Issue 5 (2000)
New Penwithian Issue 5 (2000)
Having been away from Cornwall for over 30 years, I went along to the Old Penwithians Reunion at the Queens Hotel in December last year mainly out of curiosity, but also in the hope of catching up with a few old friends and faces from the past. Little did I know that during that evening I was to become the secretary of the association, as I suspect my brother John had no inkling he would become chairman.
We were probably two very good examples of Old Penwithians who had returned to live in the area but until then had taken little interest in the association; we were not even paid up members. I suspect that we are not unusual.
There are many old boys out there who are similar. They wish to occasionally recall their past school days, wonder what the odd old school friend is now up to and enjoy meeting people from a common background. Not that HDGS/PGS was ever common!
The ‘New Penwithian’ and the Annual Reunion does give old boys, who want to, the opportunity to meet up and catch up with the past and that is probably the best that the association can hope to achieve.
If you are not a member or know someone who might be interested then complete the form on the back page of this ‘New Penwithian’ and send it off to Phil Dennis.
From PGS to Pub
Two questions have crossed my mind in the past couple of years. Why am I running a pub? Why did I volunteer to be Chairman of the Old Penwithians?
The first is probably answered without much difficulty, although the route from PGS to the North Inn has been somewhat tortuous and has taken nearly 40 years.
Whilst I have always loved the pub atmosphere, I have, fortunately, never had the capacity for pints and pints of beer, so that drink is not the hazard that can floor some landlords. Among my earliest visits were lunchtime calls to the smoking room at the Fountain Tavern in the Pig Market, followed by packets of polos to disguise the after effects. On another occasion David Greenhaugh and I paid a visit to the Victoria Inn in Market Jew Street (long gone) for a lunchtime pint, only to bump into Alan Tregenza (my A level French teacher). He was always a very understanding man! We did not use the Victoria after that.
Apart from the usual social and weekend visits, pubs played no great part in my life as a chartered surveyor, until I joined Courage’s Brewery in Reading in 1970 where I spent nine happy and interesting years. This probably sowed the seeds of wanting to see the trade from the other side of the bar, but my wife was not too keen on the idea at the time and, anyway, my greatest ambition by 1980 was to return home to West Penwith.
Eventually, after nearly 20 years of running my own surveying business from home in Pendeen, I had a little problem with my heart (now sorted) and spent a month in hospital. During this time my son had to run the business on his own and it was obvious that he knew what he was doing. When I came out I never really settled back into surveying and when the North Inn came up out of the blue for a change of landlord I took it.
So at 58, I became the landlord of my favourite pub in my own village and I love nearly every minute of it.
What about the second question? Well, I am not sure of the answer to that. Until last December I had not taken much interest in the Old Penwithians. As with many of us I suspect I went along because an old school friend suggested it. Perhaps it is only as we get older that we start to wonder what happened to past friends and foes. Certainly the majority of old boys attending reunions seem to come from those nearing pensionable age rather than the other way. Anyway there was no great rush of volunteers that night to fill the vacant post of Chairman. I might have been carried away on a wave of emotion, or maybe it was another challenge – who knows? I think it was the latter. There are many old boys in the area that I come across on a regular basis and who, like me, have made little effort yet to join. Obviously, some will not look back on their schooldays with particular affection, but many only need to be nudged. Nudging hard enough could lead to a domino effect and widen the ripples. Each of us tends to have a fairly limited number of friends based on year of entry but we all have a few from the years on either side. Contacting and involving these friends can only lead to spreading the net and ensuring a healthier future for the Old Penwithians.
You will read elsewhere in this issue of the work undertaken by the committee to keep the organisation alive and to try to meet the wishes of members. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their hard work without which the New Penwithian would not be produced and the records would neither be maintained nor extended.
I look forward to seeing you on 29 December but, if you are unable to make that date then at some future occasion.
“One of the main aims of an old boys’ association is to allow contemporaries, that is those who want to, to keep in touch, but the one of the greatest problems is facilitating communication. It is an impossible task for one man to successfully keep in personal contact with everyone who attended PGS/HDGS over a period of 70 years. However, to lessen the burden we could appoint an old boy from each year of entry or decade to be the liaison man for that year or time span. He could be responsible for ferreting out new members, find out what they are doing and pass the information on to their contemporaries and to the database. This could do much to enhance the life and purpose of our Association. If you would be willing to volunteer for such a task then please let me, Andrew or Bill Burnett know and we will let you have all the information we have available on old boys of your particular era. If we get a good response we will print the names of representatives in the next Newsletter and that may get the ball rolling even more.”
