Tuesday, December 25, 2018


Part Eight | 1977-1979

'And so in January 1977 I told the Kirk Session that I intended to retire at the end of September, which would have meant that I would have been over forty years as Minister, and, though I kept on the Boys' Club until it closed in March 1978, over fifty years in the Canongate itself...

The Prince of Wales kindly wrote to me from his ship H.M.S.Bonnington:

"How sad to hear that you are to retire in the near future - the Canongate will never be really the same without you."...'

Ronald Selby Wright Another Home (AH)


A boy has been caned at one of Scotland's top schools.. for under-age drinking. The caning took place at exclusive Fettes College, Edinburgh, the night before 17-year-old Russell Young was fined five pounds at a district court.

Two other teenagers from the six-hundred-pounds-a-term school, Ian MacConachie, now 18, and Christopher Cape, now 17, were also fined five pounds at the same court when they admitted drinking beer.

Both were told by headmaster Mr Anthony Chenevix-Trench, who came to Fettes from Eton, that they would not be allowed to leave the school grounds for a time.

"They have simply been naughty," said Mr Chenevix-Trench, "but they should not have been drinking."

Daily Record, February 25th 1977 / corpun.com

In April 1977, Ronald Selby Wright received a letter from Sir Martin Charteris, regarding Queen's House, 36 Moray Place - the Queen's only Grace and Favour House in Edinburgh:

'..My colleague, Rennie Maudsley, has spoken to the Queen about the possibility of your being the next occupant of Queen's House, and Her Majesty is delighted that you want to live there and has said that you shall!...' [AH]

Further notable events for RSW in 1977 and 1978 included a third and final visit to Balmoral; leaving the Canongate; the publication of another book, and reverting to being an Extra-Chaplain to the Queen:

'My third visit to Balmoral was.. when I was due to retire as a Chaplain-in-Ordinary and become again an Extra-Chaplain. On the first night we had a small dinner party with the Queen and Princess Margaret, presided over by Prince Edward, and then after dinner, as on the second night when Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew were also present, we sat around the fire talking, and I was able to see again for myself what a really happy family the Royal Family is... Earlier.. I had visited the Queen Mother at her request...' [AH]

'And so it was at the beginning of October 1977 I left the Canongate Manse which had been such a wonderful home to me, and came to The Queen's House..' [AH]

'When I stayed at Balmoral in the summer I was able to thank the Queen personally for her kindness; and during her visit in the following year she made a point of asking me how I was enjoying the house...' [AH]

'In another book which was published in 1977, which Prince Charles kindly allowed me to dedicate to him, called Seven Sevens, I included seven more school sermons, making forty then in print...' [AH] 

'..I had been appointed first an Extra-Chaplain to the Queen in 1961 and then a Chaplain in 1963 - an office I was very privileged to hold until my seventieth birthday in 1978, when once again I became an Extra-Chaplain...' [AH]

In his biography of the then Fettes College Headmaster, Mark Peel makes reference to RSW's relationship with him:

'On 7th April 1979, perhaps with premonition, Elizabeth (Chenevix-Trench) wrote to Ronnie Selby Wright, 'Ronnie, before next term's bustle and farewells take over I did just want to say that if anything were to happen to Tony, I would like you to talk about him at any memorial service Fettes and even Eton might hold for him... I am not anticipating anything but it is always wise to be prepared...' [The Land of Lost Content (LLC)]

Anthony Chenevix-Trench died June 20th 1979. A special Requiem Communion was held for him at Eton College Chapel on Sunday 24th, with a funeral in Edinburgh on the 25th...

'..After the formalities of the funeral, Fettes held their own special service of Thanksgiving... (at) St.Lukes, Comely Bank... There, on the following Sunday, the whole Fettes community gathered en masse to hear Cameron Cochrane read from Rudyard Kipling's The Dead King and Ronnie Selby Wright in his address pay tribute to Tony's scholarship, courage, kindness and humility, reminding the pupils how much they meant to him...

