Harrow County Staff

Mr. B. G. Marchant

Bernard Marchant taught at Harrow County School from 1952 until the 1980s, after the transformation to Gayton High School.  He died on 20th June 2009.  Here are some tributes to him:

from Michael Schwartz....

Tributes to Bernard Marchant will invariably be written in educated and measured English. For command of the highest standards of English was one of the many skills which Bernard Marchant passed on to his students, even above and beyond love of the Classics. 

A lesson with Bernard Marchant was uplifting. One would emerge with a knowledge and understanding of anything from a basic point of grammar to the reasons why Cleon demagogue of Athens was so loathsome. One would make one's hesitant way through the blood-stained mess that was Roman politics as the Triumvirates united and then split to fight for control of Rome. One could even prepare honey with Bernard courtesy of Virgil's Georgics!  

Above all, pupils would familiarise themselves with every detail of the campaigns and processes under discussion. Their respect for say Thucydides as that great historian watched - with a mixture of horror and dismay - the decline of Athens was not just narrated. It was brought home with a humanity and emotion which those who were taught by Bernard fully appreciated. Bernard did come across as stern to those who were not taught by him. But those who were his students realised the love he entertained for his subject.

On a personal note I sometimes met Bernard after leaving school at meetings of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, Britain‘s most important Classical Greek organisation. His love of the Classics continued well after retirement.  

One or two pupils joked that entering the room which Bernard was to make his own, A15, was just like waiting in a surgery. Bernard would enter and dispense his mastery of Greek and Latin literature. His teaching “skeleton” was the wall-concealing map of the Imperium Romanum which cascaded into view when released. I am not quite sure which was the more inspiring and imposing – the vista of the Ancient World or its tall, broad interpreter.   

It has been remarked that translating from and into Latin and Greek results in an education in English better than any English course can provide. This was the case with Bernard - to arrive as closely as possible at the real meaning of a piece of Classical literature one had to dig deep into one's own seam of vocabulary, selecting two or three words before delivering justice with the correct one. And Bernard had English vocabulary in abundance. It may not be the fashionable, monosyllabic grunts of the contemporary and ignorant English of some but those who knew Bernard realised his literate inheritance.  

Bernard's English was indeed noted by fellow members of staff. One French teacher remarked to me that staff meetings in the Harrow County Common Room witnessed English of the greatest eloquence when Bernard spoke. 

Bernard Marchant could easily have gone on to become a university academic. He was, however, recruited as part of the drive to teach the Classics that was the brainchild of the often-controversial Dr Simpson. It was and is to the gain of generations of Gaytonians that Bernard Marchant was there to enrich their lives.   

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