FOR WYVERNIANS 1919-76
NEXT REUNION LUNCH Hopefully we will be able to resume our full reunions in March 2023. But in the meantime, following the success of the informal lunch at Clarence House last March, a second has been provisionally booked for Wednesday October 12th. Full details will be circulated in due course, but meanwhile you might like to make a note of the date. Obviously numbers will be limited by the available seats in the cafeteria.
FROM KEN WARD 1959-66 (The third and final chapter of Ken's memories. In OWT114 we left Ken recovering from a broken finger following a football injury - Ed) What happened next was bizarre. Six weeks later, on a Tuesday, I had the finger cast removed. I did protect it with a slip-on plastic shield so I could play, but on the Friday during a training game I tackled Mick McLoughlin and managed to break the finger on my right hand. It was an identical break! Another six weeks incarcerated, and another six weeks of ribbing from my mates. But that was not the end. Around Easter time I rebroke the finger on my right hand when playng football against the Old Boys, trying to do a Maradonna. I left the pitch a little weepy, got it strapped up then went back on. No subs in those days. The new pitch was not the best, as the surface had varying amounts of flint embedded in the soil. This led to quite a number of players receiving cuts to their legs. I seem to remember McMorran receiving a nasty gash. Each time we played we kept an eye out for flints, and picked up the offending items.
I began driving lessons at the tender age of seventeen. All my lessons were at night, and one was in fog so thick I could only see about twenty five yards ahead. My first test was offered for January 21st 1966 at 1.30pm. Before accepting I needed to check the instructor would be available to give me an extra lesson and loan me a car. Then I needed approval from Mr Bell, the headmaster. I expected the worst, but he gave me the afternoon off. He said I had better pass first time, as he would not allow it again. Around February or March we were due to play football against King's College, Cambridge. Dave Lawrence was unable to attend on this occasion, and he approached me a week before the game. He had heard I had a driving licence, and asked if it was a provisional one. He was surprised when I told him it was a full licence, and what happened next still shocks me. He asked if I would drive his Hillman Husky from Cambridge to Leicester after the match with some of the team. The Hillman was driven to Cambridge by a graduate who was doing teacher training so would not be returning. Seriously, who in their right mind would ask a seventeen-year-old with zilch driving experience to do such a thing? But we arrived home safely, the only casualty being a blown exhaust. Hopefully Dave Lawrence did not hold that against me. But the confidence I gained from the experience was of great value, so thank you, Dave.
FROM MARTIN POTTER 1965-72 Were any other readers subjected to the marlin spike? The teacher involved must remain nameless in these enlightened times, but back then no one would have considered it inappropriate. The marlin spike was wielded because our standard of singing was of an unsatisfactory - some would say lamentable - standard. It was laid across the top of the piano as a warning to those not giving their best. The rationale was, If that's the best you can do then a stronger form of encouragement is required. Those readers not of a nautical disposition might not know a marlin spike is a tool used in marine ropework. Basically it is a large pointed piece of metal not unlike a giant needle. It must be stressed that this potential weapon was introduced in a light-hearted fashion, and there was never any suggestion it would actually be used. Surprisingly, standards improved after the spike appeared. The teacher said, Now why couldn't you have sung like that in the first place, then I wouldn't have had to bring out the marlin spike! I enjoyed singing, and wanted to join the choir as it had the added advantage that choir practice enabled one to miss boring lessons. The music teacher auditioned pupils by asking them to sing a short piece to his piano accompaniment. Ability was assessed via three categories, A, B, X, the latter identifying those who did not have a musical bone in their bodies. Initially I was a B, but following an appeal I was promoted to A and thus qualified for membership. The highlight of the year was performing at the annual Founder's Day service in Leicester cathedral, which had wonderful acoustics. The piece I most enjoyed was a versionof Ave Verum, but therein lies a mystery. As I wrote this I felt the need to listen to the piece again, so searched YouTube. I was disappointed to find all the versions are sung in the original Latin under the title Ave Verum Corpus. When we performed the piece the lyrics were in English, something like Ave Verum Holy Spirit, to the world in sorrow came. I can find no record of these even after an extensive search. Can any musical readers throw any light on the version performed by our choir?
FROM STEPHEN RADFORD 1954-59 Reading our editor's comments in the last OWT reminded me of my own, similar, dislike of games. I thought it was all rather unnecessary, and would have preferred to have lessons instead - and arrive home a little earlier. Football was something to tolerate. Often I simply put my football jersey over my clothes and thus stand a chance of getting an earlier bus home by not having to change. If I could avoid a tackle I did so. On occasion my twin brother, Andrew, and I would hide behind the long narrow buildings near the Grace Road changing rooms and not be detected at all. We reappeared when games were over and joined the other boys as they headed for the buses. Cricket was more tolerable, but I lost interest when my brother was hit on the head by a ball and jeered at. I saw the nastier side of the game. I did not enjoy cross country at Rushey Fields. To my mind it was too far away on the other side of Leicester. We lived in Knighton, so it made getting home even later. But we had a good scheme going. The council dustbin lorries were emptied nearby via a track, along which we ran before going across fields. The lorries had a running board at the back, where the dustmen stood to travel to their next stop. Often we were allowed to stand on the back, and on one occasion this allowed us to arrive first at the finish line looking remarkably fresh. Whilst nothing was said by the teachers, they must have thought it most unusual to see the Radford boys so keen and competitive!
