Thursday 9 April 2020

Fwd: OWT106 April 2020



TEL 01938 555574   07804 520730  
     APRIL 2020

EDITORIAL   By the first week in March we had 85 people booked for the reunion, almost all having lunch.  As fears about the virus grew, we began to receive cancellations and eventually these amounted to sixteen.  But we did not know how many would simply not turn up without telling us.  We did wonder if we should cancel the reunion, but at that point there were no restrictions on such events.  Age UK were happy to proceed, so we went ahead.  It was a good decision.  After a slow start, when we began to wonder if we had made a grave error, people began to flock in.  Age UK served sixty seven lunches, and our guest speaker, Bharat Patel, proved to be a smash hit.  Otherwise it was business as usual, with lots of memorabilia to look at plus the opportunity to chat with fellow ex-pupils. Photos from this reunion can be viewed on our Facebook page CLICK/TAP HERE to view (Note you do NOT need to be a Facebook member to view the photos - just select the "Not Now" option when asked to register).
Hopefully there will be a reunion next year, though there will be two changes.  After many years of loyal service to Wyvernians, John Offord has retired from the committee.  John's main task was to liaise with Age UK, and this involves booking Clarence House, providing details of meals ordered, ensuring that everything is be in place on the day etc.  We owe John a vote of thanks for his stirling efforts over the past I don't know how many years.  We are fortunate that John Hames  (1959-64) has kindly agreed to take over the role. Secondly, Antony Foster, who was manager at Clarence House, has moved on to pastures new.  We can only hope that his successor will be equally supportive of our reunions, because Clarence House is the key to their success.  There is certainly no reason to believe otherwise at this stage, especially as Tony Donovan (Senior management) has made it clear he hopes we will continue to use the building.
At the moment we restrict membership of Wyvernians to those who joined prior to 1976.  However there has recently been a slight, but significant, show of interest from those who joined after 1976.  Our current policy means that Wyvernians will eventually cease to exist, as we all get older and pass to that great big grammar school in the sky.  So we think there is some merit in the idea, and we would be interested to hear other opinions.

FROM GRAHAM CORNELIA  1960-61   I can't remember you from Elbow Lane, but we had a similar start to our secondary education.  Oh the glory of starting in 1 Alpha, then the humiliation of beginning the second year in 2B.  But unlike your goodself, there was a meeting between Ding Dong, my parents and myself.  It was suggested that I might be better suited to another school, which was a relief for me but disappointment for my parents.  I wonder if I was the only boy to experience all three levels of secondary education.  After CBS I was sent to Fosse Secndary school, but they did not offer 'O' levels.  So at the end of my fourth year I went to King Richard III, an intermediate establishment, to take the exams.  But by then all my pals were at work and earning, so I decided enough was enough.  I left at Christmas and went into paid employment.

FROM DAVID TURNER  1954-59   In response to Alan Mercer's quiz, I think the answer to Question 1 is Mr Hutchinson (Can't remember his nickname) who taught us woodwork and technical drawing.  Was it Doc Burrows who had the degree in Pharmacy?  I recall he had a very posh red gown for big occasions.  And to concur with yourself and Pete Knight about the Jock Gilman excuse notes, I got a lot of my homework done on the balcony at Vestry Street baths.

ANSWERS TO ALAN MERCER'S QUIZ  It was Fred Hutchinson who was a point-to-point jockey.  At the reunion he told me his name is actually Frank, but he was known as Fred to avoid confusion with Frank Gilman.
And it was the same Frank Gilman who owned a garage.  He had a different car every week, which was always a source of interest.
Ken Witts had to prove his age to customs officers when he returned from a trip abroad.
Bob Dennis had the degree in Pharmacy.
Alan Mercer had a degree in Astronomy.

