EDITORIAL Welcome to the first OWT of 2020. The annual reunion will soon be upon us, and we are sure will be enough people there to make it viable. We are now losing members faster than we recruit new ones, which is inevitable given we have a cut-off point of 1976. Wyvernians has been going for twenty two years so, for example, those chaps who were aged 68 when the first reunion took place are 90 this year! I was 51, and am now 72. But the cheques are coming in, and at this point we are on a par with last year. Our speakers are always interesting, and 2020 is no exception. Bharat Patel, who I remember from the local TV news programme when I lived in Leicester, will entertain us after lunch.
FROM DUNCAN LUCAS (EXACT DATES UNKNOWN) [The final installment of Duncan's memoirs - Ed) Yes, I have played cricket on the County ground, which was the school playing fields during wartime. I carried out drainage works there during my farming/landscaping career. This account may be a ramble, but my memories come back in fits and starts, such as the bombing of Cavendish Road. We scouts were going on a long trek and met outside the Star & Garter when a plane came over very low. 'It's a Hampden,' the lads exclaimed. 'No it's not. It's got a rear gunner.' It was a Dornier, with swastika and crosses on it. 'It's a Jerry,' we experts shouted. Then crump, crump, crump, and the cheeky Jerry returned some time later. The sirens blared as we were shunted into an air raid shelter and shouted abuse at the aircraft. He was after the gas and electric works, thank God he missed. We went to see the damage, but a soldier with a rifle shooed us off. So we went down a back alley and saw a complete roof sitting in the road and a lady shopkeeper dusting fruit which was covered in dust and debris.
There was bomb damage at the top of Queens Road, and the Vicky Park pavilion, which we lads visited. There was a stick of bombs from near Oadby church and across the fields to Newton Lane, Wigston. The final one landed near High Field Farm. The searchlights on the Wyggy Boys playing fields, opposite what is now Brocks Hill Park, were machine-gunned. Boys brought incendiary bombs to school to show the teacher! My education was suffering, so no wonder I left school at fifteen.
At home I had my own veg garden, and one day I dug up a carrot which had grown through a ring. It was my mother's long-lost wedding ring! I kept rabbits and hens. I was inquisitive and wanted to learn, but not school subjects. I farmed an allotment, built a pig sty, hatched chickens then rented twelve acres from an uncle and on and on. I began ploughing gardens and formed a landscaping company and did what no other ex-pupils of CBS did. I constructed the new playing fields for City Boys' school on Downing Drive. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had listened and learned at school. School mates at Wigston National School included one Walter Williams, who was also non-academic. He changed his name to Bill Maynard.
I wrote to a lad in Nigeria and swapped items. He gave me a piece of monkey skin which I gave to the school museum. Did you know we had a school museum? In later life I built up a remarkable museum and founded the Leicestershire Museums Forum, which is still thriving. I joined the Young farmers Club at Kibworth, and Formed Wigston YFC. I was taught public speaking and formed Wigston Historic Society and up to ninety people attended the meetings. I even became Chairman of Leicestershire County Council. All these things from a poor scholar. I was such a shy, under-nourished lad brought out of school at fifteen. I was in hospital for VE Day, almost killed by a cow which kicked me in the stomach. Next birthday I will be ninety. 'Don't life have many twists and turns?
PS I saw the blood-red night sky when Coventry copped it.
FROM ALAN MERCER (TEACHER 1959-63) I have an idea for a quiz, the subject being staff in the first half of the 1960's. Here are five questions. I hope others will pose more questions for OWT.
1) Which teacher was also a point-to-point jockey, sometimes returning on Monday (or even Tuesday) with an arm or leg in plaster?
2) Which member of staff owned a garage, conveniently situated between Humberstone Gate and Grace Road?
3) Which member of staff was challenged to prove his age by customs officers at the end of a trip abroad?
4) Which member of staff had a degree in Pharmacy?
5) Which member of staff had a degree in Astronomy?
