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
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.”

PH.03.003.026a 1900s scrapbook page 26 Football

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.”




Saturday 23rd April 2016 is the 400th anniversary since Shakespeare’s death.

100 years ago the school celebrated the Tercentenary Year. The July 1916 edition of Bootham magazine mentions that during the fourth week of May the school marked the event.  A holiday was given on 23rd. On 24th, Mrs Liddiard gave recitations from Shakespeare in the Library. On June 1st Mr Paton, High Master of the Manchester Grammar School, gave a lecture on “Shakespeare’s Boys”.

A Winters Tale 1936

A Winter’s Tale, 1936

Since then the school has performed a number of Shakespeare’s plays. The earliest recorded performance is scenes from A Winter’s Tale in 1936, which was performed on the grass in the school grounds. Over the years plays such as Richard II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet followed. Most recently, a production of A Winter’s Tale in 2014 included live sheep!

Romeo and Juliet photo 1973 lr

Romeo and Juliet, 1973

First World War: Letter from Ronald Priestman


RONALD M. PRIESTMAN (Bootham 1907-1911) writes on July 13th from No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station, B.E.F. [British Expeditionary Force]: “I must send you a line to say how absolutely delighted and really quite touched I was to get the postcard with so many old friends’ names on it. I have been out here without a glimpse of home since November 1st; so you have really no idea how I have appreciated the message—wordless though it is…. The kind of work we are doing is very much the same as that of the F.A.U., though up to the present we have been fortunate enough to have escaped being shelled…. Our duties are to receive, nurse (operate if necessary), feed, and otherwise look after and care for the patients sent down to us by the Field Ambulances until they are well enough to be sent either (1) back to duty (2) to a convalescent depot, or (3) to the base hospitals. I myself am fortunate in not having to be forever in the presence of pain and sickness, as I am in the more or less responsible position of corporal in charge of the stores. That includes all the food both for staff and patients, and all the clothing and hospital equipment. The food all has to be weighed and issued according to the scale laid down in the official army book, so you may imagine we are kept pretty busy.”

From “Bootham Oversea” in Dec 1915 issue of Bootham magazine

Hungarian refugees at Bootham

I am hoping that Old Scholars and other readers might be able to fill in some pieces of the story regarding Hungarian refugees at Bootham c.1956-57.

An Old Scholar sent this memory in response to an email about Bootham’s initial response to the Syrian refugee crisis:

“As a pupil in 1956 we were asked to make wooden partitions between beds for the Hungarian refugees. I remember spending long hours in the workshop doing this. One of the Hungarian refugees graduated in medicine with us in Edinburgh.”

I found this reference in Bootham magazine, May 1957:

“The Lodge found a new use when refugees from the top storey of No. 54 were housed there while the floor was made safe. The ability of the floor to move fully six inches vertically when encouraged had apparently been brought to official notice.”

I’ve yet to find any other references in the records from the period, so if anyone can remember anything about refugees at Bootham in the 1950s, please do get in touch (

Memories from the Archives – Part 5

In January I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Read Part 1 herePart 2 herePart 3 here and Part 4 here.

James Edmund Clark lr

James Edmund Clark (1850-1944; Bootham 1862-67; Master at Bootham 1869-72 and 1875-97)

James Edmund Clark was at Bootham in the 1860s and returned as a Science Master. According to Natural History at Bootham – the Early Years, he was the first graduate to be appointed to the staff and the first person to be appointed specifically to teach science at the school. In an article for ‘Bootham’ magazine in 1903, he talks about the language used, the classroom arrangements, town leave, columns and top-hats.

“Quaker-boys ways were plainer then. ‘Thee’ and ‘thou’ was the universal language, and, except John Ford, masters had to be satisfied with their Christian names. It was ‘Silvanus’ and ‘Alfred’ and ‘Theodore’ and even ‘Fielden’. Well do I remember the light which dawned upon certain untutored minds, when it was suggested that, at public places, like the baths, ‘Thomas please’ would sound politer with the surname sandwiched in.”