OBITUARIES   John Pearson (1949-56) passed away during 2019.
John Tilbury (1949-55) passed away December 2019.
Keith Burdett (1949-56) passed away during 2012  (Information from Richard Thompson (1949-56)
Martyn John Heighton, passed away November 6th 2016 aged 69.  He was school captain in 1965, and his life was very involved with ships and maritime matters. This is part of the  information kindly supplied by Brian Cope (1954-62)
John Thomas Geary  (1953 60) passed away February 29th 2020. The following is from Jim Henderson (1953-60)  John went to London University, and spent his working life in Africa, first in Ghana, then Botswana and Mozambique, teaching English and geography.  he eventually became a headmaster.  When things became difficult politically he returned tolive in rural Derbyshire, where he continued his lifelong love of hiking.  Less than six months ago, John was diagnosed with aggressive leukemia.  He leaves a wife, Marian, children Richard and Jane plus grandchildren.  He had an impish and mischevious sense of humour, and was a great lover of the Goon Show and Monty Python's Flying Circus.

FROM DAVE KERSHAW  (1969-76)   I was sorry to hear that Philip Jinks has passed away, we were classmates at Downing Drive.  As I recall, he had a loud and infectious laugh, and played a mean guitar.  But I must comment on your And finally... item in OWT105.  It's reassuring to know that not everyone had a good experience at CBS.  I had a torrid time for the first four years, until the 'disruptive elements' were removed through natural selection.  That meant I was allowed to pursue a range of subjects that I felt covered my aspirations for a career in the geological sciences.  On Mondays we had an early maths period on the upper floor of the main building.  I recall spending most of the time looking wistfully at the green fields near Bushby, wishing I was walking along the wooded bank of the little stream searching for ammonite fossils!  All I had for anything remotely connected to geology was Ken Witts.  We didn't get along very well, mainly due to the anticipation of terror engendered in the more sensitive of us.  And, of course, the fear of having a question thrown at me in class.  So I read these newsletters with a mix of laughter and some regret, but I always read them.  Perhaps it was the social turmoil of the 1970's that provided the backdrop to my experiences.  But as I said at the beginning, it's good to know there were a few introverts amongst us!

FROM KENNETH WARD  1959-66   It is important to set the scene before I arrived in Form 1A at City Boys' in 1959.  I was born and brought up on New Parks, and went to the infant and junior schools which were just down the road.  My reports - I still have a few - were never that brilliant but there was an aptitude for sport, numbers and anything mechanical.  In the final year at junior school I was fortunate enough to be in the top class, with Mr Kirby as the teacher.  He must have been brilliant, because virtually all his class passed the eleven plus, and I had always been near the bottom of the class.  I was absolutely amazed to pass.  It must have been my sums that carried me through, as my language was abysmal though my handwriting was good.  I still remember learning to write with an italic nib, and for being resonsible(?!) at age ten for filling the inkwells.  Today I still have a pen with an italic nib, but not the Osmiroid that was my pride and joy.  I occasionally try my hand at calligraphy - why don't they teach today's children the art of neat writing?  I always told my children that if they got an answer wrong make sure you do it neatly - you might get a bonus mark!  Passing the eleven plus was the first bit of good fortune I experienced, though I did not realise it at the time.
The next big step was to select which grammar school to attend.  My dad was very keen on Wyggeston, but I had heard it was all rugby and Latin so definitely not my cup of tea.   Alderman Newton's was out of the question because they had a green uniform and also played rugby.  Gateway was an option, but I chose City Boys' for all the right reasons.  They played football, and all my mates were already there.  And many of the boys from my class who lived close by were also applying.  Liam Wilson and Barry Fyfield, who lived within spitting distance of my house, were there.  And those from my class applying were Brian Hill, Mike Lindsay and Frank Smith.
Knowing my parents were keen on Wyggeston I filled in the form to apply for CBS.  I got my mum to sign it after dad had gone to work.  After signing she realised  what I had done, but after much pleading  agreed.  But that was not the end.  When dad came home he was livid.  He told me I had not thought it through, and was determined to have the application changed.  He made an appointment to see Mr Kirby at home to ask if that could be done.  It was a long evening.  I can't remember much about it, except it was dark when they returned.  I was overjoyed when dad said he had changed his mind, and CBS was probably the best chioce after all.  The main reason for the change of heart was that Mr Kirby had two (or three) sons and they all went to CBS!  Game, set and match.  I regarded the incident as my second bit of good fortune.
So off to City Boys' with my mates, either on the Corporation bus or the Midland Red, which went past my house (In the winter the Midland Red was always a good moving target for snowballs, and we did have a lot of snow)  It was a sunny September morning, I adored my new uniform with the yellow wyvern on cap and blazer.  On reflection I think I should have been put into long trousers.  I have a second-year class photo showing me wearing short trousers.  There are three of us in the middle of the front row.  Me, S pooks Newcombe and another.  That was the last year I wore short trousers.  Why did we call him Spooks?  He was thin and slight, with prominet ribs, which supposedly made him look like a ghost  [As Paul reads OWT I hesitated before including that sentence.  But obviously no offence is intended, and it was a long time ago -Ed]  We used to fight a lot. 
What a change things were, but I think I took it all in my stride.  Going to school on the bus was an adventure.  It was peculiar not having any girls there, but at that age who cared?  Teachers in black gowns showed us that school life had moved up a whole new level.  And some older boys still thought that fagging was normal, possibly after watching too many episodes of Billy Bunter (Gerald Campion)  The Lee Circle classrooms had heating pipes running through the walls from one room to another.  Although antiquated it was a step up from junior school, where we had a coke stove in the classroom.  There was a large gap in the wall where the pipe ran, and Roger Williams and I used to pass messages to Mick McLoughlin next door in Form 1B  (To be continued - Ed)

