Shrewsbury School and the super-curriculum
Sam Griffiths, housemaster of Ingram’s Hall, contends that Shrewsbury School is breaking new ground outside the classroom
‘Intus Si Recte Ne Labora’; ‘If Right Within, Trouble Not’; is Shrewsbury School’s motto and it is a somewhat fitting one in what feels like an age of anxiety and insults. A true Salopian aims to be that fun, friendly and engaging figure, someone who is confident, not arrogant; wise, not impetuous. Like other seven day a week boarding schools, Shrewsbury has that great gift of time in order for its pupils to fulfil myriad of activities. Paradoxically perhaps, as the pressure to excel academically has increased beyond all recognition, so has the commitment to creating a character education in order to help bring out well-rounded, worldly-wise, and empathetic characters.
Founded by Royal Charter in 1552, Shrewsbury has an enviable history of inspiring pioneers, from Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle and Sandy Irvine’s valiant Everest exploits to the recent successes of adventurer and author, Alastair Humphreys, and twice Everest summiteer and local GP, Adam Booth. Old Salopian, Sir Michael Palin is probably as well known for his inspirational travels, as he is for his legendary status as a ‘Python’.
Heed the advice of Mark Twain: 20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do
Today’s boys and girls therefore follow in illustrious footsteps as they seek to make the most of a remarkable education. Recent trips have seen groups of pupils do just this, ensuring that their long summer holidays don’t go to waste by exploring the delights of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Guyana and Madagascar. Staff, likewise, have made the most of their break, from charity work – such as taking pupils to the school’s eye clinic ‘Medic Malawi’ – to charity challenges, such as swim-run, marathons, even a sabbatical to sail around the world. One former pupil, Molly Derbyshire, was so inspired by Irvine she even trekked to Everest base camp.
Shrewsbury’s famous running club, the Hunt, regarded as the oldest in the world, broke new ground in 2013 when it carried out the first of its now biennial tours to Ethiopia and Kenya, home of champions, to train at high altitude. Their global reputation was such that in April 2019, Huntsman Charlie Ockleston, was invited – resplendent in his Hunt regalia of cap, whip and bugle – to start the Men’s U20 race at the World Cross Country Running Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, with the famous rallying cry: “All hounds who wish to run, run hard, run well and may the devil take the hindmost.”
The Rovers, the name of Shrewsbury’s outdoor pursuits club, has launched expeditions from as far afield as Peru to adventures closer to home, including the ‘Land, Sea and Skye’ expedition in 2015. Only this May, a group of lower sixth boys entered the notoriously tough Scottish Islands Peaks Race, which involves sailing continuously from Oban to Troon – via the islands of Mull, Jura and Arran – to run an average of 17 miles and 3000ft on each one. The lack of wind put greater emphasis on the running legs, the boys coming away with the ‘Princes of the Bens’ trophy for fastest overall time and, with the help of some Herculean efforts on the oars, an extraordinarily narrow victory by only 45 minutes after over two days of endurance to win the youth section as first boat home.
Third formers are immersed in this world of adventure from the outset with a weekend house trip to Talargerwyn (‘Tally’), Shrewsbury’s cottage in the midst of Snowdonia. Surrounded by forest, Saturday night is a time for a fire and endless ghost stories, while Sunday sees a trip to the golden sands of Harlech beach, horse riding or Surf Snowdonia. A recent account reads: ‘For the third year running we breakfasted on the terrace, and suitably fortified, climbed into the Tryfan massif. This year we parked at Ogwen Cottage and walked up the Devil’s Kitchen. On the way down seven boys (modestly not pictured!) took the opportunity for a swim in the chilly waters of Llyn Idwal.’
The end of the summer term sees the third form complete their outdoors week, with nearly all going on to start a Duke of Edinburgh journey culminating in such trips as kayaking across Scotland (through the Great Glen), or around Anglesey, or occasionally abroad – this year’s Gold Expedition went to the Pyrenees.
The two statues of Darwin and Sir Philip Sidney gaze down ‘Central’ here at Shrewsbury, and you sense they are encouraging the next generation to heed the advice of Mark Twain: ‘20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.’ A frantic world of ever-advancing technology it might be, but pupils leave Shrewsbury with a range of experiences like few others. Most importantly, they leave with a sense of perspective, of their place in the world, while inhabiting that motto: ‘If right within, trouble not’.