Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Mr Tibbit's Catholic School

Ysenda Maxtone Graham's  book titled as above was recently published and is a treat  to; hold, being in compact  hard back format,  look at (some very droll illustrations by Kath Walker) as well as of course to read. I forsook my Kindle to read Mr Tibbit's Catholic School, as there is no digital version, which is  quite in keeping with an  account of life at a school which  eschewed science classes for years and must have been one of the last schools in London to acquire a computer.

Each copy of the book is numbered by Slightly Foxed its publisher (mine being 1757).

There is a great preface by A.N Wilson. I recall AN Wilson describing the Brompton Oratory in one of his own novels as "The  religious department of Harrods" which given the links between the Oratory and St Phillips School is a fitting comment not only as regards the history which unfolds in the book but also as regards the author's almost  humerous   writing style. Equally interesting  is the afterword by Julian Fellowes.  Along with half of the nation I have been very much  entertained by his ITV drama Downton Abbey, the second series of which ended a couple of days back. His afterword is written in a style reminiscent of theTV drama.

As for the main event  the book itself. I never attended St Phillips but as one both of whose parents hailed from London's East End and who attended one of the Catholic public schools mentioned in the book courtesy of MoD which  for a while subbed post war school fees of children of officers based abroad, I can say that much of what Ysenda recounts, including quite a number the words and thoughts  she ascribes to many she names, resonate well. She emphasises the good and I guess glosses a little over the not so good. However in the end, the potage of idiosyncratic catholic boys' school life is remembered  with  great affection.

A good book and a great  read at c.£15.


  1. Having attended St Phillips before going on to
    St Johns and eventually Beaumont, I enjoyed reading this book immensely.
    I can recall Mr Tibbits and his wife quite vividly. I was surprised to learn that the school
    was founded practically on a whim as a result of
    an after Mass conversation. It was a small school,then as now.
    Ninety one pupils in the school photo I have while the web site says one hundred and ten today. I'm so glad it is flourishing.


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