Lincoln Christ's Hospital School

Lincoln Christ's Hospital School
Educating in Lincoln since 1090

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                                              Miss Lucie Evelyn Savill in her Own Words


From the Garton Archive at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School


Occasional Paper No 40

compiled by

Peter Harrod


March 2015

Miss Lucie Evelyn Savill was appointed Headmistress of Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School (LHS) in 1910, and spent thirty-three years in that post. I have written elsewhere about her Headship at LHS, and the tributes that have been paid to her by Joyce Skinner and others (see Occasional Paper 16 from the Garton Archive), but this article is an attempt to capture her character and educational vision from her own words in the many records of her addresses at Speech Days taken selectively from the LHS magazines.

The splendid portrait of Miss Savill shown above was painted in oils by James Gunn, and presented to the School by the Old Girls’ Association. The artist told the audience at the presentation that he could not have had a more inspiring subject, and that he hoped he had captured some of her fine qualities, and the love she had inspired in the School. The portrait certainly captures her smile of understanding and encouragement (Sir Francis Hill, writing in the ‘Appreciation’). It now hangs proudly in the Old School Hall at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School.

‘She was small and rather dumpy with very small hands and feet and straight sandy hair knotted at the back of her head…Her face was strong and friendly with a small sharp nose and bright blue eyes that were often amused long before the rest of her face broke into a smile.’ (Skinner & Purchase, 1989).

Elsewhere, Joyce Skinner has described Miss Savill’s ‘reign’ as perhaps the most auspicious in the School’s history, as she remained in office for 33 years, and perhaps did more than anything else to establish the School’s high reputation not only in the City and County, but also in the country at large. She was a person of sharp intelligence and humour and like Miss Agnes Body, the School’s first Headmistress, of profound Christian faith. She steered the School through the First World War, the early part of the Second, and the years of economic depression that separated them. She gathered around her a strong and scholarly staff, and she understood and sympathised with the ambitions and concerns of young women (Skinner, in Behenna et al.,1990).

In another sense, this article is a prequel to Occasional Paper 28, which was an attempt to capture the personality and educational philosophy of her successor, Miss I V Cleave, another long-serving and highly respected headmistress of LHS. In that article I attempted to build up a picture of Miss Cleave’s personality, vision and educational philosophy through selected extracts from her addresses at Speech Days, printed in successive Lincoln High School magazines.  Although the words largely spoke for themselves, I added a brief commentary where appropriate (for which I accept full responsibility), and I am adopting a similar procedure in the present article. The extracts are presented in chronological order, and as with the Miss Cleave article, the choice of extracts is mine alone, and once again I admit to the charge of bias by selection and omission.

Miss Savill’s years as Headmistress of LHS could not have been easy ones. Gillard (2011) has written of how politically unstable the period was, with each of the three major parties coming to grief in one way or another following the uncertainty and challenges of the Great War. In socio-economic terms, the period between the two wars was equally problematic, with the depression of the early 1930s causing devastation in northern England when children’s diseases caused by malnutrition such as scurvy, rickets and tuberculosis were rife, and soup kitchens became a way of life. It is in this context, and against this backcloth, that her Headship must be judged, and her educational values assessed.

The Formative Years of Miss Savill’s Headship

Miss Savill certainly announced her presence on her first Speech Day report in December 1910, informing her audience that such occasions were not only a time for being thankful for what had been achieved, but also for recognising ‘weak places’. An improvement with regard to attendance was apparently much needed, as holidays given for trivial reasons did not help the girls either to respect or to honour their work. The spirit of St George, the hero whom LHS girls has been taught to honour, was also cited as an example of the courage they would do well to imitate in facing difficulties. She also took the opportunity to extol the virtues of games, provided they were not carried to excess. Games were thought to be a real source of good in the School, giving the opportunity for training character, fostering public spirit, and teaching unselfishness, courtesy and self-control.   (LHS Magazine Easter 1911)


Miss Savill and Senior Girls in 1911

In her next Speech Day address, Miss Savill chose to focus on the subject of laziness. Pointing out that the tendency of educational thought was against external Junior Examinations in girls’ schools, she believed she could say without conceit that teachers did not need the Oxford Junior Examination to keep the girls up to the mark ‘…as a carrot to start a donkey.’ ‘The lazy child is the unnatural child,’ she reported, ‘probably eating the wrong things, or not having enough sleep or exercise, or not breathing through its nose.’ She then made it clear that she was only referring to the Junior Examinations, and was not condemning examinations per se.  

