Wednesday 22 January 2020

A new book about Christs Hospital is due to be published on April 14 2020. Christ’s Hospital: Tradition with Vision celebrates the school’s denizens and the impact of lives developed at CH. Through the eyes of Old Blues, we catch glimpses not only of times before our own, but of ourselves in them: those continuing bright blue and gold threads that have wound through five centuries. This volume is, however, more than a gathering of stories and memories. Rather, it is an exploration of ideas that will reach into the future to advance the 1552 ethos: informed by the school’s tradition of caring for the disadvantaged; honed in the arts and humanities, science laboratories, sport, workshops, and burnished in the daily round of ward and house life. The children of 1552 and the adults they became through challenge, chance and change prove, after all, to be nearer to us than we might expect.

A full review by Old Blue, Andrew Cosedge (PeB 60-66), Chair of the Benevolent Society of Blues 

It strikes me as nothing less than monumental cheek that I should presume to review this work, its inspiring poetry and its recollections and insights from eminent scientists and educationalists. Nevertheless, I see that presumption as being justified by the fact that all profits from this book are being donated to the Benevolent Society of Blues (“the BSB”), and I currently have the privilege of being chairman of the BSB. The BSB is a registered charity whose mission is to alleviate need, hardship or distress amongst pupils and staff at CH, Old Blues, and dependants. The assistance provided to beneficiaries may be financial, or may take the form of referral to other more appropriate sources of help, or even simply the provision of a sympathetic person with whom to talk through a problem. Virtually all of the BSB’s funding is derived from subscriptions, gifts and bequests generously contributed by Old Blues, but perhaps even more important is the extent to which we rely upon Old Blues to volunteer their time and expertise.

That is, of course, an unabashed plug for the BSB, but it is particularly relevant in the context of this work. One can discern in the contributions in this book several themes that find a sympathetic echo in the work of the BSB.

CH provided, and provides, for many an opportunity to achieve potential that would never have been available or realised without the charitable benevolence of others. Crucial as one’s time at CH is, it is still only the start of the journey. Plainly many (for example, the contributors to this book) progress from that promising start to the attainment of great things. However, there are others for whom such progress is beset with difficulties. My own experience has been that Old Blues are to be found in all sorts of unlikely places, generally very willing to help a fellow Old Blue in any way possible. It is apparent from the recollections in this book that many have shared that experience.

It is also heart-warming to note that there are so many who are committed to enabling others to enjoy the benefits which they themselves received. There is no trace here of that unfortunate trait found in some, to climb the ladder and then kick it away lest others should follow.

The contributions to this book bear out my impression that CH provides a family for many. I like to think that the BSB continues that familial support – as sort of “cradle to grave” CH. And in case there are any who think that smacks of privilege and “old school tie”, I would add this: CH is an exercise in levelling the playing field, in providing opportunity and support for those who deserve it but would not otherwise have it. I’ll pause there before I get too heated.

The “Quincentenary Questions” posed in Chapter XI provide a stimulating start for a debate about how CH’s fantastic charitable mission can best be carried forward, both to honour the past and to deliver the future. You may not agree with all of it, but that is the point of stimulation. Let the debate begin!

Finally, there is much in these pages to provide both information and inspiration. Do not overlook Lizzie Ballagher’s wonderful poetry: it is there to be read and re-read, and even if you are so hard-hearted as not to be moved by her words you will find fascination in the informative end notes. The other contributions are no less intriguing. Tucked away in these pages are all sorts of fascinating nuggets of information. I will keep my two favourite examples to myself for now, but will look forward to learning what other readers will select as their gems.

Further reviews:

This delightful anthology of poetry and prose celebrates the traditional charitable mission, ethos and ideals of Christ’s Hospital since its foundation by King Edward VI in 1552.  It deserves to be widely read. 

Stanley Johnson, Somerset, Environmentalist, European Politician

A vibrant and evocative journey into the colourful history of Christ’s Hospital with beautifully drawn portraits of its many characters from the recent and distant past.

 Jane Lovell, Flambard Poetry Prize winner 2015; Poet-in-Residence, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, Sussex

Epitomising the changeless unity between poetry and science, this fascinating book tells the story of one of England’s most prestigious schools, Christ’s Hospital, founded in 1552 by Edward VI, and its most famous students.

Professor Tom Wigley, Climate Scientist, Australia

This unique look at Christ’s Hospital brings memory and imagination together…. I’ve discovered a heritage and thriving affection that looms large in the minds and hearts of Old Blues around the world today. 

Professor Jeffrey Barbeau, Wheaton College, USA; Associate Editor, The Coleridge Bulletin