EDITORIAL This OWT might be a little shorter than usual. That is because material is in short supply again, so if you have any relevant memories please consider sharing them. I have held over excellent items from Martin Potter (1965-72) and Kenneth Ward (1959-66) so there will be something for OWT 112.
OBITUARIES Stuart Brown (1956-61) informs us that Dave Parkinson passed away last year in South Africa. He had lived there for a number of years, and was in electronics. Stuart received the information from Dave's cousin, Ian. It is believed he was at CBS circa 1956-61.
Jim Henderson (1953-60) informs us that Anthony (Ivor) Holyoak (1953-59) died in May. Ivor was a keen cricketer, and a very loyal friend to all who knew him. He had a remarkable memory, and could always supply information that others had forgotten. He will be greatly missed.
FROM BRIAN SCREATON 1959-65
I recently published a book about Cosby, the village where I live. It has sold very well, both to village residents and to former residents from all over the UK and the rest of the world. It has also put me in touch with many interesting people, one of whom, by the name of David Cobley, lent me a family history that his late father William Henry Cobley had written. William was born in Cosby in 1907, and attended the village school, of which Mr. E H Severn was the headmaster. I will let William take up the story now, from his memoirs:-In 1920, some new educational arrangements came into being, which would enable County School children to sit the eleven plus examination and, if they passed, to be allocated to Leicester schools; Wyggeston, Alderman Newton's or City Boys, or Alderman Newton and Newarke for girls in addition to Lutterworth Grammar School. Mr Severn, the headmaster, therefore encouraged as many as he thought stood a chance of passing to sit for this exam. Although I was older than most, (I was now twelve years old), I was sent home to ask if my parents wished me to enter. I remember as I went through the shrubbery to Portland Street I was hoping for a "no" answer, but it was "YES", so I sat for the exam, passed and was allocated a place at the City Boys' School.
I started at this school in September 1920 and it was a new and rather frightening experience. In the first place I did not know Leicester at all, and then I had to walk to Narborough to catch the 8.03a.m. train, which meant getting up at 7a.m. as against 8.a.m. at Cosby School. However, I found on the first morning that there were more than myself going to City Boys on the train and soon I made friends. We did our best to reserve a compartment for ourselves by crowding against the windows to give the impression that it was full. I had a three monthly season ticket provided by the Educational Authority which enabled me to make as many train journeys as I liked, not merely to school.[William also used the season ticket to go and watch the County Cricket team matches at their ground which was then on Aylestone Road.]
The City Boys' School was in East Bond Street using the buildings erected jointly as a church and school by the Presbyterians and Independents in 1708. The school, City Boys, was formed by the splitting up of the Newarke Boys' and Girls' school in Newarke Street, the girls going to their new building in Fosse Road. This new arrangement took place in 1920 and I wondered why some of the older boys still wore Newarke caps.
We had a blazer and cap with a Wyvern badge. First- and second-formers also wore knickerbockers but blazers were not compulsory, so most of us just wore caps.
It was very different to see our teachers in their gowns and the headmaster, Reverend Francis Gater in a mortar-board. School started at 9.a.m. until 12.30p.m. and 2.p.m. until 4.30p.m. In the dead of winter, the boys from the country were allowed to leave to catch earlier trains. My train in the winter was 4.25p.m. and I left at 4p.m. to catch it. In the summer it was at 5.10p.m. which meant that I did not reach home until 6p.m. to have my tea and do my homework. In the winter if I was the only one to get off the train at Narborough (and this happened often as some of the other schools did not give this early facility) I was a bit fearful as soon as I left the last light in Littlethorpe and plunged into the darkness of the country lane. This was more so as I had to pass the cemetery and the ghostly tombstones on moonlit nights. Boys from the country and those who lived a good distance away from the school were allowed to bring sandwiches for dinner or simple meals such as homemade pies which could be warmed up, or an egg to boil. There were no other facilities and no canteen; these were unheard of at this time. I was fortunate to be able to go to Aunt Fanny's and Uncle Arthur Cobley's for dinner. He kept a corn and forage business with a shop on Welford Road, just beyond Marlborough Street. I took sandwiches, but often they boiled me an egg and sometimes I shared a meal with them.
