Interesting Johnians

Benjamin Hall Kennedy

Benjamin Hall Kennedy: Latin guru

Fellow and Lecturer at St John's, Kennedy is best known for his Latin grammar books.

Benjamin Hall Kennedy was born on 6 November 1807 in Summer Hill near Birmingham. Benjamin was educated at Shrewsbury School, and St John's College, Cambridge. He became president of the Cambridge Union in 1825, and was elected Fellow and lecturer in Classics at St John's College in 1828, taking Holy Orders the following year.

In 1836, he returned to Shrewsbury as headmaster and stayed there until 1866. In 1867, Kennedy was elected Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge and appointed a canon of Ely Cathedral, serving in both posts until his death. He was the author of Public School Latin Primer and Public School Latin Grammar which were both published in 1879 and were used in almost every English school for many years. Kennedy was elected an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College in 1880.

When he died on 6 April 1889, he was buried in the Mill Road cemetery, Cambridge.


Kennedy's letter of resignation from Shrewsbury School (1835)

Printed circular (1865)

Printed circular (1865)

Preface to Kennedy's Latin Primer (1924) Preface to Kennedy's Latin Primer (1924)

Preface to Kennedy's Latin Primer (1924)


Benjamin Hall Kennedy-wikipedia

Benjamin Hall Kennedy-grave

Papers relating to the Latin Primer held in the Library's Special Collections. 

GW Parsley

GW Parsley: Pastry Cook to Head Chef

George Parsley moved up the ranks in the College Kitchens to become St John's Head Chef in 1891. George Parsley started working in the College Kitchens sometime before 1882. He was born in 1857 in the local village of Stow Cum Quy. A letter held in the Archive collection indicates the he served a 7 year apprenticeship as a cook with PS Hudson & Son at Trinity College. A second letter, a letter of reference from FD George, cook and confectioner to HRH the Princess of Wales, refers to Parsley as a 'very willing and competent Cook .... and I am very vexted at his leaving me." One assumes that Parsley had taken up a post within the Kitchens of the College. Parsley's skills were well known and admired within Cambridge. In the late 19th century the role of the College Cook or Head Chef was that of a small businessman. Not only did he work for the College but he did external trade within the college kitchens; basically he ran a catering business from within the College.

Letter of reference for Parsley from FD George, Royal Confectioner, 1889

Letter of reference from SJC Head Cook, E Cash to the Bursar of King's College

Letter of reference from SJC Head Cook, E Cash to the Bursar of King's College

Letter of reference from FD George, confectioner to the Royal Family

Letter of reference from FD George, confectioner to the Royal Family

Page from GW Parsley's Royal Book of Confectionary

Page from GW Parsley's Royal Book of Confectionary

Page from GW Parsley's Royal Book of Confectionary

Page from GW Parsley's Royal Book of Confectionary

Clifton Lionel Davy

Clifton Lionel Davy: Military Cross 1916

 Military Cross 1916 

Clifton Lionel Davy, was born 7 April 1895 in Darefield, Yorkshire. He was educated at Wesley College and Sligo Grammar School before coming up to St John's in 1914. Davy's tutor was EE Sikes; whose notebook is below.

Although Davy was not much of a scholar, he proved himself on the battlefield. After completing only one term at St John's, Davy signed up with the West Yorkshire Regiment in December 1914. Initially awarded the rank of Second Lieutenant, Davy moved up to a Captain in the Machine Gun Corps. 

He was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel fire on 21 July 1916. Davy went to the dressing station where medical staff removed a large number of splinters from the wound. Once patched up, Davy returned to his command on the battlefield; where according to contemporary reports, 'he did fine work.' Davy was wounded a second time in on 21 Aug 1916 and was repatriated back to the UK to complete his service at Home. 

Davy returned to St John's in January 1918 to take the Theology Special I tripos in June of that year. He had rooms in First Court for the Lent to Easter Term 1919.

EE Sikes' notebook

David James Scott

Until David Scott's death in 1861, the College employed two cooks as part of a large and relatively unruly body of catering staff.  During this mid-century period Owen J. Jones held the position of College Cook and Scott worked alongside him as the Scholars' or Junior Cook.

The Junior Bursar's accounts in the College Archives (there were three stand-out Junior Bursars in Scott's time: Basil Williams, 1850-4, Simeon Hiley, 1854-60, and Churchill Babington, 1860-70) contain numerous records of Scott's activity as a Scholars' Cook.  The bill photographed below is from Pyor & Son, a coppersmith and brazier carrying out various jobs for the College.  Kitchen work is separated between Owen J. Jones and David Scott and signed off by each.  This section of the bill is headed 'For Mr Scott' and includes fees for a 'Large Tin Pan for Potatoes' and for 'Mending Cullender & Tin Cover'.  Scott signs off numerous supplies to the kitchens: grocery bills are typically split between 'Jones's' and 'Scott's' larders.

'For Mr Scott': Pryor & Son kitchen repair bill 1849

The College had a long tradition of income supplements for domestic staff through various perquisites and charges from undergraduates.  It was even rumoured that the St John's College Cook raked in so much from the students demands for extravagant private meals that he offered to loan Trinity College £60,000 towards the building of Whewell's Court (SJC: A History, 267).

As Malcolm Underwood notes in The Eagle (LXXII, 1990):

In St John's at various times between 1769 and 1880 this scheme of management came under a critical scrutiny which resulted in far-reaching changes to wages and service.  The pioneer in criticism and reform was William Samuel Powell, master 1765-75, who also began the systematic classification and recording of students' performance in their college exams' (10).

