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BISHOP RIDDING AS HEAD MASTER.
BY AN OLD WYKEHAMIST.
It was as a humble 'candlestick' at election, a good many years ago, that I first found myself face to face with Dr. Ridding. The
Hippolytus,' I well remember, was the subject of our viva voce. There sat the Wardens of Winchester and New College, dignified and grey haired, though both with thirty years and more of service still before them. There were the ‘Posers,' younger men, grave and distinguished, one of them destined to be the elder Warden's successor. But the personality that bit deepest into my boyish recollection was this keen, alert man, with the handsome, mobile features, the curling black hair, the piercing eye, the eyeglass—now dropped, now fixed again, each time with queer but not inexpressive grimaces. His terse, searching questions shot out at us like pellets; and very marked was his eager enjoyment of the answers given by one-the most brilliant of our little group—whose name appeared a few hours later senior on the Roll.
My turn did not come until the following election. During the next year or two one became gradually more familiar with his vigorous yet whimsical individuality. In gait, in manner of speech, even in dress, scrupulously correct as it always was, he would somehow depart from the conventional pattern. The ‘Ridding tie’ may serve as an illustration. Starting evidently, not from the middle point, but from one end, he daily achieved an irreproachable bow; but the unconsidered extremity would often project stifly some inches across the lappet of his black frock coat. Most men, I imagine, would have tucked it under the waistcoat, and no harm done. No such petty subterfuges for him. He wore it unconcernedly, just as it was, extending perhaps almost to his shoulder. In such small matters, at any rate, he was thickskinned.
Once every half we all came to close quarters with him again at his ' monthly'examination. Great were then the searchings of heart, for in those days the Head Master was a very formidable person. With rapid steps he would hasten to his seat, arrange his books, briskly rub his hands, and cast along our line a keen, searching
glance that seemed to pierce us through and through. We trembled, for we had not yet found out that, until the eyeglass was fixed, he could not distinguish one of us from another. Then would follow an hour which some at least might thoroughly enjoy, an hour full of odd surprises. As the first tremors wore off, the unforeseen questions he would ask, the queer turns of his humoar, the sheer bewilderment of the slower-witted, would appeal more and more to our sense of fun. Stupidity or slackness did now and then irritate Ridding beyond endurance, but of mere ignorance be could be tolerant enough. “Omno pano colligo ; omno pano colligo,' I once heard him read aloud, with real boyish glee, from a ' Junior Part' task. Then, turning to an angry colleague, who complained that the perpetrator was not fit for his Division : Capital idea of the ablative absolute. No, I couldn't think of sending down a boy with such an idea of the ablative absolute as that.' But what he always relished was a gleam of intelligence, even uninformed by knowledge. “Yes, that's quite reasonable,' he would exclain, rubbing his hands again, to one who had made a 'hard shot'; then add grimly, “But it's quite wrong.'
In a literal sense George Ridding was a Wykehamist born and bred, for his father had been Second Master, and College was therefore his earliest home. In due time, like his brothers, he secured a nomination, and wore the gown. He must have been as hard as nails then to earn the nickname of 'pruff' Ridding. The other three were all famous cricketers in their day; but bad sight rather spoilt him for games. Smiling hints reached us of desperate blind rushes at football, of strenuous if not always well-directed efforts, and little heed of bruises given or received. With the help of glasses he played a fair hand at racquets even in later years, until one day his nervous impatience brought about a nasty accident. Fortunately an ugly cut upon the cheek-bone was the only damage done ; but I do not remember his playing after that. His interest in our school games was genial and unaffected, yet with due restraint, and therefore perhaps the more welcome.
The Heathcote Prize, in those days the blue ribbon of Winchester scholarship, compensated him for missing Lord's. Then he broke with tradition, and, instead of following his brothers Charles and Arthur to New College, went up to Balliol. The breach may have been a happy one, for in a fresh atmosphere his marked and original personality found perhaps freer scope. At Oxford his Craven was the crown of a brilliant career. He became Fellow and, I believe, Tutor of Exeter, and served in his turn as Proctor. In that capacity, he used to say, he was called upon to deal with a sparrow whose nest had stopped a spout in the Bodleian roof. In full canonicals he waited below, while his bull-dogs, with ladder and nets, arrested the offender. Then he must needs interfere ; and while he was fumbling with the net the culprit flew out and escaped without any contribution to the University chest.
At thirty-five he was back again in his old home as Second Master, and four years later succeeded Dr. Moberly whose daughter for one short year had been his wife. His rule lasted over seventeen years. Of his last twenty years as bishop it is for others to speak. At Winchester he did a really great work. He found there an institution hardly awakened out of medievalism, and quickly placed it in the van of modern progress. Changes there had been already, brought about largely by outside pressure of Royal Commissions and the like. Now came an era of change from within, the product rather of his fruitful brain. Yet he was too true a child of Wykeham to lay violent hands upon the Founder's work. In 'True Sons,' a sermon printed at our request, he once gave a brilliant exposition of the conservatism of the genuine reformer, the radicalism born of a real appreciation of the past.