(Easter 1912)

One year later Miss Savill returned to the subject of games, to which special attention was being made in the School. She invited the parents’ help by ensuring that their children went to bed early, did physical exercises at home, were encouraged to sleep with their windows open, and spent as much time as possible in the open air. It was a pity, she told the parents, that some children were going to the Pictures twice a week and not having enough time for the field. She also broached the subject of manners, claiming that ‘…the young woman with really good manners is still so rare. She believed that manners must be taught in the home as well as at school, that mothers did not expect enough, and that graciousness in our personal relationships’ should be encouraged.    (Easter 1913)

The following year’s speech confirmed that Miss Savill, in addition to giving out details of the general life and achievements of the School, used the occasion as a forum for appealing to parents for their support on moral issues. ‘Nothing is really small when a child’s choice between right and wrong is involved,’ she told the parents, and urged them to send their children to school ‘…with their ethical and spiritual perceptions really awake’, and to ‘speak the truth with courage’.       (Easter 1914)

The photograph below shows Miss Savill in 1913, surrounded by her staff many of whom became legendary names. Notice the cat, Hugh, on her knee.


In her Speech Day address during the first year of the Great War, Miss Savill chose to focus on the successes of the School rather than its weaknesses. She congratulated the girls for the various contributions they were making to the war effort, mentioned the growing number of thriving voluntary societies such as the Poetry and Sketch Clubs, and celebrated the real advances in the art of self-government that LHS had made in its ‘coming of age’; its twenty-first anniversary. In this respect she singled out the prefects, who had in some cases shewn (note spelling) initiative and readiness to face unpopularity for the sake of principle.  (Easter 1915)

Next year’s address by Miss Savill saw her invoke the stirring of the true patriotism brought on by the war, and commented on how much easier it was during that time of a strong corporate spirit to encourage the children to become involved in the various war efforts. In the same address, however, she appealed to parents to become less indulgent at home, and expect their children to tidy up after themselves, and to pack their own satchels. A recurring theme in her Speech Day addresses during her early years as Headmistress was the value of a girl’s education. Perhaps influenced by the fact that she herself had been penalised at Cambridge (see Footnote) by not being awarded a university degree at that time simply because she was a woman, she extolled the virtues of being awarded a certificate showing that they had received a good education, and expressed her belief that there was no money better spent on technical or professional training after school. In many of her reports she spoke of the disadvantages of the short-time gain of a job earning a bit of money against the longer-term benefits of a professional salary. This was probably something of an enlightened view for girls at that period in history.  (Easter 1916)

Pursuing the same theme in her next Speech Day address, Miss Savill appealed to her audience to urge their Education Authority to maintain a University Scholarship for clever girls in the city, or at least to make scholarships available to girls as well as boys. ‘In a county that has as yet no university, the citizens of the chief city ought to be pioneers about higher education, especially when the city has such traditions as this has,’ she suggested. It was of course some eighty years before the city, or indeed the county, had its own university.   (Whitsuntide 1917)

A further example of Miss Savill’s enlightened attitudes was revealed in the following year’s speech. She admitted that, for the first time, she had ‘…ventured rather with the timidity of the mere spinster’ to ask the mothers of the Lower School to an informal conference on the training of small children. The theme of the conference was self-discipline, and she appealed to parents to cooperate more in encouraging their children to take more responsibility, and to develop discernment and good judgement. The discipline of the Victorian schools seemed to be artificial and out of date, and LHS had made a beginning by abolishing the silence rule in the Upper School, believing that what was needed was not so much a habit of silence, but the discretion which knows when to be silent.    (Easter 1918)

The year of the peace saw Miss Savill, in her own words, confining herself to ‘narrative’, and leaving the ‘exposition of educational ideals’ to her friend Miss Mercier, of Whitelands College, who had been invited to present the prizes, and who spoke on the subject of the history of our own times. Once again, however, Miss Savill could not resist the opportunity to return to one of her pet themes; the benefit that was to be had for the School and for society in general of girls staying on into the sixth form until reaching the age of 18 or 19. She made the point that the sixteenth year of life was, in her opinion, the hardest of our first 25, and yet too often it is the year in which a girl leaves the shelter of school ‘…before she has found herself or feels herself on a path’.   (Christmas 1919)