Talking about the schoolroom, “One row of desks was under the playground windows, from the ‘altar’ to Silvanus Thompson’s desk. The central desks were in pairs of four or five each, back to back. On the other side was Mr Fryer’s desk, Silvanus Thompson’s serviceable ‘shop’, contained in the drawers of a table, while the junior master’s desk stood under the central window. Near him dwelt his little flock, their lessons frequently going on here with another class at either end. Their only retreat was the ‘junior class-room’ next to the old ‘senior’, and this was not always habitable. For it served, also, as natural history room, without possessing all the conveniences of the latter for the bestowal of refuse matter. The only receptacle, indeed, for such articles was an ominous looking black-ware vessel in the darkest corner, which only too fitly merited its suggestive title of ‘stink-pot’. Moved by that strange but apparently resistless attraction for doing the thing which should not be done, some small boy almost invariably ventured to give it a stir.”

Moving on to town-leave, he says “How altered is ‘town leave’ now! Six keys, later eight, used to hang up inside the library, and twice a day that number of boys might go out. ‘Mrs Gray’s, please’. ‘Thou mayst; not more that twopence’ was the usual formula. Little hope for a juvenile to be one of the six or eight, the eldest coming first.”

James also remembers columns (including the first half a dozen words on the list), and remembers that “My unluckiest day … was the equivalent of fifteen columns. Two of these were for whistling in the passage; three for leaping the railings of the boys’ gardens; ten for aspiring to the Observatory roof.” This would have been the old observatory, rather than the current one in the science block.

He also remembers that “The Half of my arrival witnessed also that of the first top-hat known in Bootham School. As the wearer measured 6 feet 2 inches in his stockings the effect was that of a city set on a hill. The infection caught on, until, before I left, half the school were victims of the unfortunate fashion.”


In Memoriam: Austen Campbell Dent


Austen C. Dent of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Lance Sergeant, was mortally wounded on his 23rd birthday, July 19th 1915, and died the next day. He was laid to rest in the Military Cemetery, Lancashire Landing, Gallipoli.

He was born in 1892 and attended Bootham between 1907 and 1910.

Roderic Clark (B.1897-1900) wrote an obituary in Bootham magazine. Here is the first paragraph:

“Before me as I write lie two postcards. One of the well known Army brand, with its alternative inscriptions all crossed out save only “I am quite well. I have received your p.c. (our Whitsun greeting). Austen C. Dent, Sergt. July 3rd, 1915.” The other a camp group, with good wishes from nineteen of his friends at Matlock I. this year, which had been posted in the camp letterbox, but not collected before the sad news came, for Austen, or “Mole”, as many readers will still think of him, made many friends, and the frank sincerity of his exuberant boyishness awakened a response in many hearts.”

In Memoriam: Hans Frederick Hundt


Hans Frederick Hundt was killed in action, May 25th 1915. He served in the 1/23rd London Regiment. He was born in London in 1894 and attended Bootham between 1908 and 1910.

Mrs. Hundt sent some extracts from her son’s letters to ‘Bootham’ magazine:—

Somewhere in France, March 22nd.

We have moved twice since I last wrote. We had to march about 15 miles over dreadful roads, uneven cobbles, to a small village about 12 miles behind the firing line. We were billeted in a large farm, 38 of us, and had some excitement with the rats.

France, April 2nd.

Have done very well on this most unique birthday (21st). It is one I am not likely to forget in a hurry. Had heaps of parcels and good things. Yesterday we were medically examined after having a glorious shower bath. I passed through all right. We marched four miles, and used the baths for the miners.

France, April 8th, 1915.

We moved again yesterday about 4 miles nearer the firing line, and expect to be in the reserve trenches next week. I am in a large loft over a cowshed, have plenty of straw, and am quite comfortable. Can get plenty of eggs (cooked) at the Farm House, coffee, bread and butter, so am living like a lord.

April 12th.

It is very quiet here, and if it were not for the sound of the firing one would not realise that anything was on. Last night mounted sentry with one of the Regulars, did three spells; it was rather an experience. The German trenches are some 300 yards away, and the whole space between, is a mass of barbed wire entanglements. The fellows we are with are a very decent lot.

France, May 12th. (Last letter received.)