That is what our Chairman wrote in his Annual Newsletter in April. We had one response to it. Surely there must be some more old boys out there who would be willing to act as a year or even decade representative.
We need volunteers
The Association Tie
We have been investigating the introduction of an association tie. The tie will be made up of the colours associated with the old Penzance Grammar School and Humphry Davy Grammar School i.e. Gold, Maroon and Black. The tie, made of superfine polyester, will be a series of gold and maroon stripes with the school motto in Cornish under the 15 balls of Cornwall woven into a black background. To obtain a reasonable deal with the manufacturer we need to order a minimum of 100 ties. If you are interested in purchasing a tie at a cost of £6.99 then please let us know by returning the coupon below. If the response is good enough we will proceed with the order. We hope to have a sample at the Reunion on 29 December 2000.
Where Are They Now?
By Memories Chain We Linked Remain –
As the second verse of the old school song goes ‘As mighty waters ebb and flow against our granite shores, so we an ebbing tide must go this place be ours no more’ This was true for so many of us who had to leave home to go out into the wide world to earn a living. I went off to train as a PE teacher in 1963 and then joined the RAF in 1970.
In my travels with the RAF I have met old boys in the far flung corners of the globe. I, particularly, remember one night in Malta in the early ’70s at RAF Luqa Officers’ Mess Summer Ball. I was there only on a short visit, but in the space of two hours, I met three old boys; Jimmy Glover teaching with BFES, Brian James, aircrew on the old Shackleton aircraft and another old boy John Matthews who I believe was serving in the RAF but I have forgotten in what capacity. I also recall spending a year at RAF North Luffenham in the Midlands before realising that the Flight Lieutenant Townsend who was serving on the same committee as me was the John Townsend from St Ives who was in the same year. We subsequently met again in Oman.
I am sure that many Old Penwithians out there have had the same experience and as one of the aims I believe of this newsletter is to keep people in touch I thought it might be of interest to include a regular feature on ‘Where are they now?’
In this feature I hope not only to include those old boys that I meet round and about Penzance and those that write to me as Secretary, but also those that have dropped into the North Inn at Pendeen where brother John is now the Landlord and where I help out.
First of all there is Mike Tregenza (Boy Genz) who wrote from Poland and who has written a very interesting article about his life at HDGS – read all about it on pages 4/5. Chris Symons Head of Classics at Oswestry School for many years and still heavily involved in the music world is now a regular visitor to Pendeen (only because the pub has a piano). Christian Semmens (known by some during his school days as Christine Primrose) dropped in to the pub the other evening during one of his home runs to St Just – as ebullient as ever. As also did Chris Jervis who is now based in Bristol as a Barrister on the Western Circuit. Incidentally his brother Timothy is a Judge in Canada.
Other visitors have been Joseph Mathews now retired from the Ministry of Agriculture and living in Chelmsford; Peter Guttridge who is in the Oil Business living in South Wales; Howard Eddy (look for him in the 1958 Rugby XV photograph) drops in the odd bag of potatoes from his farm at Kelynack; Peter Colliver who works for Railtrack in London, but commutes to Pendeen fortnightly. Des Hosken until recently the Clerk to Penwith Council was one of the few members to turn up to the Curry Lunch back in the Summer. Martin Scrase was also there with Christine. He is now retired from the Army and firmly ensconced as the Chief Executive of the Pirates RFC. Martin Tutthill is always to be found roaming the streets of Penzance and willing to recall the days of WW II memorabilia, life in the huts and hand grenades at Christmas dinners in the canteen.
I met Clive Cooper in the hairdressers at St Just. He was about to go out and take a driving lesson, as the instructor I should add. Stuart Guppy, a regular correspondent, writes from Kingston, where he is an organ builder and restorer, with news of some of his contemporaries. He tells us that Roger Grose is a Headmaster in Devon. John Jenkin is teaching and farming in Worcestershire. Terry Johns has retired from headmastering to St Ives. Eddy Perry is an accountant in Hayle, Fred Stevens is the vicar of Lostwithiel and Derek Sleeman is a Professor and Lecturer in Science at Aberdeen University.
Please write in with your news to the Secretary so that we can add your bit to next years newsletter
As readers will see on the back page, this year’s reunion follows the previous year’s pattern and is to be held in The Queens Hotel at 7.30 pm on Friday 29 December.
Your committee has discussed the format of this event and in doing so took into account the proposals of one old boy who wrote to the last year’s Secretary expressing disappointment after attending the 1998 reunion and suggesting that more could be done to liven up the occasion. Among a medley of ideas put forward, some more serious than others, he suggested: a semi-formal dinner moderately priced, with good quality speakers and waitresses dressed up in Penzance Girls’ Grammar School uniform; the showing of old movies or slides; musical interludes and the singing of the School Song. Perhaps he was expecting a little more than what an association run by part-time volunteers is willing to organise or indeed underwrite.