(Answers to me please. Feel free to send me three questions about the school - Ed)
FROM PETER KNIGHT 1954-60 Regarding the editor's account of giving fake excuse to Jock Gilman, I used to do exactly the same and came to the same conclusion!
From Chris Jinks (1967-74) I am very sorry to advise you that my brother, Philip Anthony Jinks, passed away suddenly on November 1st 2019, aged 61, following a heart attack. After gaining 'A' levels in chemistry, biology and geography, Phil studied medicinal and pharmacuetical chemistry at Loughborough University, which included working in the Boots laboratory, Nottingham, for a year. After graduating, for a couple of years Phil worked in the haematolgy department at Leicester Royal Infirmary before he found his ideal role working as an aerosol chemist at Riker Laboratories (Later 3M Healthcare) Loughborough, where he devoted most of the rest of his working life to finding ways of helping asthma sufferers in the development of drugs and inhalers. In the process he gained thirty five patents to his name. Phil retired in March 2018 so he could spend more time with his family, embarking on DIY projects and playing tunes on his many guitars. Phil leaves behind a wife ,Balwinder, a daughter, Serena (20) and a son, Daniel (15)
Tony Leedham (1952-54) Passed away December 2019
Peter Ian Hamilton (1960-66) Passed away December 2019
John Sturgess 1945-49 (Mrs Cicely Sturgess writes: I am sorry to give you the news that my very special husband died on 21st October 2019 aged 85 years. He lived a very full life as an engineer, first working at Evans Lifts, Abbey Lane. Later he designed an overflow lifting gate for Tumut Pond Dam on the Snowy River hydro electric scheme, Cooma, Australia, where we emigrated in 1957. We travelled on the Oransay as part of our honeymoon. He worked for Lend Lease on their big development projects. Designed remote-handling lifting equipment for removing spent fuel rods at the Lucas Heights Atomic Energy Commission reactor. He also designed a remote inspection camera which showed the condition of the reactor's interior, searching for possible cracks in the concrete. He designed the double-decker lifts for Sidney's Centrepoint Tower, and also became MD for the installation of the Sidney monorail. In the course of his work John travelled to Europe, the UK, Japan, America, Canada and Switzerland, making many friends along the way. He learned the Japanese language in order to negotiate their cultural way of decision making and we made dear friends there. From a work point of view John's courtesy and knowledge helped so much. Senior management went out of their way to tell me how much they appreciated his honesty and gentlemanly ways. I hope the reunion goes well. We did attend one several years ago with Brian Ayres, John's special friend from his days at CBS. I recently discovered from Bryan's daughter, Michelle, that he is now in a nursing home on Melton Road, Syston, and thought I would pass that news on)
FROM MICK STOKES 1957-62 The following item is something I recollected after purchasing a book of poetry recently. No names, but our English master in one year used to give us homework which involved learning some lines of poetry. In the next lesson he would hand out sheets of paper, on which we had to write the lines. The papers were collected and marked, and had to be 100% accurate as marks were lost for mistakes - including incorrect punctuation. One of the boys realised the lined paper supplied was the same type every time, and was easily obtainable. So he wrote the lines at home, and substituted this paper for the blank piece. He was quite open about it, so word spread and everyone began to do it. Thus we all got full marks. The teacher usually had his head down working on something else, so did not notice the switch. He did ask boys at random to recite the poem, but this did not catch anyone out as we simply looked down at our written paper. I wonder if we were the only class to do this?
FROM KASH SAHOTA 1974-81 Until the age of 16 I was a proper skinny little runt, mainly due to my dislike of milk, and as most sports require some sort of body strength I was pretty much useless at them all. I did manage some cross country running (1976) and in fact did compete on behalf of the school, but running around muddy fields in the middle of winter in the freezing cold seemed like a daft idea. At 16 I overcame my dislike of milk as it seemed everybody else was drinking it, so I started getting taller and a little less skinny.
