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The Maltonian Web - Biography

Ernest Loraine Watt

Headmaster, Malton Grammar School
1911-1937

Articles taken from The Maltonian, March 1937, Issue 61

In Memoriam.

Never before in the course of its history has the School been called upon to sustain such a blow as fell on the morning of the twenty- fourth of January. Shocking enough at the beginning of Term had been the rumour, all too soon to be confirmed, that Mr Watt was so ill as to necessitate a Term's rest from his labours. That prospect had been unpleasant enough, but we had then the consolation of feeling that the time would pass, that the term was to be a short one, that his condition gave rise to no anxiety.

We doubt if anyone who was at School on that Friday morning will ever forget the shattering effect of the news that came to us - that Mr. Watt had suddenly contracted influenza and in his weak state of health had failed to resist its terrible onslaught. He had passed, we learned, on the Wednesday.

We are carrying on. Of course, we are carrying on, but School is different, and we do not yet quite realise how different. The truth is that we are still stunned: we are only slowly recovering from the shock: next Term, maybe, we shall be fully awake to the magnitude of our loss and be more articulate in our expression of the thousand- and-one things that we miss in missing Mr. Watt. Let us carry on. Among the many expressions of appreciation of our late Head that have reached us there are some that we feel must be passed on to our readers and these you will find in the following pages.

We would close our introductory remarks by mentioning our deep appreciation of the last tribute to Mr. Watt from Mr. Baker, for so long our publisher. It takes the form of the photograph which you will already have found.

From a Governor, H Watson-Pearson

I was this year invited to be chief guest at the Annual Dinner of the Old Maltonian Association. This was after Mr. Watt's death, but I learned that the invitation so kindly extended to me had originated with him. I like to think that after an association extending over 25 years we both had the same feelings towards each other at the end as we had at the beginning. One had not to know Mr. Watt for very long before recognising a friend. It was this capacity for friendship, with its corollary of producing very real affection in everybody with whom he came in contact, whether in a public or private capacity, that was perhaps his most marked characteristic. A small thing in its way but peculiarly arresting, coming as it did from one to whom my own private anniversaries would not ordinarily mean very much, was his short note of greeting on each 17th July, my wedding day. Probably many others besides myself had the same evidence of a very close personal interest. In Mr. Watt's dealings with the Governors of the School there was equally this friendly contact. In all the twenty-five years of his Headmastership there was never anything in his relations with them but complete harmony in trying to promote the interests of the school in every possible way. It was no small task that he was called upon to perform in the Autumn of 1911, when he became the first Headmaster, under the new dispensation, of that ancient corporation called" the Free Grammar School of Robert Halgate, alias Holgate, Archbishop of York, in Old Malton, in the North Riding of the County of York, founded by deed dated the 4th day of May, 1547, under Letters Patent, dated the 24th day of October, in the thirty-eight year of the reign of His Majesty King Henry VIII." New buildings, new staff, new pupils, new everything. The whole corporate life to create both in work and play not to mention the social and other activities that mean so much in a school. The War followed all too soon the promising inception of this enterprise. To Mr. Watt, as to so many who were called upon to stay at home, this time of unsettlement and dislocation involved great personal strain, and it says much for his uncomplaining determination to make the best of things that after the War the school was so soon able to make up for the time lost. But the financial post-war stress was doomed to delay, until the other day, the fulfilment of the building programme that had been envisaged when the original plans were made, which delay has been for so long a factor against the school's development. Alas, he has not seen the completion of the new buildings, but at any rate on another side, the provision of the extra playing fields, he saw the future of the school provided for, largely due to his own efforts and those of his old pupils.

Of his high sense of duty, not only to the school, but to the community in which he lived, of his broad-mindedness on all social and other questions and those personal characteristics which endeared him so much to pupils and staff alike, others will speak- as a Governor, and speaking for other Governors, I mourn a wise and good Headmaster and staunch friend. H. WATSON PEARSON.

E.L.W.-The Correspondent.

To many Old Scholars he was always E.L.W. for so he subscribed his letters. And if one thinks of E.L.W. one immediately remembers what a most punctilious correspondent he was. He often asserted that be replied to all letters addressed to him the same day as he received them. Who of his Old Scholars has not heard that he could write the Lord's Prayer upon a sixpence? Who could not recognise instantaneously his neat handwriting with its Greek characteristics? Who of his Old Scholars has not had some letter from him written in perfect English?
The moving finger writes and having writ moves on. But his letters remain an ever constant reminder of his encouraging interest in all things of whatever importance.

