that a great many prisoners-of-war were listening to my Radio Padre talks.. It was felt, therefore, by M.I.9. that they could get some messages across to them if part of my talks were coded.. It would also mean slightly altering the beginning of each of my Radio Padre talks. When I began "Good evening Forces" it meant that I would give them a coded message. If I left out the words.. it meant there would be no message for them that week. When I came to the word "but" it meant that the message was over...'

[RSW / Another Home]

'There was more reason than one why I went to Jordans. In addition to my daily visits to London where I was Senior Chaplain in North East London, I visited from time to time Room 527 in the Hotel Victoria, Northumberland Avenue, a rather mysterious John Buchan-like visit where I entered by one door and left by another; and used to go, when at Jordans, with Alison Cooper.. and her dog Gay across the golf course at Seer Green - not in uniform - with a new script, and hand it over to someone there, by arrangement, which was taken to "Camp No.20" which was nearby...'

[RSW / AH]    

Sunday, December 03, 2017


TONY BLAIR : FETTES FAG


Part One | 1870-1920


'Fagging was a traditional practice in British boarding private schools (nearly all "public schools" in the English sense) and also many other boarding schools, whereby younger pupils were required to act as personal servants to the most senior boys...

Under school rules, fagging might entail harsh discipline and corporal punishment when those were standard practices. Fagging was sometimes associated with sexual abuse by those older boys....'

'Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and the Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...'

'To perpetuate the memory of his only son William, who had predeceased him in 1815, Sir William Fettes, a former Lord Provost of Edinburgh and wealthy city merchant, bequeathed the then very large sum of £166,000 to be set aside for the education of poor children and orphans.

After his death the bequest was effected and invested and the accumulated sum was then used to acquire the 350 acres land, to build the main building and found the school in 1870. Fettes College thus opened with 53 pupils (40 were Foundation Scholars with 11 others boarding and 2 day pupils)....'

[Quotes from Wikipedia]


One inmate of Fettes College during its late-19th century existence, went on to become the father of a girl who would become a very successful film, TV and stage actress - Ann Todd.

Ann Todd was born on January 24th 1909. In 1981, her autobiography 'The Eighth Veil' was published, from which these brief excerpts are taken:

'I didn't see my mother very much for the first few months of my life. She was ill... I was looked after by an unmarried aunt who adored me... it was she, and only she, who made life endurable...

My father was rather an old father, and I never got to know him very well. He was a strange mixture really - a dreamer who knew a lot about art and by contrast, also a great sportsman. He went to Fettes College in Scotland, and later played rugger for Scotland and Cambridge University and rowed for Clare College. But he was never a success in his life and hopeless at business....'


In the Autumn of 1918, at least two young teenage boys started boarding at Fettes College, who were destined for public prominence and success. One of these was Selwyn Lloyd:

'John Selwyn Brooke Lloyd, Baron Selwyn-Lloyd.. known for most of his career as Selwyn Lloyd, was a British Conservative Party politician who served as Foreign Secretary from 1955 to 1960, then as Chancellor of the Exchequer until 1962. He was elected speaker of the House of Commons in 1971, serving until his retirement in 1976....'

[Wikipedia]

Some quite revealing information about life in the Fettes encampment can be found in D.R.Thorpe's substantial biography of Selwyn Lloyd, published 1989:

'On 17 July 1918 Dr Heard, the headmaster of Fettes, wrote to the Lloyds offering their son a scholarship of £40 a year... In September 1918, as the First World War entered its final phase, Selwyn travelled to Edinburgh with his father to take up his place at Fettes. As an open scholar he was... placed in Glencorse, the house of K.P.Wilson...

...Fettes had always had a spartan reputation (potato bread and oatcakes with margarine was the staple diet on many days in the rationing of war) and there were those... who sent their sons to the school because of its "manliness". This spartan atmosphere left many by the wayside. "This school will either make you or break you," said one boy, "and it's broken me." But it was all part of the accepted toughening process....'

[D.R.Thorpe]

'I do not believe that I have ever explained to you the different roles at Fettes. First and foremost there are the school prefects (commonly known as Schoolies) who have the power of life and death over you, in other words can cane you without asking permission from Dr Heard (commonly known as Gussy or the Bulge)....'

[Selwyn Lloyd, letter to eldest sister, Dorice, 19.11.1918]

'..the most menial level of house prefects ('the prefs').. not only indulged in ritual beatings of new men but also had the power of 'rabbiting'....'

