Monday 4 October 2021

Fwd: OWT112 October 2021

TEL 01938 555574   07804 520730  
     OCTOBER 2021

   This has been booked for Saturday March 19th, at Clarence House.  You might like to make a note of the date, though what the situation will be in five or six months' time is anyone's guess!!

AN APPEAL   Last month I put out an appeal for a suitable place to store the collection of CBS memorabilia, but unfortunately this has not borne fruit.
Therefore Brian and I decided we had no choice but to rent a small storage unit in South Wigston, at a cost of £30 per month inc VAT.  Wyvernians does not have any regular income, though we do have some funds to cover booking deposits and special contingencies etc.  However they would soon be depleted if they are used to pay for storage.
So we have come to an arrangement whereby Brian and I will each pay £10 per month, with the balance coming from the funds.
We feel this unique collection must be preserved in a suitable environment, otherwise there is a risk it will deteriorate further.  Certainly my own storage situation is far from ideal.
Should any of you feel able to contribute towards the storage costs that would be much appreciated.  We guarantee that any monies received will be ring-fenced for the purpose, and a full record will be maintained.
If you feel able to help, please make out a cheque to Wyvernians and post to Mr B Screaton, 25 Cambridge Road, Cosby, Leicester. LE9 1SH.  The amount is entirely up to you!
If you wish to donate by bank transfer, the sort code of the Wyvernians account is 40 32 04, the account number is 41516485, and the account name is just 'Wyvernians'. Please include your name as the payment reference and email Brian at so that he can look out for your donation.

FROM BRIAN SCREATON 1959-65   The reprinted hardback edition of Andy Marlow's book 'City Boys' School, Leicester - The Story of a Grammar School' has sold extremely well, with copies going to Wyvernians all over the country and even one to Florida.  Initially we had ten printed as an experiment, and these sold out almost immediately.  Another twenty were ordered - the printers actually supplied twenty two at no extra cost - and these have also sold well.  Comments on the book have included 'Looks fabulous; A very impressive product; Lovely quality; A very enjoyable read.'  At the time of writing (June 22nd) there are just nine copies remaining.  If you would like to secure a copy before they sell out please contact or phone 07770 413228.  The price is £35 plus £4.20 postage in the UK.  (Only a few copies remaining, there will not be any more! - Ed)