Our group of ten or so mates used to enjoy a bit of football at breaks and lunchtime. One of my mates used to play for the school B team and said that they were always short of players so anyone could try out. Well I got in, which was not exactly saying anything, the first game was about Sept (1979). There was no goalie so my mate went in goal and I started on the right wing. The first half was a nightmare, I touched the ball about 3 times and we were 8 nil down. Needless to say our teacher (Mr Mason I think) wanted to change things a bit for the second half, he asked if anyone else wanted to go in goal. Well I thought it has got to be better than just standing on the right wing, so I volunteered. The final result was 9 nil, so a far better second half.
I was asked if I wanted to play in goal regularly, I thought why not. In the end I only played about half a dozen games as other weekend committments got in the way. Of the six games it was about 50/50 for wins and losses, but there was one game where I can say my head won us the game.
This particular game was at QE college just near Victoria Park. It did not start well as we soon went one down due to my view of the ball being blocked (not bad goalkeeping) The other team were better than us and it was not long before a ball was played over our defence with their centre forward chasing after it. I was at the edge of my penalty area thinking 'it's going to get to me, it's going to get me', with the forward catching the ball quickly I thought 'no it's not' and decided on a bit of self preservation. I stood up just as the ball was about 6 inches from me with the forwards boot about to make contact, the boot did not hit the ball but my head did hit the forwards mouth, he fell sideways and I backwards. I had a bruise on my head but the forward fared far worse as his 2 front teeth had been knocked out. Needless to say he had to go off to the dentist to have them put back in and we won that game about 7 goals to 1. No schoolboys were permanently damaged as a result of this incident.
AND FINALLY... In 1959 we lived at 5 Tamerton Road, 'on the Monsell' (No one used the official name of the Eyres Monsell council estate!) and in the summer of that year I sat the 11+ at the Monsell junior school. I must have done pretty well, as I was allocated a place in 1 Alpha at CBS. My parents were over the moon about this, thinking they had raised a child genius. Alas, that soon proved to be a pipe dream and the seeds had already been set for my downfall. At junior school the pace was like a WW2 convoy, that is at the speed of the slowest ship. Thus I had ample time to assimilate knowledge, as everything was repeated as often as necessary. But in 1 Alpha, where two years' work was crammed into one, we moved at the speed of a destroyer hunting submarines and I was soon falling hopelessly behind. Unfortunately my secretive nature precluded me from confiding in my parents or teachers, and so far as the latter were concerned I was simply bone idle. I did myself no favours with my relaxed attitude to homework, and things came to a head at home when my dad read the end-of-term report. Sadie Thompson was brutally frank on his form master's comments at the bottom of the report. He has no idea of work as it is required in a grammar school. I will spare you an account of what happened next. So at the start of the spring term I had hit rock bottom, and sixty years later I can still see myself on the upper deck of a No 24 Corporation bus at the terminus at the top of Saffron Lane. I looked out of the window to see the greengrocer laying out his wares. How I envied his simple day of selling fruit and veg to the local housewives. All I had to look forward to was another day of misery. Then a thought popped into my head. Why go to school? Spend the day walking round town and go in tomorrow. That way there will be no repercussions about last night's missed homework. So that is what I did. But of course I was equally reluctant to attend school the next day, so did the same again, and the next day. But it was inevitable I would be found out, as if a pupil failed to go to school without an explanation from the parents the Board Man went to your house. My parents assured him there must be a mistake, as I was leaving for school at the usual time and returning ditto. The result was a meeting with the Head, Mr Bell, myself and my parents. Truancy was unheard of at CBS, and Mr Bell was not sure how to deal with me. Caning was not the answer, and eventually I had to stay after school polishing tables for a week. Regarding my future at the school, it was agreed the best thing would be to move me to 1A, where the pace of work was slower and hopefully I would find the going easier. I can't remember if that was the case, but suffice to say that in the second year I found myself in 2B.
Dennis J Duggan
January 14th 2020