How wise words from the past could influence future generations.
This is the first excerpt from an upcoming book of letters from Arnold Marsh 1890 to 1977, this one to his sister Sylvia. The topic is mostly about children, their education and their place in the community. Written while he was in Juneau, Alaska in 1917, at the age of 26, a long time before becoming the Headmaster (above photo) of Newtown School in Waterford, Ireland.
Juneau | Alaska | Jan 8th 1917
My dear Sib
The cat was taken by the French.
Mother tells me something every now and again about the lectures you are taking, but she doesn’t say what they are. What are they? And what are they for? What do you figure on doing with yourself? Do you expect to be a medical officer of health or just go on being a doctor? What is the outlook for doctors after the war? Are they being killed off? Are many in training in the universities now? Are girls going in for the profession in increasing numbers? Will the shake up of the war make people pay more attention to the affairs of civilisation and increase the demand for doctors, or will it merely brutalise people? The last question is what I want an answer to most of all. In Belfast, for instance, are all decent people getting into a fury at the vile state of the slums, or are they just ambling along with sewing meetings and bands of hope and other pleasant undisturbing ways of being nice to “the poor” and keeping them in their proper place? Do tell.
I got your letter this afternoon and have read it only once. Would that it had been twice as long! It was the most interesting one you ever wrote to me, and I wish I knew what I was going to say in reply. I am sincerely thankful that you did not come and keep me company last winter. I can’t say why, or at any rate I won’t, but if you had come, – Gosh! At the same time it would be perfect bliss to see you again. You remember what feelings I had about Mother when I left home. I’ve never wished her many happy returns of her birthday since then, for the simple reason that I couldn’t do it. Next birthday I think I will do it. It isn’t that I’m getting homesick, for I never want to live at home again, but I do feel a hankering for seeing the home folks, and most especially for seeing your own sweet self.
Next to you I suppose comes Dick Graham. Indeed, to tell the truth, I don’t know which of you I’m most anxious to talk to. It’s a marvellous thing to have a good friend like Dick Graham. He’s the only one of my old friends who ever writes, and you’ve no idea what inspiration it is to get a letter from a person who thinks you are worth writing to when you yourself feel doubtful about that. Dr Lean is another one. I’ll never forget the letter he wrote to me soon after I reached Prince Rupert. I was down in the dumps at the time, and from what he said it seemed as though he took it for granted that I was going to be a useful member of society, sometime. I don’t think anything could have put more pep into me just then. You couldn’t have done it, and Dick Graham couldn’t. I don’t know that anyone else could have. Just fancy getting a letter like that from a man you had revered and honoured and respected and half deified! A headmaster no less! A headmaster of a school that I had left six years before, and that I had been disgracing ever since by failing at every thing I set myself to do!
Does Miss Sturge ever write to you or other old scholars, or is Dr Lean a freak? He told me in the last letter I got from him that about a hundred of his old pupils wrote to him every year, and that he was always very glad to hear from them, and thought it was very good of them to remember him! From the simple friendly way he has of writing you might think he was nothing but simplicity, and as a matter of fact he is full of guile and deceit, all of which of course he puts to a very good purpose. It’s a very queer thing that Dr Lean is the most unpopular of all Friends’ headmasters outside Sidcot, while in Sidcot the older scholars fairly worship him. At any rate they used to. I have a tremendous desire to see and talk to him again too.
Here I am rambling on about nothing. I shouldn’t have started to reply so soon after getting your letter, for you interested me so much that you knocked me off my balance, and I want to talk at random. That’s why I want to see you. I want to have a talk. Letters are no good. Why don’t you hunt up a job in Oregon or California? I could then call you every once in a while and have an argument. It’s awful to have nobody to argue with. It makes you conceited. When nobody controverts you you begin to think you can’t be controverted. Did you ever notice that?
You want me to say something about education, but what can I say more than I have said? Or what branch of education exactly do you want me to gas about? As I’m sure I’ve often said before I think it’s the most important thing there is. If you want to “elevate” the bally community you’ve got to elevate all the little dirty low-minded half-baked brats that are going to be it some day. I never can make out why grown up people get so set in their ways and so plumb full of silly prejudices and so convinced that a common habit is a virtue, but people seem to be made that way, and the only way to elevate the critters is to prejudice them in favour of better things than they are prejudiced in favour of now. Of course it’s no business of mine or yours or anybody’s to butt in and elevate them if they really don’t want to be elevated, but I think they do want it. Everybody is craving for salvation and not many get it. I don’t mean Henry Street salvation of course. I mean a craving for a better life, and the only way to get it is to become able to accept it when it offers itself.
