Munro College Old Boys Association

Guy Lancaster Bruce Wiehen, OBE 

The Beginning

Mr. Wiehen came to Potsdam in 1915, armed with his BA Hons. (London), to teach French throughout the school as well as Senior Cambridge Religious Knowledge. The school was exceedingly tough. A donkey was once tied in a master’s office as a practical joke and sugar was put in the headmaster’s gas tank, to name only two pranks. He found great difficulty in maintaining discipline among the boys in the beginning of his forty-three-year stint. He had less difficulty walking from Munro to Mandeville and back in those days.

Of Munro and Marriage

He was appointed Second Master during the headmastership of A.G. “Sandy” Frazer (1938- 1946). By then he had overcome the shaky start and in 1937 had married Frances Sarah Cundall, daughter of historian Frank Cundall who among other things has done thorough research on the histories of Munro and Hampton. Mr. Wiehen had mastered both the “tough” students and the institution of marriage.

Let us hear Mr. Frazer on the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Wiehen: “When Mr. Wiehen first came to Munro as a young school master, he found difficulty in maintaining discipline.” How often that has been the early experience of the greatest school masters!……it is the idealist whose sole concern is to inculcate self-discipline who pays the price and suffers the humiliation of forbearance and gentleness being mistaken for lack of spirit and weakness. Ultimately “his victory was complete.” How complete? One night in the early 1950’s, a food strike having been planned by the boys, at dinner they chanted loudly “We want food!! We want food!! “The Master-on-duty spoke with the Matron and bread and hot milk were provided. About a year later, another strike was planned. Mr. Wiehen was on duty this time. When the chant of “We want food” began, Mr. Wiehen struck the table with his gavel and shouted, “you want nothing at all!!” The strike ended abruptly with his bang and the boy’s whimper.

A Home away from Home

Mr. and Mrs. Wiehen made their home in a house in a kind of hollow a few chains from Munro’s top gate. Without fuss or ostentation, it was a home saturated with beauty, music, poetry, literature, and the simple lives of two hardworking people who loved each other, their dogs and a horse. Having no children of their own, they made for many a shy or lonely Munro boy a home-away-from-home from which the boy would return to school refreshed and with confidence initiated or restored. If you wanted to gossip or to criticize others the house-in-the-hollow was not the place to go.

A Defining Character

Mr. Wiehen was a man of punctuality, and when he corrected the Arches clock each morning from the ten minutes per day it habitually lost, you could set your own watch by it at 7:50 a.m. In French class he could inform the class that they were even with, a day behind, or a day ahead of last year’s batch. Professor Mervyn Morris in “An Appreciation” reports that Mr. Wiehen would astonish a form by announcing that they were the only form for the last twenty years that had failed to make a particular mistake. As one got further up the school, Morris continues, one was struck not only by his methodical nature but by how “wonderfully human the man was”. He remembers the gender of the word “silence” in French, for Mr. Wiehen said, “Le silence, masculine, masculine one thing a woman can’t keep!”

In administration, loyalty was his watchword. He was Second Master to Frazer and Ward between 1946 and 1954, and Roper from 1955 to 58. He never resisted change but was never the one to initiate change. He was offered the headmastership on a few occasions but never accepted, though he acted in the role on several occasions. Matron “Shottie” Wright bequeathed two things to Mr. Wiehen. She used to read to boys on a Sunday evening, and the Chapel was her brainchild. Mr. Wiehen read to boys every Sunday morning after Chapel. A favourite of his and indeed of successive generations of the boys was Jules Verne’s “Around the world in Eighty days.” One can appreciate his choice as it had in addition to adventure and action a dependency on timing, which was the rhythm of his own life.

Munro’s Organist

The chapel was consecrated in 1914 and in 1928 a pipe organ was purchased in England for the princely sum of £200. Mr. Wiehen was Munro’s organist from that time until his death. He played it seven days a week for Chapel services. Occasionally there was help from students, notably Paul Bicknell in the mid 1950’s. Mr. Wiehen also presided over voluntary Chapel two nights per week. He presided over Saturday morning singing practice and occasionally preached on a Sunday. Of his sermons, Professor Morris says “…. he presented his thoughts on a subject in careful dignified English. There was no flashiness in his sermons and no dullness either; they glowed with sincerity.” His prayers in Chapel were carefully selected and read. He did not surprise God with the extemporary or radical. Every Saturday morning, he read from his heart, “Grant that the friendships here formed may neither by sin be broken nor hereafter through worldly cares be forgotten.”

Do as I Do

Mr. Wiehen did not inject values; he encouraged osmosis, having set a good example himself. His nickname was “Binks,” and once a year there was a “Binks Night” and many boys came to dinner in khaki shorts, a pillow for a paunch, hair powdered grey and parted in the middle, bespectacled, gesticulating, and commanding, “Clean the board!! Clean the board!!” Love and respect underlined the buffoonery.

Well Respected

In 1956 Munro’s centenary year, Mr. Wiehen was honoured with the OBE (Order of the British Empire) and he and Mrs. Wiehen went to London and were presented to the Queen. In that year the Old Boys presented him with a portrait of himself by Lydia de Burgh. As Mervyn Morris describes it, “…the portrait has painted the man’s character; the head held high in self-respect and honesty, the strength, the stolidity, the firmness of purpose. He is looking out ahead.” Morris also speaks of his excellent relations with Old Boys and his prompt reply to all letters written to him.

In the Chapel he is remembered by a stained-glass window depicting “The Good Samaritan.” Frazer hailed Mr. and Mrs. Wiehen as “…a truly happy couple a shining example of the truth that happiness is not a prize to be sought and found but is God’s gift to those who forget themselves entirely in the service of others…”

For the afore mentioned reasons and more Mr. Guy Wiehen has been proudly inducted into the Munro Old Boy’s Association Hall of Fame.

Posted on: June 3rd, 2021