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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

The London University Matriculation


Many

are the anecdotes which could be here told of our adventures; as of policemen or keepers eluded, or put off the scent, by various ruses, &c., &c., on our various marauding expeditions, but I will mention only two more incidents.

From the same feelings of jealousy, doubtless, which produce the "Town and Gown" antagonism at the University, there was much ill-feeling among the lower class of boys in the town towards ourselves, and free fights occasionally occurred between them and the hated "bull-dogs." At dusk stones were thrown at us, which it was difficult to avoid in the then badly lighted streets. Sudden sorties were made from alleys, to take us unawares, and send us sprawling on the coggles. Especially in snowy weather we were assailed with snowballs on our way from school to the Doctor's house, and although we stood shoulder to shoulder and made a spirited resistance, it not uncommonly occurred that these missiles were (doubtless purposely) made to contain a piece of ice, or even a sharp flint. In one of these skirmishes the writer himself was struck on the temple, his eye only just escaping, by a snowball, which a comrade picked up, on seeing that the wound was bleeding, and a fragment of glass was found inside it; this, surely, an extreme illustration of the principle that "all is lawful in war."

One great event, of yearly re-occurrence, was our bonfire with fireworks, on the 5th of November. Pocket

money was hoarded up several weeks beforehand, to provide for the latter; some boys even made their own squibs and crackers, and these were considerably larger and more formidable than those which were bought. The scene was usually a field on Langton Hill, which belonged to the school. Subscriptions were raised to purchase 100 faggots, locally called "kids;" but here again our custom would, in strictness, have been condemned, for, in addition to the purchased fuel, for sometime beforehand, we had been searching the hedges around, armed with axes, and so had got together probably as much to which we had no right, as that which had been bought. The bonfire was thus doubled in size, and made a blaze which, on the hill, would be seen for many a mile. We had a whole holiday to give us time to pile up the heap; and in the evening parents and many other friends crowded to the field as spectators. Sometimes a lighted balloon or two, of varied colours, would be sent up, which were watched by the bright eyes of sisters and cousins, until they were lost in the distance.

At length the conflagration was reduced to smouldering ashes, and all retired; but on our way back to the school house there were often rough doings, between the town boys and bull-dogs; free vent was given to spite, and a broken or bruised head, or body, might be the result; but we made no complaint; as loyal subjects we had done our duty in protesting against all such underhand doings as "Gunpowder Plot;" and, after a hearty supper, given by our kind Head Master, we enjoyed the rest, well earned by the exertions and trials of the day.

We have now said enough of the school, its institutions and customs, under a regime which has passed away, doubtless never to return; _tempora mutantur_.

Of the modern school we may here say that it is now doing useful work, although with a different class of pupils to those above referred to; and in the near future, it is hoped, that further changes will give it a still higher position in educational work. Under Dr. A. G. Madge, who retired and accepted church preferment in 1907, the school was made to meet the requirements of the Oxford and Cambridge local examinations, the London University Matriculation, and the South Kensington Science and Art Departments.

In late years boys from the school have filled posts in various parts of the world with credit. A considerable number have obtained clerkships in banks, or in the Civil Service; one boy, Richard Gordon Healey, passed 7th among more than a hundred candidates for the General Post Office service, London, and is now in the excise service. Another, Fairburn, is Assistant Inspector of Police at Singapore. Another, Isle, is a Civil Engineer, and has taken the B.Sc. degree. A summary of successes at the school, kindly supplied to the writer by Dr. Madge, shows that in the last seven years (1906) five boys have passed the London University Matriculation, 19 the Cambridge local examination, 34 the South Kensington examination, while four have qualified for the public Civil Service; a creditable result for a town of the size of Horncastle.


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