Firstly, I’d like to say that I was blown away at our Open Evening last night by the enthusiasm and sheer thirst for knowledge shown by our young visitors. I can see that our next Year 7 cohort is going to be amazing and they do have a tough act to follow as our current Year 7 are great students.
Last week, I gave assemblies to each year group on the subject of local ancestor, Edward Watkin. Watkin is a fantastic example of someone whose ingenuity and tenacity saw him live a life that marked him out – breaking from his peloton, to use a metaphor that students of the Academy are familiar with.
Born 200 years ago just two miles up the road in Northenden, Watkins’ father was a supporter of working class rights, who was instrumental in the repeal of the dreadful Corn Laws that brought so much hardship to working class people. Watkin himself would go on to effect positive change for the masses, such as green spaces and public parks in urban areas.
A man ahead of his time, Watkin engineered the first high-speed rail link into London. He was commissioned to build a channel tunnel, which progressed several miles, until the government suddenly realised that a tunnel might open the way for a French invasion, and called the project off.
Undeterred, Watkin designed another great engineering feat, a tower that was to be significantly taller than the Eiffel to be situated in Wembley Park. Again, building started, but the project ran out of money and was eventually pulled down, making way for Wembley Stadium.
Watkin has a mansion built in Northenden, where he entertained the greats of his day, including Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and author Charles Dickens.
I hope that sharing Watkin’s story will help my students to appreciate that anyone can achieve great things with perseverance. It is amazing to think that a man who achieved so much lived just minutes from the Academy.