Major George W. Kinman MA (1862-1927)

George W. Kinman was educated at Sheffield Collegiate School and at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he took his MA degree. He was a Goldsmith’s Exhibitioner and won the Second Class Classical Tripos in 1887.Before coming to Hertford he was an instructor at the Army College, Farnham, and from 1894 to 1903 was Head Master of Dolgelly Grammar School.In 1903 he was appointed Head Master of Ware Grammar School (by Chairman of Governors Richard Croft), and when that school was amalgamated with Hertford Grammar School in 1905, Major Kinman became Head Master of the now Richard Hale School, a position he maintained until his death in 1927. A keen sportsman, he was a Freemason and a member of the Hertford Lodge. Major Kinman was married with one child, Phyllis, who sadly died in 1926, the year before her father. Major Kinman took a great interest in Army matters. He was very proud of the contingent of the Officer Training Corps which he had under his command at the Grammar School. During the Great War he saw service with various units at home and abroad. From 1914 to 1915 he was with the 10th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, in 1916 with the 3rd battalion of the same regiment, and later in that year with the IBD Depot in France, in 1917 with the 22nd Training Reserve Battalion, and in 1918 with the 25th Officers’ Cadet Battalion. He further served his country in the capacity of Military and Appeal representative for Herts from 1916-18. He was awarded the Territorial Officers’ Decoration and was mentioned for his services with the Department to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1919.

Kinman’s educational philosophy was explained by Rev W.D. Penning, writing in the Hertfordshire Mercury after the Major’s death: “The Major was devoted to the School and to the boys that came to it. He had his own views as to the work the School was meant to do for the boys, and he held those views strongly, and perhaps with too little tolerance for other views. So he was often in collision with one set or another of those interested in education (notably inspectors, officials, and theorists). Major Kinman held that the true object is to bring up boys to be good men and useful citizens. He trusted more to the outdoor work of his beloved O.T.C., and to drawing and music and handicraft, than to the orthodox book lessons in the classrooms. Discipline and effort in learning, courage in facing difficulties, and the use of knowledge and brain power, however small, that each boy possesses, that was his real curriculum. He believed in men more than the system, and really rather enjoyed the cold looks of inspectors who expected conventional patterns and did not find them.”

It is impossible to appreciate fully the impact which the Great War would have had on the School and its Head Master both during the conflict and in the decade following. We do know that in red ink he meticulously annotated the Registers of his Old Boys killed, wounded and distinguished in the First World War. W.E. Johns, the author of the Biggles stories, and himself an airman during the War, visited the School afterwards and wrote: I sat with the Head (that stern man) in his study, that same awful room into which ten years earlier, as a trembling schoolboy, I had more than once gone to take my ‘medicine’. The big bundle of canes no longer stood in the corner. With tears in his eyes he told me of the names of the boys of my time who had gone to the war and would not be coming back. I never saw him again: but I know now how much I owe him.” In fact, the Latin words on the School War Memorial are taken from a hymn composed by Major Kinman in honour of the boys who lost their lives in that war.

It is perhaps White Gloves which best illustrates Major Kinman’s respect for and use of tradition: a very modern pragmatism! Ralph Minors (Head Master 1627-1657) established White Gloves by bequeathing £10 in his will to purchase white gloves for three local dignitaries, the Mayor, Justice and Minister (ie Vicar of All Saints), if they attended the December “breaking up” festivities. This was a political move to ensure their active interest in the school in their roles as governors, but by about 1747 the money and the ceremony had disappeared. However, in July 1912 the Mayor of Hertford proceeded in state to the Grammar School in Churchfields, not merely to officiate as guest of honour at the annual prize-giving, but also to receive in remembrance of Ralph Minors a pair of white gloves from the Head Boy, who entertained him first with a short Latin oration. Comic and quasi-historical, maybe, but the Kinman version was entertaining and it served the purpose of strengthening the relationship between the School and the local council. Nowadays we call this marketing!

The Old Hertfordian Magazine Editorial of 31 December, 1927 contained the following words: “The School had lost a Head Master of outstanding character and ability, and we, scholars and old boys, a self-sacrificing manly friend. Major Kinman had ruled and directed the School for the past 21 years, and had eagerly and hopefully looked forward to being still active Head Master when the School moved to its new buildings [the present Old Building]; the members of this Association, most of whom are probably ” K’s ” boys, were ready to share his joy at that event. That cannot now be realised. We are left, nevertheless, with the duty of ensuring that the future life of the School be enriched with all the splendid ideals implanted and fostered by the Major during his 21 years of hard conscientious work.”