Considering how marvellously adaptable and trainable the human mind is it seems strange that people don’t try to make the best they can of it. I wish I hadn’t started to reply so soon, for I’m all in a muddle, but look here. Why do people willingly spend their hard earned money on penny dreadfuls and melodramas, and why do poor girls dote over stories of how the poor orphan married the millionaire or the prince? Because, so far as I can see it, they are ragingly discontented; and instead of remedying things by political action, as is very nearly possible, they go dreaming about impossibilities and then every now and again they break out into some fool strike or go into hysterics or attach themselves to some crank society and imagine the world will be saved if they can abolish vaccination or vivisection or some other useful piece of unpleasantness. And all the time they have it in their power to get a great deal of what they want.
Society can be made better, but because people’s minds are not trained to think straight they allow themselves to waste their enthusiasm on all kinds of futilities when some flowery orator comes along with the idea of entertaining himself with their applause and at the same time fooling them. They go and holler their heads off about the empire and shout “God save the King”, and wave their flags and when elections are over they find the same old gang is in power, whatever party name it may happen to have, and life jigs on the same as ever, and the prospects are a dull as ever. It seems as though a clever unscrupulous man like Lord Northcliffe (Damn him!) can stampede the country into anything from sweet peas to Lloyd George. Oh you needn’t think I despise Lloyd George. He’s a cocksure little fanatic, but when he comes to social reform he knows what he’s doing and he gets the right men to help him, but without a change in men’s minds I don’t believe laws will really succeed in increasing happiness to any great extent. Character is the main thing, and if the character of future generations is going to be better than the character of the present one it will be the people who are children today who will make it so, but without better education they won’t make it so, and it won’t be better, or very little better. If you put the kids into a wiser environment now they’ll have a better idea of how to keep in happiness when they grow up.
When you say that the home is the natural place for the child of course I quite agree with you, but aren’t there lots of homes that it is little short of murder to make a child live in? it would be better for the kid to be in a good institution than to live at home in such a case. We can’t very well pack all the kids off into state nurseries, although some excellent socialists would like to do that, but we can build good schools and supply them well trained teachers and prescribe a curriculum that will train the mind to think as well as to learn, and we can even inspire children with better ideals than flag wagging, (because children really do seem to have a respect for the opinions of their elders when their elders act sensibly towards them.) If the school is made light and healthy and happy the child will not take quite so fatalistic a view about a bad home, and it will certainly not be so contented with a bad home of its own when it grows up. There then you have made a big start. It is even possible that the chatter of the kids will encourage their elders to be a little more particular.
In Portland, Oregon, I have heard that the children have had a most marked influence on the old folks. The schools there are so excellent that a bad home becomes almost intolerable and parents are forced to turn over a new leaf for the sake of peace. Oregon of course is under total prohibition, so that there is more money available for home comforts than there would be in the United Kingdom. Then the school leaving age needs raising a lot. What could be more ridiculous than to imagine that a child is educated at the great age of fourteen? It has learned the tricks of reading and writing and doing sums, but in all other respects may be a barbarian. At the age of fourteen a well developed child should be very nearly able to think, and, using the power of thinking as a foundation, it may begin to study subjects connected more directly with life, such as economics and civics, and the practice of hygiene. It can get healthy habits before that age, but until it is able to think it may not fully take in the reason for such habits, and so it may let them lapse. At the same time of course it should be getting training in practical arts, the girl learning whatever she can learn about being a good housekeeper and mother and the boy learning how to be a good wage earner and father. Why shouldn’t cookery and sewing and carpentry and mechanics be compulsory just as much as grammar? Which is better for a woman to be, a good grammarian or a good mother? Eh? If a child is brought up in good surroundings it will probably develop a taste for literature and the arts of its own accord if it has any natural tendencies that way, and so there will be less necessity of forcing these things into its head than there is today.
