03 January 2011

Your name will be up there one day

The following is an extract from a piece which my colleague Dr Charles McCreery has sent to the person who is planning to write a book about his father, the late General Sir Richard McCreery. It gives some background to my post about the sacrifices of sadism, which refers to his father paying his Eton school fees.

I started to read when I was three. By the age of five I was reading Biggles books, of which there were a large number in the house. When I was four and my sister was six we acquired a governess, Miss Gigg. At first she gave us lessons separately, on account of the age difference (my sister is a year and nine months older than I). However, it soon became apparent that I was able to keep up with my sister academically, and the governess gave us lessons together.

In this context it may be relevant to mention that I was told that the whole of my sister’s boarding school (St. Mary’s, Wantage) was once given an IQ test, and that my sister came top.

When I was sent to boarding school at the age of nine, I came top of the introductory class and my colleague Celia Green remembers me telling her soon after we met (in 1963) that the lady who took this class, Miss Wright, on one occasion looked at a list of boys who had won scholarships to public schools in the past and said, ‘Your name will be up there one day’.

However, my parents gave me to understand that the reason for my apparent exceptionality was that I had had a governess from the age of four. They then colluded with the headmaster to prevent me from taking a scholarship to Eton.

As one of Dr Green’s aphorisms points out, ‘It is very easy to make someone into a failure; you have only to prevent them from being a success.’