Issue 2 (1997)

New Penwithian Issue 2 (1997)


by W. R. Smith Esq.

(The last Headmaster of Humphry Davy Grammar School)

I am pleased to be able, once more, to follow in the steps of my prede­cessor, Mr.Rising, and convey my greetings and good wishes through this newsletter to all old boys of the Humphry Davy Grammar School and the Penzance County School. I was delighted to hear that, after the suc­cess of the first newsletter, this second issue is to be bigger and better.

Though my tenure of office came towards the end of the school’s three­score years and ten, I was proud that we were able to sustain, to the last, those values in education which we all knew to be so important and which so many schools are again beginning to search for. And though it was to be my sad privilege to be the last head­master of “the Boys’ Grammar,” I and the staff who came with me to the sixth-form college were determined to carry these values with us for the ben­efit of a wider group of young people in Penwith. In pursuing this aim, I particularly valued the wisdom and experience of Hugh Harvey. He was a good friend and counsellor.

I hope that there will indeed be a reprint of “Three Score Years and Ten” because it is an important archive of information and memories. When it was first published, I kept a small stock in my study and this quickly became the last available source of copies. This, too, dimin­ished steadily in response to urgent pleas from old boys, until, when finally packing up my own books, I found to my horror that I had not kept a copy for myself. So, if only for per­sonal reasons, I hope there will be a reprint.

I would like to conclude with two of my own, still vivid, memories. The first is of my very first morning assembly, when mounting the plat­form. I looked out over a sea of expec­tant faces, stretching from my very feet right back to the main door. I could not have been made more instantly aware of my duties and obligations to those young people. Sadly, this sea of faces became so great that the venerable walls of the hall could no longer contain them in one “standing.” The second memory is of an end of term assembly when, in a proper tradi­tional manner, three cheers were called for the headmaster and then for the staff – and then a cheeky voice (from Carbis Bay) called from the balcony, “three cheers for the pupils!” The roof stayed on (just) but it seemed to me that the joy released was a clear indication of the pride and affection felt by the boys for their school.

To me, “the school” was always really “the boys” and to the many of you, and your teachers, of my time and before, may I, in mixed pride and humility, send my very best wishes.


Editor’s “Three Penn’orth”

A brief account of what’s been happening behind the scenes since the last edition

There have been at least five meetings of the ‘committee’ since the last reunion. The revision and reprinting of “Three Score Years & Ten” is steadily becoming more likely. We have re­searched some possibilities, and the best quotation we have received would allow us to dispose of the revised edition at £5 per copy. All old boys and staff who wish to have a copy of the reprint, are invited to con­tribute towards its production…read on. Your patronage would, of course, be immortalised in print in the new edi­tion, and is a golden opportunity for some albeit low profile advertising for old boys in commercial situations as well as patronage from private indi­viduals. Please make every effort to support this worthy project. All enquiries regarding patronage should be directed to Martin Orchard, 9, Peverell Road, Penzance, as well as any general comments or observa­tions and offers of help.

All the “back-room boys” who have been involved with the “nuts and bolts” side of its production feel justifiably proud of the result this time, but it is the content that really matters – please keep the articles coming in. Literary contributions for publication in the next edition of New Penwithian should also be sent to Martin Orchard, cash contri­butions should be sent to Philip Dennis Esq., St. Juliet, 14 Barlowena, Camborne TR14 7RP. (see registration form back page). If you are not on the mailing list, and would like to be, in order to be sure of receiv­ing your future issues of New Penwithian, or know of one or more old boys who would like to receive it, please forward the details to Bill Burnett Esq., “Chy-Ula” Cockwells Lane, Cockwells, Penzance. Mr. Burnett collates and maintains the association database, access to which is strictly in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

There is no pleasant way to dress-up what follows: the dreaded cash prob­lem. This newsletter that you are now reading, would not have been possible without the generous contributions from the advertisers, and the hard work and dedication of an old boy who is also a “Magpie” in more than one sense of the word; nonetheless, it is still quite expensive to produce and distribute. This was explained to the gathered throng at the last reunion, and there was a majority decision in favour of a £10 subscription which would ensure receipt of New Penwithian for four years, and/or a £5 subs for two years. This could lead to two issues per year if funds allow. I make no apology for the blunt truth, but it simply does boil down to NO CASH – NO FUTURE. Please let us have your comments, but preferably your cash endorsement as well, to help continue the good work.

