Issue 4 (1999)
New Penwithian Issue 4 (1999)
Editor’s Three Penn’orth
It’s that time of the year already – 1999 has flashed by. A total eclipse of the sun, the turning of a millennium in prospect, and much more besides.
Once again I urge you all to put pen to paper or search out old photographs, before these fragmentary remains are lost completely. Archive material is always returned unless donated.
It’s always interesting to read about the exploits of old boys, and Ray Townley-Malyon’s story is a particularly rich piece of tapestry, and shows what can be achieved with the right approach. That is also all that’s required from the readers, and to unite in carrying this magazine forward, amalgamating ideas and styles to further improve and secure it’s future.
I have been involved with the association for the last 5 years, and feel that it is time to make way for a new magazine editor, so as from now the situation is vacant. All who are interested please apply (with C.V. -joke!!) to Philip Dennis Esq., 14 Barlowena, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 7RP.
Don’t forget to keep your personal details up-to-date on the database, especially change of address. Thanks to one and all who have contributed over the last 5 years. On behalf of the production team may I wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and Millennium New Year, enjoy edition 4, and please keep the articles rolling in.
The Batten Brothers
by Douglas Williams
Three Penwithians, whose links with the school spanned over 60 years, have been mourned in West Cornwall.
The three brothers, two of whom were Cornish Bards, were educated at the old Newlyn Board School, at the Grammar School and then at Westminster College, London.
They shared enthusiasms for sport – especially Rugby – for singing, local history and for service to the community.
All three were teachers, and two returned to teach at their former Penzance school, and build a unique niche in its story.
Ben, Jack and Jim Batten – the three sons of a Newlyn and Methodist fishing family – died within 17 months of one another, between February, 1998 and July, 1999. Their sister, Mrs. Phyllis White, a retired headmistress, lives at Penzance.
The Batten name is redolent with local history, over many centuries, and the family has great interest and pride in this. The brothers were known to thousands of Penwithians the world over as teachers, as experts in many fields of knowledge, as good friends. They played a full part in the life of their districts until their final days.
Jack, a gifted stand-off and fullback in his youth, recalled with zest the Rugby match when the three Batten brothers played in the Newlyn side that won at St. Ives, an achievement to be relished! When he moved to Essex after teacher training, he played for Southend and Eastern Counties, but always retailed a close watch on his ‘home’ team and was a member of the Pirates Club. He was a keen bowler for many years, enjoyed snooker, sang with his local Orpheus Choir and kept a deep interest in his local ‘roots’ through his family.
The youngest brother, Jim, who lived at Penzance, had a deep commitment to public service. He was a County Councillor and served for two terms as Town Mayor. From years as a town councillor he went on to become a founder-member of the Penwith District Council. Born in 1920 his life spanned a wide range of civil, cultural and educational aspects. Few had a broader canvas of involvement. He sang with Newlyn male choir, campaigned for the environment, held the Bardic name of ‘Son of Newlyn’ and served on the committees of the Gorsedd, the Seamens Mission at Newlyn and Penzance YMCA, as well as spending many years as an officer with the Sea Cadet Corps. An authorative speaker, he returned ‘home’ to teach geography and geology at the then renamed Humphry Davy Grammar School. This took him on to leadership of the Cornish In-Service training centre for teachers at Falmouth. His cultural dedication brought him to the forefront of the Royal Geological Society at Penzance, the Royal Institution of Cornwall at Truro, and the Morrab Library. And to these gifts in so many subjects he brought a delight in travelling the world with his wife.
Few men in Penwith dedicated so much of their lives to their home village as Ben – the oldest brother – at Newlyn. It was a commanding record. Ben, who died in 1999 aged 87, produced a large number of books during some 25 years, with the titles reflecting his deep affection for Methodism and Rugby, and the broad sweep of Newlyn’s story. In 1980 this was recognised by the Gorsedd when he was made a Bard with the name ‘Writer of Gwavas’. He summed up his feelings with these words: ‘Newlyn Town is my birthplace, and I am proud of this as I also take pride in my descent from fisherfolk, which both sides of my family have been for generations.”
