<< Back to Lion Homepage

Principal's lines

Wesley College Principal, Nick Evans

My mind has drifted of late, for several reasons, to ponder the impermanence of our stint on this mortal coil. This was sparked first by a strange feeling of shock at the passing of a 96-year-old. I am sure I was not alone in feeling some sense of loss at the death of Her Majesty the Queen. She has been a presence, albeit peripheral, albeit symbolic, all my life. I first became aware of her at primary school. We would assemble in serried ranks on an asphalt playground every Monday morning. All eyes would be directed to the flag atop a modest flagpole. Boys (only the boys) would be instructed to salute the flag, after which the Oath of Allegiance was said in unison by all present: ‘I love God and my country, I honour the flag, I will serve the Queen and will cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law.’

How the world has changed. But the Queen abided.

The oath, at some point between my Years 1 and 4, disappeared. We all stayed up to watch a fairy tale wedding in Year 8, which then devolved into stark reality. Her family became fodder for the tabloids. There was a referendum in this country to become a republic, a move I wholeheartedly supported despite the lingering effects of swearing oaths and saluting flags in my formative years. She became older, and eventually more infirm, but she abided.

It has become a cliché to note that the Queen’s life was distinguished by service. She was swearing in a new prime minister two days before she died. Like many, I was transfixed by her funeral and committal service, and was struck by the words of the Garter King of Arms as the Queen’s casket was lowered into the vault of St George’s Chapel: ‘And thus it hath pleased Almighty God to take out of this transitory life… Elizabeth the Second.’

The Queen found meaning and purpose in ‘this transitory life’ through the consolations of a deep religious faith and a remarkable dedication to service. A sense of service to something much bigger than yourself can provide extraordinary meaning to any life.

My other reminders of this transitory life are more local, but were lives of service nonetheless. All three are former members of staff who were significant in my life.

The August edition of Lion contained a tribute to Bruce Tozer, the first Head of Middle School and my cricket coach. Those who encountered Bruce, having earned his right and proper wrath, would have found him an austere and forbidding presence. Those of us who had a slightly different relationship with him, largely through cricket, were privileged to see a man who cared passionately for standards, who cared more about how the game was to be played than winning. I treasure a letter he sent me on my appointment as Principal. This edition contains tributes to the two others.

Ken Merry was my Head of Campus when I was at the College. He appointed me Vice Captain of the School and was always keen for a chat every time I ran into him after leaving school. He retired in 1985, my last year as a student, after 32 years of outstanding service to the College, including periods as Acting Principal.

Finally, David Graham was my Head Coach of Athletics. David was a more impish and more unpredictable presence than Mr Tozer or Mr Merry. He became a colleague and a dear friend. David retired in 2010 after 37 years of dedicated service to the College. I did not get to show him the APS Boys' Athletics trophy, won this year for the first time since 1947.

Each of these men lived lives of service to this school. The Queen lived another such life. Such service to one institution or, indeed, a life of service to others, is perhaps the hallmark of another age. I hope not. It would leave our society the poorer.

Nick Evans (OW1985)

<< Previous storyNext story >>