Friday, 22nd April 2016
It is good to be back in school again.
First and foremost I need to let you know the very sad news that Heather McLean, the wife of our Bursar, William McLean, collapsed on holiday while in Morocco and sadly did not recover. The funeral will be in the Cathedral on Monday 25th April at 2.45pm with a reception afterwards in the McKenna Room; of course any of you are welcome to come if you would like to show support. Heather worked for a number of years as the librarian at Magdalen College School. William has worked tirelessly on behalf of the School as its Bursar since January 2001 and was himself a pupil at the school. We owe him a great deal and therefore I wish publicly to express the School's support for him and his family at this very difficult time. William is very fortunate to have a large and very close family all of whom have been with him over the past week and have been a huge support to him. May Heather rest in peace.
On Saturday we will be very busy. At 10.00 am there will be a Cricket Festival for boys from Form 1 to 4 run by Mr Dickinson and Mr Cotterill; this should be a wonderful opportunity for the young boys to get some extra experience. Cricketing is best learnt young! There is also the opportunity for a few keen boys from age 10 up to join in Real Tennis coaching sessions at the Real Tennis courts on Merton Street. If you are interested in details of this, please contact Mr Dickinson. As part of the group of parents who went for an introductory session to the game last term, I know what an entertaining and enjoyable sport it is. I am beginning to dream about having a Real Tennis team...
But that is not all. At 8.00 pm on Saturday the PA and Christ Church College Music Society will be putting on the second of their joint concerts in the Cathedral. Last year it was a most wonderful event with the quality of performance being extraordinary. There will be performances from undergraduates, school teachers, parents and pupils. There will also be a performance from Quinn (Old Boy) whose musicality is staggering. I would urge you, please, to come as it will be an unforgettable experience and it is very heartening to be able to witness the quality of the performances which our pupils, teachers and parents are able to produce. I am very humbled by the effort and sensitivity which our young boys, in particular, put into their music making. Their aspiration and concern for excellence is extremely heartening and an inspiration to all of us. Amongst other delights there will be music by Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Fauré and a performance of the intriguingly named "Roald Dahl's Dirty Beast", which will be read - no doubt with great flourish - by Mr Morton. What's not to like? There are refreshments both before and after the concert and there is parking on the Broadwalk. Tickets will be available on the door.
In the next couple of weeks we will be interviewing for a number of jobs, firstly for the Form 4 position made vacant by Mr Watson's appointment as Head of English, secondly for an IT teacher and technician to ensure that our IT systems and teaching are appropriate for the children of today, and thirdly for a Science teacher as sadly Miss Morgan, having taught here for three years, has decided to move on at the end of this term. I wish her all the very best for the future and thank her for all that she has done for the school and for the boys.
On Thursday I spoke to the school about Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her 90th Birthday. I was able to mention that, amongst other reasons for celebrating her birthday was the fact that our school has a special relationship with the Queen. Of all Oxford's famous and nationally known schools, we are the only one to be a Royal Foundation. It was an honour for the school to be presented to the Queen on the occasion of her distribution of the Maundy Money in 2012 and, more recently, in 2014 Her Majesty invited the Choir to sing in St James's Palace on the occasion of the launch of the Cathedral Music Trust, a charity designed to raise money in order to support Cathedral Choristers. The Queen herself made a private donation to the trust - a gesture which shows her appreciation of our great Choir.
Talking of the Choir, our family had a tremendous trip to North America accompanying the Choir on its tour. I wanted to publicly acknowledge the professionalism of the boys who went on the tour and the way in which the staff looked after.
In the Cathedral this morning, a Dominican Friar, Brother Richard Ounsworth from Blackfriars on St Giles' preached most entertainingly about dragons and their slaying. He disappointed some by letting slip that dragons were not real. He pointed out that the principal reason for the difficulty in combatting evil was the banal nature of so much evil and hence the energy needed to fight against it. Nonetheless from God's point of view, in combatting evil we were all the inheritors of St George and are all heroic in our own way. St George's Day this year brings, only two days after having celebrated the Queen's 90th, the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare who gets my vote for the greatest Englishman. I thought I should provide a quotation from the Bard himself for this auspicious day but am not sure which one to choose. The English language and the English people owe him so much, so on the eve of St George's Day, I think it appropriate to quote from the play Hamlet about what he said about his fellow countrymen. News has arrived that Hamlet, whom most people believe has gone mad, has been sent from Denmark to England.
"Why was he sent into England?"
"Why because he was mad; he shall recover his wits there; or, if he do not, tis no great matter there."
"Twill not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he."
I'll leave you to make of that what you will, except to say that a conversation I had in the playground this morning leads me to believe that there are many very sensible and sane young Englishmen who seem to me to be the very pinnacle of sanity.
"Sir," I was asked, "did you read in the newspaper that apparently one type of slime has brains."
"No I didn't," I replied, "Oh dear!"
"Em," my interlocutor responded very sagely "could be a bit awkward."
If ever there was a sane assessment of a situation and a perfect demonstration of the English stiff upper lip, this was it.