There was a very worthy award scheme (The Mike Tanner Award, complete with silver cup) started by Barry Lambe & Co., at one of his reunions, which some would like to see resurrected. Mike Tanner was one of the Class of ’54 who sadly died of Polio.

Comments please.

From Grammar to Grandpa’!… Fifty Years On!

by Ted Joyce

A small group of seven or eight former Penzance Grammar ‘boys’, all of entry 1946, went for a social drink. A comment was made that 1996 would be 50 years on since we all joined the Grammar School. A reunion was born !

Following two years of letters and ‘phone calls, (the latter some­times received at a time better suit­ed to another part of the world !) contact knowledge was compiled for almost seventy of the eighty on roll. Of these 70 former pupils, 5 had died and some, for their own good reasons, declined the invitation to meet.

On the night of Saturday 6th. September, 1996, fifty years since we ended our compulsory educa­tion and entered the (for some of us) frightening world of work, we met again. And for some it had been fifty years since the last meet­ing ! Imagine the emotion and con­versational noise that gap of time had generated ! Almost sixty old boys reunited at The Queens Hotel, Penzance, with returnees from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Former staff who were able to share the experience with us were Ben and Jim Batten, Maurice Hogg and to the delight of every­one there, Stan Harris, now in his eighties. Stan was given a special welcome because not only had he been away and not been seen local­ly for over forty years, but during his time as our P.E. master he achieved great things. Apart from playing for Cornwall and Penzance A.F.C. Stan presided over a ‘golden age’ for Penzance Grammar during the late 1940’s and early 50’s. Amongst a whole series of individ­ual and school team honours two immediately come to mind. Our school provided two players for the England under 15 rugby team, Jim Matthews (entry 1945) and Gerry Luke (entry 1946), the former selected as captain. And our athletic team in 1948 won the pres­tigious Milocarian Trophy, a cup awarded to the best team in the country.

To complete the weekend, through the kind co-operation of the present Head, Mrs. Elizabeth Ferguson, we met on the Sunday morning at the school. This was yet another unique opportunity to ‘press the rewind button’. Whilst talking of head teachers I must record our thanks to our own Headmaster, Mr. Craske Rising, for his good wishes to us.

As part of the reunion, a sum­mary C.V. was requested from old boys, as a quick look back over 50 years ! Some thirty-five people co­operated. The brief auto-biogs. were typed bound and covered. What a range of careers ! What credit they show to the individuals concerned, and of course to our school.

Finally, when asked ‘what next?’the assembled, if inebriated com­pany chorused ‘same time, same place next year !’ So 1997 here we come !

Ted Joyce

An Ambition Realised

by Arnold P. Derrington (1933-1940)

(Reprinted in it’s entirety – summarized in Issue 1)

>How many books on your shelves which once read, have just been dipped into occasion­ally? Perhaps Batten’s & James’ “Three Score Years & Ten” (1980) is such a one. After all, we were delight­ed to look over the part of the 70 years which involved us – and then just glanced at later. What a valuable mine of information and interest it is – and surely we can spot occasions and more certainly be reminded and enlightened by this good account of our dear old school. Yes, we all found names we remember, events we may have been involved in, and some names (deservedly) repeated, but we each have our own memories and associations of our stay there – mine was 1933 – 1940. I had to use the appendices to be sure !