..In the College chapel a plaque was erected in his memory, the only headmaster to be accorded such an honour since Dr.Potts, the school's first headmaster and, ironically, like Tony, a distinguished Salopian Classicist. It bears the inscription:

In loving memory of Anthony Chenevix-Trench, a great scholar, a dedicated teacher whose door was always open for he loved his fellow men...' [LLC]

The July 13th edition of New Statesman featured a contrasting appraisal of the man, written by Paul Foot:

No Ordinary Flogger

..Anthony Chenevix-Trench.. was my housemaster at Shrewsbury School twenty-five years ago.

Trench made his name as a great innovator, especially in corporal punishment. He would select certain younger boys for a special tuition in Greek prose, in which he was a recognised scholar. Less than three mistakes earned a bar of chocolate; more than three a beating. But Trench was no ordinary flogger. He would offer his culprit an alternative: four strokes with the cane, which hurt; or six with the strap, with trousers down, which didn't. Sensible boys always chose the strap, despite the humiliation, and Trench, quite unable to control his glee, led the way to the upstairs room, which he locked, before hauling down the miscreant's trousers, lying him face down on a couch and lashing out with a belt. He achieved the rare distinction of being hated and despised by every boy who came in contact with him, and was therefore an obvious choice to be the youngest ever housemaster of Bradfield, and then of Eton.

At Eton he made the mistake of whipping the heirs of Earls as though they were run-of-the-mill manufacturer' sons at Shrewsbury or Bradfield. One sensitive young viscount limped home and bared his tattered bum to his outraged father. Trench was sacked. He was appointed headmaster of Fettes. 

Another journalist/author unfortunate enough to experience A C-T as a schoolboy was Nick Fraser, who wrote at some length about him in his 2006 book The Importance of Being Eton:

..Anthony Chenevix-Trench.. was smallish, physically unimpressive and with a faint voice. Although his record was said to be impeccable, there was nothing special about his classical teaching, or indeed his rambling, dull sermons, and one must assume that he was chosen because he seemed modern, and didn't always wear a cassock.

What the boys rapidly understood, even if their elders did not, was that much was wrong with 'Chummy', as the boys called him...

..Trying to retain some semblance of Eton poise as I positioned myself over a wing of a sofa, I was nonetheless astonished when Chummy, after undoing my belt, pulled down first my check trousers, and my underpants. I could hear heavyish breathing, finally the sound of a glass emptied and replaced on the table. Then he began to smack my naked bum with his hand, not so that it hurt him or myself in any way, but slowly enough for me to be aware of the fact that he was weeping profusely. After he had finished (there was, I believe ten smacks, or pats) and I had pulled up my underpants and trousers, he began to say how sorry he was to have hurt me, and how much he loved me. He said that he had loved all those whom he had hurt in his life. I think I heard him say how much he hated himself. Then he turned his back on me, motioning me to leave...

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Part Seven | 1971-1975

Anthony Chenevix-Trench took over as Headmaster of Fettes College in September 1971. Ronald Selby-Wright had this to say in 'Another Home' (AH), his autobiography:

'My visits to Fettes were made all the more pleasant when Anthony Chenevix-Trench was appointed Head Master in 1971. When he was Head Master of Eton I had twice stayed with him and Elizabeth when preaching there, and got to know them and their delightful family well. He was one of the great Head Masters of our time... even those he had to punish were among the first to regard him with affection and respect... I was always invited to join the family for Christmas dinner...'

In contrast, Mark Peel's later biography of the man - 'The Land of Lost Content' - supplies a less securely propagandistic account of the time:

'As time drew nigh for Tony's descent on Fettes, opinions differed as to his coming. The illustrious war record and the Eton pedigree, undoubted attractions for many, were offset by those who knew of his Private Eye notoriety...' 

