Back to the Museum

    English School Song


    In the June 1889 edition of Portcullis, English teacher William Waite (staff 1888–91) published a poem entitled "Cantate Varvicenses", perhaps in the hope that it would be turned into a school song.  On July 25th 1891, Warwick's M.P. Arthur Wellesley Peel (1829-1912), the Speaker of the House of Commons between 1886 and 1895 and later 1st Viscount Peel, spoke on Speech Day, and offered a competition prize of £5 to the boy who composed the winning school song.  There were no winning entries, however, and the headmaster, Rev J. P. Way, turned back in desperation to Waite’s effort, and, with the help of a former colleague from Marlborough, penned the lyrics:



    Then hurrah, hurrah for bluff Hal's school,

    And the life of each changing season;

    "Work hard, play fair," is a golden rule,

    And a man may sing, be he wise or fool,

    And silence is rank high treason.

    The composer John Farmer (1835 – 1901), famous for his songs for Harrow School, was commissioned to set the words to music, and it is his manuscript that we see here today.

    Headmaster G. A. Riding modernised the words in 1928, but OWs were having none of this, and so Riding dusted off the 1906 Latin School Song, which has been performed at the school ever since.  The OWs relented eventually, and the Riding version is still sung at OWA dinners – as is, in fairness, the 1906 “Floreat”.

    1. English School Song Manuscript