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I was a scholar at a grammar school

founded by Henry VIII after he had

dissolved the monasteries, stolen their land,

destroyed their hospitals, tortured the odd

abbot or two and trousered their cash and plate.

The school, a Victorian extension

of the original, was ‘in the shadow

of the cathedral’, as the head would say –

an Anglican canon, MA Oxon.

There was, in the Canon’s dismal study,

a portrait of the priapic monarch.

The reverend would order those he caned –

for smoking, chewing gum -‘Face the founder’.


When I was in the fourth form, we learned about

the Kings of Israel, ‘The Merchant of Venice,’

the Armada and quadratic equations.

The Virgin Queen, Portia and Jezebel

would glide through the algebra. Our form room

overlooked the cathedral’s coke store

and was level with steps visitors would take

to the monks’ dormitories now Sunday School.

Americans predominated, mostly

elderly or so it seemed. Sometimes

a pretty girl would stop and turn and she

and I would briefly see eye to eye

before our lives diverged forever.



Note: On September 16th 2016 the school celebrated the 475th anniversary of its founding.




© Copyright David Selzer
4 Responses
  • Ian Craine
    September 30, 2016

    The cathedral had a coke store right. Did that make it High Anglican?

  • Catherine Reynolds
    September 30, 2016

    This is chilingly familiar, David, for someone who also experienced an educational tradition stretching back to 1544.

  • John Huddart
    September 30, 2016

    I’d say, post Brexit, post Cameron, and in the hands of our blessed Mother Theresa, we are safely on our way back to these wonderful days.

  • Steve Crewe
    October 2, 2016

    Ah! the memories of it all, David, not to mention our transits through city streets to reach the school’s other facilities in the Bluecoat and the Arnold House premises.

    I suppose it was inevitable that tradition be cast aside and the school move to purpose built premises on former farm land. Things must change with time I guess, but deep in a corner of my heart lie pleasant memories that I was able to be a part of the first 420 years from its founding.

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