For years he was a devoted member and leader at Centenary Chapel, where his funeral service was held. Ben played Rugby for Newlyn in the 1930’s, played in the opening match of the new combined Penzance-Newlyn Pirates in 1945, and captained the team for a while, later continuing his interest as president of the Supporters Club. After college years, Ben first taught at Waterloo Central School, Liverpool, was headmaster at Mousehole School, and was then appointed to the English staff at the Grammar School, retiring in 1972. He helped introduce Rugby there, wrote a history of The Pirates and co-authored ‘Three Score Years and Ten’, the story of the Grammar School 1910-80. His attention to accuracy and detail was matched to his possession of the open mind of a true educator. He carried his achievements with modesty, was loyal to many, with his faith underpinning all he was and did.
The ‘Three Brothers’ were blessed with so many talents. Penwithians through and through!
Douglas Williams (R.D.)
“Class of ’42”.
Forget the San Francisco 49ers – Penzance has its very own! And though it wasn’t a large class of old boys who started their education at Penzance County Grammar School in September 1949, they certainly made their presence felt through enthusiasm and sheer delight at being together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first meeting.
Travelling near and far for the special rendezvous inside the school gates – just like all those years ago -the only thing missing was the school uniform. And Pete Holman, senior teacher at what is now Humphry Davy School, had his work cut out, quietening the group down for the historic photos and presentation from the school just prior to a tour of the building and grounds.
Old boy Fred Pellow, who is now the office manager of the Union Hotel, came up with the idea for a reunion. He said: “Many of the group having been teachers or still teaching were very impressed with the extensions to the number of rooms and the tremendous amount of facilities and opportunities being offered to pupils.” Some dismay, however, was expressed at the disappearance of the old school pavilion and canteen (it was felt these should have been kept as museum pieces) and more importantly the lane separating the boys school from the girls’, now Penwith College. Said Mr Pellow: “The lane was very much the centre of attraction in the old days especially at lunchtimes when it was the turn of the girls to visit the school canteen for lunch. In fact many drools, sighs and bad cases of heavy panting have resulted in successful marriages.”
After a customary break for tea and coffee and thanking Mr Holman, the group broke to either rest or sample some local beers before heading for a sumptuous buffet at the Union Hotel. Guest for the evening was their former history teacher Maurice Hogg and there were special messages from old headmaster Mr T. Craske-Rising, Mr S. Harris, sports master and former star Magpies player, and English teacher Mr G. Mason as well as many former fellow classmates. A very boisterous rendering of the school song brought the evening to an end, bringing all – including some wives who had dared infiltrate the evening – to their feet!
They finally parted company to go their separate ways again to the strains of ‘By Memories chain we linked remain, Whatever may befall.’
Diary of a Wanderer
by Raymond Townley-Malyon
I well remember my time at HDGS right up to my leaving in the summer of 1961, It is so clear that I can still repeat the full class register from memory and remember the school song verbatim. I was in Ruby Sibson’s class 5G when I left, tucked away in one of the huts beside the playing fields.
The preceding year I had gone to the south of France with a schools exchange led by Mr. Monroe, and while there I took a diving course with a local diving school. On my return I took it upon myself to start the BSAC club branch in Penzance and was therefore the founder member of this club.
On leaving school I decided to work with animals and so trained and qualified as a Riding Instructor and in this profession, I worked all over the UK, I worked with Riding schools where I trained several well known people and also worked and rode show-jumpers in many shows in the North of England. While working with horses, I still kept up my interest in Diving and was instrumental in the starting of both Minehead and Grays branches in the BSAC. It was while I was working in Essex that I went with the Grays Club to Swanage to carry out some dives with Divers Down.
While there, Bob Wright, one of the owners of the school told me that the British Antarctic Survey was looking for a diver for their research base on Signy Island in the South Orkney Islands just off the Antarctic Peninsular. On my return to Essex 1 phoned and was called in for an interview at BAS headquarters in London. There I was submitted to a two-hour grilling by three BAQS members and then sent off to the research facility at Monks Wood in Cambridgeshire. I then went back to work waiting for an answer. Finally, on a Friday afternoon in October, I received a phone call from the Survey requesting that I be ready to join the Perla Dan at Southampton in three weeks time. It was then a mad rush to get everything ready in time to meet the ship, and finally I arrived on board in early November. We left the next day for the six week trip to the Antarctic via Montevideo and Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, where we were fitted up with all our equipment for the next eighteen months. Over the two weeks we spent in Port Stanley, we took several trips, including one to the wreck of the Great Britain where she lay in Sparrow Cove. It was during the time I was in the Antarctic that she was returned to Bristol where she now resides in the same dock as she was built in.
