Thursday 17 April 2014

Fw: OWT82 April 2014





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APRIL  2014
REUNION 2014   The 17th annual reunion was held at Clarence House (the former school building) on Saturday March 15th 2014.  We are fortunate that Age UK allow us to hire the premises for the day.  This year almost one hundred people attended, including several wives.  The oldest person present was 92 years old!  It was pretty much business as usual, though because the cafeteria was being refurbished we had lunch in two other rooms which Age UK kindly sorted out for us.
The latest batch of the memorabilia rescued from Downing Drive was on display, and proved very popular.  Of particular interest were the sets of index cards, one of these being made out for every boy who entered the school. 

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The pupil index cards (numbering several thousand) were available for inspection

My wife, Stephanie, looked after the raffle and helped Frank on the door.  We had twenty five raffle prizes, and £102 was raised.  Complimentary tea and coffee was available in the hall, along with an honesty bar.
Before lunch I gave a short talk, which was followed by the AGM.  It was a nice surprise(!!) that Brian and I were re-elected as secretary and treasurer!  As we had ten ex-members of staff present (unfortunately Bill Mann felt unwell and left early) Mike Ratcliff arranged a suitable photograph.  He described the experience as akin to herding cats! 

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Ex-staff at the 2014 Reunion - Can you name all of them?

 After lunch, which everyone agreed was excellent, we re-assembled in the hall to hear an amusing presentation by Tony Baxter.  Tony was both a pupil and a teacher at CBS, and his talk was called 'A View From The Other Side of the Desk.
Brian Screaton then gave an account of two ex-pupils who were killed on active service in World War II, and whose names appear on the honours board.  By 4.30pm it was all over, and God willing we can look forward to next year's annual gathering.  My thanks to Stephanie, Brian Screaton, John Offord and Frank Smith for their continued support, without them the reunions would not happen.
AGE UK   The news of the Age UK cafeteria refurbishment came as a last-minute shock to us, and for a while we feared the reunion might not happen.  But thanks to Antony Foster, Centre Manager at Clarence House, and our own John Offord (1958-63) alternative lunch arrangements were put in place and worked very well.  As a gesture of appreciation, Wyvernians made a donation of £50 to Age UK, and the following response was received from Antony:  Thank you for your letter and donation.  It's really appreciated, and we are pleased the reunion was a success.  I apologise for not acknowledging you sooner; the restaurant is finally finished and I can return to my normal day job (Whatever 'normal' means!)  We look forward to seeing you all next year, and hope that members of Wyvernians will visit us between now and the next reunion.
Thank you to John Offord for the kind words in the Leicester Mercury, it was totally unexpected.

