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Wellingborough News, 8th November 1879, transcribed by Kay Collins
Opening of the Board Schools 1879

Rushden Liberal Association

Public Meeting in the Temperance Hall

On Wednesday a tea meeting took place in the Temperance Hall to celebrate the opening of the Board schools, after which a public meeting was held, at which educational and political addresses were delivered. Mr. Wilkins presided, and there was a large attendance, among those present being Mr. J. Rennie Wilkinson (Addington), Mr. R. G. Roe (Oundle), Mr. Charles Pollard (Kettering), Mr. H. K. Farey (Kettering), Mr. Abington (Ringstead), Mr. T. Bird (Kettering), the Rev. G. Pung (Rushden), and Mr. S. Knight (Rushden).

Board School Opening
Board School Opening – Wednesday Nov 5th 1879
The Chairman, in opening the proceedings, said: We have met this evening to celebrate the opening of the new Board Schools, and as educational topics will hardly be likely to occupy the whole of the evening, we have asked a few of our friends to come and speak to us upon political matters, and they have very kindly responded to our invitation, so that I have no doubt we shall spend a very pleasant and interesting evening. The first resolution will refer to the School Board question, and the remainder of the evening will be devoted to the consideration of political subjects. Meeting to celebrate the completion of the new Board Schools, a brief review of educational affairs in the parish cannot be inappropriate, but any review would be incomplete that did not contain some acknowledgement of the services of Mr. Ebenezer Knight at a time when the only school in which the children of the poor could be instructed in the three R's was that which he conducted in the tumble-down old building where the Vestry Hall now stands. Seventeen years ago he was induced to become the master of that school. For several years previously, with commendable zeal, he had interested himself in obtaining subscriptions for it, but as a school it had not prospered, and when Mr. Knight undertook the teaching duties the number of scholars had become reduced to seven. Mr. Knight's decision was approved throughout the parish, his Church friends being very warm in his praise, his only fault in their estimation—and of which they did not hesitate to tell him—being that he was a Dissenter. It would be flattering to say that Mr. Knight's education and training fitted him for the post. It did not. But his heart was in the undertaking, and feeing a genuine educationist, he set to work and taught himself that, he might teach his scholars. Mr. Knight struggled on under great difficulties, receiving the merest pittance for his services, but teaching to the best of his ability, and, as far as the most important of the three R's is concerned— arithmetic—teaching that subject exceedingly well. Under his care the school attendance increased from seven to sixty, which fact alone is sufficient evidence of the value the poor then set upon his labours. That, then, was the state of affairs when the Rev. J. T. Barker became rector of the parish some ten years ago, at a time when education had become the leading question in home politics. Mr. Barker, who, however we may differ from him, cannot be spoken of other than as a thorough educationist, was not long in making a move, but the Dissenters were then looking to the Education Bill, and were anxious to await its passing, in order that all might unite in providing one school, and one only for the whole parish. The leaders of the Church party thought otherwise, made what was undoubtedly a skilful party move, and forthwith built schools. The Dissenters, and properly so, were not disposed long to allow the education of the rising generation to remain exclusively in the hands of the Church, and as soon as practicable after the passing of the Education Act, took advantage of its provisions to start what was known as the Rushden General School. Much as Mr. Knight had done for education, he found it necessary to give way to Masters trained and certificated in accordance with the Education Code. For five years the General School was continued, and during that period the committee managed to raise over £250 in voluntary subscriptions. Considering that hundreds of pounds were being concurrently raised for building the new Wesleyan Chapel, for enlarging and restoring the Old Baptist Meeting, and for the support of the ministry in our three Dissenting places of worship, then I say that to raise £250 by voluntary subscriptions justifies our contention that a genuine and determined effort was made to carry on the schools under a voluntary system. And yet we have been impudently told that the voluntary system was never thoroughly tried. Mind, ours was a purely voluntary system—we did not make out a list of what the voluntary subscribers should contribute. For five years we struggled on— and those engaged in it knew how arduous that struggle was—until at length, first one subscriber and then another failing it was determined to use the power conferred by Act of Parliament, and take the decision of the parish upon the question of a School Board. How well that contest was fought and won I need not remind you; nor need I say much on the election of members, when the supporters of the School Board returned their representatives by large majorities. Now I am not going to dispute the right of our opponents to fight that question as vigorously as they did; they had a perfect right to do so, as much as we had, and as far as we are concerned it is quite certain that if unsuccessful then, we should have continued the fight year by year until victory was ours. What I do regret, though, is that they did not choose representatives who would have trusted more to straighter hitting at the Board and less to their tremendous influence with the Education Department. That the minority were able to exert considerable influence with the authorities, and for a time were enabled to hinder the action of the Board, there is the admission of the Department itself for asserting; but when even after the schools were commenced they asked the Department to reconsider the question, to withdraw the sanction already awarded, and, as is by many believed, threatened "my lords" with an appeal to Parliament, then the Department had to choose whom they would serve, and they decided most unhesitatingly in favour of the Board. You all remember the letter from the Department in which the action of the majority was so splendidly vindicated, and you all remember, too, the result of that letter as effectively related by "Aunt Sally," in rhymes that will live long after their author has passed away. How—

