Friday, 2nd November 2018
I feel very privileged to work with such wonderful pupils and teachers and, as I am sure you all know, I attempt to celebrate week by week what they achieve. Foremost in my mind at the moment is an extraordinary booklet put together by our Head of History, David Cotterill, about the boys in the School who died during the First World War. Every year at Remembrance we read out the names of those pupils who died. We do so though using only their initials rather than their first names. This has been because we have not known their first names. Following research done by three boys who left last year, David, Joe and William, we now know a great deal about those who fought and died in the Great War, and most especially we know their names. All these details are in the booklet which we will be giving to the pupils to mark the Armistice centenary next weekend and I hope very much that you will read about those extraordinary young men. I have written about them in the Oxford Times’s special Armistice centenary edition, to be published on Remembrance Sunday, which should be available throughout the City. On Friday we celebrate the centenary in the Cathedral at 8.45 am; I hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend. At this ceremony, for the first time the boys’ names will be read out in full. What a privilege to be the Headmaster of a school where such a project has been achieved.
On Tuesday the Worcester Choir went to sing at Gloucester Cathedral. For most of the boys it was their first visit to this incomparable building and so I therefore, decided to give them a tour. In the fan-vaulted cloisters used in a Harry Potter Film we saw the monastic lavatorium, the place where the monks washed. It is, to my mind, the ultimate in bathroom design. The shallow trough interspersed with drains lies in front of beautiful stained glass and above there is a baby fan-vaulted ceiling. The boys saw the mediaeval memorial carving to the workman who had fallen to his death from the flimsy wooden scaffolding; they saw the Great East Window, a wall of mediaeval glass bigger than the size of a tennis court; and in the Lady Chapel, a glorious architectural shoebox gleaming with colour, a tower of poppies, which moved them all. The evensong was so lovely; set under the intricate vault almost 100 feet above them, the Choir sang magnificently, the sound echoing and reverberating around that peerless space, the windows now dark in autumnal night. Experiences such as these will not be easily forgotten.
We are blessed in so many ways to be part of Christ Church Cathedral School. One of the most obvious is the fact that the School is linked with the most spectacular of all Oxbridge Colleges. This brings with it so many advantages, including that we have as our chapel the Cathedral of the country’s largest diocese and our privileged access to the treasures of Christ Church Picture Gallery. Christ Church has the finest collection of art of any academic institution in the country and we are so fortunate that this evening we are able to have a private tour of this extraordinary set of pictures, the oldest publically viewable collection in the country. Amongst the images we will see are some of the most precious drawings in the world: touchingly beautiful sketches from the Italian Renaissance by Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo.
Our parents are so wonderfully supportive of the School. I meet many of you in the morning when I wait to welcome pupils arriving on Brewer Street. There are many lovely interactions which occur. I could, of course, list many experiences I have and will try to include some in this weekly letter. However I am particularly mindful of one which occurred this week. I had a lovely conversation with a parent who was very struck by the way in which his son was suddenly becoming more independent. Of course this is always a painful process but ultimately it is the point of parenthood and a process to which schools contribute. One knows one has succeeded as a parent when one’s child begins to need one less. We reflected briefly on this thought together but being a Christ Church parent he did not stop there. He said that he knew a poem which had this as its subject and he promised to send it to me. It was a very busy day for me yesterday with a Governors’ meeting and various other things to prepare for, but halfway through the morning into my inbox came the following poem which I consider to be one of the most moving things I have read, a poem which perfectly captures the emotions associated with letting go of one’s child. I include it now and thank so much one of your number who knew about it and took the time to send it to me. Anyone who has been a parent or teacher will understand the poignant emotions expressed therein. I am so lucky to be a parent, to work in a world where we help young people to grow wings, and to live in a school where there are parents who, in their various different ways, contribute so much to the life of the place.