The School under
John and Norah Douglas
Although it may not have been realised then, the 1920's and 30's were a time
of very great change for the school. The guarded education which had been
its original aim grew less and less possible. Every additional day-scholar
helped to take the school further away from it ; equally, every additional
day-scholar moved the school nearer towards the time when it would accept
public funds. Throughout the United Kingdom these were the years to see the
start of the age of the grammar schools. But in Ulster there was a
difference. There, religious denominations were particularly unwilling to
lose their control over schools, and this applied to all sects - Roman
Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Methodist, Quaker. All of them
wanted the help of local authorities, but not at the price of allowing their
schools to be local-authority-controlled. It was with this problem that the
Province's Education Acts of 1923, 1930 and 1947 were mainly concerned. At
the insistence of the churches, the Acts provided for many more voluntary
schools than in England, and it was into this pattern that the Lisburn
Quaker School was soon to fit. By accepting local day scholars it was
fulfilling a local educational need. Without it the Education Committee of
County Antrim would have had to build and maintain at least one new
Secondary School in Lisburn. To support and enlarge the existing Friends and
Wallace High Schools was the obvious course of action, and it was followed
so quietly as to be almost unremarked on. The Stormont Government laid down
strict conditions for the aiding of voluntary schools, and at different
times and in different ways the governing bodies agreed to the conditions
and accepted the money.
The New Headmaster
No such large considerations mattered much, however, at the time when John
M. and Norah Douglas came to Lisburn. Their immediate task was to settle the
school into a peaceful, ordered life after the frustrations and crises of
the previous half dozen years. `If', said one greatly respected Quaker and
member of the School Committee (Sylvia Green, quoted by Florence Patterson),
`If we don't get the right man this time, we may as well close'. As it
happens, John M. Douglas carefully kept many documents from this time of his
life ; they speak for themselves of the pecularly difficult, even harassing
situation which he encountered.
He had been at the school both as a pupil and as an assistant
master, and at the time of his appointment as Headmaster he was at Newtown
as Second Master to Arnold Marsh. He knew quite well that the school was in
serious trouble. Before submitting his formal application, he wrote to
Ronald Barritt enquiring what his salary would be and what direction the
school was expected to take. The reply, courteous but not particularly
informative (it hardly could have been), was sufficiently re-assuring to
draw from John Douglas a firm application. An enquiry on behalf of the
Committee to Newtown's Headmaster brought the following typically honest and
unconventional comment from Arnold Marsh
... John M. Douglas is a much more experienced teacher than I am and knows a
great deal more about the organisation of schools and about methods of
teaching. Our relative positions here are for that reason absurd, and they
have only lasted because the financial position of Newtown could have made a
share for him in the headmastership much less lucrative than the senior
mastership, and he has his family to consider. I, on the other hand, have to
bear the burden of resuscitating Newtown and therefore feel averse to
allowing my present autocratic position to be undermined in any way. . . .
Neither he nor his wife are likely to be content with Lisburn in its present
state, and I shall be surprised if within a few years time they have not
instigated you Ulster Friends to make it at least as good a school as
Newtown. It ought to be far better.
Both of them are greatly interested in the Society of Friends and take an
active part in the life of the Meeting here, and John M. Douglas knows more
about Quakers and Quakerism in Ireland than anyone else I have ever met.
Both of them being Lisburn Old Scholars know plenty about the seamy side of
the life of the scholars and are not nearly so likely to have the wool
pulled over their eyes as strangers would be. . . .
The words make no mention of an aspect of the convictions of John - and
indeed Norah - Douglas which cannot have been acceptable to large numbers of
the Committee and of Ulster Friends : they believed in a united Ireland. As
long ago as 1920 John Douglas had been engaged in correspondence in The
Friend. The final paragraph of a letter of his published on 30th April of
that year read
As for constructive policy, I fear neither Home Rule Bills, nor release of
prisoners nor withdrawal of troops can achieve anything without an
accompanying change of heart in those who control British policy. Sooner or
later, a British Ministry will conquer its prejudices, give up its claim to
moral superiority and make a Peace Treaty with Irish nationalism on equal
terms. Sinn Finn and Ulster will also have to climb down and treat with
England and each other. This is an adventurous policy but it might succeed.
The present policy in Ireland is equally dangerous and offers no hope for
Written in the year before Partition, these words are clear and
uncompromising ; and though as Headmaster of a growing school serving a
whole local community, John Douglas did not obtrude his views in later life,
he did not change them. He believed in one Ireland, even if he was not, like
his brother James, politically active. And James' activities were another
thing difficult for many Ulster Friends to regard with equanimity.
Suggestions in later years that he should become President of the Old
Scholars Association came to nothing-the opposition was too strong.
Fortunately, however, and no doubt after much soul-searching and discussion,
the Lisburn Committee appointed John Douglas to the Headship. To onlookers
it must have seemed an unenviable position to hold. For the old divisions
were all still there, Spencer-Smith's supporters being still unreconciled to
his dismissal. Charles B. Lamb spoke for the most generous of them when he
wrote to John Douglas on 19th April 1929
In the matter of Lisburn School, if a change has to be made I am glad you
have been offered the Headmastership. For my part I had hoped for an
extension of time in which to regain confidence in the present Head -but the
Committee has felt otherwise and as I said to Henrietta Bulla, I hoped that
if a change was being made the post would be offered to an Irish Friend.
The fact that you applied for the post implies forethought and a willingness
to act and judge. May this feeling be confirmed as the other prelimaries are
going through so that you and Norah may enter upon so important a service
with a comfortable sense of the Heavenly Father's guidance and approval.
You have I learn been queried as to accepting C. F. SpencerSmith as
assistant master and I trust that this idea will not be in any way
objectionable to you. Unless something nearer to his mind is forthcoming he
is in real need of such a post. . . .
Kind and frank words, written just
In the absence of the Chairman of the School Committee, John M. Douglas
would write to the Vice-Chairman, Cecil Walpole Marsh. One such early letter
produced the following interesting reply, dated 29th March 1929
I appreciate your `Dear Cecil Marsh' in the inside of your letter. It is
plain, Quakerly and friendly. Your Cecil Marsh on the outside of the
envelope appears somewhat inappropriate on the outside of a public postal
wrapper. Many people with middle names like to see them at least indicated.
There may be few in Northern Ireland whose ancestors have been entitled to
the designation 'Esq.', and for that reason there may be the more who lay
stress on it. I am under the impression that I, as a
graduate of a British University, am entitled to it. However it is not of
myself I am thinking, and I am extremely anxious that the new head of
Lisburn may create a favourable impression all round, and Northern upstarts
do like all their titles, dignitaries and tags.
Yours very sincerely,
Cecil Walpole Marsh.
`Making a favourable impression' was not likely to be easy.
From the School Committee's point of view, however, the main problem once
the new Headmaster had been appointed, was to find a Senior Mistress. Since
Miss Budd's resignation no-one had taken full responsibility for this very
important post. Henrietta Bulla as convener of the Staffing Committee wrote
a number of letters about this. Herself a pupil at the school from 1873-79,
she had taught in both The Mount and Saffron Walden before returning to
Lisburn in 1892 where she remained until her early retirement in 1902 soon
after W. D. Braithwaite's arrival. She understood the position only too
well. From the first, John Douglas naturally wanted his wife Norah to take
the position. Did he, one wonders, know of the Committee's inability ever
since 1874 and very likely earlier, to co-operate with the Head's wife ? If
he did, he would not have been surprised by Henrietta Bulla's letter of 21st
Several Friends were a little doubtful about Norah taking the position of
Senior Mistress, which is agreed for a year, after which they think she
should be released and another appointment made. A FRIEND for this post is
desired. I explained your views and Norah's with regard to this and other
matters, and all were pleased to think of good organisation and good will in
The search for older, experienced staff went on, with everything made more
difficult by the fact that Spencer-Smith remained at the school until July
`I think', wrote Henrietta Bulla on 14th July, `the situation at Lisburn
must surely be worse than in 1911. For one thing a very much longer time has
been given in which to work up the feelings of either party. . . . The
atmosphere of rumour and gossip is most trying and is very difficult to deal
with. . . .'
She and some of the Committee were very disappointed a few days later when
the experienced Miss G who had applied for a post refused to come unless
offered more money. `Governors', reflected Henrietta, `must learn that good
salaries will need to be paid'.
Wisely, it was decided to ask James Woolman to remain for one further and
final year. Although he was 66 and suffered from failing sight, his long
service which had made him in fact if not in name senior master ever since
W. D. Braithwaite's time, was bound to be a steadying influence. Under J. B.
Ridges he had undertaken a very great deal of the organising work of the school and had been one of the
few under C. F. Spencer-Smith who had through hard work and simple goodness
kept everyone's respect. `I think', he wrote to John Douglas, `that the key
to the situation is to pull up the Lower School at all costs in discipline
and standard. It would pay better to do this and let the Upper Forms suffer
from inexperienced teaching'.
It was necessary also to let it be known publicly that the school was again
on the move and would welcome new pupils. The Secretary, Frank Squire, asked
for guidance from the new Headmaster
I shall be glad if you will kindly prepare an advertisement which you think
will appeal to parents. John Ridges' idea was to emphasise the `bracing and
healthy situation'. Mr. SpencerSmith's idea was more to stress the fact of
`good honours degrees'. Other schools make a point of individual attention
and the fact that they cater for the kindergarten child as well as the
Matriculation and University examination. (19th July 1929).
It was in such circumstances that John and Norah Douglas and their family
came to Lisburn in August 1929. They remained until they retired in 1952.
