Have you ever considered where Yorkshire RFU’s motto, ‘Fortiter et recte’, came from?
In the early 1920s, Yorkshire RFU approached Walter Robinson, the headmaster of Prince Henry’s Grammar School Otley, with the brief to select a Latin motto that not only concerned the game of rugby football but also of life itself. “I naturally selected ‘fortiter’ because that is our school motto and ‘recte’ because it typifies the great spirit of Rugby’.
The motto translates as “Have courage and run straight, although other translations exist.
Stephen Clarkson, Assistant Headteacher of the school explains, “Whilst Fortiter ‘Have courage’ may have been the school motto at some point it is more widely recognised as the school song, lyrics below. I can understand how this can be transferred/ was selected for adoption by the rugby team.”
Prince founded school whose honoured age
Touches a far historic page,
Once more thy spirit deeply known,
Moves us, whose hearts are richly sown.
To sing of fields of work and play,
Where we can ever win the day,
If fortiter runs through our soul,
To make us one inspired whole.
What though the task be hard to do,
With courage we will see it through,
What though the race be hard to run,
With courage we will see it done.
For “Fortiter” shall urge us on,
Until the glorious goal be won.
In days of stress, in days of strain,
In work of hand, in work of brain,
In School-year full of duty’s call,
Thy “fortiter” inspire us all,
To ever strive towards the Light
To seek the cause of Truth and Right,
So that each life may be through thee
A great consummate Victory.
And when we join that larger world,
Where stern life’s flag shall be unfurled,
Thy spirit, burning in us still,
Shall make us toil with gladsome will;
And in that game we must play there,
We cannot err, we cannot err –
For “fortiter” shall be our shield
‘Gainst which all doubt and fear must yield.
Walter Robinson was educated at Doncaster Grammar School and the University of Liverpool where he graduated with a B.A degree with honours in Classics in 1902 and an M.A in 1904.
His first appointment was as an assistant master at Normanton Grammar School before spending 12 years as senior classical and history master at Ilkley Grammar School.
He was appointed Headmaster (out of 105 applicants) of Prince Henry’s Grammar School, upon its revival after the end of the First World War. He was to die in service, aged 56, in December 1936, after catching influenza which developed into pneumonia. He had overseen an era of growth and the building of a new school to house the 420 pupils studying at the time of his death.
He was also President of Old Otliensians, the rugby club of the Old Boys of the school.
With thanks to Stephen Clarkson, Assistant Head teacher – Learning Facilitator, of Prince Henry’s Grammar School for his assistance with this article.