Leicester Mercury 26/3/14
FACEBOOK PAGE   Thanks to the good efforts of Frank Smith (1959-66) we now have a very successful facebook page.  The address is you can reach it via the web site.  Simply click on the big blue/white F on the left-hand side of the home page.  You will find a guest logon for those who have not already registered with facebook, though Frank tells me that registration is quite painless!
FROM J ROBERT CLIFFORD  1950-57   (Continuing Robert's school memoirs - Ed)  German: Herr Hantusch and Herr Mollenauer.  The latter was an exchange, or student, teacher.  He was short, thin, blond and wore rimless glasses.  However he did not last long with 3 Alpha, as he was unfamiliar with the English concept of respect earned, rather than respect demanded.  I had German in 1 Alpha and 3 Alpha with Herr Hantusch.  My exercise books had more red ink than blue, and I was so discouraged I considered I was hopeless.  In 4 Alpha we had to choose between German and geography, and it was no contest - WAG Pace won hands down.  Totally unexpected in the wandering course taken by my life, both career and private, the German language played an incredibly important role.  Without further formal schooling in the subject, the resurrected memories from those far-off days have led a number of people in Austria, where I am now happily settled, to ask if I am Dutch.  Not sure how to take that!
Mathematics: Horse remington and OFT Bob Roberts.  The Christmas party we laid out in the staff room on the last day of the 1957 school year was only possible because it coincided with the retirement of Mr & Mrs Grundy, the long-serving caretaker and his wife, so they had left the lodge.  This enabled some of our number to remain in school overnight and access the canteen and its crockery and cutlery.  Only the teachers' nicknames were used on the place cards, and staff would sidle up to a pupil and ask which one of them was Horse.  On hearing it was Mr Remington they asked why.  It was blindingly obvious to us - he had a mane of hair and a centre parting.  I note my conclusions on the aptitudes of people to acquire particular skills.  Some become proficient in one or more languages, and to keep them separate.  Others are able to learn large amounts of dialogue then discard it, like repertory actors.  There are many other illustrations.  I found it easy to visualise three-dimensional products from two-dimensional engineering drawings, and to use pure maths.  Such skills are not universally given.  They are not something to boast about, it is just the nature of things.  It is on that basis that my opinion of Bob Roberts should be viewed, and explains the diametrically opposing views held by others who endured the chaos of his classes.
My greatest regret is that I did not have the grace or generosity to overcome my antipathy to school in time to thank him for the education he gave me in pure maths.  His teaching was so effective that during my first year at college the head of the Maths Faculty tried to poach me from my chosen course.  In later years I recognised its value in problem solving, which has been a large part of my life.  Even today, Bob's last words ring in my ears.  What the merry hell have you been playing at all these years, Clifford?'  This was shouted across the entrance hall as I saw the 'A' level results, finding to my disbelief two distinctions.  Three times per year, in every report, Bob's comment had been Does not seem to have grasped that which he shoud have learned long ago.  It seems the penny had finally dropped!  The chaos in his classes disguised his determination to convey the abstract concepts of his subject to those who, by a quirk of nature, had the ability to absorb them.  He probably recognised those who could not, and endured the disorder caused by their frustration.
Founders Day.  I remember this was introduced by Mr Bell.  To me it seemed a pretentious construct, not in keeping with the CBS ethos.  The school's modest approach led to results which challenged those of brasher establishments.  It did not sit well with the fifth and sixth forms to be marched from school to cathedral in double file, exhorted by Hoppy to keep in step.  After a while I remarked that since we were treated as children we should hold hands, and the idea was quickly taken up.  Hoppy, glancing back, nearly had a heart attack.  The whole thing was manufactured, and the cathedral staff seemed oppressive.  The final straw was the collection, which was conducted with a menacing air.  The phrase shooting fish in a barrel came to mind.
Jazz band  1956/57.  In the sixth form, a number of us decided to form a jazz band.  There was no encouragement from the school, but that did not matter.  We bought our own instruments.  Richard Tansley was on clarinet, Pooch Pearson on trumpet, Midge Midgeley on tea-chest bass.  I can't recall if another Pearson was on trombone or not.  I was on drums, totally miscast.  Enthusiastic, but too shy and no sense of rhythm - enough said!  At the Christmas concert our renditions of St James Infirmary Blues, Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White, When The Saints Go Marching In, Basin Street Blues called up a storm, with five hundred comrades on their feet cheering.  Our encore of Tiger Rag threatened the structure of the building.  It felt good!  (The Final instalment will appear in OWT83 - Ed)
FROM COLIN MUNRO  1943-46   (I was not sure if I should publish this item or not, as its content is somewhat risque.  Hopefully no offence will be caused - Ed)  Most of your correspondents seem to have gone to university and reached eminence in various professions. I was one of the scruffs from Belgrave, whose parents  could not afford to keep me on in the sixth form, let alone support me through university. Will you allow me to lower the tone of OWT with an anecdote?   One day in 1943 I was in the bogs in the back yard when in came two six ft-tall prefects. As they enjoyed the flow one said to the other, What's the difference between a British soldier having a pee and Yank from Texas?  The other played the stooge, I don't know....etc.  Well, when the Tommy finishes he gives it a shake, the Texan taps it with his boot. They both found that hilarious.  For my part I couldn't see anything funny at all. I envisioned the Texan standing on one leg and trying to reach with the other.
Eight years later I was in the Royal Air Force, stationed in Gibraltar.  A friend and I had taken the ferry to Algerciras, and were hitch hiking back along the road to La Linea when we heard a horrendous noise from an adjacent field. Looking over the fence we saw a jack donkey in an advanced state of sexual excitement, his elongated member almost touching the ground. In that moment I saw the point of the joke.


FROM GRAHAME HURST  1955-60    I have been meaning to contribute for many years, and at last I have got round to it. By and large I enjoy reading Old Wyves Tales, but I do get very hot under the collar when Basher Brewin is denigrated in these pages. From memory Basher taught me maths in every year from 1A to 5L with the exception of 3A, when Larry Lawson took over. In my first term I was 25th out of 28, but from 2nd year on I was never out of the first three. I remember well in my first year myself, Colin Smith and Geoff Wright, who came from Woodstock Junior School on Stocking Farm, were christened the The Woodstockians  by Basher because we had not done fra_ctions or decimals before. We would be made to stand at the front of the class, and Basher would tap us on the head with his thermometer case until we got the answer right. I think that experience made us all determined to do better. I managed to get an 80% GCE pass, so he couldn't have been all that bad. I always found Basher to be a good teacher, and I think if people have nothing good to say about any of the masters who taught them they should keep quiet. I have nothing but good memories of City Boys, and I thoroughly enjoyed my school days and  am not looking back through rose-tinted specs. I have nothing but respect for the masters who taught me, and  believe I owe them all a great debt of gratitude. Unlike our esteemed Editor I did enjoy games, playing in the school soccer teams in years 1 through 5 with Dave Atton, John Blaikie, Graham Walne, John Whalley, Geoff Wright, Alan? Watson, Rocky O'Grady.  Sorry, I apologise to those I have missed. I also played cricket, captaining the Junior XI and playing for the second XI in year 5. After 'O' levels I left City Boys and became articled with Hopps & Bankart in Friar Lane, where I met John Rudge, Albert Witherington and Denis Kilburn,  all Old Wyvernians. I qualified as a chartered accountant in 1966. In 1983 I left Leicester for Kidderminster, then Gosport in 1986, Sheffield in 1997 and finally settling in Shropshire in 1999. Now retired, I keep busy doing volunteer work, Scottish Country Dancing and umpiring cricket on the Shropshire Premier League panel.
FROM PAUL JOLLEY  1961-67   I was caught up in the alpha stream during the same years as Andrew Tear.  I think I was promoted beyond my abilities, and it did me few favours. Because my birthday was in late July I was always going to be among the youngest in any form, and I ended up taking my O levels at age 14 and my A levels at 16.  It became obvious fairly quickly that I was not Oxbridge material, and I botched my 'A' levels fairly badly so I stayed on in third year 6th to retake them.  I was taking physics, chemistry and biology, and this led to a bizarre and rather comic situation.  No one else was doing biology in the third year 6th, so I became a form all by myself.
For that year I was 6Sc3 (Bi ) I was absorbed into the second year sixth for chemistry and physics, but Bob Dennis and Flo Willum had 6Sc3 (Bio) on their timetable so I had to be taught.  Needless to say a number of lessons ended up with the master coming in, making sure I was occupied for 40 minutes, then going back to the staff room to put their feet up and have a fag!  It all worked out pretty well, as I scraped through my 'A' levels second time and got a place at Birmingham University to study dentistry. I spent 36 years looking after the dental condition of the good citizens of Leicester before retiring 6 years ago.  I do sometimes wonder if I was unique in the history of the school, being a one boy class!

