Old Farnhamians' Association
George Baxter MBE
1st August 1913 to 5th January 2005
Thanksgiving Service Held at St Andrew’s Church, Farnham
on 14th January, 2005
These are mp3 files
We thank Peter Wisbey (1951 – 1957) for making these recordings
Click on photos to enlarge, back to
We thank George’s family for making these photographs available
Farewell Speech made at a School Assembly
in December 1970
Sound archive file posted 23 January 2009, reprocessed 20 May, 2019
By Ian Sargeant (1955 – 1962)
announcement of George Baxter’s death sent to our web members, I received an
email from Royston Snart (1954 – 1961) who says that
to him, as a small boy starting at
This sums up the view of all new boys in those days. The head was an awe-inspiring person in the 1950s. Extremely good looking (according to our mothers), he was a tall man with an upright bearing, whose black gown would ripple as he strode around the school. His most impressive striding was the daily event as he entered a hushed school hall for the morning assembly. The school captain, whose duty it was to arrange for all boys to be in their required ranks, would descend from the rostrum and headmaster and head boy would bow to each other as the assembly was solemnly handed from one to the other.
A hymn, robustly sung if it was a favourite, was followed by a reading and set prayers, read by Mr Baxter and rotated at his choice. They included prayers such as the General Thanksgiving and the Prayer of St Francis but also a special School Prayer which gave thanks for the benefactors of the school.
With the brief act of worship complete, there might be announcements, which could be good or bad news. Perhaps news of some great attainment by a present boy or old boy of the school or, occasionally, news of some bad behaviour or disgrace that had occurred and would be, or probably had been, dealt with. After the departure of the head, other announcements would be made and the school would dismiss to first period lessons. This daily ritual stamped both the role and the personality of George Baxter on the minds of the entire school.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance in recent years to ask him if he had revised his views on the wisdom of corporal punishment. John Crotty and I were planning a filmed interview with George just before he had the illness that eventually took him. He had agreed to this and corporal punishment was a matter he was going to discuss with us.
George Baxter seemed to us to be greatly respected by his staff. Of course, they really had little choice but to respect the authority he had. Not very many seemed to leave FGS other than to retire or go to more senior jobs. He inherited an excellent team from his predecessor, F.A. Morgan, and he built well on it. The school offered a good curriculum, though for many years it sadly lacked facilities for natural sciences. Consequently, up to the 1960s FGS produced only a few aspiring doctors but a good number of accountants, bankers, lawyers, mathematicians, physicists etc. The little biology that was taught to selected boys was by George himself as he was the only qualified teacher of this subject until September 1962.
It was a great advantage that FGS was a relatively small school. George made sure that he got to know every boy by taking a period of English with the first form and we all recall the way he manoeuvred the lessons to a set of periods in which he revealed the secrets of human reproduction, to ensure that every pupil had knowledge of the basic facts. At sixth form, he took a weekly period of comparative religion in order to give us some understanding of both religion and ethics. As a teacher, he held your attention by being very clear and allowing some laughter (but not too much).
It is to the credit of George Baxter that he encouraged music, through his strong support of Alan Fluck, that creative and innovative music master who had been appointed just before George arrived on the scene. As a result, FGS produced many keen musicians and a few outstanding ones. George was not a musician himself, but enjoyed music, saw the value of nurturing it and was proud of the musical achievements in the school and by individual boys.
Did George enjoy his job? My view is that he found it both very challenging and stressful even though he appeared to us to be completely in control. He seemed somewhat aloof to us in our school days, but that was completely normal at that time – informal pupil-teacher relationships and the use of first names were still decades away.
George himself recounted to some of us a few years ago how, in the 1970s, he had been in Farnham and an old boy from the 1950s had suddenly seen him and said “Hallo George” in a loud voice. He was taken aback not to be addressed as “Mr Baxter” or “Sir”, but realised that things were changing. He went along with such changes and, in later years, he became very relaxed and informal with his former pupils.
George succeeded the
legendary F.A. Morgan, who had been the dominant force in FGS for decades.
Since Mr Morgan, when he retired, only moved about
300 yards from School House to
A few years before
George resigned from FGS in 1971 to join the Surrey Schools Council, he moved
from School House to a nearby house in
George was very keen to perpetuate the traditions of FGS and was a very strong supporter of the OFA. He probably did as much as anyone in recent years to ensure the strong survival of our association by his regular attendance at our meetings whilst his health permitted it. He said at a recent annual dinner that he knew of hardly any defunct grammar schools that still had such an active association. It was clear that this was another matter of considerable pride to him and all old boys owe him a great debt for that.
George was a great family man. He was absolutely devoted to his wife Peggy, who died quite suddenly in 1991, and it has been apparent to many of us in recent years that he yearned to be reunited with her. But of course he also cherished his own children and the grandchildren and great grandchildren that he lived to see. He was still very glad to be alive.
When I returned to Farnham in 1992, after living abroad for almost 24 years, I was pleased to find that we were living near George and meeting him at local concerts and OFA events. He became a friend and we both enjoyed recalling school days. I visited George in hospital and his care home in the last months of his life and it was, of course, sad to see his decline. His self-awareness remained good and his short term memory deteriorated, but his memory of the old times remained clear.
The death of George
Baxter is a significant event for me and approximately 1500 other old boys of
When we talk of our ambition to “make a difference to the world” this can only mean making a difference to the lives of other people. Success can only be measured in terms of what that difference is and how many people are affected. On this basis, George Baxter had a very successful life and we, the old boys of the school, benefited greatly from it.
God bless you, George!
20 January, 2005