Issue 9 (2004)
New Penwithian Issue 9 (2004)
It is with sadness that we have to record in this year’s newsletter the death of Mr Rising on the 23 February 2004 at the age of 97. Although he had become frail towards the very end, he continued to show a great interest in our Association and never failed to appreciate that the memory of the School, which had meant so much to him, had not been allowed to fade away.
He gave 26 years of his life to the school and it was his life. Many old boys and staff attended the Mass of Thanksgiving held in St Mary’s Church, Penzance on 4 March. Mr Rising had written the Service himself and there were many poignant reminders of times past, particularly, the address by Rev Andrew Shanks, his godson, the final hymn “God be with you till we meet again” and the rousing rendering of the ‘School Song’ accompanied with great gusto by Russell Jory on the organ.
The middle pages of this Newsletter have been devoted to his memory and the tributes are a reflection of the deep respect, gratitude and affection that many old boys and staff had for him.
This year sees the introduction of a life membership card and this has been distributed with this Newsletter to all those who have paid their £10 one off subscription and are now registered as a life member on the database. Thank you for supporting your Old Boys Association. At the last count 188 life members from the 389 on the original database have registered.
We are continuing to maintain a ‘non-life members’ list but old boys on this list will no longer continue to receive this newsletter. If you are one of those or you know someone who would like to become a life member, an application form can be found on the back page.
Did you know that there was a third verse to the ‘School Song’? Well there is and at the last Reunion Wilfred Jenkin produced a copy. The whole school song complete with the additional verse has been reproduced together with some of the background history. Perhaps we will sing it at the next Reunion on 29 December at the Queens Hotel, so come along and join in.
My plea in last years newsletter for articles and old photographs has borne fruit and we are grateful to John Gates for his reminiscences of his school days during the war; to Joe Tregenza for some early photos from the late ’20’s and early ’30’s; to Peter Weller for the photographs he sent in from the ’47 era; to Patrick Hanlon and Roger Nicholls who, between them, have turned up with most of the names of the 1957 Cross Country Team which was published in the 2003 newsletter; and to Robert Simons for a selection of photos from his time in the ’60s.
See the photo section for some examples of these photographs.
Once again we are grateful to those who have contributed to the newsletter and our loyal advertisers whose income does help us to defray the costs of production.
Including wives or partners, over 60 people turned up to this years’ Reunion at the Queens, 55 even managed to sign in. This was probably one of the best reunions so far, not only in turnout, but also in spirit and camaraderie. There were a lot of new faces present and it was particularly heartening to see so many from the Forties’ intakes, including Roger Shaw of High Jump and Westward TV fame.
We had some wonderful memorabilia: three sets of School photographs from the Forties and Fifties; an interesting array of rugby photographs and associated documents put together by Phil Westren; a long lost third verse to the School Song found by Wilfred Jenkin; a 1959 ‘0’ level English paper from Martin Tutthill; and John Richards brought along his usual selection of old team photographs from the archives. Crispin Clemence upstaged everyone turning up in a red and black striped Old Penwithian Blazer with highly polished buttons.
Many attending took the advantage of signing up as Life Members and the Secretary managed to sell a few more copies of ‘Three Score Years and Ten’ and the Association tie.
The evening ended with a rousing rendition of the School song with some fine piano accompaniment from Dr Nick Marston. Perhaps next year we will include the third verse.
Apologies were received from Fred Pellow, Peter Colliver, Des Hosken and a fax from Lionel Pollard in France sending everyone his best wishes.