Most of us have ambitions and set goals, and at the age of 11 in 1933 I did achieve mine by going to Penzance County School (P.C.S.), and the particular chapters “The Nineteen Thirties” was my special period. Family friendships with those much older than myself had stoked this ambition, and even before I went I greatly admired dear Mr. William Pezzack of Newlyn – with his splendid workshop lathes – and the exceptional model boats he produced for the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as the Royal Institution in Truro. He made model boats for me too, and his prowess is acclaimed by George Laity (a Sixth Former when I was in 2 Lower !) on p.42. Mr.Pezzack (once Penzance Postmaster) had shown me plans of the 1914-18 War Memorial in the School Hall even before I saw the fin­ished work.

Before a pupil went to the County School a “prelim” test was taken at the elementary school. If this was sat­isfactorily passed it gave access to take the “Scolarship”. We sat at PCS. in the large hall where this War Memorial took up the stage/dais position. The initial impression was the size of the large hall – very lofty, and many years later we took our London School Certificate exams there. We sat in individual desks – quite a new depar­ture for us. This was an impressive start, and for sure it was my first unac­companied visit to the town. Very likely it was done on a Saturday morning. There seemed to be two or three from each school who gained the “scholarship” – the rest of us, whose parents wanted us to go, went as fee payers. I believe the charge was £3.5.0 per term, (=£3.25), and if you were over 12 it was £4.6.0 . (=£4.30) It could well have been £4.6.0 if two from one family went. In the hard days of the early 1930’s there was probably a means test. “Scolarship boys” went into “2 Upper” and the fee payers into “2 Lower” – and somehow or other we felt the ‘uppers’ were superior to us, because they also took Latin. I believe we were a more relaxed and friendly bunch in the ‘Lower’ forms, and so we progressed yearly up the school. A feather in my cap arrived when I became 2nd XI Captain in soccer with Vic Trevail as Vice-Captain. He was much more capable than I was.

We did make close friendships which lasted, and since I had previously lived in St. Erth and Marazion, and as a family we visited St. Levan much, my range was wide. People like Donald Trewern, J.C.Williams, ‘Ginger’ Trembath and Tommy Warren from St.Ives seemed like mature men – almost of staff cali­bre. Especially I recall the different accents and ‘burrs’ from the St. Ives, St. Just and Mousehole sets. There were also bits of dialect e.g. Godfrey Ladner of Mousehole spoke of “nicey” (sweets) which was new to me then. I met a Laurie James (father a fish merchant) from Newlyn, when I was in 3 lower and I still recall some of his sayings. Another early memory of the entry exam days was the splen­did photograph in the hall of a deceased master – Mr. J.C. Hodgson – killed in action in 1915.

There was a 1st Form – ages ranged from which was a sort of ‘prep’ form and they too had to take the entrance exam… most seemed to get through. Two masters’ sons were there – Mick Hodson (son of Freddy) and Neville Wightman (son of ‘Pop’). We had to take our book orders to J.A.D.Bridgers – quite an impressive antiquarian bookshop but it was pos­sible to buy some cast-offs from older pupils, and this was quite an interest­ing sales negotiation.

Travel was quite an adventure. From Marazion we had a wide choice – a walk of one mile to the station and a one and a halfpenny return was all it cost. The station master was dressed like an Admiral and he had a staff of at least six. We met the St.Ives contin­gent en-route, and that was good. Cecil Laity whom I later met on a troopship – the “Strathmore” – had come from Carbis Bay, and there were much older pupils like Tommy Warren or Bill Bailey from Hayle who were like men to us. Cyril Noall and Bill Lander were there. We could also catch Berryman’s Leedstown buses, or the Western National, or the Marazion Garage Fleet, the St. Michael, St. Piran, or St. George. We met pupils from other schools too – West Cornwall College (girls) or St. Clare – Woodward School (girls). There were some going to Miss Wesley’s Commercial School, and boys to St, Erbyns. We met business people, and shop assistants whom we knew, and there were routine trav­ellers we saw. While waiting, boys who cycled to school were another interest, and for a time I used this transport when I was older, the com­radeship of the cycle shed was anoth­er aspect, and I recall Roy Ruberry, Tony Williams and Des Hosking with their Luthergwearne Cycling Club -and they had a special badge.

