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The Maltonian Web - Biography

Philip Taylor

Headmaster, Malton Grammar School
1951-1971

A Short biography of Philip Taylor, submitted by his daughter Rosemary, March 2002 with some additional notes by his other daughter, Gillian.
Updated following some family research by Rosemary, January 2008
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He was born 17 June 1911 at Heaton Chapel, Manchester, moving to Middleton Junction as a child, to a to a row of houses my grandfather had built for relatives. His father was a textile engineer for Whitehead, Sumner and Harker, working mostly in Spain and Italy setting up cotton mills. I think his father's frequent absence from home shaped his caring nature and willingness to do housework!  His mother had been a successful elementary school teacher and, like many women, resented that this had to be given up on marriage, and she hated Middleton. His brother was an architect.

His education was at Manchester Grammar, then Cambridge University - resulting in an MA in Classics.  He taught Classics in Bradford where he met my mother, then Nottingham Mundella School before going to Malton as Headmaster.

He was called up to the Air Force in the war - and became a Flight Lieutenant, but never flew in a plane. He was sent to Burma briefly; he volunteered to be code breaker of Japanese messages. Most of the time he was stationed near Delhi, except for an enjoyable spell in Kashmir. He spent much of his time organising musical entertainment for the other troops.

He had two daughters, Gillian and Rosemary. He was on Malton Town Council, was a Rotarian, and a JP.

The school motto he chose summed up his attitude to life - Audi alterem partem. He did not believe in disciplinary school rules, only administrative ones. He thought everyone had a right to their own point of view and should discipline themselves - it worked at MGS, I'm not sure it would now?

His real passion was music. He played the piano whenever he could. He was also a good singer and violinist. He took every opportunity to conduct the school choirs and orchestra (not sure what the music teachers really thought). He seemed to do most of the cover for absent teachers and, if nothing was set and the hall was free, he would take us round the piano to sing the comic songs from Gilbert & Sullivan. Did he do this with other forms?

He had a great sense of humour - I'm not sure this came over to the other pupils. I remember an assembly when he had to read out a new pupil's name, which suddenly struck him as very funny. He announced the subject and then there was a long silence. Everyone but me thought he had been taken ill. I knew he was having a giggling fit and couldn't bring himself to say it.

He did every assembly, every morning for the whole school. He had plans in his retirement to write a book on making assemblies more relevant to older pupils. He always wore his gown - the torn one for every day use. (He had a best one for speech days.) It was always torn because, in the "new" building, the swing doors would close to, trapping the back of it as he swept through.

Philip Taylor

There was a clock in his office that had a loud tick and then a "clunk" every few minutes. I only remembered this the other day, when we received one in the museum where I work. When I did A level Latin, there were only two of us, so we had lessons in his office. I can remember hot summer afternoons in there with the windows open and the scent of the roses.

My father believed in educating the whole person. In the first year, we had Headmaster's Period when he told us about local government, the law and public transport. In the Sixth Form, he did whatever he felt like: more Gilbert and Sullivan, or poetry (Wilfred Owen, T S Elliot and Houseman), debates (hanging, war, God), music and comedy (romantic symphonies*, jazz, Tom Lehrer, Peter Sellers).

My father.
In addition to Rosemary's comments about our father, I should like to add that, when he was in the Air Force during the war, he had a nickname - cool, calm and collected, and I never remember him "loosing his cool" at school. Only once do I ever remember him shouting at a pupil. He caught a boy, who shall be nameless, bullying a younger pupil and, as the older boy had been in trouble previously for other offences, this enraged my father. Some years later, this same boy, subsequently a pillar of society, came up to my father at an MGS Old Scholars' Reunion (held annually as close as possible to New Year's Day upstairs in Bowers Restaurant) and thanked him profusely for everything that he had done for him at school.

Some additional memories from Rosemary's sister, Gillian.

In addition to Rosemary's comments about our father, I should like to add that, when he was in the Air Force during the war, he had a nickname - cool, calm and collected, and I never remember him "losing his cool" at school. Only once do I ever remember him shouting at a pupil. He caught a boy, who shall be nameless, bullying a younger pupil and, as the older boy had been in trouble previously for other offences, this enraged my father. Some years later, this same boy, subsequently a pillar of society, came up to my father at an MGS Old Scholars' Reunion (held annually as close as possible to New Year's Day upstairs in Bowers Restaurant) and thanked him profusely for everything that he had done for him at school.

As well as the book that my sister mentioned, that he hoped to write in his retirement, he had also started to write a book on comparative religions (a subject dear to his heart) and he had also already composed settings for tenor voice for many of the Shropshire Lad poems of A E Houseman, a poet he loved. I have the hand written manuscripts of the Houseman settings.

At his first speech day (I think) he had the school choir singing Borodin's Polovtsian Dances which everyone enjoyed, even the boys in the choir. Speech Days were always held in the Assembly Rooms in the Market Place and were presided over by Sir William Worsley, a very kind and avuncular man. My father gave some of the best speech day reports I have ever heard (and I've heard many) because he tried to incorporate mention of everything that had gone on at school during the previous year, so everyone felt that they had been included in some way.