Monday 1 July 2013

Fw: OWT79 July 2013

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JULY  2013
EDITORIAL   Brian Screaton tells me we have reached a milestone with the CBS history book, with the 250th copy sold.  There are just twenty five left, so if you have been prevaricating about placing your order now is the time to take a_ction.  All you have to do is e-mail Brian Screaton at who will confirm postage costs etc, or you can go to and place your order online. 
FROM JOHN SMITH  1951-56   (The final instalment - Ed)  I note the name of our music master is mentioned several times in the history  book. That probably evoked happy memories among many a reader. Not that we were all happy about music or singing per se, rather that the periods themselves presented many opportunities for fun, all at Bill Sykes' expense. Speaking for myself and many of my fellow-kriegies, we did not take kindly to being expected to sing. Singing was for girls, we thought. Every lesson seemed to commence with a round of 'Moo mo maw, moo mo maw, moo mo maw'...and so on, starting with highish notes and grading down the scale until there was barely a whisper at the backs of our throats as we ran short of breath, the register meantime continuing to descend way down to notes we could barely reach until we were third years. We were not built for singing. It was definitely girls' stuff. We rebelled, led ably by some of those of whom I have previously made mention.  With piano, we would start out in a reasonable facsimile of song, but gradually there would be introduced stray notes here and there, quite extraneous to the music, which most of us could not read anyway. The more enterprising among us would then groan mournfully rather than sing, up and down the tonic sol fa more-or-less at will. Then low-register muffled bellows would be introduced, supplemented by a few whole-hearted bellows after a brief period of time. Somehow we managed to avoid laughing at each others' efforts to ruin the lesson or show our delight at our own competence in the skilful destruction of the ambience and solemnity of the occasion. In short, we kept straight faces, and somehow contrived to deprive poor old Bill of the satisfaction of being able to pinpoint the fount of the trouble. There was not one fount, of course. They were legion. The pinnacle of this constructive (in our eyes) b_ehaviour occurred whenever we were obliged to 'sing' a song that our music master himself had composed.
Bill would eventually stop playing the piano, but shout at us to continue our 'singing '. He would pick up a heavy book in his right hand, and descend from his podium into our midst. We were divided down the middle of the class by a central gangway, along which he would ponderously wander, ears cocked for wrong notes. Miraculously, those nearest to him would seem to be able to pick up the proper tune again for a time. The epicentre of the cacophony of whining, wailing, groaning and bellowing shifted with an alacrity in direct proportion with Bill's attempts to get closer to his tormentors. Nevertheless his progress caused among us a concerted swaying away from the aisle, evocative of the description of the parting of the Red Sea as given in the Old Testament. Bill would lash about with his book (rumour was he had secreted a housebrick between the covers) in a wild and random manner, his targets being boys'- any boys' – heads. Sometimes he connected.  I fancy I can feel it even now...
I have been trying to find a way to relate one of my indiscretions without bringing down upon myself the full wrath of Mr Brushe who, I understand, receives copies of Old Wyves' Tales. My wrongdoing was of a similar type to that of McQuaid and Johnson, as admitted by McQuaid himself (and therefore I am not snitching, Sir). Neither was it habitual, as was the case with Duggan (again he has proclaimed his error many times over, so as to purge his soul) so naturally I feel quite free to refer to it and in doing so give that boy some relief from what must have been for him for many years' grievous inner torment.
