The Way We Were with John Taylor: It’s all Greek to me


Teachers of yesteryear - how fondly we recall their names. Not least Mr Enoch who, after a trying day of attempting to teach Latin to a group of cynical adolescents retired each evening to his home in Bow Brickhill.

There he tried to recharge ahead of each coming day’s foray. And guilt still assails me, for having been one of those who indifference earned his withering observation: “Taylor, to paraphrase Caesar, your attempts are Weeny, Weedy, Weaky.”

Yes, this seemed fair comment.

And so, with no hope of passing the O’Level, I was packed off for six months’ untutored study of ‘Greek Literature In Translation’. An O’Level which still stands as one of my finest achievements.

But of course, with many documents and inscriptions in Latin, a knowledge of the language is often essential for the study of history.

In fact, on a tombstone in Ravenstone Churchyard, a weathered Latin inscription could be read commemorating the Reverend Thomas Seaton.

He is the same man who founded the ‘Seatonian Prize for Sacred Poetry’ at Cambridge University, and in 1932 the inscription was transcribed onto a wall-mounted tablet in the church.

Thomas was born in 1684, and in 1701 entered Clare College, Cambridge, as a ‘sizar’ - i.e. a poor student who paid a reduced fee for his studies as he acted as a servant to a Master or Fellow of the college.

In 1705 he gained a BA and in 1708 became a priest. Later he was appointed vicar of Madingley, and in 1721 vicar of Ravenstone.

By the terms of his will Thomas bequeathed an estate at Kislingbury, Northants, to the University of Cambridge, and with the rents to be applied towards a prize for a poem on a sacred subject, this is apparently still in existence.

Yes, if only I’d learnt Latin all those years ago.
But instead it was all Greek to me...