The next night we were relieved and marched back about 5 miles to a very pretty little place where we were billeted in a large hall place. There was a canal running through, so we managed to get a bathe. It was a treat, and we made the most of it. We marched some 6 miles further back yesterday to the same piece we were last before leaving for the trenches. I am in the same billet, and quite comfortable, have plenty of clean straw. Isn’t it dreadful about the Lusitania? They are simply barbarians! We had some of those pipes, through which they pump their poisonous gas, opposite our trenches last time, but am thankful to say they did not use it. We each had a piece of gauze and some bicarbonate of soda handy to dip it into should they have used it. I believe we are going to have twelve days’ rest; I hope so, for we can do with it. Terrific bombardments are going on, and there is no doubt big moves are being made.

First World War: Looking beyond the war

Swimming Baths 1914

“Some of us had almost forgotten that there ever was such a thing as a bath—those of us, at least, who are beyond the region of its influence. It is a pleasure, therefore, to be reminded of that great achievement in the verses which we publish on another page. They were written in those other days of long ago when the bath was uppermost in our minds; they were of necessity omitted from the last number, because that other matter had taken hold of our minds, and the bath was forgotten, as belonging to the former era; but let us remember that every war has an end ; that no war ought to absorb us to the exclusion of every other matter ; and that the bath will still be a treasure of our School when the war is ancient history, and when we are able to look forward without the deadly oppression of the present encircling us like a nauseous London fog.”

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, March 1915. The school swimming baths had been opened in June 1914.

First World War: March 1915 magazine editorial

“In case anyone should suppose from this that we, from the editorial chair, regard the effects of the war on others, as well as ourselves, with something akin to tolerant cynicism, we would draw attention to the amount of really excellent work that is being done. Halfpenny newspapers may talk about shirkers, and misguided women may distribute white feathers, but for our own part we are genuinely amazed at the way in which everyone, from the greatest to the least, has shouldered the burden, each one taking upon himself that which appeared to him most necessary to be borne. At the moment we would like to draw special attention to the work of the Emergency Committee for the Assistance of Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians in Distress (convened by the Religious Society of Friends to aid innocent “Alien Enemies” in Great Britain rendered destitute by the war). It is not easy to find ways for reconstructing human society whilst war is still waging, but there can be no doubt at all that this Committee, which is assisted by several Old Scholars, is counteracting, as far as its scope and its means permit, the spirit of race hatred which has grown so terribly in the last six months. Even those who believe that every member of the German and Austrian Empires comes into the world with a double dose of original sin, if there really are such, must perceive the necessity of showing such benighted people that there is a sense of pity even in Englishmen; moreover, one direct result of the work of this committee has been the starting of a reciprocal committee to guard the distressed men and women of our own country in Germany and Austria-Hungary. But it is not for these reasons alone that we would commend the work; if it did not benefit any Englishman in the eyes of any German it would still be a work of purest Christ-like pity. The vast majority of those whose claims are considered are far less responsible for the present condition than you, O reader ! and than ourselves. Are they all to suffer, the guiltless with the guilty? And are we, then, so guiltless that we are their lawful judges? This, no less than many other things that our fellow Old Scholars are doing in these days, some of them working in secret, so that none of us know it, is a true work of love and of reconciliation. This is the way of hope.”

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, March 1915

Solar Eclipse

As it’s the eclipse this week, I found two accounts of the solar eclipse of June 29th 1927 in ‘Bootham’ magazine.

Two boys travelled to Giggleswick, partly because a group of astronomers from Greenwich Observatory would be there – they were “lucky enough to be able to help the Astronomer Royal’s party to move their camera”. There were quite a few clouds, but the clouds parted with two minutes to spare. “Suddenly the darkness swept over us, and as we turned towards the sun we saw the black disc surrounded by the corona, which was shown up like ‘bright metal on a sullen ground’ by the dark blue sky behind it. All our instructions were forgotten in that wonderful moment. Ignoring all scientific details, we just gazed at the beauty of the corona, until the rim of beads flashed out a bright white, telling us that totality was over. O.C.R.”

Another group got up at 2am and travelled to Wensleydale, to view the eclipse from Middleham Moor. They weren’t as lucky as the Giggleswick group – they saw glimpses of a partial eclipse, but clouds hid the sun at the moment of totality. “The moor was crowded with spectators, but all was quiet during those twenty seconds; then the light swept across the countryside, and conversation started again. A few minutes later a rift appeared in the clouds and we saw again the partially eclipsed sun…. K.F.N.”