Sir Fred Mander

From the Reeve* collection this study of  Sir Frederick Mander (1883 -1964) headmaster and trade unionist and the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) from 1931 to 1947. He was an important figure in British educational history but there is no photo of him available. He may be in this photo of members of the National Association of Head Teachers taken in Leamington Spa in the 1950s. Teachers are not movie stars and most searches bring up a British moustachioed character actor called Miles Mander who was born in 1884…Reeve is good on detail, especially speaking style - it is useful to know that occasionally Sir Fred 'murmured at the end of a sentence.'


The late Sir Fred Mander was at one time a highly successful headmaster in Luton. During that period of his life he was popular with children, staff and parents; the school was throbbing with life and happiness, and when he resigned to labour in a wider sphere, Luton lost a splendid headmaster, although he still continued to exert a great influence in other branches of life in his own town.
  When he began to take an active part as an executive member of the National Union of Teachers, even members usually slow to respond to a new influence soon realized that a rare personality was among the leaders. It was not very long before he became Vice-President of the N.U.T., and on the day when, at a Margate Annual Conference he delivered his presidential address, he had a nice, in fact sensational, surprise for the delegates. Not for him a bent head in a sheaf of typescript. He paid his great Union the compliment of memorizing his virile speech and had the obvious pleasure of addressing the most rapt audience in the history of the Union. Incidentally, when during the week the members were sitting for the annual photograph Mander exhibited a typical action. He asked a few delegates near him to make room for his Luton associates. "I should like them near me; they put me where I am."
  It frequently happens that the sensational beginner is unable to sustain his early reputation, and in many instances gradually loses grip on his associates. Fred Mander, like F. E. Smith, however, always maintained his initial influence, and on later occasions he faced at least two situations which were far more difficult to meet than that of the presidential address.
  At the next conference, held at Cambridge under W. H. Hill, B. Sc., an extremely intellectual man, a certain innocuous-looking resolution was under discussion. Some of our shrewd speakers in favour were getting along very nicely, although there were faint murmurs that there was a political element in • the wording and some of us began to fear that a nasty little policy would be introduced into our nonpolitical union. Up rose Mander, and gave a flawless performance speaking against any suspicion of politics, and the motion was lost – in my view due to one man alone.
  But it was, I believe, the following year at Bournemouth, when he perhaps fought the toughest platform battle of his life, and very rare indeed is the man who could equal such a victory. Certainly, neither before nor since, have I witnessed such an oratorial triumph. Mander stood up to propose a motion which many impassioned delegates, knowing the proposer's magic, were determined should not be heard. Four or five times he attempted to develop his case. Each time the yells were louder and it was impossible to hear one word. Still standing on the edge of the platform Mander suddenly laughed. Conference laughed. Before the laughter had died down thoroughly the proposer jumped into his speech and, within ten minutes, everyone knew that the resolution would be carried, for everyone knew that when hard pertinent facts presented by a spell-binder, are heard by more than a thousand educated people there is little hope for less able speakers to be convincing on a weak argument. I never expect to see such an amazing oratorial spectacle again, and although I am aware of a touch of flamboyance (acknowledged by the man himself) and one or two human faults, I can never hope that the National Union of Teachers will ever be privileged to select so great a general secretary in the future.
  I am rather uncertain about his career after he retired from his triumphant secretarial office, but I have been informed that he has been Chairman of the Bedford County Council. Bedfordshire will find it hard to choose a greater successor. Even the strong-willed Colonel Mander once spoke, at a dinner in Croydon, of his "illustrious" brother. The adjective was well-deserved among teachers.
  I believe it is true that one of the finest gestures Mander ever made was a negative one. I am told that after his retirement he encouraged his successor to develop in his new office without the frequent embarrassing appearance of his predecessor at Hamilton House and on important occasions. He wouldn't have been human if he had not felt a desire at Easter to experience again the fascination of a conference which rarely failed to produce some thrilling moments; and I am sure his able successor, Sir Ronald Gould, felt freer to undertake his conference duties without the presence of a remarkable predecessor. We all know the retired professionals who return with sickening persistence to their old haunts and are either a bore or a public nuisance. In spite of the fact that I myself have been guilty at times of a return to my old professional environment, I am aware that it is a custom unworthy of emulation. I have heard that it was once suggested to Sir Fred Mander, M.A., that he should contest a seat as a Liberal in a precarious constituency. Leaders of the Liberal Party made a blunder when they ignored the potential value of his services and neglected to offer him a safe constituency.
 Oh yes, his appearance? Tall, thin, athletic, boyish. Irresistible company and an infectious laugh. His voice? Penetrating, every word audible, except that very occasionally he murmured at the end of a sentence.

* Found among  the papers of the long defunct literary agency Michael Hayes of Cromwell Road S.W.5  - parts of a manuscript memoir by one L.R. Reeve of Newton Abbot, South Devon. Mr Reeve was attempting to get the book (Among those Present: Very Exceptional People) published, but on the evidence of the unused stamp Hayes never replied and  L. R. Reeve published the book himself through the esteemed vanity publisher Stockwell two years later in 1974.

L R Reeve had, in a long life, met or observed a remarkable selection of famous persons. He  presents 'vignettes' of 110 persons from all grades of society (many minor or even unknown) they include Winston Churchill, Dorothy Sayers,  H H Asquith, John Buchan, the cricketer Jack Hobbs, J.B. Priestley, H.G. Wells, Marconi, E.M. Forster, Duchess of Atholl, Marie Stopes, Oliver Lodge and Cecil Sharp -- 'it is unnecessary to explain that  many I have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me." Reeve states that the unifying qualification all these people have is '… some subtle emanation of personality we call leadership, and which can inspire people to actions  unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted by a stronger will."

Reeve was a teacher throughout his life and deputy head of 3 London schools, headmaster of Loughborough emergency schools, ex-president of London Class Teachers Association  and very early member of the British Psychological Society (55 years)... I calculate he was probably born in about 1900. His style is markedly unexciting but he has much information unavailable elsewhere.. He sent several typed manuscripts to (from the smell) the chain-smoking agent Hayes… 

One thought on “Sir Fred Mander

  1. Dave Watler

    I’m a distant relative of Sir Fred (1st Cousin Twice Removed). I have some photos of him from newspaper cuttings which include phostographs, if you are interested please let me know.


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