Sunday 25 October 2015

Old Wyves Tales 88 Oct 2015



TEL 01938 555574   07971 282356  
REUNION 2016   Saturday March 19th is the date.  Invitations will be sent early January, meanwhile you might like to make a note of the date. 
FROM BRIAN SCREATON  1959-65   I thought that some of our more long-standing members might like to know that my father-in-law, Harold Hall, passed away on 14th September, aged 93. You may recall that before we got the school films onto video Harold would show them in the Everard Room with his projector. I think he did this for several years, and always enjoyed doing it and chatting with Wyvernians. He himself was not a City Boy, but an old boy of Altrincham Grammar School.
FROM SIMON PARTRIDGE  1966-72   In response to Brian Screaton's item in OWT87, regarding Eric's snack bar, there must have been many Eric's.  There was an outlet on the corner of a car park in East Street, fronting London Road almost opposite the station.  In July 2010 the Leicester Mercury printed an item by a former apprentice mechanic.  He explained that Eric owned the car park, but leased the front two rows to Lansdowne Car Sales, a Rootes dealer.
FROM JOHN SHIPMAN  1955-60    Re Brian Screaton's comments about Eric's snack bar, I well remember the establishment as a place many of us liked to go, but were reminded quite frequently by Mr. Bell at assembly that it was out of bounds and detentions would be issued to anyone caught there. Not that it stopped anyone who wanted to go, but it gave him a feeling of importance I suppose. I agree with Brian that it was demolished in the early 60's to make way for the new shops etc. At the time my father was on the police force, and often said that it was not the best place to be as it was frequented by many lesser criminals and was used by the police for gaining information. 

FROM DEREK SMITH  1959-65   The highlight of those years was the school trip to the 1960 Rome Olympics. The lowlight was spending the first year in wooden huts in the middle of a car park at the back of the school.  After I finished my 'A' levels my father and I decided to migrate to Australia, my mother having died earlier. I travelled alone in 1966, leaving my father to close our old life and travel later on a luxury cruise ship. I flew in a specially-chartered flight with other migrants, seated next to a butcher and a baker. Unfortunately my education had not included candlestick maker! We flew via Kuwait, where one of the plane's engines failed and had to be replaced, then Ceylon, Darwin and finally Melbourne. I then moved to Sydney.  I found lodgings in a boarding house for gentlemen with several boys around my age from all over Australia, New Zealand and England. We even had a Scotsman. Despite speaking the same language, Australia was a very different country from home and 1966 proved to be a critical year bringing many changes.
I joined the Australian Federal Civil Service and remained in Sidney until 1973, when I was transferred to Canberra with my wife and new family.  We have been there ever since.  I retired during the 1990's and began to write, publishing many short stories and four books.  My last book was about that first year in Australia, in the boarding house.  Frank Smith told me he would give consideration to publicising books written by Old Boys, and suggested I start the ball rolling.  If you would like to read my book please contact me at
FROM CHRIS 'CHARLIE' PYRAH  1964-70   The swing of the swinging sixties barely grazed the hairstyles on view at the City of Leicester Boys School; as we see from the collection of form photos, including those amassed by Bill Mann. The very few fairly fashionable coiffures (as opposed to the ubiquitous schoolboy mops and fringes) started with a restrained greased-back nod toward the Teds, then gradually lengthened and grew more wayward as deference died and Hendrix played, although it wasn't until 1970/71 that locks really began to flow.  I do remember a couple of Afros appearing around 1967/8, sported by Jim Higgins and Ian Ward, but the skinhead style made no headway at all, stamped on from on high, you might say; no secondary modern tainting here.  As for the masters, it is of no surprise to see that, apart from a couple of art masters (see below)  a studied conformity - varied only by degrees of baldness - was the order of the day.
Get out your Lowe and Gates smirked Bill Gates one summer term  He was referring to the newly-issued textbook co-edited by fellow English master Chris Lowe and himself, Selections from the English Novelists, copies of which can still be picked up for as little as 1p on Amazon.   Mr Gates was one sort of archetypal master - relaxed, fairly jovial, prematurely balding, harris tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, while Mr Lowe, a more menacing character, stocky, florid of face, reminded me more of a fearsome Mr Punch. Luckily for me, I had Bill Gates for my form master and English teacher.  The extract from Lowe and Gates that we had to discuss was, rather daringly I thought at the time, taken from D H Lawrence's Sons And Lovers, the scene where Paul Morel was exulting on a swing at Miriam Leiver's farm; strange how things stick in the mind.  The farm in the book was called Willey Farm - which reminds me of another English master at the school, for one year only (1968/9) P J B Willey, a fleeting refugee from better-heeled private schools and the man who brought John Cleese to address a sixth form group one surrealistic afternoon.  Cleese seemed strangely ill-at-ease in the face of a phalanx of silent, star-struck schoolboys, but under the prompting of Mr Willey he managed to entertain us for an hour with tales of television life.

