Uppingham by the Sea: A Narrative of the Year at Borth

Transcribed from the 1878 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk


A Narrative of the Year at Borth.

J. H. S.

απολις · υψιπολις.


[All Rights reserved.]

p. ivcharles dickens and evans,
crystal palace press.


scholæ uppinghamiensis conditori alteri,
ob cives servatos:


magistris adjutoribus,
salute communi in ultimum adducta discrimen,
de re publica
non desperaverunt.

p. viiPREFACE.

In the spring of 1876 and of 1877, letters under the heading “Uppingham by the Sea” were published in The Times newspaper, and were read with interest by friends of the school.  We have thought the following narrative would be best introduced to those readers under a name already pleasantly familiar to them, and have borrowed, with the writer’s permission, the title of his sketches for our own more detailed account of the same events.

The readers whom we have in view will demand no apology for the attempt to supply a circumstantial record of so memorable an p. viiiepisode in the school’s history.  It deserves indeed an abler historian; but one qualification at any rate may be claimed by the present writer: an eye-witness from first to last, but a minor actor only in the scenes he chronicles, he enjoyed good opportunities of watching the play, and risks no personal modesty in relating what he saw.

The best purpose of the narrative will have been served if any Uppingham boy, as he reads these pages, finds in them a new reason for loyalty to the society whose name he bears.

June 27th, 1878,
Founder’s Day.


O what have we ta’en?” said the fisher-prince,
   “What have we ta’en this morning’s tide?
Get thee down to the wave, my carl,
   And row me the net to the meadow’s-side.”

In he waded, the fisher-carl,
   AndHere,” quoth he, “is a wondrous thing!
A cradle, prince, and a fair man-child,
   Goodly to see as the son of a king!”

The fisher-prince he caught the word,
   AndHail,” he cried, “to the king to be!
Stranger he comes from the storm and the night;
But his fame shall wax, and his name be bright,
   While the hills look down on the Cymry sea.”

Finding of Taliesin.

Elphin, son of Gwyddno, the prince who ruled the coasts between the Dovey and the Ystwith, came down on a May-day morning to his father’s fishing-weir.  All that was taken that morning p. 2was to be Elphin’s, had Gwyddno said.  Not a fish was taken that day; and Elphin, who was ever a luckless youth, would have gone home empty-handed, but that one of his men found, entangled in the poles of the weir, a coracle, and a fair child in it.  This was none other than he who was to be the father of Cymry minstrelsy, and whom then and there his rescuers named Taliesin, which means Radiant Brow.  His mother, Ceridwen, seeking to be rid of her infant, but loath to have the child’s blood on her head, had launched him in this sea proof cradle, to take the chance of wind and wave.  The spot where he came to land bears at this day the name of Taliesin.  On the hill-top above it men show the grave where the bard reposes and “glories in his namesake shore.”

* * * * *

There is something magnetic in a famous site: it attracts again a like history to the old stage.  Thirteen centuries and a half after the finding of Taliesin, the same shore became once again an asylum for other outcasts, whose fortunes we propose to chronicle.

But since the day when they drifted to land the cradle of the bard, the waves have ebbed away from Gwyddno’s weir, and left a broad stretch of p. 3marsh and meadow between it and the present coast, where stands the fishing village of Borth.  The village fringes the sea-line with half a mile of straggling cottages; but the eye is caught at once by a massive building of white stone, standing at the head of the long street, and forming a landmark in the plain.  This building is the Cambrian Hotel, reared on a scale that would suggest the neighbourhood of a populous health-resort.  But the melancholy silence which haunts its doors is rarely broken, between season and season, by the presence of guests, unless it be some chance sportsman in quest of marsh-fowl, or a land-agent in quest of rents.

When, therefore, on the 15th of March, 1876, a party of four visitors—the Rev. Edward Thring, Headmaster of Uppingham School, one of the Trustees of the school, and two of the masters—were seen mounting the steps of the porch, it was a sight to make the villagers wonder by what chance so many guests came to knock at the door in that dead season.  Had the wind blown them hither?  It blew a hurricane that day on the bleak coasts of Cardigan Bay; but it was a shrewder storm yet which had swept this windfall to the doors of Borth.

p. 4The story must be briefly told.  On November 2nd, 1875, Uppingham School was dispersed on account of a fever which had attacked both town and school, not without fatal casualties.  On January 28th, 1876, the school met again.  In the interval the school-houses had been put in complete sanitary order, and though the efforts made to amend the general drainage of the town had been only on a small and tentative scale, it was thought that the school, if secure on its own premises, might safely be recalled, in spite of remaining deficiencies outside those limits.  But, tua res agitur—the term began with three weeks of watchful quiet, and then the blow fell again.  A boy sickened of the same fever; then, after an interval of suspense, two or three fresh cases made it clear that this was no accident.  An inspection of the town drainage, ordered by the authorities, revealed certain permanent sources of danger.  It was clear that the interests of school and town, in matters of hygiene as in others, were not separable; perhaps the best fruit of the sequel has been the mutual conviction that those interests are one.

Meanwhile the new illustration of this connection of interests had a formidable significance for the Uppingham masters.  Men looked at one p. 5another as those do who do not like to give a name to their fears.  For what could be done?  The school could not be dismissed again.  How many would return to a site twice declared untenable?  But neither could it be kept on the spot: for there came in unmistakable evidence that, in that case, the school would dissolve itself, and that, perhaps, irrevocably, through the withdrawal of its scholars by their parents from the dreaded neighbourhood.  Already the trickling had begun; something must be done before the banks broke, and the results and hopes of more than twenty long working years were poured out to waste.

When the crisis was perceived, a project which had been already the unspoken thought in responsible quarters, but which would have sounded like a counsel of despair had the situation been less acute, was suddenly started in common talk and warmly entertained.  Why should we not anticipate calamity by flight?  Before the school melted away, and left us teaching empty benches, why should we not flit, master and scholar together, and preserve the school abroad for a securer future afterwards at home?

In a space of time to be measured rather by hours than days, this project passed through the p. 6stages of conception, discussion, and resolve, to the first step in its execution.  On Tuesday, March 7th, a notice was issued to parents and guardians that the school would break up that day week for a premature Easter holiday, and at the end of the usual three weeks reassemble in some other locality, of which nothing could as yet be specified except that it was to be healthier than that we were leaving.

The proposed experiment—to transport a large public school from its native seat and all its appliances and plant to a strange site of which not even the name was yet known, except as one of several possible spots, and to do this at a few days’ notice—was no doubt a novel one.  But the resolve, if rapidly formed and daring, was none the less deliberate and sane.  Its authors must not be charged either with panic or a passion for adventure.  All the data of a judgment were in view, and delay could add no new fact, except one which would make any decision nugatory because too late.  It was wisdom in those with whom lay the cast of the die, to take their determination while a school remained for which they could determine anything.

It was a sharp remedy, however.  For on the p. 7morrow of this resolve the owners of so many good houses, fields, and gardens, all the outward and visible of Uppingham School, became, for a term without assignable limit, landless and homeless men, and the Headmaster almost as much disburdened of his titular realm as if he were a bishop in partibus or the chief of a nomad caravan.  It was a sharp remedy; but those who submitted to it breathed the freer at having broken prison, and felt something, not indeed of the recklessness which inspires adventure, but of the elation which sustains it:

Why now, blow wind, swell billow, and swim bark;
The storm is up, and all is on the hazard!

There was cited at this time a somewhat similar event in the history of Rugby School.  Dr. Arnold, in a like emergency, had removed the school, or all who chose to go, in numerous detachments under the care severally of himself and others of his masters to various distant spots, among others his own house in the Lake country, where they spent some two months, and returned to Rugby when the danger was over.  It was felt, however, that this incident furnished no real precedent for the present venture.  What we were proposing was not to arrange a number of independent reading-parties p. 8in scattered country retreats.  Such a plan would hardly have been practicable with a system in which, as in our case, the division of the school for teaching purposes has no reference to the division into boarding-houses.  It was proposed to pluck up the school by the roots and transplant it bodily to strange soil; to take with us the entire body of masters, with, probably, their families, and every boy who was ready to follow; to provide teaching for the latter, not only without loss in the amount, but without interruption of the existing system in any branch; and to guarantee the supply of everything necessary for the corporate life of three hundred boys, who had to be housed, fed, taught, disciplined, and (not the easiest of tasks) amused, on a single spot, and one as bare of all the wonted appliances of public school life as that yet uncertain place was like to prove, of which the recommendation for our residence would be that no one else cared to reside there.


Habet populus Romanus ad quos gubernacula rei publicæ deferat: qui ubicunque terrarum sunt, ibi omne est rei publicæ præsidium, vel potius ipsa res publica.


HamletIs not parchment made of sheep-skins?

HoratioAy, my lord, and of calf-skins too.

HamletThey are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that.


The Trustees of the School met at Uppingham on March 11th.  This was the earliest opportunity of consulting them collectively on the resolution to break up the school and to migrate, which had been taken on the 7th.  They sanctioned the breaking up of the school.  On the question of its removal elsewhere they recorded no opinion.

Meanwhile a reconnaissance was being made by one of our body, who was despatched to visit, as in a private capacity, Borth, and two or three p. 10other spots on the Welsh coasts, while inquiries were also made in other directions.

On Monday, 13th, the Headmaster left Uppingham for a visit to the sites which promised most favourably.  A deep snow on the ground made the departure from home seem the more cheerless, but it had melted from the Welsh hills before we reached them.  On Tuesday, the party—which now consisted of the Headmaster, two of the staff, and one of the Trustees (whose services on this occasion, and many others arising out of it, we find it easier to remember than to acknowledge as they deserve)—stayed a night at the inland watering-place of Llandrindod, one of the suggested sites.  The bleak moors round it were uninviting enough that squally March day.  But the question of settling here was dismissed at once; there was not sufficient house-room in the place.  So next morning we bore down upon Borth.

The first sight of the place seemed to yield us assurance of having reached our goal.  The hotel is a long oblong building with two slight retiring wings, beyond which extends a square walled enclosure of what was then green turf; Cambrian Terrace overlooks the enclosure at right angles to the hotel, the whole reminding us remotely of p. 11a college quadrangle.  On entering the hotel, the eye seized on the straight roomy corridors which traverse it, and the wide solid staircase, as features of high strategic importance.  A tour of the rooms was made at once, and an exact estimate taken of the possible number of beds.  Besides two other members of the staff, who joined the pioneers at Borth, the school medical officer had come down to meet us, and reported on what lay within his province.  Meanwhile two of the party were conducted by mine host to explore a “cricket-ground” close to the hotel, or at least a plot of ground to which adhered a fading tradition of a match between two local elevens.  The “pitch” was conjecturally identified among some rough hillocks, over the sandy turf of which swept a wild northwester, “shrill, chill, with flakes of foam,” and now and then a driving hailstorm across the shelterless plain.  So little hospitable was our welcome to a home from which we were sometime to part not without regretful memories.

Next day, March 16th, a contract was signed, which gave us the tenancy of the hotel till July 21st, with power to renew the contract at will for a further term after the summer holidays.  Our landlord, Mr. C. Mytton, was to provide board p. 12(according to a specified dietary) and bed (at least bed-room) for all who could be lodged in his walls, and board (with light and firing) for the whole party; to supply the service for the kitchen, and to undertake the laundry.  Servants for attendance on the boys were to be brought by the masters.  The payment was to be £1 a head per week for all who were lodged and boarded, or boarded only, in the hotel.  For washing, and one or two other matters, an extra charge was admitted.  We have only to add that the bargain was one with which both parties, under their respective circumstances, had reason to be satisfied; and that the arrangement worked not more stiffly than could be expected where the large margin of the unforeseen left so much to subsequent interpretation.  Even Dido and Hiarbas were not agreed about the precise width of a bull’s-hide.  We do not, however, wish it to be inferred from this classical parallel, that our settlers claim to have rivalled the adroitness of the Punic queen in her dealings with the barbarian prince:

απολεμος οδε y’ ο πολεμος, απορα ποριμος. {12}


Your snail is your only right house-builder; for he builds his house out of the stuff of his own vitals, and therefore wherever he travel he carries his own roof above himBut I have known men, spacious in the possession of bricks and mortar, who have not so much made their houses as their houses have made themTurn such an one out of his home, and he is a bareO without a figure,” counting for nothing in the sum of thingsHe only is truly himself who has nature in him, when the old shell is cracked, to build up a new one about him out of the pith and substance of himself.

Ten days after the reconnaissance described in the last chapter, the pioneers of the school were again upon the ground.

On Monday, March 27th, a goods train of eighteen trucks, chartered by the Uppingham masters, was unloading three hundred bedsteads, with their bedding, on Borth platform.  These were to be distributed among the quarters of their respective owners, in some dozen different p. 14houses, which we had engaged in addition to the hotel.  The workmen were mostly Welshmen, anxious to be doing, but understanding imperfectly the speech of their employers.  With the eagerness of their temperament, they went at the trucks, and Babel began.  Amid a confused roar of contradictory exhortations, with energetic gesture, and faces full of animation and fire, they were hauling away, to any and every place, the ton-loads of mattresses, and the fragments of unnumbered bedsteads.  It was time for the owners to interpose; and those of the school party who were present, knowing that time was very precious, and that example is better than precept, especially precept in a foreign language, put their own hands to the work, the Headmaster being foremost, and earned a labouring man’s wage at unloading the trucks and carrying the goods to their billets.  Some of our new acquaintances watched the scene with a shocked surprise that authorities should share in the manual labour, instead of looking on and paying for it.  But their feelings at last determined to admiration.  “Why, sirs,” they exclaimed, “you get it done as if you were used to move every three weeks.”  But, in fact, there was so much to be done, and so few p. 15days to do it in, that the exigencies of the work spared neither age, sex, nor degree of our party.  None were exempt, and those who were not employed in porterage and rough carpentry might be found shifting furniture, or stitching curtains, or jointing together bedsteads.

Meanwhile, workmen in and round the hotel were as busy as stage-carpenters preparing a transformation scene.  First, by the elimination of carpets and furniture, the interior was reduced to a tabula rasa.  Then, in the somewhat weather-beaten top story, plastering and surface-washing went briskly on.  Our hosts assured us no hands could be found for this work, but the Headmaster made a descent upon Aberystwith and returned with the required number.  A contractor was fitting the large coffee-rooms, the billiard-room and others, and the ground-floor corridor from end to end, with long narrow tables—plain deal boards on wooden trestles—for the accommodation of three hundred diners.  Outside, the stables were converted into the school carpentery, and the coach-house into a gymnasium.  Above all, a wooden school-room, eighty-three feet by twenty, had been designed, and its site marked out on the north side of the enclosure behind the hotel.

p. 16Then there was the care of providing supplementary house-room for many purposes: rooms for music practice, and for the boys’ studies (of which we shall have more to say), and for hospital uses.  Ordinary “sick-room” accommodation was soon obtained by paying for it, but a fever hospital was also a requirement which, with our experiences, we were not likely to forget, and this was less easy to secure.  We had to scour the neighbourhood, knocking at the door of many a farmhouse and country homestead, before we were provided.

The house-room being secured, came the labour of furnishing; the distribution of tables, benches, bookshelves, &c, for the class-rooms, and of furniture (in many cases a minimum) for the needs of masters and their families; the ticketing of the bed-room doors, the beds, the chests of drawers, and each drawer in them, with the name of the occupant—with many like minutiæ, which it took longer to provide than it does to detail them.  The task was not rendered easier by being shared in part with our hosts, who had hardly taken the measure of our requirements.  It became necessary at the last moment to telegraph to the Potteries for a large consignment p. 17of bed-room ware, which, in spite of protestations, had been laid in only in half quantities.  The world of school has marched forward since the days when three or four basins sufficed for the toilet of a dozen boys.

While the elementary needs of the colony were being attended to, its more advanced wants were not neglected.  There were those whom the anxiety of providing for the school amusements, and in particular its cricket, suffered not to sleep.  We believe that the first piece of school property which arrived on the scene was the big roller from the cricket-field.  Resolved to gather no moss in inglorious ease at home, it had mounted a North-Western truck, and travelled down to Bow Street station, where it was to disembark for action.  It cost the Company’s servants a long struggle to land it, but once again on terra firma it worked with a will and achieved wonders, reducing a piece of raw meadow land in a few weeks’ space to a cricket-field which left little to be desired.  This meadow lay within a few hundred yards of Bow Street station, four miles by rail from Borth.  It is the property of Sir Pryse Pryse, of Gogerddan, who gave the school the use of it at a peppercorn rent.

p. 18This was but one of the many acts of unreserved generosity shown by this gentleman to the school.  It is not often that the opportunity offers of winning so much and such hearty gratitude as our neighbour of Gogerddan has won by his prompt liberality; still less often is the opportunity occupied with such thoughtful and ungrudging kindness.

