On The Hill 1954-1960
On page 4 of Kingham Hill Magazine Volume 2 (New Series) No.6 Oct.1960, I found this article written by the then master of Durham House, Mr. Tom Worrall.
"We shall greatly miss Giles Heron, who after six years on the Hill has left us to take up a post as resident Housemaster at his old school, Abbotsholme in Derbyshire. Whether teaching History or coaching games, or helping with the school dramatic productions, or guiding the History Club, or the Octagon Society, or tutoring Durham, or talking (which was his favourite occupation), or driving his ancient Austin Seven around and over the pitch (which was his second favourite occupation), Mr. Heron added flavour to life on the Hill".
So the sage Giles Heron rode off The Hill in his Austin Seven into the saga of our Kingham Hill Schooldays.
Determined not to turn this page, leaving only these few frivolous sentences quoted above. Like some token gesture to the man who inspired me in the one academic subject that I genuinely enjoyed and still do today - history. I set out to trace Mr. Heron, and to find out as much as I could about him.
Giles Heron Summer 1959
This I managed to do with the help of two of his chums and colleagues, Messrs Benson & Brindley (both featured on this site). I caught up with Giles - now living in North Yorkshire - and nearing his eightieth birthday.
I discovered that it was due to the post war depression of World War One (1914 -1918) that Giles' parents, Thomas Milner Heron and Eulalie 'Jack' Heron (née Davies) migrated from Yorkshire to the South of England.
Giles was born on the 24th of September 1928 in Penzance in the English county of Cornwall. Giles' father, Thomas Heron, was a clothing manufacturer who in 1929 founded the firm Cresta Silk. He was the inventor of Utility Clothing which was introduced nationally at the end of 1941, during World War II, by the British Government's Board of Trade.
The Utility scheme trademark
Thomas and Eulalie had four children Patrick, Michael, Joanna, and Giles.
Patrick Heron 1920-1999 became a world famous artist, painting in the modernist style, also an Art critic for various international Art journals. Several of his paintings are in the Tate gallery.
Michael Heron became a Benedictine catholic monk, and spent many years working and healing the sick.
By his own admission Giles was educated at various progressive schools prior to gaining a place at Oxford University. Where he majored in History. Giles was in Jesus college.
Educational progressivism† is the belief that education must be based on the principle that humans are social animals who learn best in real-life activities with other people. Progressivists claimed to rely on the best available scientific theories of learning. Most progressive educators believe that children learn as if they were scientists, following a process similar to John Dewey 's model of learning:
Given this view of human nature, a progressivist teacher desires to provide not just reading and drill, but also real-world experiences and activities that center on the real life of the students. A typical progressivist slogan is "Learn by Doing!"
In 1952 Giles gained a teaching post at the prestigious Cheam Preparatory School then based in Headley, near the market town of Newbury in Berkshire. I remind readers that both the Duke of Edinburgh and also his son Charles, Prince of Wales, were both former pupils at Cheam Preparatory School. This has now become one of the leading co-educational schools in the country. Like Kingham Hill today, Cheam is a coeducational school with both boarding and day pupils.
Not only did pupils join KHS in September 1954, but the other two "new boys" that term were: Messrs Benson, deputy house master to Bradford, and also Giles Heron, deputy house master to Durham house. These two big boys, so to speak, went on to join the local town Stow-on-the-Wold's Rugby club. This dynamic duo also joined the school choir, and photos of these two together with Choirmaster Mr. Stewart Brindley are displayed in the chapel section of this web site.
It was a sad day for most of us boys when we learnt that our history master was to leave at the end of the summer term July 1960. This was kept a quiet secret until almost the end of term that July lest riots broke out. This next illustration shows the speech day prize list for awards that year. Mr. Heron, of course, nominated the history prizes.
Where are these eminent scholars today? If you are one of them reading this article then please contact The Historian from our contacts page on this site.
So it came to pass that the sage, Giles Heron, rode away from Kingham Hill and into our schooldays legend - all at the age of thirty-two. So, what has he been doing for this past forty-eight years or so? Now my information comes straight from the sage himself, Giles Heron, March 2008.
On leaving Kingham Hill, I went on to become Head of History and also a Housemaster at Abbotsholme School in Derbyshire. I remained there for the next thirteen years.
The latter ten of these years as their Second Master (Deputy Head teacher). I continued many of the interests and activities that I had enjoyed on The Hill with Messrs Basil Benson and impresario Stewart Brindley producing plays.
Abbotsholme, like Kingham Hill, had a school farm, and they both taught me how important contact with farm animals and involvement with farm work can be in helping young people to find their feet in life when their school days are over.
After leaving Abbotsholme School, my wife Mary and I bought a derelict hill farm here in the North Yorkshire Moors in order to give young people the experience of farm life.
They lived with us as a family sharing work and play for as long or short a time as they found it helpful; anything from a few weeks to a year or more. They had the satisfaction of seeing the farm returning to good order, thanks to their efforts. In all the 18 years we spent in this way I suppose something like 120 young people lived with us for a time.
Then in 1990 we handed the farm on to a successor who is still farming there and bringing up his two sons as well. We moved into the village here in Glaisdale, North Yorkshire for our retirement which is in most ways just as busy. I helped found a village drama club which produces a pantomime every year. I wrote several of them, directed and acted in others. I have been a governor of the local Primary school for 13 years: a councillor for the local District and County Councils for 6 years and, more recently, a Churchwarden for 8 years. Mary started up a small choir which has met in our house for some thirty years Mary was the real farmer and I was more of a farm worker who used his teaching experience to help guide our young people through life. As I near my 80th birthday I find life as full of interest as ever.
The introduction of The Octagon Forum to our School Days Website is Mr. Heron's legacy to us all who follow on. However the initial version has been replaced by a new one as part of the recent upgrade to this website.
The Octagon was first introduced to the school as an out-of-hours debating society (Forum) for senior boys - 4th years and above - by the history master, Mr. Giles Heron. (This was confirmed to me personally by Giles in March 2008.)
All the bachelor members of staff where accommodated in Severn House, and the large octagonal table took pride of place in their sitting room.
This was also the venue for the early meetings of the society in those days. Realistically I suspect that it was in Giles' second term during 1955 that he established the Octagon Debating Society. A recent message posted in the new cyber forum from Mr. David Roberts, Norwich Housemaster 1982-92, reports that the real forum was still active in his time. I have also just heard from David Shepherd (Warden before Michael Payne) that the school's Octagon was very active in his time - and some distinguished debaters honed their skills there, not least Lord Adonis.
The table was moved into the Baring-Young memorial library in top school.
Article prepared by The Historian from research and notes provided by Giles Heron March 2007.
Click here to once again gather around the octagonal table in cyber space to meet and debate with former school friends.