Magdalen College School and The Great War
DAVID BEBBINGTON | Pen and Sword Books
Charles Edward Brownrigg Charles Edward Brownrigg
(b. 1865; d. 1942)

Charles Edward Brownrigg (born 1865) became Usher (Deputy Headmaster) of Magdalen College School in 1888, the same year in which W.E. Sherwood became the Master (Headmaster). Charles Brownrigg was Usher for twelve years before taking over as Master in 1900, when Sherwood retired. At this time P.D. Pullan was recruited and became Usher, serving the school in this capacity until 1935. Charles Brownrigg was to remain as Master until 1930, serving the school for forty-two years, and was the stable and guiding character for the School before, during and after The Great War years. He was to hold the school community together during the years of The Great War, welcoming back its heroes and memorialising the lost boys who had only recently graced the class rooms, playing field and river. Irish-born Brownrigg taught classics throughout the school, and was affectionately known as 'Brigger' by the boys. He set high standards of respect for his students to follow and his eye for detail in his teaching necessitated nothing but the best in return when written work was submitted for marking. Brownrigg set up a Cadet Corps at MCS in 1914 and became its Commanding Officer. An excellent all round sportsman, Brownrigg was a big advocate of the importance of games, playing in the school teams himself, alongside the boys, as many of the fixtures of this time were against mature college sides. He played football, hockey and cricket for the school sides, first appearing in school fixtures when Usher in 1888 and still turning out for the boys' sides when Master until 1908, aged forty-three. In 1906 Brownrigg initiated the school's long tradition of a Commemoration Service (in Magdalen College chapel initially), ensuring a proud link with the past and an appreciation for all the benefactors of the school. It immediately captured the imagination of the school community with old boys and their families returning for the celebration which included lunch and sports. More than one hundred years on, 'Commem', as it is affectionately called by the school today, is still a thriving whole day celebration, with the service conducted in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, followed by celebrations including a leavers' lunch and School versus Old Waynfletes cricket and tennis matches on School Field. Charles Brownrigg was recognised nationally as one of the top headmasters in the country and was given the honour of being the chairman and host of the annual meeting of the Headmasters' Conference in 1907. Brownrigg was the only Master of MCS to have this honour until the present day Master, Dr Tim R. Hands, became Chairperson 106 years later in 2013/14. Charles Brownrigg married Adolphine Mary Arbuthnot, known as Mary, in 1897 and had a son (who died before his first birthday) and two daughters. Sadly Mary died on 18 December 1904 not long after the birth of their second daughter. Brownrigg married his second wife, Valerie Margaret Elizabeth Akerman in 1908 and had two further sons. Cruelly Brownrigg was to lose his second wife in 1929, one year before his retirement as Master of MCS. Before his retirement Brownrigg oversaw the final transfer of the school from the College site in 1928 to its new home and buildings on Cowley Place (now known as the '1928 Buildings'), across the way from School House. After his retirement in 1930 Brigger continued to live close by in Iffley and kept in contact with the school that had been his life for the previous forty-two years. He returned each year to attend Sports Day at the Iffley Road Track, firing the starting pistol for the races. This he did for fifty consecutive years until his death in 1942, aged 77. Fittingly a portrait of Brownrigg was commissioned by the old boys and has hung in a central place in the school ever since.
Charles Edward Brownrigg in the Cricket 1st XI
MCS Cricket XI 1895 C.E. Brownrigg(seated middle row, boater hat)
Charles Edward Brownrigg in the Hockey 1st XI
MCS Hockey XI 1893 C.E. Brownrigg(seated second from left)
Charles Edward Brownrigg in the Football 1st XI
MCS Football XI 1888 C.E. Brownrigg(seated middle row, second from left)