Plaque erected 7 July 2018 at St Peter’s School, Clifton, York YO30 6AB
A long-serving master at St Peter’s School, York, George Russell was also a noted alpine climber and hybridiser of daylilies.
George Yeld was born in 1845 in Herefordshire. A pupil at Hereford Cathedral School where he was head boy, he continued his education at Brasenose College, Oxford. Here he was awarded the distinguished Newdigate Prize – previous winners being Tennyson, Southey and Matthew Arnold – for his poem “Virgil reading his Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia”. Matthew Arnold gave the public oration at the prize-giving ceremony.
After graduating from Oxford in 1867, George joined St Peter’s School in York as a schoolmaster. In 1874, he married Frances Ann Housefield (1847-1875) in Rotherham, Yorkshire but she died in 1875 along with the daughter born to her. In 1877, George married
Emily Elizabeth Adams (1852-1921), the niece of Professor John Couch Adams, astronomer, and sister of the Revd Thomas Adams, mathematics master at St Peter’s. They had four sons who all attended the school. Another daughter died at birth. In 1878, George took over responsibility for the annual school play under the banner of the Royal School of St Peter, York, Dramatic Club. The performances, often Shakespeare, demonstrated a high level of competence. From 1880, George began the custom of writing a long epilogue in which past and present members of the school who had distinguished themselves were mentioned in verse.
He was completely dedicated to the school and respected and loved by the many students and staff who knew him during his 52 years in post. His golden jubilee at the school in 1918 included tributes to him by Dr Foxley Norris, Dean of York and Ernest Leetham JP. In his obituary in The Peterite in 1938, it was said that he never missed chapel or a cricket match and “had the punctilious and iron-bound sense of duty of the old Victorian schoolmaster”.
George was a noted alpine climber visiting the Alps most summers, climbing with his great friend the volcanologist, Dr Tempest-Anderson of York. He was elected to the Alpine Club in 1877, acted as vice-president in 1915 and was the longest serving editor of the Alpine Journal, sole editor from 1896-1919 and joint editor from 1919-26. He wrote numerous papers on the Alps and was a particular authority on the eastern Graians in the Western Alps pioneering new ascents with the help of local guides. He met famous alpine climbers and explorers at a time when knowledge and techniques were developing rapidly. He also took time to study alpine flora and make lists of plants on his climbs, his other serious hobby being plant breeding.
Pioneering daylily hybrids
At home in York, he was a noted hybridiser of the Hemerocallis (daylily). He
introduced new hybrids, winning awards from the Royal Horticultural Society
culminating in the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour in 1925. In 1923, he became the first president of the Iris Society. Some of his original daylily plants still grow in the garden of his former house which is now the music department on the campus of St Peter’s School.
Emily, his wife, died in 1921 aged 69 and is buried in York Cemetery. George retired to Orleton, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire and died, aged 93, on 2 April 1938.
Richard Drysdale (ed.), Over Ancient Ways, A Portrait of St. Peter’s School, York (London, 2007)
“1867-1917, Mr George Yeld’s Jubilee”, The Peterite, (March 1918) Vol.XXII, No.228, p.269
“Death of Mrs Yeld, York”, The Peterite, (March 1921), Vol.XXIII, No.237, p.55.
“George Yeld, MA, Obituary”, The Peterite (May 1938), Vol.XXX, No.288, p.8
“George Yeld, Obituary”, The Alpine Journal (November 1938), Vol.L, No.257, p.279
Royal Horticultural Society, Victoria Medal of Honour list 1897-1997
Further information on George Yeld can be found at the RHS Library at Wisley, visit www.rhs.org.uk
Images of George Yeld by kind permission of St Peter’s School, York.
© Pat Hill