The Old Lyonian Association
The History of The Old Lyonian Association
Written May 1946
WHETHER one prefers dreaming of the past or of the future probably depends on one’s age. Old Lyonians can do both. Old Boys of the Lower School of John Lyon, through an established and active Old Boys’ Association, can recall and discuss with their contemporaries events which happened perhaps ten, twenty, thirty, forty years or even longer ago. They may have been at School or after leaving; the existence of the Old Boys' Association over such a long period has established the necessary continuity.
The primary purpose of this brochure is to record some interesting facts regarding the Association. It is not out of place, however, to record something of the history of our school.
It was in 1853 that Dr. Vaughan, then Headmaster of Harrow School, with a view to furthering the wishes of John Lyon, founded the “English Form,” a little school where the sons of Harrow townsmen could obtain a non-classical education. The school was held in a small room on the Hill.
The Harrow Governors contributed towards the cost; the rest came out of Dr. Vaughan's pocket. His successor continued the good work until the year 1868 when, by one of the provisions of the Public School Act, The Lower School of John Lyon absorbed the English Form. In 1876, the School removed to the building in Middle Road, with which we are all so familiar. The building was opened in the presence of the Governors and afterwards a luncheon was held in the hall, to which were invited a large number of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood.
In later years an extension was effected, thus providing accomodation for 130-140 boys. This position obtained until 1930, when a large new building was built on adjoining land. In 1935, a further building was added and now there is room for approximately 370 boys at the school.
In the early days, the School was in charge of the Master attached to Harrow School and those Old Lyonians, who were there under Mr. C. J. Gregg, will remember him with affection. The School has been well served by all its Headmasters. Mr J. E. Williams was in charge from 1879 to 1898, Mr. Ernest Young from 1898 to 1910, Mr E. H. Butt from 1910 to 1926, since when our present Headmaster, Mr O. A. Le Beau has been in charge. It was a fitting reward when in 1938, Mr Le Beau was elected to the Headmasters’ Conference, thus entitling the Lower School to rank as a Public School.
The School is governed by a Committee of Management, included amongst whom is a representative Old Lyonian. Old Lyonians who have held this position are Mr. John Parkhouse (1895-1909), Mr. Frank Greenhill (1909-1925), Mr. A.W.Gurney (1925-1931), Mr E.W. Kay (1931-1937). On 15th April, 1939, a flagstaff was erected in the approach to the Association’s premises in Pinner View to commemorate Edgar Kay’s unflagging zeal for the club and his ubiquitous capacity for friendship, Mr. R.T. Bartley is the present representative.
Records show that, in December, 1891, the first Old Lyonian Dinner was held. A gathering of some seventy Old Lyonians and friends had a very successful dinner at the Harrow Liberal Club. So encouraging was the success of the venture, that similar functions were held in the four succeeding years. Thereafter, practically every year, either a dinner or smoking concert was arranged and, in fact, there were very few years when some sort of annual gathering of Old Lyonians was not held, right up to the outbreak of war in 1914.
From time immemorial Cricket and Football sides have been raised for an annual match against the School. In 1898, at a meeting of Old Lyonians, it was agreed to form an Old Lyonian Cricket Club and for that season a fairly full fixture list was arranged. The club again functioned in 1899 and 1990, and amongst other clubs played we find Pinner, Chorley Wood, Eastcote, West Hampstead and Kodak. In 1900, the Club found it very difficult to raise a full side, cycling being one of the counter attractions in those days, and this early venture had to be abandoned.
Two years later was born the Old Lyonian Football Club, which functions to this day. It was on the 9th July, 1902 that, at a meeting held at the School, the Club was formed, Mr. Sidney Parker being elected Captain, also Joint secretary with Mr. J. F. Swainson. The first Season’s record was as follows:-
Played Won Drawn Lost Goals for Goals Against
28 19 4 5 97 43
Membership grew. Soon, two elevens were fielded each weel, and in season 1906/07, there were three teams. The first team competed in the Willesden and District League, and in 1908/09 season were runners-up, finishing only one point behind the leaders, Hyde and Kingsbury. Names of familiar sides also competing in that League were Wealdstone and Pinner.
