The following article first appeared in the 1895 – 1945 Jubilee Magazine published by Southend High School for Boys and the Old Southendian Association. A table of the winners of the Cock House Championship appears after the article.
Houses and House Socials
In January, 1908, Mr Hitchcock, with the support of Mr Garrad, established the House system. His object was primarily to strengthen the bonds of loyalty among the scholars and by rivalry in work and games to raise the level of the school generally. The immediate improvement in the popularity and standard of games and the success of social activities were recorded with keen appreciation by Mrs Alexander (then Laura Harrison) in the editorial of the 1908 magazine.
Tuscans will not be surprised to learn that in the earliest House report, Bernard Keen records that the House began well, holding their first social. The Athenians comment on the excellence of their refreshments, the Spartans on their prowess at cricket and football, and, appropriately enough, the Trojans pride themselves on being the first to do their own washing up.
History does not record who chose the classic names given to the Houses, but these names certainly bestowed on them from their birth, a prestige no personal or territorial connection could have achieved; Acadia, Lydia, Utopia – the three maidens destined, alas, to die so young; and the virile Athens, Sparta, Troy and Tuscany. What battles unsung and feuds long-forgotten have been born of these loyalties! Nearly four decades of Athenians, Spartans, Trojans and Tuscans can yet recall the frenzied cheering at their hotly-contested House matches, can remember still the tense excitement of relay races on the field and in the baths. With what solemn feeling of responsibility the members of the House 7th eleven took the field!
As the House spirit found its most sustained and corporate expression in all forms of sport, so its most vociferous and abandoned outlet was the storm of tumultuous cheering with which each Social ended. These gatherings underlined in no uncertain ways the family unity of the members of a House and presented the Prefects with an opportunity of revealing their powers of organisation and persuasion, and the lesser lights their accomplishments as entertainers or their capacity as mere consumers of refreshment. Every item was received with applause, from the opening pianoforte duet to the climax of the closing sketch, from the drama of Gunga Din to the absurdity of Interrupted Eloquence, and the loudest applause of all was reserved for the lustily-sung choruses. Memories of Grammer’s Trumpeter, What art Thou sounding now? And of Mr Decottignies’ French songs, and Major Stephenson’s Indian Club displays and of Elvin’s Gravediggers are borne back to the strains of The Island, The Poacher and Macpherson. Ventriloquacious artists like Douglas Poole and such monologuists as Arthur Bovey, whistlers like Eddie Morris and soloists like Ernest Booth were followed by exponents of newer and more ambitious forms of entertainment.
But if the social itself was the entertainment of the majority, the preparation and the cleaning up were a source of even greater enjoyment to the privileged few. The selection of items, the choice of sketches, the printing of programmes and estimates of “tuck” all cause their minor headaches and laughs. The rehearsals and visits to the theatrical property man gradually put the actors in the appropriate festive mood which, though sobered by the strain of erecting curtains, unearthing the chairs, brewing hot and cold beverages in the Physics lab, and finally hunting in vain for the seven missing Gaudeamuses, nevertheless rose to riotous heights when the school was once again dark and empty, and the leading performers could sally forth still in their costumes and make up, to enliven the dismal High Street, and who shall say where Georgina Oakley ultimately ended the celebrations?
It is perhaps a matter for regret that House rooms were not more exclusive sanctums, with House honours boards and special trophies, but on the occasion of House meetings each did indeed become a private den, where Prefects could harangue and exhort their forces, apportion praise and criticism. Dr Moore evidently realised the need for some such outward and visible evidence of the inward unity and loyalty, and in 1929 he instituted House prayers to be held regularly once a week, House ties, and House colours, to be awarded for distinction in games. At the same time House Chronicles were opened and a few years later House secretaries created to pen them.
Probably the most interesting feature of the House reports throughout the forty years is the variation woven by successive Senior Prefects on the theme of detentions. Prefects untiringly pointed out “the handicap of the few boys who appear to hold season-tickets for the detention-room”. Most spectacular among the Prefects’ duties, and the most intimidating, was for many years the delivery by the Head Boy of a speech in the forecourt of the School on Empire Day. The Guard of Honour having presented arms, the Union Jack having been more or less successfully unfurled from the flagstaff, the Senior Prefect of the Cock House unburdened himself of a carefully-learned and now suddenly-forgotten oration, the words of which were borne by the spring breezes away over the heads of the assembled School, out of the hearing of the off-duty tram-drivers congregated round their shelter at Cobweb Corner, away over the High Street and out to sea. From 1922 onwards this ceremony was held in the less expansive atmosphere of the School hall.
A less exacting and more valuable privilege was entrusted to the Prefects by Dr Moore of reading the lesson at morning prayers.
So the ever-changing, ever constant stream of House vitality flows on; suspended for a few years during the migration to Mansfield, it is now once again surging clamourously and expectantly through the youngest generation, building up finer achievements and fresh memories, to be treasured and recalled another forty years on.
Since the establishment of the House system at the School, the Houses compete in a range of activities to become "Cock House" for the School year.
No former Student of the School forgets this competition between the Houses, the following is the List of winners of the Cock House championship!
|1932||Athens & Troy|
|| "Nulli Secundus"
|| "Non sibi sed domo"
|| "Fortiter et Recte"
||"Absque labore Nihil"|