of my earliest recollections is being taken by my father
one Sunday afternoon up to the college to call on Professor
and Mrs. Davray and their son-in-law and daughter, Professor
and Mrs. Bailey. Sunday afternoon my father always gave
to my sister and myself, when we were small. taking
us for an outing somewhere, and this was one of his
favorite walks. We would pass through the little street
where we lived, back from the river, then out the College
road toward the high land above the town, where on a
rise overlooking the city and the river the college
on our way we would stop to play in the track which
ran along the foot of the hill, then follow up the road,
and turning in at the college gate climb the steep grade
through a grove and the steeper slope of the terrace
immediately in front of the stone building, which seemed
huge and imposing with its wide flight of stone steps
and heavy pillared portico. This fine old structure
served in these days as a residence for some members
of the faculty, as well as for lecture rooms. Our friends
occupied quarters in the western end of the building.
Davray and his wife were a most delightful couple; he,
a very distinguished looking French gentleman of the
old school with grey waxed moustache and a charming
dry wit; she, very animated, with sparkling dark eyes
and an incessant fund of humor. The drawing-room of
these four good people, who lived together, was like
a home to many a college boy of that time. On the particular
Sunday which I recall, there was a young man calling
on them who had graduated shortly before, was teaching
school in another part of the province, and was then
visiting Fredericton for a few days. I chiefly remember
his ringing voice and his hearty laugh and manner. When
he had taken his leave there was much talk of him, and
loud praises of his ability and character. Evidently
a great favorite of the household. George R. Parkin
was his name. I did not guess that I was to come under
his care some years later, to spend six of the most
impressionable years of life under his daily supervision
and guidance, and to become forever indebted to him,
more than to anyone else except my parents, for the
most priceless things in life.
Robert Parkin was the youngest son of a Yorkshire family
settled on a farm in Westmoreland County in New Brunswick,
where he was born on February 3, 1846. Passing through
college in the class with Sir George E. Foster, he chose
teaching as his profession, and after gaining his first
experience elsewhere, was appointed to the head mastership
of the Collegiate School in Fredericton, where I was
entered in 1872 at the age of 11, and where I remained
for six years, until I matriculated at the University,-six
years under the constant vigilance, the most kindly
understanding, and the unflagging inspiration of one
of the greatest teachers of our time.
I was privileged to be a student under Professor P.G.
Tait, the famous physicist in Edinburgh, and again under
professor Royce at Harvard, both of whom were not only
great scholars but most eminent lecturers and teachers,
distinguished for their eloquence and their ability
to make hard things plain. To both I owe a great deal.
But I cannot conceive of a teacher with greater power
to arouse and inspire his pupils than Mr. Parkin had-a
power he possessed in such abundance and spent so lavishly.
The secret of his power, of course, was the heart of
the man, his consuming enthusiasm for the great cause,
the cause of human goodness and advancement everywhere.
In this cause he was a mighty soldier. It was this absolutely
unequivocal devotion to the finest ideals, this unquestioning
devotion to duty, which was the driving force behind
that keen, unresting mind and that tireless physique.
It was this which lent conviction to his impassioned
oratory, and made him so unquestioned a master in the
schoolroom-character, a character untarnished as flame.
Boys are often slow-witted, but in some things they
are wiser than we think, wiser than they know. They
are not to be fooled in their judgments of their "spiritual
pastors and masters," and do not make heroes of
the unworthy. The camouflage of the brilliant pretender
or the shallow wit does not deceive them. The mean of
spirit, the ungenerous, the unfair, the base, the ultimately
weak, win no shred of respect from them. With them character
is all that counts, and it is too bad that we do not
remain boys all our lives.
Collegiate School, which had been established as a boys'
preparatory school for the Provincial University, had
traditions of its own, an honorable history behind it,
and a pride in its past which its new headmaster was
careful to foster. The school building, new at that
time, and a very plain structure, stood on Brunswick
street opposite the lower end of the cathedral grounds.
Beyond these grounds was the broad, level, green bank
of the river, so that with the large yard behind the
school we had plenty of space to play. We were encouraged
in all kinds of sports and athletics, cricket and football
in season, skating and snowshoeing in winter; swimming,
canoeing and boating in summer.
Parkin was especially fond of snowshoeing and paddling,
and at one time played football regularly with the boys
and even induced some of his assistants to enter a scrimmage.
He was the life of the field, of course, and played
as he did everything else, with unsparing zest and energy.
