Notable OAs

For almost 400 years Old Alleynians have made a significant impact on our world. Some are household names, whose accomplishments have inspired.

Sir Ernest Shackleton

Shackleton first went South in the Discovery with Scott, during the National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904. He took part in the Southern Journey to 82° 15' with Scott and Wilson. He organised three subsequent expeditions to the Antarctic:

The British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 in the Nimrod, during which he sledged to within 97 miles of the South Pole

The British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1916, during which the Endurance was beset, drifted for ten months and was crushed in the sea ice of the Weddell Sea and during which Shackleton made his historic rescue voyage in the James Caird

The Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, 1921-1922, in the Quest, during which Shackleton died at Grytviken, South Georgia on 5 January 1922, following a coronary thrombosis. He was buried on 6 March in South Georgia and the simple cross and stone provides a shrine for pilgrims, among them many Old Alleynians

James Caird was a jute manufacturer in Dundee. Caird had known Sir Ernest Shackleton when he was Secretary at the Scottish Geographical Society, and became a staunch supporter of all his ventures. When Shackleton proposed the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916 James Caird became a major sponsor. The 23'4" whaler, built to Frank Worsley's design, was named after him.

The James Caird

Designed by Frank Worsley, Captain of the Endurance, the James Caird was built in 1914 by Messrs WJ Leslie of Coldharbour, Poplar, for Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1915. Double-ended and carvel built, her original length overall was 23'4" by 6'9" beam. Strong and relatively light, the James Caird had planking of Baltic pine, the keel and timbers of American elm, and the stem and stempost of English oak.

After the Endurance was crushed in the ice while drifting on the pack ice, the ship's carpenter built the James Caird 15" higher, constructed a whale back at each end and fitted her with a pump from part of the ship's compass. With the two other boats, the Stancomb Wills and the Dudley Docker, the James Caird enabled the twenty-seven-man crew from the Endurance to reach Elephant Island in six days. There, as the largest of the three whalers, the James Caird was prepared for sea again to seek rescue in South Georgia more than 800 miles away across the treacherous Southern Seas. She was fitted with sledge runners, and the space between the whale backs was covered with lids of boxes and old canvas. The canvas was sewn by holding it in the blubber fire until it thawed. One of the other boats' masts was bolted inside the keel of the Caird to prevent her from breaking her back in stormy seas.

Her sails were jib, standing lug and small mizzen. Additional stability was provided by ballast in bags made from canvas, filled with l5cwts. of shingle and another I5 cwts. of large stones (as shown in the artist's impression in the display).

Shackleton left Frank Wild in charge and set out to seek help in the James Caird with Frank Worsley, Tom Crean, John Vincent, Tim McCarthy and Harry McNeish. They took stores to last six men one month, since they reckoned that if they had not reached South Georgia in that time, they would all have died on the way.

During the sixteen days' voyage, which began on 24 April 1916, three men were on watch at a time, one steering, one bailing and one watching the sail, while the other three rested below. Navigating the Southern Ocean for more than 800 miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia, through icy weather and mountainous seas, Shackleton and his men undertook the greatest of all small boat voyages.

Shackleton insisted on a strict routine of hot meals. Conditions were extremely uncomfortable. They were soaked constantly, and towards the end of the voyage they suffered from extreme thirst, as one of the water barrels had been damaged while loading.

On 10 May 1916, they came ashore on the west coast of South Georgia at 'Cave Cove' where they sheltered and rested in a cave for four days. Then they sailed the boat round to the north arm of King Haakon Bay, to 'Peggotty Camp', so named because they shored up the James Caird and lived inside her. After a short recuperation Shackleton, Worsley and Crean set off on 19 May over the unknown glaciers, mountains and snowfields of the island, equipped only with fifty feet of rope and a carpenter's adze. They reached the whaling station at Stromness on the following day, to the astonishment of the whalers who feared they must be dead. Theirs was the first crossing of South Georgia.

Sir Ernest Shackleton's skill, courage, leadership and above all, his concern and commitment towards his men, ensured, even in war-time, that throughout the world he became a hero. The Chief Scientist of the Expedition, J.M. (later Sir James ) Wordie wrote, "Shackleton possessed in unusual measure the highly poetic imagination which is traditionally associated with a love of exploration. He possessed the faculty of leadership to a pre-eminent degree. That, together with his generosity, made all the best men who served with him his staunch adherents. They had implicit faith in his judgement".

Shackleton rescued every member of his crew, and they received a tumultuous welcome on their return.

After Shackleton's death in 1922, Dr JQ Rowett OA, a school friend and sponsor of Shackleton's final expedition on the Quest, presented the James Caird to Dulwich College where it remained on display in a memorial setting until an enemy bomb destroyed its housing in 1944. In 1967, The National Maritime Museum offered care of the boat and it was restored by Cory's Barge Works in Charlton. After a time on display in The Neptune Hall, it was moved to the Polar Gallery in the National Maritime Museum in 1974. In 1985, the James Caird was returned to Dulwich College. On 12 September 1989, Lord Shackleton, Sir Ernest's younger son, viewed the James Caird in its new location in the North Cloister, on the occasion of the opening, by Lord Shackleton, of the new Third Form Building, to be known as The Shackleton Building. The boat, on its bed of stones from South Georgia and Aberystwyth, is now the background for the twice-yearly dinners of the James Caird Society held in the North Cloister.

