In January 2011, St Paul’s School in Barnes, London underwent major changes with the then “High Master” George Martin Stephen stepping down to make way for Professor Mark Bailey, who then assumed his new permanent role from September 1st of this year. Having let him “settle in” for the first six weeks of term I decided that it was time to find out who really is the new face of St Paul’s School.

Professor Bailey is one of the lucky few who are able to say that they have represented their country in rugby, having made seven appearances for England, including one during the 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. He said that “one’s greatest sporting achievement should be one’s representative peak and that therefore mine is playing for my country”, though he later added, “Did it give me most pleasure – maybe not.” Since then he says that retiring from rugby at 30 allowed him to “continue in education” because “I was able to develop my two passions [Rugby and Medieval History] side by side… and that therefore Medieval History became a career rather than a passion”.

As well as playing rugby Professor Bailey also played for the minor county Suffolk at cricket. When questioned on whether leading cricket website Cricinfo was accurate in calling him a “medium-fast” bowler he remained modest and said that “it is a very kind way of saying that it is not fast” and that instead he was “actually a swing bowler”. He recorded his best bowling figures in the first round of the Natwest Trophy against Leicestershire in 1988, taking the wickets of England players Peter Willey and Jonathon Agnew. He remembers that match, however, for his prize wicket of England captain David Gower, albeit when he was on 99. That memory, he said, “gave me more raw pleasure than rugby”.

In 1999 he became Head Master of Leeds Grammar School, where he successfully merged the boy’s school and the girl’s school. I asked him whether the boys of his new school should therefore be expecting a similar merger with the girl’s school equivalent in Hammersmith, to which he replied that “it is a source of fun for most people [to discuss]” and that “if someone was to ponder about that seriously it would become apparent that what is right for one institution in one time and one place is not necessarily right for another institution in another time and another place.” He also said that the discussion was akin to saying that “because I played on the wing for England I would make all the Paulines [play rugby on the wing]. It’s a nonsense, but also a source of fun.”

Professor Bailey, who used to be a professor at the University of East Anglia, is also a modest man. When I asked him what his life’s headline would be if he were to be featured in a newspaper, he replied that “the headline should bear some resemblance to what is in the article, because my frustration with what I read in the press is that there tends to be a gap between what is written and the headline. I’m not comfortable in the media limelight, but I’m very happy for the school to be.”

“If there was only one thing I could do for this school it would be to preserve all that is good as it is now, because when you are at a school as great as St Paul’s it is important to act as a steward for it’s traditions and what it has achieved.”