The new Head was slightly built and of about average height. Like himself,
his parents and grandparents had been at the school as pupils. Norah Douglas
always took special pleasure in Mary Tolerton's account quoted earlier of
how soon after 1800 the master Samuel Douglas, John's great-uncle, rode off
on horseback with the teacher Sarah Dickenson as his bride behind him `on a
pillion'. After a brief spell at Lisburn as assistant master John Douglas
had spent six years teaching in India. It was no doubt this period
especially that enabled him to look at problems with a steady equanimity,
for compared with the Indian scene, Lisburn with all its difficulties would
not seem overwhelming- more like a considerable `fuss' (a favourite word of
his) in a tiny, little-known corner of the Western world. So he was unlikely
to magnify the importance of his task, as he showed little more than a month
after the start of his first term, when in the presence of parents,
committee and staff, he gave an address at what would now be called the
Annual Speech Day. The following account of it appeared in the Lisburn
Standard for 25th October 1929
The Headmaster said co-operation between teachers and parents was needed,
not so much in the actual subjects of study as in a hundred other matters of
importance to growing children, yet sometimes neglected. He instanced short
sight, round shoulders, and girls overworking amongst others.
A school, emphasised the Headmaster, was more than a place for
book-learning. Children learned as much by rubbing against one another as by
formal lessons. In a good school young people would learn to consider
themselves not merely as self-seeking
individuals but as members of a community which was the beginning of
citizenship. This respect was specially important in a boarding school, but
all schools had their own traditions. Large schools had undoubted advantages
in organisation and equipment, but small schools ought to be able to give
great freedom to individual pupils to develop. But as no school was perfect
it was important that parents and teachers should make acquaintance early
and not await the moment when one or two had grounds for complaint.
This wise, sensible and practical approach to the school, which believed
firmly in its smallness and in its concern with the full personality rather
than with narrowly academic achievement, never changed. It was low-key, and
all the better for being so. Nine years later, when he broadcast about the
school he served so faithfully and loved so well, these were his concluding
... one may well ask : `is there anything left of the original ?' Well, yes,
Those old Quaker founders realised that gardens and green trees, and distant
views are important parts of education. Thanks to their foresight, we have
these advantages still.
They planned for girls as well as boys.
They believed in regular hours ; early to bed and early to rise.
They discovered in hobbies, especially in nature study, a great means of
Behind their quaintly worded rules lay some fine Christian ideals about
which they did not boast often. . . .
With such a balanced, quiet outlook, it is not surprising that John Douglas
successfully negotiated his potentially dangerous first term. He moved
unobstrusively amongst staff and children, encouraging, learning, and
establishing a firm routine. The Committee loyally stood by him, seemingly
united as they had not been for many years. There was some difficulty about
a non-Quaker child who, against long-established policy, was granted a
rebate on the term's fees. Typically, John Douglas took full blame and found
a compromise that settled the matter quietly. Unknown to anyone except his
wife Norah, he kept a notebook in which he recorded observations on his
early days. He continued his entries until 1941 and the book's survival is
the kind of source which historians love. Its early, almost laconic entries
run as follows
Notes on Evening and other Meetings
Sunday 8th September. Evening.
Headmaster on `All the different things you have to learn in life'.
Thursday September 12th
Headmaster on `Telling the Truth'. What hinders us : 1) Fear ; ii) Pleasing
others ; iii) Indolence in finding out truth ; iv) bad English.
At Assembly spoke about `not being quite straight' re boy with excuse from
walk who was found playing games.
Pupils not present for Headmaster's address but were talked to in the
morning about manners in public especially grabbing for food and eating too
Pupils began to read at morning assembly instead of Headmaster.
A.B. spoke at length including some unsuitable stories on hell.
The first report to the Governors meanwhile contained the following passage
As far as possible we have postponed making sudden changes in any direction,
until we have first-hand experience, but a few seemed inevitable.
For many years the word `Meeting' has figured on the Thursday time-table,
but in practice this was very far from what could be called a Friends'
Meeting. Usually the pupils sang two hymns and the Headmaster read an
address. I have cut this out and instead I have replaced the scripture
lesson in its old position in the day time, when day scholars are present as
well as boarders. In addition I have recommended the custom of beginning
morning school with a hymn and Bible reading, attended by all. Although this
is of necessity rather a formality, yet it should have a valuable place in
the religious life of the school, and act as a reminder that prayer and
praise are not confined to Sunday.
So the Thursday morning Meeting for Worship in school, which had by now
replaced the weekly visit to the Meeting House, ended as it was bound to,
for older Friends had themselves ceased to hold mid-week Meetings soon after
the end of the First World War. (Joseph Hobson of Lisburn, himself an
indefatigable attender of the Society's meetings, once told me that in his
boyhood days before 1900 he knew of a Friend called Thursday Brown because
he never missed the Brookfield Thursday morning Meeting for Worship.) A year
later, John Douglas sent to each member of the school committee a long
memorandum suggesting that on Sundays boarding pupils be allowed to attend
the church of their choice rather than made to go Meeting for Worship. It is
too long to quote here but may be found in the Lisburn Strong Room and bears
testimony to its author's clear 116
mind, common sense, far-sightedness and persuasiveness in a matter which was
still before the Conference of Quaker Heads in 1960, brought forward by
Thomas Green of Bootham just before he retired.
The change was duly made.
Other changes came in due time, mainly unobstrusive apart from the building
of the extension in 1936. The Dining Room arrangements were modified. The
pupils were put in groups of seven or eight with a member of staff at each.
The system of serving the same menu once a week on the same day ceased,
fruit and salad appearing more often and sausages more rarely. There was a
visiting drill mistress, Miss Greta Woods, and the fact that she also taught
at St. Mary's and St. Dominic's in Belfast gave rise to a rumour that much
alarmed some members of the Quarterly Meeting that she was a Roman Catholic
; in fact, she was an Anglican. Overseas visitors came more often, two
Indians staying a week-end and two American Friends intriguing pupils by
parading in old Quaker bonnets. Following the installation of an electric
washer and dryer (price �45) and an electric ironer four feet wide (price
�70), more and more laundry was done by pupils. The ironer was in the school
as late as 1970 though not in use. In a further effort to save money and to
increase the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, the school garden was
cultivated more intensively. Teaching staff left less often and there
appeared for the first time some who were destined to serve the school for
many years, Miss Kathleen Young, in particular.
The numbers rose steadily. Totalling just under 100 when SpencerSmith left,
they were 136 by 1932, 172 by 1937 and 195 at the outbreak of the war.
Seventy of the last number were boarders. The annual loss on current
expenditure which continued for John Douglas' first three years became a
modest credit. True, it was always needed (even in 1934 when it ran at an
unheard of �473) to help to pay off the overdraft or to finance some capital
expenditure, but its existence was a welcome change. What was happening was
that the stronger day school was ensuring financial stability, although the
boarding department remained a very different matter.
Slowly, examinations became important. Like John Gough, John Douglas did not
lay any great stress on them. The 1930 report, signed by the chairman of
Committee, Ronald Barritt, contains the following paragraph, very likely
written by the Headmaster,
In June fifteen pupils sat for the examinations of the Ministry of whom
twelve passed. Three gained the Senior Certificate . . . and nine the Junior
Certificate. . . . This is satisfactory, showing that our standard of
teaching will bear comparison with other schools. But we do not lay too much
stress on results, as they depend very much on the native ability of the
pupils, and it is sometimes more creditable to obtain a pass with a dull
pupil than several distinctions with a clever one.
The precise implications of the words are not clear -had the school a large
number of dull pupils or did it leave the clever ones to work out their own
salvation ? More likely the meaning is that the school did not select pupils
on the basis of an entry examination and therefore had a much wider range of
ability than the well-known Belfast schools. But words of this kind occur
regularly in annual reports, sometimes with the further reflection that
"bookish knowledge" has limited value. And on the whole up to 1939, the
Senior and junior results were quite ordinary,- the fact that the reports
refer to them reflects their increasing importance to the public at large.
There were nine Senior Certificates in 1937, six in 1938 and,
disappointingly, only three in 1939. John Douglas was for his part much more
interested in the local survey which the new Globe Club was undertaking,
spurred on and supervised by that splendid teacher Douglas Hill. Pupils drew
scale maps of the school fields and of the outskirts of Lisburn ; they
delved into the history of nearby buildings. This to John Douglas was real
learning, the kind at which he himself excelled. It was the sort of thing
many of his pupils enjoyed and carried with them through their lives.
The buildings grew. In 1930 cloakrooms and toilets for girls were built at
the foot of the stairs leading to the kitchen ; the biggest girls' dormitory
was partitioned (and remained so until 1970); the eight coal fires were
replaced by electric radiators, and an appeal was launched for �1,000. A
year later, hot water pipes replaced most of the electric fires and some Old
Scholars presented the girls' side with "thirty up-to-date desks". The
Committee's Annual Report ended with the words "we commend their example to
others". In due course there were more changes - a Geography Room was made
out of the old Lecture Room (it was known as L M until 1965 after which
geography was taught in the New Building). There was also the uncertainty of
the school's water supply. Prospect Hill was one of the highest sites in
town with the result that any water shortage was felt there first. The
drought of 1934 was so extreme that the Swimming Bath was used for only four
weeks of the summer term. A new well was therefore dug in the grounds and an
electric pump installed for use in emergency. Once again, "the main avenue
which had become very rough, was re-surfaced and rolled during the summer".
