Willoughby Weaving (1885 - 1976)
Harry Willoughby Weaving was born on 6th June 1885 in Cutteslowe, a suburb north of Oxford to parents Harry Walker Weaving and Beatrice Anne Armitage. His father was a brewer and maltster by trade and became a successful businessman. Willoughby was the eldest of seven children, five boys and two girls, and the family lived for many years at Pewet House, Wootton, near Abingdon.
Willoughby was educated at Abingdon School and went up to Pembroke College, Oxford in 1905, from where he graduated in 1911, reputedly with a double first in classics and mathematics, receiving his MA in 1912. At Oxford he was mentored by the future Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges who encouraged Weaving’s own gift for writing poetry. His first volume, of 83 poems, was published in 1913 and he went on to publish a further 10 volumes, the last in 1952. Many of these poems reflected the natural world, but he also wrote a significant number containing his reflections on and observations of the First World War. He also became a close friend of the Ulster writer, Richard Rowley, the pen-name of RV Williams.
Weaving began full-time work in his mid-twenties, due to illness, and was appointed as a junior Master at Rockport in 1911. When the First World War began in 1914, Weaving applied for a commission to the Royal Irish Rifles in which he became a Second Lieutenant for a time in 1915. However, due to heart failure, he was evacuated from Dieppe to Dover in September of that year. After a period of recuperation, his resignation on grounds of ill health was approved in November 1915, and he soon returned to teach at Rockport.
By 1920, Weaving and his Rockport colleague, Hugh Eric Seth Smith, had decided they wished to establish a preparatory school of their own, and set out to locate suitable premises. In due course, after searching widely in the northern counties of Ulster, they came across a property called Elm Park, near the village of Killylea in Co. Armagh. The estate belonged to the Blacker-Douglas family who had placed it on the market. Seth Smith and Weaving initially arranged a ten-year lease at £350 per year, after which they had the option of purchasing it. And so, Elm Park Preparatory School opened its doors in 1921, with Seth Smith ("Putty") and Weaving ("Willow") as its two founding Headmasters.
A verse from the Rockport School Song written by Willoughby Weaving in 1918, remembers those from the school who were killed in the First World War:
Thus unto those that fought for us
And died that we might fully live,
And unto those that thought for us
May we our grateful honour give.
By handing still, as we were shown
Such bright unselfish service down.
Willoughby Weaving died in Abingdon Hospital on 16th February 1976.
© 2019 Ulster History Circle