   (Continuing Ken's memoirs - Ed)   The fifth year: After spending most of the year in the 'B' stream I was now mixing with others who had a leaning towards the sciences rather than arts.  This meant we were to take the three science GCE 's, rather than the other group who would take two general science papers.  The aim was to obtain enough GCE's to allow me to stay on in the sixth form.  I needed to drop some subjects to improve my chances of achieving that goal.  The year did not yield any major memories.  I was still one of the smallest boys in my year and still sporty.  I played for the school.  My strong friendships were with Mike McLoughlin, Ron Turner, Bob Greaves, Geoff Pullen, Johnny Walwyn, Frank Smith, Paul Vaughan, Ian Hamilton and Derek Seaby etc.  Did they feel the same?  My overall position in class was nothing to write home about, but it was clear the sciencies were something that was meant to be.
First year sixth 6S3   We were joined by the alpha stream students, so the competition for a good class position was stronger.  At this point those that needed to do resits were given a restricted science syllabus to free up time for study.  My group was 6S3, with about ten or twelve boys.  We were all together for some lessons, and for those I sat at the very front alongside Paul Vaughan.  He went on to do well.  I bumped into him in Liverpool, when I was working there, and he told me he was a dentist.  I remember going on a scary tandem ride with Paul!  Sitting at the front was probably a good move, as I was not able to hide, or make a nuisance of myself, thus losing concentration.  For some lessons we went to different classrooms, rather than the teachers coming to us.
Our classroom was close to the canteen.  There were two sittings, so no time to waste.  There was no fighting for places, as we had a set seating plan.  Everyone congregated outside, waiting for the teachers and prefects.  We could see the backs of the derelict houses in Clarence Street, typical two-up two-down terraced type with a yard and outside toilet, which were sometimes used for target practice
Biology lessons were taken by Flo Willan.  I did not get on too well with him, but he taught me how to spell.  On occasion I would write soluable instead of soluble which made Flo very uptight.  One day he gave me fifty lines:' I must write soluble, not soluable.'  It worked!  Otherwise my memories of the year are vague.  But I do recall Johnny Vaughan arriving in a pair of cowboy boots which were definitely not regulation school uniform.  But at that age we were trying to push the boundaries with the dress code and length of hair.  But we were grown up enough not to need to wear a school cap.
My academic position did not improve as we entered 'A' level studies.  I had just scraped enough 'O' level passes to be allowed to stay on.  I regard this as the next crucial event in my life.  So what were my passes?  Maths, physics, chemistry, geography, biology.  Resits added French and English language.  The sixth form was split into three broad classes.  The elite in 6S1, with aspirations of Oxford, Cambridge or London.  6S2 had aspirations of a good red-brick university - Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham.  The remainder, which included me, were in 6S3.  I believe the basic intention of the 6S3 curriculum was to teach us enough to obtain passes at 'A' level.
In some ways the situation was similar to 4B, where generally speaking I did not come top, but neither was I at the bottom.  I did excel in a couple of subjects and those gave me confidence to do better.  Streaming can sometimes be beneficial, and I believe I would not have progressed so well in 6S1 or 6S2.  I resat French in August of the first year and passed.  But I failed English, and failed it again twice or three times.  Why was that the case?  I could read, I could speak, my writing style was good.  But I had trouble expressing myself on paper.  Incidentally, I believe that being taught to write with an italic nib should be compulsory in schools.
My parents convinced me to have extra tuition in English, as there was little chance of obtaining employment without this basic requirement.  It worked, though the tutor told me I was handicapped by my surname.  Apparently that meant my essays would always be amongst the last to be read by the examiners, so would have to be something special to attract their interest.  A crazy theory in reality.  My essay was on the lines that education in nuclear science needed to be increased if the UK was not to be left behind - or something like that.  That was a hot topic in the mid-sixties, with nuclear testing by the Americans and Russians going on.  Research into nuclear power for energy was also being carried out. Whether the topic, or an improvement in my writing, was to be credited I will never know, but the benefit of additional tuition was clearly evident.
As an aside, after my first year of training after university I ended up handling tiny balls of uranium, packed them into silicon carbide tubes then passed an increasingly powerful electric current through the tube until it glowed red-hot.  Fact ot fiction?  Definitely fact. 
Back at school I was trying to learn, concentrating on the subjects I loved - plus the necessary English, of course.  Not having to do biology, geography or history was a bonus.  I began to excel, but tended to be side-tracked into behaviour I am not proud of.  One lesson was mechanics, taken by Dicky Diack.  Our classroom was at the top of the school, overlooking an alley and a pub.  Those on the back row would sit back in their chairs, balancing on the rear legs against the wall.  Occasionally a boy would deliberately drop a pen, or a compass.  On bending down to pick it up he would grab a neighbour's chair leg and send him flying.  Sometimes there was a domino effect, or a chair might be broken.  On more than one occasion the broken piece would be thrown out of the open window into the alley below.  The equations associated with speed, distance and acceleration could have been put into practice on those occasions.  Mr Diack was very precise in the way he delivered his lessons, and prided himself on his accuracy at the blackboard.  His approach suited me, as I could clearly see how equations could be manipulated to suit the problem.  I'm not sure if it was Mr Diack or John Lawson who asked the question: There are two cats sitting on a tin roof.  Which cat will fall off first?  Answers on a postcard, please, or to save postage the answer is, the one with the mu.

FROM KEITH SMITH  1958-65   I note that a Dave Parkinson passed away in South Africa recently; my condolences to the family.  Although we were at CBS at the same time I did not know Dave, but he must have been the only other Wyvernian living here apart from myself.  Not sure where.  Stuart Brown mentions the cadet force.  We actually found out that the No 2 Lee Enfield 303's were not in fact decommissioned, they still had the firing pins.  The bolts were kept in the school safe, with the rifles in the armoury at the back of the gym.  As an NCO I was assigned one of the rifles, and we took them to the range at Kibworth on Sundays for shooting practice.  We also fired in competitions against other cadet forces there.  We had a bren gun.  The record for stripping down and reassembly was, I think, thirty four seconds!  We never fired it at school, but did fire one at Glen Parva Barracks.