There was the excitement of getting kitted out to start at RC.S. with new caps, ties and possibly a blazer, Simpsons were our official suppliers, and I well recall the cheerful assistants there – some had previously attended the school. The younger forms stood at the front of the impressive Hall for the first Assembly, and the gowned masters stood on the North side under the gallery. These assemblies were quite memorable. The hymn singing was the best part of it, and there was good piano accompaniment from wor­thy musical pupils. I recall Jack Bateman, Jimmy Tresize (he died in early May 1996) and Dudley Savage (who played the Gulval Church organ, as well as the splendid cinema organ at the newly opened Ritz). Boss Bradley stood at the dais, and the form masters were at the ends of the serried ranks of boys. The Sixth Formers stood at the back. Mr.Bradley gabbled the prayers almost dismissively, and it was not till many years later I realised he used the General Confession and General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer. Originally I was a Methodist, so did not know this Anglican presentation. We did say the Lord’s Prayer together, but the forego­ing prayers were a dull and meaning­less recital. As a Lay Reader (Emeritus) of 49 years standing, I now appreciate those prayers. School assemblies were not long sessions, we stood most of the time, but I do remember an occasional boy fainted, and one boy in my year had a fit which rather terrified those near by. The announcement of sports results was usual, and general notices.

The Hall was impressive, and so were the shields which Mr.Wightman had made, with names of the football and cricket teams. Some names of note in the School’s history appeared very often, and as we looked up to see these, often previous students – on vacation or leave – would stand at the gallery, and look down on us. I can recall George Rutherford’s son and Jock Wilkinson (I live in his old home at Pendeen) and P.A.Windsor watched us from above. Some of these old boys had quite an influence on me – for they inherited a sense of service and tradition from the ethos of the school. A particular old boy for me was Tom Petters of Hayle – and I first met him as a fellow Lay Reader – and later as family friend. He also taught my son David. Two Penwithians from Marazion were helpful to me for Algebra homework – Stanley Tucker, the carpenter who helped to refurbish our old house there, and Dennis Donovan (later a Merchant Navy Commander). He was our electrician, and was always ready to help. Francis Hosking (agricultural merchant) was my Sunday School teacher and Scoutmaster – no wonder we called him “Skipper.” At St. Erth Sunday School, Reggie Tredinnick taught me – a lasting family friend – an accountant – and later he was a Wing Commander. I still get visits from a dear old friend, William Nicholas (1916 entry) – he had been a chemist. A great favourite of mine was John (Jack) Retallack (1919) – and he had been the booking clerk at Marazion Station. He died in early 1996 – and until then had been the dedicated church organist at St. John the Baptist, Penzance where I was so pleased to have his accompaniment to my lay readership. Morley Curnow (1912) – a farmer – and family have been friends for years, and the Curnow brothers – George & Dick (1911) in the teaching profession.

Perhaps the most notable boy I met was A. G. Harrison (Fluffy) – I met him as my CO. – a Squadron Leader ex. R.F.C. pilot when I was his Station Navigation Officer at Enstone – the satellite of Moreton-in-Marsh O.T.U in 1945. 1 did not realise he was from PCS. until “Three Score Years & Ten” informed me, but we met again after the 1939-45 War when he was a respected Cornwall County Bee Keeping Officer. My pupils were fond of him too, and when I mentioned him in a recent radio broadcast his daugh­ter from Somerset rang me up with great joy. He flew 150 yards in a ‘plane he made at Hayle Towans in 1913. When I was a probationary teacher at St Ives in 1940 – (at £2.15.0 per month!) I was under the wings of Harold Rogers, Billy Lander and Albert Rowe. I believe the first of the second generation of Old Boys was John W. Jenkin (1934) the son of J. A. “Chubby” Jenkin (1911), and I knew them both, as their grandmother lived opposite our house in Marazion. Graham White was a much respected old boy, and his son John was with me. Graham was a great motor cyclist with Francis Hosking and his brother Arthur in the London to Land’s End Reliability Trials which were held each Easter. Other well known Penwithians for me were the Tregenzas, Olivers, Philip Floyd and the Jelbarts – (Marazion furniture Company) – all made a good contribu­tion to Penwith life. There are many more who could be added to this list.

