Chaque année en été, je vais faire du camping avec ma famille dans le sud de la France. L’année dernière, nous avons décidé de faire du camping près de la ville Roquebrune-sur-Argens, qui se trouve à dix minutes de la Côte-D’Azur. Nous avons passé beaucoup de temps à la plage, à la piscine située dans le camping ou à découvrir les villes provençales. Une de ces villes, souvent oubliée, est Menton. D’habitude quand on pense à la Côte-D’Azur, on pense à Nice, Monaco, Cannes et St Tropez. La description de Menton selon le Guardian est du « coin le plus inconnu de la Côte-D’Azur. » Menton est la dernière ville sur la côte provençale avant la frontière avec l’Italie. En effet, Menton s’est retrouvée sous l’autorité des deux pays à plusieurs reprises. Elle est devenue définitivement française en 1860, sauf pendant une petite période pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale. La ville est nichée dans une crique, entre son port idyllique qui donne sur la Méditerranée et une colline des Préalpes. Ce positionnement lui donne l’impression d’être un peu serrée, car la plupart des bâtiments ont beaucoup d’étages et les rues sont étroites pour optimiser la géographie. En plus d’être « le coin le plus inconnu de la Côte-D’Azur, » Menton a aussi été nommée la « Perle de la France » grâce à sa beauté provençale qui a été plus au moins protégée des effets du tourisme. Sur une des deux péninsules, qui forment la crique dans laquelle Menton est située, se trouve l’ancien cimetière de Menton. Il donne sur la ville et le port de Menton. Le cimetière contient les restes des aristocrates russes et britanniques qui ont construit des villas à Menton pendant le 19e siècle. Il contient aussi la dernière demeure de William Webb Ellis.
William Webb Ellis est évidemment le fameux ‘Old Rugbeian’ qui a attrapé dans ses bras la balle dans un match de foot et ainsi par inadvertance a inventé le jeu de rugby. Cependant la plupart d’entre nous ne savons pas grand-chose de sa vie après Rugby. Après avoir quitté Rugby en 1831, il est allé étudier à l’université d’Oxford et il a été diplômé d’un MA en 1831. Il était consacré dans l’église anglicaine et il a servi comme chapelain dans la chapelle de St. George à Londres, le pasteur de St.Clement Danes dans le Strand et finalement de Magdalen Laver en Essex. Après être devenu le pasteur de Magdalen Laver, le reste de sa vie est inconnu. Beaucoup de Britanniques riches ont déménagé à Menton dans les années 1860 car ils croyaient que le climat fiable et agréable aidait à guérir les gens de maladies respiratoires comme la tuberculose. On croit que Webb Ellis faisait partie de ces Britanniques qui sont partis à Menton, soit pour être recteur de la nouvelle population britannique, soit parce qu’il avait aussi développé des problèmes de santé. Il est mort à Menton en 1872, à l’âge de 67 ans, ne laissant aucune descendance, mais un domaine de £9000, qui est l’équivalent de plus d’un million de livres dans l’argent d’aujourd’hui, à de différents organismes de bienfaisance.
Every year, my family and I go camping for two weeks in the summer in the south of France. Last year we decided to stay in a campsite near the town of Roquebrune-sur-Argens, ten minutes inland from the Côte-D’Azur. We spent much of our time at the beach, by the campsite pool or exploring the coastal towns in Provence. One such town is the largely overlooked town of Menton. When talking about the French Riviera, people often think about Nice, Monaco, Cannes and St Tropez. The Guardian describes it as “The French Riviera’s unknown corner.” Menton is the last town in France before you cross the border into Italy and has, in fact, swapped between French and Italian rule for centuries, becoming finally French in 1860. This is not entirely true as it spent part of the Second World War under Italian occupation. The town is nestled in a cove between its idyllic port on the Mediterranean Sea and an alpine foothill. This gives the town a slightly crammed in feeling, as many of the buildings are several storeys high and the streets are narrow to maximise the use of scarce space. As well as being “The French Riviera’s unknown corner,” Menton has also acquired the nickname the “Pearl of France” due to its traditional Provençal beauty which has remained largely unscathed by the effects of modern tourism. On top of one of the two peninsulas, which form the cove within which Menton is situated, is the ancient Menton cemetery. It overlooks Menton town and the port. The cemetery contains the remains of many Russian and British aristocrats who built villas in Menton and lived there during the 19th century. It also houses the final resting place of William Webb Ellis.