Those who attended were:
John Coak, Andrew Coak, Phil Dennis, Bill Burnett, John Richards, Paul Tyreman, Stuart Guppy, John Skewes, John Matthews, Colin Polglasc, John Burrow, Crispin Clemence, Peter Pitts, Martin Tutthill, Bob Quixley, Hedley Nichols, Brian Blackler, Roger Qenience, John Laity, Goff Johns, Frank Blewett, Roy Nicholls, Julian Keen, Steve May, Bryan Cuddy, John Mead, Norman Ampleford, Terry Drew, Howard Wliitt, Howard Curnow, Terry Johns, Tony Jasper, Justus Hattam, John Peak, Bob Coneybeare, John Harper, Malcolm Quick, Kevin Marston, Nicholas Marston, Mike Sagar Fenton, Jamie Dunn, Wilfred Jenkin, Roger Cargeeg, Donald Ruhrmund, Sid Thomas, Brian Richards, Martin Orchard, Roger Shaw, Douglas Williams, Tony Skinner, Paul Leggo, Phil Westren, Morley Hosken, Graham Corin, Terry Care.
Someone suggested at the Reunion that in 2004 everyone should try to bring along with them another Old Penwithian who has not attended before.
So do not forget to join us on Wednesday 29th December in the Queens and bring some memories or mementoes with you to share with other members.
The more the merrier.
Where are they now?
‘By Memories Chain We Linked Remain
The year started off with some sad news. I had a letter from Jane Fidgen to tell me that her husband James Fidgen (38) had died in November. He had been ill for some time. James was a Marazion man and had gone back to the school to do his teaching practice after the war amazingly the staff still remembered him. Jane also recalled Jim Rhodda from Marazion who was their best man 50 years ago and Dr Arnold Derrington (33) who was a colleague of James.
In January we were also informed of the death of Mr William Thomas (Bill) Crabb (36) who passed away on 22 October 2003. CoincidentaJly it was Arnold Derrington, Bill’s brother in law, who had prompted him to become a member of the OPA.
A fax from Lionel Pollard (46) to wish us all the best for the Reunion turned up very unexpectedly at the Queens. Later in the year Lionel called into the North Inn and recalled his last visit to see Mr Rising and their lively discussion on split infinitives. Which brings me on to John Deane (48) who passed on some anecdotes and secret glimpses into life at PCS during his five year’s at the school, but I fear, in this age of litigation, amusing as they are, that I shall have to leave them on the file.
However he did recall Ernie Tarbet’s ruling on the split infinitive: ‘If Shakespeare does it, it is a stroke of genius. If you do it, it’s a stroke of ignorance’. Perhaps it was such pearls of wisdom that prompted Gavin Tonkin (58?), now Director of Lifelong Learning for Kirklees Council, to reveal in an interview in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner that Ernie Tarbet was his favourite teacher. This last snippet of information is recorded thanks to the eagle eye of Peter Weller’s (42) sister. Peter, now retired after 35 years with Shell and living in Perranuthnoe, sent it in with many more interesting items of memorabilia and school photographs.
Dr C.D.R. Pengelly (34) takes us slightly to task for mixing up the date on the Rescorla memorial photograph on the front page of New Penwithian 2003. It should be September 11th not 9th, obviously confusion with 9/11, the American way of expressing the date. We will try to do better.
Joe Tregenza (28) born in Paul but now living in Guildford sent me a large number of school photos for the archives and we have included the 1933 football team in this issue. Ian Campbell (44) wrote with some suggestions on PCS/PGS debate and recalls that, when he started in ’44, his form master was a Mr ‘Wee’ (he was short in stature) Wellsford who taught Chemistry but his name is not included in the Staff List in ‘Three Score Years and Ten’, perhaps he was filling in temporarily during the War. He was replaced by Mr ‘Bung’ Waller in 1945.
Wilf Jenkin (42) features quite a lot in this issue. He has produced the third verse of the School song, come up with a likely theory on PCS/PGS name change and the complete list of names from the 1948 copy of The Penwithian for the 1948 County Athletics photograph in ‘Three Score Years and Ten’.
John Oates (43) now in Heston shared some ’40s memories with me in July. And those are recorded for all elsewhere in his wartime school memories. Robert Simons (56), some of you may recall his grandfather Edgar Simons who owned the gentlemen’s hairdresser in Causewayhead, wrote in to become a life member and sent some photographs of his era. His one of Form 5A in ’60/61 is reprinted with all the names.