 Swing low, sweet chariot was one of the songs we sang on the coach taking us back from a geography field trip, though our version was accompanied by fairly indecent rugby-song style gestures.  Ken Witts and Dave Gillyean had perhaps unwisely unleashed us onto an unsuspecting rural Nottinghamshire in the belief that visits to the feudal farming system at Laxton, and the nodding donkeys of Eakring oilfield, would enrich and enhance our education. It had been a cold and drizzly day, but we had enjoyed our time away from the form room.   Classmate John Pyrah was less amused when he found that his orange drink had leaked into his carefully cosseted ham sandwiches, resulting in a confection that neither Fanny Cradock nor Mary Berry would have approved of.  I might add that Mr. Witts left me at least one geographic legacy - a love of Ordnance Survey maps, for which I remain ever grateful.

At some stage during my time at Downing Drive,  I had to decide between doing art or woodwork.  I chose the wonders of handicraft, mistakenly believing practical skills to be of more use in the future than painting, and so found my way into the smells of wood shavings and shellac that pervaded the world of Bunny Hutchinson. I still bear the scars as evidence of my incompetence with tenon saw and chisel.  Upon more mature reflection, I believe I would have enjoyed and profited more under the wing of Pete Miller, a man of vaguely Trotsky-like appearance who was more interested in the school of Abstract Expressionism than that of CLBS.  When he left to seek the Yankee dollar, the art department was taken over by Mac Bryan (definitely hirsute)  For some reason, perhaps educational or maybe Bunny was ill, one day we woodworkers were sent to the art room for a lesson.  Mac was showing slides of classical paintings.  The first I remember was Greuze's La Cruche Cassee (The Broken Pitcher) in which a very astute Dick Bull saw references to a girls' lost virginity.  The next picture was of Jean-Honore Fragonard's The Swing.  Only connect!
FROM KRISTEN DAGE   My grandfather attended Leicester City Boys Grammar School, I am guessing starting in 1942 until 1949, and would have been a prefect for the last 2 years. He was also placed in Abbey House. He passed away 3 days ago and I am just wondering if there would be anyone who remembered him or some of his teachers, especially his math (Owen Feance Temple Roberts) and his chemistry teacher ("The Bull"). (The e-mail is dated August 6th - Ed) He wrote about his time there in his memoirs ( I have no idea if he really knew anyone there, but if anyone remembers him at all, I would love to find out. I also have a photo of him while he was there, along with everyone else who received a science degree; he is in the plaid suit in the front center  (Editor's note.  If you can help, please contact Kristen at   Unfortunately the photograph mentioned mysteriously vanished from my PC) ...BUT... fortunately a copy found its way to our Facebook page. Just CLICK/TAP HERE! (Note you don't need to be a Facebook member to view this photo!)

AND FINALLY...   OWT88 is the shortest on record, new material is becoming more and more difficult to find.  That should be no surprise after 88 issues, but the majority of members have never submitted anything.  I can only print what I am sent!!
To finish, here are a few of my random school memories.  Visiting the school library at lunchtimes, and reading the Just William books; standing at the staff room door with a forged note, heart beating furiously in case Jock Gilman queried it (he never did)  my master stroke when I forged a note permanently excusing me from swimming because of my asthma; hanging around in the small yard waiting to go in for school dinner, and the unique smell of the canteen; Founders Day at the cathedral; the Christmas concerts; the lack of health and safety in the labs and woodwork room; cross country runs at Rushey Fields and the primitive changing rooms; the splintery wooden floor of the first-floor changing room at Grace Road; the mysterious air raid shelters at Grace Road; leather satchels; fountain pens and bottles of ink; the crocodiles between Elbow Lane and Humberstone Gate.
Dennis J Duggan
October 25th 2015

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