Tuesday, 1 October 2013
OLD WYVES' TALES 80
FOR WYVERNIANS 1919-76
EDITED BY DENNIS J DUGGAN, ROCK COTTAGE, BROOK STREET,
WELSHPOOL, MONTGOMERYSHIRE. SY21 7NA
TEL 01938 555574 07971 282356 www.wyvernians.org.uk
EDITORIAL If relevant, please note my new mobile number is 07971 282356.
2014 REUNION Date for next year's reunion is Saturday March 15th, at Clarence House. Invitations will be sent in January, we envisage it will be business as usual. If it ain't broke, why fix it?'
OLD WYVES' TALES Material for future OWT's is, as you see from this truncated issue, desperately short, but after 80 issues and over 1,000 items that is probably not surprising. However many of you have never s_ubmitted anything, so why not get those memory cells working? So long as its not libellous, hurtful or nasty, you are guaranteed to see your name in print!
FROM J ROBERT CLIFFORD 1950-57 (The first installment of Robert's CBS memories - Ed) E J W Bell. The headmaster and I had a mutual antipathy best illustrated be the last exchange we had in 1957. Those leaving school were expected to attend him individually in his study to receive his best wishes for the future. As I had not the slightest interest in sport of any sort he coldly told me he could not give me a reference for whatever purpose - 'as I had not been in any of the 11's'. This did not disturb me one bit, for I knew a number of citizens whose words would carry more weight. He then launched into a personal attack which I shall not detail, but he ended by asking where and what course I intended to study. When I replied London, and Chemical Engineering, he said I was a fool and should stay on for an (unprecedented) fourth year in the sixth and try for Oxbridge. 'Good Lord, Clifford. Engineering! You'll get your hands dirty.' My response that at the end of the day it washed off seemied to infuriate him further, probably due to the implied comparison with the law which he had studied.
His last words were, 'You don't realise, Clifford, that schooldays are the happiest days of your life!' It was an unfortunate choice of words, for he was not to know that I had positively hated every day I had spent at both primary school and CBS. I had done the werk and applied myself, but my heartfelt reply that day was, 'If that is true, hesadmaster, I shall be dead by my own hand before I am 21.' That I am still around 56 years later is a fair indication that things looked up after that.
Mr Bell did not feature on the list of people I valued highly, particularly in comparison to his predecessor, Mr Pedley. The sixth had General Studies with him (Mr Bell) and this only seemed to reinforce our views. He told us of his wartime experience with Army Intelligence, when he was made Intelligence Officer for Derbyshire, given a bicycle and maps and instructed to survey the county recording all natural water sources 'in case Jerry dropped something nasty in the Ladybower Dam and wiped out Birmingham.' He recalled leaning his bike by the dam on a hot summer's day to be questioned by the dam keeper, and on revealing his mission (wartime security) the man reeled with disbelief and laughter, finally asking if he had any idea how many trainloads of something nasty would be required to give the people of Birmingham a runny nose.
He had also been sent on a survival course with others, in case they ever found themselves behind enemy lines. 'We had to eat grass, to see if we could live on that,' he said, but it was insufficient to sustain them and they realised that cows and sheep ate the stuff all day. Perhaps Mr Willan could have helped by explaining the five stomachs in herbivores.
Mr Bell completed his own reputatational demolition one day when he stated, 'Italy is a long, thin country, and the sea makes the sky blue.' I failed my 'O' level General Studies exam that year. I should record the disastrously stupid advice he gave us, though to be fair I discovered that heads of other schools had given the same to their sixth formers. Recommending the joys of university life he said, 'You have a wonderful time. In the first year you just enjoy yourselves. You don't have to work, or even turn up for lectures.' Of the thirty students starting the first year at college, after the first year's exams we saw and heard nothing of eighteen. They were the ones who repeated the mantra they heard - that time spent attending lectures reduced the time available to spend at the bar. Once thrown off one course in those days, local authorities were unlikely to offer another grant for a course.
As a number of Old Boys have observed, the first year at CBS was somewhat traumatic. It was not so much the perceived physical threat posed by the masters - to a certain extent we had that at junior school- but combined with the nature of the building, even its colour scheme, it had a disheartening, oppressive, impact for some. However at the time I could not know that which I came to appreciate, the superb education gained despite the total lack of pleasure in its acquisition. I joined 1A in 1950, with Flash Gordon as form master. Our 'form room' was the third-floor library. During maths with Nobby Clarke he became enraged at the antics of one class member, and I clearly remember him holding the miscreant out of the window by his jacket collar suspended three floors up. He aubsequently commanded a silence which was deathly! We had Bull Smith for chemistry. He was extremely intimidating, his nickname coming from the fleshy connection between chin and throat. His roared command, Come here, small boy, and stand on that nail, accompanied by the swish of a length of red rubber tubing, ensured a rivetted attention.
