Puns, Prayers and Graces and the Badge

The ‘Founder’s Prayer,’ which some may remember being intoned by W.R. Swale every Monday in assembly, was so called by virtue of a pun. Based on a similar, but not identical, Latin prayer in the Dominican Missal, it appeared in the Book of Common Prayer — written virtually single-handed by Thomas Cranmer, who was burned at the stake in 1556 — at the end of the Communion service, as one of six collects to be used ‘as often as the occasion shall serve’:

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify they holy Name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ or Lord. Amen.

‘Prevent’ means ‘go before,’ and Anglican clergy who use it now tend to change the word. Whether or not he found the accidental play on his name amusing, Dr John Favour would certainly have been familiar with the prayer, which was popular enough to be first set to music by his Elizabethan contemporary, the composer William Byrd. It seems plausible that Heath Grammar School used it in prayers from the start.

However, two other puns on the founder’s name are much more recent in origin. Digni et vos este Favore (‘You too be worthy of Favour’) first appeared on the school’s World War II memorial gates in 1949. It might be a quotation from a Latin author, but isn’t; it was devised by the then Head of Classics, Arthur Owen. Arthur also wrote the Latin grace for use in the school canteen, which opened in 1959. Adopting phrases from several extant graces, it read:

Gratias maximas nos tibi, Domine, propter haec et omnia tua beneficia agimus, qui, e Favore tuo, haec tua dona iam sumpturi sumus. Hunc cibum oramus ut benedicas in usum nostrum et nos in officium tuum. Per Iesum Christum, salvatorem nostrum. Amen.

It means, ‘We give you very great thanks, Lord, for these and all your benefits; we who, by your favour, are now about to consume these your gifts. We pray that you may bless this food to our use, and ourselves to your service. Through Jesus Christ, our saviour. Amen.

Pocket badge with text running round and, from top to bottom, a red rose, 1597, an opened book and a portcullis inside
The School Badge

The school badge is pun-free. SIGIL.LIBE.GRAM.SCHOL.R.ELIZ.VICARIAT.HALIFAX means ‘the seal of Queen Elizabeth’s free grammar school in the vicariate of Halifax.’ In the centre-piece of the seal itself, the open book, the words Qui mihi discipulus puer es cupis atq(ue doceri) mean, ‘You, boy, who are my pupil and desire (to be taught) …’ This is the beginning of the introduction to William Lily’s Latin Grammar telling boys what is expected of them. First published in 1519, it remained a standard school text until the mid 17th Century, and was evidently used in the fledgling Heath Grammar School.

Andrew Connell [Heath 1958–1965]