After ten years in post, Miss Saville turned to one of the central features of her educational values; that the only discipline worth having is self-discipline. There was room in her speech also for some cynicism about the many books that were being ‘poured out’ about the ‘new Education’ and the ‘new Psychology’ following the publication of the 1918 Education Act. She commented on the ‘stirring time in which to be trying to train children in homes or schools’, and expressed her belief in the School as a working environment in fellowship and service, and her conviction that it was a privilege for those who believed it to work out their faith there. (Christmas 1920)

The Middle years; 1921-30

(The Christmas 1921 report is missing)

The year 1922 must have provided certain challenges for schools, as Miss Savill spoke of there being ‘lions in the path’, and of Education being ‘…a harassing and uncomfortable business just now’. ‘Rigid economy’ was apparently the culprit, and it later became clear in the report that austerity measures were in place when she criticised the Treasury for its savings on the Education budget, despite the fact that children were the nation’s greatest asset. In another echo of our present-day demographic problems, she also spoke of her bitterness concerning the lack of employment opportunities for young women. She concluded by proclaiming that it was much harder to be young in the present day than it was in those of their parents. However, it seems probable that each generation looks back in turn with rose-coloured spectacles at a utopia that never existed.    (Christmas 1922)


Education had not been entirely neglected during the Great War and was a significant feature of the post-war reconstruction programme, spearheaded by the Balfour Act of 1918. However, spiralling public expenditure in the 1920s led to the ‘rigid economy’ referred to by Miss Savill, and to the implementation of stringent cuts known as the Geddes Axe.

In her 1923 Report, Miss Savill reserved her annual harangue for the matter of tidiness and orderliness. She expressed the thought that, if someone from the Moon were to listen to the notices following the morning prayers, he might have feared that he had strayed into a school for subnormal children, hearing that, on the same morning, two children had dropped their needlework out of their coat pockets, and one had dropped a shoe! This apparently made her so anxious that she had consulted other headmistresses with the result that it appeared to be a failing of that generation. ‘We do want our girls to give a good account of themselves as home-makers in the future,’ she told the audience and, describing them as the ‘minor graces of life’, went on to say that tidiness and order mattered, especially in a small space. She returned to this theme eight years later, suggesting that a casual attitude to personal property in school may lead to a more serious casual attitude in later life, with the arrival of greater responsibilities.  (Christmas1923)

‘Neighbourliness’ was one of the themes of Miss Savill’s next Speech Day report. Expressing the view that the girls’ schools of the country were doing a great constructive work in teaching neighbourliness, she believed that Education could bring about a more Christian standard of values than the nation had at the present time. In this regard she thought it ‘comic’ that so many respectable people were praying for unity at a time when children could not work and play together for their mutual benefit. ‘Snobbishness’ was clearly at the heart of that element of the report. (Christmas 1924)                           

The focus for the following year’s gentle moralising was ‘selfishness’. Urging parents to lead by example rather than precept, Miss Savill described selfishness as ‘an ugly thing’. She wanted the School to train its pupils to be helpers both at home and at school, and that it should be one of the advantages of a day school that such service might be learned concurrently in both environments. Extending her vision, she concluded that she wanted to see an increasing sense of duty, a growing intellectual curiosity, and  more vigorous attack upon work, instead of what she sometimes saw; a passive suffering of instruction.    (Christmas1925)

Miss Savill again revisited a favourite subject of women’s employment in her 1926 report, pointing out to parents that Headmistresses had been under pressure to promote the argument that they could do their girls no greater disservice than by letting them take up clerical work, the lower grades of which were ‘terribly overstocked with women’. She followed this up by reminding her audience that there were alarming statistics of those who were out of work in the mid-thirties, replaced by a younger and cheaper supply.    (Christmas 1926)