First and foremost, however, Commoners' had to go the great barrack, that is, in which above half the School once herded, to the great profit of former Head Masters. With the space thus gained convenient classrooms and a handsome library could now be contrived ; and room was then found in College to improve our sleeping quarters, while new houses were built in Culver's Close and elsewhere. A mill stream was straightened and embanked, and a magnificent new ground adjoining ‘Meads’ was made available for school games. With all its picturesque charm ‘Meads' had proved insufficient for our growing numbers, and the meadow previously hired for Commoners' games was too remote and otherwise unsuitable. A fine new bathing place, a covered racquet court, and a botanical garden were afterwards added. It was reported among us (and not without truth, I imagine) that on some of these objects his money was spent as freely as his time and labour. The gift of New Field, in particular, was currently attributed to him. The abolition of Commoners was understood to
" The name Commoners' survives in two senses: (1) those members of the School who are not in College ; (2) the members of four houses which are leagued together to oppose College and the other · Houses'in certain games.
entail a considerable sacrifice of income. A troublesome publichouse lying on the direct way to the new Commoner houses was first closed, then pulled down : its old frequenters loudly blessed Ridding for that.
New houses and new classrooms made it possible to increase the teaching staff. Under Mr. Richardson the study of mathematics was reorganised on a new basis altogether. The experiment, half-hearted perhaps, of a modern school met with dubious success; but French and German were now for the first time seriously taken in hand, and the pursuit of science was encouraged, in school and out. We had a flourishing and active society, vulgarly known as “ Bug and Snail,' which did some capital work and furnished in poor Forbes a martyr to the cause of knowledge. Nevertheless, the main purpose of Winchester, as a school of classical learning, was kept steadily in view. The methods of classical study were broadened and humanised. The monotonous “Vulgus' and the wasteful labour of committing to memory enormous blocks of classical literature for 'standing up' were abandoned, and time was found for philology, for English literature, above all for history, both ancient and modern.
All the while it was no secret that New College, the sister foundation, regarded with some jealousy the appointment of another Balliol man to succeed Dr. Moberly-a jealousy that must at times have caused Ridding considerable embarrassment. But for his constant good humour and tact, coupled with his success as a teacher, there might have been serious friction. As it was, for many years a Wykehamist hardly ever competed for the Balliol scholarships. There was an understanding that New College should each year elect six scholars from Winchester, provided that so many meritorious candidates presented themselves. But whenever one of us gained success elsewhere New College chose to consider themselves injured. One year, when the examiners placed two exceptionally brilliant younger men and two open scholars among the first six, New College refused to elect more than three, taking the two candidates highest on the list and one somewhat lower down. For once Ridding spoke out, and told them publicly that they had committed not only a crime but a blunder. His strictures were justified in the event. Four or five of the rejected did extremely well, while of their three choices two disappointed them grievously in the Schools.
When I entered College Ridding's reign had not been long, but
a great deal was already done. He had yet, however, to provide himself with a nickname. Later generations knew him as 'the Doctor,' but in our day that would still have meant Dr. Moberly. It was on a summer night that our victorious eleven brought back the Ashburton Shield from Wimbledon for the second time running. Hatless and elated, in the midst of an uproarious throng, the Head Master met them in Flint Court with an appropriate little speech. 'I am afraid,' he concluded, Moberly Library was locked up long
ago. To-morrow the shield shall be restored to its old place; but so I think, if you will allow me, I had better be Peg for to-night.' Tee Needless to say his proposal was hailed with acclamation. Three dos cheers for the Peg!' cried a voice as he bore off the shield, and De as the name stuck. Only a few weeks before his death he recurred
to the incident, quite in his old vein. Hearing by telegraph from
πάσσαλος emeritus. .
Non ita : parma eadem, néogados alter erit.
rest of the school managed it I do not know, but a College prefect, rith best by simulating the Second Master's voice, induced Obadiah' (the
porter) to open the wicket, and before he knew what was happening all College were out in the street. That was one element in the uproarious triumph of that cheering crowd. Ridding took our
evasion with sublime unconcern. The event was exceptional. In alpesi R? his heart of hearts, perhaps, he sympathised with us—he would
have done the same himself. The whole School was involved, the be ere half was almost over, no harm was done, and it was not worth a d to your conflict. At any rate, so far as I know, he never even alluded to xt
Another night he suddenly appeared in Chamber Court—the only visit of the kind I remember-and, opening the door of ‘Second,'
chanced upon a scene that might well have roused ugly suspicions. fire at it! It was growing late. All of us except prefects were in bed and our
tollies dumped.' Two of the group before him had no business
· The Wykehamist, No. 413. VOL. XVII.-NO, 102, N.S.