FROM JOHN SKEVINGTON 1945-53   For decades I had assumed that following the school's relocation, then becoming a mixed comprehensive, all its identity had been lost.  Then I stumbled across the web site, and discovered you having been having annual reunions for years.  What an admirable lot!  It shows that, leaving aside political arguments, the grammar school system produced something of great value for those fortunate enough to experience it.
I have only had time to read a fraction of the OWT reminiscences, but one theme I noticed was Bob Roberts.  We all remember how undisciplined we were in his lessons.  On  one occasion we all brought black cardboard curly moustaches, and clipped them to our noses while he was turned to the blackboard.  My personal triumph was to take home a piece of chalk.  I hollowed out the end to insert several match heads and sealed it.  Before the next lesson I put the doctored chalk on the ledge of the blackboard and removed the others.  Sure enough he began writing equations and did not notice the little puff of smoke.  During the next equation the chalk burst into flame and arced across the room.  Bob was astonished, and asked if we too had seen it, but we kept straight faces.  Now the truth is out I suppose I will be given a detention.  But we genuinely had great affection for him.  We began tennis as a school activity, and Bob oversaw our activities.  We played on the grass courts at the Collegiate Girls' school.  In our final year a few of us clubbed together with our pocket money to buy a trophy and presented it to the school as The Roberts Cup For Tennis.  I wonder where it is now?  Melted down, I suppose.
I also remember Basher Brewin.  The nickname was appropriate.  I saw him flailing at boys who had displeased him.  Can't imagine that happening today.  But what I remember most are his multi-coloured illustrations on the blackboard.  He illustrated instability by drawing a man standing in a boat and leaning sideways, so a vertical line through his centre of mass fell outside the boat.  Basher's artistry was excellent, but it took up a lot of lesson time that could have been better employed.
Joe Melia and I were good friends.  When the plates had been cleared away after lunch we played shove ha'penny on the shiny table top.  It was actually football, with a sixpence for the ball and two pennies for the players.  Joe went on to Cambridge Footlights, and a great career on stage and screen.  BBC Radio 4 did a nice obituary.
Peter Nellie Newton was another good friend.  In fact he was Best Man at my wedding.  He went on to the Courtauld Institute and became a world authority on medieval stained glass.  Sadly he died shortly after retiring.
I was in several school plays: Captain Brassbound's Conversion (Shaw)  The Government Inspector (Gogol)  The Devil's Disciple (Shaw)  Henry IV Part 1 (Shakespeare)  King Lear in 1954 when I was in my first year at London University.  George Franey asked me to play Gloucester.  Lear's daughters were played not by two young boys but by two real girls from a local teacher training college.  Now that was a breakthrough!
Those of us leaving in 1953 formed the 53 Club.  We met up, went on theatre visits and held several annual dinners.  Mr Bell, the Headmaster, came to one of them.  We even had a special tie made, I still have mine.  But university, national service and careers spread us apart and we could not continue with the club.