Homework and early bedtimes were on the agenda in 1927. Miss Savill told parents and other members of the audience that the longer she worked in a school, the more she realised how little could be achieved without the co-operation of the home. In thanking parents for their co-operation, she pointed out that the question of early to bed was never more pressing, and that the young boarders were in bed by 7.30; a routine that she hoped might be true of every member of the School at least until they reached the Upper Third Form. She then appealed for homework to be completed in a quiet area and with concentrated effort, and that weekend work should be finished by Saturday so that the children might return to school on Mondays ‘fresh with zest’. Those of us who invariably left homework until the last minute will no doubt be suitably chastened!   (Christmas 1927)

Self-discipline was becoming a recurring leitmotif in Miss Savill’s annual reports , and the year 1928 saw her once more extolling its virtues. She explained why the School sometimes seemed old-fashioned in some of its discipline by suggesting that external discipline paved the way for, and went hand in hand with self-discipline. She believed that it was even more important in an age when labour-saving devices were encouraging ‘slothful souls’! Combatting a ‘casual, lounging attitude’ was the greatest service that could be done for girls in whatever capacity they were going to work in after-school life.   (Christmas 1928)

The grainy photograph below was taken in the Arboretum on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales to Lincoln in May 1927, and appears in the Midsummer 1927 edition of the LHS magazine. Miss Savill, who was presented to the Prince, is standing on the right of the three ladies in the upper centre of the picture.


In an interesting reference to selective education in her 1929 address, Miss Savill defended the School’s attitude towards the ‘less able’ children. She pointed out that, although many believed that High Schools were only interested in clever children, she wanted LHS to be a place where all sorts of children could find interests and friends and standards which would help them in their lives. Before the introduction of the 11 plus, entry was  open to scholarship girls, and to fee-payers who did not have to qualify academically. Girls had in the past learned to be ‘good mixers’ at the School, and she expressed the hope that the educational upheaval expected in the next few years would not leave the School ‘marooned with the academic few’, while the majority were drawn off into ‘schools planned for the unacademic’. This was quite an enlightened view for a Headmistress in the late 1920s.   (Christmas 1929)

Miss Savill took the opportunity in her next address in 1930 to wax lyrical about the values of the hidden curriculum of the school. She told parents that the School wanted its girls to have the same values that would stay with them when they went out into the larger world. These included the ability to use books, but also the courage of their convictions, and a ‘light to show’ because they had made some beginning in the way of unselfishness and humility, and some real contact with the source of truth and beauty.   (Christmas 1930)

The Final years of Miss Savill’s Headship

Today’s headteachers will no doubt envy the power that heads in the early and mid-twentieth century wielded over their pupils when they were out of school. Recalling my own secondary education, woe betide any pupil of Lincoln School who blotted his copybook by engaging in inappropriate behaviour at any time when wearing his school uniform, or indeed if it was discovered that they were ‘grammar school boys’, and I am quite sure that it was the same for LHS girls. However, in her 1931 speech, Miss Savill stated that Heads of day schools had neither rights nor powers over their girls out of school. That may have been the legal situation, but in reality they exerted considerable implicit powers, and in the vast majority of cases were backed up by the parents, and by other forms of authority. She went on to say that it would always be her privilege, and that of her colleagues, to discuss the better and less good ways of conducting themselves. (Christmas 1931)

Austerity was one of the themes of Miss Savill’s address in1932. Returning to an earlier theme, she asked parents faced with harder times to consider whether they valued their children’s education more than a motor car or a sweepstake. One anxiety expressed was the ‘drastic cutting-down’ of the numbers in teacher-training leading to larger classes or more unqualified teachers. She quoted the example of a girl in a training college who had been asked to teach sixty-three infants under the age of seven.   (Christmas 1932)

Miss Savill’s report in 1933 was largely factual. However she did add a codicil to a previous reference to ‘silly reading’ by questioning the value of certain comics (unnamed, but described as the ‘slums of the mind’!), whilst congratulating the store Ruddocks on putting on a display of ‘books worth possessing by a child, that could be had for a shilling. ‘If they must take a paper,’ she postulated, ‘the Children’s Newspaper would seem to be the best. On Sundays, the Bible and the Children’s Newspaper were the only reading I was officially allowed access to during the 1950s!