Both Patrick Hanlon (53) and Roger Nicholls (54) featured in the 1957 Cross Country photograph published in the last New Penwithian. Patrick, now living in Erdington, managed to name most of them and Roger, now in Truro, came up with another couple of names including himself and recalls that he was wearing a borrowed vest in the photograph. The photograph with nearly a complete set of names can be found in the photograph gallery.
I also received a copy of a letter from Des Hosken (54) which he had sent on behalf of Penzance Rotary Club to the current headmaster of the Humphry Davy School enclosing a cheque for £1000 from the Club towards the School’s fund raising bid for a specialist College of Music. Des mentions other old boys in the Club: John Laity, Douglas James, Jack Trewhella and David James who were involved.
Other old boys that have been in contact include Thomas Rouncefield (46) now retired from teaching and living at Restronguet Point; Francis Otto (53) who popped into the North Inn in the summer with his wife for a rare roast beef sandwich; Morely Hosken (40) who came over especially to buy a copy of ‘Three Score Year and Ten’.
Other regular callers to the North Inn include Bob and Sylvia Quixley (staff), Roy Nicholls (59), Justice Hattam (58), Chris Symons (55), Stuart Guppy (52), Terry Johns (58), Chris Jervis (52), Terry Pope (52), John Harper (43), Mike Ollis (52), Martin Scrase (54) and Derek Sleeman (52) when he is back home from Aberdeen.
Finally an incredible coincidence happened during the late summer. Mike Jones (55) called in to ask about membership and to have a chat. He now lives in Droitwich and is retired from Formula 1 Motor Racing. He filled in a life membership form and we talked about our year of ’55 and mutual school pals. Among those mentioned were Rod Elwood, Antony Holman, Martin Tutthill and Mike Lake. He left and about 10 minutes later I was called once again from the North Inn kitchen to see another old boy who was asking for me. Well blow me if it wasn’t Mike Lake (55) whom I had not seen either for more than 40 years. Mike now retired from the Army was with his wife and a colleague from ‘Help the Aged’ for which he is now the chief executive.
I am always interested in your stories, anecdotes and anything that may be of interest to other OPs. Please do not hesitate to drop me a line:
Andrew Coak, 7 The Square, Pendeen, Penzance, TR19 7DN or by e-mail.
On a more sombre note if you do hear of the death of an Old Boy please let me know.
Thomas Craske Rising 1907 – 2004
On 23 February of this year Thomas Craske Rising died and we would like to pay tribute to a headmaster who fashioned the lives of so many pupils who passed through the school when he was at the helm. Here we print an extract from an article that appeared in the ‘Cornishman’ newspaper and tributes that were paid to him and the addresses read at the Mass of Thanksgiving held at St Marys Parish Church, Penzance.
One of Penzance’s most respected and well known residents has died at Poltair Hospital, aged 97.
Thomas Craske Rising, of St Mary’s Close, was for many years headmaster of the former boys’ grammar school at Penzance, now Humphry Davy School, and was responsible for making it at the time one of the top schools in the country.
Mr Rising’s teaching career took him and his wife Tean to many parts of the world, beginning a love of travel which lasted a lifetime.
In 1945 Mr Rising became headmaster at Penzance Grammar School for Boys and, according to the education authority of the time, turned it into the “best grammar school in England”.
Following on from this success he was loaned to the Forces and became headmaster of an Army school in Singapore from 1957 to 1959.
On returning to Penzance in 1959, Mr Rising stayed at the helm of the grammar school until his rerirement in 1971.
Mr Rising kept in touch with many “old boys” of the school and remained in good health up until the beginning of the year, when he had to be admitted to West Cornwall Hospital and later Edward Hain at St Ives. He died at Poltair Hospital in Heamoor.
