The school was founded in 1949 and hence is over 65 years old. We had a major celebration of our 50th anniversary in 1989. Some past pupils and Staff members were kind enough to send us birthday cards, in the form of short essays. If you feel you’d like to add to this part of the site, please feel free to email us your contributions.
(The rest of this article was written by John Leyden in 1989, with contributions from various other people, mostly past pupils)
It was the intention to open in 1948 but the necessary arrangements were not in place till 1949. At first it seemed suitable to start a ‘public’ i.e fee-paying secondary school but the initial enthusiasm seems to have evaporated inside a year, partly, one suspects, from the daunting costs. Headfort as prep school more properly dates from 1950. Three people dominated the early years:
David Wild, recently returned from a distinguished naval career during the Second World War, had been teaching in the UK when the opportunity arose for him to take over at Headfort. Bill Stuart-Mills, the Senior Master and a man of infinite patience and considerable intelligence, had declined offers to teach at various universities in the UK and found himself at Headfort from the outset. Jack Sweetman, accomplished games player (Triple Pink at Trinity and association footballer with Swindon Town, Wolfhound and Leinster cricketer) who had also been teaching in the UK, now returned to Ireland as Games Master. These three men were jointly responsible for the growth and development of the school.
The Early Years
Jack Sweetman recalls
From the start…
Shortly after the end of World War II, Lord and Lady Headfort gave thought to the future use of Headfort House. Family and economic changes made it impracticable to run the Georgian Mansion as a private home. Various ideas were considered and even tested before a decision was taken to found a school based on the English Public School system.
Plans were made to open in September ’48 or Jan ‘ 49; in fact Staff were engaged. Romney Coles from Carmel College Newbury was appointed Headmaster; half a century later the present pupils remain indebted to him, for he designed and constructed the heated trolley that is still in use for carrying delicious hot food and plates to the Dining Room !
Peter Ross, a Trinity graduate who returned to schoolmastering after a distinguished war record, was appointed Senior Master. Peter served in the El Alamein campaign where he won an M.C. His pupils can read the citation in Ulick O Connor’s Foreword to Peter’s Book ” All Valiant Dust “, published by Lilliput Press, run incidentally by an ex-Headfort pupil, Anthony Farrell. Bill Stuart-Mills was made Head of Classics and his wife Kate was in charge of Music – one can almost hear the choir singing sea-shanties. This talented pair served Headfort for over 25 years, earning the love and respect of their pupils.
A young and enthusiastic Matron, Eileen Williams, was to play a vital role in the success and rapid growth of the school. She married a local auctioneer and farmer, George Armstrong, and they live just outside Kells.
Riding has been a factor in the popularity of Headfort. The first Riding Mistress was Elizabeth Clark, a daughter of Lady Headfort by her first marriage. In Mr. Wild’s early days, some Staff served both Lady Headfort and the school. Such a one was Joan Gaitskill (a relation of the Labour Party Leader, Hugh) who acted as Mr. Wild’s secretary. At a humbler level, Bill Kirwan, Lady Headfort’s chauffeur, did maintenance work before joining the school on a full time basis. This versatile man mended electrical equipment, painted, mowed the lawns and sports grounds and in winter lit the classroom fires; each class was allowed a bucket of coal each day and limitless logs.
In the 50s other interesting personalities served Headfort. Edith Morton arrived in January 51 to assist Matron. She was known as Nurse, and so began an association that was to last for over forty years. Matron and Nurse both worse full nursing uniform, a practice that was continued for may years before giving way to the more informal white coat. Tom O Donnell, later to become a TD, government minister and finally an MEP, taught Maths for a short period. Michael Gardiner, a former Gate actor, a man of great charm and ability, taught English. When he took “off games walks” he told stories that caught the interest of children and made walks popular – hard to credit. He died recently in Looe, in his beloved Cornwall. Jim McAleese, a fine teacher, will be remembered for wonderful sing-songs on winter evenings; his future wife, Jill Fisher, was an outstanding Riding Mistress. A popular Junior Mistress was Miss Mary Simms ( a niece of Archbishop Simms) who had survived the sinking off Donegal of the liner Athenia, carrying refugee children to Canada. Pupils of the late 50s will no doubt have many amusing memories of Miss Rooney (a former governess) who took Form I on an “off games” walk. Some of her guides (she never mastered Headfort’s system of drives and paths) led her to the middle of one of the largest fields then scattered, warning her it was the bull field. Fortunately as always she had her umbrella which she used to wallop the bold and prod the slow. She was a caring, much-loved figure.
