A school of many traditions, Derby Academy has been the focus of two different books, one by Ted Roscoe published in 1984 and one by Jay Sadlon published in 2010. Each book brings to life some of the traditions that are part of Derby as well as much of the history that is associated with Derby. For many years, a “tradition” at Derby Day Exercises was the singing of the hymn Jerusalem. It has not been sung for the past few years, but this will be part of our Derby Day program on June 11. I asked Mike Connelly, retired (and legendary!) Latin and English teacher who has returned to campus this spring, if he would do some research on the why of singing Jerusalem at Derby. Many schools have this hymn as part of their commencement ceremonies, but why does Derby?
What follows is from Mike; you may be surprised at what you read!
In 1940, during World War II, the air force of Nazi Germany ran intense bombing raids against London and other important cities in England. This was called the Blitzkrieg. Thirteen young English girls and boys, some orphans and all refugees, escaped the violence and came here to Hingham to wait out the war in safety. They were put up in the homes of several local families, and they all attended Derby Academy. At the Derby Day ceremonies in 1941, the Derby community joined in singing the popular English hymn, Jerusalem, in solidarity with those English students we had welcomed and befriended. Jerusalem became a part of Derby Day tradition up until only a few years ago.
Today, 75 years after the English children came to Derby, we continue to reach out and welcome the people of the world to our campus. We Skype with schools in Pakistan. We help raise money to improve living conditions in Malawi. We have supported Wounded Warriors, Fisher House and other organizations that honor our veterans. The words of “Jerusalem” remind us each year of our duty to love freedom and do everything we can to make the world a better place.
Through the years Derby has been a special place in many ways and for many people. “Do special” has been a theme since last September. It unknowingly blended well with decisions made back in 1941 to do something special for these young students from England.