I attended Alleyne’s Grammar School (as it was then) from 1968 until 1973. At some point in the first year, Mr George Partridge, the Music teacher, introduced us to the school song, Nisi Dominus Frustra. It took its title from the school’s Latin motto, which I believe translates as: “Without the Lord, all is in vain.”
The words describe how three schools were founded by the Reverend Thomas Alleyne at Stevenage, Stone and Uxeter (now called Uttoxeter) in Staffordshire. The song is credited to Thorne with two verses written by Hassard but I don’t know anything about them or when the song was written.
I was more interested than most as I was learning the piano in the first year. I had been impressed by a boy called Stephen Brown who I believe had already played the school organ in assembly in our first year. After a few lessons (and a lot practice) I had to ask an older boy called Neil Heskins for permission to play the school organ myself.
The school organ was an ex-church organ, which was installed in the Main Hall by 1958. I think it was most likely rebuilt smaller than the original but added a bit of character to the Main Hall which was only two years old by then. I remember once, when somebody came to fix a note that was sticking, a panel being opened and looking inside it. It had a “rear view mirror” trained on the stage and I later viewed the Headmaster, Mr Burridge, taking to the stage on many occasions.
I played the organ in assembly for the first time in the second year. The piece was a short hymn called Captains of the Saintly Band. I played a bum note in every verse, much to the amusement of my classmates, but my confidence was not dented and I eventually became Mr Partridge’s chief stand-in from the second to my fifth year.
It came to pass — in 1973, if I remember correctly — that Mr Partridge was going to retire and yet, even though he was one of the teachers who we most feared being on the wrong side of, he could not bring himself to attend the final school assembly on his last day. I didn’t know that he would not appear so I was surprised when I was approached by a boy called Andrew Trotman, who asked me if I could play the school song. The sixth-formers clearly thought it was very important to end the school year with the school song at the final assembly before we all went home for the summer holidays. I could play the school song by then but my copy did not include the intro so I asked Mr Partridge to write it down for me.
I played the organ and my “rival” Stephen Brown joined in on the grand-piano at the front of the Main Hall. This was completely different from the regular school assembly in that the boys actually sang at the tops of their voices. They nearly blew the roof off! The organ and grand-piano were virtually drowned out!
I left Alleyne’s at Christmas 1973 and I don’t know whether the school song was ever played on the organ again. My younger brother, Danny, who also went to Alleyne’s a couple of years below me, is unable to recall whether it was ever sung again at the final assembly after that time.
I was very pleased to find a copy of the words in my bedroom after my brother left and I kept them with the music and intro. I wonder, does anyone at the school today even know that they have a school song? It might not quite fit today (with the word “lads” featuring in the fourth verse) now that the school is mixed. I read in Ron Baker’s comment to another post here, Alleyne’s School Main Hall, that the school organ has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Surely someone should have decided to maintain it or dismantle it?
The Alleyne’s school song is, in my opinion, a very fine song indeed and compares well with the best of our most popular hymns, The full words and music are shown below, together with the introduction in George Partridge’s own hand as he scored it for me to play.
[And for those who can’t read music, here is a rendition sung by the Old Boys Association members at the annual dinner in 2007. Ed.]