Issue 7 (2002)

New Penwithian Issue 7 (2002)

Secretary’s Smidgin

We hope that 2002 will finally see the publishing of the second edition of ‘Three Score Years and Ten’. It has taken 6 years to get to this stage and we are grateful to those members who have already contributed and who have waited patiently for their copy. We still do not have all the money to pay the printers, in spite of the generosity of a few members, so, if you have not ordered a copy, details of how to are given in the advertisement inside.
By the time that this goes to print we also hope that we shall have our own association website. Read more about it inside and find out how you can log on.
We also need to urgently identify a method of streamlining our membership procedures. We are looking at a one time payment for life membership as detailed in an article by our Chairman below.
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.
ANDREW COAK


 Life Membership

Over the past 2 years your committee has been ever aware of the frailty of our funding and our long-term financial situation as an Association.
At the moment members are invited to pay £2.50 a year for their membership and, for that contribution, get a copy of this news letter and any other missive that might be sent out. This does lead to administrative problems and in the end to simplify matters we send any mail shots to all those on the database, whether they have paid or not.
We are about to give our funds a severe hammering underwriting the cost of publishing ‘Three Score Years and Ten’ and it is likely that there will be little money left in the kitty at the end of this year.
What has been proposed is that we ask all members to make a one off payment to the Association and become Life Members. If everyone on the database was to do this, it would give us over £3000 and this should ensure, even without any income whatsoever into the fund, that copies of this Newsletter could be sent out for at least the next 20 years. Lets face it, this could outlive a lot of our members, yours truly included. Members who do not subscribe would in future remain on the database and be more than welcome to join us for our annual reunion on the 29th December each year but would not receive the newsletter.
We feel that this is the only way forward and would ask all members to accept this decision by the committee and to help us ease our administrative burden.
Members are invited to complete the form on the back page and send it to the treasurer with their life subscription of £10.
Do it Now-Do NOT Delay
JOHN COAK


Website

[Since this article was written our website has of course gone through two regenerations and has a new URL www.oldpenwithians.co.uk The site was completely re-designed by Steffan Barnes of “Picture Penzance” who also hosts the site for us. Our database manager, Bill Burnett, now also manages the website.]  

Thanks to the efforts of our Website Manager Paul Tyreman, we know have our own dedicated website www.oldpenwithians.org.uk   The website is still in its infancy but the plan is to set up Background, Contacts and Links pages within the website. The following information will be included:

  • Details on how to join the Association.
  • Details of Annual Reunions.
  • Old School Photographs.
  • A copy of the latest ‘New Penwithian’.
  • Where are they now?
  • Sales: The Association Tie and ‘Three Score Year’s and Ten’.
  • Links to other websites.

Log on now and watch it grow. Why not add your details to the ‘Where are they now page’ when it has been set up.



2001 Reunion

As is now the custom, the 2001 Annual Reunion was held on 29 December in the Queens Hotel. Around 50 old boys and staff wandered in and out during the evening, the emphasis being on informality. There were a lot of new faces and we were pleased to see Old Boys from each end of the School’s history. The oldest member, at 91, was Vaughan Tregenza, he joined the School in 1922 and at the other end we welcomed Dr Nick Marston 70-77. And we did not have to worry too much about Vaughan, he apologised for leaving early to go on to another party with his wife!!
There was also a chance for members to help with the updating of ‘Three Score Years and Ten’ prior to its reprint later in the year. A few mistakes were spotted by eagle eyes.
One topical but sad piece of memorabilia was a copy of a Sports Day Programme from 1958, brought in by JC Polglase, which showed that Rick Rescorla still held the shot-put school record that he set up 3 years previously – the nearest competitor still 10 feet short.
In his short address the Secretary welcomed everyone and was pleased to pass on to all members the best wishes of Mr Rising. In future reports we would like to print a list of those old boys who turn up for the reunion. So if you do come along this year to the Queens Hotel on Sunday 29 December, do not forget to fill in the register.


Where are they now?

