History of the Ermysted’s Old Boys’ Society

This article was originally written by Len Price in 1991 for the Quincentenary Celebration book. It only covers the first forty years of the Society, which at the time was half of the time the Society had been in existence.

The early years

The inaugural meeting of the Society was held on March 19th. 1912, having been called at the suggestion of the then Headmaster, Mr. A. C. Powell. A total of fifty Old Boys were present, Mr. Powell took the Chair and gave his reasons for calling the meeting. After discussion it was unanimously agreed to form the Society.

The election of officers found Mr. Powell as President, creating a precedent that applies to the present day, and Mr. G. W. Willan as Chairman. The committee was formed of seven “town members” and four “country members”, a split that was to exist until well into the 1930’s. The meeting also proposed and agreed to form the Old Boys’ Rugby Football Club.

The following week a further meeting was held to draw up the Society’s rules. One rule of interest was that former pupils were not automatically members, but had to be proposed; their acceptance or rejection being at the hands of the committee – one “black ball” being sufficient to deny membership to the applicant. The committee also had the power to remove any member’s name from the list of members.

It was further proposed and agreed that all Masters and Assistant Masters were eligible for membership. This continues to the present day, the lady members of staff being also included.
This of course means that they become the only ladies eligible to attend the annual Founders’ Day Dinner.

The initial subscription was 3 shillings, (15 p.), which is equivalent of £10:20 at current prices (December 2006). Evidently, over the years, the annual subscription (£ 7:50) has not kept in line with inflation. The date of the first Old Boys’ Dinner was fixed for the third Thursday in October, and was held at the Black Horse Hotel at the cost of 2 shillings and 6 pence, (12.5 p.).

In the years up to the First World War the annual cricket, golf and rugby matches against the School were started, as were the first two prizes for pupils to the value of one Guinea, £1:05, each.

The year 1914 saw the Annual Dinner moved to Saturday night, still in October, but that year’s Dinner was cancelled due to the outbreak of the war.

In 1915 the activities of the Society were suspended due to the large numbers of members who were serving in the Forces; no formal meetings were held until November 1917.

The annual dinner was moved from October in 1919, being held on December 12th. 1919. After the supper the Annual General Meeting was held, raising the annual subscription to 5 shillings, (25p.).

The Twenties and Thirties

The first practical moves towards the Memorial Library came in November 1920, when it was suggested that, subject to permission from the Governors, the Library should be formed by converting the then Rooms 1 and 2 plus the main entrance vestibule.

The year 1921 saw the Library fund at £1,100. A further appeal was launched and an Annual Dance was also inaugurated to help to build up the appeal funds.

In 1922 the Founders’ Day celebrations moved to the present date, the Saturday nearest December 12th.

Work started on the Memorial Library in December 1922, whist the Annual Dinner was revived in 1923, held for the first time on Founders’ Day at the Devonshire Hotel, Skipton.

Founders’ Day, 1924 saw the Memorial Library formally opened, with buglers in attendance at the unveiling of the plaque. The Bishop of Bradford officiated at the service.

In 1926 comes the first mention of a School Scholarship Scheme, although apparently details were very sparse at that time.

The following year the Society purchased a set of white jerseys, complete with the School crest, for use by the Old Boys’ rugby team.

The Founders’ Day Dinner for the first time had what is now the traditional toast, – “The School and the Society”. It was also recorded that the Old Boys’ colours were available from W. A. & J. T. Simpson’s on Swadford Street – the beginning of a long association with the Society.

In 1928 a branch of the Society at Barnoldswick was proposed, and duly formed. Recognition was also given to a London branch, although no details were given as to who had formed the branch. No mention is made after the war of the Barnoldswick branch of the Society; nor is there mention to be found, after the 1928 minutes, of the London Branch.

The Annual General Meeting of 1929 voted to give £50 to the School Scholarship Fund, whilst in 1931 two representatives of the Society were appointed, with two School representatives, the best area of investment for the Scholarship Funds, 5% War Stock being selected.

Arthur C. Coe, one of the new Committee members in 1932, was duly appointed as Treasurer. Arthur gave many years service to the Society, his official position being Chairman from 1946 to 1950.