Extract from The Cornishman, February. 2004
Old Boys’ tribute
A copy of the joint tribute paid to Mr Rising by John and Andrew Coak, President and Secretary of the Old Penwithians Association.
“We are honoured to be able to pay a tribute to Mr Rising. He was a great headmaster and a man who has done much to shape our lives and those of countless West Penwith boys.
He will always be remembered for the ambitions and vision he had for the school and his pride in its achievements, not only in the academic field but also in numerous sports and in the many other extra curricular activities.
He was a true believer in the grammar school system and made no secret of his feelings about the changes in policy that brought the end of the grammar school era in Penzance.
The strong personality, which he transmitted to every boy and member of staff who walked through the door of the school, is a feature which many old boys recall.
He demanded strict discipline and high standards and with the click of his heels on the balcony as he walked down to take prayers one could hear a pin drop.
And there was that feeling of dread when he announced that he wished to see in the Library afterwards all those who travelled to school on a particular bus that will never be forgotten by many ex-pupils.
However, hidden beneath this austerity was a sense of humour and he will always be remembered for his famous announcement in prayers shortly after the school changed its name from Penzance Grammar School to Humphry Davy Grammar School ‘there is no e in Humphry, no e in Davy and no e in Grammar’.
As president and secretary of the Old Penwithians’ Association we shall remember him for the support he gave to the association, particularly when it was restarted in the mid 90s and his joy when the second edition of ‘Three Score Years and Ten’ was finally published last year.
In spite of his failing physical health he continued to communicate with the association by typing his letters with one finger and he remained sharp and lucid to the end.
Many old boys will miss the friendship and counsel and the association mourns the loss of a wise man and a great leader.”
A letter sent by the Secretary to Mrs Rising on behalf of the Association
Dear Mrs Rising,
I was very sad to hear of the death yesterday of Mr Rising. Even though I gather it was anticipated it is still a great shock when it happens. Mr Rising played a very important part in both, mine and my brother, John’s school lives; and we are very grateful for the leadership and example he gave to us in those formative years. He will be missed by the many old boys; who were fortunate to have attended school while he was at the helm and may I on behalf of the Old Penwithians Association pass on our sincere condolences. If there is anything the Association can do to help during this time, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Sincerely, Andrew Coak
Mrs Rising’s reply
Dear Andrew and may I include your brother John,
Thank you very much indeed for your kind letter and all the wonderful things you said about TCR.
You don’t need me to tell you that HDGS was his life, I would like to thank you both, and all the other good people, for the hard work which made the Old Penwithians Association such a success. Tommy appreciated it enormously.
My very best wishes to you and your mother, and all your families.
Very sincerely and with love Tean Rising
The Memorial Service
As the Staff member on the Committee of the Old Penwithians Association it was my privilege to represent my former colleagues at the memorial service for the late Thomas Craske Rising, our former headmaster.
I was not alone of course, several other former members of staff attended and it was good to see them again. Maurice Hogg, Jim Treglown, Brian Blackler, John Grover, Malcolm Rudlin, Barry Tuckett, Tony Fitt and Frank Hull were in the congregation, Bob Quixley was singing in the choir and Russell Jory was the organist.
Perhaps we were meeting under somewhat sad circumstances but the service was truly a celebration of a wonderful life, lived to the full by an exceptional man — and after all, “Craske” had had a good innings. As his widow Tean related afterwards, “Tommy” had planned the service himself and she asked him why he wanted to provide refreshments for so many. “There won’t be that many there” she told him “You’ve outlived them all”
Mrs Rising could not be expected to remember every member of Staff she had met decades ago and not surprisingly, after the service, she greeted me with “And who are you?”.
I duly identified myself and explained that I had joined the staff at Humphry Davy Grammar School in 1969 and had only known her late husband for two years before he retired. “That was long enough”, she remarked. Indeed it was, for in that time the man himself, and the ethos he had established at his school, made a deep impression upon me — a young and relatively inexperienced teacher. I’m sure the same was true for other former members of staff and for generations of Old Boys.