She concluded her report with the following stereotypical generalisation; ‘Lincoln children are still delightfully unsophisticated and pleased with simple things.’ I do believe that she meant it as a compliment!   (Christmas 1933)

Among other objectives for the School in 1934, one of the foremost was described by Miss Savill as ‘…still striving to improve speech; to get children to use their lips, finish their words and take a pride in their speaking.’ It was clearly no coincidence that, after a relatively lean period of dramatic work in the School, Miss Reed had produced ‘The Antigone’ in English for a private audience, and Miss Savill hoped that the ‘very good diction achieved by the players’ would act as an incentive to younger members of the School who had heard them. Later in her report she expressed the wish that, in the ‘strange times’ in which children were growing up, they would be influenced by the School’s endeavour to inculcate self-reliance and independent, honest thinking while the adult world seemed ‘increasingly inclined to move in herds to a world of command.’ Quite a prophetic statement, as it turned out!   (Christmas 1934)

The year 1935 saw a change in the format of speech day, with separate sessions for the Lower and Upper Schools during which Miss Savill restricted both of her addresses to school news. However in 1936 she took up the theme of intrinsic motivation, somewhat optimistically encouraging the Lower School to want that zest to learn to do a thing for its own sake, and not to have to stop doing it because the bell rang. ‘Active play’ was also on the agenda, and she invited the parents to promote dressing up, charades and ‘anything that involves doing’. During her speech to the Upper School, she touched upon another theme which will resonate with parents today, urging them to see the value of not hurrying ‘childhood and girlhood’.   

(Christmas 1936)

Another subject described by Miss Savill in an earlier report as ‘vexed’ was that of homework. Despite being sceptical about educational policy directed from above, she announced that, in accordance with the Board of Education’s suggestion, LHS was trying the experiment of doing no homework on one night a week in Forms below the School Certificate Year. The boarders were apparently enjoying the free evening for the pursuit of games and hobbies, and there was an implicit expectation that the day girls would follow their example.   (Christmas 1937)

The 1938 report was another which contained mainly factual school news, but Miss Savill also took the opportunity to praise the work of the domestic staff and ‘Trafford’. Trafford, whose name was never prefaced by the prefix ‘Mr’, let alone his first name, was the indefatigable caretaker at LHS, who reminded Miss Savill of a certain rhyme:

There is an animal of merit,

And perfect honesty: the Ferret.

He is as clever as a fish,

He will do anything you wish.

He is as clever as a pike,

He will do anything you like;

Bite holes in leaves,

Tie knots in string,

Or practically anything.

One must assume that, in an age where one knew one’s place in the pecking-order, it was a scarcely-veiled compliment!

(In the King’s Birthday Honours list in 1939, Miss Lucie Savill was awarded the Order of the British Empire)

Owing to the war, there was no formal Speech Day in 1939. In its place was a ‘very informal but pleasant prize-giving’ held in the School Hall. However in 1940, despite the continuation of the war, the traditional Speech Day was resurrected. During her address, Miss Savill lamented the fact that there were still some children and a few parents who failed to understand that there was a right place for authority in the hands of senior girls. ‘I’m not going to be told by a prefect,’ was not the right attitude to adopt if the School was ever to learn to be self-governing. Children should learn to lead as well as to obey, and to realise their responsibility as members of the whole fellowship. She had also noticed a decline in thoroughness and impatience at anything like faithful drudgery or concentrated thinking, both of which were essential to progress. Everyone had a duty to address those faults, and to overcome them.

(Christmas 1940)

As Miss Savill approached her retirement, she gave a further insight in 1941 into her educational philosophy and religious convictions. She told her audience that a common criticism of secondary schools was that they trained for careers and did not educate for life. This afforded the opportunity for LHS to strive anew to think out what they were trying to do. She invoked the ‘old words’; ‘…to train men (and women) to serve God in church and state’. She followed this up by stating that nothing could be any good unless the girls went out aware of their membership of the fellowship of Christ and pledged to His service in the service of their neighbours’. 