Guiding the school through those early years was David Wild, who had taken over from Mr. Coles in April ’50 and planned its future as a preparatory school with membership of the IAPS. He taught at the well-known Neville Holt before the war and returned there after serving in the RN, reaching the rank of Commander. At Headfort he personally set a high standard and expected the same from all around him. In his early days, his attention to detail and planning were vital in quickly establishing the reputation of Headfort, His interest stretched to every aspect of the school. One felt that, like a good referee, he saw everything. This kept us all on our toes, but often he praised little things which other “leaders” would not have noticed.
In 1950, about 10 or 12 of our pupils came from England; Bill Stuart-Mills would travel over to escort parties met in London and Liverpool, before travelling overnight on the B & I steamer to Dublin and hence by public bus to Kells. Irish pupils were met at the main Dublin stations and travelled to Kells in a hired bus, carrying all the cases on the roof. A small number came by private car. Before the end of the decade a change took place with the increased use of private cars and the minibus replacing the large hire bus.
At first the school occupied the West Wing (classrooms) and the entire top floor of the main house (dormitories and Staff rooms) plus a few more rooms on the first floor, one being the Headmaster’s Study, which overlooked the circle. The Sewing room from which Matron operated, was on the top floor at the head of the stone staircase. The dormitories were given historic names – Greeks Romans, Danes Vikings etc.
Much of the daily routine has remained unaltered over the years; rising 7.30. breakfast 8.00, Break 11.00 Rest & bedtime for the Seniors 8.30. Mr. Wild took breakfast every morning and his “Good Morning” was echoed by a loud “Good Morning Sir”. All resident staff were expected to attend. After Prayers Mr. Wild watched the boys filing past on their way to class; this practice often enabled him to spot a boy who needed help or encouragement. At Break Mr. Wild usually poured out the steaming cocoa which arrived in large enamelled jugs. According to weather conditions, his instructions varied, “Pitch”,”Lawns”,”Wood Walk”, “Drive” & and on wet days, “Stay In”.
At lunch each table was provided with a menu with the words “Manners makyth Man”. There was always an alternative dessert – each table was allowed a maximum of 4 alternatives. This was served by the Staff sitting at the other end on Matron’s table.
In Rest, the boys read and changed their books; a senior boy (librarian) entered the borrowing in an exercise book. Also in Rest, boys queued outside the Study to seek weekend leave or perhaps to explain their disciplinary errors, as listed on a ” Report Form”. Punishment was recorded: “Warned ” “Bed Early” “Slipper”.
The rest of day has changed little except that originally the routine was formal. At bedtime Seniors collected their books, checked their classrooms and lined up in the corridor; then the Master on Duty gave the order to go upstairs. The Matron and Duty Master urged boys to wash. Mr. Wild strolled round the dormitories chatting to the boys about their books or some aspect of their day. Lights Out followed at 9 o’clock, when Matron and the DM went round all the dormitories.
During the first year, normal games were limited by numbers. Keen adults, such as Mr. Ross, and the school chef O Donoughue, helped to swell numbers. When on duty, O Donoughue wore full chef’s uniform, including the hat! He left in Dec. 1950. In the first summer, cricket was played on the estate pitch, situated near the old boathouse, not far from the main entrance. A strand of wire kept grazing cows off the wicket. Late in the 40s the Headfort Butler , Murdoch, was highly regarded as a fast bowler. Later when ” Steward ” in the RAF club, he featured for some years in Dublin cricket. By the summer of 1950, an area in the middle of the modern sports field had been reclaimed from sheep pasture. The playing area was approached by a grassy patch, flanked by tall grass. A great oak tree which shortened the square leg boundary, was cut down about 1952. In certain weather conditions, the site of its former existence can still be seen close to the circle on the modern hockey pitch.