E.L.W. vigilantly followed the careers of his Old Scholars and was always willing to help and to give them his lively encouragement. When I was articled he wrote: " I am so glad to hear you have started and I write to wish you every best wish. Mind you come and ask me if you have any difficulty. Yon can always find me alone on Sundays ". Incidentally it was on one such Sunday visits that Earl Fitzwilliam walked past the School whereupon E.L.W. hurried after the Earl and for the first time discussed the acquisition of the additional playing fields which came to fruition some ten years later.

He did not let my second milestone pass unnoticed but looked forward eagerly to hearing of success in all the remaining examinations and afterwards in my profession. The closeness of his interest is reflected in a letter written to me when he felt that my Final Examination was getting very near ; he wished me the best of luck and enjoined me to keep cool. A little later he had seen the announcement of the result in one of the daily papers and was so glad.

Shortly afterwards he was pleased to hear of my first appointment and wrote :-" Don't forget that you are in the eyes of the public an Officer of the Supreme Court-and cultivate broad views, and an open hand, and a sympathetic ear." He continued to show his interest when I opened my own offices, and he hoped that March 1st would be " a red letter day," and there were other letters.

Christmas and the New Year were invariably times for conveying his greetings to many Old Scholars. In 1920 he hoped that everything of the best would be my way and that 1921 would be better than any that had been; for 16 year's thus he wrote to me.

Sometimes E.L.W. mentioned his Mother, to whom he has so suddenly been reunited. In 1932 he wrote :-" And so we all feel that it is all for the best. Besides, she wanted to be away. The only sorrow is the parting." In December of the same year he was with me in sorrow, and in each of the succeeding years he remembered and thought of me "with real sympathy." At Christmas he wrote from Surrey :-" 'they would hate to see you knocked out. Be the man they want you to be. This is the first Christmas of my life that I have not been able to greet my little Mother in the flesh."

E.L.W. never failed to express his appreciation of any service however small and by whomsoever it was rendered. When one did some such service for him or the School there was certain to be an appreciative letter from him within a few hours, usually with some personal comment added to it. In 1921 he produced" Twelfth Night" at the last Malton Gala. The collapse of a chair in which a rather stout lady member of the audience was sitting, was immediately followed by a collapse of part of the scenery; one actor ejaculated a most un-Shakespearian expression and Malvolio forgot part of his lines. The next day E.L.W. thanked Malvolio for all his work, and condoled with him.

Scholars were encouraged frankly to discuss with him their difficulties, and he did not frown upon any disagreement with his opinions. Sometimes, too, there was a controversy between the O.M.A. and its President. At Easter, 1926, the members danced in a Chinese setting which led to some difficulties. The President wrote the Secretary: " Only a rotter throws up the sponge at difficulties. You will come out all the stronger for sparring with me and others!" Old scholars will remember his bonhommie at O.M.A. gatherings and the circle which gathered in his study to talk about the School, themselves, and other old scholars. In January, 1927, the President wrote the Secretary : " I should have very much liked to be at the Re-union; I feel that it is my privilege to be in my room on these occasions in case anyone wants to see me.  Please tell any O.M.'s who may ask for me that I am with them in spirit."

Thus he wrote, and so he was always with one; he added to one's joys and he lightened one's sorrows. The genial figure no longer sits in the study of which he was the first occupant. The last word of encouragement has been given; the last letter has been written; but E.L.W. remains with past and present scholars in spirit. G.F.A.N.

 

 
Ernest Loraine Watt

From a member of the teaching staff,
M. Douthett

It is a great sorrow to us all that our revered Head Master, Mr. Watt has passed from us. The School bas lost a dear and understanding Head and all who have had the privilege of being his colleagues and friends feel it very keenly.

We all know how during the years he has been Head Master, Mr. Watt has worked with untiring and ceaseless energy for the progress of the School in every way. His influence for good will live and be felt in the lives of all whom he taught, helped, and worked with, both in the School and in the Town.

Mr. Watt was never too busy or too tired to help anyone who was in need of advice. During the twenty-four years I was privileged to be a member of his staff I always found him the same. Quickness of thought, charm of manner, and a sincere belief in the goodness of everyone were his outstanding characteristics, and time and again they enabled him to smooth away difficulties and worries. We cannot build for Mr. Watt a finer memorial than to live our lives to the Glory of God and to do our duty in helping others so that his work at M.G.S. will not have been in vain, and so that his influence for good will continue in all who have come in contact with him. Let us, then, put by our sorrow and as Christians be glad that our late, dear H. M. has passed into the" Higher Life." May God grant to his soul peace, protection and progress! M. DOUTHETT

The Beloved Head.