Quite a lot can be done too in organising the kid’s out of school life without spoiling its pleasures. In many places in the United States there are games organisers on duty in the parks, and where there are great crowds of children something of the sort may do a lot of good by preventing wrangling, and so making play both morally and physically healthier. Then in some American cities also there are the juvenile police attached to the regular police force and co-operating with it in taking care of the children. New York is often looked on as a stick-in-the-mud old town by Westerners, but it must be given credit for being the first to adopt the juvenile police system. The adoption of it is simply a recognition of the fact that a boy or a girl has a far better chance of knowing what other boys and girls are doing than a big grown up policeman who is naturally shunned and distrusted. These kid police are not chosen from among the most pious children in the schools. They are chosen when they show signs of leadership. A boy of strong character is very liable to get a following and form a gang of roughs that will make a nuisance of itself for the mere sake of bravado. He is arrested and sent to a criminal factory, and when he has been released from it he goes back again if he is young enough, and if not he goes to prison. Under the juvenile police system both police and teachers keep a look-out for boys and girls of this type and get them into the juvenile police force before the rot has gone too far. The sense of responsibility appeals to their imaginations. They still have their followings, but they are now in government, or at any rate, civic, officials. They have their badge and uniform for use on special occasions, and those monsters of importance, the policemen, are no longer their enemies but are their comrades. Fancy what it must mean to an ambitious slum boy to be allowed to co-operate on more or less equal terms with such a vastly dignified person as a policeman! Of course when he comes into contact with these great people he at once feels his own insignificance. This may be rather a shock to him, but when he realises it he also realises that to maintain his new and lofty position in society he must improve himself in many ways that he hadn’t thought of before. That is just what has happened. These juvenile police, many of whom would otherwise now be in process of being made into criminals in reformatories, are organising themselves under supervision of the older police into classes for self development on all sides. It may sound like a fairy tale, but it’s a fact, and it just shows what excellent raw material the human being is.
Now isn’t that an edifying dissertation? There is one thing more however. People say it will cost a lot. Certainly it will, and so it ought to. If there’s anything worth spending money on a good education system is worth it, and there is any amount of money to be had from taxation without doing an unfair injury to anyone. I can’t see why people should be allowed to inherit fortunes. It fills people who don’t inherit them with a sense of injustice, and it is an injustice. It gives some people an unfair advantage over others at the start, and the result is that lots of good men are kept down and boobies kept up. It’s all on a par with the idea of class. In a democratic country that has at one time been aristocratic the class idea seems to me very dangerous and the schools should do what they can to get it out of the children’s minds, and show them the absurdities of imagining people are to be treated with special respect if they happen to have money. Of course besides abolishing the practice of inheriting fortunes it would also be an excellent plan to level people up by abolishing lords and dukes and kings and all that sort of rot. They may have been useful articles at one time but they’re hardly even ornamental now. Who would say that King George was an ornamental man? Why shouldn’t the millions of pounds now being wasted annually on Royalty be turned over to the schools?
Then another thing. With cramped overcrowded cities like Belfast it will be extremely difficult to make a good school system effective unless, when people begin to feel a desire to get into better surroundings, they are given a chance to do so without paying exorbitant rents. That’s where you have to deal with the big landowners round the outskirts of a city. It’s all very well to say that the price of their land is fixed by demand and supply, but the fact remains that if the land was cheaper the community would be better off, and is not the welfare of the community more to be regarded than a law of economics when said law is breakable? When land is wanted for workmen’s houses and gardens I can’t see why it shouldn’t be expropriated. That of course takes one into land nationalisation and such like subjects, rather too deep for present discussion. But isn’t it an abominable system that will allow a man to shut off a large area of land close to a city and prevent people just as good as himself from making better use of it than he is making? Why shouldn’t a rich man who deliberately deprives the poor of happiness be sent to prison just as much as a poor man who robs a rich man of some silver spoons? Why shouldn’t Lord Shaftsbury be treated as a social outcast for keeping the people of Belfast out of a beautiful estate which is his only because it happened to be his mother’s before him? Eh?
Jan 14th. Well sister I see that I’ve just told Mother a lie. I said it was a week since I had got any mail, and as a matter of fact I see by the date at the head of this letter it’s only six days, but no matter. Seven days passed between the arrival of mail steamers, and by the time I get my mail it will be seven days since I got my last, so it comes to the same thing.