What we all must realise is that one of the problems we face in our Association is that we never know what support we are going to get for functions. For example the Curry Lunch which was organised in June and details of which were circulated in the Chairman’s letter in April, attracted 6 members, 4 of which where committee members. Not the sort of response that would encourage us to make elaborate, costly plans for the December Reunion.
In the present circumstances we believe it is prudent to retain our informal approach to the Reunion. We do not have the funds to back up a function which would not be self supporting.
This year in the Queens we are trying to mount a photographic display, have drinks and pasties and hold a formal meeting during the evening when we can talk about the Association, drum up some support for year representatives, discuss the format of Reunion 2001 and have a general question and answer session.
Please come along and meet old friends and fellow Old Penwithians and if you have anything to say then would be your chance to say it. Better still bring along someone who is not yet a signed up member. The more the merrier.
“The Worst Generation . . .”
by ‘Boy Genz’ (1954 – 1961)
During the last speech day for the 1954-61 generation at Humphry Davy Grammar School. ‘Boss’ (Mr. T. C. Craske Rising, headmaster) announced to the assembled parents and boys that we were ‘the worst generation of his long teaching career’. In retrospect, he was probably right, but in some perverse way we are now almost proud of his words. They distinguish us forever from all other generations. But it must be added that ours was also the generation that undoubtedly produced more loveable rascals, rogues and characters than any other before or since.
I certainly recall my time at HDGS as a series of bizarre and unlikely incidents (many of them unprintable!) and on reading the 1st edition of Three Score Years and Ten I was struck by the almost total absence of humour in its pages. There is no space here to describe in detail the antics of the likes of Tony Willis with his ‘parachuting cats’, the explosives experiment that resulted in an ‘exploding dog’, his design for a human being with wheels instead of legs and final inability to dissect a frog ‘because there’s a big bone in the way, sir!’ Or Reginald Terence Pascoe who had an affinity for throwing himself off steps – or anywhere, accompanied by unearthly shrieks and yells, on one occasion to the great consternation of ‘Ruby’ Sibson (Religious Knowledge and Tuck Shop fame) who was convinced Reggie was having a seizure of some kind, and F.A.G. Bittern, who refused to join in the fun of passing a snowball two feet in diameter around the chemistry lab., and instead – to the horror of Trigger’ Treglown – threw it across the room. He hasn’t changed much! At a reunion in a London restaurant some years ago the arm rest of his chair kept coming off in his fidgitting fingers. So he simply threw the offending object across the crowded restaurant with a curt obscenity!
Our happiest (and craziest) times were spent as Form 3B in 1956-57 in the legendary Hut D. This was the era of rock-n-roll and the hair styles and music of those days began to influence us. The bravest, Rodney Rawlings, ‘Baz’ Lambe and others, set the trend in what were then outlandish hairstyles. (These were still the days when ‘short back and sides’ were the norm). Martin Scrase had earlier adopted a ‘Julius Caesar’ haircut after a screening in school of the Laurence Olivier version of the film. I personally never progressed beyond a heavily-greased ‘Elvis Presley’ before attempting to cultivate an ‘Oscar Wilde’ in the 6th form.
During the lunch hours Hut D resounded to our lusty versions of the latest ‘hits’ from Radio Luxembourg, accompanied by the frantic hammering of Nico de Niet on a radiator in lieu of drums. A ‘pop’ group was formed which entered a competition in Holman’s canteen, Camborne and won third prize. They would have won 1st prize – if only someone had remembered to turn on the microphone! (Some say it was sabotage). The zany side of life was provided by the ‘Goon Show’ on steam radio and many a master was driven to distraction with small boys, endlessly imitating in class the absurd voices of Neddy Seagoon, Colonel Bloodnock, Henry and Min.
A cartoon history of Hut D and its occupants was compiled by Reggie Pascoe and myself but the entire collection was confiscated by ‘Brutus’ Thomas, our Latin master, in whose classes most of the cartoons were drawn. What an invaluable and unique addition to the history of the HDGS that collection would be today!
The mention of ‘Brutus’ inevitably brings to mind the methods used in class to discipline us in those days, methods which we took in our stride and not without a fair share of merriment, (despite the pain inflicted), but which today would land the teacher in a magistrates court on a charge of assault. “Brutus’ – he with the Brylcreamed black hair which looked as if it had been painted on his head, neatly divided by a middle parting. But the ever-smiling, pear-shaped face and lilting Welsh accent hid a cruel streak, for he was an expert at wielding the dreaded ‘Slipper!’ This was an old and far from clean gym shoe he used as a missile and instrument of chastisement.
