Samuel Reynolds’ commentary about the incident between Donnison and Wood

June 23, 2010

Another perspective on the events of June 21st.

‘On occasion of a fight between Donnison and Wood major, Mr Singleton consults with the Fellows what line they are to take. He allows that opinion at public schools does not condemn fights, but he resolves that they are to be condemned at Radley as unchristian, etc. Having settled this point, he sends first for the two boys who had been fighting; and finding that the cause of quarrel had originated with Wood, tells him that “he continued to be what he had ever been, a vulgar bully.” Finding also that Reynolds had been present at the fight for 5 minutes, and had then put an end to it, tells him that if it was his duty to put an end to it then, it was his duty to do so at once. Reynolds however “fidgeted about for clumsy excuses” and “was scolded for his constant defence of what is indefensible.”

If Reynolds had been listened to in his own defence, he would have said that as long as the fight was a fair fight he saw no reason for putting an end to it, but that he did stop it at once as soon as it was clear that one of the boys was over-matched and had no chance against the other; and he might have added that what he omitted to do and what he had done was what public opinion at public schools would have approved, and that he was not fixed with notice of Mr Singleton’s ex post facto law to the contrary.

This seems to me not a clumsy excuse, but a perfectly good defence; but since Reynolds was cut short and scolded, it was no doubt stated clumsily enough. That Wood major had always been a ‘vulgar bully’ is not true. I remember Wood perfectly well. He was a well conducted and fairly popular boy. If on this occasion he had provoked Donnison, it is certain too that he suffered for it, as Mr Singleton’s Journal shows. He could have been no match for Donnison, and he behaved very pluckily in standing up to him at all.’


Taken from Samuel Reynolds’ ‘Notes and remarks on Mr Singleton’s Journal,’ written in c1896 and deposited by Reynolds in Radley College Archives.

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