After the close of the 1908/09 season came the break between the F.A and the A.F.A ; the Old Boys decided to join the A.F.A. The F.A. experience stood the Club in good stead. In their first season in A.F.A. football, the club was unbeaten and won the Middlesex Junior Cup and were top of the Middlesex County A.F.A. League. The playing standard of the Club was soon recognised and the club became a senior side. In season 1912/13, the Middlesex A.F.A. Charity Club was won and again in 1913/14, when Crouch End were beaten 2-0 in the final. The first team at that time were in the First Division of the Southern Olympian League in which were competing still familiar sides such as Cambridge Town, Highgate and Old Parkonians.
The Club’s home matches were played on the Harrow Recreation ground, first at the Pinner Road end, where cricket is now played, and later at the Cunningham Park end. In season 1913/14, the Committee of the Club rented a further ground in the Sheepcote Road (opposite Harrow County School) for use by the third eleven.
In 1912, the Old Lyonian Dramatic Club was formed and on the 18th April, 1912, Goldsmith’s comedy, “The Good Natured Man” was produced. Other productions followed and this Club became part of the established activities of Old Lyonians.
The success of the Football and Dramatic Clubs, and other functions arranged from time to time, were so encouraging, that the Old Lyonians embarked on what was then considered to be a very ambitious scheme. At a meeting held at the School on the 22nd July, 1914, the Old Lyonian Association of to-day came into being, embracing all activities under one umbrella. Premises were obtained in the High Street, on the Hill, where members could meet and the future was keenly looked forward to by all Old Lyonians. Circumstances dictated otherwise. Following the outbreak of war on the 4th August, 1914, Football, Dramatics, Annual Dinners etc., all became out of the question and for nearly five years all these activities ceased.
Some 350 Old Lyonians served with His Majesty’s Forces. A list appears in the School magazine of 1919, which also records that a number of Lyonians received well-earned decorations. The Lyonian, the School magazine, throughout the war devoted a considerable amount of space to news of Old Boys an active service, and published a number of very interesting letters received from the front line. Out of those serving, 58 were lost. Many were the pioneers in establishing the Old Lyonian Association immediately before the war. It was left to those returning to carry through to fruition what had been planned.
To those who gave their lives for their King and Country, there is a War Memorial at the School, and one in the entrance to the Association’s ground in Pinner View.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ASSOCIATION, 1919-1939
Little time was lost after the cessation of hospitalities in 1918, in putting into effect what have been planned in 1914. On the 12th June, 1919, a meeting of Old Lyonians was held at the school, at which it was agreed to open the premises at 102, High Street, on the Hill, for the purposes of a Social Club, where Old Lyonians could meet. It was also agreed that both the Football Club and the Dramatic Club should recommence their activities. The Committees formed entered wholeheartedly into their work. Each Committee man undertook to enrol ten or fifteen Lyonians, and in this and other ways, the Association soon had a substantial and active membership.
The Football Club played their first match in September, 1919 and two elevens were fielded each week during season 1919/20. The first eleven competed in the Middlesex Amateur League (Northern Section) which they won very easily; they also emulated their predecessors of 1912/13 and 1913/14, by winning the Middlesex A.F.A. Charity Cup. Home matches, as pre-war, were played on the Harrow Recreation Ground. By 1920/21, three elevens were regularly fielded.
It was on the 1st October, 1919 that the Association formally took possession of their premises on the Hill. They were open three nights a week for members to play billiards, ping-pong (as then described), cards and other games. Whilst drives, dances, etc., were arranged and on the 20th December, 1919, an Annual Dinner was held at the Gayton Rooms.