[D.R.Thorpe]

'To be rabbited, is to be chased round the study area by the prefs, with hockey sticks etc. You can be rabbited for leaving your clothes about and those sort of things...'

[Selwyn Lloyd, letter 19.11.1918]

'Bullying was rife and the general toughening process was intensified by the unofficial system whereby second year men bullied new men and so on up the scale to the Olympian heights of the head of house who had total autonomy... Morals too were at a low ebb. Selwyn was a good-looking boy and, together with others in his year, soon attracted the attentions of a group of senior boys, three of whom were subsequently expelled....'

[D.R.Thorpe]

Dr. Heard  was succeeded as headmaster of Fettes in the Autumn of 1919, by A.H. Ashcroft. According to D.R.Thorpe, '..the upturn in Selwyn's Fettes fortunes' can be dated to this man's arrival at the school:

'His industry, his brusqueness.. and the underlying sense of insecurity can all be traced back to this period at Fettes. Yet the resilience he showed in adversity and his ability to cope with setbacks also stemmed from this time... He was already one of the survivors of life. If he could survive as a new man in the Fettes of 1918 then Aneurin Bevan in full cry in the Suez debates of 1956 was manageable....'

Selwyn Lloyd is quoted (somewhat in contradiction, perhaps) by his biographer, summarising his earlier years at the school:

'I learned to love Fettes, but that was not my feeling at all for the first two years. I loathed it. The saving grace was my housemaster K.R.Wilson, one of the outstanding schoolmasters of his generation. When it was discovered in my third year that I could play Rugby football, my life became much easier.'


There are at least several sources of published information disclosing the troubled times that Michael Tippett * spent at Fettes College. One of these - a book by Meirion Bowen - refers to 'his stay there' as having been 'nasty, brutish and short', and states that Tippett experienced the school's 'bullying and.. emphasis on cold baths in winter' as 'quite intolerable.'

* 'Sir Michael Kemp Tippett.. was an English composer who rose to prominence during and immediately after the Second World War. In his lifetime he was sometimes ranked with his contemporary Benjamin Britten as one of the leading British composers of the 20th century...' 

[Wikipedia]

A second book about the composer - Ian Kemp's 'TIPPETT: the composer and his music' (published in 1984) - provides significantly more relevant information:

'..his father.. considered engaging a private tutor. His mother however preferred him to go to a tough "manly" school and her view prevailed. On the advice of an uncle.. Tippett was entered for a foundation scholarship at Fettes College. He won a scholarship and went to Fettes in September 1918.. But his interest in music and scholastic subjects were overshadowed by the spartan and forbidding atmosphere. Fettes at that time was a characteristic, if extreme example of the British public school. Bullying and sadism were commonplace and tacitly regarded as necessary stages in the tempering of young gentlemen. The ageing headmaster, a distant and awesome figure, left the running of the school to the prefects and housemasters, who zealously upheld the principle that the younger boys were the property of the older....'

In his autobiography 'Those Twentieth Century Blues', Michael Tippett gives his own account of what he had experienced at Fettes:

'I won a classics scholarship to Fettes College in Edinburgh.

Fettes had its strong points. I was able to pursue my love of classics, and my piano lessons were resumed. But there were many disagreeable aspects of traditional public school life. I hated the system whereby the boys in each year bullied those in the year below, so I decided to persuade my fellow pupils not to observe this ritual - and succeeded. I hated wearing a kilt, which was necessary for the cadet corps. It was a typically Scottish spartan existence in general, which I found most demanding.

Most alarming was the sexual side of things. My naïve confessions on the subject in a letter to my mother brought my parents immediately over from France: they threatened to publicise the goings-on unless the headmaster was removed. A new headmaster arrived, who persuaded my parents I should stay on. I was then pressurised by my housemaster into standing before the entire school and accounting for the sexual behaviour of every boy I knew. This was particularly difficult as I was myself "involved" with a boy. I couldn't remain at Fettes much longer and decided the only way out was to reveal all to my parents. I geared myself up to tell her I was no longer a virgin. It was the first time I stood up openly to her, and it resulted in my being taken away from Fettes - which indeed I desperately wanted. For decades afterwards I had such amnesia about the whole experience that I hardly acknowledged the existence of Fettes in any account of my early life....'