Theodore Roosevelt was the only man I ever knew who
seemed to have been born for the strenuous life, and
he was the only man I ever thought could be compared
with Mr. Parkin in driving power and compelling moral
force. They were both supermen, not only in the possession
of dynamic energy, but in their strength of character,
their noble generosity of heart, their great singleness
of purpose, their simple enjoyment of life, and their
abhorrence of anything unworthy.
was characteristic of Sir George Parkin that he not
only knew all about every one of his pupils, their characteristics,
their requirements, their family life, their aptitudes
and ambitions, while they were under his charge, but
never forgot them while he lived. They were all his
old boys always, everywhere over the world. None of
them ever made a success, however small, that he did
not rejoice with him. None ever came to grief, that
he did not grieve over the failure. Yet he never seemed
like a father, but more like an older brother, I suppose
because he was so young at heart. He inspired respect,
admiration, devotion, affection, obedience, but not
awe. In everything but our thoughtlessness, misconduct,
laziness, and neglect of duty, he was too like us to
raise anything so forbidding as that chilly sentiment.
was a fascinating teacher, this intense and magnetic
personality. There was never a dull moment in his classroom
or in his society. His fresh and eager spirit and his
open mind always on the alert made our lessons with
him a pleasure rather than a task. It could never be
said of him that his flock looked up and were not fed.
His care never failed even of the most backward and
there was an abundance of mental food for the hungriest
of his charge. In the classics, which were his chief
subjects, his great appreciation of poetry and letters
gave unusual scope to the day's work. The amount of
Greek and Latin we read before going to college was
not so great-two or three books of Virgil, a book or
two of Homer, a book of Horace, in addition to the usual
Caesar and Xenophon-but much of it had to be learned
by heart, and all of it minutely mastered, with a thorough
knowledge of grammar and construction, and an understanding
of all the poetic and mythological references. With
him as an instructor, it was impossible not to feel
the beauty of Virgil's lovely passages and the greatness
of Homer as he read them.
don't remember that my lessons in old school were ever
drudgery. Often we would not cover more than a few lines
in the hour. A reference might occur which would bring
up a side issue in history or mythology, and then we
must see how some modern or contemporary writer had
treated the same theme. One of the class would be sent
running to Mr. Parkin's rooms to fetch a book; Tennyson,
perhaps, or Rossetti, or Arnold, or another, and we
might listen to his poem on the subject. These were
wonderful hours of growth, though we never dreamed of
our incomparable good fortune, so rare a tutor. I can
hear now that ringing voice in many lines of English
poetry, as he read them to us, feeling all their glorious
beauty. Small wonder if some of us became infected with
the rhythms of the muses, all unconsciously, and must
be haunted for ever by the cadence of golden words.
Schliemann's great work on his discoveries at Troy was
published, Mr. Parkin secured a copy at once, and we
were all gathered about his desk to look at the handsome
illustrations, sharing those priceless treasures. We
had, of course, nothing like an art museum in our small
city. All we knew of the architecture and sculpture
of Greece and Rome we must get from the small cuts in
the Classical Dictionary, the invaluable Smith's. When
Mr. Parkin returned from his year's leave of absence,
however, he brought with him several large albums of
fine photographs of all the most famous pieces in the
British Museum, the Vatican and elsewhere, for our benefit
George Parkin was a striking figure, conspicuous anywhere.
Tall and spare with a quick swinging step, dressed usually
in a well-cut suit of rough grey or heather-mixture
tweeds, he looked more the country gentleman than the
school teacher, and you would never have mistaken him
for a business man. Often you would see him swinging
along with that free debonair carriage of loosened energy,
with a book or two gathered up in his left hand, and
swinging a heavy stick in his right. Perhaps too if
he was particularly happy and carefree he might be humming
to himself as he walked, or half whistling a random
note or two with the keen zest of life. For he was a
glad being, though so earnest. He had a fine strong
head, like Hannibal's I think, broad at the back and
covered with very dark hair rather loosely worn. You
would never say he was natty or spruce, though always
immaculate and distinguished. His face too was striking,
dark skinned and lean, with a tawny moustache, and rather
deep-set dark grey-blue eyes, not large nor flashing,
but very penetrating and observant, and at times glaring
with intensity of feeling and conviction.
would see him come quickly up the schoolroom, or quietly
up the Cathedral aisle, and pass to his seat. He never
strode, and his head was apt to be carried forward and
little to the side, the attitude of the modest thinker.
For all, his figure was so erect and vigorous and his
personality so forceful, their dignity was innate and
ever unassuming. He wore no jewelry other than his gold
watch chain with a few charms attached, which he had
a habit of twisting and knotting between finger and
thumb as he talked. His hand were shapely and not large,
with pointed fingers held together, you noticed as he
wrote quickly and energetically. The hand of an executive
seldom wore gloves except in winter, and never seemed
to mind heat or cold. I don't suppose that he ever thought
of the weather otherwise than to enjoy it. He was too
full of ardor and zest to heed such a trifling inconvenience.
How should a glorious seraph, going swiftly about his
business over the world, accomplishing some almighty
purpose, making many glad as he went, be discomforted
in the school was maintained, I think, more through
respect for the headmaster's manly, fine, and reasonable
code and his own evident adherence to it, than by fear
of the rod. Corporal punishment was not unknown and
was resorted to unhesitatingly at just need, but there
were often long periods when it remained in abeyance.
There were rules, of course, and they had to be obeyed,
but there were seldom any set punishments for their
infraction. If you were guilty of a grave misdemeanor,
there was no knowing what the consequences might be.
Retribution was certain and very likely to be swift,
but its character was left in unpleasant uncertainty.
Anything might happen. It all depended on circumstances,
extenuating or otherwise, and upon the delinquent's
former record to some extent. It certainly never depended
on the headmaster's temper or his mood at the moment.
A quick indignation he had, kindling instantly against
wrong in the school or in the world, but I never saw
him lose his temper. Just wrath against evil or wrongdoing
was there, like that which drove the miserable malefactors
from the temple but also there was unfailing patience
and understanding and more than forgiveness for the
wrongdoer. Ours was a happy lot in that school.
Parkin was an unusual talker and a born orator. His
sweeping and compelling personality made him instantly
the centre of any company, and his fluent, interesting
conversation and ready laugh held his hearers. Serious
world topics were always his chief interest, and on
these he never tired of discoursing. Stories and anecdotes,
too, he delighted to have on hand. Humor with a touch
of irony pleased him, and if the laugh was against himself
it was just as good. When a shopkeeper in the town said
of him, "Yes, Parkin's a fine fellow, but he's
a great talker," Parkin repeated the saying, with
immense delight. So, too, when someone after, hearing
him speak on a public occasion, and seeing him carried
away with his own tremendous enthusiasm, referred to
his "lurid glare," Mr. Parkin told of it with
great glee. His home in England was for years in a house
on the Thames, near Oxford, which had long ago been
part of a nunnery, and where in old days the nuns derived
part of their revenue from maintaining a ferry at that
point. One day two walkers came down the lane past the
old garden and, wanting to cross the river, asked if
there used not to be a ferry there. "Yes,"
said Mr. Parkin, and I can imagine the mischief in his
eye, "There was a ferry here, but you are just
three hundred years too late."
the early seventies when Mr. Parkin received leave of
absence to spend a year in study at Oxford, he was already
deeply interested in the question of Imperial Federation,
and led a debate on the subject in the Oxford Union.
There were a number of men in the university at that
time who afterwards became famous in high places, and
with whom he made acquaintance. Mr. Asquith, Lord Rosebury,
Lord Milner and others. Afterwards Mr. Parkin made a
tour of the Empire, speaking on Imperial Federation.
And still later, when Cecil Rhodes left a fortune to
found the Rhodes scholarships, and made some of these
prominent men executors of his will, they chose Mr.
Parkin as secretary of the foundation, and placed all
the initial arrangements for establishing its working
in his hands. He was exactly the man for the office,
and gave it all the purpose and strength of his later
life. It was a great task, involving thousands of miles
of travel each year, no little tact, tremendous energy
and a wide knowledge of educational conditions and institutions
throughout the Empire and the United States. It is a
noble benefaction, and its successful operation is due
in large measure to the wisdom and judgement which Sir
George Parkin brought to the undertaking, along with
his splendid enthusiasm for higher education and the
welfare of the English-speaking peoples. Back and forth
over the length and breadth of this continent he went
on his almost annual tours of enquiry and management,
that restless spirit never still, intent on large issues
and small details needed to keep the great institution
in his charge running smoothly.
was only on these flying visits as he passed through
New York that I saw him in recent years-visits all too
brief and too few. But he never failed to look up old
friends and old boys in every part of his immense field.
The telephone would ring, "Long distance calling.".
"Hello!.Hello, Carmen! Is that you? Ha! Ha! How
are you?.That's good.I'm just shooting through to Montreal,
then out to the Coast, and down to California. Now when
can I see you? I have a conference in the morning and
an engagement up at Columbia in the afternoon. Can't
you come in to lunch with me, here at the Manhattan?.O,
that's capital. That'll be first rate. We must have
a talk. Good-bye then, until tomorrow."
I would go, to renew memories of old days, the eager
talk, the happy laughter, the enquiries for many friendsŪ-none
forgotten, the unfailing and solicitous interest in
whatever one might be doing, the old fire of kindness
at which one's enthusiasm might be rekindled and one's
heart warmed anew. Those were golden hours.
all the memories, however, of this great teacher and
comrade, who never ceased to wear a touch of heroic
glory in his boys' sight, none is more thrilling than
a glimpse we once had of him in St. John. It must have
been on his return from England, I think, when I happened
to be in a crowded street of that stirring port with
a school friend. Suddenly my chum said:
"Just going round the corner," and he pointed.
a moment we were in full chase and soon close behind
that familiar and gallant figure in all its inspiring
young manhood. That was all we wanted, just to see him,
and there he was fresh from Oxford, with all the old
fire and vigor, hurrying along and eagerly talking with
another gentleman. We followed a few steps and then
dropped behind, with quite enough joy for one day. He
never knew he had been followed, and we did not know
how much we had seen nor that one splendid moment might
be a part of the inspiration of a lifetime.