It’s a pesky nuisance as I’ve said above, not being able to talk to a body face to face. I’d like to spend this Sunday evening sitting in the dark, except for the glow of the fire, talking in low tones to my sister about holy mysteries, and all I can do is sit under an electric light and rattle my thoughts on paper, and she won’t get them for a month, and then she won’t reply to them for another month, and so it’ll be two months before I hear a word from her. Jumping Jiminy! What a life! The only spiritual consolation I can get is in books and movie shows. Never despise the movies, dear madame! They and gramophones are the greatest blessings of this age. We could do without telegraphs and telephones and motor cars and aeroplanes all easily enough, but we would surely be half dead without the movies! They are the great art of the future. Nothing else that has so far been invented can compete with them. Poetry, novels, pictures, stage plays, all are little trifles beside the movies. Nothing I suppose has a greater influence on men’s minds today than the movies. Probably nothing has a better influence, not even the churches. Churches indeed! Look at what they preach, – a muddle of respectability and cheap theology, while the movies preach goodness. They may do it in a crude half-developed way still, but they keep on hammering at it, and they do it in such a way that people will pay to see them. I should think a regular devotee of the movies would find it almost impossible to be bad, for the movies keep on showing up badness and glorifying goodness in every possible way. They are the powerfullest preachers that ever existed, and their sermons are getting better as time goes on, less crude, and truer to life. I’ve been trying my hand at writing movie plays lately. I’ve often wanted to do it, but I never got started till just a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Then I heard that one of the big producing companies was short of plots (as indeed they all are nowadays) and was calling for two hundred plots at a thousand dollars apiece. Bruno Chilinski’s absurd adventure gave me an idea, and I worked it out, and then next day I got another idea and worked it out, and next day I got another and worked it out, and next day…Oh well, you see how it went. I got a whole pile. I’ve got seven in hand now. One of them is no good as it stands, but I have sent off three to the company that was asking for them, and I have three more ready to be typed and dispatched. Of course they’ll probably be all returned, the same as everything else, but then they mightn’t be. If I could get a thousand dollars a day by writing movie scenarios I’d be all right, for a little while anyway.
The great thing is to be original. I’m not. At least my ideas are not, but possibly my ways of working them out are. I never knew till I started writing these movie plays what a wide experience I had had with different kinds of people. I ain’t boasting. I’m just telling a fact. I feel quite confident in the general truth of my ideas whether I’m writing about English lords in their castles or American bohunk immigrants living in slum tenements. I lived in that kind of place you know when I first went to Prince Rupert, and at Bedford I got acquainted, if not with actual lords at any rate with bluish blooded people who belonged to much the same class, and I’ve lived at one time or another with nearly all the classes between. It was quite an interesting discovery for me. I don’t suppose most scenario writers have had half so wide an experience (I ain’t boasting), and their inexperience shows itself in the average play. The only picturesque kinds of people that they try to introduce are lords and actors, and of course cowboys. They know what cowboys and actors are like well enough, but they are appallingly ignorant about the other people. Their lords are hopelessly untrue to life and they entirely neglect bohunks and niggers and sailors and many another kind of oddity creature who adds to the picturesqueness of the modern world. If I could just keep supplied with ideas for plots I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to fill them out into attractive scenarios. Up till now most of the producing companies have kept their own scenario writers to manufacture plays for them, and the poor fellows have gone on grinding out play after play till their minds are empty of new ideas, and productions, except for big features, are becoming more and more stereotyped.
People are calling out for something new, and they can’t supply it, so now the price of plots is jumping and it may be that in a year or two the old system will end altogether. After all, why should a moving picture producer not get stories from outside sources just as much as a magazine editor or a theatre manager does? Heaven help a theatre that produced plays written by its own manager! I’ve taken quite an interest in movies, as you may know, ever since I was at Manchester. They were poor things then compared with what they are now, but even so they were an immense relief from Manchester itself, – the dirty grime, and the fog and ugliness and crowdedness of the place. Ouch! The movies were a vast relief. The art gallery was a great attraction too. Other fellows used to go to the music halls to get relief, but I was under a sort of vow not do that most of the time, and anyway painted scenery and painted girls and nasal comedians and glaring footlights, – well, they didn’t attract me much, but the movies carried me clean out of Manchester in a minute, out into the mountains of California, and sunshiny woods and rivers and waterfalls, and sea beaches, and Indian encampments and dens of crime and ducal palaces and actresses’ boudoirs, and battles and love-makings, etcetera, etcetera. It was amazing. Instead of criticising and nagging at the movies I think all good people ought to get behind them and boost them on. Was there ever anything so likely to stir up discontent? I never heard of anything. I don’t see how anybody living in Manchester can possibly remain contented with Manchester as it is now if he goes to the movies and travels about among the romantic places of the world. I wish I could get into the movie business, at the producing end I mean. Los Angeles is the great centre of production, and when I go South next fall I am quite likely to go down there and see if I can’t hunt up some sort of a job in them. I don’t care much what sort it is, acting or scenario writing, or stage carpentering, or what. Whatever it was I would throw myself into it with a holy zeal, remembering Manchester and the poor devils who never see a beautiful thing from week end to week end, except in the movies. I got quite mad a few months ago when I read in the Friend about some crazy investigators, presumably from Woodbrooke, who discovered that the only joy in the lives of some of the children in Birmingham was their weekly visit to the “pictures”. The investigators reported this as though it was a sign of depravity! Surely it was just one more proof that man is made for something better than a slum!
