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KBGS Old Boys' Forum

A place to discuss Keighley Boys' Grammar School. 


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KBGS Old Boys' Forum
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Famous Old Boys - Omission

I have been meaning for some time to point out a serious omission from our list of Famous Old Boys. This is Sir Herbert Butterfield who was born in Oxenhope in 1900 and attended KBGS, or Keighley Trade and Grammar School as it was then, from, I suppose 1911-1917 or 1918.He may have started later than 11 of course.

He was a Reader when I was up at Cambridge (1948-51) and the thing I remember most about him was that he used to lecture in sports jacket and corduroy trousers, which was unusual at a time when most lecturers wore suits, however decrepit. He later became Professor of Modern History and the Regius Professor of History and Master of Peterhouse.He was a very retiring and modest man who, for a long time, maybe until his death, was a devout Methodist.I never really made much contact with him though I think other OKs, in Cambridge before me, may have done. He was knighted in 1968.

Since he was such a modest man he never really made a mark on the national scene--his knighthood followed his retirement as Regius Professor and, not to do him any disservice, was fairly automatic.

I apologise if any of these facts are wrong and rely on other visitors to this site to correct me if they are but he was certainly an OK and should be included in our list.I will find out more if anyone is interested.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) '40-'48

Current location (optional) Epsom

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

His "George III and the Historians" was a book recommended by staff at KBGS in the late '50s. It awakened me to the realisation that history is not always about the people of the past but sometimes about the people who write about them.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 52-60

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

His most famous book was'The Whig Interpretation of History' and,as Terry says, he was one of the first to stress that evidence from the past isn't always a good guide to what really happened unless you understand the point of view of the person who made the contemporary record.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) '40-'48

Current location (optional) Epsom

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission
Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

Tom - I noticed it's 66 years since you first started at KBGS, and yet you are online and keeping pace with the "youngsters" who went a mere 40 or 50 years ago!

I think that qualifies you as a Famous Old Boy too!

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

Thanks for the kind words Chris but I am not at all famous! I was at work long enough to see PCs introduced to my firm--in fact I was the first person to have my own PC there, so I got my computer education in the late '80s and early 90s. I worked from home 1993-2000 so used the web and email quite a bit to shunt documents around.

I notice from the wikipedia entry and from other sources that Herbert Butterfield was already a Professor, not just a Reader as I thought, when I first met him. He badly needs a sympathetic biographer and if I were younger I would attempt the task. I was once in touch with the Cambridge University Library who have a lot of his papers and were interested in my request to inspect them. There have been two biographies but from an intellectual and historical point of view- one by C T McIntire (2004) called 'Herbert Butterfield:Historian and Dissenter' and one by Keith C Sewell 'Herbert Butterfield and the Interpretation of History' (2005). I am trying to get hold of these so I can see what,if anything, was included about Keighley and KBGS and will relay this if and when I get to see the books.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) '40-'48

Current location (optional) Epsom

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

Tom, thanks for introducing me to an old boy of such note. Surely the purpose of this website.

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

Tom,I have a copy af an article by Herbert Butterfield from the Old Keighlians Association's magazine Dec. 1948. He started at the school in September 1912 and the article is about his life at school in the war years 1914-1918. I could scan it and Chris could put it in an appropriate spot if anyone is interested. In the same issue is detailed the life of another famous old boy, Gordon Bottomley who was given honorary doctorates by three universities, Aberdeen,1930, Durham 1940 and Leeds 1944.There are two pages detailing his life's achievments.in the poetic world. On another tack there was much interest in Asa Briggs in a previous entry. In the Dec 1947 issue of the same mag. there is an article by Asa Briggs entitled ," Memories of the School [1931-1938] " which would ,I think be of great interest to many of the conributors on the site .

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 43-46

Current location (optional) Sassafras ,Tasmania

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission
Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

To Mike -- Mike it would be absolutely splendid if you could scan and send to Chris. I think he intends to do some website updating this weekend. I look forward to reading these. 1948 was the year I left KBGS and I wonder if this number of The Keighlian was issued after I had left. In any case I look forward very much to seeing the articles.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) '40-'48

Current location (optional) Epsom

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

Briggs article is already on the photos page under "Asa Briggs memories - OKA Booklet for Dec 1947"

Re: Famous Old Boys - Omission

Tom, you might be interested to learn there is now another biography of Herbert Butterfield (Bentley, Michael, The Life and Thought of Herbert Butterfield, History, Science and God, Cambridge University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-107-00397-2.). This is less purely an intellectual biography than the previous one (2004) by C. T. McIntire, and includes for instance some details about Butterfield's sexual infidelities. While McIntire spoke at length to HB himself for his biography, Bentley spoke to his widow! There’s a copy in the Local Authors section in the Keighley Public Library, along with a very good selection of Butterfield’s books.

Unfortunately Bentley’s biography adds little new about HB’s time at KBGS. What McIntire says can be found at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=b0cgWwy5ByAC&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&dq=herbert+butterfield+oxenhope&source=bl&ots=fReAN_LOPa&sig=4FFZChaxzizD1IITcSKoAPSJqEM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=PtdiUPWKMcag0QWThoGwCQ&sqi=2&redir_esc=y#v=onepage
And most of what Bentley says about HB’s early life can be read at http://www.amazon.com/Life-Thought-Herbert-Butterfield-ebook/dp/B004YPJ8RS

According to McIntire Butterfield confessed to cheating in the exam which got him into the Keighley Trade and Grammar School, did very badly in his Ordinary Levels but was the first pupil from the KT&GS to enter Oxford or Cambridge.

Incidentally Tom, your query in “Famous Old Boys” about Herbert’s father Albert who “eventually became a clerk in a woollen mill. It would be interesting to find out which mill this was” is answered by both biographers who agree that this was “probably” Parker’s Mill, Oxenhope. McIntire adds that in 1925 Albert lost his job at Parker’s and worked at Merrall’s Mill.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1954-59

Current location (optional) Denholme