Among the original pupils there were many natural games players; to this group was added the entrants of Sept. 1950 who included Nick and Jonah Barrington, Mike Chamberlayne and a boy from the Isle of Man, Wise, who was to move to brook House with Mr. Ross. So from the start we had a strong rugby team. The game flourished and by 1953 we were able to compete against the U13 XVs from Belvedere and St. Mary’s as well as fulfilling Prep School fixtures.
In the summer of 1951, very few knew much about cricket ; many were playing the game for the first time, so not surprisingly our first match was a painful affair. Quickly our daily games improved and by the next season, we were able to give a good account of ourselves. MacLachlan was to become our first player to score a century and D Cant took all ten wickets in an away game at St. Stephen’s. This feat won him special mention in ” The Irish Times”. The school quickly established a fine academic record. Brian Thompson and Alan Jones won scholarships in 19 52, the former to Leighton Park the latter to St. Columba’s. The next year Hardy Jones did likewise. Later in the decade, awards were won by Adrian Shears, Andrew MacLachlan and Andrew Davidson. In the early years, probably almost 50% of our pupils went to English Public Schools.
In the 50s, the common diseases of measles, chicken pox, mumps, and scarlet fever were regarded as very serious – for example measles resulted in an isolation of about 3 weeks, part of which was spent in a darkened room. School matches would be cancelled. Polio and tuberculosis were dreaded and, resulting from the work of Dr. Noel Browne and others, mobile X ray units visited the schools including Headfort. We were only too well aware of polio as among our own pupils were 2 very plucky boys, Alistair Jones, who loved to join our soccer games, and Timothy Jackson, who triumphed over his disability and qualified as a doctor. The latter wore a hearing aid which he switched off when given an order he did not lie. His spirit and charm protected him from any consequence. John Bryce Smith, David Patton and Christopher Evans – Tipping were successful amateur jockeys. David Cornwall is a director of Punchestown racecourse. The link with the equine world has been significant in Headfort’s success.
Many pupils of the 50s have enjoyed great success. Nick and Jonah Barrington both became squash internationals, Jonah going on to be World Champion. Nick, a versatile sportsman, represented Cornwall in several sports. Jeremy Speid-Soote has a short but successful as a NH jockey in England. Neville Callagahan, based at Newmarket is still turning out winners regularly.
Three pupils of the 50s captained the St. Columba’s cricket XI- Alan Jones (1957) Leslie Jones (60-61) and A.J. Davidson (62-63). Business success is represented by Eddie Wilson (Ulster Carpets) and David Patton. Service careers were followed by David Cant(seconded to the navy of Brunei), Mervyn Lougher-Goodey (RCAF) and brig. Adrian Naughten, former military attaché in Ottawa, now serving in Southern Africa. Kevin Tierney, based in New York is a silver expert. Dan Minchin and Niall Herriott are two of Ireland’s nest know marine biologists, the former won great respect Among his peers when his grandmother;s horse, Quare Times. won the 1955 Grand National. It was in all the Sunday letters. Frances Stuart-Mills stood in a recent general Election. Her transfers enabled another member of her party to win a Dail seat. Jonah Barrington’s achievements brought about an amazing upsurge in the game all over the world. Jeremy Parkinson-Hill has retired from Transatlantic flying and runs his stud farm. Robert Hall is well-known as a racing and showjumping commentator on RTE. Guy Williams has distinguished himself in may areas. He has been a racing official in England; he has trained an Irish Grand national winner, Daletta, and produced several books on racing. His recent book on “The Curragh Lodges” is a collector’s item. Mention must be made of the Rev Dr. Peter Blackwell- Smyth who is obviously a very busy man. He lives in the St. Austell area of Cornwall. At the very end of the 50s names like Dreaper, Moore Lanigan-O Keefe Newell Patton Searle Amoore and Naper appeaerd on the school list but their contributions relate more to the early 60s. Another career followed the above pattern; he was a keen cricketer and on the rugby field his small stature deceived many an opponent. This blend of skill and courage won notice and praise from colleagues and rivals. In 1959, he entered Upper VI at a very young age, in 1960 he topped the form and in 1961 won a scholarship to Ampleforth. He was Peter Lawrence. The qualities he showed at Headfort were part of his life and death. He will be remembered forever by all his contemporaries.