By Memories Chain We Linked Remain’

The correspondence has been a little slow the latter part of the year but we have welcomed a steady stream of visitors to the North Inn.
One of my first calls was from Egbert Jenkin (32) to order a copy of Three Score Years and Ten. He originally was a Pendeen man and a Spitfire pilot during WWII. He is obviously now retired and living in I pminster, Essex.
My first letter was from Mr Rising. He was also seeking a copy of the book. He is now housebound but still able to type with one finger. He hoped that the new edition would include some reference to Rescorla’s wonderful behaviour in New York. This we have done in the final chapter.
KJ Warren (29) responded to our request to correct errors in TSY&T and spotted a couple for us. He, additionally, sent an interesting excerpt from Paul Eddington’s (36) autobiography (reproduced on this page).
And Ben Richards (44) has finally filled in all but one of the names on the 1947-48 Athletics Team photograph (page 4). Thank you Ben.
A tie was dispatched to Graham Evans (49) to his address in Guildford
Jack Wallis (32) that year again! Rang from Newlyn to order a copy of TSY&T and was surprised how quickly I traced his old school number. He did not know that I was typing the annex to TSY&T at the time.
A year without a letter from Mike Hunter (44) would not be complete. He is still trying to track down his Grammarsow stick-pin. Alas, they were never produced as I finally discovered when I checked with Dave Trevithick (57), whose idea they were.
Ian Campbell (44) now living in Bournemouth called in on us again and also kindly sent a loan/donation towards the cost of TSY&T.
Among other callers at the North Inn, A J Oates (43) now living in Heston, Middlesex popped in and asked to join the Association: Hugh Fido (55) called but I missed him, I am sure he will be back. Frank Otto (53) with news of the brothers Martin (55) and Julian (47) turned up but I have forgotten where he told me he is at the moment. Lionel Pollard (46) must like our crab sandwiches as he came back again from France this time with his family. We see a lot of Martin Tutthill (54) who is back occasionally supply teaching over the road in Pendeen. He says he does it to fund his trips to China.
Russell Vincent (47) came to stay with us for the 150 year celebrations for Pendeen Church. We are sorry to report that on return to Scotland he suffered a slight stroke. We hope things are better now.
In September the Chairman, John Coak welcomed a small band of stalwarts from his own ’52 entry on a trip, which also involved a visit to Humphry Davy School, organised by Stuart Guppy. They included Frankie Hull, Derek Sleeman, Mike Ollis, Nigel Jelbert.
Bob Quixley (Staff)
is a regular visitor for Sunday Lunch with his family. He has recently had a new hip and making fine progress.
And talking of hips, I have just spoken to Malcom Rudlin (Staff) who tells me he is soon off to Birmingham for a new hip as well. Good luck.
Other regular callers to the North Inn have been:
Barry Lambe (54)
Chris Symons (55)
Chris Jervis (52)
RoyNicholls(59)
Brian Carnell (52)
Justus Hattam (58)
Robin Strick (51)
Brian James (51)
Terry Johns (58)
David Greenhaugh (52)
John Jenkin (52)
Peter Guttridgc (62)
Terry Pope (52)
I welcome letters from Old Boys with their news, so please drop me a line so that I can include you in this column.
On a more sombre note if you do hear of the death of an Old Boy please let me know.
ANDREW COAK


 Paul Eddington remembered

Did you know that Paul Eddington of ‘Yes Minister’ fame, now, of course, deceased, was an old boy for a brief time in the 1930s? K J Warren (29) has sent in this excerpt from Paul’s unpublished autobiography which was to be entitled ‘Paul Eddington’. He tells us that Paul joined the School in 1936 and his school number was 1701. The head boy referred to is almost certainly Dr Bill Tellam.
“Miraculously mother got a job back in Cornwall, managing a musty, old fashioned hotel in Penzance. My presence was tolerated, apparently – but only just, I should think, because I found the speaking tubes, which were on every landing quite irresistible. 1 would unplug the whistle, listen for a moment to the voices in the kitchen far below, and then blow down the tube before running to escape the answering bellow
I was sent – temporarily of course, as always – to a large boy’s school in the town. This establishment recommended itself to me immediately because it had an orchestra, which must have been more than competent because I heard them play, amongst other things, the overture to La Traviata. It was the first piece of serious music I had ever heard live and it ravished me. The head boy of the time took a kindly interest in me, and a few years ago (by then he was a retired doctor) he made himself known to me. I heard him say without quite taking it in at the time, that he remembered my mother well. ‘We all felt very sorry for her’, he said. I wondered afterwards what he could have meant. With the self-centredness of childhood I hadn’t realised that other people had problems as well.
Soon, however, my peripatetic education had moved on again”.