FROM ROGER PEBERDY  1950-57    I very much enjoy reading the newsletters -and was amazed to see myself mentioned in a recent article (by J Clifford, who I remember well)  As I seldom travel anywhere these days, and have not visited Leicester since my mother, my last link with the city of my youth! - died in 1993,  I shall not be attending the reunion, but my good wishes go to all who do and all connected with its organization, especially any of my 1950 to 1957 contemporaries  (I did 3 years in the sixth, as Birmingham Medical School wouldn't let me in when I got my A levels at 16, insisting that I must be nearly 18 to be allowed on the course!)  As I had guaranteed my place I spent a happy year enjoying myself rather, messing around and became genuine friends with Flo Willan....   But I did have to do the 'A' level exams a second time in order to be able to get a grant from the LEA, which was a bit of a bind!
FROM RICH WAKEFIELD  1961-68   So there I was, sitting moodily in my armchair as the rain pounded on the windows behind me.  I had planned a walk in the woods, but the inclement weather put the kybosh on that.  So I fell to musing, which is, I believe, a very respectable pastime for a fellow of a certain age.  My mind sought sunnier times, and strangely it alighted on the glorious summer of, I believe, 1966, the third term we had been ensconced at Downing Drive.  The sky was a clear blue, and the sun shone energetically on the pristine paintwork - the very same paintwork which I suspect still graces the building until it finally goes.  I was feeling quite relaxed, even though we had the delights of a French lesson with our own, our very own, Mr E S Orton, to look forward to first period after lunch.  We were relaxed because we were about to wander round to the classroom and copy the dictation which Mr Orton had written up for the morning shift, prior to cunningly revolving the board so it was hidden.
We had latched onto this idea a couple of weeks before, and made a practice of copying the dictation which we reproduced with a few errors both accidental and deliberate.  We reasoned, sensibly I think, that Mr Orton might have been a tad suspicious had we all scored 100%.  So having made usable copies we ambled smugly back to our form room and lounged around for the rest of the break.
The bell rang, and we trooped to the form room.  You know the one, upstairs in the science block with a commanding view of the gym.  Oh, the sights you could see from that window.  Groups of human flotsam, some not natural athletes nor blessed with simian qualities, were being mercilessly chivvied up ropes for no apparent reason - once at the top, the only thing to do was come down again.  We felt smug because it was not us being chivvied, though we knew that tomorrow it would be our turn.  We had considered various ways of breaking a limb in such a way that we could not climb a rope, but could still play football.  Alas we never found such an injury.
From that same window on a good day one could witness the stately, though businesslike, stride of EJW himself, his gown billowing behind like a latterday superhero intent on stamping out all crime and malpractice.  Or as we saw it, stopping our fun.  His inexorable march along the covered way was indeed impressive, spreading fear into the hearts of those who had been less than angelic recently.  Let's face it, that was 95% of the pupils (the other 5% being absent for one reason or another)
But we were discussing Franch dictation.  You might recall we had already copied it, and were confident of obtaining our standard mark of 8/10.  Our taskmaster announced the dictation, our already-completed version was ready, but when Mr Orton began to read the passage we realised that something was wrong.  Knots formed in stomachs, you could feel the communal knots in the room.  What we were hearing was very different to what we had written.  We tried frantically to catch up, but the man was a vertitable Sherlock Holmes of the teaching trade.  The task was beyond us, the bounder had seen through our ruse and outflanked us by giving a different dictation.  I can't remember the marks, but it was somewhat less than 80%!
FROM CHRIS PYRAH  1964-69   Size mattered.  Or at least, so it seemed to eleven-year-old fags,  above whom all masters appeared to tower. However, as time took them towards senior school, relative heights changed and some pupils found themselves growing level with - or even taller than - a number of the teachers.  Here are a couple of recollections relating to two of City Boys' shorter masters, both of who, as it happens, taught music.
 Bill Sykes was a school treasure, the Mr Chips of the City of Leicester Boys School, a man who had not only been born back in Victoria's reign but was still teaching in the year of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.  He had famously written and composed the words to another well-known song, one which we belted out each morning in pride and fitting praise.  Whether it was down to his advanced years or not, to the eyes of the boys and most masters Mr Sykes seemed rather short.  With that low, querulous voice that put me in mind of Albert Steptoe, his stop yer messin' was growled out with almost enough menace to cut the noise that was beginning to build up from the back of the room.  Each first-former had to endure audition by Bill at his old upright piano in his attempt to winkle out any likely recruits for the school choir.  Being rather shy, as well as short, I had no wish to join in any such public display of singing, so I performed my test piece in a cracked, tuneless manner.  He saw through my ploy.  You've got quite a nice voice, he observed, if only you'd stop messin' .  Not nice enough, thankfully; I never was called up for choir duty.