William Webb Ellis is obviously the famous Old Rugbeian who caught the ball in his arms in a game of football, inadvertently starting the game of rugby. However, not many people know about his life after Rugby. After leaving Rugby in 1826, he studied at Oxford University and graduated with an MA in 1831. He was ordained into the Anglican church and served as the chaplain at St George’s Chapel in London, the rector of St. Clement Danes in the Strand and, finally, the rector of Magdalen Laver in Essex. After becoming rector at Magdalen Laver, much of the rest of his life is unknown. Many wealthy British people moved to Menton in the 1860s as it was believed that Menton’s fair and dependable climate helped cure people with respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis. It would appear that Webb Ellis was among these Britons travelling to Menton, either to serve as a rector to the new British population in Menton, or because he himself had health problems. He died in Menton in 1872, at the age of 67, leaving no descendants, but an estate of some £9000, which is over a million in today’s money, to various charities.
Webb Ellis’s grave was only discovered in 1958, by Ross McWhirter, the co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records, and was recently refurbished to accommodate the thousands of tourists that would visit it. The grave is now overwhelmed by messages, shirts and posters from rugby fans* who have come from all over the world to pay their respects to the legend of William Webb Ellis.
On Tuesday 10thMarch, the MFL society hosted Mr. Tim Cole to give a talk to Upper School Linguists about his life and how languages have been a part of his career. Mr. Cole engaged the listeners by introducing his knowledge of greetings in various languages, ranging from Italian to Mongolian. Mr. Cole began by engaging our minds to try to make us memorise the greetings in Zulu, a language spoken primarily in South Africa. “Sanibonani”, Mr. Cole said, to which we replied “Yebo”. “Ninjani?”, he then asked. “Sikhona” we replied. I did not think that this activity had any other purpose than to ‘add some spice’ to the talk, but as it turned out, the activity played a perfect role in helping the listeners fully understand and adopt the idea that knowledge of a language is key to a native person’s heart; and how else can you start than to greet a native in their own language!
Mr. Cole’s career changed multiple times, switching locations from place to place, from working as an English teacher in Zimbabwe, to be a British Ambassador in Cuba, to finally work with the non-profit organization ONE. Languages have been indispensable for Mr. Cole. My personal favourite episode of his life which he shared with us was his time in Portugal during his gap year. His initiative to start a charity movement by himself, trying to walk from Portugal back to England, caught attention from the local media, as no comparable feats have been attempted before. He was invited to be a guest in a live-broadcasted interview, in a radio equivalent to BBC Radio 1. As he recollects, he was petrified, mortified and nervous before his interview because he did not think that his Portuguese was of an adequate level. However, much to his relief, his doubts in himself were soon to be converted to confidence as he spoke beautifully during the interview, explaining the whole purpose of his initiative. This particular anecdote, if it may be so called, connected with me due to the similarities with myself: a young person planning his gap year, his time at university and with a knowledge in a foreign language.
Mr. Cole’s talk on how he used languages throughout his career has inspired me to devote my time in the future to learn various languages, to delve in and commit myself to learn more about the great variety of cultures which the world holds, to cherish and appreciate the historical struggles which countries and whole continents have faced. Through Mr. Cole’s very personal story, I was able to develop a new perception on the usefulness of languages, which I hope prompts me to a more diverse, thus interesting, life and career. I want to thank Mr. Cole for giving up his time to present a truly engaging talk.