Dr. C. J. Magrath O.B.E.

[KES Mag July 49:]

[School Notes]

Lastly we had to bid farewell to Mr. Magrath, who had been a member of the Staff since 1908. "Although he has served this School for forty-two years " said the Headmaster, "Mr. Magrath has not equalled his illustrious uncle, who was Provost of the Queen's College, Oxford, for fifty-two years. His uncle, it is said, was never seen for the last ten years! That, at any rate, can never be said of Mr. Magrath—he is always to be seen here, showing parents and visitors to their places in this Hall at our various functions, with the starting pistol at the Athletic Sports, swathed in a towel at the Swimming Sports, always with an apt buttonhole—and who can forget the leopard skin with which he invariably announced the official opening of winter and his personal dissatisfaction with the efficiency of the School central heating system What is the secret of his success? Mr. Magrath would not claim to be a scholar or an athlete, but he has got the best out of his boys whether in work or in games by his humanity and his warm sympathy for them. We thank him for his varied and lasting contribution to our life, and wish him every happiness in the retirement which he has so richly earned and which he will no doubt spend working busily at his other interests."

[Arundel Notes]

How shall we say goodbye to our Headmaster, Dr. Magrath? We cannot; he has presided so long over our affairs that the one has become part of the other. And while there remains in the House one boy who can remember him, his benign influence will be in everything Arundel thinks and does; all our good wishes go with him.

[KES Mag July 49:]

The First Decade

(Dr. C. J. Magrath looks back on the School as he found it in 1908, the year of his appointment. With an interval of service in the First War, he was a member of the Staff for forty-one years.)

MY first impressions of the School, as I recollect, were rather grim. The Head master of the time (Dr. J. H. Hichens) one only saw when something had gone wrong, or some particularly sticky assignment was to be handed out. The Staff seemed split into two cliques, one headed by three senior masters and their followers, and the other containing all the rest. The meeting-place of the first clique was a summer-house, now demolished, at the top of the garden, to which they resorted at the break, wet or fine, and exchanged—I always imagined—rude ideas about the junior members of the Staff.

The School had been some two years in its present building, and was just settling down. It was generally believed that the Headmaster had had a very trying time in his previous post and was countering any repetition of this by reliance on a frightful book of rules which he had compiled and which was solemnly handed to each new member of the Staff to read, mark and learn. One potential appointee, it is said, after a horrified perusal, remarked " This must be a **** asylum," walked out, and was never seen again.

There were certainly some characters on the Staff, not least remarkable among them being the Librarian, who never gave out a book to anyone, boy or man, whom he did not like. On occasions when he found the keyhole of his classroom stopped up, he left the building and went home for the rest of the day. He was, however, a fearsome disciplinarian and a wonderful classical teacher.

No one will forget " Toby " Saville, who ran his boarding house, Lynwood, in Clarkehouse Road and held his memorable summer camps at Winchelsea each year. I remember too Ben Caudwell, one of the best teachers I have known; and another, next door, whose room was a perpetual riot. Saville, of course, was one of those who had stayed on from Wesley College staff, and there were others also from the Grammar School, whose presence no doubt helped to cement the union of the two schools into the new King Edward's.

As in most schools of that time, " Gym " was very much of the old-fashioned military type and was taken by an ex-sergeant-major. The only swimming bath was an open-air one, on the site of the present bath; it could only be used in the warmer weather, and after the scum and smuts had been skimmed off. An elderly lady dwelling in College Street complained of boys running round the bath naked; when asked how she could see over the high wall, she replied that she could do so from her attic if she went up there!

One must not omit " Smithy " who was the groundsman and coach for very many years and to whom generations of young cricketers owed all they learned of that sport.

At the beginning of each term a long list of rules was read out to the School, among which I remember- "All buying and selling, all borrowing and lending, are forbidden," and " No boy can use another boy's bicycle: it is no good saying he lent it to you, he can't ". The main punishment was " detention ", which involved stopping for anything up to an hour after school and writing " copy " in the Assembly Hall, supervised—most unwillingly—-by members of the staff in turn. The delinquents' names were entered in a vast book containing the names of the whole School: only the Sixth Form were exempt. Anyone whose name appeared more than three times in a week lost the next half-holiday-—Wednesday and Saturday were half-holidays and Saturday morning was an ordinary work morning.

Otherwise, for discipline you were left entirely to yourself: you either sank or swam, and if you sank, you left next term. It was a hard test, but a good one.


[KES Mag Spring 58:]


Died February 3rd, 1958. Aged 75.

By his continued close association with the School since his retirement, " C.J.M." (he was reticent about the third initial, as, for many years, about the " Dr.") remained a familiar figure to many of the Staff and to some of the boys, especially Scouts, whose interests he was happy to serve.

He was a native of Guernsey, educated at Winchester and Oriel College, Oxford, and a member of our Staff from 1908 to 1949—though in the First World War military service from 1915 to 1918 constituted technically a break in scholastic employment. It was in recognition of his association with the city of Louvain, as its Town Major, that he received an honorary Doctor's degree from that University.

As Doctor or as Mister (or under other less complimentary prefixes) C.J.M. combined happily a dignified presence on formal occasions with a genial gift for easy companionship with boys which won their confidence and willing co-operation. In days when the educational curriculum ran on narrower tracks than now, he was always able to make contact with boys through current topics, hobbies, and the miscellaneous information which they always find more absorbing than the lesson for the day. His cheerful disregard for administrative exactitude was not so popular with his senior colleagues; but he brought his own style of pragmatical efficiency to such chores as starting the Athletic Sports races or managing the " house " at School entertainments. At the latter also he was often in demand for an anecdotal or humorous musical item; and if needed, he would deputise, with boldness rather than accuracy, for the pianist at morning prayers.

Outside the School, Dr. Magrath was to the fore in social service, first in connection with the Hillsborough Boys' Club and Toc-H, and later as Chairman of the Sheffield Youth Council and as Borstal After-care Associate.

In self-sufficient bachelorhood he seemed well content with the modest rewards of his profession and the esteem of the many young people who enjoyed his benevolent help and guidance.