With airs of injured innocence
Clean out of school they banged,
As culprits sometimes take their lives
To save them being hanged.

Thus by their folly they had brought
Upon themselves the rod,
And branded were as members of
The Rushden “Awkward Squad”.

Why the Board took up the question at all is readily explained. The minority talked, and they made no secret of the boast, that they would enlarge the Church schools sufficiently to meet all the requirements of the parish. This would practically have ended in the dissolution of the Board—a result that some of our opponents did not hesitate to treat as a moral certainty. The challenge thus thrown down was promptly accepted, and then began the struggle, which was fought by Messrs. Colson, Denton, and Knight with such indomitable perseverance, and the victorious ending of which we are now celebrating. Unfortunately for the minority, they could not induce the Education Department altogether to ignore carefully compiled statistics, while their mode of calculation was so different from that of the Department, that they were told at last that "when the Board on the 30th September, 1878, obtained approval of plans showing accommodation for 195 children, it would have been difficult to resist any claim they might have raised So provide for prospective increase by enlarging their plans so as to accommodate 40 or 50 more." The majority little knew how the pulse of the Department was beating just then, or the claim would, I am sure, moat certainly have been made, and I think I shall find a hearty response in this meeting when I say that the chief fault to be found with the new school buildings is that they are not large enough. That the Department had not overestimated the prospective increase of the parish is inclusively demonstrated by the fact that there are 80 new houses completed and in occupation that were not occupied when the school census was taken two years ago, and there were also at the present moment 28 new houses in course of erection, so that had the decision been taken on the present basis, schools half as big again would clearly have been sanctioned. Look, also, at the attendance. The new schools have only been opened a few weeks, and yet the average attendance last week was 176, while the number on the school register is 239, being more, with regular attendance, than the Board would be allowed to receive. The present average is thug 57 more than during the last year of the General School, while the number on the register is 63 more than when the General School was taken over by the Board. As regards efficiency, judged by results, the last school year showed an increase of 20 per cent, in the average attendance above the list year of the General School, but the Government grant was over 40 per cent. more. With this great measure of success, I am sure you must all be gratified, but it must not be supposed that this increase has been at the expense of attendance at the Church School. On the contrary, I believe the attendance at the Church School to be fully maintained, although they manage occasionally to turn over some of their black sheep to the Board. With regard to the cost, I know that some ratepayers, Tories in particular, are apt to grumble at School Board expenditure, but it is only fair to remind them that in recent years the rates of this parish have not as a whole increased. The explanation is not far to seek. Not very many years ago the relief of the poor instead of a parochial became a Union charge, and the saving thereby to this parish is now estimated at some hundreds per year. While the roads, of which the parish is blessed with over eight miles, have this year become a district charge, by which the parish will save fully as much as the annual charge for the school buildings, the entire cost of which, as you are aware, will be spread over fifty years. Much as the expenditure on education may be grumbled at in some quarters, time will prove it to be the best investment the country has ever made, and certainly, in our day even, a far better one than the six millions for fireworks so skilfully juggled out or the tax-payers by the "confidence trick" of the present Ministry. It is the people's cause that has been fought, and the new schools are essentially the people's schools. So long as the people continue to interest themselves in them, just so long will representatives be found willing to carry on the schools with the efficiency in which, in the days of compulsory education, the people have a right to insist. I do not like to conclude this review without some reference to two who were foremost among the supporters of the people's cause, Mr. Colson, who with his colleagues fought so determinedly at the Board, and who, unfortunately, only lived just long enough to see the building contract signed; and the Rev. R. E. Bradfield, who, during a long and painful illness, has not ceased to take a lively interest in the Board's continued welfare. A word or two to parents, and I have done, Parents should remember that it is not sufficient simply to have healthy, cheerful, and convenient buildings, well appointed schools, and an efficient staff of teachers. These advantages cannot be over estimated as a start, but much of the success of the schools will still depend upon the cordial co-operation of parents. They may and should encourage the children with their home lessons, promote punctuality in their attendance at school, and do their utmost to support the authority of their teachers. Much—I sometimes think too much—objection is expressed by parents to the infliction of corporal punishment. It is a system against which much can be said, but the difficulty is to devise any other punishment equally prompt and effective. When parents are apt to be angry with teachers for using the cane, let them think of the trouble they have to keep their own children good for an hour or so at a stretch; how much greater is that trouble if two or three of a neighbour's family are brewing mischief with their own; and then if they consider what it must be to keep a couple of hundred children on their best behaviour all day long, and day after day, they will be disposed rather to sympathise with the master when unfortunate necessity forbids him to spare the rod for fear of spoiling the child, and disorganising, it may be, the whole school.—The Chairman, who had been frequently applauded in the course of his speech, concluded by calling upon Mr. Farey to move the first resolution: "That the people of Rushden are to be congratulated on the completion of the new schools, and on the permanent establishment of the School Board system of education in the parish."