We had help in the same kind from the Bishop of St. David’s, who put at our service a field close to the hotel; a rather wild one, but in which little plots and patches for a practising wicket were discovered by our experts.  The firm sands to the north were reported to yield an excellent “wicket;” with the serious deduction, however, that the pitch was worn out and needed to be changed every half-dozen balls.

Among such cares the week rolled away only too speedily, and brought the day of the school’s arrival upon us.  If we have failed, as we have, to convey a true impression of the serious labour and anxieties which crowded its hours, we will quote the summary of a writer who described it at the time, and knew what he was describing: “It was like shaking the alphabet in a bag, and bringing p. 19out the letters into words and sentences; such was the sense of absolute confusion turned into intelligent shape.” {19}


Gesta ducis celebro, Rutulis qui primus ab oris
Cambriæ, odoratu profugus, Borthonia venit
Litora; multum ille et sanis vexatus et ægris,
Vi Superûm, quibus haud curæ gravis aura mephitis:
Multa quoque et loculo passus, dum conderet urbem
Inferretque deos Cymris.

An Epic Fragment.

μα τους Μαραθωνι προκινδυνευσαντας.

The careful general who has completed his disposition without one discoverable flaw, who has foreseen all emergencies, and anticipated every possible combination, may await the action with a certain moral confidence of success.  But he would be a man of no human fibre, were he not to feel some disquiet in his inmost soul when he gets upon horseback with his enemy in sight, and listens for the boom of the first gun.  Not very different, except for the absence of a like confidence p. 21in the completeness of their dispositions, were the emotions of the masters who manned the platform of Borth Station, when the gray afternoon of Tuesday, April 4th, drew sombrely towards its close.  The station was crowded with spectators from Aberystwith and Borth itself, curious to watch the entry of the boys.  Expectation was stimulated by the arrival of a train, which set all the crowd on tip-toe, and then swept through the station—a mere goods train.  Half an hour’s longer waiting, and the right train drew up, and discharged Uppingham School on the remote Welsh platform.  It struck a spark of home feeling in the midst of the lonely landscape, and the chill of strange surroundings, to see well-known faces at the windows, and to meet the grasp of familiar hands.  But there was no time for sentiment that stirring evening.  The station was cleared with all speed of boys and spectators, the former turning in to tea at those endless tables, the latter strolling away to carry home their first impressions of their invaders.  Then one group of masters and servants set to work to sort the luggage which cumbered the platform, while others received it at the hotel door, and distributed it to the various billets.  Light was scant, hands were not too numerous, p. 22and the work was not done without some confusion.  But it was done; and the tired workers went to their beds, thankful for what was finished, and full of good hopes for the work which was yet to be begun.

And the boys—how did they feel?  As they stepped out from the railway carriage into those bare, vasty corridors and curtainless dormitories, did some little sense of desolateness in the new prospect temper its excitement?  Did some homesickness arise in the exile as he pondered on the retirement and comfort of the “house” at Uppingham, and his individual ownership of the separate cubicle, and the study which was “his castle?”  He was a unit now, not of a household, but of a camp.  Small blame to him if life seemed to have lost its landmarks, and things round him to be “all nohow,” as he sat down in some bare hall upon a schoolfellow’s book-box (wondering whether he should ever see his own), to while away with a story-book the listless interval before bed-time, under the niggard light of a smoking lamp, or a candle flickering in the draught.  What exactly he felt or thought, however, we do not pretend to know.  We only know that there was not one of them but felt proud to be out campaigning with p. 23his school, and would have counted “ten years of peaceful life” not more than worth his share in that honourable venture.

There was no work for them next morning (their masters were busy enough providing for the physical needs of the colony), and they were free to explore their new country, to ramble up the headlands or along the margin of the marsh.  The arrivals of last night were but the first instalment of the school, about half the number.  The same train brought in a new freight this evening, and the scene on the platform was similar, but more tranquil.  By a special train after midnight came in a few more from the most distant homes, and the muster was complete.  The number, two hundred and ninety, fell but slightly below the full complement of the school.  Putting out of account the names of those who would in any case have left the school that Easter, no more than three, we believe, failed to follow us down to Borth.  So unanimous an adhesion of the school to its leaders no one had been sanguine enough to reckon on.  It increased no doubt at the moment the difficulties of making provision, but withal it made the task better worth the effort.

Next morning the school was called together, p. 24and the Headmaster addressed them, feeling, perhaps, somewhat like a general publishing a manifesto to his troops before a campaign.  It was a great experiment, he said, in which they were sharing; let them do their best to make the result a happy one for themselves, and for the people among whom they had come.  They were “making history,” for this experience was a wholly new one, which might not impossibly prove helpful some day to others in like circumstances.

It is pleasant to record that the appeal was not wasted.

At the dinner-hour to-day, the full numbers being now on the spot, the resources of the commissariat were put to the test.  Some anxiety was relieved when the supply proved sufficient; it would have been small cause for reproach if the caterers had failed in their estimate on the first experiment.  But of the commissariat we shall say more presently.

The secondary necessities of life, fire and light, were not forthcoming with quite the same promptness.  There was a twilight period in many houses before lamps were furnished in sufficient abundance.  The place of fuel was supplied by the genial weather of the first week; and perhaps few were aware of p. 25what we were doing without.  Next week the east winds and the coal arrived together.

The hotel laundry found the task it had undertaken beyond its strength.  No wonder.  Three hundred sets of articles de linge reach a figure of which our hosts had hardly grasped the significance.  We are sometimes told that Gaels and Cymry cannot count.  At any rate, when the bales of linen came pouring in upon them, heaping every table and piling all the floor, and still flowing in faster than room could be found, the laundresses, brave workers though they were, felt that the game was lost:

They stand in pause where they should first begin,
And all neglect.

One poor nymph was discovered by a compassionate visitor dissolved in tears over her wash-tub.  Such misery could not be permitted; and we transferred half the task at once to the laundries of Aberystwith.

On the afternoon of this day took place the distribution of “studies.”  That is to say, some sixty or eighty boys (a number more than doubled afterwards), in order to relieve the pressure on our sitting-rooms, were billeted upon some of the p. 26village people, who let their rooms for the purpose.  From two to six boys were assigned to each room according to its capacity.  We shall speak again of these studies.  Here we will only pause to thank our good landladies for the intrepidity with which they threw their doors open to the invasion, the more so as they mostly claimed to belong to the category of “poor widows”—a qualification upon which they were disposed to set a price in arranging their charges.  Their daring proved no indiscretion.  The writer, who has the honour of knowing them all, was the depositary of many and emphatic testimonies on their part to the cordial relations between them and “the children.”  This endearing term was exchanged for another by one good old lady, who appealed to him against the “very wicked boys,” whom she charged with having “foolished” her.  The complication traced to ignorance of one another’s speech (the boys spoke no Welsh, and she would have done more wisely to speak no English), and a modus vivendi was easily restored.  Poor soul! she took a pathetic farewell of them when their sojourn ended: “They must forgive her for having a quick temper; she had had much trouble; her husband and four sons had gone down at sea.”

On Friday came a piece of cheering news.  p. 27Some sympathisers were intending to appeal to parents of boys in the school for subscriptions to a fund, which should help to defray the expense incurred by the masters in moving and resettling the school.  The appeal met with a liberal response in many quarters; a large sum was raised, though from a number of subscribers smaller than the promoters of the fund expected.  Men, who were feeling the double pressure at once of keen and novel cares, and of an outlay already large, which no one could see to the end of, will not forget that well-timed succour.  Not least will it be remembered as a “material guarantee” that the subscribers believed the cause they aided to be worth a costly effort to save.

The week closed with an old scene on a new stage—a football match on Sir Pryse’s field at Bow Street.  It was the last of the house-matches, which had been interrupted at Uppingham to be played out here.  The sight of the school swarming into the railway carriages, which carried us to the four-mile-distant ground, and then the mimic war of the red and white jerseys contrasting the gray Gogerddan woodlands which overhang the meadow, and the shouts of the English boys blending with the excited but unintelligible cries of the Welsh p. 28rustic children, who were rapt spectators of the game, brought home to us the piquant contrast between our unchanged school habits and the novelty of their framework.

The weather of this first week was dry and genial; and it had no pleasanter moments than those spent on the beach at sunset, whither the school flocked down after tea for half an hour’s leisure in the after-glow.  There is plenty of amusement for them on this broad reach of sand and shingle.  Some are groping for shells or for pebbles, which the lapidary will transform for a trifle into dazzling jewels; others are playing ducks and drakes on the waves, or entertaining themselves like Prospero’s elves,

That on the sands, with printless feet,
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back again.

More pensive spirits saunter up and down the grassy terrace which overlooks the beach, and watch the shifting line of dark figures seen against the white wall of the breaker, or note the fugitive tints on the dimpling surface of the water, or the wet margin of the tide.  A group of villagers is clustered round the water-fountain a few yards p. 29away; the children chatter about us as they fill their pitchers; and the old women, creeping homewards, cast a glance under their bonnets at the boys, and exchange muttered comments with their gossips.  Soon the cliffs of the southern headland grow duskier and more remote; the sea fades to a cold uniform gray; the colours of the brown twilight marsh and the violet hills are lost in one another; and so, with a refreshing breath of idyllic peacefulness, the stirring week came to an end.  “Its evening closed on a quiet scene of school routine, as if doubt and risk, turmoil and confusion and fear, weary head and weary hand, had not been known in the place.  The wrestling-match against time was over, and happy dreams came down on Uppingham by the Sea.”


All places that the eye of Heaven visits,
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.

Richard II.

The primitive man, after he has satisfied the claims of appetite, stitched his skin-mantle, and thatched a hut, may begin to spare time for reflection on the quality and flavour of the prey he has eaten, or the picturesqueness of his cabin.  Till then his estimate of things is quantitative.  He asks not of what sort his food is, but whether there is enough of it, and regards less the cut of his coat than its thickness.

The analogy of our circumstances must be our excuse for postponing so long a description of our new settlement, its physical surroundings, and the complexion of our domestic and social life.  Not in truth that we had returned to barbarism: but p. 31who could dilate on the beauty of mountain scenery, in sight of which he was perhaps to starve; who would criticise the pattern of his dinner-service, or be fastidious in carpets and wall-paper, before he could reckon upon dinner, or call shelter his own?

But a week is over, and we have all settled into our berths.  The boys have found that there will be dinner every day; the masters that no one will have to pitch his tent on a sand-dune, or spread a straw litter in a bathing-machine.  The level of comfort was, of course, not uniform.  How should it be?  Probably there is a choice of corners in a workhouse or casual-ward.  Some of our party tasted the painful pleasures of the poor in the scant accommodation and naked simplicity of cottage lodgings.  It was long after our arrival that we discovered a valued friend still sitting on the corner of his packing-case, and brewing his coffee on a washhand-stand.  The fire smoked all day; but this vice in the apartment was neutralised by a broken window.  Yet he should be quite happy, he said, if he could get a glazier and a sweep (like smoke and draught, one would not do without the other), a bolster, an occasional clean towel, and a little warm water in the morning.

p. 32Those who had brought a family with them into camp were more seriously troubled with the cares of providing quarters, and pondered regretfully on the peace and roominess of home.  Still as we are leaving no one houseless or dinnerless, we may turn aside to describe at more leisure the place we lived in and the manner of our life.

The stage on which our little history was enacted is a maritime plain of irregular semicircular shape, with a sea-front of five miles, and a depth inland of from two to three miles.  This plain, a dead level stretch of peat, of which part is coming under cultivation, while part is still marsh, is surrounded by a ring of hills, which rise in successive well-defined ranges of increasing height, till they culminate in the summits of Cader Idris on one side and Plinlimmon on the other.

The River Dovey, which cleaves the circle of mountains, flows in a broad estuary along the base of the northward hills, under which, at the mouths of the estuary, lies the little port of Aberdovey.  At the other end of the arc formed by the coastline, close under the slopes of the promontory which closes the plain at its north-west corner, stands the village of Borth, three-quarters of a mile of straggling dwellings, which vary in scale and p. 33character from the primitive mud-cabin of the squatter to the stately hotel which formed the headquarters of the school.  The little town is irregular even to quaintness, without being picturesque.  Its houses are not grouped according to size and character, but dropped as it were anyhow, in chance collocations, tall and low, thatched and slated together.  Two or three gigantesque meeting-houses, featureless and sombre, domineer over the roofs around them.  One or two others of a less puritan design, and not out of character with the church on a knoll a furlong off, compensate their severer rivals.  The shape of the village is determined by the narrow ridge of terra firma, the mere heaping of the tides, between the quaking marsh and the encroaching sea.  The nidus of the present settlement is the tiny hamlet of Old Borth, perched on a spur of the promontory, and well out of reach of flood tides.  We are not sure that the mother may not outlive her colony, unless substantial measures are taken to guard against another 30th of January.  Near Old Borth, through a gap in the hills, comes the River Lery, a trout-stream known to our anglers, thanks again to Sir Pryse who owns it.  It races bubbling round the furze-clad knoll, whose Welsh name is p. 34translated Otter’s Island, on which stands the church, and then is silenced in a blank straight-cut channel, which conveys it through the marsh into the estuary at Ynyslas.  Up the gorge of the Lery runs the railway, which carried us so often past the massive church and steep pine-grown graveyard of Langfihangel-geneur-glyn, and across the broad meadows of Bow Street, to the civilisation of Aberystwith.  For Aberystwith was our Capua, and used to draw large parties on many a blank afternoon for marketing or amusement.

Then there was the beach, four miles of it, from the rocks of Borth Head, where the waves could be watched breaking on the seaweed-covered reef, and sending up columns of white spray against the black face of the cliffs, away to the yellow sand dunes near the Dovey’s mouth, and the reaches of wet sands where we noted on summer days “the landscape winking through the heat,” almost with the effect of a mirage.  These sands, firm and sound under foot, were a famous walking-ground at all times; but they changed their character very much with the seasons; at one time retreating and laying bare a beach of shingle under the pebble ridge; at another, swinging back to cover them up again.  In the former p. 35state of the shore a suggestive phenomenon might be observed.  At low-water mark there appeared certain dark shapeless lumps, which might be taken for rocks at a distance, but were in fact the roots and stumps of a submerged pine-forest.  Remains of the same forest are found in the marsh.  Wood can be cut from the buried trunks, looking as fresh in fibre as if the tree still grew.  Here is the verification of the legend (or is it, perhaps, the suggestion of it?) which records the fate of the Lost Lowland Hundred.  Once on a time (the Cymric bards answer for it), a flourishing tract of country stretched at the foot of the hills which are now washed by the tides of Cardigan Bay.  The fishermen of Borth, as they creep past the headlands in their fishing-smacks, have seen deep down in the clear waters, the firmly-cemented stones of a causeway, which must once have traversed the plain, and the line of which may be not indistinctly descried stretching far out to seaward from the mouth of a little combe.  It is true that geologists whom we have consulted ridicule the fancy of masonry offering such resistance to the tides, and explain it away as a pebble-ridge built up by the action of currents.  And perhaps we might mention in this connection, p. 36that one of our party, on the first view, was half persuaded he had seen a sea-serpent.  Well, this prosperous country, defended against the sea by embankments, was during the heroic age of Wales laid under water by the opening of the sluices in a drunken frolic.  A fragment of it, the marsh between the pebble-ridge of Borth and the hills, would seem to have been recovered; but it enjoys a precarious safety, and even within our experience the sea gave a meaning threat of claiming his own again.  But that is a story which must be told in its own place.

