Purvis Society

The Purvis Society was originally formed in 1939 with, to quote from “The Cranleighan“ magazine of the time, “the purpose of helping to preserve that quality of thought and interest that Mr. Purvis had fostered during his long stay at Cranleigh”.

John Stanley Purvis was born in 1890. He started teaching at Cranleigh in September 1913, having been an Exhibitioner of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. He enlisted in early 1915 and left for military service in France in December 1915. He wrote a well-known poem, “From Steyning to the Ring” in 1915 and made several sketches on the battlefield, including one dated 15thSeptember 1916 which showed the first time tanks were used in warfare – the tank is shown as a dark blob as it could not be clearly delineated for security reasons.

Purvis sketch of Cranleigh School

He was wounded, and visited the School to talk about his experience of the First World War early in 1917. On his return to Cranleigh in 1918 he taught History and became Housemaster of 1 North in 1919. He wrote and directed the School Pageant of 1928, was ordained Deacon in 1932, Priest in 1933 and after his retirement in 1938 he became Canon of York Minster (1956-68) and translated the York Mystery Plays in 1957 (for which he received the OBE in 1958). Canon Purvis died in 1968.

All Academic Scholars belong automatically to the Purvis Society, although other members of the School are extremely welcome to attend meetings, particularly in the Sixth Form, and it has been gratifying to see large audiences for all this year’s presentations.

The 2014/15 year began with Brynn and Emma Parry (co-founders of Help for Heroes) and Tom Stimpson (wounded ex-serviceman) holding Speech Hall in thrall for over an hour. Explaining the ethos of the charity they described how it was founded and outlined the mind-boggling range of services that it now supports; Tom, very courageously, described his mental illness (a consequence of combat that used to be so easily ignored), following his army service. Professor Anthony Slinn talked brilliantly about Picasso’s masterpiece ‘Guernica’ and was followed by Mr Joff Sharpe (himself as ex-Ghurka), whose theme was ‘Who Dares Wins in Business’. Dr Julia Chisholm, a consultant oncologist, challenged her young audience with ‘Teenagers and Cancer’ and after Christmas Brigadier Gerald Strickland spoke about ‘The Ethics of Leadership in Conflict’. Mr Stephen Cooper presented some of the human stories behind his book ‘The Final Whistle – The Great War in Fifteen Players’ and Mr Ben Stafford forced everyone to consider ‘Alternative Energies; is it all just hot air?’ whilst strenuously promoting wind farms. All meetings ran for about an hour with opportunity for discussion and questioning at the end (an opportunity rarely missed by a Cranleigh audience) and then, by invitation, some of the Scholars joined the Speaker for a formal meal in Dining Hall, where lively debate always continued. The highlight of the year was the Black Tie Dinner and this year we welcomed Mr Mark Foster, who is co-founder of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, a body that acts as a watchdog for the UK’s annual global spend of over £10bn, advising Government and reassuring the tax payer. I did say that sessions could be controversial…

Junior Scholars enjoyed working lunches chaired by members of Common Room and the meetings are written up in some detail in The Cranleighan. This year has seen, among others, sessions on ‘Africa – stories and stereotypes’; ‘Kissing Babies and the Sandwich Test’; ‘The Rise of the French Radical Right’; ‘The New Artist’; ‘Cyber: the Fifth Theatre of War’ and ‘Reproductive Ethics’. There is no overriding theme as such, but a little dash of controversy hurts no one! Discussion has been lively and engaging, and colleagues find these sessions as enjoyable as do the pupils. Scholars are expected to attend, and the word is gradually filtering through to members of the School that anyone, yes anyone, is most welcome.

Master of the Scholars
Dr J. C. E. Mann