I finally arrived at the base on Signy Island and settled in to the demanding life of a member of the Survey. There was no chance of one man, one job as everybody had to pitch in with all the jobs around the base. Meteorological readings had to be taken every day and such menial tasks as washing up and assisting the cook as well as cutting ice blocks for the water tank were everyday run of the mill work. Also tasks such as seal tagging and bird ringing were a good way of relieving the monotony of ordinary base life. This involved trips on the Skidoo motor sledges in the time when the sea ice was present, and in the base’s boats during the summer time.
Diving was a great adventure, with a chainsaw with a six foot blade being used to cut out the sea-ice to allow entry into the sea. During my time in the Antarctic I carried out over 300 dives, 70 of these being beneath the ice.
My final 4 months in the Antarctic were spent on board the John Biscoe, one of the survey ships and on this I visited all the other British Antarctic bases, diving on many of them. I carried out several dives for the American Antarctic Survey and some of these were with Bill Curtsinger, an underwater pho-tographer for the National Geographic magazine. I was also lucky enough to visit the Volcanic Deception Island just 8 days after its last eruption in March, 1971, and carried out some dives in the bay in water almost too hot to touch. I finally returned to the UK in late April of 1971 and married within 3 weeks of my return. It was now time to look for work and I headed out to Dubai in the Arabian Gulf to start work with a commercial diving company working on the oil rigs. After a couple of months there I returned home and went to work with Nordive from Great Yarmouth blasting the old oil platforms under the North Sea.
Over the next 7 years I dived for most of the big diving companies in the UK and overseas working mostly with explosives in blasting structures, laying pipelines and cutting trenches through reefs. After a while I found myself as by far the oldest diver on the teams so went into Consultancy work on blasting and diving related contracts. At this I worked in Libya for three and a half years building a naval harbour and a big power station and also training part of the Libyan Navy Diving section how to continue maintenance. From there I worked in Saudi Arabia for two years super-vising the quarries in Bahrain and Saudi for the Saudi-Bahrain Causeway. Then on to three years on a Technical Assistance team in Sudan and finally on to training Nigerian Shotfirers on quarry blasting techniques.
During this time legislation against explosives was getting progressively worse so I decided that the time had come for me to do something about this. I therefore started Altex Technologies and went into the research and development of a range of alternative explosive systems which, although totally safe to use, would in fact be capable of doing the work normally carried out by high explosives, but without the Shockwaves and vibration. We have now two systems in production and two others on the drawing board ready to come into production in the next two years, and I was delighted this year to win the John Logie Baird award for innovation for one of my systems.
I am now spending a great deal of time travelling worldwide attending and speaking at mining exhibitions and giving demonstrations. It has been a very satisfying and rewarding life, and it has taken me to most areas of the World at least once, and by the end of the next two years I should have visited almost every country.
We Need Help!
The future of the Penzance County School/Humphry Davy Grammar School Association lies in your hands.
The Association will fold at the end of this year (after one final reunion on 29th December unless help is forthcoming).
The Association has been running in its present format for around five years now. During that time the Association has become established insofar as:
Regular annual reunions have been held at the Queens Hotel, Penzance on December 29th each year at 7.30 p.m. Attendance has varied but seem to average around 50. Annual newsletters (New Penwithian) have been issued for the past four years. A database has been built up and we now have in excess of 300 names on it (and growing). We are working towards the reprint of Ben Batten’s book “Three Score Years and Ten” and well over half way towards our target. A minimum of £1,500 needed to be raised when we last spoke to the printers.
The workload, planning and organisation to date has principally been carried out by Martin Orchard (Secretary), Bill Burnett (Database Co-ordinator), John Richards (New Penwithian) and myself, Phil Dennis (Treasurer).
Current problem to overcome: to date the organisation has survived without a chairman but this cannot continue. In addition due to personal commitments, Martin is standing down as secretary. I am sure I speak for all of us in thanking Martin for the significant contribution he has made over the past five years.
Speaking personally, I am in full-time employment which in itself often calls for long hours but am also Treasurer/Financial Consultant to four different orgnisations in the Camborne area. Although I am willing to continue as Treasurer for the time being (just as Bill and John are willing to continue in their roles) I am not prepared to undertake the three way role of Treasurer/Chairman and Secretary!
Surely there are some Old Boys/Staff reading this who would be prepared to step in and help the Association survive. The committee only meets approximately once a quarter and the job is not onerous in isolation.