Such then were the geographical details of the spot in which we had settled, and they made up a landscape, which, if it can be more than rivalled in other parts of the Principality, has yet a characteristic and impressive beauty.  The following extract may serve, for lack of a better rendering, to describe how the scene looked to the eyes of someone who watched it on a June afternoon from the grassy slopes of Borth Head:

My eyes run on with the tide which drifts inland up the estuary, and, farther than vision can really follow, track the march of its glancing ripples, as they swim on past shoal and sand-dune and morass up to the dewy gates of the Spring, in among green-clad river meadows and crisp close-skirted woodlands which the salt breath of sea-winds restrains from p. 37a richer luxuriance, on past springing knolls plumed with dark firs, and dimpling valleys mellow with the contrasted gold of the oak’s young leafage.  Above these, hills moulded on a grander scale heave up their broad shoulders to the sunlight, which is reflected in pale but tender hues of blue or violet or rose from their bare rock masses, or the slopes hardly less bare, which are swept by great winds, and browsed yet closer by climbing mountain sheep.  At this and the other point the bosses of the hills are lighted with the sparkle of gorse-thickets, or dusky with heather not yet kindled into bloom.  Lower down there are belts of woodland, fencing off the pastures which strew the lowest terraces of the mountains from the barren wastes above them, and these pastures are brightly flecked with patches of white-walled homesteads down to the brown edge of the marsh.  And so, ridge after ridge, the hills enclose the scene in a half-circle, of which this breezy headland, our “specular mount,” is an extreme horn.  But what the eye reposes on at last is the broad floor of marsh-land between mountain and sea.  A broad smooth floor, which would be vacant and dull enough had not Nature taken thought to drape its formlessness the more lovingly and richly.  She has unrolled on it a carpet of various and solemn-tinted stuffs, where pale breadths of rusted bents sometimes mellow into strips of verdurous pasture, sometimes deepen into belts of embrowned peat-beds, sometimes take a yellower barrenness in parched flats, still briny and unreclaimed, and shaggy with bristling reeds.  It is a wilderness, but not unrelieved with here and there an oasis, where, like islands left high and dry in a deserted ocean bed, one and another rocky knoll lift up above the waste flats around them some acres of sweet grass, or a broad field of flowering mustard, shining with a splendour as of cloth of gold, and fringed with a loop or two of silver braid by the river winding at the base.  There is animate life, too, sprinkled not stintedly over its surface, not only of visitant sea-fowl from the shore, or solitude-loving creatures native to the place—plover and duck and long-winged herons, but also of cattle p. 38and horses grazing on the cultivated edges of the marsh, which make us look for the homes of their human masters at no great distance.  Why there they are, lying overlooked at our feet all the while, a straggle of lowly white-roofed dwellings clinging to the long pebble ridge like barnacles on a rock, breathing a thin smoke from their scattered chimneys, whence the blessed smell of peat-fires is wafted through the dry air to our nostrils.  But one great house I notice with a crowd about its door-steps, and a flag waving over them a device I have somewhere seen before, where the kitchen chimney smokes with a most hospitable volume; guests must be plenty there.  Yes; and if further signs of life be needed, you may listen to the puff of a farmer’s steam-engine planted in the swamp, and see the glitter of the steel ropes, with which it draws its ploughshares, resistless as fate, through the oozy fallows.  Well, if it is come to this, the farmers and their engines will soon civilise away the beauty of this romantic wild.  But shall we complain?  If they have begun to drain these intractable marshes, then there is a chance for other places, where the interest on the cost of drainage will be less problematical than here.


Ανδρες yαρ πολις, και ου τειχη.

From our chapter on the geographical features of our settlement we pass on to describe how the settlers were housed and organised.

If a school be an institution for teaching purposes, its school-room and class-rooms should be the most essential portion of its plant.  Without discussing the adequacy of the definition, we will begin with these.  We were not ill provided; with an exception or two, the rooms appropriated for class-rooms answered the purpose well.  Some of them were spacious; the rest were large enough for the wants of the classes, limited to an average of twenty.  Nor would a Government Inspector have justly measured this adequacy by the “cubic capacity,” if he failed to take into account the exhilarating five minutes’ p. 40breathing time upon the beach, at eleven o’clock.  There was a rare pleasure in those moments of escape from Greek verbs to the sparkle of the tide and the scent of the sea breeze.

What Germans call the “real” subjects, were also provided for.  The modern languages were taught mostly in the class-rooms of the classical masters.  Music took up her quarters in several scattered dwellings.  Wales is the home of song, and our musicians were very welcome to make the cottage walls resound to violin or key-board.  We remember well the affectionate reverence with which one aged custodian spoke of the “pianass” she was proud to house; she cherished them as if they had been tame elephants.  Several concerts were given during our stay—but in the Assembly Rooms of Aberystwith; our wooden school-room was found, on the first experiment, unfit for the purpose, from the want of resonance.  The makeshift gymnasium and carpentery, in the stables and coach-house, have been mentioned before.  If among “real studies” we may include the cricket, this was, as we saw, well cared for; while the instructor in swimming had nothing to complain of, with p. 41four miles of good beach, and the Irish Channel before him.

If the accommodation during school hours was adequate, it was less easy to find elbow-room for the boys at other times.  It was well enough from May to August under the ample roof of blue summer weather; but in the rainy season (and at Borth, as elsewhere, that winter was a wet one) we should have been sorely cramped but for relief afforded by the “studies” noticed in a previous chapter.  It is time we should describe them.  Studies they were not, in the sense in which the word is understood at Uppingham, where a school law declares that “a boy’s study is his castle,” and confers upon him what Aristotle calls the “unspeakable” delight of the “sense of private property.”  At Borth this could not be.  In very rare cases was a room the one and indivisible belonging of a single owner; often as many as six shared the table and fireplace.  Some of these tenements had at least the less solid merit of looking picturesque.  Peeping into a Welsh interior, with its stone kitchen-floor, polished wainscoting, and oak furniture, its walls hung with German prints of imaginative battle-pieces and Nonconforming p. 42worthies, and its kitchen-dresser with ranks of ancestral crockery, vivid in light and colour, which catches the eyes first of all things through the open door, “This,” one was tempted to cry, “were the study for me!  Here would I sit in the shelter of the wooden screen which keeps away draughts and noisy company, and turn the pages of my Livy for the tale of Cincinnatus, and deeds of rustic heroes; or hear old Horace descant on the gracious simplicity of life among the Sabines.”

The boys thought quite otherwise.  The kitchen was generally the last room to be chosen.  Perhaps the idyllic attractions did not balance the drawback of living in the thoroughfare of the house.  Nor could one fail to sympathise with those who preferred the garret, a poor thing but their own, in which two studious souls could hob-nob, or even the austere whitewash, narrow skylight, and niggard dimensions of some monastic cell, which held just the one student, his table, and his books.  The editor of the School Magazine, writing a month after our arrival, finds it “a queer new feeling to do the old work in a strange place, to miss the accustomed pictures on the walls, the accustomed column of books rising on either hand—p. 43even the familiar table-cloth and carpet, and to sit instead inside the framework of a six-foot bed, with roof and walls forming the queerest possible combinations of lines and angles, and hung with three different patterns of paper.”  To woo the muses in a garret is the common fate of genius; but most of the “students” (for so their landladies, misled by a name, called the occupants of a study) were better off than this literary gentleman.  When fires came to be lighted in the winter, there was a cheerful domesticity in the sight of the red coals, which is unknown to the solitude of Uppingham studies, with their hot-water pipe that warms but not exhilarates.  In particular, one cheery well-furnished parlour, where a blazing hearth threw its light over the well-worn bindings of a select library brought with us from the Sixth-Form-room, and on the well-contented faces of its two custodians, burns as a bright spot in our memory of those winter days.

Thus we managed things even better than if we had listened to another ingenious writer, with whose proposal we will close this topic.  It was this: “Let two hundred bathing-machines be brought together from Llandudno and other watering-places within reach, and ranged along the beach.  Let p. 44one machine be assigned to each boy, and let them be filled up with book-shelves, table, chairs, &c.  Thus the whole difficulty will be solved in a moment.  And the plan has this further advantage, that when the time comes for returning to Uppingham, the bathing-machines would be simply formed in line, and driven across the country to Rutlandshire, and all further trouble in the way of furniture-vans and families-removing be cut away at one stroke.”


To feed were best at home.


Αυταρ ο yε κρειον μεyα καββαλεν εν πυρος αυyη
Εν δ’ αρα νωτον εθηκ’ οιος και πιονος αιyος,
Εν δε συος σιαλοιο ραχιν τεθαλυιαν αλοιφη.
Τω δ’ εχεν Αυτομεδων, ταμνεν δ’ αρα διος Αχιλλευς.

Iliad IX.

Prince HenryDoth it not show vilely in me to desire small beer?

PoinsWhy, a prince should not be so loosely studied as to remember so weak a composition.

Prince HenryBelike then my appetite was not princely got; for, by my troth, I do now remember the poor creature, small beerBut, indeed, these humble considerations make me out of love with my greatness.

2 Henry IV.

“Who ought to take the command, in the event of anything happening to your lordship?” asked Wellington’s officers on an occasion in the p. 46Peninsular War.  “Beresford,” the great strategist answered, after reflection.  And then, in answer to their surprised looks: “If it were a question of handling troops, some of you fellows might do as well, perhaps better than he; but what we now want is someone to feed our men.” {46}

This story, and the countenance of the epic and royal personages of our mottoes, is our excuse for passing on to treat of the ignoble topic of knives and forks, and to describe how three times a day our colony was fed.  It is a topic which could not be left outside a narrative which seeks to “show how fields were won.”

If our readers will follow the master of the week as he makes his round of the tea-tables at a quarter to seven on a winter evening, he will witness a cheerful scene not wanting in picturesqueness.  The vista of the corridor is filled with three very long and very narrow tables, and the boys of as many houses seated at them.  The subdued light, which streams from numerous but feeble oil-lamps through the atmosphere of fragrant vapour steamed up by the tea-urns, falls with Rembrandtesque contrast of light and shadow on the p. 47long ranks of faces.  There is that hum of quiet animation which seems always to exhale along with the aroma of the Chinese leaf.  From the urn, where the house matron mounts guard up to the Sixth Form end of the table, where the head of the house is jotting down the list of absentees from the roll-call, the cloth is thickly studded with the viands in tins and jars, rich and various in colour, with which the schoolboy adds succulence to his meal.  We open a door out of the dim corridor, and enter a room with three more houses seated round its walls.  The sense of animation rises with the warmth and brightness of the fire which roars in the grate.  We collect the lists, and move on to another and another room, till we have seen the last of the eleven houses in a severely simple servants’-hall on the basement floor.  Thence we return to the wind and rain outside.

If we came here at dinner-time, we should see the housemaster at the head of his table, and his wife or members of his family at the other end.  The scene would be quite wanting in the picturesque, but no sense of comfort would make amends for it.  For it is dark, especially in the centre of the corridor, and the carver of p. 48those vast joints never knows when he will strike his elbow against the walls or passers-by; while the incidence of draughts is clearly enough defined by here and there a coat-collar turned up in self-defence; for neither the glass front door, nor the wooden porch, nor our massive porter can effectually keep out the weather.  Dinner here is a stern bit of the day’s work, to be discharged with a serious fortitude.

We have described how we eat, but said nothing yet of what was eaten.  Yet our practical narrative cannot ignore the matter.  Certain delicate subjects, however, are best treated dialectically, and perhaps we could not here do better than record a dialogue which we think we must have overheard between Grumbler and Cheerful, two dramatic characters not unknown to readers of the School Magazine some year ago:

Cheer.  Have you read that jolly letter in The Times, on “Uppingham by the Sea?”

Grumb.  Yes, I have; and the writer says, “The commissariat was on the whole good.”  I must say that surprises me.

Cheer.  Why where was it at fault, then?

Grumb.  Where?  It was at fault all round.  Look at the puddings—everlastingly smoked!

Cheer.  Yes; but the commissariat is not puddings.

Grumb.  Well then, the coals—all chips and small dust; at least, when there were any.

p. 49Cheer.  But the commissariat is not coals.

Grumb.  Then the cold plates your gravy froze on!

Cheer.  My good fellow, who ever heard of hot plates on a picnic?

Grumb.  How about the vegetables then, that never came to table except to make believe there was something in the Irish stew? or what do you call the thing they sometimes served out for butter?

Cheer.  Ah! well! “a rose by any other name”—you know the rest.  But still, the commissariat isn’t bad because the butter was so sometimes.

Grumb.  Oh! of course, you can say the Commissariat (if you spell it with a big C) doesn’t mean the meat, or the soup, or the puddings, or the greens, or the butter, or the coals, or the rest of it—but if it isn’t these, I should like to know what it is.

Cheer. (loftily).  My good friend, it is easy for you to say this thing or the other was not to your fancy, but it was not quite so easy a matter for our landlord to provide a daily supply of meat, bread, and dairy stuff for some four hundred people; especially as it had to be organised for the occasion, without previous experience.  I take it if you knew how the farmers had to be coaxed to sell us their butter, how green things couldn’t be had in the markets for love or money, and if you knew how many miles of railway those beeves travelled to and fro between pasture, slaughter-house, and kitchen, before their weary joints rested on our table, I say you would thank the commissariat that you hadn’t something worth grumbling about.  I am glad we never were on famine rations.  I asked to live, not to live well.

Grumb. (a trifle ashamed, but dogged).  Why, of course, I don’t mean to say things might not have been worse.  Still I stick to it, they were not nice.

Cheer.  But you’ll admit the commissariat did its work: the army was fed.  After all, the proof of a pudding is not the eating of it, it is how you feel after it.  Now, people p. 50are not starved who look the strong healthy fellows ours did when they went home after the first term of it.  No ‘famine marks’ in those firm, brown faces, eh?  And then, tell me, did the Rutland pastures ever yield such juicy mutton, or flow so abundantly with milk?

Grumb.  Enough, enough; you have it.  Only I won’t be told I was revelling in comfort when I was doing nothing of the kind.  I’ll bear it, but I won’t grin and say I like it; I’ll say nothing against it if it’s better not, but I shan’t say what is untrue in favour of it.  [Exeunt arm-in-arm.]

Our two interlocutors fairly exhaust the facts of the case between them, and the historian, who can serve no purpose by trying to think things better or worse than they were, will silence neither.  We give our honest praise to the organisers of the food supply for their effectual performance of a very heavy, vexatious, and precarious task, the scale of which we have been brought by inquiry to estimate at its true magnitude.  At the same time we will spare such sympathy as the dignity of the matter demands for the sufferers from tough beef, tub butter, smoked puddings, cold potatoes, and congealed gravy, and not mislead any refugee schoolmaster of the future into the belief that he can dine in the wilderness as comfortably as in Pall Mall.


There be delights, there be recreations and jolly pastimes that will fetch the day about from sun to sun, and rock the tedious year as in a delightful dream.

Milton, “Areopagitica.”

O summer day, beside the joyous sea!
   O summer day, so wonderful and white,
   So full of gladness and so full of pain!
For ever and for ever shalt thou be
   To some the gravestone of a dead delight,
   To some the landmark of a new domain.


Housed, fed, and taught; what more does the school need done for it?  “Is that all?” some of the English public will exclaim.  “Then you have done nothing.  What about the boys’ sports?”  We foresaw the question, and when we left home some people felt uneasy as to what would happen to a school separated from its fives-courts and p. 52playing-fields.  True, there was to be a beach, and the boys could amuse themselves by throwing stones into the sea: but when there were no more stones to throw—what then?  The prospect was a blank one.

Well, as we have seen, things came right enough as regarded the cricket.  Players had to content themselves with fewer games, for the ground could only be reached on half-holidays.  On the other hand, the season of 1876 gained a character of its own from the novelty of its matches against Welsh teams.  One of these was the eleven of Shrewsbury School.  With this ancient seat of learning our troubles brought us into genial intercourse, and a few months later we met them again on the football-field.  Both matches were played at Shrewsbury; in the former we gained a victory over our kind hosts, the latter was a drawn game.

The athletics were held on the straight reach of road beyond Old Borth; the steeple-chases in the fields which border it.  At the prize-giving, the “champion” was hoisted as usual, and carried round the hotel, instead of along the via sacra of the Uppingham triumph, with the proper tumultuary rites.  For the make-believe of paper-chases we had the realities of hare-hunting, of p. 53which we will speak again in its season.  Grounds for football were found when the autumn came; the best was a meadow just below Old Borth, of excellent turf, which dries quickly after rain; though the peaty soil, lately reclaimed from the marsh, would quake under the outset of the players.