Certainly when Russell Jory struck up the opening bars of the School Song at the end of the service, in common with many others, I found it difficult to sing. Not because I had forgotten the words but because of the large lump in my throat.
Bill Burnett, Staff 1969-1980
The Secretary on the Memorial Service
I attended, along with many other old boys and staff, the Memorial Service and Mass of Thanksgiving for Mr Rising. It was in many ways a joyful occasion celebrating the very full and active life of a man, who had dedicated himself to our school and, as the headmaster of many of those old boys present, had touched our lives in so many different ways, some of us perhaps a little more forcefully than others.
I asked Fr Keith Owen before the service started whether it might be possible to sing the School Song at the very end as a fitting tribute to Mr Rising. The request was granted and I did say in ‘Rising’ tradition that, as a representative of the OPA, I would like to see anybody afterwards who had forgotten the words.
The service was also a very moving and thought provoking occasion, as Mr Rising in his self-written service had included some very unforgettable school memories, particularly, the hymns: “The day thou gavest, Lord is ended”, “He who would valiant be”. However, it was the singing of “God be with you till we meet again” which brought back the memories of those last days of term when it was always traditionally sung in the final assembly.
His Godson the Reverend Andrew Shanks in his very personal address threw much new light on to the life of the man we once revered as ‘Boss’ and summed him up so well as a man ‘completely at home and at ease in the world’.
But it was for me, and I am sure many others present, the singing of the School song at the end that brought tears to the eye. I was taken back to school assemblies, Doffy Behenna on the piano, and the attentive eye of ‘Boss’ checking out for the boy who had not yet properly learnt the words, paying particular attention to the latest intake in the front rows. Russell Jory gave it ‘bell tink’ on the St Mary’s organ. What a memorial.
Afterward taking some refreshments at the back of the church I had the pleasure of talking to Mrs Rising and discovering for myself that Mr Rising had written his own Memorial Service and she had found it in a drawer a few weeks earlier. She said that she also had found one written for her but she had no intention of using that one; she would be writing her own.
[Sec’s note: We are looking forward to welcoming Mrs Rising at the Reunion.]
The Address given by the Reverend Andrew Shanks
I feel that it was a great privilege to have known Tommy. And I know that there will be lots of people here who feel the same, for all sorts of different reasons. He has been a significant figure in my life for as long as 1 can remember. He was my godfather. And what did I most appreciate about him? I think that, above all, he represented to me that particular sort of wisdom which consists in being completely at home, and at ease, in the world. I mean: he was someone whose life, quite simply, turned out well. In pretty much every sense. Partly, no doubt, it was a matter of luck. But partly, also, it was thanks to his good judgement.
I think of Tommy as an expeditionary. Someone who lived his whole life as an expedition. His life was of course full of particular expeditions: travelling with Tean, on foot, by canoe, on skis, by car with a tent, by VW camper van. Across Europe by canoe in the 1930s. From Australia to England during the war. Through Finland and Lapland to the Arctic. All the way to India by road, to celebrate his 70th birthday with a visit to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. And so on and so forth. All sorts of expeditions, with camera always at the ready. And in addition to his six published books, he’s left over 200 travellers’ tales to record his adventures on the way.
In a sense, it seems to me, he lived his whole life like a well planned expedition: adventurous, certainly, but without being reckless; energetic and purposeful; driven by a constant curiosity to see what was around the next corner.
Tommy’s was a life that turned out right. Partly because he was lucky. And partly also because he made the right choices. He made the right choices, to become the person he was meant to be. For one thing, he quite clearly chose the right career.