Changes and progress were part of the 50s. As the numbers increased, the school took over more of the main house. Mr. Wild moved to the present “Headmaster’s Study”; Lady Headfort’s suite became a much-needed sickroom and surgery. Cricket nets were moved to their present site. Tennis, first played on the Headfort courts, moved to its modern position. In the early years, swimmers had to go all the way to the pool in the river above the New Bridge. For a time, a metal pool was erected on the lawn; this enabled swimming to be enjoyed in Break etc. Changing rooms, originally on the South side o the house were moved across the corridor to their modern location. This entailed a the creation of a new Carpentry shop. Facilities used from the start included the playroom(now a girls’ dormitory), the squash court and the gym equipped by Lady Headfort). A former stable (where the laboratory is now) was used for rifle shooting, which was supervised by Mr. Stuart-Mills. The outbreak of the IRA campaign (1969) ended this activity. A feature of summer evening playtimes was s croquet on the circle; Ofherwise only Mr. Wild walked over grass! There was an exception. Headfort teams and their visitors played on the sacred turf before the visiting team departed.
In the early days our supply of milk came from the Headfort dairy. It was delivered twice a day in large churns. Each day fresh vegetables came from the gardens and in the summer several fruits including strawberries, which caused much excitement. In autumn apples appeared so often that they produced both “crumble ” and “grumble” ! The gardens also provided flowers which Mr. Wild used to brighten halls and passageways. A single orchid in a cut glass vase was usually to be seen on the oval table in the Main hall.
Quite early on, the Headfort family moved out to the modernized East Wing, which was named “Headfort Court”. For a time, Sir Christopher and Lady Musgrave were tenants and this enabled them to take a great interest in the school. In fact Lady Musgrave and her great friend Mrs. Lowe once came to the aid of Matron when Nurse was absent for a considerable time due to illness. The family have been wonderful friends to the school over the years.
Forty years on, one wonders what has happened to the many with whom touch has been lost. It would be wonderful to hear your stories at this special time in Headfort’s life. In the name of one such pupil who always seemed his happiest at school, surrounded by his friends, can I invite you to get in touch
“Your laughter and your fun,
Your shadow in the sun;
Where are you Roddy Shaw ?
As Headfort prepares to celebrate its first half-century I find myself surprised by the realisation that the school was less than fifteen years old when first making an impression on me in the early 1960’s.
I had already spent seven years at Headfort before joining Miss McCormack’s First Form in the autumn term of 1965. Names and deeds were already familiar, material of daily conversation in the red-bricked house beside the kitchen-garden; faces recognised from hot summer days on the boundary, and cold winter afternoons on the touchline. The school was a mere teenager, but you would hardly have guessed it. Dynasties were already in place, Cleshams, Newells, Searles.
Traditions and legends had accumulated, and as far as a seven-year-old was concerned the school might very well have existed for centuries. Routine was firmly in place. Morning-walk to the first arch, where you would chisel away at the rock with “lucky-stones”; then Prayers, Ballroom for the Prods, RCs banished to unknown location, possibly in the basement. Went there by mistake on one of those first mornings, and heard Jim McAleese leading a charge of Hail Marys. Sounded much more fun than Boss Wild’s solemn collects, but my heresy was discovered. In the summer Wild supervised P.T. on the Lawn at morning-break, a bit of Dads’ Army about it, but no laughing matter at the time. On warm evenings he would oversee swims in the river, upstream from the New Bridge. He was at the height of his powers then, and often seemed an austere figure. Not many challenged his authority, and Christopher Bective’s sporadic appeals to his father’s status as lord of the manor were embarassingly futile.
