FROM ANDREW HOLMES 1974-81 I was looking at the pictures on Wyvernians (and at the Old Wyvernians and COLS FB pages) just as I was typing this. You may be interested to know that I took the time to read through all the old PDF files online, discovering who was still with us (amazing!) and who, alas, is not. I was saddened to hear that both Ken Witts (whom I myself never actually had for regular lessons, but just occasionally such as when covering for an absent colleague) and Mr. Michael Wood, who became the headmaster and appears to have finished at COLS the same year as myself, are no longer with us. From my own experience, I don't think that either of them really deserves any negative comments.
In perusing the PDFs earlier this week, I noted the editor's mentioning that some comments from former schoolboys (inmates?) about their teachers had not been included at his discretion, owing to the fact that they were not entirely kind to the people concerned. I can certainly understand this, but I would say that in the fullness of time all these things have been filed, in my mind, under the category of "it is what it is" (a remark often used by ex-US soldier and online entertainer Terrence Popp) and often simply forgotten. It was a different (and arguably better, in terms of discipline) age, in my opinion; the teachers were doing their jobs as best they could, and my own teaching experiences in Taiwan and South Korea make me think that perhaps we should look back on them with at least some sympathy.
Let me tell you that one possible job that I have always avoided here in Korea is teaching in middle schools. Whereas in former times the people here were generally of diminutive frame, the better-nourished students of today are often much larger; and a few years ago I was sitting at my desk in an elementary school in Yangsan (north of Busan) when a young South African lady I knew (now back at home in SA), who at the time just happened to be teaching at a boys' middle school, reported on FB that a vicious fight had just broken out in her school's lobby between one of the PE teachers and a rather well-built student! She never did tell me the result, but that persuaded me that Korean middle schools were definitely not the way to go!
At the moment, I have just begun a new session teaching groups of Korean would-be TESOL teachers (Yes! I am teaching the teachers!!! I can hear your collective jaws hitting the floor...), having spent another year working with the military in the form of the Air Force Aviation Science High School - I had worked as a TESOL teacher trainer at the Times Media office in Daegu previously in 2017, but my stay there was cut short by needing hospital treatment for colorectal cancer, an experience I would not like to repeat... I say this not because of the severity of the condition, as the surgery seems to have been relatively straightforward in my case, but I shared the (very small) ward in the hospital with six other cancer-stricken men, all of whom seemed to be in much worse condition than myself (I received the distinct impression that long-term exposure to tobacco was often involved...). I was only there for about nine days as I recovered well and did not need chemotherapy; and just a couple of weeks ago, I was back at the hospital (as our office in Daegu is literally about three minutes walk away - these places are all part of the same university) and received the news that neither the serological analysis nor the CT scans showed any indication of metastasis, so that's good. I couldn't do the final endoscopy, as it happened, due to the purgative coming back up as an emetic... so the surgeon, Professor Kim, said he would arrange for me to have it done at another hospital later... with a less noisome purgative!
Going back rather a long way in time, when I left COLS in 1981 having failed my A-levels, I had no idea what I wanted to do and basically lived with my parents for about three years, until one day I had to go to my old GP, Andrew Cull (whom I believe is now working in London), and he said: "I thought you were going to university?"
"Ah, but I failed my A-levels." I replied.
"Well," he said, "did you never think about un-failing them?"
That got my mind going... to cut a long story short, I interviewed at Charles Keene College, enrolled in a one-year part-time course studying biology and chemistry (again) and in the end, managed to scrape one Grade E in biology; why can I never pass chemistry exams?
The results of this, however, were twofold: firstly, I got a whole load of offers from all over the country to do biological science HND courses, and I picked the South Glamorgan Institute in Llandaff, Cardiff, which was actually a great place to study. When this course was nearing its end, I re-applied to the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology and got unconditional second-year entry to the B.Sc. (Hons) Cell and Molecular Science course: "Hey, we remember you!" they said... and in 1990, I graduated with a Lower Second. Would you believe that I was able to get mandatory education grants for a full five years? And would you further believe that the year I graduated (1990) was also the last year of said grants? Talk about good timing!