The village boys, fired by a novel example, began to hold their own athletics.  One might see the corduroyed urchins scrambling down the street in a footrace, or jerking their awkward little limbs over a roadside ditch.  Our boys looked on as men look at a monkey, half amused, half indignant at the antics “which imitated humanity so abominably.”

If we were little worse off than at home in the appliances for games, there were other recreations which were proper to the place, and clear gain to the immigrants.  For example, the fishing in the Lery, along whose banks groups of anglers might be seen strolling, whipping the water to the full entertainment of themselves and the fish, or now and then blessing Sir Pryse, as the angler landed his first trout from our good friend’s waters.  Yet we had our old sportsmen too, who could kill trout as well as amuse themselves, and bring home a delicate dish for a half-holiday tea.  For masters, p. 54there was a little shooting to be had on the land of some friendly neighbours; and on the no-man’s-land of the coast, a variety of sea-fowl fell to our guns, and were stuffed to enrich our museum with a “Borth Collection.”  We must not forget the Rink at Aberystwith, for which parties used to be formed on half-holidays; nor the Golf, which the long strip of rough ground along the shore tempted us to introduce.  The “links” were famous in extent and variety of ground, but the game, in spite of patronage in high quarters, did not become popular.  There were also recreations of a more intellectual kind: archæological visits to “British camps,” or others of those Cymric monuments, which were just then provoking Lord F. Hervey’s incomprehensible spleen; scientific rambles in quest of rare shells, seaweeds, or the varieties of a new flora; and rambles, half-scientific, half-predatory, along the woody cliffs of the Lery, whence adventurers would return with news of a hawk’s nest discovered, but not reached, or the more substantial result of snakes, and such venomous “beasties,” captured and brought home in a bag.  The rocks under Borth Head were good hunting-grounds, and supplied sea-monsters for an aquarium, which the Headmaster p. 55built and presented to the school.  One of the first prizes was a small octopus, which his captor, having no other vessel handy, brought home floating in his cap.  In the aquarium, however, spite of this good beginning, we have to record a failure.  “The masters could not, and the boys would not, attend to it; and our best octopus, after coming to the top of the water, and spitting a last farewell at sundry lookers-on, died; and with him died the attempt.”

We are quoting from a letter of a correspondent to The Times, and we cannot better conclude this part of the subject than by a graphic paragraph from the same hand:

Again, there were the birds, many always on shore and marsh; but when the herring-fry passed up the bay the birds positively possessed it.  There was a wilderness of glistening wings in the air, a restless bank of floating feathers on the sea—a mile of wings and glancing foam of life, with many a strange wild cry, giving the high notes to the deep bass of the waves.  How often from the marsh, or somewhere, dreamland or ghostland, came the plaintive wail of the curlews; then the dotterels would run and flit about the sands; and, not least, the herons, measuring out their dominions with their lordly arch of wings in leisurely pride of sovereignty, passed grandly on their way; or, ever and anon, a thousand plover, as with one soul, would turn and glance in the sun far away.  All this was a new revelation to many boys, whose sole ideas of birds had been sparrows, thrushes, perhaps, and ducks at so much a couple, and a duck-pond.

p. 56In our enumeration, however, of fish and fowl we had almost forgotten “a portent of the wave,” which was a nine hours’ wonder with us.  A stray seal, revisiting the familiar shore, and unaware of the change which had transformed his quiet haunts was encountered by one of our party as he cruised round Borth Head in his fishing-boat.  We are glad to record that the rencontre ended without bloodshed.  It was a sportsman and a naturalist who had crossed the poor seal’s path; but he remembered that he, too, was a stranger in the land, and he could not lift rifle against the

Sea-worn face, sad as mortality,

which leaned from the ledge of rock to look at him.  So the monster passed on his way unharmed.

We have detailed at length enough of the diversions and interests which lay close at our own doors.  But these delights pale by the side of those red-letter days when we went far afield to keep a holiday among the mountains.  We shall not see the like of those days again!  On such mornings, the hotel steps and the esplanade would be dotted with anxious groups waiting for breakfast, and observing the omens of the sky.  If these are favourable, a little before eight a broad stream p. 57sets towards the station, and fills the sunny platform with a vivacious crowd.  Masters, who organise the several expeditions, use the interval to count heads and sort their parties.  The benevolent Cambrian railway supplies spare carriages and return tickets at single fares.  Presently the train is sighted sliding down the winding incline from Langfihangel; it picks us all up—near two hundred souls, it may be—moves out into the open plain, still glittering with the morning dew, and reaching Glandovey, drops half its passengers at the junction to explore the northward coast, while it carries the rest to Machynlleth and Cemmes Road.  Here and there it sows little companies of explorers at some mountain’s foot or river’s mouth.  One band assails Cader Idris from the rich vale of Dolgelley, and meets on the summit another which has scaled it from Tal-y-llyn.  Each party is convinced that their ascent was the more creditable in point of speed, and that they enjoyed the more magnificent views.  One, however, claims an advantage which can be more easily gauged; they have haled a hamper of luncheon with them to the peak, with infinite pains.  During the descent this hamper (but that was after luncheon) slipped from its carrier’s hand, and plunged beyond recovery down p. 58the Fox’ Walk.  Meanwhile, others are befogged on the broad top of Aran Mowddy, but will be anxious to explain this evening, that if the view from the summit was lost in mist, that was more than made amends for by “the enchanting glimpses caught through the cloudrifts in the descent.”  The day wears on, and signs of fatigue appear.  Some are wondering what Miss Roberts of the famous “Lion” at Dolgelley has got for their dinner.  Small boys begin to declare that they could go on at this pace for any time you like; this is nothing to what they did last year in the Highlands; something like mountains there, you know!  The sun is far in the west when the knot of adventurous reconnoitrers who have gone farthest afield mount the train at Portmadoc.  Nearer home they thrust heads out of window to rally their friends who join them on the poverty of their exploits.  These, taciturn with weariness or hunger, find they haven’t their best repartees at command.  But they are all smiles and good humour again at the news that young So-and-so, with two or three more, who had strayed from their party, were sighted rushing along, all dust up to their eyes, to catch the train as it moved out of the station.  There is no other to-night; but our good hostess, we know, will give p. 59the youngsters tea, put them to bed, and forward them prepaid next morning.  At length the last station has poured in its tributary to the volume of the returning multitude, and the train glides softly on between the brimming estuary and the marsh golden with sunset.  The full stream is peaceably disgorged again through the narrow station-door, and distributes itself along the tea-tables.  Sleep comes down upon tired limbs and easy consciences, and the day’s glory throws the rich shadows of some Midsummer Night’s Dream far into the bright dawn of another working day.

It was never professed that on these occasions we were doing other than taking a holiday.  If, together with mountain air and the scent of heather, a boy drank in a love and understanding of Nature, and felt, possibly for the first time, the inspiration of beauty, then probably hours were never spent in a class-room to more profit than were these on the slopes of Cader or Plinlimmon, or along the banks of Mowddy.


Happy is the people which has no history.”  Stands this too among the beatitudesSurely this were a fit evangel only for sheep and oxen, or for such human kine as covet the fat pastures rather than the high places of existenceFor whoso is ill-content to live long and see good days, save he may also live much and see great days, will not be so tamely gospelled, seeing that every past is mother of a future, and that there is no history but is a prophecy as well.

In our late digression on the conditions and circumstances of our life at Borth, we have somewhat anticipated the narrative of events.  But it was a plan agreeable to the facts of the case, that narrative should pass into description at the point where the stream of our little history, after descending the rapid of alarms and difficulties, abrupt resolves and swift action, fell quietly again into the smooth channel of a new routine.  Not that the story of the succeeding months was really uneventful.  If our readers suppose that from this point onward p. 61we led a prosperous untroubled existence, it will be due to the illusion, which, in fiction, makes us cheerful over the woes of the struggling hero, because we have glanced at the end of the book, and view the present trouble in the light of the successful issue: what the end would be we did not know, nor when it would come.  And if, to resume our metaphor, the current of the enterprise flowed for the most part smoothly, there were rocks underneath which those who saw them could not forget, though they seldom raised an eddy on the surface.  Here, however, we must ask the reader to believe us that it was so, without demanding explanations, which at this date would be inconvenient.  We will go on then to notice the chief incidents of the term.

The wooden school-room, the slow completion of which had been watched with some impatience, was ready for use on April 29th.  On the next day, being Sunday, we inaugurated it by reuniting under its shelter our scattered congregations, hitherto distributed over the three largest rooms at our disposal.  It was not a noble building, being, architecturally, a long shed of rough planks against the bowling-green wall, which was whitewashed for the better lighting of the room.  But it was apt to p. 62the conditions of a colony, looking as it did like a log-house in a backwoods-clearing.  Internally it was well lighted and ventilated, and just sufficient for our numbers.  Heureusement il n’y on a pas beaucoup.  This was not the only occasion on which we were thankful for the school’s self-imposed limit of numbers.  The completion of this poor structure was a fact of which those who have but little knowledge of school affairs will appreciate the value.  It was a new burden on an embarrassed exchequer, but not a gratuitous one.  It is not too much to say that the social life of the school would have been of a different and lower stamp, and its organisation crude and ineffective, if there had been no place of assembly where we could meet for common occasions, for roll-call, prayers, addresses, lectures, entertainments—no place to furnish the visible unity, which is so large an influence in a healthy social life.  And did the school ever feel surer of its oneness, or more proud of its name, than when it sat on those rude benches within the ruder walls of their makeshift great school-room?

The next day, May 1st, is the Uppingham Encœnia, the commemoration of the Chapel opening.  It forced one to contrast the wooden walls in p. 63which the Saint’s-day’s service was held, with the high rooftree and the deep buttresses, which this year would not echo the chanting procession.  The anniversary rites lapsed of necessity.  An accidental piece of ceremony marked this day; for that morning a flagstaff was erected on the terrace in front of the hotel, and a flag run up, by the lowering of which the hour of dinner or roll-call could be signalled to ramblers on the shore or the hill.  On the 19th of the month we hoisted with much cheering our own colours: a banner, on which some of the ladies had worked the Founder’s device, the antique schoolmaster and his ring of scholars.  The flags (there were three in all) were carried home with us, and the faded and tattered folds which had fought with the sou’-wester, now droop in a graceful canopy at one end of the great school-room.

By the middle of June the new church of Borth, so opportunely built in time for our settlement, was declared ready.  It was courteously placed at our disposal for two services on Sunday before the hours of the parish services.  The building exactly held us, with a little pinching.  The first occasion of our using it was a confirmation held by the Bishop of St. David’s.  The p. 64Bishop, whose early connections are with this neighbourhood, and who had already in his capacity of landowner given us proof of his goodwill, seemed to rejoice in the occasion of expressing his sympathy with the immigrants into his quiet home.  The kindness of the visit was not slight; for the journey, to and fro, from difficulties of transport, demanded two days.  We have the more reason to be grateful for his willing sacrifice of time, because, in view of the interval since the last confirmation and of the long sojourn in Wales before us, we should otherwise have suffered a kind of mitigated excommunication.

June 29th and 30th were the days of the “Old Boys’ Match,” the annual reunion of the Past and Present School.  There seemed no reason why absence from our native soil should sever our ties with the Past.  Quite the contrary.  Ubi Cæsar ibi patria, thought our Old Boys, who, indeed, never before felt so glad to claim their heritage in the fortunes of Uppingham.  The game, which was like other games of cricket, and need not be described, was played on the Gogerddan field, where the Headmaster, in lieu of his customary supper, not practicable at Borth, gave a luncheon each day.  On the first day, as the company rose from p. 65table, a signal was given to the school to draw up to the tent, outside which the guests were standing.  They formed a kind of hollow square to see what would happen, and an old Uppinghamian (Mr. R. L. Nettleship, Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford) came forward and presented an “Address from the Old Boys at Oxford, to the Headmaster and Masters of Uppingham School.”  He noticed briefly the circumstances under which it had been drawn up, explaining why (through lack of time to concert matters with the sister university) it had come from Oxford only, and added that they hoped shortly to give something more substantial than parchment.  “What they could offer was a slight thing, it was true, yet one which their old Headmaster and his coadjutors would not think valueless.”  He proceeded to read the address, which ran thus:

“We, the undersigned old members of Uppingham School, now resident at Oxford, write to express our deep sympathy with the Headmaster and Masters of Uppingham School in the great difficulties with which they have lately had to contend.  Feeling as we do, that though we have left the school, we still, in the truest sense, belong to it, we can but testify our gratitude p. 66to those whose courage and skill have carried it safely through such a crisis, and converted a great misfortune into a proof that it is strong enough to defy accidents.  Our confidence in the Headmaster is, as always, entire and unabated, and we are sure that the school which he has so successfully led to Borth will come back under the same leadership, with its vigour undiminished, to its home at Uppingham.” {66}

In reply the Headmaster said, addressing himself to the memorialists and the school, “the past and future (for what we are doing has a past and future), I thank you for this with all my heart, for this which you call ‘a slight thing.’  It is a slight thing; but yet, like a flag which armies have rallied round and have died for, it can give spirit and endurance and confidence.  Yes, it is true, as you say, that these have been hard times, as those know who have had day by day to watch ruin coming closer p. 67and closer, with no hope, no room for escape.  Like men in the story tied to the stake in front of the advancing tide, we had to see wave on wave coming up to bring a slow but sure destruction.”  Then, after speaking of the incidents which ended in our coming to this spot, he continued: “We have been brought by our troubles much before the eyes of the public.  They speak of ‘the fierce light that beats upon a throne,’ but that is hardly so intolerable as the fierce light that beats upon a great calamity.  Yet I trust that fierce light may prove to the school a refining fire.  Certainly the present school has behaved worthily under their novel circumstances; they have shown themselves true sons of Uppingham.  You of the past school see round you your successors, and you may be proud of them; at least we have suffered no trouble through those you see before you here.

“The end of all this which of us knows?  But we have faith that it shall be good.  Though all seems to fail and perish, all our work to die, yet I am sure there shall be no real death of the life of the school, but that it shall have its resurrection.”

The words were meant for the ears to which p. 68they were addressed.  If to readers remote from the facts and the feeling of the hour they perhaps strike a note of scarcely intelligible emotion yet our story cannot spare them.  To us who heard them they were an expressive summary of many thoughts, and fears, and hopes of that time, which our narrative cannot give expression to otherwise than in this indirect fashion.  Had those thoughts and hopes been other, we should not, perhaps, have had this story to tell.

The choir gave an al fresco concert on the night of the second day of the match in the grass close.  The resonance from the surrounding buildings made the songs very effective for an outdoor entertainment.

Surgit amari aliquid.  Just at this time came news of a new fever case at Uppingham.  We knew what might be the significance of the news, and began to make up our minds for another term at Borth.

On July 5th a public concert was given by the choir, and attended by the rest of the school, at Aberystwith.  It was the second of two given in support of the new church at Borth, to the debt on which the proceeds were devoted.  The first was held in the Assembly p. 69Room of the Queen’s Hotel, a beautiful room, with fine acoustic properties.  We cannot say as much for the Temperance Hall, in which the second was given.  It is a structure of the very severest Georgian architecture.  “Why,” asks a reporter, “should water-drinkers allow it to be supposed that the graces of art are all in the hands of Bacchus?”  The journey to and fro by rail was, in the popular estimate, an integral part of the entertainment; its charm lay in the uncertainty as to whether the laden train would be able to climb the abrupt incline to Langfihangel, or would keep on the rickety rails as it spun down the same curve in returning.  Otherwise, that the school should make a railway journey en masse to hold an evening concert seemed, under our nomad conditions, to be only in the common course of things.

One concert we held in the wooden school-room on the 22nd of May; on that occasion (we quote the magazine’s reporter) “All the members of the choir might be seen flocking to the school-room, with candle and candlestick in hand, to furnish light for the performance.  The candles were arranged in sevens on wooden shelves all down the sides of the room, and though the p. 70whole spectacle had its laughable side, as most things have, the general effect was far from bad.  It was cheerful enough; in fact, only a Christmas-tree and some more disorder was needed to turn the entertainment into as good an imitation of a happy school-treat as you would get at a day’s notice.”  But the music sounded dully in the timber walls, and the experiment was not repeated.

