The Baton - A Family Heirloom without a Family!
I recently received an email from Australia with these photographs attached:
The wooden baton had a silver-plated handle and tip with an inscription on a silver plaque about one third from the top. This reads
“Presented to W. E. Taylor Esquire by the boys of Clarence School, Weston-Super-Mare Dec 1895”
The sender wanted to return it to someone in Weston-super-Mare where it might be used for its original purpose. The baton had been handed down to them in Sidney, Australia but it had no connection with their direct family. As far as they knew it had been presented to the Headmaster of Clarence School who had later gone to Australia. When his son, Bill TAYLOR, died with no descendants their aunt who was his friend, received the baton. Unfortunately the aunt, now 96, is suffering from dementia and couldn’t add any more details.
By a coincidence, during the summer I had been researching some of the many private schools in Weston-super-Mare and was able to add something to the story.
Clarence School had opened in Weston-super-Mare in 1895 having been established several years previously in Bath. The purpose built buildings were in Clarence Park South and the Head Master at the time of the move was William FRANKLYN not W E TAYLOR. The 1901 census showed 3 assistant masters (but not W E TAYLOR) and 47 male pupils.
I searched the Weston Mercury and Gazette, which are on film in Weston Library to see if I could find an account of a presentation to W E TAYLOR but with no luck. I spoke to Brian Austin in case he had come across him during his research of Weston residents but again with no success. While looking for the presentation I did come across some articles concerning the results of Music Exams where there are reports of successful pupils from Clarence School being accompanied by W E TAYLOR so it seems most likely that he was a music teacher. The baton show signs of wear which looks as if it had been tapped on a music stand to attract attention.
Of course, it is possible that he wasn’t employed full-time by the school but was a visiting music teacher.
The baton duly arrived safely in this country and it is in a very fine condition. In a previous edition I wrote about the Weston-super-Mare Light Orchestra and its beginnings in 1919 – nearly 90 years ago – with member Jenny Bindon’s grandfather Harry Burgess as the first conductor. Although it is a little heavier than modern batons, the current conductor would like to this old baton during some concerts next year to show a link with an even earlier musical heritage of the town.
Whilst preparing these notes for Buckets & Spades I was surprised to discover that in 1923 Clarence School with its headmaster and 100 boys moved away from Weston. They moved to Wimborne in Dorset and became Canford School (same initials) where they remain to this day, now co-educational and with over 600 pupils. Next year, after its spell with the Orchestra, I will be contacting Canford School Archives to see if they are interested in giving a home to the Baton. I would like to be able to pass on some information about W E TAYLOR as well. Does anyone know anything about him?