All I can do is to plead that it was a minor, isolated lapse of judgement committed at a time when I may have been of unsound mind, although that may not necessarily have been the case. Who am I to judge?. On the day of the Annual Swimming Sports at Spence Street Baths – it may have been when I was in 4 Alpha or 5L – I had a previous engagement and was anxious to keep that rather than attend the Swimming Sports. Former participants may remember the event took place on a weekday evening, and on the same day we were given an afternoon off whether we were to be swimming or not. That may have been so that we could prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the forthcoming arduous trial of trudging up and down our aquatic environment for hours on end, or sitting by idly while others performed.  However, I think not. It seems to me that our masters realised the injustice of calling us in to work in the evening and could only salve their consciences and avert an industrial dispute by letting us have the afternoon off.  At lunch-time on the day in question I approached Mr Brushe, apprised him of my dilemma and invited him to sanction my absence from the Swimming Sports. Quite rightly, not to say reasonably, he enquired as to the nature of my alternative engagement. I should have said that my Grandmother's dog had died, but unaccountably I found the truth slipping out. I informed him that I had arranged to attend a Beetle Drive at a local Church School Rooms. The proposed event was in no way connected either with Volkswagens or motoring. The idea was for boys and girls to attend the said Church School Rooms, form teams and, with the aid of dice, pencils and paper bearing several spaces for ellipses in representations of beetles' bodies, (for which you had to throw a six to start), to complete drawings of such insects before the other teams could do so. Five for a head and so on down the scale to a one for each eye. The bodies were not divided into thorax and abdomen.
 Flo Willan would have gone mad! Now I couldn't have cared less about the entomological aspect of the exercise, but I did enjoy chatting up maturing Sunday School girls, so I was more than keen to put in an appearance.  Mr Brushe did not see it my way at all. The milk of human kindness, for which he was much noted, evaporated. He became utterly and completely unreasonable, to the point of actually turning down my plea out-of-hand. I even volunteered to attend school for the afternoon, although quite what I thought I could achieve in an empty classroom I did not know, and had to admit it. Probably just as much as I usually achieved in a full classroom, come to think of it, although I did not venture to say so at the time. I realised it was neither the right time nor the right place for me to risk any unpleasantness by introducing further contestable argument and thus ramp up the potentially volatile nature of the meeting. He gave me somewhat of a sharp look and I gathered that it was beneath his dignity to continue further to discuss the matter, so I indicated, with as much aplomb as I was able to muster, that I was willing to concede victory to him.  However, the matter festered away in my mind all afternoon. I considered appealing to the Director of Education, but thought that possibly there may have been an outside chance of his ruling in favour of Authority, as vested in our Mr Brushe. Eventually I decided that my best course of action would be simply to bunk off. A spectacularly cunning plan, was it not?
Prior to my turning up at the Church School Rooms, I cycled to Spence Street in order to investigate as to whether Mr Brushe was outside, machete in hand, looking for me. There was no sign of him, so I just turned around and cycled back to Birstall. The girls must have been well impressed by my perspiring presence when I turned up at the Beetle Drive but, girls being their usual cool and aloof selves, they did not show it.  There were no repercussions at all. The matter was not even referred to. I rather wish it had come out into the open and that it had been summarily dealt with at the time, for I have now had to bear in silence this heavy burden of guilt for something approaching 60 years. Perhaps that was the fitting retribution that Mr Brushe had planned for me all along. If so, it worked. I am relieved that I have now summoned the courage to grasp the nettle and admit all.
Sorry, Mr Brushe. I shan't do it again. In time for the next reunion, which is due to take place on 13th March 2013, I shall have completed in my best handwriting, 50 lines (I would have offered more than that statutory minimum, but times are hard ). I shall aver that : 'I must take more care to accept and obey regulations and orders lawfully given by my superiors and to understand they are so given for my benefit in particular and that of mankind in general'.
FROM IVOR HOLYOAK  1953-58   I enjoyed OWT78. With longish entries from Roger Gandy and Peter Bates it read a bit like Old Home Week,  Roger having been a contemporary in 6A1 and Peter having enjoyed pole position in my 1Alpha memoir.  I have recently been in regular touch with Ken Kelham and Wally Payne since the publication of my articles, and the recent reference to Geoff Dodd leaves me to wonder whether anyone knows the current whereabouts of his younger brother John, who was a close friend for many years whilst at school and some years thereafter. After Manchester University he spent a year with VSO. in Navrongo, West Africa, being sent on his way via a bibulous celebration in the old Spread Eagle pub, behind the City Police Headquarters, on the corner of Church Street and Colton Street. We shared many a hangover over a number of years. 
OBITUARIES   Roger Flowers (1957-63) advises the passing of Keith Ward (c1950-57) who for many years had an opticians shop in Queens Road.
