MARCH 2002

Alluding as I did in last month’s diary to the expression ‘as every schoolboy knows’, prompted me to get out my Molesworth books. Nigel Molesworth, as ‘every fule know’ (to use one of his favourite phrases), was the hero of such works as ‘Down with Skool’ and ‘How to be Topp’ written in the 1950s by Geoffrey Willans and wonderfully illustrated by Ronald Searle.

Molesworth was - is - the archetypal naughty schoolboy incarcerated at St Custard’s, his prep school, which is peopled by villainous teachers whose only role in life appears to be to make life as miserable as possible for small boys. Not, of course, that they succeed.

Molesworth has a schoolboy’s world view set very much in the 1950s. I like the following:

‘The points I wish to make about the world are contained in the molesworth newsletter.

a) the russians are roters

b) americans are swankpots

c) the french are slack

d) the germans are unspeakable

e) the rest are as bad if not worse than the above

f) the british are brave super and noble cheers cheers cheers.

Tim Rice wrote that the works of Molesworth should be included in anybody’s list of leading twentieth century philosophers.


Leeds Grammar School celebrates the 450th anniversary of its foundation this year (though its origins are earlier). It is older than Leeds Corporation. The School was endowed during the reign of Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, who was boy King between 1547 and 1553. Five years ago the School left its Victorian premises near to the centre of Leeds when Leeds University made an offer for the land and buildings which the School would have been unwise to refuse.

Leeds Grammar School

A brand new school was built at a cost of c£23 million on land given by the University as part of the deal. It is at Alwoodley Gates north of the Leeds ring road on the Harrogate Road. Few new schools are built nowadays and it is fascinating to see a school designed and equipped for the twenty first century as this is. It is modern and stylish, looking, the Daily Telegraph said, like the corporate headquarters of a multinational. Including the Junior School there are about 1400 boys at the School which is a Church of England foundation though, of course, now boys of all faiths attend. It has a website if anyone wants to know more. There are in fact few if any know more about LGS than Peter Jolly, the Deputy Headmaster, who has been in many ways the life and soul of the School for the last thirty years.

Ripley Castle

There is a series in Saturday’s Times called England’s Best Houses written by Simon Jenkins. Eventually, I rather think, it will form the basis of a book. Recently he profiled Ripley Castle which lies between Harrogate and Ripon. It is still lived in by the Ingilby family as it has been since the 1300s. Indeed, 26 generations have lived there already. Of course, it is all about being in the right place at the right time. Thomas Ingilby rescued Edward III from a wild boar in 1355. In gratitude he was knighted and richly rewarded. Time and chance.

The castle is crammed with history although nowadays it is used for corporate purposes like conferences of regional sales directors. They probably don’t notice the pitted walls where Royalist soldiers were shot after the Battle of Marston Moor or the Tower Room whose ornate plasterwork celebrates a visit by James I en route from Scotland in 1603. They think that ‘history’ is the FD who was sacked last week and ‘heritage’ is a range of reproduction furniture.

At the boys’ half-term we went to Cambridge. I know Oxford far better than Cambridge and it was helpful and enjoyable to be able to meet the son of friends, and his friends, who are undergraduates there and who showed us Cambridge from the inside. With them we visited the colleges, had formal dinner at Pembroke and enjoyed the local pubs. Still hazy after all those beers.

We went to the Fitzwilliam Museum, a Victorian masterpiece of marble, the round Norman (1130 AD) Church of the Holy Sepulchre (built after the first Crusade), Ely Cathedral (the Ship of the Fens), and Grantchester, the home of Rupert Brooke.

‘If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England…

’(The beginning of The Soldier written in 1914).

We then went to London. I wanted to go to an exhibition of old maps at the British Library. It was my first visit to the new British Library at St Pancras. Like the British Museum in Bloomsbury it is a wealth of treasure. As well as maps like one on which the British drew the proposed boundaries between America and Canada after the War of Independence, I saw the Lindisfarne Gospels (8th century), Magna Carta (1215), Shakespeare’s first folio (1623) and many, many other manuscripts and books. I know I have a low wow threshold when it comes to historical matters but I loved it.

Garry and I greatly enjoy reading comments in the Guestbook. You may be aware that the Guestbook has been missing recently from the site. This is because some small-minded and barely literate persons have been putting in childish and offensive comments. It is such a shame that one or two individuals can ruin the enjoyment of the many. But isn’t that so often the case?

In March’s Yorkshire Life is an article about Rawdon by a woman I’ve never heard of. If you read it you’ll experience a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Many parts of it are very like my portrait of Rawdon on Yorksview.

Houses in Rawdon