"The Man with the Map" - the rescue of a well known portrait

posted 6 Dec 2013, 03:16 by Gordon Dyer

On 21st November 2013 I received this message from John Nicholsons Fine Art Auction:

Dear Mr Dyer,
I have left a message on the Huyton Hill School blog regarding a work by Claude Harrison which is coming up for sale in our auction today (21st November 2013). I am sorry for the late notice of this sale but thought I would notify you as I see an image of this work on your school website.
Lot 1370: Claude William Harrison
The Man with the Map, a Portrait of Hubert D Butler
Oil on board
signed and dated 1957 and inscribed on reverse
26.25 x 28.25"
Yours sincerely
John NIcholsons Fine Art Auction

John Mott, in Denmark, also sent me an email to say he had seen a posting made by the auction house in our blog and we had a phone conversation to discuss putting in a bid. There was only one hour before the start of the auction, so a decision had to be made quickly and, with John offering to pay half, I bid £800 for the painting, this was the maximum auction room estimate.
At 4:30pm I called the auction room and to my surprise discovered I had won the bidding at £700! (plus commission and VAT). Feeling both elated and foolish I told my family about it that evening, the reaction was mixed and slightly incredulous. Then I thought of friends visiting, asking about the large painting and then saying "You paid how much to have your ex. headmaster on the wall?", but that is of course a testament to the nature of the school he ran!

If Not Duffers...

posted 24 Jun 2012, 18:05 by Gordon Dyer   [ updated 16 Mar 2013, 14:17 ]

I thought it was time to record the various blogs that have appeared with comments from Huyton Hill pupils, firstly because it forms the history of our making contact, and secondly because I have been looking at ways of creating a new site for us all to continue to record comments and stories without it all being via emails that I then selectively add to the web site.
The first site that started our web contact was The Arthur Ransome Blog Spot at and the article called Beckfoot Found... dated 28th May 2006.
John West was the first to add comments and memories of the school to this article, and this was followed up by a series of comments by various pupils. It became so popular that 'Jock' the moderator of Beckfoot Found... decided to help to create a Huyton Hill blog in Wordpress sometime before July 2010.
John Mott volunteered to moderate the Huyton Hill blog and it was set up at
Edward Gorton's "Long Shot" was added as the first comment and a subsequent series of responses, however this did not work too well as the comments seemed to becone fragmented.
John made a brave attempt to rescue the situation with a new site at but it seems that the fragmentation had taken its toll and continuity was lost.
I have been trying to find a suitable way of allowing all old boys to write comments into this site, but have not yet managed it, and so I join the duffers...!
Update: I have added a link to John Mott's Wordpress blog called "Discussion Forum" in the header of this site.

Reunion 28th April 2012

posted 27 Apr 2012, 23:30 by Gordon Dyer   [ updated 24 Jun 2012, 17:24 ]

The day has arrived and despite horrible weather over the last 2 weeks it is bright and sunny here in Waterhead at 7:30am.
There are 48 old boys and staff and 78 total people booked in for the reunion and I hope that weather holds to help make it a perfect day for all.
If anyone has been interested enough to subscribe to these Posts via the RSS feed and has received this message today then please let me know as I would like to find out if the feed is used.
Looking forward to seeing all 78 of you at 12:00.
I will create another linked site for the reunion photos and information, it will appear in the index on the left and above.

Reunion 28th April 2012

posted 11 Dec 2011, 17:44 by Gordon Dyer

The reunion is now booked and will be on 28th April 2012.
Deposits have been paid for 48 people to date and the room for lunch can accommodate up to 60, so if you would like to join us please send me an email at the address given in the Contact page of this site.
I have permission for us all to visit the school (Pullwood House) during the afternoon and intend to book a boat trip across the lake to land us at the school jetty. Those without sea legs can drive to the school!
I will keep all who have made contact with me by email informed of the arrangements.

Reunion 2012

posted 7 Oct 2011, 06:01 by Gordon Dyer

Plans are underway for a reunion of old boys and staff during early summer 2012 so we can meet up share stories about HH.
There will be a buffet lunch at an hotel near Ambleside, followed by a boat trip across the lake.
I hope to obtain permission for us to land at the school and spend some time looking around the grounds.
For those who would like to continue later we can meet for dinner, possibly at the Drunken Duck.
If you are not already on my email list and are interested in joining us please contact me at my email address in the contact page.
I need to book early to beat the wedding parties!

Pullwood Estate for Sale

posted 9 Sept 2011, 16:08 by Gordon Dyer   [ updated 16 Sept 2011, 16:34 ]

The Pullwood Bay estate and house are up for sale with a guide price of £12,750,000.
See the details here:
Download the attached sale brochure.

Site Extension

posted 13 Aug 2011, 12:17 by Gordon Dyer

The number of pictures and other files such as the school prospectus has taken this site near to its 100MB storage limit, so I have created another site specifically to load larger files which can be linked from here and downloaded by anyone who wants the full resolution detail. I will also add the sports day movies and music from Changing Houses.