Pat Burgess, a friend of Adrian Pilgrim for 40 years, enlarges on the sad passing of Adrian (1959-67)  I am very sad to inform you of Adrian's unexpected death on 22nd March 2013.  Prior to this he was in a very positive frame of mind,  just having undergone his check-up at Walton Hospital  following his recent serious illness, and given the 'all-clear'  for another year.  He was looking to the future and even considering planning a holiday.  Unfortunately, a fall on 14th March led to his being hospitalised, and he died  peacefully of pneumonia at 6.20 a.m. on 22nd March.  I apologise for the delay in sending this sad news (the message is dated May 9th - Ed)  but there has been much to be done settling his affairs and finding information, as his death was so unexpected.  I realise that some of you will be friends of Adrian's, and others acquaintances for various reasons, but as I have no means of discriminating I am  sending this to all those in his email address book who are not in the Isle of Man.
Should you wish to know more about Adrian's demise, please don't hesitate to contact me at
FROM JOHN O'GRADY  1959-64   I related to many of the tales in OWT78, smiling and nodding in agreement as I read.  John Smith relates part of a saga and mentions my name - or rather, because of the era, my brother's name.  I would like to cast further light on John's thoughts.  Keith O'Grady (1953-58) was a sort of pioneer for our family, and began the CBS trek.  He was followed by Peter (1955-60) and myself.  I recall only too well a stern-looking Wally Wardle on the first morning, pausing after I had shrilled the answer to my name.  Without even looking up he asked if there were any more O'Grady boys still to come.  An advantage of having elder brothers at CBS was the prior knowledge of the masters' nicknames.
Keith went to Manchester University to study chemical engineering, but tragically died in a road accident in 1961 aged 20 whilst in the third year of the course.  At the time I was in 4 Alpha, and for a while all the teaxchers were quite nice to me.
FROM BRIAN SCREATON  1959-65  (1)    On Saturday 1st June the Leicester Civic Society promoted a Heritage Fair at Bishop Street Methodist Church, facing Town Hall Square. After some e-mail discussion it was decided that it might be worth the Wyvernians taking a stand, to promote our organisation and hopefully pick up a few new members. A display was prepared, leaflets and posters printed, and so we sallied forth – John Offord, Frank Smith, Mike Ratcliff, Andy Marlow and myself. Our display was quickly set up (and if I may say so, with all modesty, it was probably the best of all the stands) and we awaited the visitors. Suffice it to say that we were not exactly overwhelmed, probably due to a lack of general publicity for the Fair – a criticism that cannot be levelled at the Wyvernians, as our own internal publicity machine probably produced more visitors to the Fair than any other source. It was particularly good to see John Lawson and Bill Mann there, as well as a number of other members, including Chris Jinks who was manning the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust stand, next to ours. In fact several other stallholders turned out to be ex-City Boys, including Stuart Bailey and Gordon Goode of the Civic Society, and the guy from the Industrial Archaeology Society, whose name I didn't get. Whilst we didn't manage to sign them up as members, hopefully a seed of interest has been sown, and they may come to the next Reunion. I took along a random selection of some class photos from the late 40's and early 50's that Rob Childs had given me a few weeks previously, and these provoked great interest, with many faces being recognised, particularly by Roger Brewin and Richard Thompson. The naming process has continued on Facebook with good results. The Methodist Church conveniently has its own cafĂ©, so there was no shortage of tea, coffee, cakes and sandwiches during the day. With these and other diversions, such as the sale of three copies of the book and four DVDs of the School Films, the time flashed by. All in all a successful and convivial day, and photos can be seen on our Facebook page. Whether we would do it again will I think depend on assurances regarding better publicity from the organisers.