Wild inspired a blend of fear and respect, but the other pillar of the Headfort establishment, Bill Stuart-Mills, commanded affection. Physically frail, he was an intellectual strongman, rigorous but deeply compassionate, the school’s great academic treasure. He began a long battle against cardiac-illness in the latter years of the decade, and I like to think that our love for him helped to sustain his courage.Other characters came and went; some of their own volition, others booted or hounded out; habitual prep-school chancers of the Decline And Fall type, a few endearing eccentrics, several splendid incompetents, one or two monsters. Below stairs, a double-barrelled housekeeper ran a reign of terror. Upstairs, Dorothy Brewster, “Tick-Tock”, battled rather helplessly against the hordes. A kindly woman, she retired prematurely and struggled on for years against the effects of multiple sclerosis.
Bill Kirwan, odd-job-man supreme, cut the grass and tramped dank corridors with buckets of coal. I remember his unsubtle attempts to extract racing tips from well-connected young gentlemen, of whom there were many, Dreaper, Moore, de Burgh, McCalmont, O’Brien, amongst them. Plenty of future winners there. Miss Thompson had charge of the Second Form, in the basement room that would later become the small dining-room. She became reluctant to teach me history after I told her that Robin Hood was not history but legend, and that I was sure my father would agree. I was probably insufferable, but fear of my father was doubtless a key-factor in persuading people that it would make little sense to beat me up. The shadow of bullying was in the background, tales of awful initiation at the hands of the dreaded “Grubb gang”, but I was insulated against that aspect of school life. The odd jibe made me blush uncontrollably, but I don’t recall any lasting hurt.
My father, who kept the racing-community in touch with news from the outside world, coached the two major sports, cricket and rugby. We called them “games”, and the term “coaching” was not in use. Though into his 40s, Jacko, as he was then known, was not long out of his rugby-playing career, and was famously fit. In both sports he had charge of some good teams and some indifferent ones. Generally he made good use of limited raw-material, and seldom failed to spot the odd individual who would go on to make the grade at public-school, and occasionally beyond. The use of christian names was still banned, but my father had a habit of foreshortening surnames, “Apples” for the Aprahamians, “Tot” for the Tottenhams, and so on. Up to around 1967 tennis was still played on red-sanded courts in the Pleasure-gardens. Squash had a burst of popularity as Jonah Barrington began to make headlines. Bicycles were not permitted, though an exception was made for one boy, John Skrine, a victim of polio. Freedom was most easily obtained by the riders, who had access to tracts of the estate under a succession of mistresses, of whom Jill Fisher was easily the most popular and effective. The school’s scout troop was in terminal decline. Boxing was still an option, but seldom exercised. There was a shooting-range, occupying the site where the science-lab was built before the end of the decade. A small round plastic swimming-pool was put in place below the ha-ha around the mid 60s, and the skating-rink was constructed around the same time. The “Ship”, beside the fourth-game pitch, was a popular social venue, and the woods, forbidden territory, were colonised from time to time. “Raiding the garden” was a summer pastime for the daring, marbles and conkers, respectable occupations in season. Airfix models were a status-symbols, and pencil-cricket featured the likes of Dexter, Cowdrey and Sobers. The outside world seemed a long way off. We seldom saw television. Bizarrely, Dixon Of Dock Green was a Saturday-evening treat. Wild must have seen it as a morality-play. Ev’ning all.
I have one clear memory of a specific occasion when the television was called into service, and it says a lot about the Headfort of those days. We assembled in the old library – red chairs in front for prefects and other heavyweights of the community – to watch Churchill’s funeral. In retrospect, that solemn, stately farewell could be seen as an elegy for a lost world. It was a world which Headfort, in its infancy, had distantly aspired to join. The Headfort of the 60’s still had a curiously colonial air, out of tune with its Irish surroundings, and people were only half-joking when they said that Wild saw it as an outpost of Empire.
Meanwhile, in public-schools across the water, old Headfort boys, many of them not much older than us, must have had some contact with “the swinging sixties”, the era of Carnaby Street, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Hallucogenic drugs, free love, anti-Vietnam War rallies, the student radicalism of Paris 1968, Headfort was far away from all that, but was not immune from the social changes of the decade. Absolutes of discipline and behaviour began to dilute, and a degree of informality trickled into the life of the school.
