The Indefatigable Years 1977 - 1991 - Final excerpts from Patrick Purser's autobiography

by Patrick Purser
(Patrick Purser)

It took over a year to sell the property which was finally purchased by the MOD, and after several millions of pounds spent on extensive repairs, alterations and additions (including a perimeter fence), it is now used as a Joint Service Mountain Training Centre (JSMTC). I lobbied the Army by letter, and they agreed to retain the name ‘Indefatigable’ in their title. The price paid for the property did not even ‘square’ all the debts let alone leave any surplus, from which I had hoped to form an ‘Indefatigable Trust Fund’ to give financial help to needy youngsters undergoing further education. I use the ‘first person’ because there was now nobody to champion the ‘Indefatigable’ corner. The Headmaster and staff had melted away, and the Governors had disappeared back into the woodwork! So it was up to the Old Boys Association to salvage what they could. One further ‘dream’ of mine was to create a stained glass window commemorating the ship, the school and all who had passed through. A local artist produced the design which was approved by the Church and transformed into stained glass by another local craftsman. Finally, in the summer of 1998 the window was installed in the North transept of the little church of Saint Mary, where generations of boys had worshipped. The dedication took place before a congregation of Old Boys, a few weeks later, the Liverpool Sailors Home Trust agreeing to pay the cost - £7,000.
One last note before closing this sad account of the school’s latter days. The question has since been asked many times. Would the school have closed down if no changes had been made? I believe it would. The “Sword of Damocles” hanging over it raised the question, not “IF” but “WHEN” would it fall. “Indefatigable” was created for a specific purpose, to give self-respect to disadvantaged boys. This it did with remarkable success for over a hundred years.
But with the introduction of the Welfare State, the rapidly altering economic climate, and the radical changes made in our educational system over post-war years, her ‘raison d’etre’ was slowly being eroded and the school was becoming somewhat of an anachronism. She was unique in the way she handled adolescent boys, and from the early 1970s it was becoming clear to all but the most entrenched minds that a radical overhaul would have to be made to the academic and social structure of the school if it was to stand any chance of surviving the century. Recruitment was not high, but it was fairly steady at this stage. There were very few capital assets, and to make the sweeping changes necessary, courage and a great deal of money would be needed. The Governors had neither, nor had they the expertise and foresight to recognise the symptomatic problems facing the school. Indeed, it was not in their remit to do so; only to preserve the ‘status quo’. This attitude made ‘nemesis’ inevitable. During this period of inactivity many privately operated boarding schools had been forced into closure because they could not compete with the larger, better endowed and more successful establishments. To try and turn ‘Indefatigable’ at this late stage, into a thriving boarding school in its own right, amidst such fierce competition from these well founded and well known establishments was nigh on an impossible task. Looking back, I regret some of my more outspoken outbursts brought on by frustration. I failed to understand what ‘Inde’s’ REAL job was, and it wasn’t to try and turn boys into ‘Brains of Britain’! Sadly, the school was, by the 1980s, in a situation where any attempts to reverse the inevitable decline of fortune would have to be made fast or else it would be too late. No changes and she would no longer have any place in the ‘educational establishment’. A typical ‘Catch-22’ situation! In the event, things did happen too fast and came too late. The only question remaining, “in which of these two situations would closure have come the sooner?” Alas, we shall never know the answer to that!

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