Even more deadly were the ‘weapons’ favoured by ‘Charlie Mac’ (Dennis McCarthy), the art master, a billiard cue and velvet-covered wooden arm rest from a cinema seat. The cue was used for ‘close combat with small boys’, while the arm rest was a missile hurled with unerring aim at misbehaving targets at the back of the classroom. Lesser methods of inflicting pain used by ‘Charlie’ included the pinching of earlobes between forefinger and thumbnails and tweaking the short hairs at the nape of the neck, forcing small boys to stand on tip-toe. The yelps of pain were always accompanied by catcalls of ‘Bully! Bully!’ from the rest of the class.
‘Charlie’ only once ever ‘lost his rag’ with me and I had the doubtful distinction of being given no less than ‘Five!’ conduct marks. The offence? ‘Holding an imaginary machine-gun battle during an art examination’ (!) Even ‘Boss’ was somewhat taken aback by this ‘unusual offence’ and bearing in mind ‘Charlie’s’ sense of of ‘humour’ dismissed me with a ‘severe warning to behave’.
‘Charlie’ was also partly responsible for one more ‘doubtful distinction’ I achieved at HDGS. From the very first term I had an aversion to Games and PT. As hiding in various nooks and crannies during these periods was irksome and a punishable offence, I therefore invented ‘Extra Art’. No one ever objected or even queried the appearance of this subject in my Journal and ‘Charlie’ obligingly provided the necessary reports! The success of this long-term ploy became evident when on my last day at school in 1961 I reported to Bob Home the Games and PT master for his signature in my Journal. He refused to sign, declaring that he had ‘never seen me before’.
An unforgettable punishment was once meted out to one of our number by ‘Molly Moleskin’ the headmistress of the then Girls’ Grammar School. In those far-off days the girls shared our canteen and trooped along the path between our schools to partake of ‘weevil pudding’ and other delicacies covered in custard. On this occasion we had gathered in a lean-to shed (laughingly referred to as the ‘boat shed’) by the side of the path to ogle the girls trooping by. The miscreant among us (name withheld for reasons of decorum, but WE all know who it was!) decided to insert his male member through a knot hole in the plank wall and jiggle it about. This was spotted by ‘Molly’ as she limped past with her walking stick. She whacked the wiggling white worm with her stick and the resulting scream of agony echoed far across Heamoor. No one ever again tried that method of attracting the girls’ attention!
It is still something of a mystery to me how certain masters put up with our crazy antics with such a degree of apparent patience and only once did we witness the bizarre sight of a master ‘losing his cool’ in class. Alan Tregenza, our French master, had had enough of the antics of Nico de Niet who at a young age was already a towering six-footer. Although Alan barely came up to Nico’s chest, he began to pummel him with his fists in exasperation and finally flung him into a waste paper basket with the words, ‘wretched boy!’
A few masters simply gave up and preferred to be side-tracked away from the subjects they were supposed to teach us. How many French lessons with Alan Tregenza were spent in compiling endless Word Squares? And how easily was ‘Ernie’ Guard diverted away from maths!
‘Geoff’ Monroe, on the other hand attempted to teach French by removing his shoes and socks, placing the socks over his hands and arms and crouching down out of sight behind his desk, conducted puppet shows with a pair of sweaty socks conversing in French!
‘Joe’ Pascoe, too, persevered and tried to instill some sense of history into us. His illegible handwriting on the blackboard, however, was always obliterated as fast as he could write by our eager fingers attempting to decipher his words. And as soon as his back was turned to re-write his notes, the banging of desk lids and catcalls began, more than not obscene. The rest of the lesson was usually spent with ‘Joe’ dashing up and down the aisles of Hut D – threatening all and sundry with ‘Three in your book!’ in a futile attempt to catch the culprits using what he called ‘dirty words’, and claiming that he knew what they meant. Does anyone remember the lesson in which a dead fish hanging on a string behind the blackboard was hoisted in the air every time ‘Joe’s’ back was turned? He never did find out what reduced the class to periodic hysterics on that day. I have heard that in the last years of his life, while confined to a wheelchair in an old people’s home, ‘Joe’ was looked after by certain ‘old boys’ who wheeled him to the nearest pub for a pint. ‘Joe’ deserved at least that for the years of torment at our hands.
In many respects, in the eyes of the staff we were undoubtedly the ‘worst generation’, but in the end what do we the ‘old boys’ remember most about our days at HDGS? I would like to think that it’s the characters
among both staff and boys and their antics which remain in the memory the longest. By memories chain we linked remain . . .
