A gift of care and affection

Sometimes the smallest of objects represents the biggest of things. This is a story about a small wooden serviette ring and the warm relationship between a young boy and a School leader of great note that it represents.

Grimwade House was only seven years old when Harold Down became its second Principal in 1925. He would remain in this position until his retirement in 1952.

A man of intellect, scholarship and great drive, he soon gathered around him a very capable teaching staff and Grimwade became a most efficient preparatory school, in which relationships between boys and staff were most congenial.

The Melburnian, No. 96, 1970

During this time boarders were welcome at the Prep to Year 8 campus and one such person was Pierre Gorman (OM 1942). Pierre commenced boarding at Grimwade House in 1930, when he was six years old. He completed his schooling at Melbourne Grammar, graduating in 1942.

Pierre went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree and an Honours Diploma in Education in 1949, and with a Bachelor of Education degree in 1951, all from the University of Melbourne. In 1960 he completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge.

Due to his studies in the area, together with his work at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People in London and his collaboration with Sir Richard Paget to develop the Paget Gorman Sign System, Pierre became recognised as world authority on deaf communication.

Gorman received the ANZAC of the Year Award in 1981 and the following year was awarded the National Medal for his devotion to improving services for the hearing and speech impaired. He was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1983 for services to the disabled.

These achievements might seem all the more remarkable when you learn that Pierre Gorman was born profoundly deaf and, in his time, this attribute limited the lives of many of those with it.

Down had served as an apprentice carpenter early in his working life before training as a teacher. His interest in woodwork never left him and such was his care for Pierre Gorman beyond his days at Grimwade House, that he hand carved and presented the pictured serviette ring to Pierre upon his graduation from Melbourne Grammar.

“There was a great close affection between us and he gave me this serviette ring when I left the Big School (now known as Senior School) in December 1942,” wrote Pierre when he donated the ring to School Archives in 1974.

Such was the value that Pierre placed upon the humble item, that he retained the ring for almost 30 years before ensuring its longevity by gifting it to the School.