Mottoes for life.

Years ago, before marriage and living in London, I used to trek across the Birmingham suburbs from Smethwick to Moseley to visit the future Lady Magpie. My route took me via Ladywood, over the Hagley Road and through Edgbaston. On the way I used to pass a coach works factory which displayed a Latin motto, which I remember writing down on the side of a wooden Mateus Rose box…does anyone remember using them, and house bricks, to make simple shelves way back in the 60s and early 70s…..The box is long gone as is the latin motto. The English translation remains fixed in my mind…….

For some strange reason I found myself remembering all this and it in turn brought to mind a couple of Grannie’s  mottoes…..

“Remember,” she would intone,” Not failure, but low aim, is crime.

It was many years before I found that it was attributed to James Russel Lowell, American Poet, Critic, Essayist, Editor and Diplomat, 1819-1891 I really must find out more about him…he also had something to say about people in power becoming more interested in security…
Another  motto I associate with Grannie was that which she had framed above her bed. It had been painted by a grateful patient of hers after she had nursed him on his return, minus his hands, from the Western Front in WWI. He had painted it with his mouth and decorated it with sprigs of flowers and then had it framed. After Grannie died my sister claimed it f or herself and managed to lose it during her wanderings in South Africa and North America.

It said, simply, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

These three mottoes have been with me throughout my adult life and I have passed them on to pupils from time to time.


“Hey! You don’t rememeber me do you?” the young man said as he barged into the local newsagent after me. He had tooted the horn of his white van loudly as I had waited to cross the road and when I had not responded he had parked his van and followed me into the shop. I felt just a tad nervous.

“You remember what you wrote in my autograph book?” Blank look on my part. “You wrote ‘Not failure , but low aim, is crime’ ”

Slowly memory was jogged…I did remember..this was Sebastian (names have been changed to…avoid litigation) who had designed the cover of our new school songbook among other things. I didn’t get a chance to say anything about my remembering him as he rushed on…” Well I decided to have a go. I aimed really high and now I own three businesses and employ over a hundred people. And it’s all your fault.”

I have met Sebastian a few times since then and always with different people. He always takes time to tell them  who I am and what I wrote in his autograph book. The last time I met him he was with his partner of  thirteen years and he had his son on his shoulders…and yes, he insisted on introducing me and telling his son the I was the man who said …… he just will not listen when I say whoo really said , or wrote it first.

Have any of you mottoes to share?

Oh yes… the Latin motto…as I said I only remember the English translation:

What ever is rightly done, however humble, is noble.

Up date: The internet tells me that the quotation is from Henry Royce and is ( in Latin)

Quidvis recte factum quamvis humile praeclarum


11 Responses to “Mottoes for life.”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

    I love that motto and want to steal it

  2. magpie11 Says:

    Grannymar…As far as I know there is no copyright, so go ahead.

    I just wish my sister hadn’t lost the original.

  3. magpie11 Says:

    GM…How about setting up a Motto Exchange?

  4. maureen Says:

    What a lovely post! Three wonderful mottos to share with my kids today – thanks so much!!

  5. magpie11 Says:

    Hi Maureen
    Glad you liked it…I have shared all of them with kids in classes I’ve taught.

  6. Steph Says:

    I’m not sure this is a motto…

    “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”

    My father instilled this in me as a child and I swear by it. With my history of frequent health misadventures, I’ve learnt to strike while the iron is hot!

  7. magpie11 Says:

    If you use it to guide your life, why not have it as a mottoe?

    I love the idea of you wielding a blacksmith’s hammer and bashing white hot iron…makes the sparks fly!

  8. rummuser Says:

    I envy you your teacher status. You must have touched so many lives like some notable teachers touched mine.

    When I started full time employment as a salesman, the Supervisor who was made responsible for my training, gave me an advise to be successful in the selling profession. Just two short sentences. Be the best salesman in the team and have a healthy bank balance. I was intrigued and asked him what the second advise was for. He said that is to enable me to quit if I found an insufferable supervisor or boss.

    I have followed that advise all my life, or at least tried to achieve the first advise consistently, but have never faulted on the second for which I owe a great debt of gratitude to that long dead and gone supervisor.

    I had passed on the same advise to innumerable salesmen in my life and those that followed those two gems, have inevitably succeeded in life. May be not in careers, but as human beings they certainly did. Many of them are still in touch and always mention this advise as being the most important that they ever received.

  9. magpie11 Says:

    I have an acquaintance whose email signature says, “Share what you know and learn what you don’t.” It seems that you must have been doing that all along.

    As for status as a teacher….it has its down turns too…unappreciative parents, if not actually aggressive, and the times when you fail to help someone…I still say, ” If I had known 20 years ago what I know now I would have been able to help a lot more people.”

  10. rummuser Says:

    But such downsides are there in all walks of life. What is lacking is the dignity that the teaching profession brings to it. At least used to.

  11. magpie11 Says:

    I have to say that the word profession does not seem to apply in the minds of government and people these days. I do wonder if the profession was ever that. Low pay, low esteem, constant blame for each and every ill of society, ever moving “goalposts”…all these add up.

    On top of this the policies of some Unions, since when did professionals have unions, have lead us into trouble. Overtly Political agendas (I use the upper case P advisedly), which see education as a means to indoctrinate young minds and also as a means of social engineering, have been the raison d’etre of the leadership if not the memebership of the largest union for too many years.

    In their teaching teachers should be a-political and a-religious. Their job is to provide young people with the tools to survive in and contribute to society.

    Mm! Maybe this should be at the heart of a post?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: