Secondary Education in England, 1870-1902: Public Activity and Private Enterprise

By John Roach | Go to book overview

17

Semi-public and private foundation schools

This last chapter of Part IV will be devoted to the few private schools that achieved semi-public status and to the private foundation schools (see p. 157). In the first group Hely Hutchinson Almond and Loretto stand alone, for ‘Lorettonianism’ was a unique product (Mackenzie 1906; Tristram 1911; Darwin 1931:144-56). Almond was born in Glasgow in 1832, the son of a clergyman. He went very young to Glasgow University and then to Balliol. He did well academically, but made no particular mark at Oxford and rather drifted into teaching. After being second master at Merchiston, in 1862 he bought Loretto School at Musselburgh near Edinburgh, which was then chiefly a preparatory school. He began with twelve boys and two new boys joined him. He remained there until he died in 1903. After his death the school was turned into a company in which money raised by a memorial appeal was used to buy shares. In his early days Almond had a sharp financial struggle and almost went bankrupt. His school was never large. By 1882 it had grown to 120, at which size it remained. A large part of his strong personal influence over the boys was due to the fact that he was able to know them all personally.

Loretto became well known largely through Almond’s strong interest in physical fitness. The boys took a great deal of exercise in all weathers. They wore flannel shirts and left their coats off if the weather was warm, a style of dressing that their headmaster shared. They went on long walks and stayed out under canvas. For a small school Loretto enjoyed phenomenal athletic success at Oxford and Cambridge. In 1884 seven old boys played rugby football for Oxford in the varsity match. Almond enjoyed games and was a strong believer in physical fitness, but he did not see games as an end in themselves, but rather as part of a spiritual ideal. There should, he believed, be a close alliance between the athlete and the Christian. Both were enemies of indolence, intemperance, and cynicism. Both devoted themselves to the common good, to an unselfish quest for the ideal. Religion must find its place among the rough work of ordinary life. Physical prowess must promote temperance, courage and esprit de corps—what his biographer called the ‘Sparto-Christian ideal’ (Mackenzie 1906:247). This quest for courage and devotion to duty

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