The Chief Guest at the 1933 Dinner was our Founder, Mr. A. C. Powell. At the Annual General Meeting it was proposed to put an Old Boys’ supplement in one of the then three annual issues of The Chronicles of Ermysteds, the start of what is still a very popular section of The Chronicles.

A sliding scale of subscriptions was put into operation, starting at one shilling ( 5p.) for 16-17 year old members, rising to four shillings ( 20p.) for full members over the age of 21; this was changed in 1934 to one shilling and six pence ( 7.5p.) ranging up to four shillings.

A joint dance with the High School Old Girls’ Guild was proposed and agreed.

The year 1937 saw the launch of a drive to raise £5000 for a School Leaving Scholarship.

In 1938 the Old Boys’ Golf Competition, was inaugurated. This is still a popular afternoon out for those Old Boys who play the “Royal and Ancient” game. The donation of a trophy, by Mr. W. H. Hitchin, a former Chairman of the Society, for the annual golf competition was also recorded in 1939. This trophy is still being played for in 2009.

The School Leaving Scholarship had by now reached £3,446. Discussions were taking place as to the regulation of the Scholarship, the Honorary School Solicitor being requested to draw up a draft deed for further discussion.

A meeting on September 11th. 1939 nominated the fund as the “Hartley McIntosh Scholarship”, which, of course, is still in existence, although in a different form to that inaugurated in 1939. A decision was made at the same meeting to keep the Society active during the war years, although the Annual Dinner was substituted with a High Tea.

During the Second World War the Society, not unnaturally, moved slowly forward; 1942 saw the first increase on subscriptions for eight years, rising to five shillings, ( 25p. ), for full members. The subscriptions for younger members remained unchanged.

Life Membership ceased in 1943, the subscription of £2. 2s. 0d. (£2.10p.) giving ten years membership instead, although reading further into the Minutes it took a long time to implement completely.

As far as can be ascertained, 1943 was also the first year that the Parish Church, the location of the School’s foundation, being used for the annual Founders’ Day service.

The Post-war years

The Annual Dinner was revived in 1945, when the then President and Headmaster, Mr. M. L. Forster, announced a War Memorial Building Fund, which was eventually to finance the building of the Memorial Hall on “The Bottom”.

The Founders’ Day Dinner in 1946 was held, for one year only, at the long-gone Co-operative Hall on Swadford Street, when it was reported that the War Memorial Building Fund was very slow in getting moving. Mention was also made of the forthcoming publication of A. M. Gibbon’s “The Ancient Free Grammar School of Skipton in Craven”, the author being a member of staff at the time.

Not unnaturally, 1947 was taken up largely with planning the festivities to celebrate the 400th. anniversary of the re-founding of the School by William Ermysted in 1548 – a joint committee of Old Boys, parents and staff being formed. By sheer coincidence, in 1991, this format was repeated to plan for the 1992 celebrations.

The 1948 festivities were subsequently reported as being a huge success.

The “Fleming Essay Prize” was introduced in 1951, eight entries being received in the first year. That year’s A. G. M. passed a resolution that retired members of staff should be invited to attend the Founders’ Day Dinner if they wished.

A major increase in subscriptions was introduced in 1952, the ten-year membership fee being raised 50% to £3. 3s.0d. (£3.15), whist the annual subscription was raised from 5s.(23p.) to 7s. 6d. (37.5p.), the reduced fee for younger members being discontinued.

The end of the Society’s fortieth year saw a balance of only £36. The Hartley McIntosh Scholarship Awards were made “on application only” and lasted, subject to annual requests, until the end of their university studies.

One name prominent in 1952, which will be well known to older members, is that of W. B. Swainson, who was elected to the committee in 1948, and served as Secretary from 1950 to 1966.

As the Memorial Hall had yet to be built, Annual Dinners were being held at the Devonshire Hotel.

If the 1952 subscription of 37.5p. had kept in line with inflation, we would now be paying £7.45, we are actually paying £7.50. However, the 1952 balance of £36 would only be worth £476. Evidently the Society’s officers have very astutely managed the funds in the last 56 years.