I have been glad to respond to an invitation extended to me by the Editor of the GUILD MESSENGER to write a farewell message
to all who have been associated with Goldings, whether as students, members of staff or in administrative posts at Stepney.
As I believe is well known, there are some few who have served the School in more than one capacity, first as pupils, and later
We at Goldings have understood and sympathised with the disappointment felt by former pupils of Watts Naval School and the
Russell-Cotes School, when these fine old establishments were closed down. Readers of this journal will recall that in the April
issue an Old Boy of Russell-Cotes gave eloquent expression to his sense of loss and his emotions when revisiting the scenes of his
Now it is our turn to swallow the bitter pill and we have to reconcile ourselves to what has been done and cannot be undone.
Much as I would like to use this opportunity to thank specially particular boys and members of staff, past and present, who have given
me staunch support, I think it will be understood that it is better that I do not address myself to anyone by name, for inevitably I
should leave out someone who richly deserved to be mentioned. I have been moved, and at times not a little embarrassed, by the
very kind references that have been made to my own services to the boys of Goldings. No one realises more than I how ineffective
my work would have been without experienced colleagues, who advised and supported me throughout my period of office. It would
be idle to pretend that sharing the same roof and living surrounded by about two hundred boys and young men did not entail some
disadvantages for the enjoyment of a quiet family life. One must expect some sacrifice from wife and family to do this kind of work.
This is but one side of the coin and I am a little out of sympathy with those who will not turn the coin over and display what is on the
other side. Here is depicted a full and interesting life, with many compensations and rewards. Greatest among these I would put
beyond question the joy of meeting Old Boys, seeing them happily married and being introduced to their wives and the lucky children,
who will grow up in the comfort and warmth of natural family affection.
Among the pleasures, too, I count thumbing through the GUILD MESSENGER for scraps of news about them. My wife, our daughter
Celia and our son David, ask me to convey their good wishes to all who have shared a home with them at Goldings. David, especially,
has always had an affectionate regard for Goldings, for he and the other Goldings boys had much in common. In his boyhood,
he took part in many of their escapades, a fact which came to my knowledge only when it was too late to do anything about it, as
his pals were too loyal to betray him at the time.
The very word "farewell" has acquired a melancholy air of finality, at variance with its literal meaning. Staff, as well as boys, often
speak of having been "farewelled" at Goldings.
I was reminded of this in a letter I received recently
from a retired and much loved member of staff, always
referred to by his nautical nickname.
(There are no prizes for guessing right.)
It is in the true sense of the word that I wish all my friends farewell, as I hope and trust to meet many of them again. I have much
appreciated the kindness of all those who have written to me on learning of my retirement.
If I may be allowed to address a word to all those who have been affected by the closure of Goldings, either materially, or by being
wounded in sentiment and spirit; the way one reacts to a circumstance beyond one's control is far more important than the
circumstance itself. The truth of this has been demonstrated to me, times out of number, by Goldings boys themselves. If we view
the recruitment to the School in a frank and realistic manner, we must accept that deprivation and adversity in early years were
invariably the causes which brought them into the fold. Indeed this was what gave the School its distinctive quality. Consider then
how many have turned their misfortunes to good account. Instead of bewailing the circumstances which made them members of an
outsize family, they have made the best of the opportunities which this afforded and climbed higher up the ladder of success than
otherwise would have been possible for them. To speak one's mind without fear or favour is a good thing to do, but it is most unwise
to let feelings of injustice turn to rancour, for in this event one can truly hurt oneself, by adversely affecting one's own personality.
I think I should find it easier to write a book about Goldings than a short article for a magazine. Once I allowed the flood of
reminiscence to carry me along, the whole of this volume would not suffice. I will conclude, therefore, with just three incidents from
the past, which will provide a little light relief and end my contribution in a happy, even if nostalgic, mood. If the participants chance
upon these stories, they will not fail to recognise themselves. I recall one of many instances, in which I was called to a dormitory late
at night to settle a commotion. On investigating the cause, I discovered that a prefect, out on leave that evening, had arranged for
sandwiches to be smuggled to his locker, so that he could allay the pangs of hunger in the ease and comfort of his bed. Unfortunately,
some practical joker had fortified this repast with a few 1-in. nails laid between the "Jinners". On another occasion a conspiracy was
hatched to deflate a boy, who had bored and aggravated his companions by what they considered to be showing off and boasting.
After lights-out someone plastered his hair with Ronuk. Another late night for me, of course. Determined to unmask the culprits and
working on the theory that some traces must have rubbed off on the perpetrators, I went systematically from bed to bed, about 240 in
all in those days. My nostrils were assailed by various odours, but not a single pungent whiff of polish. Eventually I retired defeated.
Eight years later, in the Goldings lorry travelling to a cricket match, I was told by an Old Boy exactly how I had been spoofed. Finally
I have a memory of a certain Master B., who rode triumphantly into the Courtyard one Boxing Day morning astride a dray horse.
How events, which vexed one at the time, have been metamorphosed by the passage of years into fond memories. Never a dull moment
and, as Skipper was wont to say, "never mind, eh!"
Mr. R. F. Wheatley, B. Sc.
Guild Messenger 1967