Meanwhile a new inroad of care had for the last fortnight, since the late news from Uppingham, disquieted the colony.  Major Tulloch, a Government Inspector, who, on behalf of the Local Sanitary Board, had reported on the state of the town of Uppingham, had expressed a strong opinion that the school ought not to return thither before Christmas.  In consequence of this a memorial was sent from the masters to the Trustees, requesting them to reverse their decision of June 17th, which recalled the school in September.  At a meeting of the Trustees, on July 14th, the following resolution was passed:

Resolved—“That, while in the opinion of the Trustees there is nothing in the present condition of the town of Uppingham which calls upon them to rescind their resolution of the 17th ult, yet, p. 71having regard to a memorial addressed to them by the whole body of the assistant-masters, they are willing, in compliance with the same, that the school shall remain at Borth during the autumn term.”

Arrangements were at once begun for returning to camp after the holidays.  The responsibility for this step, which was thus devolved upon the masters, though it was accepted without hesitation, was felt to be no light one.  Our engagement with the lessee of the hotel had provided for a renewal of the contract at will; but there remained the owners of some thirty houses, large and small, with whom we should have to reckon.  They would have us in their hands, and might, if so minded, “turn our necessity to glorious gain.”  Then, too, many of the lodging-houses, excellent as airy summer pavilions, did not promise much comfort in winter time, to those who remembered how in the spring weeks the curtains and everything movable within doors

Fluttered in the besieging wind’s uproar,
And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.

Moreover, natives who knew, threatened us with rain all day and every day, from the beginning p. 72of September till the end of October, after which it would be dry.  Others, who also knew, promised us fine weather till the latter date, and then wet till Christmas.  Putting the two assurances together, one inferred that weather at Borth would be like weather in general.  However, in prospect of winds and wet, the open porch of the hotel was walled up with planks so as to put another door between the sou’-wester and the diners in the corridor.  Also a long lean-to shed, like a cloister without windows, was run along two sides of the bowling-green wall.  The outlay on the latter yielded no adequate return.  It afforded some shelter for chapel roll-call, and for the few minutes’ lounge before evening prayers, except when it rained hard enough, and then the water poured through the contractor’s felt roof.  It was too narrow to be used, as was hoped, for games; unless, indeed, we had turned it into a skittle-alley.  But then skittles is a game of low connections.  Finally, well-wishers were solemn in their warnings that the drainage of the spot was defective (which, indeed, was no otherwise than true, till we brought about a reform), and that our settlement by the sea was nothing if it was not healthy.

The outlook then was not unclouded.  But one p. 73bright day we had before we said good-bye to the past, and fronted the future cares.  Sir Pryse had invited the school to spend a day with him at Gogerddan, Thursday, July 20th, the last day of term.  Room was found for all his guests to dine together in a large barn near the house, where, from the high and narrow windows, the light fell in picturesque mellowness on the close-packed ranks.  A match was played in the grounds between the school and an Aberystwith eleven; the rest whiled away the afternoon right pleasantly among the flowers and grass-slopes.  At a pause in the game there was a gathering on the lawn to watch the execution of a little surprise which the cricketers had prepared for our host.  From a box which had been perilously smuggled in, was produced a memorial gift (it consisted of a study-clock and inkstand), which “the cricketers of Uppingham begged Sir Pryse to accept, as a slight acknowledgment of his special liberality to themselves;” for so it was set forth in an address which the captain of the eleven proceeded to read to him.  Our host, as much startled as if the present and the address had been shot at him out of a cannon, answered in a brief but not the less effective speech.  Then, as if to relieve the warmth p. 74of feeling generated between us, a piano was run into the bow of an open window, and the choir outside delivered themselves of some hearty music.  Soon the evening train was carrying us home for the reading of the class-list and the prize-giving.  In the customary address, the Headmaster could congratulate the school on having borne themselves well during the great time in the school’s history which this day brought to a close: he called on them to “come back with the soldier spirit” to face whatever remained.

There was dark work going on in the street that night.  When dawn broke, it disclosed an array of flags, streamers, and devices, along the approach to the station, where “the special” was waiting.  Prominent among the devices was the motto, Au revoir.  For the feeling it spoke, all were grateful; but not all rejoiced in the occasion of it.  The train moved out of the station with the school, to a boy, on board of it, to the sound of a farewell cheer, and so the curtain fell on the first act of the play.


Sanitas sanitation, omnia sanitas.

The farmer vext packed up his beds and chairs,
And all his household stuff, and with his boy
Betwixt his knees, his wife upon the tilt,
Sets forth, and meets a friend, who hails him, “What!
You’re flitting!”  “Yes, we’re flitting,” says the ghost
(For they had packed the thing among the beds).
Oh, well,” says he, “you flitting with us too
Jack, turn the horses’ heads and home again.”

Tennyson, “Walking to the Mail.”

September 15th and 16th were the days of the school’s return to Borth.  We slipped at once and easily into the groove of last term’s routine, filling our old quarters and several additional houses.  Some building operations needed for the winter’s sojourn have been mentioned by anticipation.  Our medical officer, also, and the ready pickaxe of “Sanitary Tom” (as the boys called the navvy p. 76who was his stout ally), had been at work laying bare the subterranean geography of our premises and making all right.  At his instance, the proprietor ran out an extended culvert into the sea beyond low-water mark, a grand engineering work, which remains the one permanent monument of our settlement.  Having in mind some ancient aspersions on the wholesomeness of Borth we are glad to bear testimony to the present adequate sanitation of the place.

We do not write for the scientific, and yet we must notice (we hope without wounding an unprofessional ear) the beautiful economy of natural forces by which that sanitation is effected.  The channel of the Lery, between which and the sea the hotel is built, runs parallel to the coastline, till it meets at right angles the estuary of the Dovey.  The same tide which washes the beach also fills the Lery channel and the adjoining ditches.  When the ebb has set in the water in the latter stands for a time at a higher level than on the beach.  Reflecting on this, our engineers cut a duct between the Lery and the sea, so as to draw the water from the river down the main drainage artery, performing twice daily a most effective flushing.

p. 77Some of us would have preferred to leave a more dignified memorial of ourselves, forgetting, perhaps, that it is a Cloaca which is the most impressive witness to the civilised resources of an ancient king.  So an offer was made to the proprietors that, if they would find the tools and directors of the work, the school would provide the labourers for the making of a road between the village and the church, an interval of a furlong of marshy land, bridged at that time by a makeshift causeway.  They did not, however, see their way to accept our amateur industry, and the project fell through.

With the arrival of the boys came also news, that on the day before, September 14th, the engineers had broken ground at Uppingham:

   Ea vox audita laborum
Prima tulit finem.

We had waited not without some impatience for the first sound of the pickaxe; and its echoes were welcomed as promising an end to our exile.

The new term opened smilingly.  The smooth working order into which everything fell at once contrasted pleasantly with the anxious bustle of the entry in April.  A glorious autumn was settling p. 78on the hills, draping them from head to foot with a red mantle of the withering bracken, which slowly burnt itself out along their slopes.  There was sun and daylight enough for many rambles along old paths or new ones before the year was fairly dead.

Our prosperity was suddenly staggered.  Just five weeks after the return a case of scarlet fever occurred, followed in the course of the week by half-a-dozen more.  An outbreak of this kind is too common an incident in a large school to merit much surprise or great alarm.  But then our circumstances were exceptional.  If the infection spread, it might be difficult to find hospital room; to communicate it to the villagers, as might easily befall, would be an unhappy return for their own ready hospitality; and then how miserable to have fled from sickness at Uppingham, and find it had followed us to Borth, as if, like the haunted family of the poem, “we had packed the thing among the beds.”  Already there came news which raised unspoken doubts of our returning home after Christmas.  How, then, if we could not stay here?  The question was hard to answer.

It is, however, a well-recognised fact that epidemics of this kind are very much under the p. 79control of scientific precautions, and as we had good advice on the spot, no time was lost in stamping out the plague.  War is not made with rose-water (it certainly was not rose-water which reeked along our passages), and fever germs can be exterminated, it seems, by nothing less exasperatingly unsavoury than carbolic acid, an agency which was laid on without any ruth.  Grumblers were offered the alternative of being smoked with sulphur.  Some complained of sore throats, contracted, they said, from the fumes of the disinfectant, and declared that the remedy, like vaccination, was only a mitigated form of the disorder.  The landlords of our studies looked on with irresolute wonder, when some of us sprinkled their floors with a potent decoction poured from watering-pots.  Most of them regarded it as a kind of magical rite into which it would not be seemly to inquire.  In one house a practical seaman, late home from a cruise, took a less reverent view of the lustration, and uttered hints of what he would do to the perpetrators’ heads if their acid touched his carpets again.  Probably the best disinfectant applied was the clear strong wind, which ten days after the first case succeeded the previous relaxing weather.  All windows and p. 80doors were ordered wide open for the free passage of the blast; and the boys were directed to bring down their rugs, great-coats, and dressing-gowns, and anything of the kind which might be supposed to harbour mischief, and spread them for purification on the pebbles of the beach.  It will be believed the scene was a quaint one, however it might remind the scholar of the idyllic laundry scene by the Phæacian shore, where Nausicaa and her maidens:

επει πλυναν τε καθηραν τε ρυπα παντα
‘Εξειης πετασαν παρα θιν’ αλος, ηχι μαλιστα
Λαιyyας ποτι χερσον αποπλυνεσκε θαλασσα.

Whether it was these purgations, or the fumes of the carbolic which exorcised the infection, or whether the pest was starved out by the immediate and careful isolation of the cases that occurred, we must leave doctors to determine.  It is certain that the epidemic came to an end in less than ten days after the first case.  That we were able to apply the most necessary of measures, that of isolating at once all cases declared or suspected, we owe to the readiness of the villagers to put house-room at our service, a readiness on which we certainly had no right to calculate.  The rent we might pay p. 81them was no measure of the service rendered.  If a panic had closed their doors, our situation would have been worse than critical.

The cause of the outbreak could not be confidently assigned, but since the most probable theory traced it to a recent railway excursion made by some school parties, these expeditions were discontinued for a time.  This was no great privation, for the year was closing in.

About this time, October 16th, the appointment of new “Præpostors” was made, to fill up vacancies in the body.  In speaking as usual on the occasion, the Headmaster called attention to the experiment in self-government which our special circumstances were affording.  There would be little reason for our recording the occasion, were it not that since that date the monitorial system in public schools has been canvassed in the Press, on occasion of an untoward incident of recent notoriety, and has been described by some as the parent of the “grossest tyranny,” ruinous to the future of any school from which the institution is inseparable.  We had thought this view of the system obsolete, or correct only of schools subject to obsolete conditions.  If we were mistaken, it may be p. 82worth while to record an experience which tends to a less pessimistic conclusion.

It will easily be understood that the mechanical organisation of the school was greatly deranged by the removal from home.  The boys of the several houses were no longer locally separated, nor in the same immediate contact with their housemasters; they were restrained by few bolt-and-bar securities, “lock-up” being for the most part impracticable, and were allowed a larger liberty in many less definable ways.  At the same time they were exposed to no little discomfort, and during the rainy months to much monotony, the very conditions which promote bullying and other mischief.  Further, the same causes which reduced the control of masters, also embarrassed the upper boys in their monitorial duties.  Thus the school was left in a quite unusual degree to its self-government, and that government had to act at a disadvantage.

Yet the result was that all went well.  The boys did not bully one another, and they gave their masters no sort of trouble.  Old rules had to be relaxed, because they could not be enforced, but no licence came of it; new rules p. 83had to be made, which might seem vexatious and not very intelligible restrictions, but there was no tendency to break them.  Of course wrong things were done at Borth as elsewhere; but if we were to record the few misdeeds which occur to us, their insignificance would provoke a smile; while we have good evidence for the belief that the rate of undetected offences was not increased.

These are the facts we have to record.  Different explanations will suggest themselves to others, but among observers on the spot there was but one opinion—that the prosperous result was due to the system of self-government, “monitorial system,” or whatever we name the institution, which rests on the assumption that English boys are capable of responsibility and authority, and will prove trustworthy if their masters are willing to trust them.  We do not forget that other factors entered into the cause; one which cannot be ignored was the consciousness of the boys that the school was on its trial, and that a public one.  But people cannot acquire self-control merely by the removal of restraints, or behave well, for a long time together and in spite of tedium, simply because p. 84they would like to do so.  The truth is, that in a time which might have been anarchical, we lived on the fruits of a long-established order; and it is fair to add that at the end of thirteen months there were no visible symptoms that discipline was wearing threadbare.

Shall we, for writing this, be taxed with the vain-glory for which public schools are at times reproached?  We must brave the charge, then; for the facts seem to furnish evidence of a kind so rarely obtainable, that to omit them from this chapter in school life would be hardly excusable.  An experiment so crucial as that to which we were submitted does not occur once in fifty years.

But enough of serious matters.  Let us go out and forget them in a run with Sir Pryse’s harriers, along the breezy gorse-covered downs of the Gogerddan estate.  We take the train which arrives just after we have risen from dinner, and land at the upland village of Langfihangel.  It is a Saturday afternoon, the 21st of October, the day is clear and sunny, and several ladies are of the party.  A few hundred yards from the station we met the hounds, and Sir Pryse’s man who hunts them.  The owner is not with them, but (by his p. 85good leave) yonder tall, lithe fellow, the best runner in the school, acts as Master of Hounds.  He promises us good sport, having heard from the huntsman of a hare which is “waiting for us.”  As they prepare to cast off, the non-effectives separate from the runners, and climb a round-topped hill which commands the country.  The fields are spread like a map under us; nothing on the face of the country escapes our eyes.  The hare that was “waiting for us” has grown tired of it, and left the rendezvous, but another is soon started, and a stout one.  She is of the mountain breed, as are many in this country; they could not otherwise have held out so long before the pursuit of such runners, to say nothing of the hounds.  The “tally-ho” comes cheerly up to us from the valley through the crisp October air, and we see puss scudding along up the hedgerow, the hounds and the foremost runners in the next field, the rest thinning out and straggling behind them.  Among these we recognise with glee a friend or two, who years ago were in the first flight of every Uppingham paper-chase (si nunc foret illa uventus), labouring across a turnip-field, or held by the leg in a gorse-cover.  A check gives them a chance of coming up again with huntsman and p. 86master.  We won’t spoil the chance by halloing where the hare went, though, from our vantage-ground, we can view her throughout.  Our friends have just got in line with the leaders, and are finding their breath again for a second burst, when the scent is recovered; the chase sweeps up the ridge, and over it out of our sight, away, perhaps, towards the moorland spurs of Plinlimmon.  We descend the hill homewards, leaving puss to her doom, whatever it may be.  For these runs sometimes had a fatal termination.  In the school serial is told the story of a magnificent day, of which, however, the runners did not witness the end, for “time was drawing late, and we were far from the station, so had to leave the hounds under the charge of the huntsman alone, and as the hare was now exhausted, they soon killed her.  We were on the scent for over two hours, and ran about twelve miles.”  These days took place two or three times a week; for good practical reasons the “field” was restricted in numbers.

After the short and sharp battle with the scarlet fever narrated above, the term went on very peacefully, but with a growing expectation that this would not be the last one in Wales.  p. 87News from Uppingham of the unpreparedness of the place to receive us left little room for doubt, but the question was not decided (at least, officially) even at the date of the break-up.  The prospect of a fresh period of makeshift life was not a welcome one; but the worst had been faced by this time, and found, after all, not hard to deal with.  The long dark evenings of November proved a less difficulty than was anticipated.  With afternoon school shifted to the hour of sunset, and with meetings of the Debating and other societies on half-holiday evenings, the dark hours did not hang heavily, and the expected tedium of an Arctic winter was not experienced.  The term closed with a concert given in the Assembly Room at Aberystwith, December 13th, and another on the next night in the Temperance Hall at popular prices.  On the 14th, a team of Old Boys played the usual football match against the Present School, and were beaten by two goals to one.  That evening the class-list was read and the prizes given.  If the boys hoped to gather from the Headmaster’s speech an intimation of where they would meet him after Christmas they were disappointed.  The government had as yet no p. 88communication to make.  Next morning, in the darkness before dawn, the special train carried them to their homes, to await with curiosity their next marching orders.


Sit down, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.

The Tempest.”

They said, “and why should this thing be?
What danger lowers by land or sea?
They ring the tune of Enderby.”

Jean Ingelow.