Mr. H. K. Farey said, in the course of an excellent speech, that the educational position of this country, prior to the passing of the Education Act of 1870, was something appalling. Two millions of children were growing up utterly destitute of the most elementary education; and when the Reform Bill of 1868 gave political power to the people the country was convinced that, the social problems besetting our future were so great that they could not be satisfactorily solved by an ignorant and un-educated people. (Applause) A noble lord, very well known in the Northern Division of this county had expressed as his opinion that the refinements of a superior education were incompatible with work and duty—(laughter), —but the people of Rushden had shown plainly enough that they recognised the advantage of education, and were willing to profit by it. This gathering was not merely a village celebration, it was a Liberal celebration; and if their Conservative friends reflected upon what they might deem a want of taste in making the opening of the Board Schools a subject for this celebration, he hoped they would in fairness recollect that, perhaps, they would not have made the erection of the Board Schools a special subject for jubilation, if in the carrying out of the work they had not been opposed by every resource of party politics. (Hear, hear, and applause) This was a Liberal celebration, and, he took it, it was to the Liberal party that Rushden owed the adoption of the School Board, and its present school buildings. Applause) They had reared school buildings which would be the property of the people of Rushden for ever, and he had no doubt that when the heat of party contest had died away the rising generation of Rushden would bless the action of the Liberal party in this village. He had great pleasure in moving the resolution. (Applause)

The Rev. G. Pung, in seconding the resolution, rejoiced that the village was so numerously and intelligently represented at this meeting: and spoke briefly on the educational side of the question. He abstained from speaking upon any political questions, on the ground that he was a man of peace.

Mr. S. Knight supported the resolution. He was perfectly satisfied that the step the Rushden School Board had taken was the right one, and hoped the new schools would prove a great benefit to the people.