I haven’t been doing any work for about six weeks now, but tomorrow I’m going to start again. I didn’t really want to, and I wouldn’t have asked for a job, for I still have a very comfortable balance to live on, but a fellow came along and said he was looking for labourers, and I didn’t like to tell him that I was very busy writing scenarios, because that sounds foolish, especially when you don’t know whether you’ll get anything for them or not, so I said I’d go. It will only be for a couple of weeks, just building a bridge that he has a contract for, and the wages will be enough to live on for a couple of months, and it’ll be good for my health to take a bit of exercise. I can’t write in the evenings, because if I do I lie awake. In the evenings I generally read. I’ve been reading an awful lot of interesting books lately. Didst ever read the Old Wives Tale? If not, do so. Also, read H.G. Wells, all the serious novels he’s ever written. I rather fought shy of them because I heard people say they were naughty; and that, while it whetted my sinful curiosity, made me shy about being seen with them. However I saw some in the library here (Blessing on the Juneau Women’s Club!) and I borrowed “Marriage”, just to satisfy my curiosity and make up my own mind on his opinions. The book was an absolute masterpiece. If you haven’t read it, read it at once. It’s extraordinarily good, and there’s not a thing in it to which any sane unprejudiced person could object. What benighted bigots people must be to denounce H.G. Wells! I got Tono Bungay next. It wasn’t so interesting or instructive, but it was a great piece of work, and now I’m at Ann Veronica. It looks interesting so far. I think the objection to H.G. Wells must be that the fellow is zealous for truth. I never read more interesting or stimulating novels than his. They simply force you to think, and not only to think but to think clearly, or as clearly as you can, and they’re not pessimistic like Arnold Bennett’s. They’re plumb full of hope. The close of Marriage is one of the finest bits of writing I’ve ever come across. I had to copy out several pages of it to keep with me, because it seemed so fine and hopeful even if it was indecisive. I think if it was written nowadays he could be a little more certain of himself, for Freud, and a fellow by the name of Trotter, an English disciple of Freud (Ever hear of him?) have taken things a bit farther forward than they were when Marriage was written.
That just reminds me that I discovered God a few weeks ago. He fairly made me jump, but I’ve got him, and he’s worth praying to. He isn’t what Mother thinks he is. What do you think he is? You’ve never told me. Have you any clear idea at all? Do you know it’s a funny thing, but I can’t ever read a book about real girls without thinking they are you. Hilda Lessways is you, Ann Veronica is you, the heroine of Marriage is you, and lots of other nice people are you. I suppose it’s because you’re the only girl I ever knew well. The other girls, the ones that are not so nice, the fat heads, are, I regret to say, Maria.* Poor Maria! Poor Cecil! Poor you! What’s going to come of you all? What are you going to do with yourself? If you are really going to be a bachelor girl why don’t you adopt that nice little boy you were speaking about? It’s plain murder to let a child be boarded out with people who don’t care for him or love him, and only take him to make him useful, to save a little pin money for themselves out of what the guardians pay them for keeping him.