Tony Blair finished at Fettes at the same time as the previous Headmaster who had ruled over him; but, it is also of note - according to Anthony Seldon - that:

'Ronald Selby Wright had.. helped to arrange - with Jack Mackenzie-Stuart - for Blair to spend the week after his 'A' Levels at a boys' camp.'

The A' Levels, which Tony Blair got, were in English, History and French.

Ronald Selby Wright:

'A special afternoon tea reception was arranged in October 1971 for my friends Anthony and Elizabeth Chenevix-Trench, when he came from being Head Master of Eton to being Head Master of Fettes College, and I invited almost everyone I could think of to meet them.' [AH]

Daily Express, October 20th 1971:

New Moderator

The Church of Scotland's next Moderator will be the former wartime "radio padre" the Rev. Dr. Ronald Selby Wright. He was the unanimous choice of the nominating committee yesterday.

Church Times, November 5th 1971:


DR. RONALD SELBY WRIGHT, Minister of the Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh, has been nominated Moderator-Designate of the 1972 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. His nomination was formally presented to the Commission of Assembly in Edinburgh on Thursday of last week.

1972 seems to have been as busy a year as any other for RSW - now in the Moderator of the Church of Scotland role - including with regard to his contacts with leading figures in 'The Establishment'. In early-June, he flew to London for the funeral of the Duke of Windsor, at the special request of the Queen: 

'..the Queen had.. asked that the Moderator should be invited to take part at this service along with the two Archbishops..' [AH]

In November, he was taken '..to nearly every corner of Caithness..' meeting many people and having tea at the Queen Mother's Castle of May, which was '..a delightful experience...'

Later in that month, he took part in the events around '..the 25th Wedding Anniversary of H.M. The Queen and Prince Philip..'

One day in the diary of his London visit has this:

'..Visited the speaker - Selwyn Lloyd - very nice talk about Fettes. Lunch at Lancaster House presided over by.. the Secretary of State for Scotland... Then to House of Commons to Distinguished Strangers' Gallery to hear Question Time, etc. Received by Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham) in his room and he spoke, very friendly, for some time about Holyrood, etc. Went from him to 10 Downing Street for a cup of tea and talk with Ted Heath, the Prime Minister - he was very friendly and interesting and saw me to the door - couldn't have been nicer. We met in the Cabinet Room. Then to the House of Lords...' [AH]

Ronald Selby Wright also visited Balmoral that year:

'I was the Queen's guest at Balmoral on three occasions.. The second occasion was in 1972 when I was Moderator and on the first evening we had a film show and the second (day) we had a picnic in Queen Victoria's Cottage beside the Loch where Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne did the cooking; the Queen set the table and the singing round the fire was led by the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret...' [AH]

After a year off in London, Tony Blair started a Law Course at St.John's College, Oxford, in 1972.

In the spring of 1974, he was confirmed in the Church of England by the College Chaplain.

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh:

'By 1974 for practical and economic reasons we gave up Panmure House to the Town for a different kind of youth work and retained the Hall, adding later a small annexe which we called "The Stag's Head"...' [AH]

Tony Blair graduated from Oxford and moved to Earl's Court, London, where he joined the Chelsea Labour Party.

In October, he embarked on a one year Bar course at Lincoln's Inn. This next period in his 'journey' was referred to by Clarissa Dickson Wright in an article published about 32 years later:

'..Long before I left school I decided I wanted to go into law... with the assistance of friends I was able to study for the Bar at Gray's Inn, one of the Inns of Court, and do an external law degree at University College, London.

I worked hard and took part in the full round of student activities, from organising rugby fixtures to protesting over the Vietnam War.

There were several members of the future Labour Cabinet in my circle, including Tony Blair himself. We called him Miranda, not least because of his long hair and girlish looks. He was regarded as a poor, sad thing and considered something of a fantasist...

Then there was Cherie Booth, clever, hungry for success, for love, desperately needy; the product of another dysfunctional home. In those days she was very close to her head of chambers, Derry Irvine...' [Mail Online, August 18th 2007]