Things have all rather changed since then, but I have to say that it was never possible to get remotely close to the kind of biology-based career that I had had in mind originally; unfortunately, with the HND course being a thick sandwich with two six-month work experience periods, the first of which was at the old analytical laboratory at Texaco's Pembroke Refinery on the Milford Haven, this "chemical" association stuck with me until I finally left the UK. There is a "story" associated with this, but maybe I will write about it at length some other time. What happened was that secondly, my last full-time job in the UK (working as a chemist for the Royal Air Force) bore unusual fruit in the form of becoming a published chemistry writer (!!!).
At the moment, the big surprise about being in South Korea is that I am still here at all - at the grand old age of 56, in both a country and an industry with a reputation for "ageism" and even despite having had treatment for cancer, I find that I still get plenty of job offers (although not always at well-timed intervals), and that there are other fogeys here as well. But as time has passed, I have definitely shied away from teaching children and steered erratically in the direction of adults. My manageress, who is much younger than me and had only just started her new post when my cancer was detected, is still here and told me that she wanted me to stay for a long time in this job. I shall try to grant her wish!
I could go on all night but it's already the early hours of a Sunday morning (and I don't always sleep well these days). Please pass my regards to all my old teachers, and my hope that they are all well. You can read about my adventures here at greater length by going to my private blog at http://www.myeasternhorizons.com/wp/ ("The Eastern Horizon: My account of life in East Asia"). Be warned - it is highly opinionated, and not for the faint of heart!
PS - Does Bill Mann still have those shorts? I'm just asking for a friend, you understand...
FROM BRIAN COPE 1954-62 I write in praise of Bill Varley, who taught Art at CBS for a few years before moving to Newcastle University. I was lucky enough to attend his Art History classes in the sixth form, where be brought Giotto and Masaccio to life in an extraordinary way, and two years later led this spellbound student to Padua and Florence. Years later I bumped into him outside the Tate, and he 'showed me round', making sense of abstract art to me for the first time.
Steve Buckley was one of his CBS pupils, and Sean Scully amongst many others he mentored at Newcastle. Bill has been a major force in the artistic life of the north east for decades, without ever becoming an establishment figure. His essay on how the Baltic in Newcastle has failed the city is a classic statement of artistic values against mere novelty. We were lucky to have him at CBS, if only for a short time. I believe Bill is still going strong, his zest for life undimmed.
FROM ORSON DUNCAN LUCAS (1940-) Hon Alderman of the Borough of Oadby & Wigston, Freeman of the City of London, Past Chairman of Leicestershire County Council, Rotarian since 1962 - His Early Life pre-1946. This item is transcribed from Duncan's hand-written notes, some of which are difficult to decipher, so apologies for any errors - Ed) City Boys' School, Years of Turmoil 1940 on. I was born in Wigston Magna 13th March 1929, the first son following three girls with two brothers to follow. The first memory I am able to date was a Sunday morning when we missed Sunday School to listen to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. He told us that because Mr Hitler had not replied to his letter a state of war existed between us. As a ten-year-old the significance did not sink in, although my mother was crying.
We lived at 10 Bell Street, at the rear of a draper's, in one room and a small pantry, two bedrooms and an attic. How we all crammed in I can't imagine now. Marion, my eldest sister, went to South Wigston Intermediate School. Audrey, the next eldest, went to Wyggeston Girls and used to cycle home with a lad called David Attenborough. She died of meningitis. Another sister (Name unclear - Ed) also went to Wyggy Girls, but I failed the 11 plus.
Mother was determined we should have a top education, even though we were poor. At that time Father had a small van, hawking clothing and shoe repairs round the villages. A poor existence. I often went with him to open the gates, many roads were still gated. An uncle, who was a butcher, served on the Urban Council, and also on a local charity. I duly got a grant for a grammar school education, five guineas per term. Ironically, many years later as a councillor, I was elected as a trustee on that same committee, and I still serve on its successor.