In relation to the kitchens in particular, the College Archives hold a 'Report of Income in College Levants' (drawn up in the early-mid 1850s), which rather bluntly states: 'The service of the Hall and Kitchen as at present conducted appears to us to be extravagantly expensive and at the same time not efficient or satisfactory' (5).  Indeed, a committee on service was appointed in 1854 to look into these issues. The committee's report explicitly 'criticised the service of the scholars' cook, which involved a whole sub-staff of foreman, account-keeper, and housekeeper...' (Underwood, 14). 

Another Committee Report held in the College archives discusses the details of abolishing the post of Scholars' Cook. The report is dated 1858, which indicates that perhaps David Scott's health was in decline at the time and they were assuming the post would come to a natural end.  Indeed, as early as 1854, Scott's son, Henry Shippey Scott, appears as signatory for Junior Bursar receipts, and also signs for his father after his death in 1861.  Henry S. Scott is also listed as 'cook' at the College in the 1851 and 1861 census', perhaps taking on the workload of his ageing father but presumably not continuing for long after the post was discontinued.


Mince pies etc.:  receipt from Junior Bursar 1848-9                                     


Further reading:

Peter Linehan ed. St John's College: A History, 257-74.

Malcolm Underwood, 'Service and Nineteenth Century Critics in St John's', The Eagle LXXII (1990), 9-19.

Philip Malcolm Shaw

Philip Malcolm Shaw (1921-2003)

P.M. Shaw (on the right) with his son Nicholas Shaw (matric. 1979, Medicine) at his graduation.

Born in Huddersfield and educated at Royds Hall Grammar School and Manchester Grammar School, Philip Shaw eventually came up to College with an exhibition of around £50. He matriculated in 1939 and successfully completed his B.A. in Natural Sciences in 1942. After Cambridge Shaw worked in the chemical industry at Grangemouth during the war and then did a Masters at University College London. His career as a chemical engineer progressed to becoming the managing director of William Blythe & Co Ltd and eventually the director of Hickson & Welch (Holdings) Ltd. His son, Nicholas Shaw, also became a Johnian in 1972 when he came up to Cambridge to read Medicine. When Shaw retired he lived in the Lake District but always enjoyed annual trips down south to play in the Johnian golf days. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 81.

In the Archives Centre there is a film shot by Shaw whilst at St John's, in which we see the lighter side of College life. Despite his time at St John's coinciding with the outbreak of war, the sense of there still being time for leisure is evident. The film consists of various home movie scenes alternating from black and white to colour; a narration by Shaw himself was put on later. These images range from sunny trips to Grantchester and Babraham, sporting events such as the 1941 Cuppers Final and tennis tournaments at Girton, to students climbing New Court Tower and ice skating in front of it. Most interesting, perhaps, is the footage of R.A.F. training in preparation for the war as well as the images of many of the lawns being dug up for the Dig for Victory Campaign. Subsequently we get an insight into not only what Cambridge looked like during this time, but how its students spent their days when they weren't studying.

William (Bill) Daish

William (Bill) Daish: Master Baker 1924 - 1947

Bill Daish in front of College bakehouse oven by Ken North (1930s)

The last College Master Baker was a Mr William (Bill) Daish. College records indicate that Daish joined the Kitchens in 1924. He was a member of staff for 23 years, retiring in February 1947.

 During the War Daish worked at a Matthews’ bakery in town.  The College bakehouse was finally closed in 1947, the whole building being let to tenants.

 The first College bake house was situated on the triangle site across the street from the Great Gate.   When the buildings were demolished to make way for a Divinity School on land sold to the University on 30 December 1876 a new bakery was built in the yard of 67 Bridge Street. College bread was baked here up to the early part of the Second World War.

Bill Daish in front of College bakehouse oven by Ken North (1930s)

Bill Daish in front of College bakehouse oven by Ken North (1930s)

Quarter earnings for Kitchen Staff (1939)

Quarter earnings for College Kitchen staff (1939)

Frank Samuel Herbert Kendon

Frank Samuel Herbert Kendon (1893-1959): poet

Frank Kendon was born at Bethany House, Kent on 12 September 1893. His father Samuel Kendon was schoolmaster of Bethany School, where Frank also worked as a teacher.

FSH Kendon (1893-1959)

Kendon served with the Royal Engineers in Egypt in World War I. He matriculated at St. John’s in 1921 where he studied English. His tutor was EA Benians; whose father had also been a schoolmaster at Bethany School.

Kendon’s time in Cambridge was a “period full of experiment and liveliness; especially in the field of literature” (Eagle [College magazine], No. 259).  His first book Poems and Sonnets was published in 1924. His autobiography The Small Years (1930) was Kendon’s most popular book.

He joined the staff of the University Press at Cambridge (CUP) in 1935. In 1948, Kendon was elected a Fellow and remained a member of the College’s fellowship until his death.

While working at CUP, he was commissioned to translate “The Thirty Six Psalms” for The New English Bible but Kendon died before he could finish this work.

In 1963 CUP published his distinctive and remarkable translations as literary memorial to Kendon.

Below are a collection of archive documents relating to Kendon's life at St John's and his poetry.

4-14 Kendon

Kendon's application for admission to St John's College in 1919.

Reference letter from WA Benians, Headmaster of Bethany School

Reference letter from WA Benians, Headmaster of Bethany School

EA Benians refers to Kendon's exceptional literary promise

EA Benians (later Master of St John's) refers to Kendon's exceptional literary promise

Cage & Wing by FSH Kendon (1947)

'Cage & Wing' by FSH Kendon (1947)

Each Silver Fly by FSH Kendon (1946)

'Each Silver Fly' by Kendon won the University's Seatonian Prize for poetry in 1945.


Frank Samuel Herbert Kendon (Wikipedia)

The Papers of Frank Samuel Herbert Kendon