Adventures of the feathered kind

Two recent additions to the Education in Literature Collection  both feature birds – a pair of Tawny Owls and a Magellan penguin!

Two Owls at Eton by Jonathan Franklin was originally published in 1960 whilst he was still a pupil at Eton School. Jonathan’s great interest in ornithology was well known and he was not surprised to be offered two orphaned Tawny owlets by a neighbour. He was surprised when his then House Master, Mr.Hill, gave him permission to keep the birds at Eton. Thus began his great adventure in trying to raise (Tweedle) Dum and Dee in his tiny room. Fellow pupils and staff were fascinated and helped him by finding beetles, worms and mice with which to feed the ever hungry birds.

ETONJonathan admits that his academic work suffered, but  he eventually taught the owls to fly and to hunt for themselves and released them into the countryside near his East Anglian home. Jonathan became known as ‘Owls’ and admits he was lucky to be a pupil at an Eton School which was still stuffy and formal in some ways but liberal enough to allow him to walk around with two owls on his shoulders. The surprising popularity of the book upon its original publication generated positive publicity for the school which was appreciated by the Headmaster, Robert Birley. The book’s appeal is enhanced by photographs and  lively line-drawings by his friend and fellow-Etonian Simon Radcliffe.

Some very different insights into life at Eton and other schools and colleges across the UK may be gained from the resources in our  School and College Histories Collection. School histories cover a wide range of schools from small village schools (A history of Swanbourne Village School ) to famous Public Schools. The latter of course includes Eton College. There are a range of titles about Eton including Eton Renewed by Tim Card and a different perspective on life at Eton is described in A girl at Eton by Elizabeth Heygate.

In the 1970s the life of another young British male became entwined with that of a bird but this time in Argentina. In The Penguin Lessons , Tom Michell describes how  a ‘country boy from the gentle Downs of rural Sussex’, found himself ill-prepared for life as an Assistant Master at St George’s College, a boys’ boarding school, in Buenos Aires.

Whilst on holiday in Punta del Este in Uruguay he found an oil-drenched penguin on a beach. Tom cleaned the Magellan penguin and tried to release him  but he would not leave Tom. With only a little trouble Tom was able to smuggle the penguin into Argentina and back to his school.PENGUIN

At the school the penguin, by now known as  Juan Salvador, became the mascot of the rugby team, swam in the freshwater school pool, co-hosted Tom’s parties and became a confidante of lonely pupils and the housekeeper.

Jonathan and Tom’s experiences of caring for their unexpected avian companions and the effects upon their respective schools reflects how rich and surprising the educational experience can be. The Education in Literature Collection contains novels, plays, poetry and DVDs as well as autobiographies and it is located at the back of the Teaching Room on the fourth floor of the Library.

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