Mr. T. Wilmott also supported the resolution, in an amusing speech. He said he could remember Rushden when there was only one school in it, kept by an old woman between 70 and 80 years old, who occupied half of the school time in adjusting her spectacles, and the other half in taking snuff. (Laughter) That was the sort of school he went to. (Much laughter) It had been said that a little learning was a dangerous thing, and, if so, he was a very dangerous character indeed. (Laughter) If a man were engaged to cut what was called a nine acre field of corn, and found on completion of his work that he had cut ten acres, and told his master so, that master would no doubt regard a little learning as a dangerous thing. (Loud laughter) He (the speaker) was a navvy; he had worked as a navvy for many years, and was a navvy now, and he did not want any other title, but there was one thing which he did want, and that was to show that navvies knew how to behave themselves, and could, when occasion required, show an interest in political affairs. (Hear, hear, and applause) He knew that men of his standing who spoke at public meetings were apt to be looked down upon, and to be characterised as agitators, but, for his part, he should never cease to agitate against ignorance and drunkenness, and if by their agitation they could wipe away ignorance and sweep away drunkenness, they would soon point out to Lord Beaconsfield some of the disadvantages of his spirited foreign policy. (Laughter and applause)

Mr. J. Rennie Wilkinson proposed "That this meeting desires to express its strongest condemnation of the aggressive foreign policy of the present ministry, which has entailed upon the country a vast amount of discredit, unnecessary expense, and disaster, and which, if not speedily reversed, will involve us in irreparable evil." He said he had been asked to speak of the foreign policy of the Government, because the Government never had, and never intended to have, a home policy. (Laughter and applause) They despised what they called a mere parochial Government, and regarded their own work as something far higher, and grander, and more magnificent than anything the Liberals could accomplish. He proposed to examine the grand work of the present Ministry, and to confine his remarks chiefly to their foreign policy, because the Tories regarded that as their strong point. The Tories' best man was Lord Salisbury, and Lord Salisbury he compared to the great Goliath, leading the host of Philistines against the army of Israel. Lord Salisbury was the leader of the Jingoes, the leader of the war party, the upholder of tyranny, and was fighting against Christianity and the spirit of humanity. Lord Salisbury, in his recent speech at Manchester, laid great stress upon the foreign policy of the Government, and said it had been a success. They knew the aim of the Tories' foreign policy—"to maintain the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire." To do that England refused to co-operate with other powers to bring about a reformation in Turkey. England, under the guidance of the present Ministry, took the side of oppression, took a course which led to the Turco-Russian war, and made enemies of all the rising nations of Europe. The foreign policy of the Government was a failure, and it was well for England that the Tories had not succeeded in what they undertook to do. Lord Salisbury admitted that the Ministry had not succeeded altogether, but look at the account he gave of the success they had achieved. In effect really it was this: "If Russia has gained all she asked in Europe, and nearly all she asked in Asia, if Bulgaria, Roumelia, and Bosnia are no longer under the withering blast of Turkey, at least we have done something. Is it not owing to the never-to-be-exampled efforts of Her Majesty's Government that many millions of persons are still under the tyranny of the Porte? Is it not due to the noble patriotism of Lord Beaconsfield that Macedonia is a scene of rapine and misery, that Greece is discontent, and that Russia is regarded as the friend of the oppressed? (Hear, hear) Can't Her Majesty's Government at least take the credit that many millions of Turkey's subjects are not enjoying the liberty and prosperity of their more fortunate fellows in Bulgaria? Having read from published reports to show the hideous cruelties practised by the Turks, wretches with imaginations so vile that they were hardly fit to live, Mr. Wilkinson said Lord Salisbury knew of their wickedness, and yet he wished to know whether their crime was any reason why we should not use them to protect ourselves against Russia. Good heavens! Had it come to this—that the English Empire could only be defended by the help of these miscreant cut-throats and violators of women? (Hear, hear) If such were the case, then he said with Freeman, "Perish the interests of England! perish our dominion in India! rather than we should strike one blow, or speak one word on behalf of wrong as against right." (Applause) Truth would out, and painful truths, enough to make England feel ashamed, could not, and never would be, regarded as ''hair brained chatter and irresponsible frivolity." The country was convinced now that the present Tory Government had disgraced our national repute and broken our solemn and deliberate promises. Lord Salisbury, and others who believed in him, might try to conceal the lamentable effects of Tory rule, but they could not succeed. The Liberals believed in peace, retrenchment, and reform; Lord Beaconsfield's great faith lay in bunkum, banter, mismanagement, mystery, and furious trampling on Jaws, human and Divine. The policy of his Government might be summed up in these words: Abroad, death, danger, disease, disaster, and distrust; at home, disquiet, deep distress, dishonour, and disgust (applause); and he now challenged Lord Beaconsfield in his own words, "Dissolve, if you please, the Parliament you have betrayed, and appeal to the people who I believe mistrust you. For me there remains this at least; the opportunity of expressing thus publicly my belief that a Conservative Government is an organised hypocrisy. (Loud applause)

