Grammar is a hive of activity, but what struck me most was the strong sense of community: although I have always taught in supportive, positive school environments, I had never experienced anything quite like it before.
It has enabled me to understand the strong loyalty to Grammar of my father, Kerry Bos (OS 1959), his brother Michael (OS 1953) and my grandfather Ian Edwards, a master at Grammar for over thirty years, becoming affectionately known as ‘Butch’ to his pupils. Edwards was Sports master, Second English Master and then Senior English Master in his time at Grammar from 1939, and then after World War II from 1946 to 1968. Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University’s Balliol College, and considered a very good footballer, touring France playing rugby when at college, Edwards was ‘among the best Sports masters’ according to Headmaster Colin Healey, being a first-class organiser with ‘high standards of sportsmanship’ and considerable devotion to duty1. When war broke out in 1939, my grandfather was an early enlistment in the AIF. During the next six years, he saw active service in North Africa as one of the ‘Rats of Tobruk’, in Papua New Guinea, and as one of General MacArthur’s intelligence officers in the Philippines.
Edwards was actually away on a ski trip with a group of Grammar boys when war was declared. He rang the School to ask if he should bring the boys straight back to Sydney. The School and parents of the boys both took the view that it may actually be a long time before they all had the chance for another holiday and agreed they should just make the most of their time there. So they made sure to enjoy that ski trip before immediately all enlisting upon their return.
"The School and parents of the boys both took the view that it may actually be a long time before they all had the chance for another holiday and agreed they should just make the most of their time there. So they made sure to enjoy that ski trip before immediately all enlisting upon their return."
A rugby blue from the University of Sydney, Edwards coached the Grammar First XV for many years. He also had a great love of cricket and athletics, and I remember, in the years following his retirement, he would often spend his Saturday mornings at Weigall watching from the sidelines. As a pupil, Jim Cattlin (OS 1961) remembers him as appearing very stoic, but I knew he had a keen sense of humour. A colleague Mr Bob Ross recalled a staff meeting in the Common Room when Headmaster Colin Healey announced school numbers had reached Ms Helen Bos joined the History department staff during Term III, and having both a father and grandfather with connections to Grammar, tells us about their long-standing loyalties to the School. exactly 1,001. Edwards always attended these meetings with his feet up and eyes shut, and without opening his eyes called out, ‘the result of 1,001 nights, no doubt…’
Many Old Sydneians came to visit him in the last few years of his life. They remembered his profound knowledge and quick wit, igniting the rapport he established with his pupils. Alistair Hazard (OS 1948) in the eulogy he delivered at his funeral, affectionately likened him to Hollywood actor Robin Williams’ character John Keating in the film Dead Poets Society.
My father, Kerry Bos, attended Grammar for seven years, firstly at St Ives Preparatory School and then College Street, where he was a member of the Air Training Corps, rifle team and the rowing VIII. He joined the ATC as a cadet in 1955, eventually becoming a Sergeant. In his final year, as Senior Air Cadet, he was assigned an office located upstairs next to Big School, shared with the Sports master Mr Ian Edwards – his future father-in-law.
After Grammar, Kerry went on to study Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Sydney, where he was resident at St Paul’s College. He spent most of his career in the Royal Australian Air Force, and postings included RAAF Base Butterworth in Malaysia, in the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, and then later Wright Patterson USAF Base in Ohio as a liaison officer on the F-111 fighter-bomber project. He retired as a Wing Commander before taking a civilian post in the Department of Defence in Canberra. Kerry was an enthusiastic attendee of Old Sydneians’ reunions, attending one less than a year before he died in October 2015.
"What initially struck me was what a happy place it is, with friendly and helpful staff and boys who seem genuinely glad to be there."
My own time at Grammar, though much briefer, has allowed me to see that the same culture which inspired this loyalty in my father and grandfather continues to be a feature of Grammar life. What initially struck me was what a happy place it is, with friendly and helpful staff and boys who seem genuinely glad to be there. The boys appeared to me to approach their time at School with the aim of making the most of the many opportunities which Grammar offers them. Above all, they impressed me with their genuine interest and enquiring approach to their studies, as well as their maturity, natural courtesy and good humour. I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone’s energy, professionalism and cheerfulness, including and especially the boys.