(Extracted from spring 1957 Elliottonian Magazine)
The first chapter of the new schools history must be like the opening pages of a novel. There is the background of the place and of the characters and at the same time feeling that important happenings lie ahead, disappointments perhaps, successes and ambitions to be realised. The first week, that fateful week in September, was the symbol of events to come. On each of the first four days the separate elements entered the building: the two Elliott schools, boys and girls of Huntingfield, boys and girls transferred from other schools, the 440 first formers: and then on the Friday all had to make the first effort to meet one another and to live together. More important than the name of Elliott, the new school inherited from its forerunners a badge and a saying ”Manners Makyth Man” a proud saying which each pupil can justify only by personal conduct and bearing.
The varying elements of the school population were reflected in the staff. Mrs Williams came from her headship of the Elliott girls’ School with its fine traditions; from the Elliott Schools too came Mr. Andrew, Mr Colloff, Mr Hofmann, Mr. Mason as House Masters, Miss Cast, Miss Davies and Miss Thomas as House Mistresses, together with Miss Wheeler from Huntingfield. Mr. Rose joined us as Senior Master from Bristol. Mr. Whiting to take charge of English and Mr. Trotter for Science came from Essex; Mr. Halsey, Mathematics, came from Werkin College; Miss Hirst, Modern Languages, and Mr. Long, History, Came from Middlesex; Mr Keyte, Geography, Mr. Ford, Technical Subjects, Mr Savidge for Commerce and Mrs Collins, Girls P.E., from other London Schools; while Mr. Gibson came from Stratford-upon-Avon to take the boys’ P.E. Miss Prince and Miss Brown came to their departments straight from special training, While Miss Whitty came from the Elliott girls’ School to organize the work initially of Needlework, Housecraft and allied departments.
The first problem was the completion of the building. On September 10th much remained to be done. Until the Assembly Hall could be used the gymnasia housed the first assemblies, but a more serious drawback was the unfinished state of the workshops and the other specialist rooms, while all the lessons proceeded to the accompaniment of hammering, painting and fitting. Some of the newcomers found the building a most exiting place to run in with doors to be banged and banisters to be slid down, and only gradually has the lesson been learned, that it is quicker to walk. Queuing was the order for the morning bus, for entering the school, for school dinner; and only gradually has it been reduced or eliminated.
On October 1st a number of first events took place. The kitchen, under the direction of Mrs. Hunwick, made the first attempt to serve a cooked meal with apparatus that was not altogether serviceable out of ingredients that had not altogether been delivered. Her Majesty’s Inspector paid his first visit, and for the first time at mid-day the sun was obscured and darkness descended. In the following days the dark clouds, literally and metaphorically, passed away, and the school settled into a routine; boys and girls no longer lost their way between lessons and a fine, warm autumn reduced the poundage of London clay trampled in to the building. Mr. West was seen to smile and Mr. Hall’s financial Jugglery began to produce correct answers.
Already by the end of September particular features of the school life were beginning to show themselves. The school population was unlikely to remain constant. In the first week of term it was clear that estimates of 1,500 children were to be far exceeded. With numbers soon over 1,700, including a sizeable Sixth form, a week had not passed before an additional form in second year was set up. Afterwards week-by-week new pupils arrived, some from other parts of London and England, some from countries of Europe and beyond. It became clear, too, that the school community was to be a tolerant one, ready to accept and welcome the newcomer, ready to help the new boy or girl who did not understand our language. It was appropriate that one of the many societies to be founded was that of world citizenship.
The second feature was the influx of visitors, beginning as a trickle and swelling in to a steady stream. Boys & girls soon showed that they were not to be regarded as inmates of a zoo, but that they were very ready to act as guides and interpreters, to answer questions, or to speak with enthusiasm of their activities and of their ambitions.
So the first chapter was written. How the remaining chapters will read no one can tell. This will depend on answers to a number of questions. How far will each boy and girl apply “Manners Makyth Man” to his personal conduct and to relations with others inside and outside the school? How far will hard work at school or home, in the classroom or on the playing field, be accepted as a necessity rather than as something to be avoided? How far will boys and girls match so beautifully designed a school by their own bearing, clothing, reasonable pride in themselves, by their own high standards? How efficiently will the elected members of the school Council and all others who accept responsibilities discharge their duties with the welfare of the company at heart?
The answers to these questions will determine the future of the school.
About Mr Holmes:
Maurice Holmes was a Humanist and was born in 1907 in Cheam, Surrey. He read classics at Cambridge, taught in Yorkshire and then was a Head on the Isle of Man, before coming to the Elliott (It is likely that he was overseeing the Elliott before 1956). It is/was normal practice for a school being newly built to have the appointed Head consulted about details of the layout, of the building. It is said that he was given the choice of 5 gyms, or 3 gyms and a pool. he went for 5 gyms and later organised raising funds for a pool. However planning permission was not given, as a pool was planned within walking distance in Putney. Maurice Holmes and his wife Ruth had 2 sons and a daughter; Ruth died and he married a lady who ran a tea shop in in Romsey, Hampshire. He died himself in 1999.
To those that never met Mr Holmes (odd that after all these years he is still 'Mr' Holmes to so many of us) I would say this. He was everything that has been said about him. I have told of my experience of him elsewhere and I have heard many other stories, that will perhaps one day make their way here. The new school was very lucky to have had such an exceptional father, at the time of its rebirth.