So my mother and father, and me,went to City Boys' School, Humberstone Gate, in the little van. We were shown round by a tall, mean, master wearing a gown. 'My name is Mr Carter,' he intoned. We were joined by other parents and boys. We went in via the present entrance, to me it was a church-like building. Turning right we were shown the Headmaster's study. Mr Crammer was a stern gent wearing horn-rimmed glasses. He had, I later discovered, a powerful right arm. The showcase room was reinforced with steel pillars and struts in case of bombs exploding nearby. The windows had sticky brown tape on them to prevent flying glass.Then we went outside to the underground shelters. They could not accomodate everyone, hence the reinforced room.
The daft things boys did. There was McDonald, who played silly tricks. One day he was showing off by skidding his bike and went down the shelter steps. He burst through the door at the bottom and lay inside the tunnel groaning. He also showed off by skidding into the tram tracks. We were terrified of the shiny cobbles surrounding the tracks, especially near the cattle market. There were air raid shelters on waste ground at the rear of Clarence Street. On the opposite corner was Challis & Allen, wine and spirit wholesalers, with the Sally Army citadel nearby. Another important building was Hannam Court, a large block of flats on Charles Street. Important? Yes, because it also housed Bayliss the bakers, where we lads used our dinner money to buy stales. The savings could be used in amusement arcades or chip shops.
There was a school tuck shop, but everything was rationed so it was a poor supply of grub. Next door was the Lost Property room combined with the Prefects' room. My parents struggled to equip me with a uniform, but I found that so much property was never claimed I was able to help out and my mother never had to purchase any school clothes. I, along with my mate Maurice Cattermole, were the last in the class to wear short trousers. Clothes were rationed, and coupons were withheld for we two shorties. Mr Crammer noted on one of my reports, 'Does he feed properly?' (To be continued - Ed)
FROM BRIAN SCREATON 1959-65 I have collated all the information we have about the seventy seven names that appear on the Second World War memorial board. I have written it out, and Frank has added it to the web site. I will add more cuttings, letters and other information as time permits. Go to: http://wyvernians-memorabilia.blogspot.com/p/the-cbs-fallen.html Several died on D-Day so I thought it appropriate to do this now in the 75th anniversary year.
FROM JON PRITCHETT 1965-72 On moving up to CBS from primary school (1965, the first year at Downing Drive) I was deeply curious as to why a selection of boys were filtered off into the "Blue Room" at every morning assembly. I had come to CBS from a Church of England junior school, my exposure to people of a Catholic belief being non-existent, and I continually asked myself " Why are they different?" ..... "What do they do in the blue room?' ..... "What was I missing?"
FROM STEVE MELLOR 1959-66 In reply to the entry by Dave Wait (who I must confess not to have any recollection of) although I was an avid motorcyclist for several years, I was never a "rocker" per se, my interest being mechanical and performance orientated, not simply image. I did, and still do, enjoy rock music, but that is incidental. Dave's mention of stales and bowling alley rang loud bells however, as I was a Bayliss customer and too frequent a client at the Top Rank alley for the teaching staff to ignore, so detentions did ensue. The relocation to Downing Drive was an unwelcome and unforeseen termination of those activities and did result in a personal benefit of raising my educational standard a little, although I still avoided virtually all extra-curricular events organised though the school itself. I read this at home here in Ontinyent, in the company of Richard "Mac" McMorran, another Old Wyvernian, who has remained a close friend since junior school. He has been over for the weekend again and, as usual, we have been reminiscing over a bottle or two of vino tinto, so the times at CBS came up, although the accuracy of some of our recollections may often be open to legitimate challenge – as would be the case with most of our contemporaries, I'd guess. Reading through the various entries, names float in and out of the conversation, some with less affection than others, but all with some appreciation that we may have made the "three score and ten" which we never foresaw all those years ago. About the only conclusion we reached was that we had little to say as meaningful contributions to OWT, other than hoping that those of us still around all manage a few more years without undue health or other detrimental issues We agreed that although very few of us may have fully appreciated the school, the teachers, or the education process at the time, it all combined to stand us in good shape to handle life – for my part, work and travel to more than 60 different countries, ending up with leaving the UK in 1991 for good, spending my time since then in Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand and Australia before retiring to Spain with my 3rd wife, post-stroke and cardiac surgery, in 2013. I still return to the UK occasionally, most recently for my mum's 100th birthday last year, but realise that I could never settle there again from choice, being too set in my ways and probably unsuited to life there in the 21st century – I would probably end up either arrested or beaten up for being too outspoken on matters which are regarded as controversial or too sensitive to raise in public nowadays, so best that I stay in this quiet backwater and view things from afar, still ranting at the TV, but harmlessly and out of earshot of all except my very tolerant third wife, an Uzbeki national I met via a then mutual friend in Dubai – so proving that travel can be beneficial.