FROM BRIAN SCREATON 1959-65 (2)    When I was preparing the display for the Wyvernians stand at the Leicester Heritage Fair, I was trying to find two photos of identical forms, about thirty or forty years apart, as I thought this would make an interesting comparison. It proved more difficult than I expected, and the nearest I could get was a photo of Form 2A in 1937, and one of 2 alpha in 1967. I must admit that '2 alpha' didn't seem to ring quite right, although it was written on the back of the photo, but as usual I was in a hurry so I included it in the display with that description. 'Wrong!' said everyone who came to the Fair 'Never was a 2 alpha – must have been 2A'. Well that suited my purposes better, so before the roadshow's next outing at Downing Drive I altered the label on the photo to read '2A'.  But then along came former pupil Steve Thompson, son of Brian Sadie Thompson, who took one look at the photo and exclaimed, 'Wrong – that's not 2A, it's 2 alpha – I know because I was in that class!'  Not only that, but he proceeded to identify every person in the picture. Further questioning of Steve revealed that the alpha-streaming method of missing a year and going from the first form to 3 Alpha was abandoned in 1967 and the alpha class simply became the top form of that particular year – so there was a 2 alpha after all! This provoked some further discussion about the merits or otherwise of the alpha-stream method.  I must say, as an ex-alpha-stream pupil, it did not serve me particularly well, as I left at 17 after doing my A-levels in the second year Sixth, and went straight to the Leicester College of Art and Technology. However as I was only 17 it meant that I didn't get a grant (remember those?) until I was 18 in the following April.  So I had to do two terms without any financial assistance apart from a Saturday job and some money from my parents.  As these terms were financially the heaviest in terms of buying books, equipment etc it was a bit of a struggle. But then I suppose I was able to start work a year earlier than I would have done otherwise – although as I was only on £12 a week during my first year with Shakespear McTurk & Graham maybe it didn't make a lot of difference. Are there any other alpha-streamers out there who have any views?
FROM BRIAN SCREATON  1959-62 (3)   We really didn't know what to expect at the Downing Drive Nostalgia Evening on Wednesday 26th June.  Frank Smith and I arrived early to set up the Wyvernians Roadshow and found we had been allocated a prime pitch in the Hall of the Gill Building (ex-Spencefield Lane School) where a tremendous display of photos and memorabilia concerning the City of Leicester College had been put together by the staff and pupils.  Andy Marlow arrived, and our stand was soon set up complete with the school flag and a laptop showing the school films.  As soon as the doors opened at 5.30pm a veritable flood of visitors appeared, which hardly abated for the whole evening.  Of course, not all were Old Wyvernians, but a significant number of those came along, as well as former teachers Bill Mann, John Lawson, Tony Baxter, Doc Burrows and Bob Childs.  Another visitor was Steve Thompson, son of Sadie Thompson and an ex-pupil, who identified all his classmates on a 1967 photograph (See above - Ed)   
The majority of attendees were former pupils of the City of Leicester College, Spencefield Lane School or our own Downing Drive establishment  (Now called the Wyvern Building)  Over 900 attended, including 99-year-old Mr Gill, a former headmaster of Spencefield School, who had travelled from North Wales specially for the event.  During the evening there were conducted tours of the building (Andy Marlow went on at least three tours of the Wyvern Building) and we learned that both buildings are to be demolished in October after the new school is opened. Wyvernians were promised an invitation to the grand opening.  Jenny Sterland, School Business Manager, described the evening as a roaring success, and certainly there was an amazing buzz and atmosphere which only ended when the fire bell sounded around 8.45pm and the buildings were slowly vacated.  For us the time flew by, with people of all ages showing a great interest in our display and asking many questions.  Frank and I were both hoarse by the end of the evening.  It was a very worthwhile exercise, which raised our profile and further improved our already excellent relationship with the current school.  Lots of photos to be seen on our Facebook page.
FROM ANDY BOURNE  1965-70   Re. Visit to Downing Drive on 26th June 2013.  I visited the school along with two other former pupils, Dave Wigley and Phil Wain. It was a worthwhile evening attended by what must have numbered thousands of former pupils of both City Boys and Spencefield and of course the combined comprehensive they became. I think the organisers were surprised at the success of the evening, and it's a shame the event couldn't have been held over three nights and separated into age groups. There were simply too many people to have a chance of recognising anyone, particularly when they must look a little older than they did 43 years ago!
Some of the photos on the Wyvernian's stand were interesting, and I'm sure if they could be scanned into the website a lot of people could add names to faces. I bought the book and my wife thinks that if I'd spent as much time studying as I have reading it I might have done better at school.  If only we had our time again, I know I'd make the same mistakes.