FROM ANDY HOWES  1956-59   (I was very interested to receive this contribution, as I remember the incident very well.  It would have been 1965. Obviously I have not mentioned the culprit's name!  It's a small world and no mistake - Ed)  You mentioned you worked at Furse Wholesale Ltd, which was near to the police box in Woodboy Street.  In the mid-sixties I had already been in the city police for a few years, and one day I attended a local department store where a shoplifter had been detained.  The guy worked at Furse Wholesale, and after arresting him and preparing the paperwork I accompanied the offender to his home.  That was usual, not only to verify their identity and abode, but also to see if there was other stolen property on the premises.  I examined a large garden shed, and was astonished to find almost as much stuff in there as there might have been in the Woodboy Street premises!!  I can't remember if that was a separate charge or just 'taken into consideration'. The guy was certainly dismissed.

FROM MARTIN POTTER  1965-72   I was not looking forward to my first day at CBS, thanks to my last junior school teacher.  Contrary to her expectations I had passed the eleven-plus exam, and her words of encouragement and congratulations were as follows:  Sometimes, Martin, it's better to go to a secondary modern school and do well, rather than a grammar school and do badly.  With this ringing endorsement playing on my mind I arrived at Downing Drive in a state of agitation.  Further, I was concerned about finding my new classroom, and my way round the school in general.  I need not have worried, as no one else knew where they were going - it was the school's first day in this brand new building, and general confusion reigned.
Having scraped through the eleven-plus I naturally found myself in 1B, but this was a blessing as the form teacher was the inspirational Geoff Elliott.  It was in no small part that due to his efforts, in the next year I was assigned to form 2A.  My acute aversion to maths was a problem, not helped by the second year maths teacher who provided another of those quotes that stay with you and must remain uncredited.  Let's face it, Potter, you're no good at maths.  With hindsight, my response should have been, Let's face it (name with-held) you're no good at teaching it.  My claim was upheld by the fact that in my third and fourth years, with the help of the incomparable Tony Baxter, I attained mid-table respectability in the end-of-year exams.  Sadly, in the vital fifth form, a change of teacher saw my enthusiasm and grades plummet accordingly.  My feelings about maths were echoed by Simon Tong when he once appeared for his English lesson bearing a new-fangled device known as an adding machine.  He joyfully declared, This is my answer to the maths department!'
My main interest was biology, and my commitment was rewarded with a coveted seat on Flo Willan's back bench.  He cannily allocated seats according to test results, with the lowest-scoring pupils seated at the front where he could keep an eye on them.  As I had no interest, and little ability in physics and chemistry, I was not able to take biology at 'A' level and had to settle for languages instead.  I originally began German lessons under Geoff Elliott; at the outset he was faced with the daunting task of teaching us which prepositions took which case.  His method consisted of pounding the knowledge into our heads by making us spend a large part of the lessons chanting lists of words.  This was so effective I can still remember them all to this day: fur, um, durch, bis, ohne, wider, gegen, for example, take the accusative case.  I could go on...
One's favourite schoolday recollections often involve misbehaviour of some kind.  I remember a high point of the school week was the appearance of the detention list, viewed by miscreants such as myself as a roll of honour.  Much respect would accrue to those with the more novel and inventive transgressions listed under Reason.  I never understood what Ken Witts meant when his reason for listing me was Shooting the gravy, but there was no appeals procedure so I had to do the time.  I briefly attained legendary status when my name appeared because I had Set fire to the school bus.  The incident was nowhere near as dramatic as suggested - I had merely put a match to a small piece of paper whilst on the bus, and at no point was there any danger of a conflagration.
One of the best co-ordinated instances of questionable behaviour in which I was involved took place during a lesson given by one of those unfortunate teachers who perhaps should have considered a different career path.  Someone had the bright idea of re-enacting an advert current on the TV at the time.  A schoolboy bit into a Crunchie bar, and because of the crunchy nature an earthquake ensued which toppled buildings.  A volunteer whose desk was at the front of the class was provided with said confection, and at the appointed time he took a bite.  This precipitated the earthquake, which saw most of us crash to the ground taking our chairs, desks and belongings with us.  The lesson was disrupted for a considerable time until order could be restored.