All this, however, was unimportant compared with the 1935-6 major extension
out towards the brae. It had been under serious discussion since 1932 when
the Ministry of Education had inspected the school (a four-yearly event for
all Ulster's Secondary Schools). The report was very satisfactory, praising
the teaching, efficiency and general tone, which latter "did credit to those
controlling the school". But such reports made clear the Ministry's
requirements for school buildings and it was obvious that the expanding
numbers of day scholars had to have extra classrooms. They were added on to
Room A, as it had long been called, and gave the school Rooms C, E and the
Domestic Room. Underneath these new rooms were built a girls' playroom and
cloakroom, long known after the War as P.A. and P.B.
With foresight, the extension was designed so that a top storey could be
added later if necessary. The original estimate of the cost was �2,900 of
which the Lisburn and Belfast Regional Education Committee paid �2,000.
Eventually it cost �5,475 and the excellent builder was Isaac Thompson, who
when called on, undertook building work for the school until his retirement
in the mid 1960's. The 1936 report tells us
The various operations and processes carried on by ever-changing groups of
workmen were watched with dry interest by our pupils from September 1935 to
At times the noise made teaching difficult, and dust and mud spread
everywhere . . . although the new room did not come into final use until the
new school year, a formal opening was organised for June 3rd. Over 200
visitors inspected the building, and listened to interesting addresses given
by the Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University and others.
The school's growth brought other changes. Physics and Chemistry were now
very important subjects ; the old Lisnagarvey hockey field was used for
rugby ; the school pony was replaced by a motor mower ; a Prize Distribution
was held annually in the Orange Hall ; and the Cottage, previously rented
out to friendly tenants, was renovated and occupied by younger boarders.
There was, it was generally agreed, a pleasant atmosphere. Pupils were
fairly free without being too free. They respected, but were not frightened
of, the staff. And boarders still did some of those things approved long ago
by that other John who was the first Headmaster - they read their Bibles,
discussed topical issues and looked after colourful garden plots in front of
the new wing. The school's reputation grew beyond Quaker circles and in 1938
John Douglas broadcast a typically direct, simple and modest account of its
quiet history. In 1939 the hockey team reached the Schools' Cup Final for
the first time since 1930. This was a fine reward for the many years of
enthusiastic coaching of J. Arnold Benington ; that he broke his leg while
practising with the team was a less welcome reward. The final against
Banbridge was drawn and the replay lost. The team, the forerunner of a long
succession of fine and successful Friends' teams, was H. Henning, R. K.
Browne, S. Wilson, M. Jess, W. R. Edwards, P. S. McCabe, B. Johnson, H.
Cregan, G. Honeyford, W. Haughton and T. M. Harshaw. The following year,
after an exciting game against Banbridge won 3-2 in extra time in spite of a
half-time score of 0-2, the cup came to Lisburn accompanied by wildly
enthusiastic pupils. This team was Ambrose Maxwell, Henry Abraham, Hal
Henning, Colin Doak, Ken Browne (capt.), Harold Cregan, Bill Haughton, Ken
Haughton, Wesley Edwards, Mayne Harshaw and Stanley Wilson.
There were, however, less reassuring portents. Towards the end of 1939 summer term an Air Raid Precautions officer arrived to fit
boarders with gas masks. For several days after, pacifists and non-pacifists
argued their beliefs heatedly, then went off to help Arthur Mail to erect
new wire netting round the old grass tennis courts. Some boys became adept
at pulling dandelions and other weeds out of the Head's garden-it was his
favourite punishment. But all such naivet�s
were replaced by more sinister activities after war broke out on 3rd
September 1939. An air raid shelter was constructed outside classrooms F and
G. The boys filled sandbags and piled them round it. Even the girls armed
themselves with spades and helped with the work. Many more soldiers appeared
at the Barracks just up the Magheralave Road ; they were allowed to use the
school for hot baths, though they did not seem to take long over the
operation. Then, one evening soon after all pupils were in bed, there was a
great blowing of whistles, as the first serious Air Raid Practice was held.
The black-out was a perpetual problem and some of the windows of the
splendid dining-room were actually painted black. Traces of the paint and of
the sticky tape put on to prevent splintering remained just visible until
the room's demolition in 1973.
Still the school year was not irrevocably interrupted. A rook turned up with
an injured wing. He was made welcome in Arnold Benington's lab. and fed out
of pupils' hands, not always without incident, for he lacked an eye and was
likely to peck the hand with the offering. Jakob Levin, the refugee pupil,
took particular interest in him, until, lo, one day after many trial
flutterings in the playing fields he took off and sailed away over the high
trees to his freedom. It was more than was in store for the school. For in
June the Headmaster received a visit from two representatives of the
Ministry of Public Security, who asked leave to inspect the buildings. They
told him that they were making a list of buildings suitable for use as
temporary hospitals in case of emergency. It would, they said, be required
only in the event of a calamity so great that school routine would in any
dislocated. Before leaving the school, they asked the Head not to publish
the fact of their visit.
On Monday 15th July, two R.A.M.C. officers called and asked leave to see the
school buildings. They had in their hands a list of schools, evidently
provided by the Ministry. Next day they returned with a superior officer,
said they liked the site and thought it would almost certainly be
requisitioned as a hospital, and that soon, as it was a matter of great
urgency. The next day, Wednesday 17th July, one of the officers came again
to say that the decision had been made and that a requisitioning order would
arrive very soon. It was so. At 9.0 o'clock next morning an R.A.M.C. officer
arrived at the school with two orderlies who lit a fire in order, they said,
to cook food for fifty men expected to arrive in the afternoon. At noon a
policeman handed the requisitioning order to the Head. It read as follows
Ministry of Public Security, Stormont,
4th July, 1940
I am directed by the Ministry of Public Security to state that the Ministry
had had under review various premises in the neighbourhood of Belfast which
could in grave emergency be adapted for use as supplementary hospitals. It
has been decided that your school would in certain circumstances be suitable
for such a purpose. I ask, therefore, that you will not allow your school to
be reserved for any other purpose by the military or other authorities,
without first consulting this Ministry.
I am to add that no immediate steps are contemplated for the equipment of
your school as a hospital, but should such action become necessary the
provision of beds, equipment and staff would be entirely in the hands of the
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
T. C. Brownlee
The fact that similar afflictions had fallen on Campbell College (who moved
to Portrush and settled down in the Northern Counties Hotel) was no comfort
to Friends School, whose Headmaster and Governors now made great efforts for
it. There was no time to convene a full Governors Meeting but there was an
Emergency Committee which from now on met often. Its most active members
were Ronald Barritt and Aubrey A. Harding, both of whom had accompanied John
Douglas on a visit to T. C. Brownlee on Wednesday 17th July. It made no
difference. Mr. Brownlee was sorry ; it was not his wish that schools should
be used in this way, but he was powerless to prevent it ; he hoped that
somehow both the boarding and day schools could be kept going.
That somehow they were was the reward of the loyalty and energy of many
Friends, chief among whom were, of course, John and Norah Douglas. It was
their courage and faith that carried the school through and beyond these
enormous trials. First of all, Ronald Barritt and Aubrey Harding, sometimes
with the Head, sometimes without, visited and pleaded the school's cause at
a number of large local houses-they called on Colonel C. B. Graham of
Larchfield, Auchnaleck, Mr. Fergus Wilson of Springfield, Brookmount,
Captain D. C. Lindsay of Lissue House, and Miss Laura Pim of Lisnagarvey
House (later Dr. Thompson's Nursing Home). Unsuccessful with all of them,
they at last persuaded Winifred Graham, one of a long-established Quaker
family, to leave her home, Ardfallen, and move to a small house in Finaghy
so that senior girl boarders could occupy her home. A great many
well-wishers allowed the school to use part of their premises. Lisnagarvey
House offered their stables for storing things. The Y.W.C.A. Hall in Conway
Street housed the Kindergarten and juniors. Sloane House, described by Sylvia E. Jess as a grim,
solitary, and gaunt, three-storeyed red-brick Victorian building in Graham
Gardens, also housed classes (it is now used by J. C. Patterson Ltd. as a
store). And above all, there was Larkfield, a large friendly old house on a
tangled estate in Dunmurry. It took most of the boarders.
Early on the morning of Monday 15th July the Douglas family had been looking
forward to setting off the following Saturday for a holiday in Bantry Bay.
By mid-day Thursday 18th July they had been given twenty-four hours to
abandon the building that was their home and school. Moira Douglas, whose
gay, caring and sensitive life ended with tragic suddenness on 3rd January
1967, wrote of those days
My brother and sister were packed off to friends in Co. Armagh, leaving me
behind to help to tear apart our home with no immediate prospect of putting
it together again. Middle House was evacuated within twenty-four hours,
since the R.A. officers had chosen it for their quarters. We camped at the
Cottage from where rescue operations were directed. It took weeks to clear
the school. Each day saw a long trail of army trucks roaring down the big
drive, loaded high with desks, chairs, beds, crockery, and saucepans heading
for one of the many impromptu storehouses which had magically opened their
doors to help. The Army helped too when they saw this was the quickest way
to get us out. I can remember long weary days spent packing china in that
strange dark cupboard which stretches way back under the back stairs.