Our sports ground was on Regent Road, which we shared with the Wyggeston Boys. We had to move however, when the Wyggeston Girls' School was built on the site. We then had a field next to the railway on Aylestone Road, owned by the Freemen of Leicester, where the Electricity works are now. We had to move again to the playing fields off Canal Street, Aylestone, where we alighted from the tram car at Cat Lane, now called Hall Lane. The fare was one penny. I played at outside left for the form football team and also played with the cricket team.
We had a full half day for sport and this was anticipated with pleasure particularly so if the morning lessons had been algebra or trigonometry. One form of initiation for new boys, which you were able to avoid if someone put you on your guard, was to be sat on the drinking fountain in the yard and feel the gush of water round your behind and down your legs; fortunately I escaped this. For art and music lessons we went to a large room in Bond Street Congregational Church buildings which was just across the road.
For physical education we went to a room, I think in King Richard III Public House, where we were put through our paces by Sergeant Coleman, but this did not last very long. We then went to Archdeacon Lane Baptist Sunday School, which had a very large room where we had a vaulting horse, but precious little else in the way of equipment. To get there involved a walk of half a mile down Butt Close Lane and through the slum district and I remember seeing a horse brought out of the front door of a house. Some of the houses had stable type doors; that is in two pieces. Our physical education was just a matter of using the vaulting horse, a little bit of drilling and was supervised by one of the ordinary teachers, not a specialist. For woodwork and metalwork we went to the Technical College in the Newarke. You can imagine how, without supervision, we dawdled along, and this cut the lesson short, as it would not start until we were all present. Our music consisted of a little bit of theory and singing under the aegis of a teacher, commonly known to us as 'Indiarubber Jesus' on account of his flabby cheeks and dreamy mode of speech.
Discipline at the school was strict but the head was a compassionate man. Several places were out of bounds to us even after school or at weekends. One of these places was a sweet and paper shop about fifty yards from the school, which had a display of bawdy postcards in the window. We always went slowly past this shop to see what we could decipher at a long glance. On Saturdays I often went to Leicester with my pals from the village and they would call in the Market Place to the booths cooking and selling sausages. The smell was tempting, but was out of bounds to me as I was wearing my school cap, which we were asked to do on all occasions.
The school was split up into houses for competitive purposes, with a prefect from the sixth form in charge and the house was named after him. I was in Elton house with, I think, a blue ribbon. This chap was not very popular. I remember an occasion when we were waiting for a teacher to turn up and we were making a lot of noise, when this prefect came in and started throwing his weight about; when he was bashed by one of the biggest boys we all cheered. I can only remember one sports day when we competed House against House in athletics, and this took place in my first year on the sports ground in Regent Road. I suppose it was because of the long distance from the school and the unsuitability of those other sports fields compared to Regent Road that these events were terminated.
I left City Boys in December 1923. I was sixteen. I read the newspapers for advertisements offering work. These were few and far between. I went to Leicester on a relative's lorry two or three times a week looking in shop and office windows for advertisements, to no avail. There were more than a million out of work. However in June [of 1924] Dad heard that a grocer, Harry Knight, in Narborough, required an errand boy. I went to see him and started there and then on ten shillings a week, and, because of my education, the promise of a possible job in the offices of his suppliers, Roberts & Roberts Ltd.
In 1925 William Cobley did indeed get the job with Roberts & Roberts Ltd who were wholesale grocers and provision importers, based at 88 High Street in Leicester, with a warehouse on Freeschool Lane. They also had branches in Melton Mowbray and Northampton. William worked his way up from office boy and eventually became Chief Cashier. In 1946 he moved to the Benson Shoe Co Ltd where in 1961 he became Company Secretary and a Director. William passed away in May 1999 in his 92nd year.
My thanks to David Cobley for the loan of his father's fascinating memoirs, and also to Mike Ratcliff for magically changing the relevant pages of the memoirs into a word document, thus saving me many hours of two-finger typing. My book about Cosby is available at www.cosbyaleicestershirevillage.blogspot.co.uk if anyone is interested.
FROM PAUL HEALEY 1960-65 Please tell Steve Mellor I was nicknamed Higgs, but for some reason that fell away when I left school. Thinking about the refernce to the ABC&D of house names, I used to be able to recite the register of our class (2A to 5A) It has just amused me to think we could have been the only register to start with an A (Abel) and finish with a Z (Zanker) Little things...
