Alleyne's School Song

Steve Sheehan

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.


This page was added on 09/03/2020.

Comments about this page

  • I remember that assembly well and the organ. I looked up to Steven. The assembly hall had paintings of all the former Head Masters.

    Marcus Elms… know as Mark back then.

    By Marcus Elms (24/09/2020)
  • I was there from 72-79 and I’m pretty sure George Partridge came out of retirement to teach at the school in the mid 70s.
    The school song was sung regularly all the time I was there too – especially on Arthur Splett’s Ingelheim exchange visits.

    By Pete Terry (28/07/2020)
  • I was at Alleynes from 1955 – 1962, at that time George Partridge lived at Gravely, near Stevenage.

    George taught English, music and occasionally took an art class. Took hockey and swimming lessons. Most school days he wore his gown and occasionally wore his mortar board.

    George drove to school in his convertible Armstrong Siddely, and later a huge Rolls S3.

    I remember seeing the organ being built, it was to mark the 400 year school anniversary. At that time George played the organ at Ayot St.Lawrence church, and some of my class mates sang in the choir there.

    One morning at assembly one of the boys pulled out the organs electric plug from the wall down below and George had to rush down the steps and stride to the other end of the hall to use the piano.

    The school song was always sung with gusto!

    George deserves his own article!

    [We will be happy to host a page about George Partridge if anyone would like to produce one:

    . Ed]

    By Douglas Legge (26/07/2020)
  • In reply to Mr G A Chapman re: School Song. You have to stretch out the first syllable of the first word in the final line to make it fit, like this:
    A – A – A – ALLEYNES, ALLEYNES (verses 1+4) etc.
    STE – E – E – EVENAGE, STEVENAGE (verse 2) etc.
    MA – A – A – AIL COACH, RAIL COACH ((verse 3) etc.
    DO – O – O – OMINUS, DOMINUS (verse 5) etc.
    So now you can sing it loudly, proudly (and correctly) to pals!

    By Steven Sheehan (23/07/2020)
  • Steve, I’d also like to thank you for posting the school song. I was a fellow pupil of you and Steve Brown from 1968 to 1974, and remember you both. I managed to fail all my A levels and ended up at Stevenage college trying to redeem myself. Fifty years on and after living all over the world I find myself wishing I’d stayed in touch with other Alleynians. I did not realize it at the time, but the school gave me a strong foundation for a life of service and adventure, and now a US citizen my memories of the school song still fill me with strong emotion

    By Ian Sliney (17/07/2020)
  • Fantastic to find that you’ve placed a copy of this song here. I remember it well when I was a pupil at Alleynes between 1979 and 1984.

    The words I always found to flow a little awkwardly with the tune as if they were squashed in. Nevertheless, I often greet former school friends with a rendition of it as we meet.

    Thanks again!

    By Mr G A Chapman (16/05/2020)
  • Amazing and interesting memories x

    By Jane Sheehan (12/05/2020)
  • I can only imagine what it must have been like to sing the song knowing it was your last day after 6, 7 or 8 years. Sadly, I simply stopped attending school after being in the 6th form for half a term. I deeply regret not passing any A-levels or going to university. Even more sadly, in 2017, I discovered that our classmate, Richard Denny had passed away in 2015. I had a reason to drive through Brookman’s Park last year and thought of George Partridge as I believe that’s where he lived.

    By Steven Sheehan (06/05/2020)
  • Thank you for posting this Steve Sheehan! I remember this all so well. And I think you’re right about it being 1973 (at the end of our fifth form) that George Partridge retired – I don’t think he could face the emotion of his final day and the event we had planned for him.

    Yes, the school song was played on the organ after that – I remember doing it a couple of times in the sixth form. The day our year finished the sixth form (we’d officially left at that point), I was singing with the other leavers at the back of the hall. And I’ve never heard that leavers’ verse sung so loud or emotionally – the rest of the pupils (and the staff too, I remember) turned round in astonishment.

    By Steve Brown (04/05/2020)

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