Culture in the Balance

Dear Readers:

Today I must acknowledge the passing of Mr Gladstone Holder, a literary giant and a graduate of and former teacher at Combermere School.

I do not recall ever meeting him, yet I knew him as I know all who have passed through the gates of Combermere and have sought to be guided by its culture. This culture is embodied in the school’s song and promoted by parents, teachers, senior students and graduates who recognise its value and their responsibility to perpetuate it.

Lives are in the making here;
Hearts are in the waking here;
Mighty undertaking here;
Up and on, up and on.

This is the beginning of the wonder of Combermere. Singing the school song at least once each week for the duration of one’s stay at Combermere is a process of indoctrination that results in a subconscious inculcation of values. Also, the influence of the daily morning’s assembly, where the students sing hymns in praise to God and are prayed for by the head of the school, cannot be underestimated.

The impact of this exercise may not by fully appreciated by the student. However, its guiding influence will not be denied upon the behaviour and attitude any student who ventures within the gates of Combermere.

We are armoured for the fight;
Pressing on with all our might;
Pluming wings for higher flight;
Up and on, Up and on.

The culture of Combermere is one where teenagers are being prepared for responsibilities yet unknown and seemingly unreachable at the time. Yet during the turbulent adolescent years, the singing of the song every week and the participation in the daily hymns, prayers and extracurricular school activities results in the development of an inexplicable stability as virtues like discipline, fairness, and perseverance are continually reinforced.

Up then, truest flame lies in high endeavour;
Play the game, keep the flame burning brightly ever.

The only demands required of the students in order that they may be beneficiaries of this culture is that they attend morning assembly, and respect authority in whatever form it appears, whether parents, teachers, senior students, or visiting graduates.

The song is particularly applicable to those who have graduated. The culture embodied in the school song prepares one for the temporary joys and disappointments of life – for the pleasure of achievement and the pain of rejection. If the graduates find themselves in an environment where the popular culture is an antithesis of all that is Combermere, the words are a comfort if they happen to stumble, and an encouragement to persevere.

Foes in plenty we shall meet;
Hearts courageous scorn defeat;
So we press with eager feet;
Up and on, up and on.

The school song is Combermere’s greatest inheritance. Its culture is Combermere’s priceless treasure, and the parents, teachers, senior students and graduates who pass on this culture are Combermere’s most valuable assets. Without them, Combermere will simply become a school without character, graduating students with some knowledge but devoid of good lasting guiding values.

The culture of Combermere is not exclusive to the School, however, for it can be recognised in many persons who attended schools with similar values, like Wesley Hall, St Giles, and St Michaels Girls. It is recognised in parents who are persistent in their efforts to guide their children into what is right. It is also recognised in teachers and nurses who are selfless in their dedication to helping others.

As I listened to Mr Holder’s sons speak of their relationship with their father and with God during the funeral, they spoke, not with a dry respect for, but a passionate love for both. I recognised that they too were beneficiaries of this culture of Combermere. Persons guided by this culture are not motivated by greed and selfishness, but by something higher.

Ever upward to the fight;
Ever upward to the light;
Ever true to God and right;
Up and on, up and on.

Grenville Phillips II is a Civil Engineer and a Graduate of Combermere School.

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