After a month or two, and some tests, I was transferred to 1 Alpha without a by-your-leave. This was a nightmares, as the two forms did not pursue a common curriculum. Luckily Tony Baxter befriended me, and lent me his exercise books each night so I could copy them out. I had to try and catch up, as well as coping with the new daily input and homework. Paul Bond and Roger Peberdy were also companions. The form teacher was Spiv Beaumont, so-called because of his long swept-back hair, corduroy clothes and suede crepe-soled shoes. He was an inspirational history teacher, and once became carried away with his description of an early battle. His launching of the window pole as a spear served to burn the lesson into our collective memories.
I am amazed at how much of the education proved relevant and invaluable to me, opening opportunities which would otherwise have been closed. This was particularly true of some subjects I judged would not be useful in my intended career. Physics, chemistry and maths were fundamental, but the role of biology, English Lit, German plus fragments of geography often proved pivotal in both my business and private life. But that is another saga.
Biology, and Phlo (sic) Willan. I shared the despair of other correspondents over Mr Willan until the five-year ownership of a small hill farm in the Peak District National Park brought the information back into focus. It was the foundation of a highly beneficial co-operation with our vet. It's perhaps time to give the background to his nickname. At short notice he substituted for Mr Philips, who had suddenly been called away. The topic he chose was the Phlogisten Theory, which was proposed in the 17th century and totally discredited in the 18th. The words dephlogisticated air seemed to fesature regularly, and in our bewilderment we awarded Mr Willan his nickname.
Johnny Jeeves and Tweetipie Sweet. I have very great respect for Mr Sweet, albeit based on a short contact. To qualify for university, regardless of arts or science courses, we needed an 'O' level in one modern language. We'd had four years of French, and in 4 Alpha and 5S Johnny had taken the mock 'O' level classes. I don't think anyone reached 40% and most (me included) managed only a single figure. We understood that this result was such a shock for Johnny that he was obliged to take an extended leave of absence in France to recouperate. For the next French lesson the tall, distinguished-looking gowned figure of Mr Sweet entered the room and, looking anxiously at the class, uttered the unforgettable words, 'Well, gentlemen, I think we have a lot of work to do.' If I remember correctly, we all passed the 'O 'level exam later that year, though some just scraped through (To be continued - Ed)
FROM GEOFF MANCHESTER 1961-66 A recent OWT set me thinking about how I was selected for each class. My route through school was 1B, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5L and briefly 6A1. Why did I start in 1B, rather than 1 Alpha or 1A? Was it my 11+ efforts? I recall that a league table was published in the end-of-term reports, and my position at the end of terms 1 and 2, in 1B, was close to the bottom of approximately thirty boys. But at the end-of year exam I somehow managed fo finish in 18th place, and began my second year in 2A. Was this because of the exam result? Did the top ten go to 3 Alpha, 11-20 to 2A and 20-30 to 2B? Whilst in 4A we were asked, without any warning, if we wished to pursue the arts or sciences route into the fifth form. I can't think of any reason why I chose arts, as I did not have a career in mind. Perhaps I just followed my chums. I wonder if anyone can explain the selection process (Perhaps one of our former teachers could answer Geoff's questions - Ed)
In the And Finally section of OWT78 there was mention of cars driven by staff. The only ones I recall are the headmaster reversing his black Rover (One of the P4 range, for the benefit of car buffs - Ed) into Clarence Street, and I have a mental picture of Mr Miller, the art master, using a hearse to travel to Downing Drive.He was on duty in the hall at Downing Drive where I sat my 'O' level art exam. My vague recollection is that we had to make some sort of artistic creation around a given phrase. The only detail I remember is the word yarn. At the end of the session Mr Miller walked along the line of efforts, which had been propped against the stage. He stopped at many of them, and made encouraging comments as we crowded round to listen. He passed swiftly and silently past mine, and not surprisingly I failed 'O' level art!
FROM ALAN PYKETT 1959-66 I was interested to read the reference to the Alpha stream in the previous OWT. Not being of such ability to have experienced that stream I am not able to give any opinion to as to whether it had any benefits or not. However, related to that I have often pondered the following. If boys in the Alpha stream took their 'O' levels after 4 years at the school and 'A' levels after 6 years, what did they do in forms 6A3 and 6S3 and what was their real purpose, though I realise they would have to have waited an extra year for university entrance. It would be good to hear from previous incumbents of those two sixth forms (or teachers) the answer or answers to this question.