Of my contemporaries my memo­ries are even clearer. Barry Clark of Penzance was Sgt i/c mess deck on the “Strathmore” as we went to South Africa for aircrew training in 1943. Also on board were Trevor Nicholls and Cecil Laity. My chief childhood friend, from St. Erth days, was Geoffrey Beswetherick, son of the vil­lage policeman. He was a clerk in Mitchell’s Agricultural Office near Penzance Station until he volunteered as an observer in 1940. After a Coastal Command tour he instructed in Rhodesia and we maintained corre­spondence. He married a Rhodesian girl and after demob, trained as an architect in Oxford before returning to Cornwall. I was godfather to his son. Sadly he died in 1992 at Givelo, and I had the honour to conduct the service to dedicate his ashes, from the Penlee Lifeboat in Mount’s Bay.

At St. Luke’s College contempo­raries were Hugh Harvey, W. T. (Jack) Tonkin, Ken Tonkin, Dick Tanner, Frank Ansell, and W. W. Cock, and we served in the L.D.V. until I went to Exeter University Air Squadron. It was after this that I went to South Africa, but had no further PCS. con­tacts there. While instructing at 21, O.T.U. Moreton-in-Marsh after a tour in Bomber Command on two Australian Squadrons I was once an Orderly Officer. This entailed being a witness at airmen’s pay parade. It was a sur­prise to see Corporal Dennis Mitchell (1933) come to the table. He did not recognise me. After the parade I sum­moned him on the ‘tannoy’ and he was relieved to see me. Within the past year 1996 I took a service at his chapel at St. Erth – Dennis was there with his older brother Harold (1926) -and he was at PCS. 70 years ago! A glance at the Appendix of ‘Pupils’ and their year of entry brings back a shoal of memories.

The mid 1930’s were the “heady” days of the new bathing pool at the East end of the Prom. Previously we had gone to the sports at the covered baths at the West end. The new Hotel Royale (now the Royale Court) opened. ‘Pop’ Wightman was tem­porarily taking us for french – and told us Hotel was a masculine noun so the feminine i.e. Royale was incorrect! How versatile and clever Pop was with his music, fine Geographical models, models of geomorphologic interest, (still in use in ’74 by R. C. E. Quixley for teaching Geography/Geology Ed.) and he used an O.H.P. in his lessons too! The Ritz Cinema opened up, and the smart Electric shop – managed by Desmond James’ (1934) father. It was also King George V Silver Jubilee – and we seemed to have left the recession behind. My special friend in those days was Lewis Elford in 5 Lower – and since Mr. Alan Tregenza our French teacher -the only O.P. on the staff – went off on exchange, M. Meunier took his place. Lewis and I got on so well with him that we planned a cycle ride down the Rhone – Saone Valley to see him.

Our parents, however, could see ominous signs of trouble on the conti­nent in 1938, and advised us not to go. In the meantime I took a Civil Service entrance exam in Plymouth, accom­panied by Jackie Beare (1930). We were delighted to see and hear Dudley Savage at the organ of the Odeon, who gave us a private session. They were happy times, but the shadow of the impending War loomed large, and we had some refugees. Some of the 1938-39 contacts are still maintained, especially from Belgium. One of the most rewarding of these is with a fellow Sixth Former – Dr. Desmond Pengelly. We lost contact in 1940 and went to our different forms of training. The next time we met was over 40 years later when I was in Withington Hospital for open heart surgery. He visited me daily as a friend, and at one stage had to analyse (for me) a blood test. Desmond comes to Penzance reg­ularly on holiday – and we meet for a drive and meals. Such memoirs con­sist essentially of very personal thoughts and names, many are omit­ted, and they matter more than institu­tions and buildings.