Mr. Charles Pollard seconded the proposition. He spoke more successfully than we have ever heard him speak before, and moved the audience in a remarkable manner. The only fault in his speech was its length, otherwise we should have given it verbatim. We are quite sure, however, that the following condensed report of Mr. Pollard's speech will be read with a great deal of interest. He said: Were this meeting only gathered together to celebrate a parish victory, I should not be found on this platform, although I thoroughly congratulate you on the victory you have gained as a pariah in the formation of a School Board, and in the erection of Board Schools. But we find from the hand-bill that this is also to be a Liberal meeting, and, as a very moderate Liberal (Oh! oh!), I thought I might appear on this platform at Rushden. (Hear, hear) I strongly advise you to do all in your power to support your local Liberal Associations, and to put forth your utmost exertions in further¬ance of Liberal principles. The Tories, you know, are very sensitive, and whenever we reprove any of their dark doings we are told that we show a want of taste, and that we ought to let them remain as they are, and where they are. At a meeting of the Conservative Association, held at Kingscliffe, some time ago, Lord Burghley, one of the members for this county, it was said, ably criticised (loud laughter)—Well, if you don't believe me, look at the Northampton Herald, which says that Lord Burghley ably criticised the speeches and the pamphlets of Mr. Gladstone, on the Eastern Question. (Great laughter) Well, very likely he did, but very much more likely he didn't. (Laughter) But there was a gentleman at the meeting—the treasurer, and he ought to know—who said, "What the Conservatives want, is to be let alone." Not long ago, a meeting was held at Woodford, when a gentleman, who has stood upon this platform, delivered a lecture on behalf of the Liberation Society. His lecture was criticised by a well known Tory, living in the neighbourhood of Twywell, and he said what the Church party and what the Conservative party wanted, was not to be interfered with. (Laughter) You will also remember that a great gathering of Conservatives was held, a few months ago, at the Hind Hotel, Wellingborough, and a gentleman, whom some of you know, said the Conservatives did not interfere with anybody, and did not wish to be interfered with (laughter), and that it was very necessary to form Conservative Associations in order to protect the interests of the Church and the Conservative party. Some nine or ten months ago, a lecture was delivered under the auspices of the Church Institute, at Kettering, and a gentleman, who has also appeared in this room, the secretary or the agent of the Church Defence Institution, lectured in support of the National Church, which, we are always told, is the church of the people—the church of the poor. The gentleman who invited him to lecture thought fit to put a tax upon those who went to the meeting—6d. to the front seats, and 3d. to the back seats,—a tax which must have been imposed to keep some persons away, and I say that if it is necessary to defend the Church in that way, the Church must be a sham and a delusion. (Hear, hear) The conduct of the gentleman who made a charge for admission to the Church Defence meeting was called over the coals at the annual meeting of the Kettering Liberal Association, and one of the speakers took occasion to call in question the Parish Church Institute, in holding what he considered to be a hole and corner meeting, and another gentleman, who subsequently wrote in defence of the Church Institute, said all the Church Institute wanted was to be let alone. (Laughter) You see, gentlemen, from what I have said, the Tories are in a very poor way indeed: they wanted to be let alone, but the Liberal party exists, and Liberal Associations are established, not for the purpose of letting them alone, but for the very express purpose of stirring them up. (Laughter and applause) The very earnest desire of the Tories to be let alone reminds me of what happened eighteen centuries ago. There was a man in the synagogue, in the presence of the greatest of all reformers, and before a word was spoken, the man, who was possessed of an evil spirit, cried out, "Let us alone"; and the greatest of all reformers said, "Hold thy peace, and come