The Leas School,  Hoylake

(Albany)  Francis  FETHERSTONHAUGH

b 16 Feb 1910,  18 North Great Georges Street, Dublin, Ireland

d 1 Jan 1971,  70 Ailesbury Road, Dublin, Ireland

Francis Fetherstonhaugh's parents were Albany Fetherstonhaugh, solicitor, and his wife (his first cousin) Frances Berry 'Tina' Fetherstonhaugh, daughter of Godfrey Fetherstonhaugh. Francis was their only child, born when his father was 44, his mother 43; his mother died in 1945, his father in 1946.

Francis attended Sedbergh School - his attendance there remained memorable to many Leasians, as the headmaster's rooms at The Leas contained photos of him taking part in (and receiving the winner's prize for) the 1928 Wilson Run, Sedbergh's prestigious ten-mile cross-country run. In 1929 Francis went up to Clare College, Cambridge, to read History. In 1931 he achieved Class II Division II in the Historical Tripos Part I; he does not seem to appear in any later Tripos lists before his MA was conferred in 1939.

Francis joind the staff of The Leas as assistant master in 1936. In 1939, Martin C Wainwright resigned the joint headmastership of The Leas to go to Stamford. Francis was appointed joint headmaster along with Maurice Wright, by joint headmaster Tim Dealtry, son of the founder Percy Dealtry; in this capacity Francis took part in the school's 1940 move to the Glenridding Hotel on Ullswater, before the school's Hoylake buildings were requisitioned for the RAF.

On Tim Dealtry's retirement in 1944 Francis became sole headmaster of The Leas, and in 1946 he brought the school back to its home on Meols Drive, Hoylake - the RAF had closed its rehabilitation centre in November 1945. In the same year, he invited Henry Silcock to join him as joint headmaster.

As headmaster he made announcements at meals, and led services in chapel and (late evening) in First Form. He was also responsible for formal punishment beatings with the stick.

Every week, Francis posted Merit Marks for each boy on a noticeboard in the hall. If memory serves right, Merit Marks were awarded only for academic performance, not for good behaviour or sporting prowess or theatre or music or any other achievement or initiative.

On Sunday afternoons Francis would record the planned itinerary of each group of older boys going out for "free walks", ie walks unsupervised by a master. Usually he would make no comment on the planned route, but I remember him vetoing the public footpath that runs alongside the railway past the municipal golf-course (so of course we took it anyway, just to see what excitements he wished to curtail - there were none).

On Sunday evenings Francis would sometimes invite prefects down to his study, late on, the boys dressed in pyjamas and dressing gowns. Francis would take out a cigar from the box, and follow the intriguing ritual of sniffing it, cutting the end off it, and poking it with a match; at last he would lengthily light it, and finally lean back to puff it and blow the occasional ring. Possibly biscuits and hot chocolate would be brought in. A favourite entertainment would be the playing of Flanders and Swann's At the Drop of a Hat. Less favourite would be the requirement to make conversation with any guest, most regularly Francis's ancient Irish cousin Miss Chesnaye (Florence Mabel Chesnaye, 1878-1972). At the last such evening each term (adult guests absent), Francis would solemnly and obliquely warn any leavers about the risks of public-school life.

The nickname for Francis amongst parents seemed to be Fethers; but to the boys he was nearly always known as Fluff, sometimes Chuff.

Francis retired from the headmastership at the end of the summer term, 1967. At the annual sports day earlier that term, he had been presented with a silver bowl by the head boy, Peter Barber-Lomax.

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