A major exhibition was held at the College from October 2000 to February 2001, entitled 'Shackleton: The Antarctic and Endurance'. It coincided with a major worldwide revival of interest in Shackleton as a heroic figure. In September 2001 Melinda Mueller, a poet from Seattle, Washington, visited the College and gave a reading from her acclaimed volume of poems published last year about Shackleton's Endurance expedition called What the Ice Gets. Frank Hurley’s film of the Endurance expedition, South, was restored by the British Film Institute and issued on video. A three-dimensional Imax documentary was released in February 2001, and Columbia Tristar are shooting a feature film about the fate of Endurance and the boat journey, with direction by Wolfgang Peterson (director of Das Boot), and (it is rumoured) text by Werner Herzog. Shackleton was played by Kenneth Branagh in a new Channel Four film directed by Charles Sturridge. All this has resulted in what the Wall Street Journal called ‘Shackletonmania’.

PG Wodehouse

At Dulwich College 1894-1900 "six years of unbroken bliss"

P G Wodehouse was, perhaps, the greatest comic writer of the twentieth century. At Dulwich he excelled in Classics, sang, acted and was editor of the school magazine, The Alleynian, from 1899 to 1900. He played for both the 1st XV and 1st XI; in his last term he had published an essay called 'Some Aspects of Game Captaincy" in the Public School Magazine, for which he received a fee of half a guinea.

He became a reporter on The Globe newspaper in 1902 and began to contribute school stories to The Captain, a magazine for boys. Dulwich College figures, thinly disguised, in the school novels Mike, The Gold Bat, The White Feather, etc. Up until the Second World War Wodehouse attended cricket and rugby matches at the College and wrote accounts of many for The Alleynian. In his later years on Long Island he regularly followed newspaper reports of games at Dulwich from the airmail edition of The Times.

Wodehouse is most famous for his creation of the character 'Jeeves' in 1919, and he continued to write these stories for fifty-two years. However he also produced a great many other literary works and by the time of his death had written 10 books for boys, 43 novels, 300 short stories and was author or part-author of 16 plays and 23 musical comedies. In 1937 he was awarded the 14th annual gold medal of the International Mark Twain Society. In 1974 he was made KBE.

There is a permanent display in the College Library, which bears his name, of his desk and memorabilia donated by his widow. The College possesses a collection of his books, letters and also manuscripts, the latter at his bequest.

P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

Lord George of St Tudy

At Dulwich College 1949-1957

A graduate of economics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Lord George joined the Bank of England in 1962, working initially on East European affairs. He was seconded to the Bank for International Settlements in 1966 and held several other posts before his appointment as Governor of the Bank of England in 1993, a post which he held until 2003.

Lord George was widely recognised as having been one of the most successful governors in the Bank's history, having steered an expert course through a series of turbulent events in financial markets with utmost composure, earning him the nickname 'Steady Eddie'.

Lord George was made a Privy Councillor in 1999. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire for services to the economy in the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours. In June 2004 he was made a life peer and assumed the title Lord George of St Tudy.

Lord George was a Governor of Dulwich College from 1998, and Chairman of the Governors from June 2003 until March 2009. A celebration of his life was held at Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift on Thursday 25 June 2009. Tributes were paid by The Master, Graham Able, Terry Walsh and the Chair of the Governors, Lord Turnbull.

Raymond Chandler

At Dulwich College 1900-1905

American writer of thrillers and detective stories, Chandler was born in Chicago but brought up from the age of seven in England. At Dulwich he won form and subject prizes on both Modern and Classical sides before studying languages in France and Germany. After a short period in the British Civil Service he returned to America in 1912 and settled in California, working as an accountant, auditor and later vice-president of an oil company.

During the Depression Chandler began to write short stories and novelettes for the detective pulp magazines before turning to 'private eye' novels such as The Big Sleep (1939) and Farewell, My Lovely (1940), featuring the honest but cynical detective anti-hero, Philip Marlowe.

Auden spoke for many when he wrote that Chandler's thrillers were 'serious studies of a criminal milieu, the Great Wrong Place, and his powerful but extremely depressing books should be read and judged, not as escape literature, but as works of art'.

Trevor Bailey

At Dulwich College 1937-1942

Trevor Bailey was England's greatest all-round cricketer of the 1950s. At Dulwich he began playing for the 1st XI at the age of 14. Even during his days of schoolboy cricket his performance was phenomenal: over the 1941 season his batting average was an unprecedented 121.4 while during the following season he took an incredible 66 wickets, giving him a bowling average of 6.2. He captained the 1st XI side of 1941-2.

He went on to Cambridge where he won a Blue for soccer as well as for cricket and made his Test debut at Headingley in 1949 against New Zealand. Described as a “born iconoclast, and a cricketer of immense character and intelligence”, he was an outstanding fast-medium bowler, brilliant fielder and “generally dour” batsman, whose stolid defence dug England out of many a hole. Throughout the 1950s he was the pivot of the England team, becoming a right-hand man to both Len Hutton and Peter May. He shared the new ball with Alec Bedser as England emerged from postwar struggle to mid-'50s dominance. Trevor relished a crisis and in 1953 England owed their survival mainly to him. At Headingley he bowled leg-theory to slow an Australian gallop to victory and at Lord's he batted for four and a half hours on the final day in a famous stand with Willie Watson. England went on to win the Ashes. The following winter, against a star-studded West Indian batting line-up, he took 7 for 34 in 16 overs of incisive swing bowling. Trevor is the only cricketer to have scored over 2,000 runs and taken 100 wickets in an English first class season – a record he has now held for 66 years, making him part of England's sporting history.

For twenty years he was the Financial Times cricket and soccer correspondent, and he was a regular test match commentator for the BBC. He has also written several books on cricket. In 1994 he was awarded the CBE.

Trevor sadly died in a house fire at his home on 10 February 2011.

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Alleyn Club Secretary

Trevor Llewelyn

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