The curriculum was beginning to change too, and by the time I reached the form which was quaintly known as The Remove “new maths” had arrived, replacing the old strands of algebra, arithmetic and geometry. Science came late in the day to Headfort, and was treated none too seriously until Peter Bamford arrived, initially as assistant to the ill-tempered Archdeacon Giff, around 1971.
In most subjects the emphasis was still on individual advancement rather than any sense of collective achievement, and the artistic life of the school was subdued to say the least. I remember a series of excruciating Christmas concerts, in more than one of which I recited Eliot’s Journey Of The Magi in suitably declamatory tones. Drama was almost unknown until John Leyden came on the scene in 1970. Music was taught with zeal by Kate Stuart-Mills, but was hardly a feature of school-life. Art was vaguely considered as something for girls, of whom there were none.
If this gives an impression of a barren educational landscape that would be unfair. For my part, Bill Stuart-Mills made up for a lot of deficiencies, and I know that others will recall him with a similar debt of gratitude. He gave me a love of learning and a facility for languages, sharpened my critical instincts in a host of ways, and taught me much about honour and honesty, some of which I hope may have rubbed off. My father, in the classroom as much as at home, cultivated my interest in the past, and in people and places. Tom Day and, later. Colin Stoupe, an enthusiastic Northern Irishman with a passion for Hemingway, helped to stimulate an early interest in literature. Day, whose initials were TA, was very tall, and was the bearer of one of the more ingenious Headfort nicknames, “Tadpole”.
Writing this has brought back a torrent of memories, and for some reason one image keeps coming back. It is the last evening of a summer term. I could not be sure of the year. It may well be 1965. On the circle in front of the school I am sitting beside two older boys, Starling and Cocksedge. They are leaving the school. The thought strikes me that I will never see either of them again, and I have to fight back tears. Perhaps I was just beginning to realise that Headfort was a very small place in a very large world. My own time there would just as surely come to an end too, but in one way or another I would retain an involvement with the place for more than 30 years. Many of the more lasting friendships which I made there date from after my time as a pupil, but I find it hard to look back on Headfort’s past with anything other than a sense of nostalgia. For me it was home, as well as school, and as an only child it gave me the embrace of a surrogate family. I never did see Starling or Cocksedge again, but like so many others they will always be part of that family.
I arrived at Headfort on a hot September day in 1972, in a Beetle driven by my mother.(Beetles were not cool then). Miss Long was there to take away our tuck. My tin was tall and cylindrical. Everyone else’s was square. The other new boys were Cubitt, Podmore, Ogilvy and Watt. How tortuous and repetitive the jokes were.
“What’s your name ? ”
“Don’t say What to me ”
Fletcher mi was a giant who wore long corduroy trousers. So did Brownlow, Boyd and Stoney. Most pockets bulged with marbles, hankies penknives and bitter oranges which wouldn’t peel.
One term ffrench-Davis arrived. He wore corduroy shorts. David Williams arrived. he sucked his thumb and not even Mrs Leyden could stop him. We three did a lot of illegal things, like going to the woods, finding a boat down by the New Bridge, killing pheasants and running away from the terrifying gamekeeper Joe Ryan, who would shoot corn at your legs.
The Great Escape starred Tod Watt, Neil Slevin and Bert Reynolds. They stole torches (one was mine) and VI Form bikes and cycled past Johnny Grimes on the drive.
Jack Sweetman broke the record for the loudest shout ever when ffrench-Davis, twenty yards from the line and with no-one to beat, went for the drop goal, which skidded along the ground in the direction of 2nd Game.
Watty, or Andrew Watson, was the cleverest boy at the school. He once tried to get drunk on wine-gums from McCarthy’s.. David (Boss) Wild read out his scholarship marks at Tea and gave us all free periods. Watty had never been more popular but remained indifferent to his new status and carried on with his favourite pastimes, including sailing paper boats across the puddles in the Stable Yard.
