Glebelands School


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Mr Wiskar - The first Head master retired in 1973

glebe 4Mr Wiskar died some years ago, but had maintained his links with the school after retirement. 

After the autumn storms of 1987, he returned to school to plant a tree in the grounds that were always close to his heart. 

The photos show him as he was widely known - pipe alight, with the groundsman Bill Coles. 

He came from Elmbridge Boarding School in Cranleigh (now the retirement village) and was originally Deputy Head under Mr Bloggs, the school then being a C. of E. School. In 1956, the school became a Secondary Modern and Mr Wiskar was appointed Head Master. One of his tasks was to see through the secondary school extension, which he documents thoroughly in his beautifully maintained hand-written log books, kept in the school archive. He would see the school grow from 120 pupils and six staff to 700 pupils and fifty staff. 

As Mary Haynes, who joined the staff in 1960, recalls: 

“Mr. Wiskar set the highest standards for pupils and staff. In 1960 there were 450 pupils and he knew each one by name, and their parents and siblings as well.”

She continues that he “also made a point of maintaining very good relations with all the staff. He had had the front of the school planted with roses; in season he always had one in his buttonhole, and he smoked a pipe. Everyone could smell his approach, and thus he always found people satisfactorily doing the right thing.”

Mr Wiskar’s daughter, Ruth Cairns, adds that there was “a great old film put together as a sort of black and white silent movie. It was of Dad walking around the school with his pipe and the pupils running around trying to keep out of his way.”

Glebelands was a Secondary Modern school, which meant that no public exams were taken at first, but everyone was expected to aim for the greatest achievement of which they were capable, and courtesy and loyalty were paramount. Mr Wiskar warned that no one need expect thanks for doing their work well, but his policy was always to give generous encouragement. 

glebe 5He took assembly walking back and forth across the stage to demonstrate that by one step at a time a destination is reached. By dint of repetition he made memorable such quotations as, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” (Browning), or the advice that it is easier to tip feathers (or gossip) out into the wind than to gather them up again. The school hymn in those days was “Father, hear the prayer we offer.” He was a man of genuine faith, a senior Sunday School teacher, and ably supported by Miss Dale, deputy head and RE teacher, with strong views concerning her subject. She, it was, “who instituted ‘Ma’m’, rather than the usual bleat of ‘mi-iss’.”

Beyond the school, Mr Wiskar served for 25 years as an independent local councillor for Hambledon R.D.C., later to become Waverley Borough Council. As such, he was the first person to be given the freedom of Cranleigh. He was honoured to receive the accolade and joked that it also gave him “a free cinema seat and free burial in the Parish graveyard!” His service is acknowledged in the road in Cranleigh named after him. 

His community duties didn’t end there. Ruth remembers him being “Father Christmas a couple of years, travelling around on a float. However, he would never go up the bonfire and read the Gunpowder Plot poem as he said he would be an obvious target for any disgruntled pupil.”

His sense of humour needed to serve him well. Mary Haynes again: “The students put on a Revue each year on the hall stage. Most memorable was a turn by Robert Miles (as memory serves), who, with the help of a large cushion and a long belt, a maroon waistcoat, a pipe, a rose and the uniform school tie which the Head always wore, daringly did an impressive impersonation of Mr. Wiskar.”

glebe 6His interests were broad. Ruth writes that “He and Mum ran the local branch of the RSPCA and every year organised a house-to-house collection and stalls at various fetes.” He was also a member of the Cranleigh Rabbit Club! His sporting interests were well-known. He loved football, becoming the Chairman of Cranleigh Football Club. Cricket was another passion and he played for Cranleigh as a wicket keeper. 

One of the lovely traditions that Mr Wiskar introduced to the school was the annual Ascension Day ‘pilgrimage’. Mary Haynes especially remembers that of 1960, as it was the day she arrived for interview. 

“In those days Ascension Day was a holiday. The whole school went by coach to the top of Hurtwood Hill. The Rector conducted a service, the youngsters had a picnic, the head took the staff to early lunch at the Windmill Inn, and all returned in time to have a good part of the day free; the head teacher for interviews, that year. This happy custom was maintained until he retired.”

Mr Wiskar records in the log of the same outing on 26th May that year: “About 100 boys, girls and staff walk there across the fields and are joined there by others at the site known as Mr Justice James’ Seat.”

As Molly Walmsley, once Haynes, who was responsible for girls P.E. from 1959 to 1962, wrote: “They were very happy years under the leadership of Mr Wiskar.”