Sally Gilbert: MTS Archivist 2013 - 2020

Simon Everson, Richard Brooman, David Ellis and Sally Gilbert at the dedication of the memorial stone to J C Barrett, VC in September 2018.

Back in 2013, following the retirement of the late Geoffrey Brown, Steven Wright took the wise decision to appoint a trained archivist to bring some order to the extensive collection of material that resided alongside the Goad Library in the old Classics Office. Sally Gilbert was appointed on the rather paltry rate of one day a week, which must have seemed very daunting when she walked into the rather chaotic room. She made her mark immediately, asking for the old green carpet to be removed and the restoration of the wonderful parquet floor that it obscured. This set the tone for Sally’s tenure, re-discovering the treasures of the School and bringing order to them so that they are available for all generations. An early example of her work was the restoration of the Gallipoli Flag – said to be from HMS Rattlesnake, the last ship to leave the peninsula in 1916, found on the floor of the CCF block, pinned to the back of a school blackboard. The flag was carefully restored by professionals and now sits in the Great Hall lobby, beautifully framed and lit.

It was clear that one day a week was never going to be enough and Sally departed for a year in Abu Dhabi and a family relocation before returning in 2015. With the centenary of the Great War in full swing, Simon Everson expanded the role to three days a week and the work of the Archive took off. The first major project was to liaise with the Development Office in order to fund the digitisation of the Taylorian. This is now available to all members of the Taylors’ community and OMT’s can access it online here.

Numerous projects followed, including the restoration of the Monitors’ Tables for display around the School and the recruiting of volunteers from OMTs and parents who supported Sally in her work. The accommodation of the Archive was overhauled, and proper shelving installed to enable the extensive collection to be boxed and the process of systematic cataloguing begun. There remains much work to be done here and this is also true for the mammoth task of digitising the Everitt Collection of team photographs – donated to the School by photographer John Everitt after his retirement as a result of Sally’s patient and sensitive negotiation.

Exhibitions became a feature of Sally’s work, a particular favourite being the cartoons drawn by John Brown (1933-38). He led an unremarkable career at MTS aside from one particular talent – as a cartoonist and writer who left drawings, a magazine and a mock trail. He gave himself the pseudonym “BORJ” and his legacy of creativity provides a cheerful insight to his life as a student and in the army.

image: Cartoon by OMT John Brown (1933-38)

Inevitably Sally’s time at the School was dominated by the Great War commemorations and she threw herself into this project, helping with numerous ceremonies such as the centenary of the Somme, the commemorations of JG Will and John Raphael and the research into the medals won by OMTs as well as the ‘Every One Remembered’ week which saw individual memorials to all OMTs in the war list commemorated in the Inner Quad.

Sally forged strong links with the OMT Society and the Development Office – the funding of the Everitt Collection project is an example of this.

image: Everyone Remembered November 2018


She attended events such as the Afternoon Tea hosted at the School and forged a strong partnership with OMT Society archivist Jeremy Birch. Together they have worked on rationalising the Society archive so that material relating to the school is now mostly housed in the School archive and the OMT material is now housed in new accommodation in the EH Carr History building (the old DT block) as well as the Library of the War Memorial Clubhouse.

In March 2020, Sally decided to pursue a freelance career whilst supporting her family. Before she left, she initiated the OMT Archive Newsletter but was unable to complete the first edition before lockdown ensued in March. The School owes her a tremendous debt and there is no question that her work has ensured that the Archive will be at the heart of the Merchant Taylors’ community for generations to come.


Return to Archive Homepage