City Grammar 1950 Mr. Northeast - Retirement

Our Head Master - Mr. Northeast

When some fifteen years ago, we learned that a Mr. Northeast was to be our new Head Master, into the minds of some of us came the old saw, "Cold by name, cold by nature";  but we soon discovered that never was adage more fitly challenged than by the character of our now trusted friend and wise counsellor.  His strong sense of justice, his zeal in defending the weak and oppressed have made no hill to steep for him to climb, no home to obscure for him to visit in his efforts to prevent one of the "little ones" in his charge being caused to stumble.  His unbiassed judgement, his unruffled geniality and his ready wit have often turned impending disaster into friendly understanding and tolerance.

Our Head Master's versatility has been a constant source of wonder and admiration to us.  A physicist by profession, and artist by temperament, he has the rare combination of reason of reason and imagination, and his descriptions of the physical universe have the charm and colour of fairyland.  Even "The Relativity Theory" and "Atomic Energy" begin to have some meaning for the uninitiated when explained by such a breadth of understanding.  His deep interest, in the social problems of the day and his work for social betterment are guided by his profound knowledge of social history and literature, and in spite of his many activities he can always give one a valued critical appreciation of the best in modern thought.

In his hands, the Sixth Form time-table has become an intricate jigsaw puzzle.  Not having the Head Master's mathematical ability, the writer has wasted many of our much-guarded sheets of foolscap in trying to work out the possible combination of "x" subjects, "y" at a time, and is still breathless at the attempt.

Our Head Master's clear vision and ripe judgement are appreciated beyond the bounds of his school, and his work on the Juvenile Advisory Committee, and as representative of the Grammar Schools in discussions with the Director of Education is fittingly recognised.

It will be difficult to replace a Head Master of so many parts and such sympathetic understanding;  yet, in spite of our sorrow at his departure, we off him and Mrs. Northeast our affectionate wishes for many years of health and happiness in his retirement.

The news of Mr. Northeast's forthcoming retirement came as a great shock to us.  We have known him as a true friend and adviser, a sympathetic and tolerant listener, an example to us all of conscientious devotion to duty.  He has always taken an active interest in the life of the school and the welfare of the students, enthusiastically supporting the school's many societies, and encouraging the activities on the sports field, beside taking part in the sixth-form discussions.  We are grateful to him for his interest in us as individuals;  we feel that our well-being is a matter of personal concern to the Head.

His attention, however, is not restricted merely to school matters, for he helps us to take our place as useful members of society and to familiarize ourselves with world affairs.  He has maintained our cordial relationships with our South Australian friends, and has encouraged correspondence between our school and theirs.

We are reminded as Christmas approaches of his participation in the Yuletide festivities, of his entering fully into the party spirit, especially noticeable in his welcome contribution to the Form I parties, where he has made the ever-popular game "How Green Are You" his own "party-piece".  But Mr. Northeast's capabilities are not restricted to this particular game;  he invariably takes part in almost all the socials of the various school societies delighting all with his versatility, genial bearing, and sporting attitude.  At a recent sixth form party he displayed his usual sense of humour by placing himself at the mercy of several enthusiastic sixth-formers.  Armed with pins, newspapers and coloured trimmings, they quickly transformed the Head into a prim Victorian Miss, complete with frilly skirt, bonnet and dainty posy.

We shall never forget our beloved Head Master, affectionately (but secretly) known as "Windy", and on behalf of all the students we wish him every possible happiness in his future life, and we hope he will have as many pleasant memories of us as we have of him.
P.H., M.J., J.F., D.W.

It is over twenty-five years since a young student at University College, London, was helped through the intricacies of Practical Physics by Mr. Northeast.  I was that student, and the sympathetic guidance and readiness to help which were then shown me have been frequently experienced during the last eleven years, when we have worked together in a very different relationship.  The intervening years had given me a considerable experience of Grammar School head masters, and I had come to the conclusion that it was impossible for a head master to combine conscientious efficiency with consideration for his staff.  It was with great pleasure that I realised, after my arrival in Sheffield, that I had been wrong.

I think the quality in Mr. Northeast which has been most appreciated by all of us has been his fairness, and ability to see the other person's point of view.  This may be a form of scientific detachment due to his early education.  If so, it is not accompanied by the cultural defects commonly supposed to be associated with scientific interests.  His real enthusiasm is certainly reserved for the arts;  particularly painting, drama and literature.  The breadth and balance achieved in the education in the school, particularly in the sixth form, are a reflection of this rare combination of interests in the Head Master.

Under Mr. Northeast the school has achieved a high academic record, but I think the compliment which has given him most pleasure is that implied in the words of an outside official;  "This is a happy school".

We have always very much appreciated the active interest shown in school functions by Mrs. Northeast, and her friendly attitude to us all.  We are also indebted to her for the fact that Mr. Northeast's outstanding achievements for the school would not have been possible without her steady support and sympathy.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Northeast will carry with them the best wishes of past and present pupils and of the staff for a long and happy retirement, when they may be able to pursue more fully those interests which have been crowded out of the life of a busy Head Master.

There cannot be many of the C.G.S. Staff, either past or present, who can claim to have known Mr. Northeast when they were 11 plus;  but such is our privilege.

The High Storrs Grammar School, where he was then Senior Physics Master, was at that time known as the Central Secondary School and was housed in our present building, which even then was obsolescent.  Plaster had begun to fall from the ceilings;  gouts of water from the sink in C.L. were already beginning to drip on to the floor of P1;  the cold lunches of P.L. offered the same temptation for laggards to finish their Latin homework.  Against this familiar background it was Mr. Northeast's misfortune to enlighten us on the mysteries of "Mu" (which we still associate more with cats than with Physics), the Angle of Dip., and the magic formula S = ut + ½ ft2,  when F = 32 ft. Per sec. Per sec. ad nauseam . . . .

As a teacher he was serious, lucid, and not easy to rag;  perhaps even a little fearsome to the very young, but in his element with the sixth form.  His seriousness in the class-room or laboratory never blinded us to the very real sense of fun behind it;  and neither he nor we will easily forget those duels with a certain Mr. Jones, or that night at the Old Boys' Supper in Cambridge, when he excelled all others in the gentle game of "Are you there, Jemima?"

When he was appointed Head Master at the C.G.S., he was promised a new building and facilities which would enable him to put into practice some of the ideas in which he so seriously believes.  The outbreak of war in 1939 put a stop to these plans, and for the last ten years he has had to struggle against ever-increasing administrative difficulties.  In easier circumstances he would perhaps have postponed a retirement which most of us feel is premature.

We shall remember him always as a true humanist;  sceptical but tolerant;  a scientist deeply interested in the arts, an educator deeply devoted to the production of good academic brains, but nevertheless concerned to grant the maximum possible freedom for experiment.  Conscious of the dangers of freedom he has clung doggedly to his ideal of a school community disciplining itself.  He has created, a happy atmosphere - and this is surely the prerequisite for the successful functioning of any school.
T.S.T., D.W.