The Old Maidstonian Society annually awards a tankard, dedicated to the memory of former member of MGS staff Alex Stewart, to the member of the Senior School contributing most during the School Year either on the field of play or in the administration of sporting activities. The presentation takes place at the Annual Supper.
It was originally stipulated that the award should be made for a period of not less than 20 years; the first presentation was made in 1973.
(From The Maidstonian, Winter 1972)
It was with feelings of deep shock that we heard in August of the
sudden death of Alex Stewart. He was one of the characters of the
School, a man who in the course of thirty years had stamped his
personality on those aspects of the School where, for a part or the
whole of that time, he had been primarily or completely
responsible. The sports field, the dining-hall, the gymnasium, the
swimming-bath, the quartermaster’s store, the little room near the
Staff entrance where he investigated ailments and peccadilloes, and
dispensed first aid and rough justice – in these areas, Alex imposed
his methods and struggled unremittingly to maintain the standards of
order, good behaviour and honesty on which he placed the highest
If he was something of a holy terror to the shirker, this did not
displease him. But the asperity and ferocity were only a protective
covering, designed to prevent his basic kindness from being imposed
on. There was no limit to the trouble he would take to look after
someone genuinely sick or in trouble. One of the burdens he assumed
was that of investigator of school ‘crimes’ – a role which drew on him
some feelings of fear and hostility. But, though relentless in
pursuing the offence, he would always help the offender, not indeed to
escape punishment (for Alex believed that a punishment justly deserved
was salutary) but to find the strength to face it. And Alex did not
merely have the will, he had the knowledge drawn from years of
experience which enabled him to distinguish the serious from the
trivial accident or sickness, and to identify a culprit.
He was a very dedicated teacher, as interested in helping the
timid, the duffer, or the boy with poor muscular co-ordination –
provided always that the boy would try – as in giving expert coaching
to those specially gifted in games and physical pursuits. He was a
most able Rugby referee, serving in this capacity up to the highest
levels, devoted to the game and to the enjoyment and development of
those who played it. Incapable of partisanship, he brought to his
referee’s duties the integrity that characterised him. With Alex, the
half-truth, the shirked responsibility, the unkept promise, were all
unthinkable. He was the declared enemy of the sham, and was brutally
outspoken in his condemnation of it.
I find that most of what I have said about Alex concerns his
relations with the boys. This is as it should be, for his primary care
was the real welfare and responsible development of the individuals in
his charge. But he also gave help and advice to less experienced
colleagues, and his long service to his professional association – he
was local secretary of the NUT for several years – speaks for
My own acquaintance with Alex is long. He came into my form in
September 1929 – new master, new boy – and was in my Scout Troup for
several years. In class, on the field, in camp, he was the same
unassertive, dependable youngster. I lost touch with him for several
years, but found him established in charge of the School’s P.E. when I
returned from Army service. Since then, although our tastes and
interests have been widely different, I have found him a warm and
affectionate friend, and we have seen eye to eye on most educational
I shall miss him deeply, and so will the many Maidstonians who have
passed through his hands – not least those who penetrated his
forbidding exterior to find in him the kindly helper of whom they were
Ted Clifford Award for History
Ted Clifford came to MGS in 1930, the fourth generation of his family to do so. His father, James, was a Governor of the school and a past President of the Old Maidstonians Society. His grandfather and uncle had also been President.
The family had a very long connection with Maidstone. The family business, in which Ted spent his entire working life after leaving school in 1938, traced its origins to 1747. When it was finally wound up in 2005 it had spanned 258 years. His forebears had also been active in local politics (both his great-grandfather and grandfather served as Mayor). Ted was a magistrate for over 30 years and Deputy Chairman of the Maidstone Bench, as well as being on the committees of several of the principal almshouse charities (a block of flats in the Holland Road area is named after him).
The call of the family business and the War combined to deprive him of the opportunity of university and his academic potential went to an extent unfulfilled. He was enormously fond of the school and looked back on his 8 years in Barton Road with great affection. He joined the OM Society almost immediately on leaving and became President in 1951 at the age of 29. He rarely missed a Supper, often chivvying several of his contemporaries to join him.
Ted was an excellent chess-player, and had a natural facility with numbers and a deep love of history which lasted all his life. MGS developed all three. He had the odd eccentric party piece – he could, for example, recite the family names of all the twentieth-century Popes in chronological order. He had a sharp eye for character and loved to tell a story; history provided him with an inexhaustible supply of raw material. He believed strongly in colour and narrative flow: possibly outmoded concepts amongst professional historians now, but essential to fire the imagination of boys and kindle a love of the past.
After his death in 2006, his family decided to institute an annual award to be given by the Committee on the Headmaster’s advice to a promising historian either for a particular piece of work or for outstanding general potential in the subject. They donated an inscribed Victorian silver mug in Ted’s memory. The award was first made in 2007.