Sylvia E. Jess records similar memories
As a Senior girl I helped for days with the sad sudden process. The enormous
task had at times its funnier side, and it certainly was a new experience
for young Quakeresses to spend hours working side by side with the Army
helping to disembowel our school. I remember being up in the Senior Boys'
Dormitory with Miss Thomas (Matron) and a very young Miss Young, when every
iron bedstead was down and all that remained was a pile of mattresses on the
floor awaiting army transport. . . . However, we revelled in the trips in
the back of the army lorries all around the town, depositing our stocks and
stores. I remember Arthur Mail standing with us hanging on in the back of
the army lorry stuck amidst the chairs, desks, mattresses and bedding as the
army drivers endeavoured for maybe the tenth time that day to turn into the
hopelessly small entrance to the store behind Lisnagarvey House from the
The Lisburn Standard kept at bay some of the rumours that began to
circulate-the governors had offered the school to the army, they were
closing the school altogether, and so on. At the end of August this
Plans are being pushed forward for the re-opening of the school for day
pupils early in September, in the Friends Meeting House, and other premises
near by. The Governors hoped it would have been possible to announce this
week that a suitable house in the district had been acquired as a hall of
residence, but unexpected delays have arisen. Fresh efforts are now being
made in other directions and it is expected that it will be possible to
communicate detailed plans to the parents shortly.
The school office is being moved to 23 Railway Street, Lisburn, where after
19th instant, information can be obtained and interviews arranged with the
And to the astonishment of many, at the end of the first week in September,
this notice appeared in the same paper
FRIENDS SCHOOL, LISBURN, RE-OPENING TUESDAY
SEPTEMBER 10th AT 9.30 A.M.
ASSEMBLY IN FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE.
Kindergarten and Form I will meet at Prospect Cottage, Fort Hill.
Boarders should return Monday evening before 7.0 p.m. Several vacancies
exist for Boy and Girl Boarders at Halls of Residence, Larkfield and
Ardfallen. Prospectus from Headmaster.
The Headmaster will be present at 23 Railway Street to interview parents on
Friday, September 6th from 11.0 a.m. to 12.30 and from 4.0 to 6.0 p.m. Other
times by appointment. Telephone Lisburn 3119.
That these arrangements had been made within six weeks seems scarcely
credible and no praise is too high for the faith of Governors and Staff. It
is true that it was above all the faith and vision of John and Norah Douglas
that brought the school through ; they were at the helm, so that the
day-to-day details with all their accompanying disappointments and
harassments fell on them. Even so, it was the united conviction of the
Committee and Staff that showed Quakers and parents that there was never any
thought of abandoning the school. So great is the debt owed by all those who
have benefited from lessons on Prospect Hill that it seems only fitting to
record their name here
||Aubrey A. Harding
||Robert R. Green
Lisburn Monthly Meeting
||R. Edith Swain
||Leonard G. Green
||A. Maud M. Atkinson
||Robert R. Green
||Aubrey A. Harding
||Edith M. Greeves
||F. Lucius O'Brien
||C. Walpole Marsh
||F. Emily Silcock
|By Lurgan Monthly Meeting
||Marion J. Greeves
||Ethel C. Green
||Francis M. Johnson
||Alexander R. W. Richardson
|By Grange and Richhill
||Charlotte G. Lamb
||William Frederick Hobson
||Joseph E. Allen
||Dorothy M. Sinton
||Charlotte W. Peile
||John M. Donagh
|By Lisburn and
Belfast Regional Committee
||John M. Douglas, M.A.
||Norah Douglas, B.A.
|Chemistry and Nature Study
||J. Arnold Benington, B.SC.
|Junior School and
||Dorothy E. Jacob, N.F.U.
|| Douglas A. Hill, B.SC.
||Matilda S. Simpson, B.A.
||Arthur Mail, B.A.
||Donald Rigg, B.A.
|Music and Drawing
||May Rose Whitby, L.R.A.M., N.S.A.M.
||W. Young, B.A.
||Margaret G. Erskine, A.T.C.
||Betty Lorimer, L.R.A.M., L.G.S.M.
||Frances G. Porteous, Dip. with Dist.
||Mona I. Baird, First Class
||Joan M. Tate
||Elizabeth R. Hill
The Douglas's were allowed extra petrol for their old Lanchester and spent
their time scurrying to and fro between the Forthill Cottage, the Railway
Street Meeting House and Larkfield. Although the Head's garden was not used
by the army it could not be used much by the Head either : he simply had not
the time. In October the Lisburn Standard carried this paragraph
DUNMURRY GARDEN FETE
Lark field House effort for Red Cross Fund
A garden fete in aid of the Red Cross Fund was held on Wednesday afternoon
in the gardens of Larkfield, Black's Road, Dunmurry, the residence of Mrs.
McCance Blizard. This fine house and grounds has recently been acquired by
the Friends' School, Lisburn, as a residence for boarders. The gardens were
seen in all their glory and the many flowering plants came in for much
admiration. Visitors had the opportunity of strolling through the grounds
and enjoying tea in a charming cottage built amid delightful surroundings.
From the windows a delightful view of the gardens is obtained. . . . Mrs.
Blizard in her capacity as hostess was assisted by Mr. C. D. Coates, and
Mrs. John Paul was helpful at the receipt of custom.
True, the plans had been made before there was any thought of Friends'
School using Larkfield, but John and Norah Douglas were glad to have
scholars helping and to let it be seen that Quaker values and Quaker
schooling were still very much alive.
To the scholars the new fragmented arrangements were a mixture of excitement
and annoyance. The senior girls and most of the resident staff were with
Norah Douglas in Ardfallen, while John Douglas had all the boys, the junior
girls and various staff at Larkfield. They shared the occupation with Mrs.
Blizard, the owner, who insisted on staying. Some of her idiosyncrasies went
ill with boarding school life. She seemed, for example, to spend a great
deal of time moving her furniture round, usually in the evenings and
occasionally in the middle of the night. Old and a little frightening to
some boarders, she walked with the aid of a stick which tapped like that of
Blind Pew. One summer week-end when the girls had been allowed to sunbathe,
she came excitedly out of her room complaining in her high voice about all
the shameless young girls in their bathing suits. But now in later life the
married women who were in those days the young girls being upbraided,
recount the memory with a sense of surprise that the good Mrs. Blizard
should ever have been willing to take in a school at all ; and they recall
their own efforts as senior girls to help the staff to look after `the
family'. It was difficult enough, and during Prep. when the teaching staff
had their evening meal, the senior girls maintained order unaided.
It did not take long to establish a routine of meals and bedtimes for all
boarders, though the Larkfield organisation was complicated by the need to
fit in with bus times. Moira Douglas remembered how the Larkfield
housekeeper, Lolly Kerr, would waken the whole place every morning with her clarion `Ter . . ees . a. . . . Ter ... EEE ... SA
!' towards the attics where the maids slept. She recalled too the
difficulties of feeding boarders from two establishments in the days of
rationing : `Lunchtime called for huge mugs of steaming hot soup and great
piles of sandwiches, taken standing in the hall at the Meeting House. My
school scarf had permanently grease-sodden fringes from where they had
fallen into the soup during these lunchtime picnics'. A hot meal was served
at both boarding houses when pupils got back from afternoon school.
And, again from Moira's journalistic pen
Meanwhile up at Ardfallen the dining room table was definitely not school
property, since I remember the care with which we had to lay the heavy green
felt over it before starting on prep. Also the panic when we spilled ink
over both it and the carpet. The only male inhabitants at Ardfallen were my
brother and our dog, Bran, of immortal memory. He, too, suffered from that
Larkfield year, since all plans for his training went out of the window. `If
we have a dog, it must sleep in the shed in the garden ; no dogs inside the
school', was my father's stern comment when the puppy first came.
Unfortunately, the Colonel who moved into Middle House objected to Bran's
barking in the garden shed (for some reason, we were able to keep and use
the school garden all through that year, using the back entrance from Fort
Hill). Bran was transferred to Ardfallen to escape the Colonel's wrath, and
the despatch riders' motorcycle which he pursued enthusiastically. Here, he
became a real watch dog, only waking at night to add his warning howl to the
wail of the air-raid sirens.
Somehow, the routine of lessons went on. Each day began with assembly in the
large Meeting House on Railway Street. Then, whatever the weather, there was
the trekking from class, perhaps next door, or upstairs, or several streets
away. On the whole the pupils quite enjoyed this movement, while the staff
endured it with a kind of stoical energy. The flavour of those days was
unique -unforgettable to those who lived them, uncommunicable to others.
Sylvia E. Jess writes
Twice during the summer of that year a group of senior girls headed by none
other than Miss Thomas (matron) were entertained in the Sergeants' Mess, the
old Domestic Science kitchen (Room D). `Tommy' and the very tough Welsh
Sergeant-Major got on famously and formed at least a temporary friendship.
Our strangest experience was the invitation by the officers to be
entertained in their Mess and to attend a Troop Concert in the Old Gym. I
have performed on that stage at all ages ; I have been part of a captive
audience on many occasions within those four walls, but never shall I forget
the scene that night. As we Friends School ladies, Miss Thomas, Miss Betty
Miss Rowan (all domestic staff), Moira, myself and a few others walked in as
guests of the officers, the sea of khaki-clad figures rose to attention ; at
aged sixteen we felt we had arrived, but couldn't quite grasp what had
happened to our school. It's a wonder the roof stayed on during the
acclamation granted by those battle-ready men to their entertainers - I
believe I still have a programme somewhere of the concert with the unit's
badge or coat of arms on the front.
A couple of times a week during that year, we left our classrooms in the
town and plodded up through the lines of army lorries on both sides of both
drives and down the lane to use the hockey fields with Miss Baird, our games
mistress. In the summer term I think we also used the tennis courts and
swimming bath, and certainly we held our sports on the school field.
