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The Enforced Retirement of Timothy Morgan-Owen as an HMI

This article explains how Robert Morant procured the removal of Timothy Morgan-Owen as an HMI. Morant had been a member of a research unit reporting to the Privy Council on Education and had then joined the Board of Education, where his rise had been rapid. The following memorandum was sent just after the presidency of the Board had passed from Timothy’s friend, the 8th Duke of Devonshire, to Lord Londonderry and just weeks before Morant would become the Board's Permanent Secretary. Morant had been responsible for some of the new ideas in the Education Act 1902 and he was eager to ensure the Board effectively implemented them.

Memorandum dated 16 February 1903 from Robert Morant to President of Board of Education

Public Records Office: ED 23/424 Age of retirement: Sir R. Morant's proposals for purging Inspectorate of elderly, inefficient members 1890-1933

The memorandum began by drawing attention to changes introduced by the 1902 Education act with regard to inspectors and went on:

To inspectors young enough, and zealous enough, and sufficiently alive to the great possibilities of the new system, such freedom would be a magnificent opportunity; but to older men of 60, 62, and even 63 and 64, who have been many of them upwards of 30 years doing the same thing in the same way, the new opportunities can mean nothing. The ingrained habits of many years cannot be altered; nor can we expect – however energetic and capable our new Chief Inspector, Mr. Jackson, may be – that these old stagers can possibly get into step with the requisite new pace and new style.
Morant made out his case for,
the desirability (in my view) of not keeping on a day longer than is necessary any of the really incompetent or incurably inefficient of the Inspectors who are well over the age limit of 60 – the age at which any officer of the civil service is liable to be retired on pension.

He then cites several cases:

Mr. Danby … is usually quite somnolent at Inspectors' meetings and ...has been 33 years in the service, doing the same thing in the same way and always ineffectively, without energy...frequently absent. He adds: He is rich, has a wealthy wife, and only one grown up daughter! [i.e. he is expendable!]

Mr Aldiss was ...notorious as a fool...inconceivably futile and worse than useless.

Mr. Ley … has been nominally 'inspecting' for twenty-seven years without a break in the placid seclusion of Maidstone and Rochester, where he has of course sunk into a rut so deep that he will never see over the edge nor be able to do anything definite either in this rut or in any other rut.

The attack that then followed on Timothy Morgan-Owen was just as vitriolic if not more so:

Mr. T. Morgan-Owen is not yet 58, and therefore special steps would have to be taken in order to get rid of him. But such steps would be eminently justifiable. He is so "impossible" a man that it is a constant problem to know where on earth to put him, to prevent perpetual disturbances with managers or school boards. He is wholly without breeding or feelings, has been tried in one place after another with the same disastrous results. If ever a case needed and justified drastic treatment in the public interest and would be hailed with satisfaction by everyone but the man himself, it is this case.
He has repeatedly proved himself to be really harmful to the service. His retirement this day twelve months hence, on pension, would be a simple act of justice to the public purse and the public service. He ought never to have been brought into the service.

[NB This picture of Timothy contrasts with that created by, for example, the school log of Adwy Coedpoeth British School.]

Morant went on to mention two more HMIs; he did concede that both were very clever but they should be given notice on "general grounds".

He claimed that his opinions were vented purely for the good of the service and he added a postscript, dated 22 March 1903, to the effect that he had met some of those he had cited (no mention of Timothy) and the meeting had only confirmed his opinions.

[Note that this was part of an attempt to lower the age of retirement, an issue that would rumble on for several years.]

Robin Betts in his paper Robert Morant and the Purging of Inspectorate, 1903, (Journal of Educational Administration and History, vol 20, no.1, 1988, pp 54-59 states that, Within a matter of months …. Morgan Owen had retired, at the age of 58 years and 5 months, through, the records state, ill-health. (Source: Dept. of Education and Science, Departmental Records Office, HMI Records.) However the papers in the PRO file provide a list, dated 23 May 1911, of ten names, four of which were to be brought up next time we consider retirements in a block. (Appended in red ink is, Noted for 15 December 1911.); one of the four was Timothy, date of retirement and date of completing forty years’ service both given as 6 December 1911.

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