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Former PM Gordon Brown hails Highgate School as ‘one of the great schools of our country’

PUBLISHED: 15:00 08 May 2014

Gordon Brown meets pupils at Highgate School. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Gordon Brown meets pupils at Highgate School. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Former prime minister Gordon Brown hailed independent Highgate School as “one of the great schools of our country” as he opened a new library in honour of world-renowned historian Sir Martin Gilbert.

Mr Brown visited the school, in North Road, Highgate, on Tuesday to officially open the new library based in the school’s Victorian hall, known as “Big School”.

Having earlier flown in from Washington, the Labour MP addressed an audience in the library and paid tribute to Sir Martin, 77, a former Highgate School pupil, who is recovering in a nursing home after recently suffering a stroke.

The former prime minister described the day as a “great occasion not only for the school and the Gilbert family but also for our country”.

He said: “Let me first of all say what a privilege it is to be at Highgate School. I know of the great history of the school and your distinguished pupil Sir Martin Gilbert.

“I want to congratulate Highgate on its success over many, many years, particularly its current success in being one of the great schools of our country.”

Sir Martin, who attended the school from 1945 to 1955, is the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill and the author of 85 books in total, all of which will be available in the new library. He is also a leading writer of works on the Holocaust and Jewish history.

On Tuesday, as current Labour leader Ed Miliband was launching the party’s local elections campaign, Mr Brown described the “great pleasure” he had in opening the library on Israel’s 66th Independence Day.

Mr Brown also paid homage to the service Sir Martin had provided to British prime ministers over the years.

“I know he helped Lady Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, but he also helped me a great deal with his insights into history,” said Mr Brown.

“I know he advised Harold Wilson even before them, but at every point Martin was available and he wanted to believe that the best outcomes were possible.

“A genuine humanitarian, someone whose writing of history taught him we could always do better in the future if we are able to learn the lessons of history.”

Mr Brown was joined at the opening of the library by Sir Martin’s wife, Lady Esther Gilbert, who also made a speech, as did Daniel Taub, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK.

Highgate School headteacher Adam Pettitt said: “It’s the first time in the school’s history that we have had a prime minister come and visit us, so it was a great privilege.

“The ensemble of speeches that were heard by young people would have been very powerful. I think they will have made connections here. We were all here for Sir Martin.”

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