We should not perhaps forget that he was a journalist first. During the last years of the First World War, at the age of eleven, stepping into his father’s shoes, he became Angling Correspondent lor the Lowestoft Fishing Gazette. But then – the teacher. In Derbyshire, Australia, Singapore, and above all at the Humphry Davy Grammar School here. I never knew him in that role, but I have met several people who did, and I can well believe what I am told, that he was a natural born headmaster. With a quiet but complete! authority. An almost awe inspiring authority, I’ve heard. And yes I can well believe it. Plus a resolute commitment to the very highest standards, in every aspect of school life. So that, under his leadership, the school here famously became one of the best in the country.
Tommy it seems to me, was absolutely someone who made the right choices, to become the person he was meant to be. Choosing to be a teacher. Choosing to be a traveller. Choosing to live in West Cornwall. Clearly, he thrived in this sort of world.
And of course, most importantly, he chose to be married to Tean. Which was, clearly, not a bad choice. Because “Tommy and Tean” was always such a very clever, such a winning formula. How good that they were able to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary last July. And what an excellent advertisement for impulsive minimum fuss weddings.
What Tommy represented to me was that particular sort of wisdom which consists in being completely at home, and at ease, in the world. He was completely at home in the world at large. At ease with all kinds of diverse people encountered on his travels. And he was completely at home here. I think of the various lovely houses Tommy and Tean have had, over the years, and their unstinting hospitality. He was also, of course, active in local public life: The Newlyn Art Gallery, the Morrab Library, the local United Nations Association; the Footpaths Preservation Society, and so forth,
He was completely at home, as well, in the church. Helping with parish work at Sancreed and St Just. And helping with deanery and diocesan work here at St Mary’s.
Tommy himself chose the reading from John Donne we heard earlier. And what was that reading about? It was, I think one might say, about being at home in eternity.
Tommy wasn’t one to make a great fuss about religion. He certainly wasn’t sentimental about it. His wasn’t just a cosy sort of Christianity. But he was, I sense, in a straightforward and pretty open minded sort of way, fundamentally at ease with church tradition.
To me, it seems that what he stood for was a quite unwavering confidence in the basic meaniiigfulness and goodness of life quite undimmed by the prospect of death.
May he rest in peace.
The School Song
An Additional Verse
It is to Wilfred Tregenza that we have to be grateful for turning up with the forgotten verse of the School Song. Wilf wrote to us in December 2003 with a copy of the verse adding that he hoped to bring it along to the Reunion at the end of the month. He had noticed in Epilogue of ‘Three Score Year and Ten’ the reference to the second verse and that got him thinking because the verse referred to was originally the third verse.
He had a green stencilled copy with three verses not easy to read but it was all there; presumably as written by Mr Alan Wood in the late 1930s. However he noted that in the ‘Penwithian’ Summer 1945 issue (No 67) only two verses were printed showing how quickly the middle verse was dropped. Perhaps some of you will agree with the decision to leave it out.
Here is the School song in its entirety:
King Arthur ruled in Lyonesse a mighty Christian King.
His knights the flower of chivalry as ancient poets sing.
And since his days all men may praise full many a Cornish name,
That shines securely as the lamp here glistens Davy’s fame:
Godolphin! St Aubyn! Trelawney! and Treneere!
Come sing together and a song that all the world may hear:
The heroes of the Cornish past with pride we may recall;
Our School be still the First and Last, our Motto:
ONE AND ALL
The height of Learning will we scale, with Truth and Wisdom crowned
At play, howe’er our strength avail, good sportsmen still be found
The effort’s better than the prize, the team before the player,
Let skill and speed achieve the need but honour to the stayer.
Godolphin! St Aubyn! Trelawney! and Treneere!
Come sing together and a song that all the world may hear:
To virtue, kindness, friends holdfast and answer duty’s call
Our School be still the First and Last, our Motto:
ONE AND ALL
As mighty waters ebb and flow against our granite shore,
So we, an ebbing tide must go, this place be ours no more:
But other waves from ocean deep come surging into land,
Another race will take our place and bear the torch in hand
Godolphin! St Aubyn! Trelawney! and Treneere!