There were other surprising and pleasant things. J. Arnold Benington, for
example, struck up a life-long friendship with R.A.M.C. Corporal Jeffery, a
Return to Prospect Hill
By the turn of the year, however, it was clear that it was not only the
school that complained about the army occupation. There were no patients at
all for this newly-established military hospital. Indeed, during the whole
year of army tenancy the building had only one patient and he was a man
suffering from measles. As it happened, he was an Old Scholar of the school
who was not unnaturally highly dissatisfied that he was in a make-shift
hospital better known to him as his school of long ago. In these
circumstances, many of the public and no doubt privately some of the army
came to think that the occupation did not bring much credit to anyone. Early
in 1941 the Governors prepared a statement for Ulster Quarterly Meeting.
Part of it ran
. . . it is clear that the Governors not only did not give their consent,
but were in no way consulted. The buildings were requisitioned legally, by a
competent authority, and the Governors having no desire to claim specially
favoured treatment, did not attempt to make any public protest.
None the less, the requisitioning order has caused a loss of about �1,00 a
year, and this loss seems likely to increase rather than decrease next year.
Against this loss, we have no legal redress. Therefore we are bound to
question whether the use made of our premises by the military justifies
their retention. The building was taken for a hospital, but we have been
informed that a higher military authority subsequently condemned the site as
unsuitable for a large hospital. In practice the building has been chiefly
used as a barracks for the personnel of a field
ambulance. A few beds have been installed since the new year for light
Under these circumstances we have petitioned the local military authority to
vacate our building, but this has been refused. It is now our intention to
pursue the matter further, and continue to press both the Ministry of
Education and the higher military authorities for the return of our
premises. We believe it wrong that children should be sent into unsuitable
buildings, merely to make billets for soldiers. We believe it unjust that a
school should be crippled financially, and possibly closed down, when the
public emergency does not demand it. We ask, therefore, that our premises
should be given back to us this summer, on the grounds that the field
ambulance could be billeted elsewhere. But if this is not possible, and the
building is of such great value to the military, we ask that adequate
compensation should be given, as the rent based on rateable valuation alone
barely pays for alternative premises much inferior for school purposes, and
leaves us with other losses which we have no way of meeting without injury
to an institution which serves the community and is not run for private
It was a just case, clearly stated and with moderation. Discussions went on
between the school and the authorities, the military and the educational
powers, and between Ulster citizens, some in important positions, many just
ordinary people getting on with their work. The result was that one year
after occupying the school, the Army left it for Larkfield, of all places,
where they turned out the long-suffering and much-tried Mrs. Blizard and
littered her splendid garden with Nissen huts. (Soon after the war was over
the old house was pulled down to make way for a large modern school,
Larkfield Secondary School, surrounded by a new housing estate.) So once
again the Douglas family lost their summer holiday, though the removal-inreverse
was very much more welcome than the original move out. For John and Norah
Douglas it had been a kind of nightmare. In later years, he, in particular,
made light of it.
"We can be sure of one thing", he would say ; "beer went out of the school
soon after Father Matthew started his temperance work in Cork : it did not
come back until the Army took over in 1940". But he kept among his papers a
number of interesting mementoes
his own pass, CP 1440, issued by Lieut.-Col. J. B. Smyth of the R.A.M.C. to
admit the school's headmaster into the grounds and buildings ; a Christmas
card from the 206th Field Ambulance ; and a directive signed by a different
Lieut.-Colonel reserving the tennis courts at certain times "exclusively for
On 14th August 1941 the following letter, signed by Ronald Barritt, Chairman
of the Board of Governors and John M. Douglas, Headmaster, went out to
You will be interested to learn that our school building has now been handed
back to us to be used for its proper purpose. It has already been
disinfected by the Local Authority, and the
work of cleaning and painting from top to bottom is being carried out. We
still hope to be ready to re-open early in September, and will let you know
the exact date in good time.
We have greatly appreciated the loyalty and trust which parents have shown
in us during the time of difficulty. It has also been a pleasure to see how
many of our pupils have risen to the occasion, and shown real development of
character by carrying through, in unfamiliar surroundings, not only their
usual studies, music, and games, but also A.R.P. duties and food production.
The Headmaster and Staff had much to contend with during the enforced
absence from the school premises, and it was feared this might have an
adverse effect on the standard of school work. We are therefore pleased with
the good results in the examinations of the Associated Board and also the
Senior Certificates. In the Junior Certificate, while one or two have done
brilliantly, the general result is disappointing, but we look forward with
confidence to achieving greater success with the educational facilities and
more favourable environment provided at Prospect Hill.
The school office will remain at 23 Railway Street (phone 2156) until the
end of August, and the Headmaster and Mrs. Douglas will still be in
residence at Ardfallen, Fort Hill (phone 3119). They will be pleased to
discuss the progress and prospects of present and future pupils with
parents. But as the transfer, redecorating, and refurnishing of the school
involve endless work and unexpected movements, it is advisable to arrange
interviews with the Headmaster in advance - if phone 2156 is unanswered,
please try number 3119.
The air-shelter has been much improved, and further strengthening is being
considered, with the advice of the Ministry of Education.
Although costs have arisen in many directions, we hope to go through this
coming school year without asking any increase in fees.
The requisitioning of our premises has caused heavy loss and extra
expenditure. Now that we are re-entering our building, we need new pupils to
restore our usefulness and prosperity. Our best advertisement comes from
successful pupils and satisfied parents. We would appreciate your kindness
in putting us in touch with parents who would value the education provided
at Prospect Hill.
So the school resumed its routine, in as far as school routine was possible
in war time. And it continued until 1945 with only one serious difficulty.
The trouble rose out of the Quaker Peace Testimony. Friends have long held a
Testimony Against War which has
led many of them to refuse to serve in the Armed Services. And when on Sunday 16th May 1943 the Allies bombed the Mohne, Eder and
Sorpe Dams, some of the Staff at the school, feeling that allied strategy
was increasingly causing suffering to civilians, wrote the following letter
which appeared in the Northern Whig for Monday 24th May 1943.
We have read with disappointment and distress the account in The Northern
Whig of the carefully prepared and skilfully executed destruction of dams in
the Ruhr district by the R.A.F. Surely such an act means that many
civilians, including women and children, will have been drowned or rendered
homeless ? We would suggest that this does not fit in with the original aim
of the British Government to break the power of the Nazis, but at the same
time encourage the German people to overthrow the Nazis, and so to play a
useful part again in the life of Europe.
On the contrary we feel certain that this act will be represented in Germany
as one of deliberate cruelty to the German people, and will be used to goad
them to a prolonged resistance.
Dorothy E. Clay, K. W. Young, Gerald A. J. Hodgett, Kenneth Clay, Donald
Smeltzer, F. Smeltzer, A. R. Whitley, Rosemary Kerr, Cecil F. Pritchard,
Denis P. Barritt.
6, Magheralave Road, Lisburn.
The following day saw the first of a large number of indignant letters in
reply. It was easy, someone pointed out, to write this from "a sheltered
existence . . ." He, for his part, "cannot feel the slightest pang of
conscience for any scion of the German race". Drowning women and children,
claimed another, "must always accrue from total war . . . and to suggest
that the power-houses of the enemy should be left unhindered because of
their close proximity to human life is to put forward the unreasonable".
None of the signatories, surely, were Lisburn born for "I do not believe any
Lisburn man or woman would wish to sully the name of his or her old town in
this manner". Another correspondent is "afraid our Friends of the
Magheralave Road, Lisburn have not heard of the bombing of Rotterdam ...
Coventry ... Plymouth . . ." A day later, seven married women wrote to say
that "they read with delight of how the R.A.F. bombed the German dams . . ."
but with "great disappointment the letter from ten persons belonging to
Lisburn, Co. Antrim". "Peace Lover" found the letter `pitiable reading ...
just that sort of soppy, sickly sentimentality that was partly responsible
for our unpreparedness for war". By now, the signatories had been widely
identified with the school.
Only one of them, it appeared, "had any claim to the town's good old name".
The fourteen replies grew increasingly emotional, until the Editor
mercifully brought the correspondence to a close with the note : `Owing to
pressure on space it has been possible to give only 130
a selection of the many letters received. All of them, it may be added, are
in opposition to the sentiment of the letter from ten Lisburn signatories'.
The school could have done without all this unfavourable publicity. Some
members of Ulster Quarterly Meeting fully shared the views of the indignant
Northern Whig correspondents so that John Douglas was thought to have much
to answer for. Although he did not "sign the letter, he had been shown it
while he was working in the Head's garden (which then occupied the site of
the three hard tennis courts near Radley House). Many years afterwards Norah
said that he seemed uneasy about it later in the day, but only understood
after its publication that it should not have been sent from the school's
address. Once the row had broken out the only thing was to ride the storm as
unobtrusively as possible. In doing so, John Douglas was reasonably
successful. Some of the school's suppliers were awkward and there was a
small amount of damage to school property, but, following the Head's careful
memorandum to staff asking them to air their political and religious views
privately without in any way involving the institution they worked for, the
place was left to get on with its work of teaching the pupils in its care.
Time passed and Ulster Quarterly Meeting occupied itself with other matters.
The End o f the War
The final years were much as in other schools with the poignant losses felt
even by the very young, and the gathering inevitability of a German defeat.
A chess club appeared and the literary society positively flourished as Mrs.
Stretch enthused pupils into all kinds of dramatic activity. It was not a
time for re-building, though the Library was tidied and a door made to
connect the Old Gym, as we came to call it, with the Old Physics lab. which
remained a dark, small and dingy hole, until the end of its career. Lab. was
it called ? Well, it had a partly functioning sink in one corner ; yet it
produced good physicists, Lawrence Jess and Herbert Martin among them. The
pupils were like all pupils, more aware of school than war, and the mild
scarlet fever epidemic of Spring 1944 which caused the Easter holiday to
start a week early was deemed by many to have its compensations, even to the
seven left behind.
