1957 – Opening Ceremony

The new premises were opened officially on the afternoon of Friday, 27th September, 1957 by the Honourable Lord Sydney Herbert Evershed, D.C.L., L.L.D., F.S.A., Master of the Rolls.

In addition to the Headmaster and Staff, those present included members of the Education Committee, with their Chairman, Councillor Dr N.J. Cochran MBE and their Vice-Chairman, Councillor Mrs Ada Chadwick (after who the new Secondary Modern school would later be named). Also present were the Mayor, Councillor S. Bird; the Governors of the School with their Chairman, Mrs S.H. Evershed; the Architect, W. Porter Mitchell, Esq.; the Deputy Town Clerk, A.G. Williams Esq.; three of Her Majesty’s Inspectors; Arthur Blake, Director of Education and Clerk to the Governors; the President of the Old Boys Association, W.R. Souster, and other Old Boys of the School. Also present was former Headmaster S.E. Wilson who had travelled especially from the Isle of Man.

After the Reverend Harold Sprigge had performed the opening act of dedication and prayer, the Mayor, in welcoming Lord Evershed, spoke of the long and close association Lord Evershed’s family had had with the school. Councillor Dr Cochran spoke of the necessity of educating the boys sensibilities and training them to understand their fellow men, as well as how to understand and control the physical world. He also spoke of the history and significance of the Grammar School. His speech was recorded as follows:

EvershedLord Evershed ( pictured ) began by saying how proud, delighted and touched he was by the honour of being invited to perform the opening ceremony. It seemed only a short time since the highest of honours had been conferred on him when he had been received as Freeman of the County Borough of Burton, and he was encouraged to think, then as on the former occasion, that the name of Evershed was not without honour in Burton.

The connection between the school and the family of Evershed was amusingly illustrated by the speaker when he referred to a Cricket Match played in 1874 between the Grammar School and Allsopp’s, in which the Grammar School was beaten by an innings, scoring just 62 of which 31 were extras; a player called Evershed contributed nothing in his innings!

He was indebted to Mr Blake for an account of the negotiations and meetings which had begun in 1919, and had at last been fulfilled on this day. “The winds of heaven had postponed that happy day for one year, but the winds of government policy had deleyed it for twenty times that period”.

Whilst the building was very new and splendid, the School was an old one and there was a real significance for the future in old tradition and what he called standards of value that, over the more than 400 years of the School’s life had created. That, he thought, was something which must inspire the present and the future generations. “As Walter Whitman said, the modern ship of democracy has, in its valuable freight, the past as well as the present”.

It was interesting to observe that though Burton was one of the English towns furthest from the sea, among its old members were two very distinguished sailors, John Jervis, Lord St Vincent, and shortly afterwards, Byard. More lately, there had been distinguished men of science like Professor Hobday.

In John Jervis’s day, this school was in truth, a Grammar School where you learned only Latin and Greek. Now, he regretted to say, there was a tendency to regard Latin and Greek, or the humanities, as being opposed in some sense to the entirely scientific education. In truth, they were not opposed but complementary, and he claimed not to be alone in this repudiation of the tendency he had mentioned. No one would have more readilit denied the alleged antipathy than, say, Aristotle or Leonardo da Vinci. One mark of the educated man was that he was willing to be led away by shibboleths and slogans, but insisted on pursuing the truth. Only by that means could men achieve a balanced judgment.

We are in an age in which terrible things seem to hang over us. A Chinese philosopher, he believed, had accused Western Civilisation of being composed only of statistics, mathematics, diesel engines and high explosives. Since that was said, the changes had been first that high explosives had achieved an altogether more terrifying force, and the same is presumably now as true of Eastern Civilisation as of the Western, and the ordinary man finds himself faced with these terrifying prospects and must at all times regard himself as powerless to prevent some hideous calamity which would destroy us all. And yet it was a fact that, in a free country, the ordinary man had to assume the responsibility by exercising his rights as a citizen and of deciding what we do. (Editor: I’m half glad I wasn’t there now; I think I would have left scared to death).

And so, it was the hope of humanity that by good education, you would get men wishing for the truth and able to exercise a balanced judgement. Truth sometimes was not easy to find. When Milton said that the truth was never put to the worst in free and open encounter, I think he would have had no difficulty in assuming general agreement. And Goldsmith said that ten millions of circles can never make a square; just as the united voices of millions could not lend the slightest foundation to falsehood, but, with the modern devices of radio, some malicious untruth ight be, as they say, plugged day after day. Were we sure that the united voice of the myriads did not sometimes lend more than a particle of truth to that which was false? (Editor: By now, I would definitely have been losing the will to live).

This occasion was one of great importance, and he felt that he might say, on behalf of them all, a warm word of appreciation to the Headmaster and Staff of the School and to express grateful appreciation of the noble profession they had chosen to follow. No one could accuse the academic profession of thirsting after riches; they had to possess two very difficult qualities – patience and, that noblest quality of all, integrity of scholarship.

It is not merely by their teaching but by their example that we are led. A wise man had said “You cannot wear a sword beneath a scholar’s gown”. What the teachers, the professors and men and women who teach in schools did was by their example to show that they are, at any rate, being undeterred by the World’s disparagements and certainly uncorrupted by the prizes, remained for us ardent and serene in a faith by which alone we held mankind could live.

To conclude (Editor: Hoorah!), perhaps he might say something to those boys at the school who were present and to suggest to them that during the last year or two they spent at the school, they might have the last opportunity of living life as the best human life might be lived. When they left school, they would inevitably find that their actions would be influenced by the hard facts of life, by finding and keeping a job and earning a living. While they were at the school, they were untroubled by such considerations and lived as members of a community in the truest sense. They had the chance of doing what was best for a human-being – giving all that they could to the community and at the same time, they had laid before them all the knowledge and wisdom and all the beauty that the past generations of mankind had acquired.

The Mayor had been complimentary enough to refer to him as one of the present generation. In sad truth, he was actually one of the generation whose race would soon be run, but those boys who were present bore on their shoulders the future of humanity. It would be a heavy responsibility. So, therefore, he urged them to take the great opportunities the new school offered. Shakespeare had said (Editor: groan) that “He who made us with such large discourse, looking before and after, gave us not that capacity and God-like reason to rust in us unused”.

It was his great pleasure and privilege to declare the new school OPEN.

Accepting the school on behalf of the Governors, the Chairman, Mrs S.H. Evershed, especially congratulated the Architect, Mr Porter Mitchell, and other associates on the fine new premises and expressed gratitude of the Governors to the Headmaster for the way he had maintained the high standards of the Grammar School in difficult circumstances in the old buildings.

There is no denying what the Evershed family had managed to achieve but it definitely seems as though Lord Evershed might have been better advised leaving speeches to his wife. His wife however, very shortly afterwards, resigned as Chairman of the Governors, to be succeeded by Councillor J.D. Rowland.

The visitors were then shown around the school with refreshments partaken in the Dining Hall and some of the classrooms.


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