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The Old Boys' Network: John Rae's Diaries 1970-1986

John Rae was one of the most charismatic and controversial figures in British education. His reputation as a great reformer was forged during his 16 years as headmaster of Westminster School, in the 1970s and early 1980s. And his candid account of that turbulent period – recorded at the time in handwritten diaries – seems as fresh and relevant today as it was back then.

The diaries, which he finished editing just before he died aged 75 in 2006, chart his struggle to keep out illegal drugs and the impact of family breakdown on pupils. Devious, rank-pulling parents are humorously dispatched.

Outspoken and humane, Rae believed in the right of parents to educate their children privately, but he was also a sharp critic of the public school establishment. “Say what you believe and head up high” was his life-long personal code – the spirit of which is captured in this often shocking and unputdownable book.


“These diaries reveal beneath the serious public persona of John Rae a schoolmaster who got a lot of fun from the antics and the wit of his boys... an enjoyable read.”

The Spectator

“Rae 's writing is fresh, droll and poignant and the energy he displays here is prodigious.”

Daily Telegraph


Evening Standard

“His diary, covering well over a decade of his tenure as the headmaster of one of Britain's oldest and most elitist public (private) schools, tells the reader much about the English class system. For anyone wanting to understand how English upper class privilege was shaped and how it began its descent into irrelevance, this book will be an excellent introduction.”

Abraham Peck - Reviewer

“It’s fascinating, as an outsider to British schools, to read about the class structure found within their schools. I am ever so glad John Rae's Diaries were published!”

Catherine Hankins (Reviewer)

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