out of him." That is what we must say to those who are in possession of unlawful monopoly. (Applause and laughter) The landed interest i a monopoly, and it has to be attacked; the Church of England is a monopoly, and it has to be attacked; the great brewers, and distillers, and publicans enjoy a monopoly, and they must all be attacked. (Applause) The Tories are in possession, and, like the evil spirit, they are satisfied. What is Toryism, and what are Tories? We can find a great many things in the dictionary, and this reminds me of an anecdote that is told of a certain black negro, preaching to his brethren, ''Brethren," he said, "dare is one place ware you can always find sympathy and comfort," and they said, "Ware? ware?" and be said, " In the dictionary." (Laughter) There is one place where you can always find a Tory, and that is in the dictionary. What is the definition given us of a Tory and Toryism? The primitive meaning of the word Tory was a robber. ("Hear, hear," "Right you are," and much laughter) This is the dictionary meaning, but truly to-day the Tories will bear their ancient character. (Laughter and applause) Among other things they have robbed us of as a people, and as a nation, is our good name, because they have not told the truth. The Jingoes said, in their song, they had got the ships and the men, when they hadn't. That was one. (Laughter) They had to send to India for the men—(applause)—and every man who was brought from India and sent back again cost this nation £135. Then they were obliged to call out the reserve forces, and the men belonging to those forces were obliged to leave their wives and families to be cared for by the relieving officer. Then they said "they'd got the money, too." That was another. (Laughter) They hadn't got the money. They went to the House of Commons, and asked to be allowed to swagger at the Berlin Conference with six millions, which they said they didn't want to spend, not at all; they only wanted to have the pleasure of handling it. (Laughter) You know when you go to races and great meetings you are cautioned against pickpockets and the confidence trick, and I think if that caution was needed anywhere it was in the House of Commons, when the Tories asked for six millions to show and not to spend (hear, hear, and applause); and these very Tories—I hope there are some here to-night, because you may hear words whereby you may be saved—(roars of laughter)—you did not hear the sentence. You may hear words whereby you may be saved with us from that irretrievable ruin which must overtake us if the Tories remain in office. (Loud applause) Where are the six millions asked for now? Echo answers, Where? (Laughter) Mr. Pollard then went on to speak of the war policy of the present Government, and concluded his address, which was listened to throughout with great attention, amid much applause.

Mr. R. G. Roe proposed, "That in view of the forthcoming Parliamentary election, it is desirable that all Liberals unite to effect a reversal of the baneful results of the policy of the present Administration." Having spoken of a Northampton paper as a lying and contemptible print, Mr. Roe said in these days it was important for men to be politically educated; they must either belong to one party or the other, for there could be no such thing as a neutral party, and he did not believe in men ab¬staining from taking part in politics because they were men of peace. He urged all men to act independently in the exercise of the franchise. They had the advantage of the ballot, and it was idle for anyone to say it was known at elections on which side a man voted, because if a voter would only keep his own counsel, no one could possibly know at or after the election for whom he had given his vote. He hoped at the coming General Election Liberals would be united, and that they would do everything in their power to overthrow the men now in office, who had brought such terrible discredit upon our land. (Applause)

Mr. Abington seconded the proposition, observing that if the Liberals were united they must win at next General Election.

Mr. Bird supported the resolution, and it was carried unanimously, as were also the two preceding resolutions.

The usual votes of thanks were proposed and passed, and the proceedings, which lasted three hours, then terminated.

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