Jubilee Re- Union for Old Boys of Penzance Grammar School starting in 1952

September 2002 marked the 50th anniversary for those of us who walked through the gates of the school for the first day of our school life at Penzance in 1952.
Over the last 2/3 years I have had the idea in my head of marking the beginning of the September term this year in some way, hence my circular sent out to invite ideas. Thanks to all of you who replied, managed to get to Penzance for the occasion or who sent apologies and good wishes.
I wrote to the head (Mr. Rod James) who telephone me twice to assure me of a warm welcome and to make arrangements. We avoided the first few days of term, with its new year’s entrants and all the upheaval at the beginning of an academic year and arranged to visit on 14th September.
At 2 pm, in brilliant sunshine, Derek Sleeman and myself followed a rather nostalgic walk along part of the old school cross-country run. As 1 have a rather ‘wonky’ knee in my advancing years, the full course was not attempted but we crossed the Penzance new by-pass, up the steep path to the fields, along the Newmill Road to Trevaylor and down the lane by The Lodge House to the stream at the bottom of the valley. A gentle meander which covered the two hours nicely before our rendezvous at the school at 4 pm. We could not have wished for a more perfect day weatherwise.
Here, joined by Frank Hull, we were shown around by none other than the Head, Mr. James himself. The school still retains many characteristics that we would recognise from our time, but has at least doubled in size as regards classroom space and other facilities such as the Sports Centre, a large building in line with the Gymnasium. The War Memorial at the back of the hall stage is still there although ‘Boss’s’ chair is now upstairs on display, facing the area where that cane ‘swished’ countless times. The hall itself is no more, roofed over to provide more classrooms and it was an experience looking out of the windows which used to be far up the wall in our day!
What is available to pupils today is staggering. They number over 800 as opposed to our 500! In addition to all academic subjects, everything else you can think of is covered, i.e. music, theatre, lighting, recording studios (including mixing equipment), the arts generally, woodwork, metal work (including welding instruction), and literature. I was very impressed with the lay-out of the library (still in the original rooms). I could go on describing the facilities for a long time.
Sufficient to say that if you get the chance, go and see for yourself. Mr. James is always delighted for old boys to visit so take advantage of this if you are able. I have written to thank him for his time and enthusiasm. Staying in ‘after hours’ to show us around (which took 1 3/4 hours) was a most generous gesture and we were genuinely made to feel very much ‘at home’. Mr. James is genuinely interested in continuing to record the history of the school. He is encouraged by many pupils who express interest in this and is thinking of doing this as a project for senior pupils. They have the book ‘Three Score Years & Ten’ (pride of place in the library) and welcome anecdotes, records, in fact anything of interest. But please don’t make any move just yet if you want to send anything in, Mr. James will think about this over the next term or two and will let me know his ideas. So watch this space for the time being. I will be in touch.
After our tour, we had time to go to Land’s End for a welcome cup of tea, sitting outdoors of The Land’s End Hotel over-looking the Longships, still in beautiful warm sunshine. Then, on to Pendeen for the evening get-together where eight of us assembled at The North Inn. John and Andrew Coak supplied pasties and thanks must go to them both for hosting the evening in the warmth and comfort of this excellent inn.
So I feel it can be said that the 50 years since walking thro’ those gates for the first time was observed in fitting fashion. For those of you a long way away (Australia etc., e.g. Tony Willis and Geoff Seymor who both sent good wishes) rest assured that you were well represented. Frank Hull remembers you all well.
On a more sombre note, the following day, I visited the memorial stone for Rick Rescorla, recently erected on the quay at Hayle by the Town Council. Rick was at the school during our years and I remember him well although have had no contact with him since leaving. But it seems particularly appropriate that he came to be included in our weekend’s celebrations by a few quiet moments at his memorial.
Stuart Guppy


Sixty years… not out!

