Dr James Edward Cowell Welldon (April 25, 1854 – June 17, 1937) was an clergyman and scholar who before taking up a posting as Bishop of Calcutta from 1898 to 1902 served as headmaster of Harrow School between 1885 and 1898. He was educated at Eton and went on to King’s College, Cambridge. At Harrow, where he is said to have only narrowly won the job on the grounds that the governors liked his sermons, he was disliked by many of the masters as an autocratic administrator, but was more popular with the boys, by whom he was known as “the Porker.” Among the pupils was one Winston Churchill. Despite his size he was fond of games and indeed had even played for the Old Etonians in the 1876 FA Cup final game against Wanderers – the match ended in a draw. He later went in to claim that British superiority was to be found on the playing field saying: “Englishmen are not superior to Frenchmen or Germans in brains or industry or the science and apparatus of war; but they are superior in the health and temper in which games impart.” CC Eldridge writing in his book The Imperial Experience: From Carlyle to Forster said witheringly: “It was a banal argument, but it was widely accepted.” In later life he became Dean of Manchester from 1906 to 1918, and Dean of Durham from 1918 to 1933. When Welldon complained about the rudeness of Labour MPs questioning the Government, EM Forster penned a poem:
My brethren, nothing on earth is finer
Than a truly refined inarticulate miner
(Or may we say ‘under the earth,’ for there
Is a miner’s place, not up in the air?);
But he must be refined, he must be meek,
Expert at his job, yet unable to speak,
He must not complain or use swear words or spit;
Much is expected of men in the pit.
It is different for me. I have earned the right,
Through position and birth to be impolite.
I have always been used to the best of things,
I was nourished at Eton and crowned at King’s,
I pushed to the front in religion and play,
I shoved all competitors out of the way;
I ruled at Harrow, I went to Calcutta,
I buttered my bread and jammed my butter,
And returned as a bishop, enormous of port,
Who stood in a pulpit and said what he thought.
Yes, I said what I thought and thought what I said,
They hadn’t got butter, they hadn’t got bread,
They hadn’t got jam or tobacco or tea,
They hadn’t a friend, but they always had me.
And I’m different to them. I needn’t be meek,
Because I have learned the proper technique;
Because I’m a scholar, a don, and a dean,
It’s all in good taste when I’m vulgar or mean.
I can bully or patronize, just which I please;
I am different to them…. But those Labour MPs,
How dare they be rude? They ought to have waited
Until they were properly educated.
They must be punished, they’ve got to be stopped,
Parliamentary privilege ought to be dropped.
They shall be scourged and buried alive
If they trespass on My prerogative.
May I most clearly state, ere I lay down my pen,
That rudeness is only for gentlemen?
As it was in the beginning, it shall be … Amen !
This is one of a cluster of streets named after teachers and headmasters of Harrow School. Namely: Edward Ernest Bowen (about 1885 – 1901), author of the Harrow school song, Forty Years On; Montagu Butler (1859 – 1885); Charles Vaughan (1845 – 1859); Joseph Drury (1785 – 1805); Benjamin Heath (1771 – 1785); and, Robert Carey Sumner (1760 – 1771).
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