School life as the war ended in the following year was well described in the
The war brought one last surprise to Prospect Hill. This summer we had lent
our sports field to an army unit, and behold, one fine morning, a squad of
German prisoners were draining in the far ditch where many a good cricket
ball had gone never to return.
Lisburn has only removed its barricades, including the fine obstacle on the
hill which was so hard to pass on a dark night, but the air-raid shelters
seem to be lingering longer here than elsewhere. One of the shelters at the
school now holds empty trunks, and another has been enlightened by three
windows and a stove, for use as a workshop when timber is available once
Then there was the plan to widen the Magheralave Road, which had been little
more than a country lane until the 1930's. The Governors saved the trees on
the far side of today's road, which used to be part of the school's grounds.
"Some of these trees were planted by our boys before 1880, when the road was
laid out and the bridge built over the railway. Edmund Allen, still living
at Portadown, is believed to have planted some of them. Before that time,
the `wee drive' extended down the hill to a level crossing over the railway,
beside which stood the School Gate Lodge, not far from where George
Henderson lives now". These words, again from the 1945 magazine (`Odd notes
on Prospect Hill'), are clearly from the pen of John Douglas. They indicate
the kind and the quality of school history we would have had from him if
only he had lived to write it. He was, as Norah once admitted, too tired
during his last two or three years to tackle such a large undertaking. We
may properly add what she may have thought but did not say : that he had
drained his energy in the service of `the family' on Prospect Hill. It is
our great loss that at his death so much vivid and lovingly garnered memory
was only partially recorded.
The 1947 Education Act and After
Next summer, the school bought a tractor, hay-lifter and mower for the
field. It was kept in the garage on the boys' asphalt and pupils often rode
on it ; then came the prolonged severe frost and snow of early 1947. Early
summer was much better though not as splendidly hot as the 1948 summer.
Meanwhile, in the mysterious world of `education' of which the school was
somehow part, events were taking a decisive turn. `Across the water' the
English government had already passed the 1944 Act which established a
qualifying, eleven-plus examination so that able boys and girls, even if
they came from families short of money, could win scholarships to Grammar
Schools, while those who did not go to Grammar Schools went to Secondary
Schools which were apparently different. Three years later, the Northern
Ireland Parliament passed its own very similar 1947 Act. Its immediate
result was to oblige the Province's Grammar Schools to consider their
status. To which category, independent, voluntary-aided or Local Authority
controlled, did they aspire ? Governors considered the matter and referred
it to Quarterly Meeting which decided to continue its control under the
It was a crucial decision and one which determined the future direction of
the school in a way not clearly foreseen by the Governors and Quarterly
Meeting, Once this direction had been taken, the great increase in numbers
of day-scholars and the growing reliance on public
money were inevitable. The same Annual Report (1948) which records the
acceptance of the school's status under the 1947 Act, also says :
It will be
seen by the increase in our numbers to 352 that the school has more than
trebled its size since John and Norah Douglas took up their duties in 1929.
Two years later we read
Friends will notice that the numbers on our roll show a further increase [to
423]. Our headmaster has informed us that the classes, as at present
constituted, are practically full, and that our buildings are utilised to
capacity. We think, therefore, that growth in numbers has almost reached its
Within fifteen years, they had doubled again to well over 800.
Norah Douglas were never happy about this great expansion which began in
their time at the school. John's views were those of the great Thring of
Uppingham : "A Headmaster is only the Headmaster of the boys he knows. If he
does not know the boys, the master who does is their Headmaster - and his
All this meant more teaching staff.
The new Education Act [reads the 1949 Report] has brought close contact with
County Education Committees and Directors; and has necessitated the
employment of a typist to help the Secretary.
It meant, too, building extension. In 1947 Messrs. G. P. and R. H. Bell and
R. F. Malcolmson, a Quaker firm, were appointed architects to the school.
They were to have much to do, and to be concerned in frequent and long
delays in the planning and building stages. Their first task (1945) was to
enlarge the kitchen to the size it kept throughout the 1950's and 60's, and
soon they were planning the first-storey block over classrooms C, D and E,
though this was not completed until 1958.
The Kindergarten and Preparatory Departments, teaching children of an age
for which the school had always catered, were also supported under the
voluntary-aided scheme, and, squeezed out by the growing numbers in the
11-18 school, were in urgent need of bigger and better accommodation.
Fortunately, Thornhill (known to us as Prospect House) came on the market at
the time, and was bought by farsighted Governors to whom the very large
numbers of junior school pupils since that date owe a very considerable
debt. John Douglas greeted its purchase with a typical article in the School
The Friends School has been in existence 174 years, and this is the first
time that its Governors have bought a house. Such an unusual event deserves
a little splash.
We do not know its exact age ; but once the buildings were mentioned in a
lease granted by Lord Hertford in 1848 to John Pennington. After his death
in 1874, his son sold it to Alexander Boyd, grocer, who left it in 1880 to
his sister, Jane Allister.
In 1901 it passed by sale from James Allister to Robert Griffith, who in
turn sold it to J. D. Martin in 1918.
For many years it has been called Thornhill. But on the earliest maps it is
clearly named Prospect Cottage. Surely this was a mistake on the part of the
map makers. `No rose without a thorn' runs the proverb ; but we do not want
thorns in a kindergarten, so we call it once again by the old name Prospect
Hill. Over the railway with its smoke and engines, very useful for bringing
young folk to school, can be seen not only the chimneys and spires of
Lisburn, but also the tree tops and scurrying clouds, blue sky or stars, So
also, beyond the noise and laughter, blackboards and waste paper and milk
bottles of a preparatory school, we can see, in prospect, lots of children
growing up healthy and wise ; future citizens of their country ; ready to
seek and do the will of God. Prospect House is no bad name for a school.
Again, the spirit of John Douglas shines through the words - fascinated by
the past, original to the point of quirkiness in outlook and expression, and
always hopeful and forward-looking. And it is pleasant to remember that long
after the Under 11's had moved themselves down to their handsome new
building and garden, the room they once occupied in `Big School' kept its
name OK (old kindergarten). There were many scholars, day and boarding, who
referred to it for the next twenty or so years in this way without knowing
After the Education Act of 1947, Voluntary Schools could register under
either group A or group B. The chief difference was that, in return for
minimal consultation with the Province's Education Ministry at Stormont,
group A schools received 65% grant aid with capital expenditure. Group B
schools received no such help. Understandably, for a school that had been
independent for over 150 years, it went against the grain to come, however
lightly, under the government's wing. After much discussion Governors
recommended to the Quarterly Meeting in 1951 that the school become group B
rather than group A. It was not for long, however. It was difficult enough
finding money for the Boarding repairs and modernisation, never mind for the
day school. In 1951, for example, the year before John Douglas retired,
extensive dry rot was discovered under the boys' washroom and in one of the
dormitories. It cost �1,200 to eradicate. And at the same time Ardfallen,
the home of Arthur Pim and his daughter, Winifred Graham, became available
for purchase. Though uncertain as to its ultimate use, Governors very wisely
bought it. So it is not surprising that the 1954 Report begins in this way
After long and careful consideration of the urgent and immediate needs of
the School and of its future and long-term development, the Board was
unanimously of the opinion that we could not meet these needs as long as we
remained in the B scheme. Accordingly, we asked the Quarterly Meeting in
June to sanction our application to the Ministry of Education for transfer
to the 134
A scheme. The Quarterly Meeting accepted our recommendation : the Ministry
granted our request to be transferred, and the changeover took effect from
August 1st .1954.
The steady progress towards Grammar School status, for that is what it was,
in some ways dismayed the Douglases. They were at their best in a small
school, they had virtually saved this school from failure twenty years ago,
and now, just before and increasingly after their retirement, here it was
growing more and more unwieldy and serving ends they could not altogether
approve. They began to wonder if it could become a small school for
handicapped children. But it was too late. The examination pressures
increased, and Friends' alongside Wallace High was now accepted as one of
Lisburn's two Grammar Schools. The Local Education Authorities now paid
tuition fees for those who passed the Qualifying Test at 11-plus, though for
the time being it remained possible for many who failed it to come as
fee-payers. For older pupils too, examinations mattered more. The Senior
Certificate, still a six-year course with one further year added for those
who wished to qualify for University entrance, was fast becoming a
yard-stick by which to measure schools. In 1949 it was attempted by twenty
pupils of whom thirteen succeeded. These numbers were to be eclipsed in just
over a decade.
Fundamental as these changes were, the scholars were unaware of them,
immersed in the usual routine of any school. They began their day with
Assembly, of which there were now three, one in the old gym, one for
kindergarten and one for prep. Then there were lessons (even on Saturday
mornings in John Douglas' time), games and the many societies boarding
schools especially need. The House Plays date from 1951 and have remained a
source of much excitement. The pupils are responsible for them, all staff
help (even in lighting) being forbidden, and they are performed and judged
on St. Patrick's Day. During the summer holidays in 1948 an innovation was
the occupation of the building by the Queen's University Adult Education
Department for a summer-school fortnight. Occasionally there were
outstanding events affecting the scholars much more nearly. Such was the
death of Bran in 1951. Cecil M. Johnson had given him to the Douglas's in
1939 and he had been part of the school ever since.