The Dramatic Club's first post-war venture was to produce at the Victoria Hall on the 16th and 17th April, 1920, "The New Boy," which was followed later by many other plays.
Progress and enthusiasm were such that, before long, the Association decided to embark on a more ambitious scheme. A ground and club building were acquired. It was in 1921, that six-and-a-half acres of land were puchased in Pinner View, at a cost of some £2,000. For the convenience of title and the raising of the necessary finance, a limited liability company was formed, known as the Old Lyonian Athletic Club, Ltd., with a paid-up captial of £2,950, Preference shares now bearing interest at 3 percent, and £50 Ordinary shares held by trustees on behalf of the Association, of which only £10 has been issued. Of the Preference Issue, £850 shares are now held on behalf of the Association, in some cases through the generosity of original subscribers. The Preference shareholders have no voting power unless and until their dividends are two years in arrear. The Association provides the funds necessary for the payment of the Preference dividend. It has also financed the building of the Club Pavilion, in respect of which there is still a debt of £500.
The ground provided ample accommodation for two football pitches, a cricket table in the centre and five tennis courts (two hard and three grass). There still remains further room for additionial tennis courts and a bowling green should membership justify these additional developments. The comfort of spectators for football has been catered for by the building, in 1922, of a grandstand holding some 400 persons; this cost £500, and has been entirely paid for out of the Association's funds.
The work involved in turning six-and-a-half acres of farm land into a well-equipped sports ground would be a story in itself. Members formed working parties and by the untiring efforts the job was done. In September, 1921, the first football match was played at Pinner View. The summer of 1922, saw the formation of the Old Lyonian Cricket Club and the Old Lyonian Tennis Club. The social activities of the Association in the winter of 1921/22 were transferred from the Hill and held in the new Club Pavilion, whilst also the Dramatic Club made it their new headquarters for future productions.
In 1921/22, the Football Club competed in the Middlesex Senior League and, in that season, the Old Boys justified that right to compete in senior amateur football by defeating Tufnell Park in the Middlesex Senior Cup. In 1922/23 and 1923/24, the first eleven competed in the Spartan League, but in 1924/25, it was decided to join the Southern Amateur League. Promotion to the First Division was gained in 1925/26. Fortunes fluctuated, but some notable successes were achieved, particularly in the cup ties, culminating in season 1933/34, with extraordinary success in the F.A Cup. After beating in the earlier rounds several of the strongest amateur sides in the country, our progress to Wembley was stopped in the final qualifying round when Margate, a professional side, beat us at Pinner View by two goals to none, before nearly 2,000 spectators. As that season progressed, a number of our best players, who had served the Club so well, were through injuries forced to retire; they could not be replaced and a season which opened so promisingly was marred by relegation to the Second Division of the Southern Amateur League. In following seasons, promotion in some years had nearly been achieved, but with the outbreak of war in 1939, it was yet to be accomplished. However, throughout the whole of this period, 1919/20 to 1938/39, the Football Club ahd gone from strength to strength. In 1930/31, five elevens were run. For a number of years up to 1938/39, four elevens regularly competed in League Football.
The Cricket Club, has, since its re-formation, steadily improved its fixture list and now holds its own with many of the leading London club sides.
The Dramatic Club has produced at Pinner View a number of excellent plays. In the early days the Pavilion was used for this purpose, but, unfortunately, the Middlesex County Council would not allow the Club to continue to do so, unless certain structural alterations were effected. Indoor plays were therefore abandoned for the time, but the Club remained a very live section of the Association, producing for many years up to the outbreak of war a number of open-air plays. Shakespearean plays were chosen, for they are naturally suitable to outdoor surroundings.
The Tennis Section has had many enjoyable seasons. Matches were played against other clubs. Each year a knock-out tournament has been held.