It would be difficult to find one who moved among his pupils more naturally and with greater charm of manner. Kindly affectioned ever, his deep love and understanding of human nature at its wildest and strangest, combined with a ready sense of humour, led him to walk calmly and unperturbed amidst the surging passions and storms of wayward youth. He had no need to resort to angry words, nor even to a stern and forbidding countenance; the most eccentric and defiant spirit would become obedient under his gentle control. Moreover his learning rested on him lightly, so that he was always willing to hear of our joys and sorrows, or to discuss any matter under the sun.

As the lambs grew up and left the fold, he still kept loving and faithful watch over his scattered flock. How glad he was when a letter arrived from some far distant corner of the world, or when a nearer child dropped in to see him, or when some latent genius sprang to life! As for those of his family who were never very far away, he rejoiced if he found two or three devoting time and leisure to the service of their fellow men. But in that respect he took the lead, working as it were, behind the scenes.

And he passed over. . .. We who are left give thanks for his life, "forasmuch as we know that his labour is not in vain." <M.H.L.

My memories of Mr. Watt and M.G.S.-which seem inseparable - go back to 1911, when the school opened. Mr. Watt welcomed us then, as he did ever afterwards. He was always a friend as well as a headmaster. When the school started we had no uniform dress, no old traditions to follow, it fell to Mr. Watt to institute customs such as pancake scramble on Shrove Tuesdays, school picnics by horse charabanc to Thornton Dale, and the singing of the pathetic leaving hymn. I remember Mr. Watt playing cricket with the boys, his presence at debates, producing plays for us, and singing topical ditties at the school concerts.

We used to try and imitate his neat handwriting. He was always in touch with his boys and girls, and after we left school he never failed to congratulate or commiserate on great occasions in our lives. As I mentioned when I started this article, Mr. Watt and M.G.S. always seem one, and his best memorial will be the happy memories his old pupils have of their school-days at M.G.S. R.B

From a London O.M.

My last meeting with Mr. Watt was a remarkable occurrence. It was during the lunch hour, one day last September, in the heart of the City of London. Gracechurch Street was very crowded, as it usually is at that time of day, and there he was walking straight towards me, just as I had known him to walk up Middlecave Road. He had to hurry as he was dining with a friend he hadn't seen since they were at school together. I said, with honest admiration, "He will be pleased to see you."

As I waited for my 'bus and hurried along Canon Street and past St. Paul's to Ludgate Circus, I remember thinking of what a remarkable man Mr. Watt was. In a part of the City where "big business men" abound, among all those top-hats and frock-coats, none appeared more important than he. The country school master indeed! Was there such another man anywhere?

I left M.G.S. more than eight years ago, and I can honestly say that with each succeeding year my admiration of E.L.W. has grown. Malton has become increasingly remote, but the more I have seen of life the greater has my appreciation of Mr. Watt and of M.G.S. become. In spite of the people I know who went to more famous schools, I remain proud of being an O.M.

My impression of Mr. Watt's ideas on education may be wrong. I believe that his primary object was to turn out good citizens rather than eminent scholars. Certainly some of the finest men and women I know are O.M's. The majority of his pupils needed to know little of the subjects which are commonly prescribed, after they had left school. What was more important was that they should learn a rational view of things in general, know how to study, and develop a sense of moral right and wrong. He always relied upon moral compulsion to get things done. Sometimes, I know, it failed, but it was hardly his fault if his pupils had no "better nature" to which to appeal.

I have lost a great friend and an irreplaceable one. But I rejoice that I had the good fortune to know so great a man and am unendingly grateful for all I learnt from him. W.B

The Boss

A few recollections, gathered out of a friendship of over 24 years.
I remember:

  1. Bowling to him at nets when he played cricket with us, striving my hardest to "spread-eagle" his stumps and earn the three pennies which replaced the bails, to swell my form's war charity collection that week.
  2. Listening with delight (albeit tinged with apprehension sometimes !) to his own song at each House Concert. The music was usually of the" rum-ti-tum " variety but the words were always topical and witty.
  3. Trying in vain to guess what book he represented when he wore a label in his lapel, bearing the inscription: "I am important," at one of our "Book Teas" (I had not then become acquainted with Wilde).
  4. Enjoying with him the summer term's production of a Shakespeare play and appreciating his patience with us at our rehearsals.
  5. His gift for making other folk see his point of view and
    "roping them in" to help in something for the betterment of M.G.S. It was not really surprising that he had this gift, when we remember how ready he always was to see our viewpoint in any discussion.
  6. Latterly, after my own M.G.S. days were over, his helpful friendship on many occasions. More than anything else, perhaps, 1 admired him for the way he answered every letter of mine by return of post. I was very sorry to learn that the last letter I wrote to him (thinking he was in Malton) only reached Surrey after he had passed on.

He leaves us all the fragrant memory of a kindly master and a trusty friend. CLON (1912-1919)