Chips with Everything - a personal recollection of Bryan Short

OBA Committee Member Mark Sayer (1972-1978) has penned this personal reflection on the impact of Bryan Short on the School.


Bryan Short:   A gentleman at the helm of The Ship for more than one fifth of its 143-year odyssey so far.   And, unbeknownst to most, behind the scenes, an influential guardian of The Shipping Line, thereafter.

He is reminiscent of the novel and films “Goodbye Mr. Chips”.

The story of a, then, misunderstood traditionalist disciplinarian schoolmaster who, in time, became admired, respected, even loved by generations of his charges.

When quizzed – in his departing moments – about children, with his last breaths, Mr. Chips lovingly whispers “… (I had) thousands of 'em, thousands of 'em ... and all ... boys”.

In terms of his boys, Bryan was proud of each and every one, and always delighted to receive a note from them or news about how they were getting on.   There was an air of a benign “Father Hen” about him; a proud parent never happier than when he had his clutch of Bordenians back together with him.     The kindly epithet “Uncle” was well earned.

His regime was firm, fair and strict.   We all, no doubt, have our own memories of miscreancy that we got away with, other times when we were caught and occasions when we were mistakenly punished for others’ excesses.   Maybe the latter made up for just some of the former.

There were his ‘Woodwork Classes’ in the Quad, to make good the top of wooden desks carved and inked by budding Banksies; Detentions; Lines; a corridor wait – all played a part.   No doubt there was the occasional Short sharp shock.   But most of the discipline was nurtured self-control and self-discipline.

Whether advancing through the corridors with sweeping “Batman-Suit” gown, or up on stage, he had a presence – he could slip quietly into a room and, without a word or gesture, instil a “- hush -”.

Never taught directly by him, I observed him in a different light at several Old Bordenian Reunion Dinners.   He would greet a face from the past with genuine pleasure and interest, and out would pop a notebook to jot down details for The Headmaster’s Files.   Grown men would still address him reverently as “Sir”.

He encouraged us not only to go forth and multiply, but to go forth and matriculate.  

But, please, to come back.

He represented a time of tradition, when Latin seemed to be considered a Modern Foreign Language, simply because Classical Greek was a few whiles older, and memories were etched in black and white.

He was a stickler for presentation.   Tidy aspect, tidy mind.   Many a mop subjected to the charms of a latter-day Delilah barber.   But while hair was cut short, education wasn’t, and those tidy, but ordered, young minds had spaces to fill.   It was hard.   But then learning is hard.   If it isn’t hard, then we’re not being stretched to learn enough.

I think The Parable of the Lost Sheep, Luke 15, 1-32, sums up the nature of the man admirably.

Appreciation is like a seed.   It takes seasons to germinate, and then it grows for years.

Goodbye. Sleep well, Cap’n Bryan Chips