FROM BRIAN STEVENSON 1959-65 I was sorry to learn of the death of Roger Rimington in OWT102. Roger was the second rhythm guitarist in The Jades, a beat group of Wyvernians founded by Dave King in 1963. Both Dave and I have written about The Jades in OWT issues 61 and 90, about our appearances in school concerts and elsewhere. As there has been no reaction whatsoever I conclude that either no one remembers us from Adam or we were to embarrassing to mention.
As well as his ability on the guitar, Roger brought something quite unusual to The Jades - a sense of style. He was an early example of a Mod, and impressed the rest of us with his trendy wardrobe which was mostly purchased from the Irish on High Street. I can still recall him in a pale blue shirt with a long, pointed collar, thin tie and faux leather waistcoat. No doubt it would have been a real leather waistcoat if he could have afforded it. He was in the habit of rocking on his heels as he played, his freckled face grinning across at the rest of us. Sorry to see you go, Rog.
Roger's predecessor had been John Farter Marney, so-called because of his habit of breaking wind in class. This was mostly ignored by the teachers, possibly out of embarassment, but I recall that on one occasion he was taken to task by Ken Witts - never a man to see his authority questioned, however unorthodox the challenge. I believe that Marney became some sort of naturalist on local (possibly national?) TV, but as I have not lived in Leicester since 1971 some of you may know more about this later, more respectable, phase of his career. John's stint in The Jades was short-lived, as his parents were not too keen on allowing him out for rehearsals.
Rog's successor, and The Jades final (current) rhythm guitarist, was the redoubtable Keith Duguid. Although Keith's dress sense did not match Roger's (he seemed to possess an inexhaustible supply of identical grey tee shirts) he could kick ass with the Chuck Berry rhythms so essential to an early sixties band so we decided to overlook his lack of sartorial elegance.
FROM FRANK SMITH 1959-66 I remember Brian Stevenson. He came to a reunion a couple of years ago and reminded me of my first-ever swimming lesson at Vestry Street. Jock Gilman told us non-swimmers to float on our backs with knees tucked up under the chin. I tried this, and sank in a panic. Brian was on hand to rescue me by lifting my head out of the water. Over the years I had come to believe it was Mick McLoughlin who saved me until Brian put me right.
FROM BRIAN SCREATON 1959-65
Roger Rimington 1948-2019As I previously reported my friend Roger Rimington passed away on the 29th January. I had known Roger since we both started at City Boys in 1959. We were close friends whilst at School and for quite a few years afterwards, although our paths had diverged. I went to the Leicester College of Art and Technology (now De Montfort University) whilst Roger got a job in what would now be called the IT department at G. Stibbe & Co on Vaughan Way in Leicester. But we were united in a love of live music and spent many happy evenings at local venues like the Il Rondo, the Latin Quarter, the Casino and the Couriers Folk Club, as well as many of the great gigs put on by the College, either in their own buildings or at the Granby Halls and the Palais.
