Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 7th May 2021
Last week many of the boys, my colleagues and I enjoyed a rather tasty beef lunch. ‘So what?’, I hear you cry (and special apologies to the non-meat eaters out there). Well, the reason I bring it up is because it was the result of one of the more unusual – yet still generous – gifts we have been given by an NCS alumnus. We are quite used to being gifted benches, or cups, by old boys. It is something quite different to receive a phone call out of the blue one day, to be told that one such old boy wishes to donate a topside of beef. Never ones to look a gift horse (cow?) in the mouth, we were very happy to go along with that alum’s wishes. It came, I fear, from his time at the school a few decades ago when perhaps the roasts weren’t quite up to scratch. We have accounts of lunches from the early twentieth century (way before this particular alum’s time, I should add) when the Headmaster’s wife would serve salt beef alongside soup made from the water in which the beef was boiled; or when the Headmaster sent a piece of over-cooked liver flying across the room as he stabbed it too hard; or the boys flicked food off their plates into their handkerchiefs, so it could be disposed of in the River Cherwell a bit later. In the 1890s the boys went so far as to keep envelopes in their blazer pockets in which to deposit inedible food. None of that is necessary today, I’m pleased to say.
Anyway, this newsletter isn’t really about beef. It is about our wider community, our alumni, leavers, their successes and their generosity. The beef lunch came just days after the band Low Island, three of whom are NCS alumni, had their first album – self-produced and independently released – reach no. 15 in the charts. Which itself came just as we were hearing from a good number of old boys, some of whom are now rather starry, wishing to play for our virtual Wykeham Day concert. (If there is one benefit to having more things online these days, it is that very busy people who live rather far away can still contribute to, and enjoy, our events.) In just a couple of months we will have another generation of NCS old boys, heading off to their senior schools and taking with them a lot of happy memories, knowledge and skills to prepare them for the future lives. Before then, they have the rites of passage that prep schools provide, some of which might seem inconsequential to the uninformed eye, but which actually mean a lot to the boys and their families. Last year’s generation of leavers had their departure from the school disrupted by Covid, but we were able to get them back towards the end of Trinity for some cricket on field, and an open-air short ceremony when I handed out their leavers’ ties. Despite all of the disruption and ad hoc nature of so many things at that time, you could tell from the boys’ faces just what a momentous moment it was. Not quite ‘goodbye’, but a recognition of an important transition, and one which comes at just the right moment in prep schools.