Composer Ernest Farrar’s musical promise was tragically cut short at the age of 33, two months after he had conducted his last orchestral performance in Harrogate.
In September 1918, only a matter of weeks before the Armistice, Farrar was killed by machine gun fire as he led his men of the 3rd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, in the Battle of Epéhy Ronssoy.
Farrar was an old boy of Leeds Grammar School (LGS), and his story is one of a number commemorated in a new book published to coincide with the centenary of the war. A High Ideal: Leeds Grammar School and the Great War by John G Davies, historian and school archivist, records the contributions of 776 old boys and staff members involved in the conflict and explores how the school was affected during and after the war.
With the centenary of World War One there was an obligation on the school to recognise those former pupils who served, and those who lost their lives. It became a labour of love to record their stories as the period is a particular fascination of mine, and I hope this book will help to keep their memory alive in school.
Farrar was one of 130 LGS old boys who lost their lives in World War One. His last completed work was Heroic Elegy (for Soldiers), which he conducted in Harrogate in the July before his death. He left a significant body of work including works for orchestra, organ pieces, and choral music both sacred and secular, and undoubtedly would have made a great name for himself had he lived.
LGS is now part of The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) following the merger with Leeds Girls’ High School (LGHS) in 2008. A section of the book is dedicated to the contribution of LGHS to the war effort.
John Davies studied history at Liverpool University and taught history and religious studies at LGS from 1976 until 1992 before becoming headmaster at LGS Junior School. In 2006 he moved to Moorlands School as headmaster and, following his retirement from that role, returned to GSAL in 2013 as school archivist.
A High Ideal: Leeds Grammar School and the Great War is 235 pages long and includes over 100 photographs. It is available from GSAL at a price of £20 for paperback and £30 for a hardback. To order please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0113 229 1552.