And that just reminds me, you needn’t think I want to see children left in workhouses as workhouses are now. I’d much sooner see them dead. But I don’t want to see them boarded out in the way you describe either. It seems to me that in workhouses the state has a unique chance to make model schools, not luxurious schools but schools that, while still economical are the very best that schools can be. A kid who has been born to misfortune deserves more care (than) any other. It’s clean beyond me to see why people should despise pauper children. I’d pity the poor little beggars, and make extra efforts for them. Do you ever have anything to do with them beyond doctoring them, or are they totally friendless, and treated like so many slaves or convicts? I get so mad when I think of what happens to them that I feel like smashing the furniture and using all the bad words I have heard (and believe me, I’ve heard a lot.) Why don’t you suggest that Cecil and Laura should take one or two of them if they are not likely to have any of their own? Nobody else need know where they came from. You ask me whether I expect to make saints and mystics out of the children of drunkards and criminally diseased people. Well, no, not altogether. As far as the criminally diseased ones are concerned I think the best thing to do with them, if they are really incurable, would be to asphyxiate them, but surely you don’t class drunkards with the criminally diseased? From my experience I should be inclined to say that goodness of character was just as liable to drive a man to drink as badness. The people living in slums and poverty simply crave for relief, and they’re too ignorant to get it in ways that would suit high toned people like you and me. They get drunk. Why despise them? I don’t myself because I’ve been brought up to do it, but it’s not right, and I don’t see why their children should be thought inferior to other people’s children unless the parents have really ruined themselves by drink. In that case the lethal chamber would again be the most merciful remedy. Certainly neither the workhouse as it is now nor the boarding out system is very promising.
When you leave Lurgan why not go to Woodbrooke for a while? There are an awful lot of cranks and fanatics there, but it’s a great place. I intend to put in some time there when I get home, largely because there are lots of interesting institutions in the neighbourhood, and the heads of Woodbrooke are really excellent. If you despair of workhouse schools you ought to see the one near Woodbrooke. It’s as near a model as I ever heard of, and it’s run on the house-mother system so that it isn’t really so institutional an affair after all. The children get artificial mothers, but I think the mothers are well chosen and really do care for them. It’s a wonderful district that, all round Woodbrooke. The Chamberlain and Cadbury influence is everywhere, and it’s just as likely as any other place to be the cradle, so to speak, of the new England. Heath of course is now one of Lloyd George’s right hand men, and look at Neville Chamberlain! He and Heath were as thick as two peas during my short stay. He used to lecture occasionally. And Bournville I guess is about the finest little town in the world. You really ought to go and study that locality. It would make a far better doctor of you, you’re getting cynical. Why shouldn’t a fellow want to do good? What satisfaction is there without doing good unless you satisfy your instincts by marrying and breeding up a family? If you don’t satisfy those instincts you’ve got to satisfy your social instincts or else you’ll never be satisfied. I do want to do good. I don’t want anyone to think I’m setting myself up for a hero and a saint by doing it. I want to do it because I won’t be satisfied unless I do do it, and neither will you ma’am. You’re trying to ring away from the hound of heaven, but he’ll catch you yet, and in a few years time you’ll think you were just as big a fool at the age of twenty seven as nowadays you think you were at the age of twenty. Certainly you were a fool at twenty. Who isn’t? But if you write to me in that tone of voice again I’ll begin to think you’re a bigger fool at twenty seven than you were then, so look out.
Whew! This is a queer world, and ours is a queer family. Did ever you know anything like it? Doesn’t it seem almost incredible that Maria used to dote on Byron, and Cecil used to fall in love with actresses? Truly I’m glad I’m one of the younger members, it’s such fun to be able to study the falls of the older ones. And you? For Heaven’s sake Sib keep serene and uncrankified and never get so set in your ways that you lose your temper when you get jerked out of them. I’m in great danger of that myself, in spite of the life I lead, and that’s what makes me fear for other nice young people. I dread it. I must finish this letter now or it’ll have to wait probably till that bridge is finished, and it’s long enough anyway, so fare thee well beloved and blessings be on thee, and don’t be a fool and forgive me for calling thee one.
Thy loving brother
P.S. It sounds a bit queer to talk about people being as thick as two peas but people do say that, don’t they?
* I know that’s not fair to M, but it’s just the unfortunate way things have worked out. You’re lucky.
Newtown in Waterford was founded by Munster Friends in 1798, the year of the uprising. It went through a lean patch at the time of the Civil War in 1921/22, but between 1925 and 1939 under the enlightened and forward looking guidance of Arnold Marsh (who originally came from Belfast) it took on a new lease of life and is now a boarding and day school with 70 students at primary and 356 at post-primary level. Newtown, like Lisburn, has many extra curricular activities alongside its broad and balanced normal curriculum, with classes organised on a mixed ability basis. There is also an unofficial site, run by staff and students in voluntary time, which gives additional insights. Pupils from varied backgrounds and outlooks are welcomed, each contributing to the well-being of the school community.