FROM JOHN (JAKE) BLAIKIE 1955-62 (This was written July 15th - Ed) Hello from locked-down Melbourne. With regard to opening Wyvernians to post 1976 pupils I don't have any direct objection. But I suspect it would lead to a large amount of input which would have almost zero-interest to the vast majority of current readers (A declining number anyway, as age wearies us) Maybe you could find an enterprising post-1976-er to run a parallel universe version?
FROM DAVE POSTLES 1960-67 The criteria for school selection in the last issue (This was written July 16th - Ed) were interesting. I had not considered the sartorial aspect - the attractiveness of the uniform. In my year cohort at Ovo Road (Overton Road, but latterly Merrydale - an oxymoron) four kids succeeded at the 11+, two of whom were boys. The other lad progressed to Alderman Newton which had, I think, a splendid uniform. In my family's perception - perhaps more widely shared - there was a hierarchy of grammar schools by disparate attributes. Wyggeston was considered to be middle to upper-middle class and thus not suitable 'for the likes of us,' though later my sister attended Wyggeston Girls. At Alderman Newton they played rugby. CBS was assured because football was the sport (I was goalkeeper at Overton Road) Languishing at the bottom in our perception was Gateway which, whilst soccer was played there, did not have a reputation commensurate with CBS.
Some stimulating editorial comment included the notion that some boys were always destined for Oxbridge, or other universities. I'm sure that was a significant aspect. On the other hand some changes did occur throughout the years, and some advanced where others regressed. How marginal were those aspects I don't know.
Back to the uniform. Caps were mentioned. They were to be avoided as far as possible. Accordingly, I would cycle along Victoria Road East in the morning, head uncovered. But at the junction with Uppingham Road at the Shaz (Shaftesbury cinema) it was necessary to don the cap in case Grit Whitbread was encountered on his bicycle. Lunch and afternoons were a different matter, you could cycle home with impunity. Finally a brief greeting is directed at Steve Mellor, who was a mucker of mine.
FROM KENNETH WARD 1959-66 Second year at the former Gateway Girls' School, Elbow Lane. My academic record took a big blow when I was demoted from 1A to 2B, whereas some of my friends jumped a year and went direct to 3 Alpha. The 'new' school was walled all round and we were not allowed out. Our classroom was on the first floor, just off the gym, which did make concentration a bit difficult at times. I still have a photo of the class. There are only a few names I can't remember. And I was still in short trousers!
I recall Mr Alexander, the maths teacher. On occasion he would sit cross-legged, very relaxed, on the table, but he was very good. Unfortunately he left after my second year and was never seen again. Although we were separated from the main school we did have to go across town for certain activities. One I joined was fencing. For some reason the teacher let us carry our foils across town. Crazy man. Demented or what. One day three of us decided to play at being the Three Musketeers in St Margaret's bus station. Some busybody reported us, and we were banned from the club after only three lessons. I still think I could have been as good as Crouch or Dart (?)
The Elbow Lane dinners were, on reflection, not too good. But at the time I did not know much better than to realise my mum was a good cook. A lot of liver was served, or stuffed hearts, kidneys and stews with loads of mashed potatoes, cabbage and gravy. Considering the amount of offal, dinner time was more like a biology lesson! A main event was the tuck shop, manned by third-year prefects. Unfortunately some people (they will remain anonymous) ran up a tab, but that came to an end once the teachers got wind of it. Given the meagre amount of pocket money I received the tabs seemed enormous.
Another maths teacher was Mr Mercer. He was very good. As it turns out, all my maths teachers made a big impact on me. At the time.our French story book had a Monsieur Mercier as the key character. Funny how you remember these weird facts fifty years on. There was a boy called Manger, who wanted to know the name of the teacher on playground duty. We said it was Jasper, though failed to mention that was his nickname. It was rumoured that Manger received one hundred lines as a result! It was good to see Jasper at the only reunion I have attended, in 1998? (That was at The Harrow, Thurmaston - Ed) He didn't look a day older. One of Mr Mercer's quirks was a lead weight sewn into the bottom of his gown. If he spotted an error whilst patrolling the classroom he would playfully land the weight on the back of one's head. No words were spoken, none were necessary.
During a French lesson with Bill Sykes, Newcombe hid in the cupboard behind the teacher's desk. I can't remember how long he stayed in there, but do recall him keep popping his head out and making us laugh. He closed the door before Bill could see him. That was a classic schoolboy activity which made our school days special, even if it distracted from the real reason for being there.
