Matthew Burns

HEADMASTER’S BLOG – SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION

We all know the theory of six degrees of separation; that it is possible to contact anyone, anywhere in the world through just six intermediaries.

Connectivity is one of the greatest privileges of being Headmaster and the variety of people I meet is one of the most rewarding aspects of my role.  Everyone has an interesting story; be it parents who are visiting the School, teachers who apply for jobs or the many people who contribute to pupils’ experience through our General Studies lectures, leadership seminars or Careers programme.

This week we are privileged to welcome Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield to speak at Prize Giving.  Lord Hennessy is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal History Society. He is also Attlee Professor of Contemporary History at the University of London. Like many Old Sedberghians, he was educated at St John’s College, Cambridge.

I met Lord Hennessy at a debate at the Mansion House chaired by Sir Roger Gifford, Old Sedberghian. As the speakers drew breath, the Floor was asked for comments or questions. There followed the awful hush which teachers and Headmasters know so well in such circumstances. The speakers sipped their glasses of water but still no-one ventured a question.

Foolishly perhaps, I sought to assist by challenging an assumption Lord Hennessy had made. I was swiftly, elegantly and eloquently dismissed with such charm that I could not resist another go, and was again swept to the boundary for four runs. We continued our private discussion later and I came away reflecting that greatness is the combination of character and wisdom. Without one, the other is disabled. 

I have no doubt Lord Hennessy will enrich our gathering with his insight into contemporary history and politics. More than that, I look forward to spending a short time in the company of one of the most erudite men I have met. Life is full of surprises as well as prizes.

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