Harrow County School for Boys

Speech Day 1936 with George Lansbury M.P.
(In the photograph is the headmaster, Mr. Randall Williams on the left, and George Lansbury on the right)

As is customary on Speech Day,the first part of the proceedings was taken up by the Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Thorn.  ...  We listened to the "Solemn Melody" of Walford Davis ... Minuet for Mozart's Synphony No. 40 ... Elgar "Idylle"... Beethoven's Minuet in D ... Gounod's addition to Bach's Prelude ... selection from Bizet's Carmen.

Mr. Pickthall introduced Mr. Lansbury to us as the speaker of the evening.  There were cheers and applause, and Mr. Lansbury began to speak as follows:

"Mr. Randall Williams, Governors ... and everybody else."  He said that he was very pleaseed to come there, and that both he and the audience had had a very enjoyable evening, up till that moment.  The first thing he wanted to say was that he had heard mny amateur bands, but he had never enjoyed one so much.  He congratulated them.  With reference to Forrest, who had declaimed a portion of one of Gladstone's speeches, Mr. Lansbury said that he had heard Gladstone himself in 1873 or '74... If Forrest ever went into Parliament, he hoped he would be on his side!

Referring to the prizes he had distributed, Mr. Lansbury admitted that he didn't like prizes, adding: "I always back the losers." It didn't matter whether you got the book or the label, so long as you had done your best.  We could not all be top, or we should topple over.  The losers had let the others win, and therefore they deserve praise more than the winners!  He congratulated every boy on what his prize had meant in hard work.

The speaker congratulated all who went to school nowadays.  There was a big difference in standards and methods of education.  When he had been introduced to the Staff it had made him quake at the knees!  But that feeling had passed away ... the Head was so genial, and he and the vicar had put him at his ease.

He had first gone to a "dame" school: you did nothing there ... thoroughly ... You threaded needles for an old lady who taught nothing.  "I would have won a prize for threading needles, if there had been one!" added Mr. Lansbury.

How much had we advanced since then?  What you learned was important, but of infinitely greater importance was what came out of you.  Co-operation between the teachers and the taught was the only way of achieving a satisfactory result.  Education today suffered from there being, from the lowest standards upwards, too great numbers.  A teacher could not understand the capabilities of each boy; yet a thorough education was impossible until those who educated were able to study and develop whatever there was in each individual mind.

Gladstone had once said, "Get knowledge... all you can.  The higher you climb, the more you will see how high there is to climb."  ...

Mr. Lansbury pointed out that education today was a co-operative business, carried on by the nation.  His own education had cost fourpence a week, and had been conducted by the Church!  Those who were young lived at a time which, with all its drawbacks and difficulties of accomodation, playing fields, feeding, etc. was a marvellous age.  Other countries might be in advance of us in education, but he remembered that the School Acts were only passed in his life-time; and when he recollected that today there was everywhere some effort being made on behalf of children - which was not so in his time - he asked himself, "What is the end?"  He wondered whether we had really given children an opportunity of learning what were the real things in life; the most important things were often left out: personality, character, and the importance of the body as well as the mind. Today there ought not to be a single hungry child, not a single child needing physical attention without its being provided. School now was free and open to all; but the next development must be in our own lives, and our motto should be " a healthy mind in a healthy body."

Mr. Lansbury next referred to the great advance that had taken place in science, and pointed out how the invention of cables and the microphone had enabled the King to speak intimately to the whole Nation.  Later there would come a common language, and he said: "You will then be able to overcome much of the evil that lives in international relationships."  We were already able to sail under the sea and go across and around the world in a very short space of time.

...truth was so often smothered over by materialism.  The modern age weighed up things too much in a cash balance.

"you," he added, addressing himself to the boys, "are healthy and vigorous, and are going out into the world.  You have the greatest opportunity the world has ever known."  It was within their power to transform the hideous contradictions of life, and all the hideous things that war brings.  ... "God made all the good things of the world; because my body and other men's and women's bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, I will never do anything to injure or defile them.

Mr. Lansbury went on to say that the nation which would stand for this would be the nation that would lead the peoples of the world away from wars towards peace and security for the first time in the history of our race.

The guest of the evening sat down amidst long and enthusiastic applause, which showed how deeply his great sincerity had impressed his hearers, both old and young.

A vote of thanks was proposed by Mrs. Causton, who humorously referred to Mr. Lansbury's championship of the "poor downtrodden females>" His presence there was one more example, she said, of his devoted service to others.

J. W. Carroll followed with a vote of thanks to the Chairman, whose practice over two years would have cleared away - he said - any difficulty he might otherwise have had in granting the usual holiday.

The proceedings were terminated by the granting of the holiday, and finally be the unveiling of a photograph of the late King George V.

Source: Gaytonian, March 1936

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