The school itself was a mess, and I can see why it's got to be demolished. A typical example of the poor design and even poorer build quality of the 1960's. It also seemed to have shrunk since we were there, how did we all fit in?
 I had the honour of being the first boy to attend Downing Drive. I ignored the letter that everyone received, which advised of what must have been a Teacher Day, and arrived a day too soon.  I was greeted at the front gate by Wally Wardle, hand to his brow, eyes closed.  'Go home boy, read your letter, come back tomorrow.'  A wonderful start!
An oft told story in the pub, and best told with the lisp and a_ctions, concerns Flo Willan.  My trip around the school and the visit to the biology lab brought it back. Flo has his back to the class, and as always is drawing on the board and expects us to copy it in our books.  This time it's the reproductory organs of a rabbit, which apparently resemble the human (Lisp now) 'My penis reaches the top of the board, yours should reach the top of the page.'  Another tale he told was of the chickens he used to keep, and in particular a cock that accompanied him in his Land Rover. Apparently he had the most travelled cock in the country. As we assumed Flo had no sense of humour, we also assumed these were inadvertent and excellent faux pas.  No doubt, in reality, they were well thought-out jokes that he used to entertain himself and generations of pupils.
FROM ANDY MARLOW  1969-73   Having left the school prematurely, and in less than ideal circumstances, in 1973, I viewed the chance to take a final look round the old building with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  What impact would it have on me after all these years?
Together with Chris Jinks from the 1967 intake (who was a mine of information) we joined the queue for one of the organised(?) tours of what is now known as the Wyvern Building.  As we walked across the yard of the old Spencefield School down the path that links the two buildings (in my day there was a wire fence separating the two playing fields, and no contact was possible) my sense of anticipation rose as we headed into the science block.  Viewing the junior and senior chemistry, physics and biology labs, gazing at the tables with their enclosed sinks, and the apparatus standing forlornly alongside, conjured up quite a ghostly feeling - you could almost see Flo Willan standing there drawing his anatomy pictures on the blackboard.
After that we were taken to the library, probably my favourite place when I was at school.  I often spent lunchtime in there, browsing through the books.  Alas it is a library no more. Gone are the shelves of books, now only tables filled with computers remain.  Exiting through the library (a practice previously allowed only for teachers to take a short cut between buildings, the pupils having to go the long way round) the rest of the building was inspected.  The geography, English and history rooms were viewed, the latter two being of particular interest as they were my favourite subjects then and now.  The memories came flooding back - waiting in line outside the classroom for the teacher before being allowed to enter, seeing the board where the detention list was displayed - yes, I was on it frequently for my almost-daily late attendance.
Then on to the rest of the school.  The Headmaster's study, now the Deputy Head's room, which was opposite the secretary's office, and just across to the right stood the dining hall and kitchen.  I have never had a school dinner in my life, but back in the day tales of their quality - or lack of it - had reached my attention.  Now I was greeted by a menu attached to the door, and FREE cups of tea or coffee were available during a brief refreshment stop.  The square tables, usually with a Prefect to keep order, had been replaced by small circular ones.  Another sign of the changing times were notices offering halal meat.  I didn't have a drink so, still the rebel, I compensated by taking two biscuits on the way out.
The hall was next to the dining room.  One thing that struck me was the classrooms seemed smaller than I remembered, but of course we saw them from the perspective of a boy.  So as we have got bigger everything seems to have become smaller.  I suppose it was similar with the teachers.  They seemed old to us, and some were indeed ancient, but many were in their twenties and thirties, and some only a year or two older than some members of the sixth form.
The hall seemed smaller than remembered because it actually was - a dividing partition had been placed across the back of the room, and access to the balcony seems to have disappeared.  The stage looked the same, the curtains looked like the ones there in my day!
Across the corridor to the changing rooms, where the strange smell remained.  I was never quite sure what it consisted of.  Benches and pegs seemed the same, but now with graffiti.  Surely that didn't happen forty years ago, or did it?  The showers looked the worse for wear, and reminded us of a dodge used by some after PE and games.  If you did not want to undress and have a shower you just ran through the water to get your hair wet, then donned the uniform and disappear.  The teachers didn't seem too concerned, so you invariably got away with it.  The gym looked like time had stood still.  Some of the ropes remained in place, amazing in these H & S-obsessed times, as did the benches round the room.  Also the basketball court marked on the wooden floor with nets high on the wall.. I recall the sound of pounding feet, the noise seeming to hang endlessly in the air.