BERNARD WILKOWSKI   Many readers will know that Bob Childs has made mention of this remarkable man.  He was born in Poland in 1921, and to find out how he came to be a teacher of languages at CBS on 1970-73 you can find the full story on the Wyvernians web site in the Memorabilia section - CLICK/TAP HERE to go straight to the article.

FROM KASH SAHOTA  1974-81   The school often arranged trips to the Natural History and Science Museums in London.  I took part in such a trip c1978.  As well as the usual things in my bag (Sandwiches, crisps, radio etc) I also had some literature of the risque kind.  OK it was porn but very soft by later standards.  Needless to say, on the way down Bob Childs, one of the supervising teachers, caught me and a mate admiring it.  That put a dampener on the trip, especially when Mr Childs told us to come and see him on Monday morning.  Luckily he did not ask our names, and did not take us for any lessons.  Back at school; we somehow managed to avoid any visual contact for over a year, even though this often involved us running to other entrances.  After all that time he had forgotten the incident, and we were in the clear.  So when I saw Bob at this year's reunion I took the opportunity to ask for the return of my literature.  Needless to say it made him laugh, but disappointingly I did not get my magazine back!

FROM FRANK SMITH  1959-66   A number of panoramic photos have recently been added to our facebook page  (1954, 55, 68, 71,73,76)  The easiest way to view them is via the What's New?' button on the home page of the web site.  Then find the recent item on panoramic photos and follow the instructions.  Note, you do not need to be a member of facebook to view these photos.  You may be prompted to sign in or register, bu there is a Not Now option that allows you to continue browsing.

FROM ANDY MARLOW  1969-73   If you attended at Downing Drive can you help me with information regarding events held there?  I am researching this period as part of a proposed follow up to my previous book about the school.  Please contact me at

FROM LAURIE FORD  1962-66   During lunch at this year's reunion I was chatting to Rob Lee, who was musing  he ought to write about how he ended up at CBS.  That seemed a good idea, so I have pinched it!  My junior school was Dovelands, on Hinckley Road.  I can't say I recall taking the eleven plus, though obviously I did.  But even at the tender age of eleven I realised the importance of the exam.  Some of my classmates were promised - and given - a bicycle if they passed.  Sadly that was not so in my case.  Congregational Minister's stipends did not run to such things.  Thanks to some inspiring teachers, Miss Ashton in particular, I passed, and the dreaded envelope arrived.  Which grammar school to choose?  It did not take much time to decide.
Wyggeston.  No, because my brother was there, and regularly up before the Headmaster.  My parents did not wish me to be tarred with that brush.  And in terms of numbers it was a very large school.  And they played rugby, not football.
Alderman Nerwton's.  Another rugby-playing school.  No thanks.
Gateway.  More of a technical grammar school, and as I was useless technically that was ruled out.
City Boys.  They played football.  It was a smaller school, some 600 boys, which it was thought would suit me better.  So City Boys it was for my first choice.
It was rumoured that if you wanted to attend CBS it had to be your first choice.  Another rumour was it only took a maximum of three boys from each feeder school.  Any truth in that?  Only three went from my school that year - Jimmy Wilton, Howard (Chas) Mayhew and myself.  So in September 1962, kitted out with uniform, sports kit etc, off I went.  There was a mixture of trepidation and bewilderment about the new environment.  But I enjoyed my time there, and was sad to leave.  But in 1966 my family moved to Northampton and I ended up at a rugby-playing school after all, Northsmpton Town & County Boys Grammar.  City Boys did not lose a football player, as I was no good at the game.  But they did lose a badminton player, a game in which I earned my colours tie.

AND FINALLY....   As the theme is how we came to choose CBS, here is my version of events.  I passed the eleven plus at Eyres Monsell junior school in 1959, but neither I nor my parents had any real idea which grammar school to choose.  So they sought the advice of my teacher, Mr Berridge, via a letter delivered by myself.  Mr Berridge replied that he felt that City Boys would be best for me.  Of course they did sport, but that was not the be all and end all, and I had no interest in the subject.  He also felt I was at my best in a more personal environment, so a smallish establishment like City Boys would suit.  And so it was, for better or worse.

Dennis J Duggan  (1959-64)
April 9th 2020