FROM RON CUNNINGHAM 1943-48 It was pleasing to note the short attempt to introduce the game played in Heaven to CBS was recognised. A couple of us had some experience of the game, but most of us were soccer born and bred - our knowledge of rugby came from watching one or two Tigers games. After 60-plus years the abiding memory is of us being pushed back continually, until our fullback got his hands on the ball and obtaining some relief for us with his prestigious long kicks. The result was meritoriously close, though inevitable. It did encourage me to play for a couple of years or so with Aylestone St James (The Jimmies) after leaving CBS. Thanks to all concerned with the production of the CBS history book, it is a remarkable and treaured memory chest.
OBITUARY Michael Hutchings, 1943-48. Passed away October 2013. Mike was a staunch supporter of our reunions, and took a keen interest in OWT.
FROM DAVID CHAMBERS 1953-59 I am the David Chambers of Bradgate House, mentioned by Ivor Holyoak in issue 74. My nickname was Chub and I did have 2 broken front teeth, though my recollection was that they were broken when they came into contact with the school playground. . I do remember Ivor and also Peter Bates who he mentions. Dave Ellicock was also a friend even after leaving school, he joined City Boys from Northfield House School with me. How does Ivor remember all these details when I have trouble remembering what happened yesterday?
I attach the only 2 school photos I can find. The first is of me in about 3 alpha posing in the library and the second is of 5Sc in about 1958 (Not attached to this OWT - Ed) I am in centre front row with Ken Kelham, who is mentioned in an issue as a cyclist and trainspotter, on my left. Others whose names I recall in the photo are John English, Roger Marston, Bruce Wood, John Binley, John Wardle, Peter Bates and Peter Woods. Not too bad for 55 years ago. I did have some old school reports but cannot lay my hands on them, I don't think I was particularly proud of them so they may have gone.
I recall the usual gang of teachers mentioned in issues around my time, and in particular Mr Brushe, who taught languages but also managed the swimming team of which I was a member until training interfered with my paper rounds.. Chas Howard I remember as a bit of an anarchist who did not attend assembly, and to this day recall him telling our class of 12 or 13 year olds, tongue in cheek I hope, to aim to achieve the distinction of dieing owing a million pounds!! I am part of a family with City Boys connections. My father-in-law Bill Johnson was a pupil in the 1930's, my brother Gwynne Chambers was a pupil from 1955 to 1960 and my brother-in-law Christopher Johnson was a pupil from about 1962 to 1967. I recall him showing me Sports Day programmes from the mid 1960s which showed me as the school javelin record holder. I shall introduce Gwynne and Chris to Wyvernians, I am sure thery will be interested. Gwynne and myself both appear in the school panoramic picture in the CBS book. My parents did have a copy of this picture in its cardboard tube, but it seems to have disappeared.
FROM JAIME GILL (NOT A WYVERNIAN) My Father, Regnald Frank Gill, was a Wyvernian, and having been born in 1921 was an exact contemporary of Prof John Harrison. He won 1st prize in the Junior Dive Competition in 1936: I know this to be so as I still have the inscribed bronze medal he was awarded. There is no misprint in his name, the Registrar of Births missed the 'i' out and apparently it had to stand. He became an electrical engineer and joined the RAF in 1941 (His RAF records have been corrected to reflect the Registrar's error) He served as a RADAR Engineer for 35 years. Retiring in the rank of Squadron Leader he died at the early age of 61 in 1982.
I also have an uninscribed City Boys' (I was at Ashby and the s' was also ingrained into us!!) School silver medal from the same era. It was for many years displayed in the top of a cigarette box in my grandparent's home at Grange Road, Wigston. I have no recollection of the reason it was awarded. The box eventually disintegrated as a result of overuse - Dad died of lung cancer, but my eldest son carries the name forward. When I look at your website I see that you have a panoramic school photograph. Dad told me two stories about such a picture. One was about the lad who ran round the back and beat the camera to appear at both ends..............the other was about the boy with the big nose who sneezed as the camera went past him and finished up with two noses!!
AND FINALLY... Like many regular contributors to OWT I am running out of things to say. So it is possible that the following amusing and true anecdote has already appeared, but it might be new to some readers. WAG Pace was taking my class for a geography lesson, I think it was towards the end of my CBS career. He had fixed a map of the world to the blackboard, and in view of what happened next he clearly suspected I had not been giving the matter my full attention. The topic was the West Indies, and to my dismay WAG invited me to approach the map and point to the location of said islands. The truth was I did not know, but had no option but to do as I was told. I had a choice. Admit I did not know, or make a guess. Of course I had a good idea where the West Indies were NOT situated, but that still left a lot of scope for error. Or I could simply admit that I did not know. All that went through my mind as I walked to the front of the class, and a snap decison was made. My finger made a random stab at a likely spot, at which point WAG Pace apologetically told me to return to my desk. My aim had been spot-on, and I was off the hook even though it was by good luck rather than good judgement. A minor victory, but strangely satisfying, and incidentally I still remember where the West Indies are located.
Dennis J Duggan
October 13th 2013