The gymnasium was built between 1935 – 37 and it was a well supported venture of great value to the school. It had a large stage and the prestige of Carnegie College, Leeds. Local spe­cialists like Mr. Norris and Mr. Bateman were helpful. It cost over £400, and we watched the building progress. Much of the excavation of the foundations were carried off in a converted Ford lorry painted grey – I believe it cost 10/- and was driven by Capt. Streets or Robin Nicholas (good pasties at 2d each at his tuck shop). The latter held sway in the cricket pavilion with his tuck shop. Many lunch hours were spent there on the slatted seats, some seniors played cards with him. There was a good view of the lev­elled cricket pitch which was his pride and joy. In the later years it was mowed by his ‘sit on’ Dennis machine.

In the 1930’s the triangular athletics events took place between PCS., Helston C.S., and Redruth C.S., and I can recall how important this was considered. When I was demobbed in 1946, I served at Redruth CS. and was Recorder for the event. I recall some of the pupils of this area still. Roger Ollerenshaw, Bill Bishop, Geoffrey Perry, and Billy Leah. Since those days I still meet post war Old Penwithians some of whom I’ve coached or met in a business capacity, and pride in the school and staff asso­ciations still persists. My son David was there 1957 – 1965 and some of the masters who taught me had dealings with him. With contemporaries he was in the Humphry Davy trio as cellist, and some very worthwhile interests and relationships developed.

In the 1930’s Wednesday afternoons were detention for some, and the list was called out at Assembly. This was a supervised penance – with duties and impositions set, and sport was missed – or our other pursuits. We also attend­ed school for lessons on Saturday mornings. Some habitual offenders for lateness, or truancy were put on report, and they had to collect various masters’ signatures with comment for their regular work. The school aimed at good results in the General School Certificate hopefully with exemption from London Matriculation, and Higher School Certificate which, with good results gave inter. B.A. or B.Sc. A good range of school plays was pro­duced, often in co-operation with the Girl’s County School. They practised hockey on our field much to our admi­ration, and I did not expect then that I would eventually marry their star goal-keeper, Helen Crabb of Pendeen.

The Staff of the School were its mainspring, and each was a strong influencing character for us as pupils. Some we feared, and some we loved in the best sense of that word, and all were respected. The relationship we shared is well delineated in “Three Score Years & Ten.” To read it con­firms this for me, and we can all pic­ture their features, mannerisms, and foibles. Probably we each had our favourites, and I believe Pop Wightman, Alan Wood and H. Otto were mine. I particularly enjoyed cross-country runs with him, and later from his example enjoyed organising such an event at Redruth Grammar School after the War. Because of Mr. Wightman I specialised in Geography at College, and Mr. Wood’s enthusi­asm and humour have given me a last­ing devotion to English Literature. I wish I had been more attentive or receptive in the History I learned with Mr. Rutherford and Mr. Billy Williams and Mr. Russon. The total time I spent at PCS. 1933-1939 was most formative and valuable for me. Just as we remember our service numbers, my school num­ber was 1511, and since those days well over 3000 must have benefited from this tradition and influence which have affected so many of us who delight and serve in the Penwith area, and all over the world.

Arnold P. (Derry) Derrington 



Old boy David Chapple was at the school from 1937 to 1944 – start­ing at the preparatory section at the age of eight. When his father died in 1944, he left school and helped his mother with the market gardening business, but his love of fishing led him eventually to become a full-time fisherman at Penberth Cove where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had fished before him.

He became an Auxilliary Coastguard – receiving a long-service medal – a member of the Cliff Rescue Team, was appointed to the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee – serving 30 years ­and involved with the Mackerel Handliners and Fish Producers organizations. He founded the Penberth Winch Society and was its Secretary for 33 years, was often interviewed on fishing matters on T.V. and fea­tured in ‘Postcards from the Country’ on BBC 2. Well known and respected in Penwith, he will be greatly missed, especially by his wife, three sons and four grandchildren.

His boat,”Tunny”,which he donated shortly before his death, is now in the National Fishing Heritage Museum at Grimsby.

Other Deaths

Brian Gray (Jimmy) Class of ’54

Lindon Munroe (In Australia after a serious accident)