During his residence at Ardfallen (during the war), he acquired a great
respect for Miss Gym Baird, with whom he used to patrol on war-time nights,
valiantly driving away cats, rats, and hostile aeroplanes. This, combined
with his military experience, convinced him that Physical Training was by
far the most important subject in the school curriculum. He seldom missed a
class ; but of course he did not have to find his togs or change in wintry
weather. He also had a curiosity about religious education, which is hard to
explain. When all his friends had disappeared into assembly he felt lonely
and wanted to join the crowd ; and sometimes he did. Evening meeting on Sundays also attracted him and it was not his fault that the younger
pupils attended to him, instead of the preacher. So he had to be shut up in
Middle House to mind the fire on Sunday evenings.
It was in 1952 that John and Norah Douglas retired. `I felt', said his
secretary, Miss Betty Smyth, who was to serve three further Headmasters
until her retirement twenty-one years later, `as though the school had come
to an end'. They had been in Lisburn twenty-three years. In their last year
the school had a full government inspection whose conclusion was,
. . . there is an atmosphere of diligent and purposeful effort. The pupils
are interested in their studies and anxious to benefit from them. Generally
they are frank in manner and their relations with the members of staff are
obviously satisfactory ... it is clear that the school is discharging a
useful function in the community with great credit.
We are not far enough removed in time to assess in detail the Headship of
John M. Douglas. He was essentially a believer in a small school community
who never fully reconciled himself to the rapid growth of Friends'. He was
not a teacher who followed examination syllabuses or vigorously spurred
pupils on to learning. He did not, observed one of his scholars in later
life, impart facts very clearly, allowing his knowledge of the subject to
carry him into too long-winded and complicated dissertations. All his pupils
knew the shape of his fingers for they were in constant use as he stood in
front of a class. They acted as prodders of the unwary to reduce their area
of concentration or as pointers at some inattentive `silly goose' in the
back row. Regularly they were employed to comb his hair forward over his
brow as he rambled on enthusiastically while he kept up a rhythmic swaying
of his torso backwards and forwards to the great amusement of his pupils'.
He was always quietly unconventional. When he gardened, as he and Norah
often did, he wore the oldest of clothes ; pupils would smile as he hurried
up to the school phone from the bottom of Middle House garden, pausing to
use the foot-scraper specially placed for him at the main front door. Once
when he was taking Sunday evening service a kitten jumped unto his shoulder.
He gave it an appreciative stroke and continued talking. His punishments
were highly original. Erring pupils picked dandelions and other weeds. Some
of them, ordered to saw logs, removed them from the pile already prepared
and brought them back with much ado in his presence - he found out,
commenting, `Very ingenious ; but please sign them next time'. He had a soft
spot for the lively nuisances, sometimes supporting them before indignant
teachers. It would be a mistake, though, to
suppose him lacking in that toughness which must be part of the 136
make-up of all successful headmasters. Not all Governors appreciated him :
Norah, for example, never became Headmistress, though he would much have
liked it ; and for all their generosity in the holidays to boarders with
nowhere to go, there was a' continual fuss about the financial recompense
for his boarding responsibility. He often made his point obliquely, though
nonetheless tellingly. Once in a quarterly Meeting which was discussing the
rightness or otherwise of opening the swings in Belfast Parks on Sundays he
rose and said : `For over twenty years I worked hard in Friends' School
every Sunday in term time and no-one here offered to do my work for me and
prevent me from committing sin'. A number of Friends seemed to think this an
odd irrelevance : the discussion was about swings, wasn't it ?
He attracted and held good staff, and to his time we owe Miss K.W. Young,
Miss O. B. Tait, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Shemeld, Miss M. J. Baird, Mr. and Mrs.
F. G. Shier, Mr. W. Cordner, Mr. H. L. F. Simpson, Mr. H. J. Turtle, Miss N.
Watters, Mr. R. A. Megraw, Miss Betty Smyth and Miss Maud Smyth. All these
remained another decade or more after the Douglases left. They retired to
Belfast where John died on 9th March 1966. Norah stayed on for a time but
after Moira's tragic death soon after her marriage, went to Australia to be
with her younger daughter, Margaret and her family. Anyone who saw Old
Scholars with the Douglases in the 1960's, either in their own home or at
the school on Old Scholars Day, felt one thing instinctively : like the
Radleys before them, they were loved. Let us take leave of John Douglas by
reflecting in his own quiet idiom that to be loved is not given to every
1774-1952: AN IMPRESSION
With the retirement of John and Norah Douglas in 1952 this account of
Friends School, Lisburn ends, though the story has continued and will, it is
to be hoped, go on doing so. It has brought us a long way from 1774, from
the pre-French Revolution World of George III to the years after the Second
World War. A few glimpses may help to show how far.
The best example of the school's swing from isolation to willing involvement
in local affairs was Douglas Hill's work for the Land Utilisation Survey.
His zeal and vision took him far beyond the classroom on Prospect Hill where
he taught Geography, and in 1936 he led a team of field workers in mapping
the Belfast area. By the summer of 1938 the six-inch field sheets had been
coloured according to an agreed scheme of classification and the whole
reduced to a one-inch scale. Douglas Hill was now Director of the Survey
Team. At the end of the war he was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship
(1946-8) to release him temporarily from teaching. In December 1948 H.M.
Stationery Office in Belfast issued "The Land of Ulster", the first of its
Land Utilisation Survey Reports. Its six-inch field records were lettered
and coloured by Friends School
pupils, and since the work was widely circulated, it brought credit to the
school as well to its gifted and determined originator. John Gough, one
hopes, would have approved -certainly John Ward and Joseph Radley would have
So would they of the continuing activity of the Natural History Society,
flourishing under J. Benington, son of the Charles Benington who had done so
much in this sphere at the end of the nineteenth century. Moth-collecting
and the observation of animal, bird, insect and plant life had been
encouraged at the school uninterruptedly since at least 1870, but it was now
done more systematically and could draw more on the increasing store of
knowledge being everywhere accumulated. The official records of the N.H.S.
date from 1911 and could well form the basis of an article on its varied and
often exciting activity- expeditions to Lough Neagh and Rathlin Island, bird
and badger locating, and sometimes lost boys, once with ten soldiers and a
stretcher called out in search of `Snowball' Eakin, who was, as it happened,
quietly eating his supper at the time in Larkfield.
Perhaps, however, nothing gives quite such a vivid idea of the change in
school life on Prospect Hill as the games played there down the years. A
school, John Douglas said towards the end of his 1938 broadcast "really
belongs to the pupils, no matter what names appear in the title deeds and
prospectus". Remembering this, we may think that the best way to consider
pupils is in their leisure time, when they are doing what they want to do,
not what their elders decree they must do. It is an exercise that John
Douglas once gave himself, recording the result on tape in Middle House in
1964. What he said on that occasion can therefore still be heard. It is too
long to quote here, but the following facts are taken from it, often without
change in the wording. The humane, common-sense outlook and the gentle irony
are all part of the way in which John Douglas looked on the school and his
work in it.
It is only recently that games have had highly paid adult players with
referees to control them, leagues to measure their success, and journalists
to write about them. Before all that began, the nature of boys and girls was
to play, even though theologians did not always think it a good thing. There
used to be a well-known expression in Ulster : "Go and play yourselves", and
the fact is that in the barbaric days before 1900 children were able to play
games themselves without being told what to do by grown-up people. They
played in the street, in the backyard, wherever they found any place to play
: and that included Prospect Hill.
Right up to the First World War the games in Ulster Provincial School were
recognisably those of its eighteenth century beginning. There was marbles,
for instance. It required three little holes in the ground, two or three
inches in diameter. It was a social game, two or four boys taking part.
There would also be a dozen boys watching, cheering, shouting, booing and
making the whole thing very noisy and enjoyable. Sometimes round about 1900
the noise was so great
that it encouraged the Master on Duty to ring the bell and get the
pupils in a little early. This helped to keep their language in decent
bounds, because though it was a Quaker school, marbles, according to John
Douglas, aroused `more bad language than any other game'. Why ? Where had
they learned all these undesirable words ? Quite simply by listening to
older people in other streets and in other games. Yet the words were rarely
heard during the conkers season when marbles was not played at all. And
marbles experts were by no means always good at conkers. Skill at this began
with choosing a chestnut which looked soft but was hard. During chestnut
time many boys would be seen in class with no lace in their shoes - it was
resting quietly in its owner's pocket until required to earn its keep at the
game. You could even play it if the Master went out of the room ; you jumped
up quickly, fetched the conker out of your pocket and held it up, while the
other boy in a kind of magic gesture made his chestnut hit yours in such a
way as to break it. To break one chestnut counted one, to break another, two
and so on. Boys watched each other to see that they did not cheat by putting
on extra numbers which had not been gained. When a conker had reached six it
would begin to show signs of age and its owner would seek out a friend, see
his old conker broken in a friendly battle, and then add the old six score
to the new conker, making seven. It was in this way that the great scores
were built up during the three-week season. Sometimes there were conkers
with sixty-four or even seventy-two on them. Some of those big scores were
true, but not all. Suspectedly false ones caused fierce arguments and even
fights in the dormitory.
