Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Granny Gow, aka Wog

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, "Gow, Andrew Sydenham Farrar (1886–1978), classical scholar," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
He applied four times for permanent posts in Cambridge, but was each time unsuccessful; it was feared that he would alarm and discourage his pupils, particularly the weaker sort. Indeed Gow's appearance was formidable, an uncompromisingly Scottish kind of countenance being set off by bushy eyebrows and side-whiskers, and anything like conceit or pretentiousness on the part of a pupil might provoke a wounding sarcasm. In 1914 he became a master at Eton College, where he remained during the First World War, a heart murmur having disqualified him for military service. Some pupils were indeed alienated by his dryness and his caustic wit; his frequent comment on an exercise shown up to him was 'Oh, death, boy!', and his highest expression of praise was 'Not wholly bad!' But some of the boys appreciated his solid scholarship and the great pains he took to help them, and the nickname Granny Gow was bestowed upon him not without affection.
Some of Gow's pupils at Eton (including Eric Blair, later to adopt the pseudonym George Orwell) apparently also called him "Wog." This crude poem by Blair pokes fun at Gow's facial hair, his habit of sitting down carefully, and his interest in art:
Then up waddled Wog and he squeaked in Greek:
'I’ve grown another hair on my cheek.'
Crace replied in Latin with his toadlike smile:
'And I hope you’ve grown a lovely new pile.
With a loud deep fart from the bottom of my heart!
How d’you like Venetian art?'
The Complete Works of George Orwell, Vol. 10: A Kind of Compulsion, 1903-1936 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1998), p. 52.

Before and during his tenure at Eton, Gow's publications included:
Eventually Gow escaped from Eton and returned to Cambridge, first as teaching fellow of Trinity, later as tutor, and finally as Brereton reader in classics. Here is a photograph:

I haven't seen F.H. Sandbach, "Andrew Sydenham Farrar Gow, 1886–1978," Proceedings of the British Academy 64 (1978) 427–441

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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