Sir Robert Stawell Ball was born in Dublin on 1st July 1840. His mother was English and employed only English nurses and governesses in an attempt to rid her children of an Irish accent.
To this end, in 1851 his parents sent him to school in England at "a little village named Tarvin ". The school was housed in the present Tarvin Hall where the headmaster was The Rev Dr John Brindley. He ran a very successful and flourishing school of a hundred boys. His education regime was based upon "liberal" principles and he employed good assistants, who were mostly "Cambridge men".
Sir Robert recalls a school visit to the Great Exhibition of 1851, where the highlight was seeing "a stately figure on horseback. I saw the great Duke of Wellington himself".
It is clear from Sir Robert's observations that Dr Brindley was a larger-than-life character who courted controversy.
Such an incident is recorded by Sir Robert in 1852 at Tarvin Hall.
Most of the buildings housing the school had been put up by Dr Brindley at his own expense, although he only had a short lease on the premises.
When that lease expired in 1852, it was clear that "Brindley had enormously enhanced the value of the property by the expenditure of thousands of pounds in building".
The landlord, naturally, wished to raise the rent, with "no talk of compensation for tenant's improvements".
Brindley was furious and vowed "he would not leave a single stone of the buildings which he himself had put up".
True to his word, he rallied every able bodied villager from Tarvin, who turned up armed with "various implements of destruction". Billy Astbury, Brindley's "chief henchman" and Brindley himself supervised the demolition. "It was by means such as this that Tarvin Hall became a ruin and our days at the establishment were ended".
The school relocated to Abbott's Grange on the outskirts of Chester, where Sir Robert spent a further five years.
Sir Robert visited Tarvin on several occasions for "the sake of my recollections of the school". On one such visit to the church, he encountered an elderly gentleman who had been the local doctor. In conversation, Sir Robert recalled an epidemic of scarlatina at the school and paid tribute to the skill of the doctor, who had only one fatality among the sixty affected boys. Unfortunately, that one child was Dr Brindley's son.
In 1874 Sir Robert was appointed Royal Astronomer of Ireland and Andrews Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin at Dunsink Observatory.
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