Mr. G. R. Yelland
Turn to page 145 of Trevor May's History of HCS (1975) and you will see a photo of the staff in 1960. To the right of ARS are Swanny Amos and Bob Attridge; in between them sits the gaunt, imposing figure of George Yelland, Head of English 1953-1961.
We have just learnt from Anthony Smith (Open Exh, BNC, 1956 and now President of Magdalen College, Oxford) that George Yelland's grand-daughter is a student at his college. Sadly, we heard through her in March that George had died some two years ago.
George took over the English Department on the retirement of the eventual centenarian, Sydney Fooks. It cannot have been easy, stepping into the shoes of a man who was much loved and who had himself been at Gayton Road for thirty years. For one reason or another, Connolly and Snowdon also left; and Stanley Turnbull and I replaced them.
George was one of the old school, a meticulous worker (often to be seen marking in the small common room when you arrived in the morning), demanding high standards from boys and colleagues alike. He was a natural disciplinarian, able to exert authority with one glance of his eagle eye. In the Common Room, when passions sometimes ran high, his was the voice of moderation and common sense.
He edited Gaytonian, and the Cadet magazine, and was responsible for the Golden Jubilee Book in 1961. He became Commanding Officer of the RAF Cadets, alongside Norman Anderson, teaching them Navigation and leading them to some enjoyable camps. As with all good leaders, though, he knew when to delegate, and allowed Stanley and me a free rein in the Dramatic Society.
He specialised in Chaucer and Elizabethan writers, and had a highly successful run of scholars going on to Oxbridge. Thankfully, he allowed his colleagues to share the sixth form work, which not all Department Heads have been known to do. Former pupils still speak of their irritation to this day when they spot printing errors, so well drilled were they by GRY in the niceties of the language.
He left in 1961 to become Deputy Head of Bromsgrove Grammar School, and later his leadership and organisational skills were rewarded by his being appointed Head of Cotham School, Bristol.
What he would have made of some of the wilder spirits who joined the Department later, I cannot imagine; but I shall always be grateful to him. Young and inexperienced as I was, he entrusted the School Play to me in my first year and never ceased to supply encouragement and support to all who needed it. We send our belated condolences to his family.
(With thanks to DGW, ANA and Ian Andrews (State Scholar 1958)
(written in 1998)
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