The Old Almondburians' Society
Morning Assembly
‘Morning Assembly’: Harry Taylor’s book of  morning prayers
The Old Almondburians’ Society has just published in facsimile form the unique set of daily prayers compiled by former Headmaster Harry Taylor.

His son ANDREW TAYLOR recalls those morning gatherings:

Everybody has their own iconic memories from their time at school – Sports Day perhaps, or Happy Harry playing the organ at Speech Day, or maybe meetings of the Gardener ’s Shed Club, which were held discreetly behind the green shed at the top of the Bunk, leaving no evidence behind except for a few careless tab ends trodden into the dirt.

But for those who were at King James’s during the Harry Taylor years between 1951 and 1973, one of them must be morning assembly – the whole school drawn up in rows, from the bright-eyed little boys in short trousers (yes, short trousers) at the front to the cynical old Sixth Formers, who were just about starting to shave, at the back. There would be a quiet buzz of side-of-the-mouth conversation for as long as you could avoid the eyes of the staff standing along the side, then a hush as the Gaffer himself approached up the corridor .
Did anyone else notice how his footsteps on the gym floor, echoing in the respectful silence, always sounded slightly uneven, as though he had a limp? Even if you did, you wouldn ’t have dared to say so. There was the morning hymn – ‘Fight the Good Fight’, perhaps, belted out with more gusto than tunefulness, and probably a few announcements. Maybe the cricket team had beaten Huddersfield New College, or some ‘guttersnipe’ had been writing on a wall somewhere, and it had to stop.

And in between, the prayers, Harry Taylor had his own collection of prayers, culled from the School Statutes, from other prayer-books, from historical and religious figures such as Sir Francis Drake, Thomas Arnold, or St Augustine. In those days before WordPerfect, they were all written out in the clear, legible and disciplined hand that everyone would recognise from their end-of-term reports, and gathered together in a small A5-sized file.
Some of them – his favourites, no doubt – I can still hear, in his voice:

“Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest, to give and not count the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds …”

 “ … it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory …”

“Make this School as a field which the Lord hath blessed, that whatsoever things are true, pure, lovely and of good report, may here for ever flourish and abound. ”

Now the Old Almondburians’ Society has published the collection as a book. An introductory section describes Harry Taylor ’s various connections with King James’s and the village and church of Almondbury, and there are many photographs to give people who came later some idea of the Harry Taylor Years – but the focus is on the prayers themselves, as he wrote them down and as he said them.

For those who were there, it will bring back memories, and for those who weren’t, it will be a unique insight into the daily act of worship that used to be demanded by law in schools all over the country. Even more than that, perhaps, it will be a glimpse of some of the things that were most important to Harry Taylor himself. And if that sounds rather solemn, it shouldn ’t. There is one prayer in the collection which I confess I don’t remember from morning assembly, but which seems to sum up the spirit of the man.
“Give us a sense of humour, Lord,
Give us the grace to see a joke;
To get some happiness from life,
And pass it on to other folk.” 
How to order your copy

Morning Assembly costs  just £10 + pp. To order, simply and submit complete the form below. The payment page will follow.