A Happy Belfast Man: The Life and Witness of Arnold Marsh, 1890-1977

By: Arnold Marsh

Publication Date: 9 November 2023



Arnold Marsh, son of Belfast tin-factory owner born in 1890, is best remembered as an educationist and headmaster of Newtown Quaker School in Waterford, Ireland. His life also saw him travel widely, leaving Canada to work in a gold mine in Northern Ontario,
on railway construction in British Columbia, and in a lumber camp in Alaska where he met Scandinavians, Chinese and Japanese, Russians and a Finn who learned language after language so that he could read different versions of the Bible. There he encountered
the racism experienced by native Alaskans treated as foreigners in their own country.

In 1917, once war was declared in the United States, Marsh sailed from Alaska to California where he played an extra in the Douglas Fairbanks movie A Modern Musketeer. He was eventually ‘inducted’ into the US Army at Camp Lewis, Washington, and was sent to France to join the front line beset by Spanish Flu. After peace was
declared, Marsh returned to Ireland where he cycled 1200 miles around Ireland on a ‘Grand Tour’.

Returning to his first love, education, he got a job in the Friends School, Lisburn, becoming headmaster in 1926. At that time, he observed that Irish Protestants were pessimistic about their future, many sending their children to English schools. Numbers
at Newtown had fallen to twenty pupils and the buildings were dilapidated. In sympathy with the new post-1916 independent Ireland, Marsh took immediate steps to improve the school’s conditions, and during his tenure, numbers grew to 300–400 pupils.

His fresh ideas about multi-denominational education took inspiration from his own schooldays at Sidcot in England: ‘The masters were our friends. We could look up to them and enjoy their company. … I got a great deal out of being away for those
years, doing other work and getting to know other people. With my students I discussed the whole social system, trying to get people to think things out afresh.’ He married the distinguished portrait painter Hilda Roberts and they, with their daughter Eithne, settled
at the foot of the Dublin mountains in Woodtown Park during the late 1930s, building a community of like-minded tenants and idealists drawn from all over Europe.

In his later years, he was inspired to write his memoir, illustrated with postcards, letters and photographs describing his journeys and adventures in North America, and his experiences as a headmaster. In 1976, a year before his death aged eighty-six, he was still splitting and sawing logs for the fire, recalling his early career as a lumberjack in Alaska those fateful years ago.



Arnold Marsh (1890-1977) was an Irish Quaker educator and former principal of Newtown School Waterford and subsequently Drogheda Grammar School.

Weight 0.500 kg
Dimensions 234 × 156 mm

Paperback w/ Flaps



Publication Date

9 November 2023