The Old Gaytonians Association
By Alex Bateman
The ‘Old Gaytonians Association’, an association of former pupils of Harrow County and Gayton High Schools (and now the boys and girls of Harrow High School), has a history almost as long as the School itself.
The first two boys to leave the School, and in turn become ‘Old Gayts’, were Messers Elliott and E F Farnhill, who did so in October 1911, the latter going to Australia. The name ‘Gaytonian’ came from the school publication of the same name, a title itself reached after quite some discussion ‘County-ovians’ was quickly dismissed, but being on the Northwick Park Estate, how about ‘Northwickians’? That was too close to ‘Pickwickians’, and was also consigned to the waste bin. ‘Sheepcotians’ was another, abandoned for obvious reasons, until finally ‘Gaytonians’ was decided upon, the name coming from the road on which the School stood.
By the start of 1912 there were another four ‘Old Boys’, and of these six, the five remaining in the country (Elliott, Greenwood, A F E Short, A Purton and H N Butter), met to form the ‘Old Boys Club’. Items discussed included an Old Boys Day, Old Boys Colours, and also providing umpires, referee’s and the like for school matches. They also proposed to run their own sub-sections, and have an annual dinner. It was also hoped that the School might extend the use of its library, quite something as Harrow did not possess its own at the time.
On September 27th 1912 an Old Boys Meeting was called to draw up a set of rules, and to establish a President, Committee, etc. The ‘Old Gaytonians Association’ was born. Ernest Young, the then Headmaster, was invited to be President, Edmund Lightley the Senior Master was appointed Treasurer, and Arthur Purton appointed the Honorary Secretary. (The tradition of the President being the current Head of the School continues to this day).
Three main rules were set out. The first was to strengthen the bond between the School and the Old Boys, by providing opportunities to meet in social circles. The second was to foster and encourage the development of Sporting, social and cultural activities, and the last to maintain the interests of Old Boys in matters affecting the life of the School. Although these might have wavered slightly since Harrow County ceased to be, the three aims were met with outstanding success.
In 1914 the first of the OGA’s sub-sections were formed. Technically this was the Football Section, a ‘Football Eleven’ being raised with H N Butter the Captain. Their first match against the School Eleven was a win for the latter 4–3. Within a month, the Dramatic Club was born, gaining an enviable reputation for its high standard of productions. This was followed in 1921 by the Athletics Club. Further additions included:
1922 The Lawn Tennis Club 1927 The 4th Harrow Rover Crew
1934 The Rugby Club 1935 The Cricket Club and Table Tennis Club
1954 The Swimming Club 1958 The Badminton Club
1965 The Cadet Cyphers Section
In addition to these, a Golf Society was formed (reformed in 1948), and a Masonic Lodge established in 1962, while with the number of Old Boys going to university and abroad, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol University, and Overseas Sections were also raised.
With the School already having its own regular magazine, it was a natural progression for the Association to publish its own also, the first copy of the ‘Old Gaytonian’ appearing in 1936. With the coming of war in 1939, most activities of the OGA were suspended, not picking up again until 1949, when an appeal was made in the ‘Harrow Observer’ for any former members who might have moved to get back in touch. The Association magazine also resumed this year, and, with the exception of a short break between 1978 and 1983, has been published ever since, while an annual reunion dinner also takes place around April every year.
With the School concentrating on Rugby from the mid 1920’s, the flow of old boys playing football began to dwindle, with the result that the OGA Football Club ceased to be, after playing their last match in 1939. The Swimming Club was the next to go, closing in 1958, while by the early 1980’s, the Table Tennis, Badminton, Cyphers, University and Overseas Sections had also gone (those members abroad or at university still joined, but not as a sub-section). The Lawn Tennis Section, already closed in 1927 and reformed in 1935, finally closed in 1994, as did the oldest surviving section, Dramatics, while mid 2000 saw the closure of the Cricket Section.
Of the remaining sub-sections, some have had to re-establish themselves independently of the OGA to survive. April 1997 saw the Athletics Section reformed as the ‘Harrow Athletics Club’, while Autumn 2000 witnessed the birth of ‘West London RFC’, a merger of the former OGA Rugby Section with ‘Old Kingsburians’ and Roxeth Manor. For some years, both these Sections had admitted members who had not been to the School, and it was perhaps a natural progression.
The Headquarters of the OGA were, from 1934 to June 2005, at South Vale, Sudbury Hill, where there was a Clubhouse with Bar and changing rooms. Over the years there were three buildings. The first two were destroyed by fire and replaced, the last being a fine brick-built Clubhouse. The grounds provided at their peak two rugby pitches, two cricket squares and six tennis courts. In June 2005 Harrow School, the Landlord, took back the ground for its own use.
The Association now regards the School as its Headquarters and very appropriately maintains an Archive Room there, containing its collection of memorabilia. Committee meetings and Annual General Meetings are also held at the School.