It was wartime and the grub was as filling and warming as anything you could get in the town for seven pence. A two-course lunch, steam rising from the boilers and cookers in that dining hall up the stairs above the physics lab. Stew with dumplings, custard and roly-poly jam and pastry pudding- and ‘afters’ if you were lucky. I don’t think too many were obese as a result of this very fast food.
Some of the young cooks are still around Penzance: we are not yet on our zimmer frames.
Anything else at break times had to come from Robin in the pavilion. That facade has become an icon as the elitist football and cricket teams (no rugby then) posed for the serious and traditional annual photograph.
Yes, it was 60 years ago this September that the alleged cream of the Board schools (including my twin brother and myself) walked up those wide granite steps with rose-coloured cap, blazer and specs, to become first formers at the Penzance County School for Boys after a year as top puppies at local village and town schools.
What a transformation, we even had a moto, in the Cornish language: Onen Hag Ol – One and All.
Then there were about 300 lads, just about right for the staff to know almost all by name and everyone to know his place. Every morning there was assembly in a hall that seemed to get smaller, with a hymn, a prayer and a rallying call.
No segregation, we were told, just 1a and 1x to divide the intake. Yet 1942 was two years before the Butler Education Act opened the door to ‘free’ education and some were there in ’42 on part-payment.
Despite our pride on ’11-plus selection’ we realised what a chasm had opened between us and our very close childhood pals left behind. And we all knew of boys who were brighter than most but excluded because of the month in which they were born (they took the ‘prelim’ a year earlier) or who didn’t achieve their potential on the big day.
It must have been a hell of a battle in those years to get to the top after ‘failing’ this hurdle but I know of several who did, in spite of the system.
I happened to serve many years later, on the editorial committee of the school history ‘Three Score Years and Ten’ and there are alarming gaps in the school lists from 1941-45. Put it down to Hitler.

We new boys arrived at a turning point in the school history. G.L. ‘Boss’ Bradley, head for 32 years since 1910 opening hours, had retired and handsome M.J.G. Hearley was in charge, but for just three years before a new (and later Humphry Davy Grammar School name) epoch with ‘Tommy’ Craske Rising. He remained to his retirement in 1971, the final nine years at the helm was entrusted to Mr. W. R. Smith until the much-mourned death of a great system.
They may have the last laugh. Any day now I expect the announcement from Whitehall of a new ‘sensational’ development in ‘education, education, education’, the introduction of a selection Grammar School system to allow all to have equal opportunities and the benefits of modernisation. Just wait and see.
It was wartime and there had been a grandstand view shortly before we came off of bomb craters in the school field. But we were there for the great snowstorm at the end of January 1947.
We carried our little gas mask cardboard boxes, didn’t accept sweets from strangers in the streets – we should be so lucky – and knew all about raids and sirens from experiences at Penzance and Newlyn.
A concrete coal-bunker hulk in Newlyn harbour had a direct hit one dark night. The port was a naval base and Lord Haw Haw announced on German radio broadcasts to England (‘Germany calling’) the HMS Ark Royal had been sunk. Newlyn could take it!
Several of our teaching staff were inclined to be elderly, too old or unfit for war service, or on the distaff side.
One great character ‘Charlie Mac’ left his easel for the Royal Navy. A new appointment ‘Boots’ Whitham appeared to wear Army boots – hence his name of affection -and fell off the teacher’s platform into the waste paper basket on one occasion. On another he fell into the river at Trevaylor while adjudicating the cross country run.
Of such stuff are legends built. By this time the evacuated Devonport High School boys had returned to Plymouth: the local lads had the girls and the classrooms to themselves again.
Miss Williams had an accelerating effect as the lads learned history, Mrs. Freeman sang French songs tunefully in the huts and Stan Gardiner, that fine Lamorna artist, displayed a short fuse to those who disrupted his lessons.
Those window-opening poles and wood-based blackboard wipers had lethal potential.
Harry Otto, he of the cruel sliced tennis forehand and numeration genius and Billy Williams, who had been in charge (Latin with us) through many areas of education change, were two of the more influential.