“England, when she goes to war,” said a Prime Minister not long ago, “has not to consider whether she will be able to fight a second or a third campaign.”  We remembered that we were Englishmen; and on January 19th, 1877, went down again with a good courage for our third campaign on the Welsh coast.  A furious gale was howling that day among the hills of Cardiganshire, recalling to the memory of some of us the stormy Ides of March, when the pioneers of our little army first set foot in Borth.  Omina principiis p. 90inesse solent.  This gale was sounding the key-note of the term’s adventures.

The cause of our return to Borth for a third term is briefly told.  We had gone home at Christmas, uncertain whether we should meet again there or at Uppingham.  Dr. Acland, of Oxford, to whose active sympathy with the school in its perplexities we must at least gratefully allude, had undertaken on our behalf to inspect the sanitary condition of Uppingham, and give us his judgment on the expediency of reassembling there.  His judgment was submitted to the attention of the Trustees at their meeting, on December 22nd, when it was resolved that, “In the face of Dr. Acland’s report, the Trustees deeply regret they cannot at present recall the school to Uppingham.”  So we went back to the sea.

Our numbers this term just missed by one the normal total of three hundred.  In the two preceding terms they had been smaller by some five or six.  The camp at Borth, therefore, had not suffered from want of recruits.  Indeed, it was now foreseen that the return to Uppingham would be for about one-third of the school a first arrival there.

p. 91The beginning of the end of our exile seemed to be marked by the reduced number of masters’ families in camp.  Some had gone into winter quarters at Aberystwith; some had already resettled at Uppingham.  Our connection with home began to be retightened also by parochial and other common transactions, in which we took our share from a distance.  Not, indeed, that the connection had ever been discontinued.  We had left too precious pledges behind us.  The deserted gardens did not waste all their sweetness on the air which we had exchanged for a “fresher clime.”  A thin intermittent stream of their products found its way along the nine hours of railway through most of the year.  Flowers, fruit, and vegetables might raise tantalising memories of the pleasant places where they grew, but were not the less welcome to dwellers in this somewhat austere tract where they did not grow or grew very niggardly.  The traffic in these delicacies drew the attention of the London and North-Western Railway Company, whose officials called to account one of our servants for travelling with an excess of personal luggage.  The artless contrabandist, besides his own modest pack, had fourteen several hampers and boxes under his charge.  This p. 92was checked.  But who was the miscreant who systematically staved in and pounded into such odd shapes the little tin boxes in which our rose-fanciers had their choice blooms sent them by post?  Post Office authorities thought the damage was caused by “the pressure of the letters.”  We did not, and remonstrated, till the practice, whoever was the criminal, was stopped.  Besides these gracious souvenirs of home, there were from time to time business matters which we had to transact as parishioners and ratepayers.  One was sensible of an almost humorous contrast, when we discussed our interests in the Midlands in a room overlooking the coast and hills of Cardiganshire, where one turned from watching the waves breaking crisply on the beach, to study a map of some property in Rutland pastures.  It has been accounted a signal proof of Roman self-confidence, that bidders could be found for a piece of land on which Hannibal was encamped at the moment of sale.  The situations are not quite parallel.  But people who could seriously debate, as we did, on the purchase of a freehold at a time when not even their Rome was their own, clearly had not despaired of their country.

p. 93With the exception of the moving incidents to be immediately narrated, the tale of this term’s life differs little from that of the preceding.  The round of work and play was much the same; the harriers were out again, football went on as before, till superseded by the “athletics,” and a match was played on March 7th against Shrewsbury School on their ground, of which the result was a drawn battle.

Our difficulties this term were with the elements.  In novels of school life, where the scene is laid on the coast, the hero always imperils his bones in an escapade upon the cliffs.  The heroes of our romance knew what was expected of them.  Accordingly, two new boys of a week’s standing start one afternoon for a ramble on Borth Head and are missing at tea-time.  Search parties are organised at once (it was not the first occasion, for the writer remembers sharing in a wild-goose chase which lasted four hours of the night, along and under the same cliffs); while one skirted the marsh to Taliesin, another explored the coast.  The latter party at nine o’clock in the evening discovered the involuntary tenants perched upon a rock a little way up the cliff.  They had climbed to it to escape p. 94the tide which had cut them off, and here they sat, telling stones in turn, they said, to while away the time till the tide should retire.  Before the waters went, however, darkness came; and either from fear of breaking bones in the descent or suspicion of some fresh treachery in the mysterious sea, they clung to their perch, blessing the mildness of a January night without wind or frost, but blessing with still more fervency the lanterns of their rescuers.  They had passed five hours in this anxious situation.

This was the sportive prelude of more serious trouble.  Nunquam imprudentibus imber incidit: as the servant perhaps reflected, who, on Monday, January 29th, was conveying the dinner of his master’s family from the Hotel kitchen to Cambrian Terrace.  As he crossed the gusty street between them, the harpies of the storm swept the dinner from dish, and rolled a prime joint over and over in the dust.  A leg of mutton was following, but he caught it dexterously by the knuckle-end as it fell, and rescued so much from the wreck.  Such incidents are significant: trifles light as air, no doubt, but at least they showed which way the wind blew.  And did it not blow? p. 95for three days the sou’-wester had been heaping up the sea-water against the shores of Cardigan Bay.  People remembered with misgivings that an expected high tide coincided in time with the gale, and shook their heads significantly as they went to bed on the eve of January 30th.

In the half light before sunrise, the classes, emerging from the school-room after morning prayers, found the street between them and the Terrace threaded by a stream of salt water, which was pouring over the sea-wall in momently increasing volume.  Skirting or jumping the obstruction they reached the class-rooms, and work began.  But before morning school was over the stream had become a river, and thrifty housewives were keeping out the flood from their ground-floors by impromptu dams.  Those who were well placed saw a memorable sight that morn, as the terrible white rollers came remorselessly in, sheeting the black cliff sides in the distance with columns of spouted foam, then thundering on the low sea-wall, licking up or battening down the stakes of its palisades, and scattering apart and volleying before it the pebbles built in between them, till the village p. 96street was heaped with the ruins of the barrier over which the waters swept victoriously into the level plain beyond:

The feet had hardly time to flee
Before it brake against the knee,
And all the world was in the sea.

Those who were looking inland saw how

      Along the river’s bed
A mighty eygre reared its head
And up the Lery raging sped.

And though they could not see how the tenants of the low-lying hamlet of Ynislas fled to their upper storey as the tide plunged them into twelve feet of water; how it breached the railway beyond, sapping four miles of embankment, and sweeping the bodies of a drowned flock of sheep far inland to the very foot of the hills; yet they saw enough to make them recall the grim memories of the historic shore, and doubt if our fortunes were not about to add a chapter to the legend of the Lost Lowland Hundred.

For an hour the narrow ridge on which the village stands was swept by a storm of foam, while, from moment to moment, a wave exploding against the crest of the ridge, would leap in through the p. 97intervals between the houses, and carrying along a drift of sea-weed and shingle, splintered timber, and wrecked peat-stacks, go eddying down into the drowned pastures beyond.  Yet when the ebb came, and men began to count their losses, there were but few to record.  The embankment at the south end of the village had been beaten flat, and the road behind it buried under a silt of shingle; the nearest houses to it had been flooded and threatened with collapse, so that the owners were offering them next day on easy terms; from our hospital, which stood in this quarter, the one patient and his nurse were rescued on the backs of waders; the foundations of a chapel, which was building on lower ground, were reported sapped, and a staunch Churchman of our Welsh acquaintance stood rapturously contrasting the fate of the conventicle with the security of his own place of worship on the neighbouring knoll.  “If Borth goes, the church won’t, anyhow!” he cried, in self-forgetting fervour.  No lives were lost, though several were barely saved.  One of our party rescued his dog, already straining at his chain to escape a watery grave; another saved (dearer than life itself) his favourite violin.  A fisherman, surprised in his kitchen, was flung down and nearly p. 98strangled between door and doorpost by the rush of a wave through the window.  A neighbour was drifted out of his house on the top of one wave, and scrambled back to find the door slammed and held against him by another.  Rueful groups of women stood in the street, sobbing over armfuls of what one feared might be drowned infants, but were, in fact, the little pigs which they had plucked alive and remonstrant from the flooded styes.  In short, if many were frightened, few could plead to being hurt.

Meanwhile, the boys had found their way from the class-rooms upon bridges of railway-sleepers requisitioned from the station-yard.  We could not but enjoy that “something not altogether unpleasing to us in the calamities of our neighbours,” but the “humorous ruth,” with which we contemplated the comical incidents of the disaster was exchanged in good time for practical pity.  There was to be another high tide that evening, and how would the village stand this second storm of its broken defences?  So the order was given to assemble in the street after dinner, and work at the repair of the breaches.  The street looked like an ant-hill, as the workers, divided into gangs by houses, with the housemaster at the head of his gang, swarmed p. 99on the roadway, clearing it from the débris with pickaxe, spade, and a multitude of hands; re-stacking the cottagers’ store of peat-sods, which the waves had sown broadcast; forming chains across the beach to pass up from hand to hand the large pebbles at low-water mark, to build in between the palisades; or cutting down the old stakes and driving in new ones.  This last was the most attractive branch of the service.  How enviable was he whom a reputation as a woodman secured the enjoyment of an axe, and the genial employ of hewing and hammering!  This was much to be preferred to cutting your hands in moving rubbish or standing still to hand wet stones in a freezing wind.  However, the pleasure of helping other people was common to all; and many of the young hearts, which tasted that pleasure in this rough day’s labour, will have gained an impulse of prompt helpfulness that may serve them in other and ruder storms than that which shook the frail homes of these friendly villagers.

We do not know how our defences would have stood the test of battle.  They were not put to the proof, for the wind, veering to the north that morning, and blowing strongly all day, reduced again the volume of the water in the bay, and the following p. 100tides came and went harmlessly.  But had the morrow repeated the terrors of this day, we should hardly have been up to witness them, for (proh pudor!) we rewarded ourselves for our exertions by a lie-a-bed next morning in place of early school.

Elsewhere the storm-wave had worked more havoc.  At Ynyslas, a flock of one hundred and fifteen sheep were caught in their pastures, and drowned, the farmer rescuing only eleven.  The cottagers were driven to their lofts, while the tide snatched away their furniture, doors, window-frames, and tables, and strewed them along the railway banks.  There was flotsam and jetsam on what was now once more the coast-line at the village of Taliesin, where in old days the bard’s cradle had been washed ashore; here one poor woman recovered her parlour-table of heavy oak; her chairs had travelled farther yet to the door of a farmhouse in the extreme corner of the marsh.  These people were greater sufferers than our villagers, but we could only help them by a subscription to replace their losses.

For ourselves, we suffered nothing except a temporary scarcity of coals and oil from the interruption of the railway traffic.  It was a p. 101fortnight before the next train ran on the stretch between us and Machynlleth, and in the meanwhile the gap was bridged by a coach service.  From four miles of embankment the ballast had been sapped away, and the sleepers and rails collapsing into the void presented a dismal picture of wreck.

Yes, we suffered one other privation.  It was long before our football-field rose again from the deeps, and was dry enough for play.  Its goalposts pricking up mournfully through the floods were a landmark which the boys recognised with rueful eyes in the midst of the drowned and deformed landscape.

More substantial measures than the patching up of the barricades in which we assisted must be taken if Borth is to remain permanently in the roll of Welsh villages.  Our storm-wave was but part of a system of aggression which the sea is carrying out upon these coasts.  Older residents remember a coach-road under the promontory, where now there is nothing but rock and seaweed, and look forward gloomily to a day when Borth will be “disturbed;” for so they euphemistically describe the catastrophe which is finally to wash it away.  But an acquaintance of ours, who claims one of the longest memories in the place, is more p. 102confident.  He has known Borth seventy years and as he has never seen it destroyed during all that time, does not think it will be now.  His own house is safe on the hill of Old Borth, so he judges with all the calm of conscious security.  His conviction, however, is not shared by his townsfolk, who were soon busy holding meetings, and considering schemes for the provision of something better than these moral guarantees.  Heartily do we hope that funds and measures will be found to save our friends from another and more calamitous “disturbance.”  But a letter from Borth, a year later, speaks of the sea as again threatening their security.  “We are not afraid of him, though,” the correspondent, one of our landladies, devoutly adds, “for he is under a Master.”  All the same, we should like to hear of a stout sea-wall as well.

Once again the elements caused us alarm.  A heavy gale got up in the evening of February 19th, and roared all night upon the roof of the hotel, tearing up the fluttering tiles in patches, and sending them adrift through the air, till the master who slept under the leads, in charge of the top storey, began to doubt whether the straining roof would last overhead till morning.  It was small p. 103consolation that this time he and his neighbours should at least “die a dry death,” so the inmates of the floor were summoned from their beds in the small hours to spend the rest of the night in a bivouack on the ground-floor.  One or another of those luckless youngsters will, in after days, remember, as a cheerful incident, the arrival on the scene of the Headmaster, with a store of biscuits and such supplies as could be requisitioned at the moment, to provision the watch.  Your schoolboy, he reflected, is hungry at all times; what must he be at night when dragged from bed to save his life, and forced to sit up, rather cold and very empty, for several hours before daybreak.  Solaced, however, by these beguilements, the hours passed cheerfully away.


   The primal sympathy,
Which, having been, must ever be.


Thenceforward the weeks rolled smoothly on, unmarked by moving incident, till they gladdened us with the growing light of spring, and brought us within near sight of our home.  Must the truth be told?  We are all of us loyal sons of Uppingham, but not all of us were glad to find our return to the mother-country was at last arriving.  So far away from the offence, we need not fear attainder if we confess, some few of us, that our hearts were not whole in their welcome of the long-deferred event.  It belonged to the irony that waits on all lives which are not too dull a material for fortune’s jests, that p. 105we should cease to desire our home just when long patience and often-thwarted efforts, and

The slow, sad hours which bring us all things ill,
And all good things from evil,

had brought its coveted security at last within our reach.  For so it was with some of us.  Perhaps the air of sea and mountain had got into the blood, and infected it with a certain disrelish for the restraints, the even decorum, and the tamer surroundings of our life in the Midlands.  Well, we are not the only emigrants who have preferred their backwoods to the streets of the mother city, nor the first campaigners who have come back to home-quarters a trifle spoiled by adventure.  And, moreover, while everything about us was a reminder of what we must forego, there was nothing to tell us of what a greeting our townsmen were preparing for us, or of the solid mutual good which filled the vista beyond that auspicious welcome.

However, alike for those who were impatient and those who were half reluctant to attain it, the equal-handed hours brought the end of our exile.  On one of our last evenings, April 6th, p. 106a reading was given in the school-room, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Mendelssohn’s music; no unfit close, we said, to our annns mirabilis.  For, indeed, its incidents had been “such stuff as dreams are made of,” as whimsical if not quite as harmless, as if their plot had been directed by the blithe goblin of Shakespeare’s fantasy.  The chorus of readers and of singers were so far encouraged by their success, as to offer a second recital as a farewell entertainment to the good people of Borth.  They enjoyed it hugely.  Doubtless some of the simpler members of that audience would follow the drift of the Sassenach poet only at a certain distance; but Bottom’s “transformed scalp,” a pasteboard ass’s-head, come all the way from Nathan’s, was eloquent without help of an interpreter.  “Oh! that donkey, he was beautiful,” was the dramatic criticism of an esteemed friend, a fisher’s wife.  The criticism was at least sincere; from the moment of the monster’s entry she had been in one rapture of laughter, till her “face was like a wet cloak ill laid up.”  Well, the kind soul had reason good enough for her merriment.  But had the reason been less, our neighbours would not have lost the occasion of dropping the p. 107shyness of intercourse in a frank outburst of good fellowship.

