08 May 2002

Doctor Freeman

Who can tell me more about Dr. Freeman? What was Doc. a doctor of? Was it, as I have always supposed it was, Divinity? He wore a clerical collar and his one class as I recall was Divinity.

Every Friday for five years of my life, Doc would, without fail (I was going to say "religiously") appear in the Lecture Room for about a one hour of lecture, but his subject did not even resemble "Divinity". It was closer I would say now, to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution except that he always maintained that there was no continuity between one form and another; that each improved species appeared spontaneously – maybe that was his message.

Despite the fact that I always felt he had tired of talking to the likes of me, I did enjoy it as, with the aid of a beaten-up old epidiascope, he would lead us on an illustrated walk through the Cretaceous, the Devonian, the Oolitic etc. periods. I can see why Hollywood later latched on to the subject of Dinosaurs! He paused occasionally to lament falling standards of education and literacy – "it is not" he would say (reading the label on the photo) "a Scotch Fir Cone, Scotch is a drink and the Fir is unrelated to the Pine", and to tell us about how he once attended a football match and was so overcome by the crowds that he almost fainted. Apparently. the fellow in front of him turned around and said "What’s the matter mate? – you look as white as a bloody sheet!". I remember quite clearly the wry look he had on his face as he told us that one.

Does anyone know any more about our erstwhile headmaster, does any one have any other reminiscences about "Divinity in the Lecture Room" with Doc?

Peter Churchill



  1. Hello Peter, Ah, Doctor Freeman, lots of memories, an aura of severity and authority which I was in awe of. But certainly he was respected, even if some of his views on politics and the world in general, which he was quite happy to divulge, would now be considered unfashionable. He was very moved by the death of friends during the first world war. He would refer to the loss of the ‘flower of English manhood’ a whole generation of which had been lost. He was also part of that era where theories of eugenics were respectable. He complained that the lower classes were breeding much faster than the rest. Winston Churchill has recently been accused of racist ideas but at that time Darwinian theory had been interpreted in such a way as to promote the survival of the fittest as a social policy. As a day bug, from a working class family, I certainly felt the heat. With regard to his background Neil Jenkinson's 'History of Peter Symonds' has a lot on Doc. It describes his appointment on 21st November 1925: "Dr Freeman's selection was unanimous. If Varley was a difficult act to follow, his successor came loaded with academic honours and had crammed a variety of experience into the seven years or so which had passed since the end of the war. Born at Wimborne Minster in 1891, he was a graduate of University College, Southampton, by the outbreak of the war in which he served in the Royal Engineers, reaching the rank of captain. He was engaged in research about the sound location of aircraft for which he was awarded the MBE. In peace time , he added to his laurels at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he took a further degree to which he subsequently added his doctorate for work in physics. His teaching career took off when he became senior science master at King Edward VI School, Southampton." But after all that there is no mention of the Divinity Doctorate! But he was a DD wasn’t he, and as a crossword enthusiast whenever DD pops up I think of him. His weekly lectures are memorable and I think anyone who experienced them will have been affected for the rest of his life. Lots about duty and responsibility as well as salamanders and the biology of reproduction! You can read an earlier discussion we had about Doc here jim        

  2. One of my clearest memories of Doc Freeman was his strong emotional feelings about the loss of life of ex-students in the two world wars. In today's Observer is an extract of a poem which brings back those times.   "John Stallworthy recalls Remembrance Sunday at his school in his poem 'No Ordinary Sunday'......   Then, low voiced, the headmaster called the roll
    Of those who could not answer, every name
    Suffix'd with honour - 'Double first', kept goal
    For Cambridge' - and a death in Spitfires, tanks
    And ships torpedoed. At his call there came
    Through the mist blond heroes in broad ranks
    With rainbows struggling on their chest
    Of us, in strict step, as we idled home
    Marched the formations of the towering dead."


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