The following is an extract from an e-mail from Paul to Steve Mellor - Ed. Great to hear from you after fifty seven years. Ouch!! I left school in 1965 after six disastrous weeks in the sixth form. Ding Dong and I agreed it would be in both our interests. I did an OND in building at Leicester CAD with Chris Allen, then went on to do a degree in surveying at Brighton Poly. I spent thirty seven years with the Laing Group in the UK, Venezuela, Spain and Portugal, and the last fifteen years with Laing Homes/George Wimpey before retiring early. Then eight years with Laing O'Rourke two days per week before retiring. For the past nine years I have had a small consultancy business working with two companies. The only other old boy I am in touch with is Ed Featherstone, who was a year ahead of me.
FROM BRIAN COPE 1954-62 The reference to Wally Wardle's appearance surprised me. I thought his face was designed as a helpful reminder of the earth's climate, though we were never sure whether the tundra or savannah were to the fore. But now I prefer to think of him struggling to escape from a fighter plane after sending a Messerschmitt down in flames. Life on Aylestone Road must have seemed fairly tame by comparison. WAG Pace contributed more to my enjoyment of music than anyone else. He must have heard that my family had acquired a Dansette Major, and that I was not a fan of American music. He gave me many of his old 78's, including the Busch Quartet playing Brahms, and Heifitz playing the Elgar violin concerto. He might have hinted that Bartok was worth a look. Anyway, it got me going and my dear parents were forced to set aside Just A Song At Twilight for the wilder shores of Bartok. What a pain I must have been. At least, as my dad said, it's no worse than that b****y Elvis Presley!
Apart from my dad, the other folk we layabouts on the language side must have driven mad were the science staff. First, we were suspicious of anyone in a long white coat, who we assumed to be crazy or plain evil.(it was the time of cheap sci-fi movies and The Quatermass Experiment on our 9" Pye TV) The physics lesson I remember most was when Keith Hill and I held Dave Lawrence back to discuss the existence of God. Dave L would probably have rather spent an alcohol-free evening with his mother-in-law, but he managed to keep a stright face while we were putting the universe to rights. Chemistry was a complete mystery, seeming to consist of writing down stuff we couldn't give a damn about anyway, interspersed with the odd whizz-bang which failed to impress. Why we should be excited that a + b changes colour, or produces a mini bang baffled me. The next night, November 5th, we would be firing rockets out of milk bottles at the Collegiate Girls next door. On November 5th we were roaming the Serengeti. Next day in the chemistry lab we were staring at moth-eaten old lions in a zoo. As for biology and Formaldahyde Flo, he seemed content if you managed to answer fifteen double-barreled questions each week, though we did occasionally wonder whether all the pickled exhibits were legit or whether this mild-mannered gent was a serial killer! The overwhelming effect was of being stuck in a pharmacy with an inscrutable proprietor. I realise we were struggling on the nursery slopes, but alas we never saw beyond all this to stand upright - let alone ski off-piste. (It was only a rumour that Wally was a fighter pilot, it was never substantiated. We read a lot of war comics in those days, which no doubt gave us the idea - Ed)
FROM WALLY PAYNE 1953-58 I read OWT keenly but seldom have anything worthwhile to submit. Thanks for the reminder about the CBS book, I will take another look at my copy. Re Wally Wardle, I always fancied myself as a cricketer, specifically with the bat, right up until Wally took over the coaching of my year. Appalled to see me playing perfectly decent defensive strokes, to what I considered to be good balls, he would invariably shout: Hit out or get out, boy. So I began to hit out- and often got out - when really I should not have done. I continued to play until I was a very senior opener indeed, but never quite managed to shake off the thought of Wally shouting from the boundary each time I played a straight bat. Long after leaving school I was sometimes asked if I had ever played for any decent sides. I was always delighted to confirm that I had spent five seasons playing my cricket at Grace Road. How was the enquirer to know that Grace Road was our school playing field?
FROM BRIAN SCREATON 1959-65 The reprinted hardback edition of Andy Marlow's book 'City Boys' School, Leicester - The Story of a Grammar School' has sold extremely well, with copies going to Wyvernians all over the country and even one to Florida. Initially we had ten printed as an experiment, and these sold out almost immediately. Another twenty were ordered - the printers actually supplied twenty two at no extra cost - and these have also sold well. Comments on the book have included 'Looks fabulous; A very impressive product; Lovely quality; A very enjoyable read.' At the time of writing (June 22nd) there are just nine copies remaining. If you would like to secure a copy before they sell out please contact email@example.com or phone 07770 413228. The price is £35 plus £4.20 postage in the UK.