But we took a more solemn farewell on the morrow, the 10th of April.  The parts were reversed now, and we were the spectators.  Just at sundown of a day of clear spring weather, the school was gathered at their doors watching a long procession of villagers advancing up the street towards them.  We had heard whispers in the morning of a “demonstration,” and now it was come.  Through the dust we caught sight of banners flying at the head of the column; under them marched the choir of children singing, and behind them the whole village was a-foot.  The people of Borth, of every age and degree, from the first householders and yeomen of the place to the fishermen’s boys and girls, had come to wish us God speed.  Reaching the school quarters they halted, the boys lining the roadway on each side of them, and filling the broad flight of steps before the hotel doors.  When the cheers for “Uppingham” and our answering cheers for “Borth” had rung out across the sands to seaward, there was an interval, filled up with songs by the children, while they waited the arrival of the spokesmen, whom p. 108they had charged with their valediction.  When these arrived, a deputation of the villagers moved into the school-room shed, and there presented a brief address, which ran thus: “We, the inhabitants of Borth, beg to tender our most sincere thanks to Dr. Thring, and all the masters and scholars of the celebrated Uppingham School, for the very many generous acts and kindly feelings exhibited to us during their sojourn here.”  The address was introduced and explained by speeches marked by refined feeling, and delivered with a noticeable grace of manner.  We will here cite, though for another reason, a few words of the speaker who moved the address; he commented on the discipline which (from the evidence of their conduct when at large) seemed to rule the school; naïvely but pointedly he noted that no offence had ever been given; “No boy had laughed at the villagers, if they were old and queer-looking or queerly dressed; there had been no disorder, no shabby act, nothing undecent” (so he put it in his unpractised English) “during the whole twelve months we had spent among them.”  We give his testimony without note or comment, sure that the facts would not be better told in words less simple.  They were little things he witnessed to; p. 109was it a little thing that the witness could be truly borne?

The boys were not present to hear the speeches, but they will like well to remember the scene without doors at that unlooked-for reunion of school and village.  It was a scene made up of homely elements enough, but somehow, in our own memory at least, few pictures will remain printed in such fast colours.  Clearly, as on that evening, we shall always see, distinct in the quiet light of the afterglow, the ranks of serious faces, touched and stilled by the surprise of a contagious sympathy, as English boys and Welsh cottagers looked each other in the face, and felt, if for the space of a few heartbeats only, an outflash of that ancient kinship which binds man and man together more than race and circumstance divide.

It pleases the smaller kind of criticism to cheapen the meaning of such incidents as this, and explain them by the easy reference to interested and conventional motives.  Wiser men will take occasion to rejoice that human nature is after all so kind; and if this be error, we would rather err with the wise.  Take once again our thanks, kind people of Borth, if our thanks are worth your taking.  You showed us no little kindness in a p. 110strange land, and the day is far off when we shall forget the friendly, gentle people whose name is the memorial of a great ill escaped, of much good enjoyed, in the days that are over, and the landmark of who knows what greater good in the days that are to be.


Perhaps poetry and romance are as plentiful as ever in the world, except for those phlegmatic natures, who, I suspect, would in any age have regarded them as a dull form of erroneous thinkingThey exist very easily in the same room with the microscope, and even in railway carriages: what banishes them is the vacuum in gentleman and lady passengersHow should all the apparatus of heaven and earth, from the farthest firmament to the tender bosom of the mother who nourished us, make poetry for a mind that has no movements of awe and tenderness, no sense of fellowship which thrills from the near to the distant, and back again from the distant to the near?

George Eliot.

αλλα θεος τοι και θεοyεννης,
ημεις δε βροτοι και θνητοyενεις.
καιτοι φθιμενω τοις ισοθεοις
εyκληρα λαχειν yεy’ ακουσαι.


All is over now; April was just a twelfth-night old when the school departed.  Some of our company have lingered on for business, a few from reluctance to have done with it.  But to-day p. 112the last group has taken wing for the Midlands.  Old “Borth,” the colley dog, followed them to the station, and poked his nose into the carriage to take his leave.  Old Borth—we had almost forgotten him, and that had been deep ingratitude for he was not the least warm-hearted of our friends in Wales.  His master lived two miles away; but soon after our arrival, Borth had come down from the hills to attach himself to our fortunes, and henceforth became, as it were, our familiar, the pet of the regiment, like the goat of the “23rd.”  He knew his position, and was a stickler for formalities; he had a wag of the tail for every boy who wore the image of the venerable schoolmaster upon his cap; but if he met him bare-headed, or, by any chance, in an indistinctive head-gear, he would cut that boy dead, were he never so much the same urchin from whose hand he had yesterday eaten a cheese-cake.  That was his official rebuke for the irregularity.  By day, Borth would bask in some sunny corner of our quarters; at night, he has been known to venture on a nearer intimacy where doors were left open.  We found you once ourselves, Borth, curled up and asleep upon our own bed.  You woke up, shook yourself with a modest, but not startled p. 113manner, and walked quietly away, like a gentleman.

Ah! kind friend, you showed us the sincerest of flatteries, that of imitation.  You left a comfortable home for chance quarters and uncertain fare, that you might be one of us, an outcast among outcasts.  Now we must part, for our home will spare us no longer, as neither will yours spare you.  And so the last good-bye is said, and you are limping away to your hills again, with dejection expressed in every fibre of your frame, from the drooping ears to the last hair on your tail.

All is over, and the place is very silent, except for the clink of hammers where they are breaking down our wooden walls, and, seaward, the cry and splash of gull and tern dipping for their prey in the shoal of herring-fry which is wandering about the bay.  Close inshore a porpoise is wallowing, like the jolly sea-pig that he is, in his berth of glistening water.  The wild creatures seem to have grown tamer since there are no strollers to keep them aloof.  This morning, as we passed his pool, the stately heron let us come within twenty yards of him before he got leisurely upon the wing.  The village seems even quieter; the people at their doors betray, to our fancy, a certain lassitude p. 114as if, like merrymakers on the morrow of a revel, they felt somewhat sleepy and sorry, now that the stirring social year is over, and the little fishing town has returned to its “old solitary nothingness.”

Yes, the silence has come down again; but it is a silence full of voices.  For, as it often happens that, when things without are stillest, men hear most audibly the tumult of their own brains, so is it now with us.  Action is ended, and memory begins to work.  Into the vacuum which the silence makes, the stream of our little history pours in a long backwater.  Our thoughts go back to the beginning of it, the hour when, as we were sailing prosperously under press of canvas, the blast struck us suddenly out of a sunny sky.  We live again the slow months of enforced vacation, and the brief spell of apparent security, broken by the second stroke.  We recall the slow and painful sickening of hope, amid the frustration of attempted remedies; the watchings and communings by late firesides; the morning questionings and bulletins; the deepening of fears, until the moment when the sharp pressure of calamity became the liberating touch, and made a hazardous adventure seem a welcome alternative.  Not less p. 115distinctly we remember the zest with which the wretched waiting for evil tidings was exchanged for hopeful activity; the rush of preparations; the anxiety which watched their passage through the ordeal of practice; the growing sense of security; the mellowing down of novelty and privation into routine and ease; the contrast, all the while, between the outward peace of the colony, and the secret difficulties of finance and commissariat; the long intermittent crisis which gave the administrative no rest; the hopes and efforts for our return home, and the reversal of them; all this, and—and—very much else as well, which was of acutest interest at the time, and which it will become convenient to describe only when it will be of interest to no one.  All this passes before us in the series of a long dissolving view, full of bright lights, and only less full of unlovely shadows.

And, somehow, as we review the past this evening, pacing the beach in the twilight, the fact accomplished seems to us not smaller, but greater than when we lived in it.  There are moments some would say of illusion, some of vision—when the things most familiar to our eyes and thoughts, whether in nature or human society, surprise us p. 116with a dignity and beauty not discovered in them before.  That glamour is in the air this evening.  Perhaps the night-wind, which creeps to us from over the grassy tomb of Taliesin, warrior and bard has touched the fancy with a breath out of his heroic days.  What wonder if it were so?  Thirteen centuries ago the hero became the guardian of the shore; but the story which ends to-day is, perhaps, as worthy note as any he has watched from his hill-side.  Those who rate the dignity of human action by other standards than the breadth and conspicuousness of its stage, will not mock us because we find some stuff of romance in the homely circumstance and not always epic passages of this modern episode of school.

But if the stranger who may read the tale will spare his scorn—those for whom we shall tell it would forgive even a bolder word; for some of them were themselves a part of it, and others will make it a part of their heritage in the past.  English schools have always honoured their traditions, counting them the better part of their wealth.  Some have majestic memories of royal benefactors, or can point to a muster-roll of splendid names, whose greatness was cradled in their walls.  Such traditions p. 117are not ours.  A past, not brief, but not memorable, has denied us these.  But a tradition we have henceforward which is all our own and wholly single in its kind.  We persuade ourselves that in far-off years those who bear our name will say that, in the memory of a great disaster overcome, no mean heirloom has been left them.  They will not be ashamed of a generation which, in an hour of extreme peril, did not despair of the commonwealth, but dared to trust their faith in a further destiny, and saved for those who should come after them a cause which must else have perished in the dark.  Stet fortuna domus.  And stand it will if there is assurance in augury.  For the fairy legend has a truth in fact, and the luck of a house, grasped daringly and held fast in an act of venturous hardihood, will not break or be lost again until the sons forget to guard it.

Here and there, at any rate, among the posterity which will sometime fill our ranks, there will not be wanting generous and gifted spirits, illustres animæ nostrumque in nomen iturae, who will rejoice in making good the forecast that the venture was not made in vain.  They will possess more worthily the good which an elder p. 118race foresaw and laboured not all unworthily to preserve.  To their safe keeping we commend as under a seal, the legacy of hopes which are better left unspoken now.



(FromThe Cambrian News.”)

On Tuesday evening, April 10, the inhabitants of Borth, almost to a man, turned out to take part in a farewell demonstration to the masters and scholars of Uppingham School, after their twelve months’ residence in Wales.  Shortly after seven o’clock a procession of the inhabitants was formed, and, headed by a flag-bearer, made its way to the square in front of the Cambrian Hotel, where several songs were sung by the assembly under the schoolmaster’s (Mr. Jones’s) direction; and at the conclusion a hearty round of cheers was given for the Uppingham School, who immediately responded by making the place ring again with three enthusiastic cheers for Borth.  The assembly then adjourned to the wooden building in the hotel-yard, when Mr. Jones, Brynowen, was voted to the chair on the proposition of Mr. Lewis, Post Office, seconded by Mr. Jones, Neptune Baths.

The Chairman said, as the meeting was aware, the object of the demonstration—and he was exceedingly glad to see such a popular demonstration—was, that the Borth people might have a chance of giving public expression to the kind feeling of respect they entertained for Mr. Thring, the masters, and scholars of Uppingham p. 120School before they left Borth, after a twelve months’ sojourn there.  (Cheers.)  When some twelve months ago a rumour came to Borth respecting the advent of Uppingham School, a few old women and nervous people, in the innocence of their hearts, were afraid they would be swamped by an inundation of Goths and Vandals.  (Laughter.)  The meeting would, however, agree with him that kinder-hearted gentlemen than the masters, and better-behaved boys than the scholars, could not be found.  (Hear, hear.)  There had been no town-and-gown feeling existing similar to what prevailed in places of greater pretensions.  The people of the village and the School had pulled together in a friendly manner, and everything had gone on quite smoothly.  (Hear.)  After referring to the progress of the School under the headmastership of Mr. Thring, and remarking that the older schools would have to look to their laurels, as Uppingham was treading close upon their heels, the Chairman said that in some fifteen or twenty years to come many of the boys would be in Parliament, some of them officers in the army or navy, fighting the battles of the nation, some of them would be barristers, seeing that the people got fair play in the courts of law, others would no doubt be eminent merchants, importing the produce of foreign countries, whilst others would be surgeons, like Dr. Childs—(loud cheering)—and physicians.  They would therefore exercise an influence over the destinies of the nation.  (Cheers.)  The people of Borth were exceedingly sorry that the school was going away.  Its members would be missed very much indeed.  He owed the Uppingham people no ill-feeling, but if a case of smallpox, the cholera, or some other virulent disease broke out in that place and prevented the return of the school, he was sure that p. 121Borth people would not feel at all sorry.  (Laughter and cheers.)  There was the name of a gentleman whom he might mention.  That gentleman had earned the gratitude of the Borth people perhaps more than anyone else.  He referred to Dr. Childs.  (Applause.)  He had acted the part of the Good Samaritan thoroughly, responding as readily to the call of the sick and suffering at midnight as at noon.  (Cheers.)  He would detain them no longer, but ask Mr. Lewis to submit a proposition to the meeting.

Mr. Lewis, Post Office, said he had very great pleasure in reading the resolution, because he knew it would be heartily responded to by everyone present.  It was as follows:—“We, the inhabitants of Borth, beg to tender our most sincere thanks to Dr. Thring, and all the masters and scholars of the celebrated Uppingham School, for the very many generous acts and kindly feelings exhibited towards us during their sojourn here.”  Mr. Lewis followed by commenting upon the excellent discipline which evidently ruled the school, judging from their exemplary conduct out of school.  He was not aware of any shabby, mean, or ungenerous act committed by the young gentlemen during the whole twelve months they had been at Borth.  (Applause.)  The meeting would remember the assistance rendered in the terrific storm in February.  Even the ladies came out and helped the people in their distress—(loud applause)—thereby setting an excellent example to the women of Borth.  (Cheers.)  They had not only worked as hard as they could, but subscribed money among themselves which they distributed to the most needy of those who had sustained loss by the storm.  (Applause.)  The money then distributed would pass into other hands in a short time, but the kind feelings the act engendered would last p. 122for ever.  (Applause.)  He only hoped that each and all connected with Uppingham School would enjoy long, prosperous, and useful lives.  (Loud applause.)

Mr. Jones, The Baths, expressed the fears he once entertained, in common with others, that the Uppingham School would take Borth by storm, an opinion he had to change entirely after the boys had been there a week, for instead of laughing at the quaintness of some of the Welsh costumes or the peculiarities of the nation, they had obtained the goodwill of the inhabitants by their gentleness of demeanour, and completely won their hearts on that memorable day when masters and scholars, young and old, turned out to assist in reducing, as much as possible, the ill-effects of the storm.  (Cheers.)  He did not exactly wish that some contagious disease would break out at Uppingham, but he hoped that when the School got back it would repent, and so return to Borth.  (Laughter and cheers.)

Speeches were also made by Mr. Thomas G. Thomas and Mr. R. Pritchard Roberts, Garibaldi House.

The Rev. E. Thring, M.A., then rose amid cheers and said: Mr. Chairman and our friends at Borth, I have made many speeches in my life since I have been master of this school.  Two-and-twenty years of school-mastering gives a good deal of exercise for the tongue from time to time; but never in my life have I stood up to make any speech which I feel so little capable of making as I do to-night; not from want of practice, but because the feelings you have aroused in us are such—and our sojourn here has been such a boon to us (cheers)—that it is impossible for me to tell you the value we set on living here, and the welcome we have received.  (Applause.)  I never heard anything sweeter to my ear p. 123than your singing to-night.  The time it must have taken, the goodwill manifested in the songs, and altogether the circumstances under which they were delivered, and we on our last day here, made them go down into my heart, and into all our hearts with peculiar power.  (Cheers.)  Never in my life have I had such testimony to the school which I cared so much for, as the testimony you have given to-night.  We get our reputation in the English world, but what is that compared to the inner life to which you have borne witness.  What signifies it whether we know much or little in comparison with the fact that we have a character of life which you like.  It is life answering unto life across all those ties, both of nationality—for I grieve I cannot speak in your native tongue—and also of distance which set gulfs between man and man, but cannot separate life when it is true.  (Hear, hear.)  If your life is true, and our lives are true, then it flows across and we meet as to-night one united body of living men.  (Cheers.)  And this is what gives a peculiar value to our being here.  You know as none can know what this school is.  We came among you as strangers, and you looked upon us with the eyes of strangers; we stayed among you as friends, and we part from you as friends.  (Cheers.)  Everybody knows that the one thing on earth which makes life pleasant is the friendly atmosphere in which men live—the one thing that makes it hateful is to be surrounded by thoroughly bitter hearts.  There is an old saying that “stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.”  No, the life within can make any place enjoyable—nay, happy.  Yet, I think it is better to be in happy surroundings too.  Of this, however, you may be sure: those glorious hills of yours, this sea, and p. 124all the happy hours we have spent wandering about, will not easily pass out of our minds.  The jewel of a friendly spirit has also been set in very bright surroundings.  We do rejoice in the life we have had here, and all that we have found.  (Cheers.)  You have spoken to-night of the good conduct of the school, and have said that we have caused no trouble since our stay here.  That like many other questions, has two sides.  Is it not a great credit to this place that when between a hundred and seventy and a hundred and eighty strange boys have been put into your cottages and homes, there has not arisen a single difficulty for the whole year?  I say it is quite as much a feather in your caps as in ours.  I am proud of it—very proud of it.  (Applause.)  I would also refer to the extensive power which lies in a great school.  It is quite true that some few years hence, these boys whom you have looked on with interest will be schoolmasters, barristers, and leaders in every part of the world.  (Applause.)  There is not a quarter of the globe where we have not our representative.  It is now, and not in the future only, that I may venture to say that there is no part of this globe where men are to be found, where, here and there, Borth has not been heard of this year.  (Cheers.)  I will mention two facts only which may interest you.  This very week, quite unconscious of this meeting to-night, I sent a letter to North Canada, with, I may say, a very glowing account of Borth in it—(cheers)—and the day before yesterday, having a little leisure, I wrote to the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces of India, when I mentioned Borth in equally warm terms.  (Applause.)  That, I need not say, is going on all around us.  These three hundred pens of our school are busy day p. 125by day giving to their friends their own views of our life here, and I may no doubt say that on the whole they are pleasant views.  (Cheers.)  It is not only a pleasant fact to mention, but I hold that where life is working well with life it is a real power for good that goes out into all lands, a sort of missionary force traversing this earth, speaking of us as capable of coming here, and of the welcome you have given us.  (Hear, hear.)  That, however, would be a slight thing if we did not leave behind us, as I am sure we do, that feeling of happy life which we take away with us.  (Cheers.)  For my own part, at all events, if I leave, it is not the last time I hope to spend in Borth.  (Applause.)  I know no place that has been more attractive to me, no place where, if I can, I shall more readily come back to—not, I hope, next time as an exile, but coming from home to happy holiday to spend it pleasantly among my friends here.  (Applause.)

