Captain William Haskoll
May 6, 2009
William Sewell had known William Haskoll for some time before the founding of Radley, as a close friend of the Sewell family. There is no record of where Haskoll was educated; he did not have a university degree, nor any known links to schools or colleges although a passing comment in Singleton’s diary for 17th August, 1847, indicates that he had acted as a private tutor: the first boy admitted to the school, George Melhuish, had been a pupil of his. He had served in the Royal Navy, and was always referred to as ‘Captain’ Haskoll. He took up his post at Radley at the age of 55. He was appointed to teach Latin and French.
Samuel Reynolds, the second boy to enter the school, described him as:
A fine old English sailor. Probably the Founder, having put Mr Singleton at the head of affairs, thought it prudent to ballast him with some English common sense. Captain Haskoll had seen service in China and elsewhere, but we could seldom get him to talk about it as much as we could have wished. I well remember his room on the top storey of the House, hung round with pictures of the several stages of the fight between the Shannon and the Chesapeake … We enjoyed our French lessons well enough, for Captain Haskoll’s yoke was not heavy … It was by my own gross fault that I learned no French.
Reynolds also describes a beating administered by Haskoll on Clutterbuck:
The old gentleman’s breath was short and his arm got weary, and he was thoroughly exhausted and unable to go on. “See,” he said, “what you bring me to with your misbehaviour,” adding, when he had rested a little, “but I haven’t done yet,” and suiting the action to the word with the best vigour he could command.
William Haskoll seems to have been a genial member of the staff. He began taking singing lessons to equip himself to take part in the choral services, and he made it his duty to beat the gong for rising at 6.30am each morning. He wore his medal for service in China during the inauguration ceremony for the new college.
The post of Sub-Warden was initially Haskoll’s, but in 1848 Joseph Mason Cox was appointed to the post. Cox left Radley in 1850, possibly to take up a post at the recently founded Bradfield College, of which he became Second Master. Haskoll resumed the role for a few months but in 1851, on the appointment of Heathcote as Warden, Haskoll was asked to resign as Sub-Warden in favour of Rev. William Smith, it being considered more desirable that the postholder be in Holy Orders and should take more part in school work.1 At the same time Monsieur de Brion, ‘a very gentlemanly man of high character, from Oxford’ was appointed to teach French. At some point between 1851 and 1855, Haskoll was appointed Bursar, with sundry small administrative duties attached to the post, but in 1855, William Sewell appointed his brother, Robert Burleigh Sewell, Bursar. Haskoll’s role continued to be vague: by the time that William Sewell was forced to resign as Warden in 1861, the school was virtually bankrupt and Sewell despised or detested by most of his staff but Haskoll remained loyal and was described by Sewell as “dear old Haskoll, ignorance of our troubles is indeed bliss to him.” In 1863 he still held the nominal post of Senior Bursar, despite the complete re-ordering of the school’s finances and staff structure.
He retired from the school in 1864, having been presented with a testimonial by the boys in October. He died in London on 10th March, 1865, aged 73: “He had passed through the whole of Radley’s fevered history, benign, upright, and beaming to the last, beloved by all, a true man… On his breast as he lay in his coffin was placed ‘a bouquet of artificial flowers which he never during life could be induced to give any account or explanation of.’ …[Warden] Wood, who knew what he had given up to work at Radley till he could work no more, says: ‘I have never in my life known a finer or more Christian character.’” (AK Boyd, History of Radley College, 1947)
The funeral service was held at St Peter’s, Clerkenwell, and he was buried in Highgate Cemetery. Some carved panelling was put up in the Old Chapel with funds raised to commemorate him, but this was undoubtedly lost in 1895 when the chapel was replaced by the present building. Radley College has no existing memorial to its first Sub-Warden and Bursar, and the longest-serving of the earliest Fellows.
1: William Smith left Radley in 1852. He was then appointed Principal of the Diocesan Training College, Fishponds, Bristol, from 1853 until 1871. He was Vicar of Newlkand and Redbrook, Gloucester, 1871-88