Due to the nature of the councillors who dictated whether Jarrow School would be allowed to wither or flourish, one constant theme in Claude Robinson’s memoir is money. For a significant period of his career, many of Claude’s thoughts and actions were associated with the finances of the school, since wealth dictated the wellbeing of the children and employees of the learning institution. The disarray that the school fell into in the 1930s was the result of a lack of funding, and until Robinson became headmaster there wasn’t much he could do to change conditions at the school. Even after his appointment as headmaster and his life consequently being swallowed by a constant bartering with the Council for support for Jarrow School, difficulties continued into the 1950s (the Education Act in 1944 and WW2 obviously impacted the school massively). This memoir was written in 1982 and the retroactive voice of Claude Robinson shows disillusionment with the state of schooling in England, and sadly it seems as if he looked back on his efforts at Jarrow School with a hint of futility. So much of his life was consumed with a campaign against greed, against ‘The Authority’ that denied him respite in his crusade on behalf of the school. This fight was clearly an uphill battle and required him to sacrifice much. Not many details about his interests or habits are divulged in this memoir for this very reason, Claude Robinson didn’t have a lot of free time and what he little he did have he set aside for political activism. Robinson’s wife is mentioned occasionally in the memoir, but only in a professional capacity, since for a time during 1930s she worked at Jarrow School with him. In some respects, this memoir is a mentally fatiguing read because of Robinson’s non-stop schedule and permeating sense of dutiful professionalism, but on the other hand it is also a gripping tale of the ultimate underdog that is the working class.
His beliefs are best understood through the man’s own words, as Robinson includes several excerpts from his contributions to Speech Days leading up to the war as well as after it (during the war, there were no Speech Days). These speeches are clearly a point of pride for Robinson and give a clear indication on what he stood for, and this passage on young people in April 1938 is a telling soliloquy:
‘We have given them a world more full of hate and wickedness than it was a year ago. They will need more courage and clear thinking than any generation before, and they are better able to face it than before’ (pg.69) – Robinson, C. (1982) These We Have Loved
The memoir’s inclusion of these speeches is a testament to the conviction that Robinson still had in the words that he said over 40 years prior to writing about them. His speeches are recorded in this memoir because they were still a point of passion for Robinson even late in his life and he felt that there was still wisdom to be gained from them contextually. As I explored in the Purpose and Audience post, his goal was the recording of history and to teach people about this time in history effectively and accurately; he saw his own speeches as an important part of the history of Jarrow, and saw fit to include them in his memoir for this reason. Claude Robinson’s beliefs were ironclad until the end of his life. When he was younger he sought to correct the injustices the working class had to face through his marches and speeches, and in his old age he thought it important that these injustices be remembered even if they were at some point corrected. The approach is different, but this memoir is, in a sense, another speech for Robinson, perhaps the last of his lifetime, a fitting final tribute to a restless existence forged by a strong will and unshakeable principles.
Robinson, C. (1898) These We Have Loved