OLD GHYLL BANK SCHOLARS.
PRESENTATION TO MR. AND MRS. NIXON, WHITEHAVEN.
On Monday approaching three o'clock an unusual number of men, many of them well known in the life of Whitehaven, were seen wending their way up Corkickle. One of them was stopped by a lady and asked where they were all going, and received for an answer:
"We're going back to school again".
They were all on their way to Ghyll Bank School where a very interesting function was performed, in the shape of a presentation to MR. AND MRS. NIXON by former old boys, on the occasion of their golden wedding.
When they had taken their places in the old schoolroom and were seated in the old desks, MR. HARRY ARMSTRONG told them how a month or two previously some of them had heard of MR. NIXON's approaching golden wedding on January 1st, and had thought it would be a suitable occasion on which to express to MR. AND MRS. NIXON the appreciation of his old pupils.
A circular was drafted and sent out and had met with an eager response, and with the subscription limited to 5s, the total amount collected was very satisfactory. A small committee was then got together, consisting of DR. DICKSON, MR. P. BENNETT, MR. C. B. DALZELL, MR. J. B. MOSSOP, MR. H. ARMSTRONG, and MR. SELBY, and decided that the presentation should take the form of a brooch to MRS. NIXON and an album recording the subscribers' names together with a wallet containing notes to MR. NIXON.
He hoped this would meet with the approval of the meeting - (applause), - and as DR. DICKSON had been the prime mover in this matter, he desired to move that DR. DICKSON should take the chair and make the presentation. This was cordially agreed to, and MR. AND MRS. NIXON were brought into the room where the whole company welcomed them with applause.
DR. DICKSON said many years ago, he remembered they had arranged a cricket match without MR. NIXON's permission, and then had to ask for a half holiday in order to play it, and he was chosen to make the request. He had done his Latin exercise that morning very badly, as usual, and, on his asking, MR. NIXON had said, "Couldn't they get anybody better than you to ask for it?"
He felt very much in the same position that day. But whether the old boys could have got anybody better or not, there was no one they could have got who would have made this presentation with greater pleasure. He was not going to give any long history of Ghyll Bank School, but when he first knew it, it was held in a room over the old cab yard at the end of Duke Street. He remembered it very well, because there was a hole in the floor through which could be seen BOB FISHER/s cab horses, and which was a convenient hiding place for pea shooters.
Then it had moved to Corkickle, and finally to Ghyll Bank. Also, for some reason he had forgotten, it was held for a short time in the building which is now the Grand Hotel.
When it became known that MR. NIXON was to celebrate his golden wedding on January 1st, he thought it was a fitting occasion to show the appreciation the old boys had of MR. NIXON's services, and since he first took the matter in hand, he had received over 100 letters and also in many expressions of opinion verbally, there was one sentiment of love and affection for MR. NIXON, and of regard for MRS. NIXON.
They all had happy memories of the days at Ghyll Bank School, and recognised MR. NIXON's influence not only on their young lives, but also during their maturer manhood, and acknowledged their debt of gratitude for his untiring patience, his magnificent tuition, and excellent example.
They had not absorbed all he taught them - though perhaps more than he thought, - but whatever failure there may have been on their part, it was due to no fault on the part of MR. NIXON. He hoped that now when his teaching days were drawing to a close, he might in looking back, see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. The travail he meant which he had endured in making some of them into decent citizens. His old pupils recognised his work with grateful hearts. They offered him their warmest congratulations, and hoped he would long be spared to enjoy the rest and quiet of a happy old age. DR. DICKSON then made the presentations.
MR. NIXON, in replying, said he scarcely knew what to say even though he was not taken entirely by surprise, for he had had some warning. He could only offer the best and heartfelt thanks of MRS. NIXON and himself for these handsome and valuable presents which he valued ten times more for the manner in which the old boys had received him.
Valuable as they were, he valued far more the spirit of kindness which had prompted the gift. "There was a tide in the affairs of men." said Shakespeare, "which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."
Such a tide he had taken when he accepted the invitation of MR. HANNAH made in 1873 to come and open a school in Whitehaven. The school had always been successful. It had not indeed led to a large material fortune, but at least to good fortune, for he had been able to live comfortably and bring up a large family and start them into useful careers, and had made it possible for MRS. NIXON and himself to look forward to comfort and happiness in old age. He hoped he had always done his best for his old pupils, and he was always pleased to hear of their success.
He had that morning received letters from MR. J. P. BENNETT and MR. F. KENNISH, and had they been present there would have been still more talent than there was already in the room.
People thought often that some of the subjects taught in schools were waste of time, but if they realised that the mind, no less than the body, was developed by exercise, they would see that the work done by a boy in school in solving a mathematical problem, construing a page of Livy or Cicero, or studying a play of Shakespeare, was exercising his intellect and providing the exercise was not carried to the point of fatigue, its power was strengthened.
So by the study of varied subjects a well-balanced brain was produced, and if the body was not neglected, the "mens sana in corpore sano", the ideal of all true educationalists might be attained.
Such had always been his aim.
He thanked them all most earnestly for the present. Of many kindnesses he had received since coming to Whitehaven this was the crown.
Then shaking hands with their old master as they went, the old Ghyll Bankers left, indulging in reminisences, and feeling that their tribute of appreciation had been more than richly earned.