 Possibly the shortest of all the short masters that I came across, Dick Cleverley, appeared a few years later than Bill Sykes, who had decided to call it a day rather than make the move from the Victorian building on Humberstone Gate to the Wilson-era superficiality of Downing Drive.  Dick had introduced some wishful experiment that he called Music Appreciation, a once-a-week  period in which he attempted to interest uninformed youth in the somewhat arcane delights of classical music; to put things in context, the year was 1968 and although Flower Power was definitely wilting, the Vietnam War raged on.  One of the more progressive pupils in my form at the time was Kev Gorringe, who decided to stir Music Appreciation up a bit by bringing in Disraeli Gears, Cream's latest L.P, to be played on the hallowed school gramophone.  Perhaps due to a misplaced sense of fair play and tolerance, Mr Cleverley agreed to play one side of the album; half an hour or so later he complained  it all sounds a bit the same to me,  evidently unmoved by the glories of Sunshine Of Your Love and Tales Of Bold Ulysses.  Curiously enough, many of the boys seemed to agree with him, but then again, Clapton, Baker and Bruce were surely better appreciated outside the classroom.  The following week, Dick was back to his beloved Bach,  Beethoven and the like and the wild woods of rock were never again visited during class time.
FROM ALAN PYKETT  1959-66   As always, I enjoyed reading the last OWT.  I took particular delight in the reminiscences of Trevor Dixey and Dennis, our editor, about games, PE and swimming.  I have mentioned some of these points before, but I think they are worth repeating.  Regarding games, although never good enough to play for a school team I enjoyed the house matches played by the also-rans  (Abbey, Bradgate, Charnwood, De Montfort)  I got very excited when I scored a goal, which wasn't very often!  Whether at Grace Road or Rushey Fields, I believe there were three pitches.  One was used  by the team for the particular year and reserves, the other two for the games between houses.
As with football, I was never good enough to play for the school cricket team, but can't recall much cricket between houses..  It was not possible to play a full game in the time allotted, especially with limited-overs cricket being in its infancy.
I could tolerate cross-country, but was always disappointed when it replaced football.  Usually that was because of bad weather.  I always managed to complete the course without cheating!  I believe the distance increased as we moved up through the years: short for first and second years, medium for third and fourth years, long for fifth and sixth years.  Moving on to PE, I generally enjoyed it apart from the detested game of Pirates.  If Dennis had been at the school in 1965/66 his ruse of being out early in the proceedings would not have worked.  Mr Read was the master that year, and during one game I decided not to move so was caught early on.  This was noted, and Mr Read sent me outside to run round the perimeter of the playing field for the remainder of the lesson.  To me that was preferable to another thirty minutes of Pirates.  Of course that was the first year at Downing Drive, and I believe that for the first time in the school's history the playing fields were adjacent to the main building.
Finally, swimming.  I dreaded swimming lessons - but were they lessons?  I can't remember being taught to swim whilst at the school.  When we arrived, aged 11, you could either swim or you couldn't.  Like our editor, I spent the 'lesson' splashing about in the shallow end at Vestry Street, and neither Jock Gilman, nor the resident swimming coach, seemed to take any notice.  I think that by the fifth year I could just about manage half a width.  That is possibly the only negative aspect of my time at CBS.  I really enjoyed my education there, and feel very proud to have been a pupil.  So much so that, picking up on Brian Screaton's sttendance at the funeral of Mike Hutchings, I have also requested To Be A Pilgrim and I Vow To Thee My Country, another school favourite, be sung at my funeral.  But I hope there will be many more reunions before my final event!
FROM BRIAN COPE  1954-62   Living now in Cumbria, I noted recently that schools in West Cumbria were performing so poorly they were to be closed or replaced by new academies. Apparently the proportion of pupils achieving 5 A*-C GCSE grades (incl Maths and English) in Cumbria as a whole is approx. 56%, and these schools were well below this standard.  Well, I could not resist looking at 'O' Level exam results at  CLBS in the 'golden years' and here are the results using the same criteria:- 1957 50% of intake achieved at least 5 O Levels incl Maths and English,  1958 52%,  1959 48%.
If we assume we were an average Grammar School intake, and therefore among the top 20-25% in the city, then we may say that only about 12-14% of that school year reached the standard now regularly achieved by 56% of Cumbrians!!   I should also add that some of the pupils who failed English or Maths first time went on to Oxbridge Firsts, PhDs etc, so it's a  fairly odd set of criteria one might think. If exams are now 'easier,' and statistics  massaged, then one might think this a rational response to the setting of impossible targets.  Of course it may well have been that education in Leicester then was in crisis...but it didn't feel like it.
AND FINALLY...   A very interesting submission from Grahame Hurst in this issue, it certainly made me think.  If we have nothing good to say about a teacher, should we keep quiet?  Over the years OWT has printed items giving both points of view. For every teacher criticised, there is another who receives the highest praise.  Clive Davies (1950-57) has just sent a piece which will appear in OWT83, and he makes the comment that what some of us experienced at the hands of some teachers would be considered as assault today!  That is not to say it did us any long-term harm, in fact it probably did many of us good!  Times change.  Certainly the respect for authority instilled at CBS - and by my parents -remains with me today.
Dennis J Duggan
April 16th 2014