Personalities galore. ‘Pop’ Wightman bringing common sense and philosophy to geography (“I remember trying to teach your father”), Mrs. Ruby Sibson (wife of a Penzance Methodist minister) an oasis of calm at what we once called ‘Scripture’ (I suppose it is Comparative Religions nowadays) and that very early County School pupil Tom Petters, chatty, delightfully scientifically eccentric (come back Harry Potter, all is forgiven).
Come to think of it we had a Potter in our form at one time. And another, Davies, whose father was the last master of the Madron Workhouse.
Alan Wood, who was to leave us for the leafy glades of Stratford-on-Avon, was my particular favourite English teacher. He directed several plays that gave us our first stage experience: ‘Emil and the Detectives’, ‘Merchant of Venice’ and ‘The Ascent of F6’. He delighted in the greatest of English verse.
There was Donald Behenna, organist at St Mary’s, who tried to impart some of his own excellence into our skulls. I recall he was not over-inclined towards brass bands and male voice choirs, yet in my adulthood produced a lovely setting – often sung – of the poem ‘The Night has a Thousand Eyes’. His choral skills brought us the championship at the county music festival.
These teachers were in action before the post-war era and the arrival of the Batten brothers, footballer Stan Harris, Ernie Tarbet and my favourite history gent, Welshman Rhydderch, who spelled his name out on the board as his first statement.
The 1942 entrance year was one when you could tell a boy’s town from his dialect, St Just and St Ives particularly, but also Newlyn, Mousehole and more urbane Penzance. Can you do it today or have radio and television blurred it all?
Naturally enough the village ‘clan’ groups were old friends and played such esoteric games as Euchre. We were about 25 in our form (with three Williams, G.W., R.D., and W.G. at one stage) and every Cornish brand name from Angwin to Curnow, Thomas, Jenkin, to Toman, Rowe, Triggs, Tanner and Trewhella.
High over us – three years was a huge generation gap – loomed those 5th and 6th formers, prefects or sporting heroes, Goldburn, ‘Duff’ Pearce and Le Good among them.
There were Form matches and House contests (I was a Treneere man) but having found myself unwittingly in goal, thinking it was restful, trying to halt a header from England youth star Eric Mitchell that almost cut me in half, I dedicated my future athletic pursuits to tennis and coaching the tug-of-war team. Not bad, eh? I was not a member of the Milocarian winning trophy set!
We had our first Eisteddford in ’44 with performances in the gym and plenty of fun producing the Penwithian school magazine where, in 1948, I made a politically incorrect point of responding to the Milocarian hysteria in my Editorial. Then there were those 6th Form concerts over which it is best to draw an embarrassing veil.
The school grew. Speech Day switched from the gym to St John’s Hall and Stan Harris continued to turn out first class young sportsmen in my later years. Rugby came and Jim Glover, Jim Matthews and Gerald Luke made their international mark, Roger Ollerearnshaw (Shaw of later Westward Television fame) jumped higher than most in the country and Charlie Brighton showed how to exchange a punch.
At the top of the first team pitch stood hallowed ground, the girls school, and our first view of them en masse came when they used our new canteen. The schools had widely separated front entrances. They came down the lane, crocodile fashion and then some of us had experience of working with them at close quarters when we combined for 6th form studies and, delight upon delight, presented a production by the beloved Gladys Tranter, of ‘The Trojan Women’ by Euripides at the Minack open-air theatre in 1949 to inaugurate the post-war seasons.
We few, we gallant few lads – to our ego -were enormously outnumbered by the girls chorus and soldiers. We had a reunion 50 years on in 1999 – the pupils were now pensioners.
We travelled to school by bike or ‘bus but there was no coach waiting to collect us at the school gate. We strolled to the ‘bus station or to the Greenmarket, which must have helped the sweet merchants at Noys and Woolworths and the fish and chip shops en route.
Abiding memories? Many. And what happened to those Honours Boards in the Hall, that light oak armchair on the platform that never was sat upon (see Guppy article), those dozens of group photographs? Saved and still treasured, I trust.
Sixty years? No, it can’t be that long ago.
Why, I still receive letters from old boys, with school photographs enclosed, asking for identification of the young smiling faces of the 1940’s.
Many of us still care – though we are now an endangered species.
DOUGLAS WILLIAMS


Class of ’51 Reunion

Her Majesty the Queen wasn’t the only one celebrating a Golden Jubilee this year. The class of ’51 got together for their own ‘Golden’ at the school and later for a meal at the Queens Hotel.
For eight of the former chums there was a chance to revisit the old school where they first met. All were amazed at the ‘smallness’ of the classrooms. Of course they were all much younger (and smaller) then!
Although some of them still live locally, others travelled from as far afield as Ledbury and Cheltenham for the reunion.
Fifty years on, some of the ‘boys’ have now retired themselves while others are working in various fields.
One has worked as the head of the Centre for Construction at Cornwall College, another was head of a school, several were in teaching and another is in the computer industry.
Bryan Cuddy, organiser said: “It a was delightful experience.”
The class of ’51 were shown around the present Humphry Davy School buildings, some as they remembered and some recently built blocks, by current deputy head, John Pollard.