FROM STEVE MELLOR 1960-66 I can put Rich Wakefield's mind at ease as, whilst I cannot recall the incident to which he refers, a group of Old Boys would never be quantified as undesireable rabble and such behaviour would reflect my own spirit. This appears to have been the case, as entry was granted - I guess the use of the obligatory extended hiss to end Semper te amamus must have done the trick, even if tuneless. I guess Mr Wakeman (sic) is not the accomplished keyboard player from YES and other bands as I would have recognised him and he would have been on freebies all night.
How strange is the human brain. I can recite the Latin verses from the school song verbatim more than fifty five years after leaving, whilst not realising there were any verses in English until I saw the Wyves web site. This is despite me having no knowledge of the meaning and absolutely no interest in Latin at any time. Grit Whitbread kicked me out of his lessons due to lack of interest combined with little effort and pathetic marks for the little work I did. Ah well, tempus fugit, carpe diem etc.
FROM ANDY BENNETT 1971-75 I think I have commented before about the rich well of reminiscencies from the Clarence House era, they make great reading.. It's a shame about the lack of memories from the Evington era. I moved to Leicester in 1971 from Harrow County Grammar School (Michael Portillo's school incidentally, and we both share the same passion for railways) and was therefore at CBS to 1971 to 1975, when I graduated from the sixth form. Many of the teachers from Humberstone Gate did make the move to Downing Drive so I recognise many of the names. Ernie Ding Dong Bell lived on Uppingham Road, and as a paper boy I delivered the Leicester Mercury to his house. I remember a maths lesson in one of the mobile classrooms near the boiler house. Mr Bell appeared and asked the teacher (Mr Baxter) if I could step outside as he wanted a word with me. My heart was in my mouth, but I need not have worried as all Ernie had to say was that Mike, my brother two years behind me, had been checked for nits by the nurse and tested positive. So I had to be checked, but could not understand why someone so senior was sent on this errand. By the way, I was given the all-clear!
FROM BRIAN COPE 1954-62 In a second-hand bookstore in a Perth (Australia) suburb, I came across a copy of Chas Howards biography of Mary Kingsley. I knew of this book but had never seen it. The book is dedicated to his brother, who was an inspirational history master at Alderman Newton's. Along with C P Snow and Professor J H Plumb, of Christ's College, Cambridge, they formed a band of brothers who toured French vineyards and shared a range of unusual interests. Plumb, for instance, was a friend and confidante of Princess Mararet. I spoke to some of those Newton pupils who saw Howard Snr off on the boat train to Paris (I believe) to avoid court proceedings. A rather more colourful lifestyle than that of the normal provincial schoolmaster.
MEMORIAL BENCH Mike Ratcliff (1958-64) noticed a memorial bench in the Botanic Gardens, Oadby. It is dedicated to D E Whitbread, 1921-2002, which is our very own Grit. I believe you can see photos on the Wyvernians web site and facebook page. Apparently it could do with some TLC, which might be forthcoming from one very well-known Wyvernian!
FROM JOHN WILLIAMSON 1960-67 (OR 68) (John has sent me some details of his life, and has given me permission to edit the content to make it more suitable for OWT - Ed) After leaving CBS I attended Bradford University, leaving three years later with a less-than-stellar degree in History, Philosophy and Literature. Subsequently I spent a couple of years messing around on building sites in the Midlands - Rugby, Northampton, Newbold Verdon, Hinckley and Coventry to name but some. I was then taken on in the PR department og GEC Marconi Electronics in Chelmsford. Not sure if the previous construction industry was a good grounding for the defence and electronics PR business!) Eventually I was recruited by one of my former Marconi bosses who had moved on. In the late seventies I switched to communications and technology magazine journalism. During my CBS days I knew Steve Mellor and Richard McMorran reasonably well via Martin Stuart, with whom I am still in touch with Christmas cards. If they are both reading this, 'Hello.' Once, in a very disorderly music lesson at Elbow Lane, Bill Sykes appealed for quiet. He exclaimed, Every time I open my mouth some darn fool makes a noise. Years later I found that quite funny.
FROM MIKE RATCLIFF 1958-64 In OWT 114 Dave Winter queries why Eric Orton's nickname was Ben. I believe it was me who gave him the name shortly after he joined the school in 1961. It was a time when both TV channels were packed with cowboy programmes, some of which I watched. I'm sure one of the actors/characters was called Ben (H)Orton so I started to refer to him as Ben as Mr Orton sounded so formal, and it seemed to stick. A fairly ordinary nickname for a school staffed by Grit, Flo, Wally, Basher, Bunny, Nosebag and Luigi.
AND FINALLY Like most of us, I still remember many of our teachers. One, Jock Gilman, Games Master, made a particularly strong impression. My mental picture of a sports teacher was of an energetic ex-army type wearing spotless white trousers and white vest. Jock was none of those things, in fact a less likely candidate for the job is hard to imagine. I recall a rather portly, pipe-smoking, middle-aged gent wearing a sports jacket. He was never known to break into a sweat, and did anyone ever seeing him actually doing any physical activity? He was noted for arriving at school in a different car each week. This was rumoured to be because his brother had a second-hand car business on Welford Road. As is well-known, I had no interest in sport, though I did not mind cross-country, and Jock's relaxed attitude allowed me and Peter Mc Dermott, my best pal, to avoid games a few times each term via the used of forged notes. This resulted in us being sent to the library, often accompanied by a couple of other regular dodgers, where we were able to complete that evening's homework. Only once were we put in a classroom and told to do lines. I have mentioned this before, and with hindsight there is no way that Jock could have been fooled. I suspect that a) he did not want the bother that would be caused by an investigation and b) we were useless at ball games and probably best if we did not spoil it for the rest of the teams. But we will never know for sure.
Dennis J Duggan 1959-64