FROM DAVE WINTER 1959-66 Like, I suppose, many another former pupil, I look back with shame to the way we behaved during our weekly music sessions in our first two years at CBS. Ragging, or playing up, nowhere near covers those gleefully riotous sessions. Later I noticed the music for the school song was by Mr H Sykes, with words byMr J Gimson. And when the occasional opportunity arose for him to sit at the fairly small organ in the hall it was clear he was a brilliant organist. Several pupils accompanied the hymns at morning assembly, but none could reproduce the majestic sounds like Mr Sykes. Many years later I noticed a set of songs set for a competitive music festival were by H H Sykes. I made a mental note, but did nothing to follow up the discovery that he was a published, and prolific, composer and arranger. Only after the nostalgia button was pressed by OWT110 did I Google Mr Sykes. Harold H Sykes generates various links, one of which leads to the web site of The British Music Collection. A number of his songs are listed here, together with the message: No information about this composer is available. If you are able to provide further information please e-mail Sound and Music. If any old boy reading this could respond it would, I think, go some way to making collective amends towards a teacher whom we treated so badly, and who deserved so much better (I have a copy of the music and words for the school song,. It is headed 'School song. Words by John Gimson. Music by H H Sykes, MA Mus Bac. FRCO. CHM. Approx 1968, copied from a rough manuscript by Andrew Radford')
FROM TERRY DESBOROUGH 1958-65 I was in the school's Drama Society and a request came through from the Leicester Drama Society for extras for their production of "ulius Caesar, so I put my name down. I thought I would look good swanning around dressed in a toga with, maybe, a golden laurel wreath or such. However, when attending the first rehearsal I found what they really wanted were Roman soldiers. Well at that time I was a skinny white-faced Leicester boy. So I was designated sixth spear carrier on the left. This was not the most challenging role I was to play, that is until we came to the end of about act three. My colleague and I were to carry the dead body of Brutus from the stage (there were a lot of dead bodies that had to be removed at the end of that scene). My colleague was a bit more muscular than me and we both started to try to drag the corpse from the stage. He was a mature man of extremely large proportions and we couldn't drag him an inch. So, in order to get him off the stage, he would help by propelling himself with his upstage leg, hopefully out of view of the audience. It always reminded me of the death throes of a damaged spider. The costumes were hired from a theatrical costumiers and had seen much, much better days. We wore a sort of kilt with a sort of breast plate in a fetching black and silver colour. The sides of the breast plate were held together with what should have been laces. Old bits of string, raffia, wool and rope and heaven knows what else were the mode employed to lace up our garments. I went to the wardrobe department to request a better pair of laces and was given the perfect long laces to tie my breastplate. I was so pleased, until the next performance when some thief stole my breastplate and left me with one tied up with old bits of string, raffia, wool and rope and suchlike. Good luck to him - he is probably a millionaire by now. This was one of the first times I wore theatrical makeup, which is quite expensive. We were given 5 and 9 to apply to our face. Heaven knows what 5 & 9 were but we slapped it on. As there were lots of exposed arms and legs it was considered too expensive to apply 5 & 9 everywhere so we had to stand in a tin bath of what could only be described as old gravy and rub it on the exposed areas of our bodies. The streaky effect was most impressive. Another time I "acted" in Cymbeline. I had a speaking role. I was Doctor Cornelius, a Physician and Philosopher and had to be aged up. At the time I had beautiful brown hair (now I am a silver fox!) so it had to be aged which meant putting loads of talcum powder in my hair. The trouble was as I strutted about the stage great clouds of white smoke appeared above my head so I looked more like The Flying Scotsman puffing across the stage than Doctor Cornelius. To me the play was incredibly boring until the last night of the week's run. There was a sword fight in the last-but-one scene and this had played out very well during the week. I don't know whether it was last night enthusiasm or perhaps some illicit alcohol, but the leading actor playing Cloton was soundly whacked on the head and knocked out. He was immediately rushed to the Leicester Royal Infirmary and, in the final act, he was referred to in the past third person. He became quite famous later – he was Michael Kitchen.
