J H Mather
Each morning, around 8:30am, John would meet with the headmaster, R.F.B. Campbell, in his Red House office, prior to the morning assembly for about 500 students. When he met with him the first day, Mr. Campbell told John that the assembly’s format was to be changed. Instead of the Headmaster reading the sports results, notices of club meetings and any other general information he wanted, these announcements would be made by the Head Boy. Then, when the announcements had finished he was to signal the headmaster and the other masters to come on stage for the devotions
John well remember the first time he made these announcements, he was shaking like a leaf. It took several of these daily events for him to become less anxious and control his “adrenalin rush”. Now, whenever John has to give presentations at medical and other conferences, he is cool, calm and collected, thanks to this initially daunting experience.
Campbell (affectionately referred to as ‘the old man’ or ‘Uncle Ron’) would convene the monitors twice a term to discuss current issues and ideas for future implementation. The wearing of caps, abolished for the Sixth Form in 1956, was one issue. The discussion was as to whether caps might be discontinued for all boys. It was noted that boys removed their caps as soon as they were a few miles from the school campus. Then, it was decided to keep the wearing of caps but turn a blind eye when not worn beyond 3 or 5 miles. This was really impossible for Monitors and Prefects to enforce, and, unless close to the school, most boys stopped wearing them. The caps were eventually abolished in the late 1970s for all students.
John remembers at one of these meetings, Campbell raised the issue of ending Saturday morning school. There was a long and lively discussion of the difficulties with implementation and its effects on the sporting calendar. The change was finally made for the 1964-5 academic year.
Since the early 1950s, it was customary for the Head Boy and another monitor, usually the Deputy Head Boy, to attend the Harrow School Songs where Sir Winston Churchill regularly participated. In November 1961, after a couple of postponements because Churchill was sick, John was there with Mike Quine, Norwood House Captain. It was a great event and, notwithstanding his physical disabilities, Churchill joined in the songs and then walked with Clemmie, his wife, from the Speech Rooms to the Headmaster’s House. He was cheered all the way by Harrow School boys and the many spectators lining the road. Churchill never attended subsequent Harrow School Songs, which were later renamed the Churchill Songs.
This experience first piqued John’s interest in Churchill, and he has since become an acknowledged expert on his health problems and medical illnesses.
The school in 1961-2 was full of opportunities including the long standing Combined Cadet Force and the beginnings of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. It was a most productive year for John and helped him prepare for other leadership roles later in his medical career. John was the first John Lyon student to receive the Gold Award, he was sponsored by the Youth Office, Borough of Harrow and during his time as Head Boy he assisted Mr Millett, the first Director of the John Lyon award scheme, in the launch of the program.