OBITUARY   From Howard Toon  1951-58   I am sorry to report the passing of John Stevens (1951-58) on June 11th 2021.  He died in hospital from cancer in the digestive tract.  John was gifted with an ever-present smile (A true it-is-good-to-be-alive smile) and quickly earned a nickname which stuck with him through his time at CBS - Smiler Stevens.  He was a practicing catholic, which came to my attention in the first few months as he was excused attendance at morning assembly.  That aroused my curiosity about catholicism.  In November 1958 John stood as my sponsor when I was confirmed as a member of the catholic church, and served as best man at my wedding in 1961.  Life took us separate ways, but I tried to contact him, without success, as my sixtieth wedding anniversary approached.  Eddie Blount, another Wyvernian, with whom John had played cricket for the Soar Valley Cricket Club over many seasons, kindly advised me of John's passing.  I was able to meet his son, Ben, at the funeral at Gilroes, June 29th 2021, and it was he who told me that John had spent his last few weeks in hospital so would have been unable to join in any celebration.  May his soul rest in peace.

FROM STEFAN WOZOWCZYK  1965-72   German 'A' level, June 1972.  Three papers.  I was hoping for a grade 'C' but ended up with a 'D'.  I know why, but let us start with the language paper.  Translate into German first.  I didn't find it easy then ,and it's even harder now.  'She stooped for her handbag...  I could have sworn...  She had been a little tipsy..(etwas besoffen?).  She gave Janet a cheque...   Her voice was a little hoarse...  She watched the barrier...  Looked into the compartment...  She was determined  to...   Fellow students who went on to study German at university tell me this was hard, and more suited to tertiary education.
The translation into English seems to have been OK, though I had to guess at die Karosserie klapperte.  I probably guessed at something like chassis.  Fifty years later I have no idea what die Karoserrie klapperte means, but my wife tells me it's a swear word I use when life has abandoned me, everything's a disaster, a flight is cancelled or a train is late.  Oh dear! - die Karosserie klapperte!
Now, and this is why I ended up with a 'D', we come to the German Lit paper.  Gawd.  Fontana's Frau Jenny Treibel (Not read)  Urfaust  (ZZZZ, also not read)  The University of Leicester German Drama Society put on a few performances, but I fell asleep.  Meyer's Der Heilige (About half read)  Durrenmatt's Romulus der Grobe (Which I enjoyed) and Frisch's Andorra  (Which I also enjoyed)
Describe in detail the significance of the Gretgen relationship for Faust.  Yes, well, should be able to make up some plausible general bosh in answer to that.  But in detail, and when you don't know a single quote?
And now, oh my.  Either (a) What picture of social attitudes does the author present in Frau Jenny Treibel?  Or (b) Analyse the character of Professor Wilibald Schmidt and estimate his importance in the novel.  Right, it's going to have to be (a) because I have no idea who this Wilibald bloke is, or what he does.  So, what do we know about 19th century social attitudes in Germany amongst the mannered classes?  Because it is, after all, a novel of manners.  How do you say that in German?  Might score a point if I could fit that in.  We do know that Jenny displays embonpoint.  That's a new one, it's the same in German as in French. In fact it's the same in English too.  Might come in handy for a crossword one day.  Furthermore, embonpoint was admired in Jenny Treibel's time.  That's all I know about social attitudes in 19th century Germany.  Could we build an entire essay around that?  OK, here goes...  Coming next, Economics 'A' level 1972.

FROM JOHN BENNETT MBE  1956-63  I recently purchased the hardback edition of Andy Marlow's book, and it certainly brought back memories of my time at CBS.  I was glad to see mention of the trip to the Olympic Games in Rome during the summer of 1960.  I was fifteen at the time, and still remember many details.  Besides the sports mentioned, we went to the equestrian dressage, and in the stadium watched the legendary Herb Elliott race in the 1500 metres.  What I can't recall is whether we saw a heat, or the final where he set a new world record.  On the return journey we stopped at the Swiss town of Brunnen, on Lake Lucerne, for a few days.  It was in the most stunning position, and the water was icy cold.
In OWT111 Terry Desborough mentions the Drama Society productions, in particular Cymbeline.  I played Cymbeline, and I have to say that my recollection of Michael Kitchen's accident differs from Terry's. I thought he cut his hand on a sword during the fight between Cloten (Kitchen) and Guiderius and needed medical attention so could not continue.  We certainly had to improvise when Cloten failed to reappear.  Andy's book also mentions that some of the Society's productions were taken to Krefeld, Leicester's twin city in Germany.  I particularly remember A Midsummer Night's Dream (I played Helena, my first female part) and School For Scandal, where I played Sir Peter Teazle.  We were given a fantastic reception.  After one of our first performances the audience began a slow hand-clap, which we thought denoted disapproval.  But we soon realised that was not the case, as the clapping became faster and faster and ended as tumultuous applause.  Alas I did not continue my acting at Oxford, but the experience gave me a lifelong passion for the theatre.  This culminated in nine years as a governor of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, three years of which I served as Chairman.

