My father was promoted to the position of Headmaster in 1927. This promotion was preceded by more than one effort, each of which involved several sets of interviews – first for preparation of a short-list and then for final selection.
My father was never exactly gruntled by this procedure as he was entirely convinced that the appointments were rigged in favour of the pals of board members. However, he invariably prepared himself well by means of regular tablespoonfuls of some horrible milky brown liquid taken for several weeks in advance of each interview and administered by my mother.
Whether the liquid was intended to build up the strength of my father or calm his nerves I do not know, but it had a memorable smell which I encountered only on these occasions.
The smell being as it was, I rather wondered about its taste, but the same ceremony was to continue throughout much of my father’s working life, because once he obtained his headship he started applying for more senior headships in the complicated hierarchical structure of the London County Council schools system in those days.
To return to his first headship. I quote from the Islington Gazette of 18 February 1927:
PRESENTATIONS TO MR EDEN
An interesting ceremony took place at the Barnsbury Central School on Friday last on the occasion of presentations to Mr Eden on his promotion to the headteachership of Sebbon-Street School. Mr Eden has served for a period of six years at the Central School, first as science master and afterwards as a specialist in mathematics.
During this period he has materially assisted in the educational results which the school has achieved. He has won the esteem of the boys and girls by his general bearing, his interest in them, and his tact. Mr Eden has also taken an active part in the sports of the North London Central Schools, and for some time acted in the capacity of secretary.
The staff showed their appreciation and goodwill by presenting him with a handsome clock. The boys and girls of his own form gave a smoker’s companion, whilst the boys of his own house presented him with a silver pencil case.
The presentations were made by Alderman Cooksey, L.C.C., who, after congratulating Mr Eden on his appointment, expressed the hope that in his new sphere he would be as happy as in the old.
The headmaster, Mr H Court, B.Sc., spoke in eulogistic terms of the services which Mr Eden had rendered during his tenure of work at the Barnsbury Central School. That work had always been earnest, zealous and effective, and he felt that Mr Eden had those qualities which would fit him well for the post he had been called upon to fill.
Mr Eden thanked Mr Cooksey, the staff and the scholars, for their warm tribute which they had paid him, and expressed his regret at leaving the school to which he had become dearly attached.
Let me say in passing that the sentiments expressed in this cutting were, although fulsome, not unduly exaggerated. Much later I had chances to see my father with some of his pupils and staff, and it was quite apparent that although firm he had an outstandingly good rapport with them.
A few of the pupils remained loyal to him for many years after they left school, returning to let him know how they were getting on – and he was genuinely interested to hear. And some of the staff too.
Anyhow, my father’s appointment to a headship…