From the time the premises were opened in 1921, up to the outbreak of war, the social side of the Association proved extremely popular. The Pavilion, with its facilities, enabled Lyonians to spend many enjoyable evenings. For those interested in billiards or snooker there are two full-size tables; for others, there are darts, cards, table tennis, etc. Table tennis has been exceptionally popular with the younger members, two teams playing in the Wembley and District League. The hall has enabled dances, whist drives, smoking concerts, etc., to be held at regular intervals.
The School magazine The Lyonian and also the Club’s own magazine , issued in later years half-yearly, provide a record of the Club’s activities and progress.
When the Club Pavilion was first opened in 1921, its facilities were considered to be luxurious. Times change however. Admittedly, the pavilion could be bettered in a number of ways, and in view of the increase in membership by 1939, it was then felt that the time was ripe for further development. A brick building, with many improved facilities, was being considered. History, however, repeated itself. As were the plans of the Association’s pioneers in 1914, suspended, so were all these schemes abandoned with the outbreak of war in September, 1939.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, members fast disappeared from Pinner View. An incomplete record shows that between 500 and 600 Lyonians were on active service. Naturally, therefore, during this period it has been just a question of barely keeping the flag flying at Pinner View. One football team only was run for the first few war seasons, but eventually this had to be abandoned. With a struggle at times, it was possible to run one cricket team; throughout the war. There was a certain amount of tennis, but shortage of members and tennis balls, very much restricted this Club’s activities, especially towards the end. The Club magazine was published up to May, 1942, but our quota of newsprint was then made available to the Old Lyonians Comforts Fund for the purposes of a News Letter, sent every three months to all Lyonians on active service, with a view to keeping them in touch with the School, the Association, and their School colleagues.
Lyonians played their part to the full for their country. Many were decorated for bravery; many, unfortunately, will not be returning. The School and the Association have lost 58 of their numbers.
1941 AND THE FUTURE
Steps have already been taken for the Association to resume fully all its pre-war activities. The Club has a full-time groundsman, a steward, and the ground and pavilion receive the necessary attention. One football eleven functioned for season 1945/46, competing once more in the Southern Amateur League. Next season it is anticipated that many more Lyonians will be available each Saturday, and it is planned to run three elevens, and to enter once more for the various cup competitions. For 1946 cricket season a full fixture list has been arranged for two elevens, whilst the Tennis Club, with its courts in excellent condition, is planning for an early post-war revival. A very successful Annual Dinner has also been held at the Gayton Rooms.
So much for the immediate position. What of the future? To cater for the steady increase in members conformably with the growth of the School, it is essential to build an improved Club Pavilion.
One of the purposes of an Association such as ours is to enable school friendships to be retained when school days are over. Without some central organisation this is impossible. The Old Lyonian Association fulfils the purposes of an Association, by its sport and activities. In the latter connection, the Annual Dinner provides an occasion when one is certain of meeting old companions; with an increased membership and an improved pavilion, it would be possible to arrange smaller reunions for groups of Lyonians who were at school at the same time. Twice yearly the Association will publish its magazine, which will record news of the Association, its members, and the School.
The Association, now over forty years old, has many members who have left School more years ago than they may like to remember and others who have only recently left. In planning a new pavilion, it will be essential to remember this fact. Facilities must be provided for both. In addition, better dressing accommodation for football, cricket, etc., is needed, also a hall where dances, dinners, reunions, dramatic productions, etc., can take place.
Unfortunately, early prospects for rebuilding are remote. This may not be a disadvantage, as it will enable the views of members returning from the Forces to be obtained. It will also enable the Association to accumulate funds for the purpose, in order to avoid, as far as possible, for providing the necessary finance out of borrowings. The cost is at the moment unascertainable. This should be no deterrent to accumulating as much as possible in the meanwhile towards the desired end. In fact, a start has already been made. Let us at least aim at a formal opening of our new premises in 1952, the Fiftieth Year of the Association’s existence.
STET FORTUNA DOMUS