School Films - Grattan Derbyshire

posted 29 Jul 2011, 05:38 by Gordon Dyer   [ updated 29 Jul 2011, 06:55 ]

Several films were made at the school, including Bike Ride and Changing Houses ceremony. These were made by Grattan Derbyshire but seem to have been lost after Hubert Butler's death. Major Butler filmed some of the bike ride, he has been remembered filming us walking on the stepping stones across the River Rothay.
An old boy wrote: "I corresponded with J. Gratton Darbishire on Facebook over a year ago. He was living in Adelaide, and told me he was an old boy. He was good friends with Hubert. He had absolutely no idea where any of the films had gone.
A little while ago I tried to re-connect with him but discovered that he had died 22nd August 2010."
"I’m sorry to hear about Gratton Derbyshire, I remember watching him editing one of the films in the Crossley room with a separate film and magnetic soundtrack that he was having to synchronise. I expect copies of the films were amongst Hubert’s things."
"I asked Hubert's son about the films one summer when we were staying at Huyton Hill. He hadn't found them in Hubert's possessions and assumed they had been lost."
If anyone can give clues about what happened to the films please contact me.

The Himalayan Club

posted 21 Jul 2011, 15:50 by Gordon Dyer   [ updated 29 Jul 2011, 06:08 ]

On searching for information about our Maths teacher, Gordon Osmaston, I found an article in the Himalayan Club website "Gordon Osmaston and Tenzing", Himalayan Journal 48, 1990-1991. The article was written by his cousin Henry Osmaston as an obituary and contains a fascinating account of Gordon's time spent surveying the Himalayas.
The Himalayan Club have generously given permission for me to reproduce extracts from the article which I have included in the page for Gordon Osmaston.
From: Nandini Purandare <>
Sent: 19 July 2011 13:15
To: Gordon Dyer
Subject: Re: Reference to Gordon H Osmaston and permission to use
Dear Mr. Dyer,
We would be happy to allow you to use the material regarding Mr. Osmaston. As we are not a
commercial organisation either, our purpose is to have as many people read the HJ as possible.
However, as you have indicated, please do give the Himalayan Journal suitable
Let me know if you need any other information and do let us know when you upload your article
on the website.
Nandini Purandare
Hon Secretary
Himalayan Club

email encouragement

posted 15 Jul 2011, 16:53 by Gordon Dyer

It was emails like these that encouraged me to create this website:
"It really was a whimsical place! I can still regail dinner parties with HH stories: cold baths, swimming starkers in the lake at 0700, making a cricket pitch out of a hillside, cleaning 60 pairs of shoes, spouting a French phrase in order to leave after breakfast etc, etc.

I was interviewed for local radio here in Denmark last week-end and I realised that HH stories are so strange they are beyond comprehension! I now realise that HH was quite close to Gordonstoun and Bryanston and the whole educational philosophy of  that pre-war generation.  

How are we going to save all this? "
"You shamed me into getting my arse in gear. Here are some of the collection! You're in the Wetherlam one."
"As I have said to everyone…. I have a stronger connection to prep days people and the experience than to my secondary schooling.
The brothers Butler are still my guiding light, and I still tell people that the Lake District is God’s own country! I have travelled a lot, but that place is highest on my list of places to experience. Rugged splendour mixed with the pastoral idyll."
"Like any ageing fool, I’m in distinct danger of sounding like one….but one thing is clear in my mind. In those days…children were children, childhood was not treated like it was ‘carte blanche’ to be a rude and disrespectful purveyor of profanities and disrespect…..and there was a distinct air of optimism in the air."
"I have the same feelings about the Butlers as you and also Gordon Osmaston. The mixture of Hubert’s relaxed, artistic and visionary approach and Gerald’s kind but firm army approach to running the school were a perfect blend for the place."
"There does seem to be a developing ‘critical mass’. Each new connection provides new memories, and a burgeoning sense of a lot of middle-aged men out there, eager to re-live and make sense of our collective experience. The photos I received last night were particularly poignant. And a lot of fun to boot!"
"I have been pouring over various old photographs, and as I attempt to put names to faces, I also find myself putting memories to faces too.
I have put a bit of work into your ‘name the person’ exercise, and with our little network growing all the time it’s probably just a matter of time before we identify everyone.

I’m not sure if you are aware of the ‘Friends reunited’ website (I’ll give you the link) but it is getting an interesting set of photographs. I hope that if we all pool our resources we can possibly get ourselves a good archive which will give us all a window into the past.
My ‘Holy Grail’ is a photo of GVB. I’m yet to find one.

I’m now also thinking that we can create a Huyton Hill site that brings together photos, memories, procedures etc. etc. An archive that documents the life of a small Prep school and all that entailed. You may remember my story of return. Imagine if we all wrote pieces about our memories, our perceptions, and our psychology. It could be a very interesting ‘social history’ project."
"This is all suddenly so exciting! Having been 'simmering on a low light' for such a long time, and not really getting very far, the Huyton Hill subject seems to have suddenly 'gone critical' and started to produce connections and associations involving more and more people!"
"The last six months or so has been quite revelatory. A bit of a trawl on the web….and suddenly I’m in touch with people from over 40 years ago."
"God….it’s hectic around here. Suddenly I have emails coming in left, right and centre. I must admit that I have been neglecting my clients over the last 24 hours. I have spent my time emailing, poring over photographs, and feeling like Doctor Who."

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