Stories from the Archive – Leisure Activities (Part 3 – football)

In February 2016 I gave a talk about the archives as part of the Thursday lunchtime Recital Room series. I’ll put the talk on the blog in a series of posts. The third installment is below. Click here for the first installment (about Arthur Rowntree’s views about leisure activities) and here for the second installment (about cricket).

John Ford (Headmaster 1829-65)

According to the 1923 School History, Football was introduced to the school by John Ford on 13th October 1862. According to James Edmund Clark, “John Ford had been on pilgrimage to Rugby, to behold the scenes familiar through the life of his great favourite, Dr. Arnold. Finding how rarely serious harm resulted there, he decided to remove the embargo at Bootham. So one day, soon after twelve o’clock, the bell summoned us to “collect.” The lines were unusually straight and wondering, for at the head stood John Ford, with the “forbidden thing” in his hand. Had anyone smuggled it in? No! he told us all about it, gave us our first ball and himself the first kick, straight as an arrow between the lines.” H.M Wallis does point out though in his chapter in the 1923 School History that the rules were somewhat vague, although this is unsurprising at a time when the rules of the game were still being codified, and there would have been many versions around. He says “we knew not whether to put the ball over or under the bar, or if handling was allowed.” It is however possible that a version of football had been played at some earlier point – George Scarr Watson, who was at the school between 1853 and 1858 mentioned that a broken rib or arm had put an end to football before his time – he saw it later as a “merciful dispensation of Providence. How many journeys to witness cup finals I have escaped; also colds and chills and pneumonias caught in watching that astonishing game.”

Arthur Rowntree, who was a student at the school in the 1870s and went on to become Headmaster, remembered the first football match with an outside team—”we played in ordinary clothes and counted the enemy snobs for changing.” He also remembered how there were 60 boys in the school when he started, and they all played football together in ordinary weekday clothes—North v. South, Senior v. Schoolroom—and thankful we youngsters were if we touched the ball once during the hour.”


Gradually the game became established, and when the magazine started in 1902, football team reports appeared. The team notes were written by the captain, and were notable for their honesty. An extract from 1903 gives an example:

“We began the season with an unusually young and inexperienced line of forwards. They improved as the season went on. But as three of them are to be with us next season we may be excused mentioning a few of their faults, in hopes of still further improvement—-

  1. Standing in an impossible position to receive a pass and staying there.
  2. Receiving a ball facing wrong way, so that the opposing half easily forces them towards their own goal or into touch.
  3. Slowness in taking advantage of openings in front of goal.
  4. Lack of strenuousness.
  5. Want of pace.”

First World War : Flying over France.

Thomas Smith Impey was born in 1880 and was a student at Bootham School from 1893 to 1896.  During the First World War he served in the Royal Flying Corps, becoming a Captain and later a Major.

Photograph of Thomas Smith Impey in Bootham School Gym Team, 1894
Thomas Smith Impey in Bootham School Gym Team, 1894

In the March 1916 edition of “Bootham” magazine he writes about his experiences flying over France:

“T. S. IMPEY joined the R.F.C. in February 1915, ” three months late, owing to an accident that kept me from doing anything at all for many weeks. I am now almost the oldest pilot flying, many of the senior officers being years younger than me. . . . I took my pilot certificates in about six weeks, and passed the final examination qualifying me as a flying officer in July. . . . After some delay with my engine at Folkestone, I crossed the Channel at about 8,000 ft. . . . From 8,000 ft. the N.W. corner of France looks like a map, Calais and Boulogne seeming only a hand’s-breadth apart, the hills and valleys being quite indistinguishable. . . . I was flying at 8,000 ft. looking for gun flashes over the line, when three or four came up— bang ! bang ! pong ! ping !—all around me, and little round puffs of smoke flashed away behind me;  and I confess I turned round and flew out of range in zig-zags as quickly as I could, which was at about 80 miles an hour. Of course, I had to go back again when I had a few minutes to think it over, and now, though I don’t like ‘ Archie,’ I have learned to fly through him like everyone else, and do my work regardless. . . . It is awfully cold sometimes at 10,000 ft., which is a height we often fly at; and without proper protection in the winter frostbite is more than likely.””

T. S. Impey survived the war and was granted a permanent commission in the R.A.F. He retired in 1922.

First World War: Charles Albert Wood awarded Military Cross

Photograph of Charles Albert Wood.
Charles Albert Wood

Charles Albert Wood attended Bootham School from 1901 to 1903.  He received the Military Cross in France, listed in Fourth Supplement to the London Gazette, 14th January 1916:

“Captain Charles Albert Wood, M.B., Indian Medical Service”

A report in the March 1916 issue of “Bootham” magazine tells us the story:

“C. A. WOOD (Captain, I.M.S.) has been at the Front since 1914. He was attached to some of the Gurkhas. When in charge of a temporary hospital the house was shelled and the chimney came down. None of his patients was touched, but he received a severe blow and was reported wounded, but remained on duty. After that he was in charge of the Convalescent Hospital for Indian troops in France. He was then sent to Alexandria, and may be in Mesopotamia now. He was awarded the Military Cross in January, 1916.”

There is further description of Captain Wood’s action in “The Indian Corps in France” by Lt-Col J.W.B. Merewether and Sir Frank Smith:

“All through the battle, the work of the medical officers and their subordinates had been beyond praise. Captain C. A. Wood, I.M.S., 1/4th Gurkhas, gained the Military Cross by his bravery and unceasing energy in collecting the wounded, even after he had himself been hit, and in arranging for their safety after his first-aid post had become a target for the enemy’s artillery. Throughout the campaign this officer had shown himself to be utterly regardless of danger in the performance of his duty.”

100 years since the death of Silvanus P. Thompson

Leavers Photograph 1867 (Silvanus P. Thompson is on the back row on the left hand end).
Leavers Photograph 1867 (Silvanus P. Thompson is on the back row on the left hand end)

12th June marks 100 years since the death of Silvanus P. Thompson, who was born in York in 1851 and went on to become an eminent physicist. His father taught at Bootham School, and the family lived in Union Terrace. Silvanus attended Bootham School between 1858 and 1867, and returned as a teacher between 1870 and 1875. During his career he was appointed Professor of Physics at University College Bristol, then Finsbury College in London, and was made Fellow of the Royal Society, President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, President of the Physical Society of London and President of the Röntgen Society.

Photograph from 1914. Silvanus P. Thompson greets Arthur Rowntree (Headmaster).
Silvanus P. Thompson greets Arthur Rowntree (Headmaster) in 1914

Silvanus P. Thompson would have benefitted from the science teaching and activities at Bootham School. The school was equipped with laboratories, regular lectures were given by teachers or visiting scientists on everything from Anatomy, Mechanics, Fossil Zoology, Physics and the Menai Bridge. The school had a flourishing Natural History Society and natural curiosity was encouraged. During a speech at the school 1902 he talked about the “many memories some of us have of the mysterious operations, the photography, the bird-stuffing, and the chemical explosions which went on.” He approved of how students were taught “not to be afraid to try, to put forward their strength, to make experiments. This character, this sturdy independence, this originality of effort, which the school has fostered, may we not hope that it will long flourish?” He argued that the pressure of examinations should not be allowed “to spoil in the future those features of originality, those sources of independent life, those influences which have developed the School along its own lines? Are we to have a school of which the primary consideration is that it shall score in taking off prizes at outside examinations? I sincerely hope that will not be so.” That thread of encouraging curiosity, looking for the best in each individual and enabling them to make the best use of their talents has continued throughout the history of the school.