I also joined a band whilst at college, and got Roger involved as well. He was a gifted guitarist, and until I read Brian Stevenson's piece I had forgotten that Roger began as a member of the 'Jades' who I remember rehearsing at the Uppingham Road United Reformed Church.
In later life Roger worked at the Grand Hotel and then went to the 'Art and Tech' himself to study art and design, gaining a degree in Graphic Design. In more recent years Roger, who was unmarried and claimed to have no relatives, became something of a recluse which was a worry to his friends and neighbours. So much so that the Police were sent to his flat twice to check on him. Even so his sudden death from an aortic dissection still came as a shock. He died at Glenfield Hospital.
This sad event prompted Roger's friends to come together to try and deal with his affairs. However we rapidly discovered that friends have no rights in this territory, and it looked as if it would have to be handed over to Social Services, meaning that Roger would have a 'Hospital Funeral' (i.e. what used to be called a 'Pauper's Funeral') and that all his assets would go to the State, as he had not left a will.
Obviously this was not what we wanted. We needed to find out if Roger did have any relatives, as only those who are related to the deceased can act in such a situation. I have a friend who is an expert on family history research and I asked him to see if he could find any relatives. Within 24 hours he reported back and had found that Roger did indeed have relatives, one of whom lived only a mile down the road from me. He was the son of Roger's cousin, David Rimington, who was in Leicester, only about three or four miles from where Roger lived.
I contacted David and although he had not seen or heard of Roger for over forty years he agreed to come with me to the hospital so that we could collect Roger's effects and also the cause of death certificate which is needed to register the death. We then went on the Registrar's Office where I was asked to sign the Death Certificate as I was the one who had seen Roger most recently.
Armed with this certificate we could then set about arranging Roger's funeral and appointing a solicitor to deal with Roger's estate. He had a fair amount in the bank but few other assets – but as he died intestate the estate has to be divided accordingly to a legal formula so we thought is best to hand this over to an expert.
We could also set about clearing his rented flat which was a mammoth task. Roger was a hoarder and his second and third floor flat was crammed with his possessions. One of the rooms we couldn't even get into. Even with the help of a hard core of friends and neighbours and a husband and wife team of house clearers it took four full days to clear the flat. Two of his neighbours worked there until one o'clock in the morning on two nights. The flat was converted out of a large terraced house so there was no lift, just several flights of very narrow stairs. Anyway, a mighty sigh of relief was given on the late afternoon of the fourth day when the place was clear and I could hand the keys back to his none-too-pleasant landlord.
We then organised a Celebration of Roger's life at the South Leicestershire crematorium, after which his ashes were scattered at the Scraptoft Natural Burial Ground, to the east of Leicester. His ashes were scattered along with those of his great friend Russ Middleton who had died a little while ago.
Sadly David Rimington also passed away recently having suffered a heart attack. He died in the same hospital as Roger.
One of Roger's friends, Alex James wrote the following poem about Roger, which he read at the cremation and also at the scattering of ashes:-
Roger Roger a man who held a Beacon in esteem, if not the bar hours
A historic collector of everything, especially Barclays pens, copies of the Merc and microwaves,
Cared for others but not himself,
Bottle of red for my birthday,
Picture of Maz on a mad dash,
Pictures of Leicester past
Great target for young pub cat Edna and Mark's newspaper
Fanatic bus pass user,
Frequenter of Kieran's bar,
Looks at life through a broken magnifying glass,
He's going to be jealous of the buffet.
Roger Roger, over and out
AND FINALLY Brian Cope's item about Bill Varley (we knew him as Charlie Varley) took me back to the art room. I have no recollection of what I created in the lessons, what sticks in my mind is mixing the brightly-coloured powder paints with water. I think there were three rows of benches, and as the end of the lesson approached we went to the sink at the back of the room, one row at a time, and washed our brushes and other implements. I recall the art sessions as very relaxed, with Charlie walking round offering comments and advice.
Dennis J Duggan July 13th 2019