Come sing together and a song that all the world may hear:
By memory’s chain we linked remain whatever may befall
Our School be still the First and Last, our Motto:
ONE AND ALL
In the last issue of the newsletter Mike Hunter (44) highlighted a point about the timing of the change of the School title to include ‘Grammar’. He remembered that some time during his time at school PCS became PCGS, but he could not remember the year but it seemed likely that it was 1947 or earlier as the School Photograph of June of that year is titled COUNTY GRAMMAR SCHOOL FOR BOYS.
No mention was made of the change in TSYT although it does record the advent of HDGS in 1960.
Readers were asked whether they knew when or how the change from PCS to PCGS occurred? Two or three of you came up with an answer but Will’ Tregenza (42) went back to his copies of ‘The Penwithian’.
Cover of ‘The Penwithian’ No 67 Summer 1945 “Penzance County School for Boys”
Cover of ‘The Penwithian’ No 68 Summer 1946 “Penzance County Grammar School for Boys”
He also spotted that in the Speech day Report for 1945 that all speakers expressed their hopes of the new Education Act, though some thought it would take a long time to come into effect!
The 1944 Education Act (Butler Act) introduced the ‘Tripartite System’ in secondary education: Grammar Schools, Secondary Modern Schools and Secondary Technical Schools.
As I write, good progress is at last being made on our own Old Penwithian website.
An old boy Stephen Rodda (63), who has recently returned to Penzance and set up, with a partner, a new company Kernow.Net providing ADSL services, has offered to help with the design and setting up of a new website.
We are very excited about this, as he is not only giving his services free of charge, but also has offered to help us maintain the website when it is up and running.
When it is finally set up we hope it will include the following information:
Details on how to join the Association. Details of Annual Reunions. Access to old school photographs. Extracts from the latest issue of the ‘New Penwithian’. Where are they now?
Sales: The Association Tie and Three Score year and Ten.
Links to other websites.
We do not yet have a firm start date but it is hoped that it should all be online by the 2004 Reunion.
Few reminiscences of older boys omit some reference of Mr T. L. Petters (Tom, Mot or TLP – take your pick), a larger than life, enthusiastic and much respected Science master. Not surprising since he was in the post for some 23 years.
I wonder how many pupils, under his watchful eye, would have prepared and often spilled, those sacred solutions. “Yes, boy, I know it was only water, but how easily it could have been ‘Liquid A’?”
At that time the Physics Lab was a prefabricated affair adjacent to the front of School. The Music lab, controlled by Donald Behenna, was directly under the Physics lab and I recall there was, to our amusement, little love lost between these two department heads. I was delighted to read in the last issue that Mrs Petters is still going strong — great news Ma’am!
Most old boys will have their own amusing or painful anecdotes about Mr Petters. Mine might bring back memories to those fellow pupils of mine who were around in the early 40’s when German air-raids were at their peak and even far fetched places such as Penzance were targets — stray bombers getting rid of their payloads before returning home we were told, but they did cause a lot of destruction and, I believe, cost many lives.
Time may have drawn a mist over some of the fine details of the incident but the substance is as real to me today as it was 60 years ago.
At the time I was admitted to the County School (1943) each boy was issued with a personal “journal”. If there were some academic purpose for the journal I have long forgotten, but I painfully recall the last two pages. These pages recorded “conduct points”. I do not remember whether “good” conduct points were available, but if they were they would not, I suspect, have been generously awarded, or, even sought after. But “bad” conduct points — called “minus conduct points” — were available in profusion.
There were three columns on the back pages of the journal – (1) date (2) number of “minus” conduct points imposed and (3) a short summary of the offending conduct. Tom Petters (and other masters, but with less dramatic effect), without too much provocation at times, it would seem, would bawl out “Bring me your journal, boy,- minus 3 conduct points – insubordination!” The nature of the offence would usually be grossly exaggerated.