FROM ROGER POVOAS  1956-64   Terry Desborough writes about Cymbeline and School For Scandal.  I was in both productions.My recollection is that I was the person who caused the cut to Michael Kitchen's forehead, the scar can still be seen when he appears on TV.  I have to say I thought it was Tobias and the Angel, not Cymbeline, but it's not important.  I vividly remember taking School For Scandal to Krefeld.  I stayed with a family called Schwieterng, who lived in Osterath, just outside Krefeld.  I recently looked up Gerd, the son, on the internet and discovered he runs a successful architect's business in Krefeld.  But I feel I am now too long in the tooth to contact him!  We acted in the Stadt theatres, and it still amazes me that we that we performed in front of full houses of German people whilst acting entirely in English. 
I remember John Waley very well - he was a very fast inside left and dynamite when teamed with Trev Jones.  I wonder what happened to Dick Smith, the centre half who had trials with Arsenal.  And what about Fred Embury and Smacker Day?  I did come across McInemy (not sure of the spelling) many years after leaving school.  He was a witness in a case at Leicester Magistrates Court, where I was representing a person not connected with his case.  I think he had a successful scrap metal business.  Then there was David Needham, who again excelled as a footballer.  He went on to play for Notts Forest, or Notts County, as a professional. 
I was in the same form as Davenport.  He was very annoying, because not only did he excel at cricket and football but he was always in the top four or five academically.  I think it was a case of jealousy, or envy!  Sad to note his passing.  Anyway, it's good to hear about our contemporaries and, as an example, on the eve of the FA cup final I received an e-mail from Roger Gandy.  He is not only a Wyvernian, he was also a near-neighbour during my childhood.  He emigrated to Australia, and lives in Sidney.  We have exchanged memories, which I found very rewarding.  He tells me he is still in contact with some of his schoolmates.  Maybe I can get him to write a contribution to OWT?

FROM MARK HAYLER  1958-64   As senior prefects we were required to read the lesson at morning assembly for a week.  The required passages were posted in the prefects' room.  I had no great liking for the task.  First, the readings could be excruciatingly long, so I would leave out the odd verse, or even whole chunks, to shorten the ordeal.  Second, the other prefects had picked a key 'disruption' word or phrase.  This resulted in a group cough, chair shuffling, crossing legs etc.  So the trick was to find the word or phrase and leave it out.  If it coincided with my passage cull, so much the better.  No one noticed - except Sadie Thompson, who wore a perplexed expression because his chosen passage made no sense.  One Friday morning after assembly, I returned to the biology lab, that holy-of-holies for the chosen few  ie 'A' level biology students, and announced, 'Thank f*** that's over.  Flo Willan rose from behind his enormous lab bench to ask, 'Has it been a bit of a trial?!'

