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Thornes House Grammar School

Some memories of the Staff 1940 - 1953

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Clifford Coates Bracewell
Headmaster 1945-1961


The naked truth of that well-worn adage concerning the inexorable impatience of time and tide with the affairs of men strikes home when both these elements appear to have caught up with someone to whom we are to say good-bye.

This term Mr. C. C. Bracewell goes into retirement after sixteen years as Headmaster of the School. When he made known his intentions some months ago, it caused a good deal of surprise among his colleagues, for, still alert in mind and body, he seemed good for another few years' service. But he had evidently decided that he had no wish to be a Canute or an egg-timer and that the time had come for him to hand over to a younger man.

From Manchester Grammar School, Clifford Bracewell went up to Manchester University, where he gained high academic honours, and, after distinguished war service, he held teaching appointments in Birmingham and Middlesbrough before taking the Headship of Mirfield Grammar School almost twenty-five years ago.

There is always some degree of apprehension among the Staff (and scholars, too) when a new Headmaster is coming, and the question uppermost in their minds was,

What's he like?" There was no need for any misgivings for he showed the man he was even before he took up his appointment. Invited, at his request, to spend a few days as a guest of Staff and senior boys in the Foresby Camp in North Wales, he came and lived with us, sweated with us, and, strange as it may seem, like us at the end of a day's hard work he was very, very tired. In those few days, working under orders, he revealed those qualities of cheerfulness, friendliness and industry for which we were always to know him.

Mr. Bracewell's appointment coincided with the beginning of a new age of scientific research and achievement. Perhaps he little realised how wide was to be his own research and how great the final achievement, when he began the task of organising the development of the future Grammar-Technical School at Thornes House.

He had not been very long with us when he advised the formation of the Parent-Teacher Guild, which has been a great asset and a generous giver. Through his support, interest in the Old Thornesians' Association was revived and its scope widened. The many and various out-of-school activities have had his continued support. A cold, wet Saturday morning did not prevent his presence on the touch line, cheering on a not-always-successful football team. The annual Easter visits to the Cumberland hills with colleagues and Sixth Form boys and girls have given tired feet but lasting memories to so many. In the affairs of the city he has played a quiet but effective part and any worthy cause claimed his wholehearted support.

We return then, to the question we were asking in 1945. We have known the answer for years. Clifford Bracewell is more interested, perhaps, in people than in places: people of all shades of opinion; from all walks of life. But, essentially a man's man, he seeks the company of men; in committee, in conference, on the golf course, in the staff room, where he is affectionately known as "The Boss." He enjoys telling and listening to a good story and one sure sign of his appreciation is the quick upward bend of the left knee to meet the heavy downward crash of the left hand. That knee has suffered much in the cause of hearty laughter.

On the more serious side of life, he loves justice above all things. Slow to anger, quick to forgive and forget, he pronounces judgement only after long and careful thought and yielding every possible benefit of doubt. He always takes into consideration the views of his colleagues and welcomes advice at any time, and his kindness and help to so many of us can never be forgotten. Very understanding of the outlook and problems of every boy and girl, he seeks to further their happiness and welfare. That is his primary concern

During the days following the fire his qualities of patience, forbearance, friendliness and courage stood out in relief. Standing on the steps of the dining-hall (for want of a place to sit) he directed the salvage operation and was at everyone's beck and call. And everyone seemed to come: small girl enquiring after a comb; a junior boy, seeking a pencil which he hoped might have been rescued from the ruins; staff members seeking advice. And so it went on all day and every day. But none left without his kindly smile and some ray of hope. Then, as always, he kept his fears and sorrows to himself; his hopes and courage he shared with others.

This, then, is the man, Clifford Curtis Bracewell, M.C., M.A., whose inspiring leadership has guided the School through sixteen momentous years. His predecessors had left sure foundations. On these he has built worthily for the future, and he leaves behind the School, established and secure, ready to meet the challenge of an ever-changing world.

Scholars and staff, everyone of them, join in wishing him a long and happy retirement. They hope that continued health will allow him, Felix-like, to keep on walking o'er moor and fen; o'er crag and torrent "; over the easier golf course and in whatever direction he may choose: may his gardening tools remain bright and smooth in the shaft. And, if he has any thoughts that he might possibly fret in inactivity, let us assure him that he will find time for neither. In all these good wishes we include Mrs. Bracewell, who is so well known to us all. She has sung in the School choir for some years and has been a frequent visitor.

Finally, we feel sure that all these hopes and wishes will find an echo in the hearts of thousands of Mr. Bracewell's old scholars from every part of the country arid, indeed, from many corners of the world. His teaching and example have been woven into the very stuff of their lives.

Friend of mine; friend of all: Farewell.

R. H. Hill

Obituary from the "Yorkshire Post"


Last revised: 09 March 2013