Can't remember why, but some of us decided to do some boxing in the gym. Boogie Gibson and Tony Robotham were two of the five or six boys who set up a makeshift ring, and donned very large boxing gloves. I had a bit of experience, with my dad teaching me the basics of the Queensbury rules. I was ready to use everyone as a punch bag, friend or not. This event was unsupervised - where was the H & S Executive? Things went well until Boogie caught me with an uppercut and the lights went out, just as I was thinking I was invincible! It never happened again. I knew how to pick my battles, especially as everyone was taller than me.
Wally Wardle took us for Geography. Not sure if it was his only, or favourite, subject. I was one of those kids who had an answer to everything, or I should say was capable of giving a spontaneous answer with little thought. The following incident is an example. The subject was Australia. Wally said, 'The ostrich is a native of Australia, and it can be dangerous. Can anyone tell me where you should not stand when close to one?' I thought this was a trick question, and being quite small replied, 'Underneath it, sir.' The class went into hysterics, I felt rather an idiot. Wally would not let it go. 'Tell me, Ward. Why is that?' My quick wit replied with, 'Well, sir, it might want to sit down.' This resulted in a further bout of hysterics. I hope Wally enjoyed the moment as much as the class.
FROM TIM RIGGS 1952-58 Thank you for OWT107. My career at CBS was similar to yours (See the And Finally section - Ed) and I fell into category 3. But I started in 1B and stayed in the B stream until 5S, where I managed three 'O' levels in maths, English and art. I later managed three more, then did 'A' levels at technical college, which was a far nicer experience.
FROM ALAN PYKETT 1959-66 (This item was written in July - Ed) During lockdown, and at the time of writing this I am in extended lockdown in Leicester, I took the opportunity to read again Andy Marlow's excellent book about the history of the school. But this time I only read the history of the school from 1959 to 1966, the seven years I was at the school. I noted three items of interest which obviously passed me by when reading the whole book originally. Firstly, whilst spending my second and third years at Elbow Lane from 1960 to 1962 I do not really have any memory of being escorted in crocodile fashion with a prefect at at the head from Elbow Lane to Clarence House for lessons in the main school building. I am sure it did happen but perhaps not very often. Secondly, the date Thursday, 26 October 1961 is ingrained in my memory. It was the date of that year's annual Founders' Day service held at the cathedral, but that is not the reason for its importance to me! At the time I was in class 3A at Elbow Lane and I was possibly the only pupil in the class where there was no television set at home. I think my parents were becoming increasingly aware I was becoming a bit upset about this so imagine my great surprise when I went home for lunch on the above date and found a set in the living room. My excitement was tempered by my father issuing the immortal words "If it affects your school work it is going back". It was a rented set. He need not have worried. Amazingly, from that time onwards my academic career took off, culminating with me winning the form prize in class 4A the following year. Pure coincidence I suppose. As an aside readers will also recall that the above service was always held on the Thursday afternoon prior to the autumn half term break, which in those days was just two days, the following Friday and Monday, not a full week as it is now. Thirdly, and finally I hesitate to say but I think I may have found an error but I stand to be corrected! The annual swimming gala in 1965 is stated to have been held on 9 July. Most readers of OWT will recall 1965 was the year when the Leicester industrial holiday fortnight moved from the first two weeks in August to the first two weeks in July and my report for the summer term confirms that it finished on Friday, 2 July. Myself and my parents would have gone away the next day.
FROM ED FEATHERSTONE 1959-65 Between 1991 and 2019 I was a Partner, then a Director, of Collis Bird and Withey Bookbinders. When I bought the Andy Marlow book I decided to have it rebound. It is now in a black quarter-leather binding (Spine and part of the covers in leather, with raised bands and gold lettering) and the rest of the covers in black buckram. The end papers are also black. We then made a handsome slip case, to protect the book for posterity. I want Wyvernians to have it, so the book can be seen at the reunions. It could be your personal copy. Lord knows you deserve it! (I was, of course, delighted and honoured to accept Ed's generous offer. If and when we have another reunion it will take pride of place in the display - Dennis)
AND FINALLY... The recent spell of very wet weather made me think back to our weekly games lessons at Grace Road or Rushey Fields. I was a less than enthusiastic participant, and had a range of dodges to avoid the torture. But of course they could not be used every week, so often I had no choice but to take part. The only hope of salvation lay in the weather, and if it was a wet morning I hoped and prayed it would become worse after lunch so games would be cancelled. But so far as I recall, that only happened once in my five years at CBS.
Dennis J Duggan 1959-64
October 12th 2020