(Christmas 1941)

Miss Savill’s final Speech Days Reports to the Upper and Lower Schools were given in October 1942, and were among the shortest of her addresses. She had words to say to the Lower School audience about familiar themes of self-control and tidiness, and expressed gratitude to those homes that supported such values. She also believed in the golden characteristics of silence, and claimed that the School might be twice as good as it was if there were ‘half the chattering’! The Upper School also failed to escape her swan-singing rebuke as she reported that the School had appeared at moments to be untidy, noisy and talkative. However she ended on a more optimistic note by congratulating the pupils on being responsive, loyal and reasonable. She had been cheered to see the School making a real contribution in self-control and courtesy during its fiftieth year.   (Christmas 1942)

Miss Savill’s parting words to the School over which she had presided for 33 years took place on 7th April 1943. She made reference to the fact that the country was fighting for its survival and for the survival of the eternal values of truth and goodness. She then made a passionate plea for spiritual values and the power of the love of God. Telling the children that fairy tales were the embodiment of ancient wisdom, she appealed to the ‘good fairy’ for three gifts for the children: ‘Receptivity’ - being simple and humble enough to receive with thankfulness the good that would come to them through their neighbours, or directly from God; ‘Discernment’ – that they would know lightness from darkness and good from evil; and ‘Courage’ – to face life and to face defeat, so often the prelude to victory. She ended by inviting the children to return to the School the following term ready to give the new headmistress, Miss I V Cleave, all their obedience, their self-control and their courtesy.   (LHS Magazine Spring 1943)

Miss Lucie Evelyn Savill, inspired by protagonists such as Frances Mary Buss and Dorothea Beale, was one of those pioneer Headmistresses of girls’ high schools in the nineteenth century described by Price and Glenday (1975) as ‘reluctant revolutionaries’, who presided over a ‘social revolution of the first magnitude’.  In the foreword to the book, the Rt Hon Lord  Butler described the first Heads of girls’ high schools as ‘mostly people of strong spiritual conviction impelling them to serve their own generation’, and quotes Miss Savill’s own description of her colleagues a ‘by no means tame or untameable’. During those pioneering years between 1874 and the growth of the comprehensive movement in the 1970s, girls’ schools developed from catering for a few typically middle-class girls, through schools for the academically able, to the goal of genuine opportunity for full secondary education for all, enshrined in ‘Rab’ Butler’s 1944 Education Act.

Looking back over Miss Savill’s long and distinguished career, those character traits which she valued above all others are made quite explicit through her own words in her annual reports to parents, colleagues, pupils and others. Self-discipline, self-control and self-reliance were recurring themes in her annual reports. Unselfishness, humility, courtesy and neighbourliness were also frequently on her agenda. She clearly believed passionately in encouraging her girls to show initiative, and to exercise discernment and good judgement. The eternal values of truth, beauty and goodness were close to her own heart, and born out of strong religious, moral and ethical principles. She was an early advocate for the mutual benefits of a strong home-school partnership, and of the virtues in both environments of tidiness, orderliness and discipline, and was adept at expressing  her strong views in memorable and forthright statements. She was also a champion of girls’ education, and of the merits of sixth-form and higher education.

In the words of some of those who wrote tributes to her in the ‘Appreciation of her Life’ (LHS OGA, 1971), her judgement and values were rooted in a life of discipline and worship. She was a wise and good woman, and a great and loyal Headmistress who guided the School’s development for thirty-three years. She asked of nobody what she would not do herself, and she came to be admired and trusted by a great multitude of pupils, parents and friends.

The photograph below features Miss I V Cleave (left) and Miss L E Savill, who served LHS consecutively as Headmistresses for over 50 years, and who became good friends.



Although degrees had been awarded to women at London and other universities since the late 1880s, Oxford did not confer degrees on women until 1921, and full degrees were not awarded at Cambridge until 1948. Women were required to ask permission of male dons to attend university, as opposed to college lectures, and permission was apparently not always granted.


LHS magazines from the period of Miss Savill’s Headship

LHS Old Girls Association (1971)     An Appreciation of Lucie Evelyn Savill OBE MA

LHS Booklets: A Book of Memories and Lincoln Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School 1893-1943

Derek Gillard (2011)

Garton Archive photograph collection

Arthur Behenna et al (1990)   LCHS: a Nine Hundred Year Heritage   (Unpublished Booklet)

Price,M & Glenday, N (1975)   Reluctant Revolutionaries: a Century of Headmistresses 1874-1974   Pitman for The Association of Headmistresses


I am grateful to Mary Lucas, a former pupil and teacher at LHS, for proof-reading the article, and for making several helpful suggestions.

About the Author

Peter Harrod, a retired teacher and lecturer, is the Assistant Archivist at LCHS responsible for the pre-1974 archives. He is also a Foundation Governor at the School.