Hymn to persistence as Stotfold school sings from old songsheet again

PUBLISHED: 11:29 07 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:34 07 February 2017

Etonbury’s chair of governors and former pupil, John Street (left) with the current principal, Alex Prior (centre) and the hymns creator and English teacher at the school in the 1950’s, Derek Horsler, who actually taught John Street.

Etonbury's chair of governors and former pupil, John Street (left) with the current principal, Alex Prior (centre) and the hymns creator and English teacher at the school in the 1950's, Derek Horsler, who actually taught John Street.

Archant

A long-lost school hymn has been found and sung to its creator, 60 years after it was written.

The Etonbury Hymn, which had been composed in the 1950s by an English teacher at what is now called Etonbury Academy on Stotfold Road, Arlesey, has been rediscovered and sung to its creator by Etonbury students.

Derek Horsler, who was an English teacher at the school – previously known as Etonbury County Secondary – and wrote and composed the Etonbury Hymn along with a ‘Polly’ Perkins in 1955.

The hymn was then sung regularly for many years on such occasions as ‘speech day’ and the annual school leavers’ final service.

But it fell into obscurity after the sudden death of Etonbury’s first headteacher – a certain Mr R N Alexander – in 1970.

Now, thanks to efforts of the current chair of governors, John Street – who was a student at the school when Mr Horlser was a teacher there – information about the hymn has been found, with John then tracking down Derek.

An emotional Derek takes up the tale. He said: “At that point the hymn seems to have been forgotten. Yet now, 40 years later, just as the school became Etonbury Academy and largely as a result of sustained investigation by Mr Street, probably what is the last extant copy of the words has been traced.

“It’s unfortunate no copy of the original score has been found which could be reunited with those words.

“But persistence has triumphed. Several local ladies, long ago members of the first Etonbury choir, volunteered to sing them from memory.

“Their efforts have been carefully transcribed and have become the basis for an only slightly-altered version of the original hymn tune.

“I was privileged to have been invited back to hear the Etonbury Hymn ‘relaunched’ at the academy. It was a nostalgic occasion for me, the pupils beautifully-sung rendition carrying me back in memory six decades.

“I’ve completed the circle – I was seated beside a gentleman whom I had first met when he was an 11-year-old pupil at Etonbury – who is now the chairman of their governors.”

Etonbury principal Alex Prior said: “This was a wonderful and moving moment. I was delighted Mr Horsler was able to return after all these years to hear the hymn being sung once again, connecting Etonbury’s past and present pupils.He addressed the whole school and told them what wonderful young people they are and how proud they should be to be Etonbury students.”

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