We begin this second half of term with a sense of confidence and a determination to ensure that this is an exciting and enjoyable time for all of our students. Never have we felt our conviction of purpose as keenly as we have felt it during recent months. It is hugely reassuring to observe that, across Europe, there is a resolve to ensure that young people do not suffer further loss due to this pernicious virus. The political rhetoric within the UK has changed and there is now a cross-party consensus that schools must remain open. This seems entirely sensible and we believe that we have demonstrated that we are able to operate successfully during these times. There is increased talk of a vaccine being available around Christmas time but we must remain vigilant and learn to live alongside this virus successfully for the next little while.
Current circumstances have forced us to adapt in order to flourish. I am incredibly excited that this Christmas will see the launch of Rossall’s film version of A Christmas Carol. Our Remembrance Day ceremony will go ahead and elements of it will also be available online. There is plenty else for us to look forward to and as the sun streams through my study window (yes, really!), it is hard not to reflect upon the fact that we have so much for which to be grateful. Our school is full of happy children who have adapted extraordinarily well to the times within which we are living.
It is well worth us reflecting upon the life of one particularly special Old Rossallian. Rex Crummack was born in 1887 and grew up in Salford. His father’s family ran a brewing business and Rex was sent to Rossall School where he excelled at sports. Upon leaving School he trained in the cotton industry before enlisting in the army where he served with distinction on the Western Front. He sent many letters back to School during the war and copies of these letters are to be found in the School archives.
Although primarily famed as a golfer, Rex was selected for the Great Britain Hockey team that travelled to Antwerp for the 1920 Olympics. The 1916 Olympics had been cancelled because of the First World War and, despite the fact that Belgium had been ravaged by four years of conflict, the Belgian Olympic Committee were determined to press ahead. The 1919 Paris Peace Conference exerted a miserable influence upon proceedings – not least because four empires had ceased to exist and a good number of nation states were only just formed. Some were precluded from participating due to punitive sanctions meted out at Versailles and others were feeling a little anxious due to the Spanish Influenza. Nevertheless, those who did turn up were treated to a real spectacle that included the last ever Olympic ‘Tug of war’ competition and the oldest ever medal winner, 72 year old Oscar Swahn.
The hockey was a bit of a shambles – a simple round robin competition between just four nations. The gold medal was to be decided by the penultimate game between Great Britain and France. Great Britain won this match 17-2 to claim gold but there is some suggestion that a nefarious scheme to undermine the match had backfired. The Ilford Recorder claims that:
Great Britain’s opponents invited our lads out on the town – with the intention of drinking them legless. The French found their opponents were made of sterner stuff than themselves in the hangover league and the inebriated opposition actually conceded the next day’s final following their mutual night out on the town.
So Rex might have participated in one of the most amusing and relaxed of Olympic competitions but after the dreadful depredations of the Western Front, both the French and the English could be forgiven for adopting a somewhat amateur and light hearted approach to proceedings.
Rex lived on until the mid 1960s, He returned to his first love of golf and was the only person to compete in the British Amateur Championship both before the First World War and after the Second World War.
Two hundred and ninety eight of his fellow Old Rossalians were not so fortunate and, as we approach the forthcoming week, we remember all from our own communities who perished during the terrible conflicts of the twentieth century. It is our collective responsibility to honour those who have gone before and there is no doubting that their fortitude and courage continues to exert a tremendous influence over this wonderful school. Telling the individual stories of those Rossallians who died during the First and Second World Wars constitutes a colossal undertaking. It is a historical undertaking of epic proportions. However, it is a project that I would like us to begin sooner rather than later because it serves to enhance our understanding of all that was lost on a human level.As we enter this period of increased restrictions, we intend for the School to continue operating as normally as possible.
Our vision is for the future but our inspiration comes from our past of which we are so proud.
All best wishes,