Other highlights – the disappearance of Dizzy from the Lower VI. He was found in pieces in the moat. An elaborate model ship, made by Tim MacDougald, disappeared without trace. One day a girl arrived in Lunch Line. Her name was Sasha Musgrave and shortly afterwards she was joined by Sophie Dobrzynski,Katie O Connell, Nicola Ward and Laura Daly. The unwritten constitution said that you didn’t talk too much with the girls. Still, they improved our rugby performance. No-one forgets the beautiful sight of Katherine Morton gliding from Headfort Court to the swimming pool. In those days, cricket matches were not rained off. In winter you couldn’t break the ice on the puddles. Fires blazed in the classrooms and “Logs” was a punishment. On weekends the big guns would come and help the Marquess blast the pheasants out of the sky and distract us from Bill (Chiefy) Wild, who would hurl our Latin books furiously and put us in DT.
Apple pie beds, Myth or imagination – Lingard’s garlic toothpaste?, Distinctions, Forts, Dagmar Lyons , Headboy, Joss Hazell + Ralph, Prefects, Molly Cox + Rebecca, Mrs McAleese, Snoopy De Raeymaeker, Mars Bar tests, Latin excellents, Sam Spudz crisps, “Will you kindly be quiet”, Vegetable curry, Rhona Barry, Black puddings immersed in tea, Seanin Gilmore + Raymond + Grainne, Scripture class, Vicky Tindal + Matthew, Upper sixth, Billy Bamford, Good food after a sports match, Dissecting locusts, Tom Wilkes, Upstairs downstairs, Birds and bees talk, Mr & Mrs Sweetman, Mr & Mrs Leyden, Spanish pupils, Shadowing, Juliet & Lukie Barrow, Clean undies twice a week, Chris Grew, Squash courts, Tommy Shillington, Mrs Rooney’s long nails !, Simon & Marcus Chawner, Marcus Williams, Assembly, Theseus and the Minotaur, Under Milk Wood, the Moat, “Wakey wakey rise and shine”, Clean sheets day, Navy Blazers, Tuck day, Mc Carthy’s sweets, Sunday lunch in the Park Hotel, Virginia , Micks macs, 10p church collection, Matron, Micky ffrench Davis, “You’re moving up”, Narrow iron beds, the first Apple Macintosh PC, Rolling the cricket pitch, Red mini-bus, Asterix in french & Lucky Luke, The Quiet Room, Gymkhana, Sports Day, Strawberries and cricket, Parents vs. Teacher Hockey Match, The stables, Headfort cheques, The Gallaghers, lumpy porridge, watery porridge, “do you want tea?”, Tommy Reilly, dorm raids, doing the oval, Morgan Freeman, Half term, Hetty Mortimer, St Patricks Day concert,
Hmmm. Headfort in the nineties, very much more of the same, I should imagine. Actually it was fun, which is impressive when one keeps in mind that it’s a school and any age is young enough to feel homesick. I’d be lying if I said I could remember my first night there clearly. I can remember some, like the friendly older girls who showed me around after my parents had left. It was really sunny. it always seemed to be sunny at Headfort. That’s my memory playing up again. It was 1989 when I went and I was nearly eight. I know the first year isn’t supposed to be fun but for me it was. It wasn’t my first time away from home or anything like that. It’s not like my first term didn’t have any surprises. The first couple of nights I learnt the truth about Santa Claus, tooth fairies and, most surprising of all, where babies come from. My dormitory captain was Griselda Williams.
The early years were basically fun;I’d no exams to worry about and my biggest problem was that someone has given me lace-up shoes that I had difficulty tying. Later years were fun also. The teachers started to respect us, as we reached the ripe old age of 13. The whole learning aspect was geared up to the notorious CE, which decided whether we’d be allowed entrance to our next school. The exam seemed like a huge monster, while it’s really a simple enough hurdle.
I remember riding lessons, which were brilliant, especially since my parents weren’t keen on horses. Everyone rode round the beautiful estate once a week.
Granted, boarding school is not for every child but I believe it suits most. I think it’s one of the best ways of educating children, making friends and learning to live with other children.