Yarrow Commemoration
27th May 2015

In memory of former pupil, Eric Fernandez Yarrow

(5 January 1895 – 8 May 1915)

’No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.’


On Friday 8th May, a service of commemoration was held at Oundle School for one of its former pupils, Old Oundelian, Eric Fernandez Yarrow (1895-1915), to mark the 100th anniversary of his death near Ypres, in WW1.

The service, conducted by Reverend Brian Cunningham, took place on the lawns of the School Chapel, where a sculpture of Eric Yarrow stands, crafted by a former pupil of the School, Alex Johnsen. Poignantly, the Chapel itself was built in 1921 to commemorate all those who fell in the war.



Several members of the Yarrow family attended the service, including The Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor of London, Alan Yarrow and the Lady Mayoress as well as Major Jason French from Eric’s former Regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Charles Bush, Headmaster of Oundle School said, “It was a pleasure to welcome the Lord Mayor of London to Oundle and be part of this very special family event.”

The Rt Hon. the Lord Mayor said, “A simple, sensitive commemoration of a very brave young man whose School was never far from his thoughts.”

After the service guests proceeded to the Yarrow Gallery where they were able to see a display of memorabilia from Eric’s days at Oundle and even letters written to his father when he was at the front. Also on show at the Gallery was an exhibition of world-renowned photographer, David Yarrow’s photographs. Oundle’s Yarrow Gallery will be hosting this exhibition from Saturday 9 May to Saturday 23 May 2015.


Background on Eric Yarrow

Eric Yarrow was born in Blackheath, London on 5th January 1895, the second son of Sir Alfred and Lady Yarrow. He attended Prep School at St Andrew’s, Eastbourne and entered Grafton House at Oundle School in 1909. In 1913, his last year at the School, he was Captain of the XV and the Laxtonian magazine claimed that he had “developed into a splendid attacking forward, who made good openings for the three-quarters and scored tries.”



Whilst at Oundle, Eric was particularly keen on the sciences, thus endearing himself to former Headmaster, William Sanderson, and in his final year, he delivered a paper to the School Science Society on the rise and progress of steam navigation. In October 1913, Eric went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read Mechanical Sciences but, keenly interested in ideas of social reform – no doubt encouraged by Sanderson – he was planning to take up Political Economy in his second year. This plan was interrupted by the outbreak of war in August 1914.

On 1st September that year, Eric wrote to his father asking his permission to join up. Clearly his family had hoped that he might join the work force at his father’s shipyard on the Clyde and thus avoid active service. Instead Eric wrote to his parents: “There is undoubtedly an urgent need for young men of all classes to come forward to serve, and it would appear that those who by their social position are able to do so with the least sacrifice, should be the first…My being at the works is an excuse for not doing what …appears to be the duty of all young men.”

It seems that Sir Alfred Yarrow gave his permission and Eric gained a commission with the 7th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the Autumn of 1914. The Cambridge correspondent in the Laxtonian commented thus about Eric’s joining up: “You will, I am sure, be pleased to hear that the kilt suits Second Lieutenant Yarrow very well; he has been over to ask our opinion on the hang of his sporran.” Promoted Lieutenant on leaving for France in December 1914, Eric presented all 50 men in his company with a woollen shirt, under-vest, mits and gloves.

Typically, his letters home from the Front abounded in optimism. In April 1915, he wrote “We were a very merry party”; “We had a great time on the whole”; “You will see that we do not lead a very strenuous existence.” A letter home of 21st April concluded: “One hears about the war ending soon, so I will be back ere long.”  Four days later two of his closest comrades, Jack Barr and Gifford Moir were killed. Eric personally both retrieved Barr’s body and dug his grave. These deaths affected Eric deeply. He told Sgt. Alexander Hunter afterwards that he didn’t care whether he was killed because “the devils had killed his two best friends.”

This may help to explain Eric Yarrow’s courage and resilience on 2nd May 1915 when he led his men over the top amidst a German gas attack. Sgt. Hunter reported: “Our gallant Lieutenant Yarrow took the lead, waving aloft a knife, his only weapon and shouting ‘Come on Argylls’. On reaching the German trenches, Lieutenant Yarrow got on to a machine gun and accounted for a great many Germans that day. There is no doubt that his heroic deeds saved the situation.” Six days later, with the worst of the German assault on British lines apparently over, Eric Yarrow was struck by a German shell and killed instantly.

Grief at his death was universal. One witness reported that the event had “cast a gloom over the whole battalion.” Sanderson described his death as “calamitous news” and one of his former teachers spoke of his “beautiful altruism and optimism.”

Eric Yarrow was just 20 years old at the time of his death.


Information on David Yarrow Exhibition

David Yarrow, 48, was born in Scotland and is currently based in London. He began his photographic career recording the world’s greatest sporting events. He was named Young Scottish Photographer of the Year at the age of 20 and in the same year covered the World Cup in Mexico for The Times. His photo of Maradona holding the trophy aloft was internationally syndicated and remains an iconic image of that tournament.

David has since turned his lens on the natural world to capture its harsh and endangered beauty. African imagery is at the heart of Encounter, which was exhibited in November 2013 in Hong Kong, New York and at London’s Saatchi Gallery. David’s most recent body of work – ‘The Kenya Collection’ – was launched at the inaugural Christie’s Conservation Lectures in aid of Tusk on 30th April 2014.

He is the author of two fine-art photography books: Nowhere (2007), and Encounter (2013).  Many of the monochrome shots that feature in Encounter were captured in East Africa, and through some compelling narrative, David exposes his thirst to get both physically and spiritually close to the personalities of some of Kenya’s most prized wildlife and cultures.

David’s photographic travels have given him genuine insights into key environmental and geopolitical issues. This knowledge is put to practical use in his long-term commitment to Tusk, the leading African conservation charity, for which he is the affiliated photographer. Tusk, whose Royal Patron is HRH the Duke of Cambridge, receives 10% of sales of David’s prints and books to support its 53 projects in 18 African countries


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.

The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015. 

There are currently 1100 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

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