Mr. Lewis proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Dr. Childs for his gratuitous attendance on the sick in his professional capacity.  (Loud cheers.)

Dr. Childs referred to the pleasure experienced in doing a kindly action, and afterwards humorously added that at one time he thought of setting up in practice at Borth, but finding the place so healthy he had given up the idea.  (Laughter and cheers.)  He should, however, know where to send his convalescent patients in future.  He should recommend them to take the first train, and spend a week on the sands at Borth, with an occasional dip in the Neptune Baths.  (Loud laughter and cheers.)  Three cheers were given for the ladies of Uppingham School, and the assembly separated after singing the National Anthem.


(From the School Magazine.)

(Signifer, statue signum, hic manebimus optime.)

Who has not known the moment when, as he looked on some familiar landscape, its homely features and sober colouring have suddenly, under some chance inspiration of the changing sky, become alive with an unexpected beauty: its unambitious hills take on them the dignity of mountains, its woods and streams swell and broaden with a majesty not their own.  Though, perhaps, it is their own, if Nature, like Man, is most herself when seen in her best self; if her brightest moments are her truest.

Shall we be thought fanciful if we confess that we felt something of this same kind when, returning from a year-long exile, in the last gleams of a bright May evening we turned the corner of the High Street of Uppingham, and came face to face with our welcome.  The old street, seen again at last after so many months of banishment, the same and not the same; the old, homely street—forgive us, walls and roofs of Uppingham, and forgive us, you who tenant them, if sometimes perhaps to some of us, as our eyes swept the grand range of Welsh mountain-tops, or travelled out over limitless sea distances, there would rise forbidden feelings of reluctance to exchange these fair things for the bounded views and less unstinted beauties of our midland home: forgive us, as you may the more readily because these thoughts, if any such lingered, were charmed away on the instant by the sight of the real Uppingham.  There lay the path to our home, an avenue of triumphal arches soaring on pillars of greenery, plumed with sheaves of banners, and enscrolled with such words as those to whom they spoke p. 127will know how to read and remember.  Our eyes could follow through arch after arch the reaches of the gently-winding street, alive from end to end with waving flags, green boughs, and fanciful devices, till the quiet golden light in the western sky closed the vista, and glorified with such a touch of its own mellow splendour the ranges of brown gables and their floating banners, that for a moment we half dreamed ourselves spectators of an historic pageant in some “dim, rich city” of old-world renown.  Only for a moment, though; for when we drop our eyes to the street below us, those are our own townsfolk, well-remembered faces, that throng every doorstep and fill the overflowing pavements and swarming roadway.  Yes, they are our own townsfolk, and they are taking care to let us know it—such a welcome they have made ready for us.

We hardly know how to describe with the epic dignity which it merits the act by which they testified their joy at our return.  We who saw the sight were reminded of an incident in the Æneid—

Instar montis equum divina Palladis arte
Aedificant, sectaque intexunt abiete costas;
Votum pro reditu simulant.

* * * * *

   Pueri circum innuptaeque puellae
Sacra canuut, funemque manu contingere gaudent.

But the ill-starred folk of Troy could not have shown more enthusiasm in haling within their walls the fatal wooden horse, than did the men and boys of Uppingham, who harnessed themselves, some four-score of them, to that guileless structure, which, though indeed it has some other name, we will call at present our triumphal car.  They harnessed themselves to it at the p. 128east-end of the town, and drew it with the pomp of a swarming multitude all the length of the long street to its western mouth and half the way back again.  On went that unwieldy car of triumph, bearing a freight of eager faces behind its windows, and carrying a crowd of sitters, precariously clustered wherever a perch could be found on its swaying roof, under the verdant span of the arches and the flow of the streamers:

Ilia subit mediæque minans inlabitur urbi.

On it went, with the hum of applauding voices increasing round it, till the popular fervour found articulate utterance in a burst of jubilant music.  There swept past our ears, first, the moving strains of “Auld lang syne,” and then, as if in answer to the appeal to “Auld acquaintance,” came the jocund chorus “There is nae luck about the house”—most eloquent assurance that we were welcome home.  And then in turn the music died down, and the crowd round the now halted procession cheered with a will for “the school,” “the Headmaster and the masters,” and the school taking up with zest the genial challenge, returned the blessing with such a shout as if they meant the echoes of that merry evening to make amends in full to street and houses for their fourteen months of silence.

It was “all over but the shouting:” but that was not over till some hours of dusk had gathered over school and town.  For first the multitude besieged the well-known mighty gates, behind which lies the studious quiet of the Schoolhouse Quad.  When they were admitted they came in like a flood, and filled the space within; but for all they were so many, there was an orderliness and quietude in the strange assemblage which made their p. 129presence there seem not strange at all, and they listened like one man to the words in which the Headmaster, who came out to meet them, framed his thanks for this unequivocal welcome.  This done, they flowed out again, and streamed across the valley and up the hill to carry the same message of goodwill to the distant houses, and so with more cheering and more speeches came to an end a day of happiest omen for the joint fortunes of Uppingham School and Town.

A few additional details are needed to complete our account.  A friend, remarkable for his plain common-sense, reminds us that the epic vehicle we so indistinctly describe, was the Seaton ’bus, and that the music was due to “the splendid band connected with Mrs. Edmonds’ menagerie, which happened to be in the town.”  We are not in a position to deny either statement, or another to the effect that “the conveyances which accompanied the ’bus formed a procession of considerable length,” having been halted by arrangement outside the town, and formed into file for the entry.  When the same friend hazards some further criticism on a confusion of dates and incidents in our narrative, in which he finds the events of two days, a Friday and a Saturday, presented as in a single scene, we feel it time to silence him by an appeal, which he does not follow, to the “truer historic sense” and the “massive grouping” of imaginative history.


On Tuesday of the next week, May 8, an address was presented by a deputation of the townspeople to the Headmaster and assistant masters.  The ceremony took place in the school-room, the body of which was almost p. 130filled by those who had assembled to support their deputation, while the masters, their families, and the Sixth Form were seated on the tiers of the orchestra.  The deputation coming forward, Mr. Bell said that Mr. Hawthorn and himself had been requested by their fellow townsmen to undertake the presentation of an address, in explanation of which he would make a few remarks.  In an appreciative speech he reviewed the circumstances which had given rise to the present occasion, gave some explanation of the form and terms of the address, and took occasion to add that although the ladies were not mentioned in the address, the townspeople were not unmindful of the energetic way in which they had seconded the efforts of the masters.

Mr. Hawthorn said he had been asked to read the Address, but that he was unwilling to do so without some slight expression of the feelings with which he and others took part in the presentation of it.  Though they were met to congratulate the school, they felt, he said, that there were good grounds to congratulate themselves as townsmen.  The absence of the school had pressed with greater or less severity on many tradesmen, being felt more especially by a large number of the poorer inhabitants, and had made it evident to many how poor a place Uppingham would be without a school upon its present important scale.  But they valued the School on other grounds too; they recognize the advantage of the presence among them of so many representatives of liberal education and its broader views on matters of public interest.  To the Headmaster it must be a cause for rejoicing and thankfulness that the labour of his life had been saved from a sudden and unfortunate conclusion.  To him and his assistant masters, the parents, and the p. 131boys, by whose loyal adherence the time of trial had been happily passed through, their congratulations were offered.  He proceeded to read the address, which was received with much applause by the townspeople.  It is a handsomely illuminated document, to which between sixty and seventy names are attached; the terms of it are as follows:

To the Rev. Edward Thring, M.A., Headmaster, and to the Assistant Masters of Uppingham School.

“Gentlemen,—We, the undersigned residents in Uppingham, have great pleasure in meeting you with a hearty welcome on the re-assembling of the school in full numbers in its native home, and gladly avail ourselves of this opportunity of conveying to you our congratulations that the period of anxiety and trial through which you have so successfully passed has clearly demonstrated the sound principles upon which the school has been conducted, and which have raised it to its present eminence as one of the great schools of the country, and have won for it the confidence of parents in all parts of the kingdom, many of whom have entrusted their sons to your care at Borth, and are continuing that trust now that you are returning to your homes.

“We desire also to express our sense of the courage and enterprise manifested in removing the school from Uppingham at the time of the anxious crisis in February, 1876.

“And we pray Almighty God that it may please Him to bless the school, and that under His guidance those who from time to time leave the school may as scholars and Christian gentlemen uphold its fame in whatever sphere they may be placed.

Uppingham, May, 1877.”

p. 132The Headmaster then rose and said: “Mr. Bell, Mr. Hawthorn, and friends in Uppingham,—Home is home, and you may be quite sure that we, at all events, who went through exile felt it indeed to be home when we came back again.  (Applause.)  It does not signify what the circumstances may be, but it is not possible to live long in a place and to have your home there without taking root in it, and having fibres sent deep which cannot be torn up without pain.  (Applause.)  We are very grateful, therefore, for the hearty, the enthusiastic welcome you gave us on our return.  (Cheers.)  Assuredly as our eyes looked on this pleasant hill and the familiar fields, we felt a deep thankfulness for the great peril passed, the page of life turned, and a year such as never can come again closed with success.  (Applause.)  And it is a pleasant spot to look on when you come down the dip of the valley before you near Uppingham, and look up and see the ancient homes crowning the brow of the hill—it is a fair sight to any eye, even to a stranger’s eye, the pleasant homes of Uppingham, with the church and its spire in the midst, the spire of the school chapel beyond, each adding, methinks, to the beauty of the other, and both alike in their upward spring and their holy worship.  It is a pleasant spot to look on, and you made your old picturesque street very beautiful with your decorations and that bright outbreak of welcome which greeted us as we came in.  (Cheers.)  The school hardly knew what we meant—they did not know when we asked them to cheer at the top of the hill; but as the stream of life wound round and came in sight of that avenue of arches and flags, then they understood what was meant, and they were ready enough to second it.  (Cheers.)  We were very thankful, also, that you recognise in that p. 133address—that able address and pleasing to receive—how hard it was to go, how great a risk had to be faced to save the school; for that was what was at stake.  I do not say that in years to come there should not again have been a school as great as this, or greater; but this I am sure of, that we were in the very last week of the life of this present school; that at the beginning of the week, when it was decided to go, there was news from different quarters that made it absolutely certain that another Monday would have seen no school here.  For a school is not a mere machine which can be set going to order, and which anybody who happens at the time to have the mastery of can deal with like a machine.  “I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” says Shakespeare in one of his plays; and the rejoinder comes, “Why, so can I, or so can any man; but will they come when you do call for them?”  (Laughter and cheers.)  Now that is just what they won’t do; and we simply had no choice; we lay absolutely helpless before the fact that ruin stared us in the face, and we could not stir hand or foot to stop it unless we had been able then to find a door of escape.  This present school was at an end, and neither I nor some others amongst us could have set foot again in Uppingham as our home.  Now I do assure you ruin is a hard thing to look on after a life-work of many years of labour—not a less hard thing because the sun rose as usual, and it was all peace, and the buildings looked as of old, and the fields were just as they had always been; but an invisible barrier had risen up, and we had no place here any more.  To see the four-and-twenty years of life go at a touch—indeed it was hard to think of.  “For my part, I have built my heart in the courses of the wall”—(cheers)—and nothing short of this impelled us p. 134to that dire necessity of leaping in the dark, to go we did not know where, and when we found the where, not knowing who would follow us.  But it was worth while to run any risk—to face any danger—to keep together the life of this place, and that its name should not go out in England.  (Loud cheers.)  We did not know who would follow us, and it was a day to be remembered—a day of much cheer, though full of labour and trial and fear also, when on that 4th of April three hundred came in.  (Loud applause.)  Not above two or three that night were wanting of those who were going to remain at the school.  (Cheers.)  Well have you taken in your address that staunch adherence of parent and boy as the proudest honour that a school can boast of (cheers), and well have you noted that at Borth also the entries kept level with the leavings, and that we have brought back this year—this day—almost a hundred boys who had never seen Uppingham.  (Renewed cheering.)  This was worth fighting for; this is worth rejoicing.  The school was saved, and we and you to-night once more meet together as one body.  (Loud applause.)  We are united now as we never have been before methinks (cheers); for never before, to my knowledge, in England, have town and school been so completely welded together as your welcome to us home and our presence here together to-night shows us to be now.  (Loud and long-continued applause.)  There have been many blessings in this great trial, but certainly not least do I set that, that we and you are once more met as one.  Your work and ours is so mixed up—our work so mixed with yours, and yours with ours—that it is not possible that anything should go out of this place, any life come forth from it, which does p. 135not to a great degree bring honour or discredit to both; and I do think (what was said to-night) that we are here together to work in the highest way, not as a matter of pecuniary advantage only in a place like this, but simply that we, one with another, should push forward life and make it crown that living edifice of truth, which, as it seems to me, is town and school working together.  And what a type that town is.  “A city set upon a hill cannot be hid;” and surely as a school and a home, a home of learning and light, this place is both actually and figuratively set upon its hill.  Everything of the past year has gone out into land after land, in letters and papers and narratives on all sides: the busy-boy mind and the busy-boy pen photographs most accurately all the minute incidents that interest their opening life, and it passes out everywhere.  I know that in India, and China, and Australia, and Canada—and I might go on with half the countries in the world—there has been talk in many a distant home of what has happened here.  It may very well be that at this moment your names are on many lips as letters of English news have come in lately from England, and your welcome of us will travel out to the ends of the earth, so great is the power of “a city set upon a hill.”  And when you pray that we may be Christian gentlemen in the life that is coming, I say it lies a great deal in your own hands.  Help us by so smoothing our path in all ways so that your honour may be our honour and your work our work, and that as we are grateful to you to-night so the world outside may be grateful to you also for work hereafter, and that none shall go out of Uppingham School and shall not carry wherever he goes a thankful memory of Uppingham town, and that whenever the name of Uppingham is p. 136heard in any part of the world it shall be that of an honoured place, with no divided interest, but one place working wisely, so that the world may be grateful for good work done, as we to-night are grateful for the welcome given, grateful for the lightening of our burdens, grateful for the possibility of good work in the future, most grateful for the happy homes you have given us in welcoming us home so fervently.  I thank you most heartily in the name of the school and the masters and myself for this address, which I trust will for ever remain not the least honoured relic of this school.”

The Headmaster sat down again amid much cheering from the audience of townspeople, to which the small party of boys present found voice to make no ineffective answer in three salutes ‘for Uppingham town.’

* * * * *

charles dickens and evans, crystal palace press.


{12}  “Prom. Vinct.,” 904.

{19}  The Times, Friday, April 14th, 1876.

{46}  “Fifty Years of my Life,” Albemarle, p. 308.

{66}  Believers in augury are too seldom confronted with the negative instance.  May we then invite their attention to the following?  The address was published in a paragraph of The Times, but the words “under the same leadership” were omitted.  Nevertheless, to the discredit of omination, under the same leadership the school did return.