PG Wodehouse was just one of the high-achieving alumni of Elizabeth College, and today sees the launch of a new LOOKback series on their achievements. Made possible thanks to a new digital archive, we’ll be taking a close look at their lives and times – and there’s the chance for readers to pitch in...
IT’S so often said, ‘if walls could talk’, and within the clay-coloured, Gothic-styled edifice that is Elizabeth College there are many, many walls lining the old corridors.
As the recently decorated Bruce Parker MBE wrote in his foreword to his book ‘A History of Elizabeth College Guernsey’, that of the establishment is closely interlinked with the history of the island.
Many thousands of boys have passed through its doors and a good proportion of them have made an indelible mark, either in island life or across the world.
To coincide with the imminent launch of a new digital archive at the college, LOOKback is embarking on a new series which will celebrate the achievements of some of the most successful alumni.
‘Great Elizabethans’ will turn its spotlight on the likes of PG Wodehouse who, long before he penned the Jeeves and Wooster characters, spent three years at the school.
The series sets out to focus not only on the star individual but also on college life at the time, fellow pupils and those who taught them, as well as assessing what, if any, impact the individual had in the island after leaving school and joining the ranks of Old Elizabethans.
That we are able to embark on this series has been made wholly possible by the introduction of a quite remarkable online archive which has taken Elizabeth College Foundation director Dot Carruthers the best part of 18 months to compile, with the support and encouragement of principal George Hartley and the foundation chairman, Bruce Parker.
Bruce is a retired broadcast journalist who grew up in Guernsey and worked at the Guernsey Press as a proof reader and later as an Elizabeth College English teacher.
He presented the BBC programme South Today for 35 years as well as being a BBC television journalist and was the first Antiques Roadshow host.
He is chairman of the Friends of Winchester Cathedral and chairs the Elizabeth College Foundation, as well as being vice-patron of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance and Smile Support and Care charities, and is an ambassador for Leukaemia Busters.
Some may argue that Bruce himself should be included in the Great Elizabethan series.
After all, on top of his successful media career he was the one who had the stamina and drive to pen the official history.
‘I’d always been interested in the history of the college. How could I not have been?,’ he said.
‘[I was] a student from 1948–1960, a master from 1964-1967 and connected to it throughout the rest of my life. However, it was only when I was commissioned to write the definitive history of the college for its 450th anniversary in 2013 that I began to realise quite how riveting the college archives are.
‘When I told Guernsey friends about the sort of details I’d managed to unearth about Old Elizabethans down through the centuries, they seemed to share my fascination.
‘We soon began wondering how we could make all this material available, not just to Old Elizabethans but to the wider community.’