Sir John Bodinnar and the Pig Weathervane

This summer’s ‘Voices on the Wind’ project in the Art courtyard, may have drawn your attention to the pig weathervane on the roof of the Kiln Room. Perhaps you have noticed it in the past and wondered why it is there and its significance.

From the Middle Ages, Calne had been part of the thriving south Cotswold wool trade. However, with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and its reliance on waterpower, textile manufacture shifted to the north of the country. By the late 19th century, bacon-curing had become the principal industry in Calne.

Before the arrival of the railways, pigs from Ireland had been herded from Bristol docks to Smithfield Market in London, passing through Calne on their way. In 1770 Sarah Harris, a widow from Devizes, moved to Calne and opened a butcher’s shop. Her descendants continued in the trade until in 1888, two Harris brothers amalgamated their bacon-curing businesses, expanded the company and exported meat products all over the world. The 20th century saw a move to cooked meats, pies and tinned products. Throughout the Second World War the company supplied the armed forces with tinned meat. Factory buildings were enlarged and new ones built, including two five-storey red brick buildings on the High Street, which dominated the town. At its closure in 1983 the business was providing work for 2,000 people.

In 1914 John Bodinnar (pictured below) arrived in Calne as the managing director of C&T Harris and Co. He later became mayor of Calne and, significantly for St Mary’s, a governor of the school. With a dormitory in School House still named after him, his name is familiar to many in the school today. Sir John, as he became during the Second World War, had a daughter Edna, who arrived as a pupil in the St Mary’s kindergarten in 1914, and was Head Girl when she left in 1926. Sir John was appointed governor in 1928 and resigned in 1942 when he was called to a senior administrative post in the war-time government, for which he received his knighthood.

Sir John Bodinnar was a generous benefactor to St Mary’s and provided much of the Oratory panelling when the room was enlarged in 1925. He died in 1958 and around the millennium St Mary’s became a beneficiary of his trust fund, allowing the creation of the Bodinnar Scholarship for an all-round pupil. It was he who crowned the new Jubilee Building in 1923 with a symbol that reflected the basis of much of the wealth of Calne. The pig weathervane topped the roof for many years until the Music School was built in 1989 and the Jubilee Building had to come down. The weathervane was then moved to its current position.

Sir John Bodinnar

By Mrs Elizabeth Christie, Archivist