Spring was the time for kites. They were usually made with string and brown
paper, flour and water paste, and two crossed sticks. Or there were tops
-Peg Tops and Peery Tops (with a thin stand and large knobbly head). Or
Hopscotch, like tops played by both boys and girls, but disapproved of by
mothers because it wore out shoe leather so quickly. Or Stilts, made in the
workshop, and leading to perilous races between the boys. Or, above all,
Alley-ball. It was a version of the Handball played by men, but (according
to John Douglas) originally a boys' game. It depended on having a flat wall
with no windows in it and a fairly level yard for the ball to bounce on,
there being few proper fives courts in Ireland. Only those with hard hands
could play it, though girls sometimes tried it with a racquet. In 1900 it
was played against the wall of the old gym, and there was room for three
parallel games. Only one of the three courts had a corner in it. At one time
one of the teachers was friendly with the local Police who played the game
down at their barracks, and some matches were arranged between pupils and
policemen. The school lost them, the long and strong adult arms being too
much for those still developing.
Officially, there was no boxing. But there were fights, needless to say
A new boy came to school and for some reason he came late in the term, and
in an unguarded moment the Headmaster told us interesting things about this
boy who had, perhaps, been
abroad or something, and we got the impression that he was a foreigner and
would have to have his impudence taken down. When he arrived, a rather tough
boy who lived in Ballymacarrett was deputed to challenge this new boy, over
six inches taller, and the fight took place in the gym and somehow all the
boys happened to be in the gym at that moment without organisation. The
fight progressed for some time and both boys were reasonably capable. Then
we saw the faces of two masters at the window of the Science classroom
watching the fight, and after about ten minutes, as we thought, they meanly
went and told the Headmaster who realised what trouble he would get into if
it was known that the Friends' School had a proper stand-up fight. When the
fight was over and we came to know the new boy, it turned out that he was
the most Irish of us all. He came from the bogs of central Ireland, had been
three months in an English school, and was brought home for some reason and
sent to Lisburn. As for 'Da', the Headmaster, he came out to the great noise
and most pugnaciously stopped it.
All this is not to deny that soon after 1900 the specialisation and
intensity of twentieth century games were in some ways already appearing.
Cricket is said to have been introduced in 1851, and croquet, tennis and
girls' hockey were taken up about the end of the century. Hockey was no
longer the `shinny' of the home-made sticks and home-made rules. It soon
demanded the rigorous practice of basic skills and rehearsed moves ; the
early cup-winning teams were successful partly because their training
included long runs over Aughrim and Collin. So the school can fairly be said
to have made its own contribution to the fiercely earnest and competitive
world of sport which newspapers and television have now made such big
business-by 1952 Brian Raphael, Billy Haughton and Stevie Johnson had all
played hockey for Ireland, and `Herbie' Martin was soon to follow in
cricket. Nevertheless, now that national crises can occur over a foot-fault
or an off-side decision, so that even school games tend to imitate the
professionals' excessive partisanship and determination to avoid defeat at
all costs, it is good to reflect that the Old Scholars' Play Shed, given in
1957, is used in the main for spontaneous, voluntary play, and that such
age-old games as Relieve-O and Tig still exist, if in slightly different
guises and dignified by more modern names.
Do similar changes mark the instruction given in the classroom ? For to
measure differences spanning 200 years in terms of games alone, gives a
limited impression, and that perhaps in an area which to some people is
unimportant. On the whole they do, since here again the picture is of over a
century of little change, followed by changes of ever-increasing rapidity.
Consider, for instance, the organisation and methods of Mountmellick School
in 1796, to which John Douglas drew attention in one of his tape-recordings.
The Superintendent is reporting to the Committee, and in so doing speaks not
only for Quaker schools but for most schools of the time
The children are divided into three classes ; the first comprises the best
readers, the second the next best, and the third those beginning to read.
Each class is of both sexes. A lesson is read to every class and to prevent
any idea of one sex being preferred to the other, the males read first one
day and the females the next, and so alternately. The different sexes though
of the one class do not read together, but each in succession. By this
arrangement the worst readers of the different classes have sufficient
opportunity, if they will make use of it, to get the lesson while the best
are reading, and thereby be sooner ready to go to write and cipher.
Attention is paid to each individual at both these exercises. . . . Spelling
individually is the first daily business of the school. Those who think they
have it come up and are heard first, without distinction of age or sex. The
words each misses are marked in the spelling book and a register kept of
them to prevent evasions. The missed words they had to get are spelt with
the ensuing morning lesson, and on seventh day [Saturday) evening before
they are allowed to play, they must spell out all the words missed through
the week or be debarred of play for that evening.... All the girls, except
one apprentice, attend in the boys' schoolroom from rising to dinner, and
are exercised in the same manner as the boys, except on the washing day,
once in the week ; the girls not employed at it attend in the boys'
To our ears, accustomed as they are to hearing of "structuring meaningful
patterns for the enablement of self-enlightment in the classroom situation"
(and all the rest of it), this appears a very naive approach to the
complicated process of learning to read: quite young pupils are classified
into those who can and those who can't, are made to learn by rote and are
punished if they fail. Primary Schools, including Prospect House, are
different today ; a glance at the equipment and wall displays of their
classrooms will show how learning and playing now go hand in hand.
As for the main school, where pupils stayed on until eighteen or nineteen
instead of leaving at fourteen or earlier, things are so different that
comparison between then and now is hardly possible. Even in the short time
since 1952 the changes have gone on implacably. `The New Look' fashion of
1950, though it had no immediate effect on school uniform, heralded the much
greater freedom to be claimed by the pupils of the following decades, when
the old rigidities were everywhere under attack. Boys' hair grew long, jeans
appeared on girls who were geologising or working with the Natural History
Society, skirts became so brief as to be scarcely noticeable, an annual
dance was held at the school, and weekly boarding (going home for week-ends)
became much more popular. During summer holidays pupils twice drove
Ambulances overland to India for use in hospitals there. All the time the
links with the local Education Authorities and the concern with public
examinations increased ; and, in response to the 1960 decision to double
numbers by changing two-stream into four-stream entry, the building too doubled. First, the Manse was bought
on Forthill and named Radley House. (It was to improve boarding
accommodation, though for some five years it was used by the hard-pressed
day school). The playing fields were re-drained and re-laid. Then the
semi-circular hall, the gym and the new classroom block went up on the brae,
followed by the building at the back of the school of Harding House (named
after Aubrey A. Harding, School Treasurer for forty-two years). And in 1973,
at long, long last, after years of planning and re-planning, the whole of
the old school was demolished so that the boarding department could be
re-built over modern classrooms. It had to happen in the end, and will no
doubt be recorded in detail in a future history of the school. Here, it is
enough to indicate some of the losses : the Dining Room, the Kitchen and
Canteen, the old Chemistry Lab, the old Gym with the little classroom off it
(LT), the Boys' Lower Dormitory with the Prefects' cubicles at the end, the
Girls' Washroom, the Laundry, the Bathhouse, Surgery with Sick Bay above it,
and the old Kindergarten. It will seem a dreary list to anyone who did not
know them. To those whose home they once were, their mere naming will evoke
a host of memories.
Is there, then, no common thread running through what is, after all, an
ordinary, unexciting sort of story ? Has the link with John Hancock and John
Gough become so frail as to be best forgotten ? Not quite. The school,
particularly the small boarding school, is still a community whose purpose
is quite simply to help the young to grow into balanced and fulfilled men
and women. This is not an activity to be assessed and reported on annually
at Speech Day
that occasion is for polishing the school's public image. The real work is
elsewhere - in working alongside young people, who are changing all the time
as they grow older, and are entering into natural and helpful relations with
each other and with those who teach and look after them. And if there is
anything distinctive in a Quaker school, it should be just here. Quakers
claim that `there is that of God in every man', in children no less than in
grown men and women. It follows that in the matter of learning to live (as
separate from learning facts and skills) teachers must learn from their
pupils as well as teach them. While staff have to provide a firm framework
so that learning and maturing may take place naturally, they work within it
in partnership with the young, and in the knowledge that Abraham Lincoln's
famous dictum is for old and young alike : `You cannot help men permanently
by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves'.
W. B. Yeats once said that he distrusted the self-complacency of those whom
Velasquez painted, preferring "the hungry medieval' speculation that had
worn the faces painted by El Greco". Schools could well have that
preference, too ; they should combine security and risk, youth and age,
knowledge and experiment. Only so may wisdom -or religious truth, to use the
language of our forefathers -be found. "Sapere Aude" was the splendid Horatian Motto of Hugh
Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, who founded Manchester Grammar School - Dare to be
wise ; take the risks and make the experiments without which there is no
wisdom, only common sense. John Gough, writing in old age at his desk in the
original school on Prospect Hill, had much the same thought. George Fox, he
said towards the end of the Introduction to his `History of the People
called Quakers', was endowed with a power not learned from any academic
study or philosophical system, but from "the language of experience", from
"an acquaintance with himself". Such self-knowledge, though it cannot be
part of a syllabus, or measured, or perhaps even recognised, is the ultimate
concern of human beings and therefore of schools, whether in 1774 or 1974.
It is the link between us and our founders.
So we may in conclusion see again Bulmer Hobson, towards the end of Joseph
Radley's long reign and in what must have seemed the hey-day of Empire and
Victorian certainty, punished for an offence he did not commit. Well, it
wasn't fair, thought the young boy, but it was school life ; he would have
to bear it. `Bulmer', said the strict but just Charles Benington a day or so
later, `I punished you unfairly. I am sorry'. As he re-lived the scene more
than seventy years later, Bulmer's great white head shook gently and the
unseeing eyes registered vividly the distant event. `Just think', he said,
who was only a month from his own death, `Just think : that he should
apologise to me, a mere slip of a lad !' His tone softened into a kind of
wonderment. "Aye.... I can see it now . . ." a pause as he searched for the
right words . . . "clearer than this room when I could see it.... You know,
you learn things at school . . . things you never forget . . . ah, well ...
it was like home on Prospect Hill. . . .".