Sunday, July 29, 2018


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....'
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 


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