Peter Giles may stand as a fine example of how an intellectually gifted child from an impoverished background can flourish when the right educational opportunity exists.
Born in a remote part of Aberdeenshire, Giles had the good fortune to attend a parish school which expected its pupils to aim high and this, allied with his innate great capacity for hard work, led to his graduating from Aberdeen University in 1882 with first-class honours in classics. He then came up to Cambridge and achieved similarly outstanding results in the Classical and Historical Triposes. His later writings on Comparative Philology were the standard works in the field for many years.
Giles was a universally popular choice as Master and restored the harmony that had been lacking in the last years of William Chawner’s tenure. Together with his wife and four daughters he made the Master’s Lodge a lively and hospitable place and during his term of office as Vice-Chancellor (1919-1921) many distinguished visitors, including the future Edward VIII, were entertained at Emmanuel.