I don't know how but I joined the Drama Society. This was a bit strange because I was so shy. Anyway one of the first plays I was in was Androcles and the Lion. I played Metellus and my pal played Lentullus, who were a couple of young bucks out on the town. Anyway, it was a very small part in the production. I was a very ordinary, skinny average height, and Lentullus was a lot smaller and skinnier than me. We were more like Jules and Sandy than a couple of young bucks. In the play he went up to the glamorous leading lady in order to "get off". After a few words he came back to me and I said "You didn't get much out of that. I told you they were brutes." This caused the audience to erupt with laughter – catching all of us by surprise. I also acted in "School for Scandal" which toured Germany. We played at four destinations – one of which was the Munich Opera. The back stage area was so large – the doors to the outside at the back of the stage were immense about forty foot high and eighty foot wide; really impressive. Happy days at City Boys.
FROM STUART BROWN 1956-61 I can't remember why, but I joined the CBS contingent of the Army Cadet Force. Quite a few of us were in the cadets. We had training sessions on Monday afternoons, but can't remember if it was every week or alternate weeks. Captain Berry, a teacher at CBS, was in charge. We used a room on the ground floor at the rear of the Humberstone Gate building. Some old Lee Enfield .303 rifles were kept locked there. They were decommissioned, but complete, and we stripprd then down for cleaning then reassembled them. They were used for drill practice in the Hill Street playground. On some Monday afternoons we were taken to the Territorial Army Centre on Blackbird Road, where we had shooting practice on the indoor range. We used .22 rifles belonging to the TA. I still remember the smell of baking bread from the nearby Frears & Blacks bakery on Abbey Lane. A couple of names I remember are Dave Parkinson and Brian Abbott. There is a few seconds footage in the school films (1956-62 edition) of the cadets marching in the Hill Street car park. We did a comedy sketch in one of the concerts, must have been around 1959/60, when we were dressed in our cadet uniforms. It seemed to go down well, though I can no longer recall the content. I think I have all my facts right, but if anyone can add anything feel free to do so.
FROM JOHN WALEY 1955-62 I was saddened to hear that Robert Davenport passed away, in Adelaide. Robert, who I never knew as Bob, was a good friend and team mate. We lost touch in 1962, when I went to university in Liverpool (The Fab Four, Gerry & The Pacemakers etc) From there I moved to Toronto, where I have lived since 1967. It's interesting to hear that Robert could remember every last detail of his cricketing career, but virtuslly nothing about his football exploits. Ah, the selectivity of memory. Robert was indeed a member of the 1961/62 football first XI, which swept all before it. The forward line was particularly potent: Robert Davenport, right wing; Pete Wright, inside right; Trevor Jones, centre forward; John Waley, inside left; Neal Lampard, left wing. I have long since lost any evidence of that great season, but there must be a record somewhere. Otherwise my unsubstantiated ravings will be scoffed at. For example, Trevor Jones was a prolific goal scorer, but did he really bag ninety three goals? Perhaps it was thirty nine? I can't recall Robert's cricket performances for the school, but I do recall our knockabout sessions on Victoria Park. We played on a surface close to London Road, literally a stone's throw from that fine Leicester watering hole The Old Horse. I often wondered what became of Robert, also Bill Pickup, who was my best friend at CBS. I have visited the UK regularly over the years. I'm a big fan of Leicestershire, and especially delightful Thrussington, where I still have relatives.
AND FINALLY... My own career. I left school in August 1964 with two 'O' levels, French and English. As I was not a practical sort of person it was clear I would end up as office fodder, which is what happened. After a few unsuccessful interviews I obtained a job as trainee stock control clerk at Furse Wholesale Ltd, Woodboy Street. I did pretty well, and by 1969 was assistant manager. In 1970 I was promoted to branch manager at the Lincoln branch, and for a year I had digs in that city. Unfortunately I had been promoted beyond my ability, and after twelve months I was given the option to resign, or be transferred back to Leicester. I chose the latter option, and apart from a brief spell in 1974/75, when I worked at County Hall for a while then moved to Electrical Conduits, Morledge Street, another electrical wholesaler. After about six months I was headhunted back to Furse Wholesale (Though it was called something else by then) where I stayed until taking early retirement in 2002 aged 55. Stephanie and I then moved to Welshpool. Although all my jobs have been mundane, I consider myself fortunate to have (mostl!)y been content with my lot. Stephanie and I married in March 1976.
Dennis J Duggan
July 14th 2021