Then to the junior classrooms - third and fourth years were on the first floor.  Rooms 1 to 6 also doubled as rooms for the maths department.  It was hard to realise how much walking was involved as we moved from one room to another for lessons.  In those days we didn't give it a thought, but next day I certainly felt the effects of the tour.
The rest of the party moved on, but John Clarke and I decided to climb a further flight of stairs to try and locate our old form room on the second floor.  We debated which room was ours, Form 1B with Mr Scott.  Eventually we ascertained it was Room 9, on the front right.  I could not recall the number, but on looking out of the window the view over the car park, lower playground and bike sheds (the latter two now succumbed to the builders) confirmed it.
We thought of the wooden desks, with inkwells, arranged in three lots of pairs across the room.  Five rows to accomodate the thirty pupils, which was actually thirty one in the first term.  No idea where they put the odd one.  My desk was quite near the back, by the door.  Not a good idea as it turned out, but that's another story.  Now there are long tables for maybe five or six pupils to sit together, much more informal.
Back on the ground floor we passed the staff room, what happened in there was always shrouded in mystery.  Unfortunately it was locked, but it did remind me of the occasions you had to go there for one reason or another.  You were greeted by a cloud of smoke - no smoking bans then.
Finally the art and woodwork room.  The former is now a sixth form room and has been extended.  The art and woodwork area is located in the newer Design Centre, which we also saw.  I was reminded of woodwork teacher Bunny Hutchinson, who stood no nonsense.  There were some real characters in those days, though the level of violence dished out would be unacceptable today.  Mind you, it seems to sometimes be the other way round these days.
I will remember the Downing Drive evening very fondly for a long time.  Thank you to everyone involved in the arrangements.
FROM MIKE WALKER  1949-56   I am quite certain that the 'unknown' boy on page 94 of the CBS history book, on the right hand side holding a cricket bat, is my good and long-time friend Geoff Morgan.  Geoff and I lived in Belgrave, and attended Mellor Street Junior School.  He was an excellent cricketer, particularly good with the bat.  After 'A' levels in History, French and German, Geoff took a degree at Queen Mary College, London, followed by a teaching diploma and two years National Service in the Navy, stationed at Portsmouth.  After a short teaching career in England he emigrated to California, where he mainly worked in the film industry.  After some tumultuous years, which included being attacked and stabbed almost to death,  Geoff returned to Leicester where he died aged 50.  He had great potential, but sadly never came close to realising it.
AND FINALLY...   The original Old Wyvernians faded away many years ago, to be replaced by the current Wyvernians in 1998.  From small beginnings we have grown into a substantial organisation, and the affection for our old school is still very much in evidence.  Almost by accident we began to accumulate memorabilia, and the collection is much enhanced by the recent additions from Downing Drive.  Old Wyves' Tales, which was originally designed as a simple newsletter, soon expanded to include lots of stories, memories, facts and figures, and incredibly has reached seventy nine issues and still going strong..  Now we have a superb history book, produced to professional standards, which is selling very well - 250 copies the last I heard!  New members continue to join Wyvernians, most via the web site, and we have arranged sixteen reunions.  Despite my theory that Wyvernians must surely begin to wind down (we are a finite organisation, as membership is restricted to pre-1976 pupils) we continue to go from strength to strength.  And who would have thought we would have a facebook page and an on-line shop? All this is down to the efforts of a very few committed people.  They do not seek, or expect, any medals for their efforts and probably will not thank me for naming them, but they are Andy Marlow John Offord, Mike Ratcliff, Brian Screaton, Frank Smith.  And let us not forget you, the readers of OWT and attenders at the reunions, without you Wyvernians would not exist.  Also I must mention Stephanie, my very helpful and supportive wife of 37 years.
Between us we have built up what must surely be a unique history of an ordinary grammar school, and we should be proud of that achievement.
Dennis J Duggan

July 19th 2013