Mr. George Thorne
A Tribute by Mr. W. G. E. Duke (click on the hyperlinks)
Last term saw the retirement of Mr. George Thorn, the Deputy Headmaster, after completing nearly forty years of devoted service to the school. The mere mention of such a span of time can convey little, or much, according to one's viewpoint. Translated into human terms, however, it implies that some four or five thousand boys have passed through the school during that period, all of whom have felt the impress of his personality and have been influenced by his work and example, and in the recollections of all of them some kindly thought or remembrance of Mr. Thorn finds an honoured corner.
After taking his degree in Science at Bristol University, Mr. Thorn decided to make teaching his career, and his first appointment was to the staff of Marling School, Stroud, Gloucestershire, to teach Science, Mathematics and Geography. But soon came the outbreak of World War I, and he left to serve in H. M. forces for five years, mostly abroad. In 1919 he came as Science and Music Master to Harrow County School - at the same time that Mr. Randall Williams (as he then was) became Headmaster, and the happy and fruitful partnership of words and music, R.W and G.T. was set in train.
This collaboration has given much that has become an integral part of school life; perhaps its first outcome was the School Service Book, which has been reprinted many times and is in use in many other schools. Many the Gaytonian, past or present, whose well-used, and sometimes battered copy brings to mind some hymn-tune or carol, music by G.T. The best known composition by R.W. and G.T. to all those who have passed through the School, is of course the School Song, "Virtus non Stemma", that felicitious blend of words and music; I often wonder which came first, the music or the words. What a fine robust tune it is: it invites everyone to throw off his diffidence, forget his lack of voice, and let himself go in the pure enjoyment of singing. Yet it is but one example among the many of the School Songs and tunes for Carols and Hymns which G.T. has given to the School; I am sure that, had he wished, Mr. Thorn could have provided many a tuneful and delightful score for the stage, and now that he has more time for his muse he will be composing some music for our pleasure.
Mr. Thorn's contribution to the music of the School is perhaps the most abiding thing he leaves with us. What of the man himself? Much was perceived in his manner of playing or conducting - his enthusiasm, his coaxing or exhortation of his orchestra or choir, the subtleties of punctuation of rhythm he produced - all these are part of the personality we came to know. He has always known what he wanted to do - he was a church organist at the age of 17 - and how to get things done by transmitting his enthusiasm and sense of purpose. We shall always think of the School Organ as George Thorn's, for he provided for so many years the driving force and inspiration behind the multitude of activities conjured up to bring to fruition his grand design, now the centrepiece in our New Hall.
A man of character, around whom in a school such as ours many legends gather; some are concerned with his days as ruler of the Chemistry Laboratory (now Room B.5.), whence many stories - true and apocryphal emanated concerning fearsome experiments, cleaning up, and the museum which had its home there. The more recent generations have their stories deriving more from his somewhat awesome position of Deputy Headmaster, but few - from his colleagues downwards - failed to feel something of his capacity for friendship and fellowship, and all are linked in the music he has given to the school.
I am sure that I voice the feeling of all Gaytonians, past and present, in wishing Mr. Thorn many happy years of retirement; many opportunities for music and song. We hope that he may visit us often to share them with him.
W. G. E. Duke
from Gaytonian 1959
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