FROM ALAN PYKETT  1959-66   I have been giving some thought to my CBS academic career, in particular the different paths offered after the fourth year ie arts (languages) or science.  You have to forgive me, but as stated previously I had an excellent year in 4A, taking the form prize and doing equally well in languages and the three sciences.  Thus a decision had to be made, and I chose languages and entered 5L.  'O' levels were taken at the end of the year, and I was successful in eight out of nine subjects.  Then another decision.  Do I stay on to take 'A' levels, and if so which subjects?  Despite my father wanting me to bring some money into the household he relented, and I moved into 6A1.  There was never any question of me going to university, so my father would only need to wait another two years before I began earning!  I chose French, German and history.  I had always enjoyed the two languages, and had a good history 'O' level.  After two years of hard graft I sat the exams and passed all three.  However, did I enjoy those subjects in the sixth form?  The two languages contained a literature element, which meant studying five books in each language over two years.  This had not been the case up to 'O' level, which had consisted mainly of translations and essays, which I had enjoyed.  But did I enjoy the literature element?  Regarding history, again it was different.  'O' level was mainly remembering facts, which I was good at, but for 'A' level one had to make reasoned arguments about historical topics, something I struggled with.  But I scraped a pass.  So did I make the right decisions?  Looking back, perhaps I would have taken scripture instead of history.  But what would I have chosen on the science side had I gone down that route?  I think I would have chosen biology, chemistry and mathematics, which might have meant a more enjoyable two years in the sixth form.  Having got this off my chest I will end with one issue that has always bugged me - the choice which had to be made at the end of the fourth year between German and geography.  I chose German, thereby giving up another favourite subject.  That said, I really enjoyed my seven years at our great school.  On a different subject, I commenced full-time work on 18th July 1966, aged eighteen, and retired on 31st may 2006 at the age of fifty seven.  I only had one employer, albeit with several name changes.  I did not earn one penny before beginning work, and not earned one penny since retirement.  Am I a little unusual in that?  Polite answers only, please! 

FROM GERRY JOHNSON  1956-64   I have been scanning copies of the Wyvernian from the early sixties, and came across this prime example of the irreverance at the time.
During the autumn term of 1962, a school party visited Stratford on Avon to see Peter Brook's production of King Lear, with Paul Scofield in the title role.  This was a widely-acclaimed production.  The Guardian theatre critic saw it as exceptionally fine production - the most moving performance of the play I have seen since the war.  And in 2004 The Daily Telegraph published a survey in which RSC actors voted for the greatest Shakespeare performance in history.  The winner was Paul Scofield's King Lear.  The Wyvernian critics (Messrs Graham, Pickup, Leaman, Geary and Milton, saw it differently.
The production was unusual, if not strange  - Geary
Dramatically unsound and lacking a sense of purpose  - Pickup
The Lear of my imagination was a great man, brought low by two scheming daughters.  But Peter Brook seemed to view Goneril and Reagan in a sympathetic light, apparently thinking their attitude to their father is, to a great extent, justified - Geary
The result was that the production fails to maintain a dramatic cohesion - Pickup
The resultant play was hardly Shakespeare's King Lear  - Graham
There wasn't much praise for the cast either.
Paul Scofield grunted his speeches in a monotone - Milton
The poetry was completely disregarded - Pickup
Lear marched about in Wellington boots, wearing an old motor cycle coat - Pickup
Tom Fleming as Kent was uninspiring.  Diana Rigg as Cordelia did not seem to have the right spirit.  The King of France was welcome to her - Leaman
Brian Murray as Edgar did well to change his accent three times; from nobleman to beggar, to Zommerset back to nobleman, in a part obviously written for Peter Sellars - Leaman
It was only James Booth as Edmund, every inch a cool, ruthless and unscrupulous schemer, Alex McCowan as The Fool and Clive Swift as Oswald (Hilariously effeminate) who were praised.
The trouble with Stratford tragedies is that minor characters are so good they are often more interesting than the major ones - Leaman
Overall Brook and Scofield have been intolerably self-indulgent, and this production became their King Lear - Shakespeare only coming a poor third - Milton
So no punches pulled here, then!!!

AND FINALLY...   And what about my own school career, which has been well-documented in OWT over the years.  For the benefit of newer readers, here is a summary.  First year was an unmitigated disaster, including truancy.  I was demoted from 1 Alpha to 1A.  Then I was demoted further to the B Stream, and the second year was a little better as I found the going easier.  But basically I was my own worst enemy.  By the third year I had settled down, and did just enough work to satisfy my teachers and parents.  Year four was not too bad, and apart from a prediliction to avoid any form of sport (Though I did not mind cross-country) I kept out of trouble.  The fifth year was a happy one, spent in 5F.  This was a small class of (Forgive me)  no-hopers, and little or nothing was expected of us.  Thus some lessons, especially those by Ken Witts on Friday afternoons, were almost fun!

Dennis J Duggan
October 4th 2021