Sounds pretty harmless but there was a catch. When you had accumulated minus 10 conduct points, or was it 12, or even 20 (it hardly matters since the magic number was not too difficult to attain) you took your journal, tapped nervously on Mr Rising’s door and waited an age for the command to enter. You handed over your journal. Nothing much would be said. You didn’t get a lecture and you weren’t required to apologise or give any undertakings for the future. It was all over very quickly. If you were unfortunate enough to have been observed waiting at the door your mission would have been known and the word spread and on your exit there would be some sadistic “pals” hanging round. “Hardly felt it” you would declare (ouch!).
During the war several Air Raid Shelters (I forget how many but presumably there would have been sufficient to accommodate all the boys) were dug out and erected in front of the School, parallel to the main road. Are there many of us still around who remember these? They were, I recall, fairly large underground concrete bunkers with domeshaped roofs above ground and a few steps down onto the floor of the shelters.
Each form would have had its designated shelter. Bombing raids invariably took place at night, but things could change so “airraid practices” took place several times a week at the height of the bombing campaign. At a given signal — usually a shrill whistle — each boy would grab his gasmask (minus 10 conduct points, boy, if you forgot your gasmask — gross negligence!) and make an orderly beeline for the shelters. Boys huddled together in these concrete prisons until someone in authority decided to sound the all clear whistle and until that whistle went noone, but noone, was to come to the surface.
Sometimes we were cooped up for a considerable time, but no matter; perhaps we were missing a Latin lesson and with a bit of luck even a music lesson, or even both. After all this was only a practice, not taken too seriously by us and an opportunity to generally fool around and for wags to take over, a welcome diversion maybe for us but, of course, a very serious exercise for the staff.
History, Geography, Science, Music masters et al, dressed in boots, trench coats, helmets and of course, carrying gasmasks and whistles and armed with clipboards, marched defiantly up and down the line of the shelters occasionally stepping down into one of foxholes for a rollcall. To be sure we were in safe hands.
On the occasion I have in mind we seemed to be incarcerated for an inordinate length of time. Nothing seemed to be happening. No master had recently paid us a visit and no voices or footsteps from the outside could be heard. Had the allclear whistle sounded and we hadn’t heard it? Possibly. Our shelter was at one of the ends and it might be difficult to hear a whistle, if sounded from the other end, above the shouting and laughter of 20/30 boys. There was only one thing for it. Someone would have to raise his head above the parapet and report back. But who? I do not remember volunteering I probably didn’t but perhaps I was the nearest to the entrance. Cautiously I edged myself to the surface only to be confronted by a pair of familiar boots. I nervously looked up. Tom Petters was standing, arms folded, immediately outside the entrance. “Bring me your journal, boy”, he boomed “Minus 10 conduct points — attempted suicide!”
I was in the “A” stream for my year. Sounds pompous, but “A” then stood for Arts as opposed to “S” for Science.
With some help from ‘Three Score Yean and Ten’ I find myself trying to recall the register for my last years — Ash, Barnes, Bolitho, Edwards (Pemmy), Ellery, Haythornethwaite (Sweat), Gilbert (Rabbit), Johnson (Dell), Keen, Kempthorne, Lang, Lawton (Biscuit), Mawhinney, Millett, Moss, Nicholls (Pedgey), Oates, Retallick, Richards, Seccombe, Smith, Spry, Thomas J.B., Thomas J.T. (Bellion), Toman (Toby), Trevorrow (Vud), Wilton.
My apologies to anyone I may have missed and to anyone who has crept in by mistake.
We staged “Emil and the Detectives” and “The Merchant of Venice”, and at the 1946 Speech Day at St John’s Hall gave chorus readings from “Henry V”. “Duff” Pearce was Head Boy and I was in the best house — St Aubyn and Peter (Simple) Simons was House Captain.
JOHN OATES Heston, Middlesex