Book review. Outstanding Seale-Haynians

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Author(s): Buller. Antony T; Year published: 2021; Origin: Member-contributed; Pages: 
Topic(s): education; Location(s): Newton Abbot

Harper, F. (Ed.). 2020. Outstanding Seale-Haynians. The Seale-Haynians Club, Short Run Press Limited, 144pp, hardback ISBN 9791527265882, £10.

This book is essentially a Who’s Who of distinguished alumni who graduated from Seale-Hayne Agricultural College from 1920 to its closure in 2005. The college was founded in accordance with the will of The Rt Hon. Charles Seale Hayne (1833-1903) who bequeathed £100,000 for the establishment of a “college for agricultural and technical education in the immediate neighbourhood of Newton Abbot”.

Work started on the building in 1912, but the first students did not arrive until 1920 because of delays due to WWI. The college flourished as an independent body through the mid- to late-1980s and gained an enviable national reputation. Then in 1989 it merged with Plymouth Polytechnic, which in 1992 became the new University of Plymouth. Its demise came in 2005 to the regret of many, following the university’s pronouncement in 2002 that all activities would henceforth be transferred to Plymouth. In 2009, the site was acquired by the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust and in 2019 it was bought by European Land Limited. The front and back covers of the book are emblazoned with colour photographs of the impressive college building.

The opening sections briefly cover the history of the college, the methodology used in the challenging task of selecting appropriate candidates for inclusion, and the lives of its two most prominent figures: Charles Seale Hayne, as mentioned above, and Viscount Lambert, who was involved in the development of Seale-Hayne from 1903 until his death in 1958. The gathering of information and the rigorous selection of suitable entries was undertaken by the editor, supported by a small committee, all of whom were determined to be strictly objective and to avoid bias. In the end, twenty- nine outstanding Seale-Haynians were chosen, together with those who had been awarded honorary degrees by the University of Plymouth (at awards ceremonies of the Seale-Hayne Faculty): eight Masters of Science, one Doctor of Arts and eleven Doctors of Science. Each entry is presented in a standardised format, including a photograph of the former student, their qualifications, and a biography – sometimes up to five printed pages long – summarising their careers and achievements. The entries are arranged alphabetically according to surnames or titles.

The book closes with a section entitled ‘The People and the Legacy’. This contains an analysis of some common characteristics of the chosen entries and the diversity of subject areas and activities in which they have made their names. The establishment of the Seale-Hayne Educational Trust is also covered, as well as a biography of the editor, Dr (formerly Professor) Fred Harper – the last Principal and first Dean*.

A work of this kind should first and foremost be of considerable interest to former Seale-Haynians, twelve thousand of whom are thought to have attended the college during its varied history. Non-Seale-Haynians engaged in agriculture and its allied industries may also find it of value, and other academic institutions may well consider publishing something of a similar nature. Although its plain layout using a large font is rather dull, it is nevertheless a very good buy at only £10 per copy.

*It is interesting to note that this book was published in 2020, the year in which Clare Broom – a former Dean of Faculty at the University of Plymouth’s Seale Hayne campus – became President of the Devonshire Association.

Antony T. Buller