Bob Chambers, the Guest Speaker at the Sedbergh Closing in June, 1981, the year following the great fire of April 9, 1980, stated to the parents sitting on the front lawn in front of the newly-constructed school, “To rebuild is not as important as the decision to rebuild. The decision to rebuild is in itself an act of imagination and faith.” A little over a year before, while the School was still burning, the Wood family – the Old Man, Madame, Tom, Ann, Debbie, and Ken – had already made a decision and the Board of Trustees had agreed to it: rebuild in exactly the same place. And now – the result was there in front of the parents. The phoenix had risen!
The original Sedbergh, from 1939 to 1980, is a story in itself, told in remarkable detail by Ramsay Derry in his gripping tale, Sedbergh, the Founding of a School. It reminds us of the details which were responsible for building character in boys in a country setting, of teachers who believed that the out-of-doors and the environment were crucial elements in building that character, and of Founders who had dreams of a “country school” and who, when asked by disbelievers whether there was value in this idea, simply quoted the Gospel of St. John – “Nathanial asked, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ and Philip replied ‘Come and see.’”
I did just that in 1950. Having then passed my student years in the Valley, most of my teaching career was spent at Sedbergh. After reading Ramsay’s book in 2014, I somehow knew that there needed to be a sequel to his story. After all, Sedbergh continued after the fire for another thirty years, closing only in 2010. Didn’t the students and teachers of that era need to know they had not been forgotten? What about their story?