Homerathon 2019 Raises Money for Combat Stress

On June 7th pupils, staff and visitors undertook something remarkably ancient. Many thousands of years ago in Greece, at the Great Panathenaia festival (which took place around June 7th), the whole of Homer was read aloud. Last week, the challenge at St Mary’s was to do the same thing; choosing the great epic, The Iliad, to be read non-stop from start to finish.

Despite the Met Office yellow weather warnings, the challenge went ahead and the wind and rain did not deter the readers until the last word on the last page. Local MP Simon Hoare kicked off the readings at 8am with the first 250 lines. Impeccably dressed with brolly in hand, he read aloud in the driving rain to the bemusement of those dropping pupils off at school. Without ceremony, the microphone was passed to the next reader, a Year 9 pupil, and so it continued for the next 15,453 lines of Homeric Verse, uninterrupted for 18 hours and 48 minutes, finishing with the help of a crowd of elated Sixth Form boarders at 2.48am.

No one escaped the call to read. Pupils from every single year group were involved, as well as the Headmistress, teachers of almost every discipline, housemistresses, grounds staff, maintenance, parents and visiting classicists from nearby prep school, Port Regis.

Given the haunting, brutal themes discussed in the Iliad, money was raised for HRH Prince Charles’ recently launched At Ease Appeal for Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

Headmistress, Maria Young, said: “Proclaiming aloud the words of an Ancient Greek Poet written 2,700 years ago, under a school bus shelter in the howling winds and rain of North Dorset, was a uniquely human event in which to take part.”

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