Sir Alexander Harris KCMG, CB, CVO
Much is written about the role Sir Alexander’s two sons Stanley (SSH) and Dick or ‘Harry’ Harris (WBH) in the Saint Ronan’s story that the part their father played can become overlooked.
Born Charles Alexander Harris on the 28th June 1855, he was educated at Richmond School in Yorkshire (Head Boy) and Christ’s College, Cambridge (1st in Classics) and qualified for the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. He entered the Colonial Office in 1879 rising to become Governor of Newfoundland 1917-22. He was appointed Governor-General of Australia but turned it down as his wife was too delicate to go out. He also had the distinction of being honoured by three monarchs: C.M.G. 1900 (Queen Victoria), C.B. 1904, (Edward VII), M.V.O. 1911, C.V.C. 1917, K.C.M.G. 1917 (George V). He retired in 1922 and died in 1947 at the grand old age of 91.
Despite his illustrious career he was not a wealthy man and he had to borrow the money to pay for SSH and WBH to go up to Cambridge. In 1909, the chance came for SSH to buy Saint Ronan’s from the Reverend Crick. At that stage the school was almost unknown and only had 35 pupils. SSH, aged just 28, struggled to raise the funds required. It was then that his father stepped in and pledged all that he had, including his life policies as security against a loan. It was a gamble as, to meet the loan repayments, the school roll would need to double within a few years. This act of faith was justified and the numbers did indeed quickly increase and the mortgage paid off over a number of years.
Saint Ronan’s was thus truly a family venture. Towards the end of his life, Sir Alexander came down to Hawkhurst and approved the new Saint Ronan’s before WBH settled on it in 1945. To the end he was as enthusiastic as ever about the School and its doings. When he was very ill, his daughter Armorel read him one of WBH’s last letters, he remarked ‘It doesn’t matter about the Ping-Pong so long as they won the boxing’.