PS. If any of those named in the article feel tempted to sue me for libel or defamation of character, due to the nature of their past or present occupations – forget it! My lawyer in London sued New Scotland Yard and the Home Office on my behalf. They settled out of court.
Michael Tregenza (‘Boy Genz’)
Articles for Next Year
This newsletter does depend on you out there for its life. If members do not produce articles then we have nothing to publish. We are grateful to those who have made the effort to produce articles and those who have contributed towards the cost of production by advertising. We are looking for articles all the time. If you have any memories, experiences or travels that you wish to share then please send them in.
The work of a Penzance Grammar School ‘old boy’ could one day make a massive impact on the way cancer is treated.
Professor Hilmar Warenius, who is Penzance born and bred and was at the school during the 50s, is currently developing a new technique for treating cancer using radiotherapy in a new, more accurate way.
His company The Ryte, co-founded by fellow researcher Professor Bob Johnstone and Cambridge entrepreneurs Dr Gunter Schmidt and Dr Bob Bishop, now receives backing from The Merseyside Special Investment Centre.
Says Hilmar, who is now 58 and also chair of Oncology Research at the University of Liverpool: “Progress is slow, but things are moving on.”
The ‘high risk’ venture by the company, which operates from the University, could help make Merseyside a leading force in the biotechnology industry if successful. If it is some of the credit will be due back home, where the professor’s interest in science was first sparked. Says Hilmar: “It was a very exciting time at the school. Most of all it was the quality of teaching which I remember most n particularly ‘Hughie’ Harvey for biology and ‘Bung’ Waller in chemistry.”
Despite this the young Hilmar still found it difficult to decide between science and other pursuits because of the ‘great broad education’ he received in Penzance. He wasn’t particularly sporty, though. “I didn’t play a tremendous amount of sport,” he admits. “But I did score at try once and although it wasn’t allowed because it was a bit messy, I did have half the opposing team after me.”
Although the professor has lost touch with many of his former schoolmates, he has nothing but fond memories of his time with them. He recalls one time in particular when ‘anarchy broke out. “We talk about the standards of behaviour now we expect in school, but I remember one time when the master was away. There was a backdoor near the gym which only the sixth-formers were allowed to use. But around a dozen to 20 of us picked up a rugger post lying nearby and charged at it like a battering ram!” The boys were successful in both getting through the door and incurring the wrath of the master on return!
“It was a fantastic time in general though,” adds Hilmar. “It was a very exciting time with a lot of energy. All the things that were changing life started then – DNA structures were discovered in 1953, and you had Rock Around The Clock in 1956.”
Today, Hilmar still enjoys bashing out a few Presley classics on his guitar – and makes regular trips back home (occasionally also with his wife Rosemund and three children) to see his mother, Ruby, who lives on the seafront.
“That’s where all the boys and girls would meet on Sunday evenings for the ‘Monkey Parade!'” says Hilmar, fondly recalling his hometown once again before returning to his studies which could one day help save thousands of lives.
Learning From the Past
The New Penwithian, now in its fifth issue, borrows its title from the original Penwithian, the magazine of the Penzance County School. Some time ago I purchased a couple of copies of the Penwithian from the 1930’s, which had found their way into the book shop in New Street, Penzance. “Old Penwithians”, the title which has been adopted for our present Association, is also borrowed from an Old Boys’ Association which was established back then. Each edition of the Penwithian had a section headed “Old Boys News” and the following extracts are taken from the issue for Summer 1934.
“Having made a good start, the Old Boys’ Association is continuing very healthily both as regards its financial position and its own vitality . . . It is gratifying to note that the membership of the Association is steadily growing and there are now nearly 80 fully paid-up members from all parts of the world.”
” … the Old Boys’ Cricket Secretary. . . rounded up a team of Old Boys, took them to the School on 5th May challenged the School Team and beat them 159 – 63.”
“By kind permission of Mr. Bradley (headmaster), the Old Boys’ Tennis Club is once again going strong . . . Our membership numbers twelve and Mr. Bradley has consented that members may bring lady friends at the same fee as they pay themselves, namely five shillings (25p).
The “Old Boys’ News” section also contained snippets of information about individual members. Such as:
“Ben and Jack Batten were among our Christmas visitors. Ben, a clinking rugby forward, is at Waterloo, Liverpool.” and
“We caught sight of ‘Fatty’ Rowe in his car during the holidays. It is very kind of us to call it a car, it appears to be the very one that Henry Ford staked his fortune on . . . Fatty is teaching at Bideford and earned a trial as a forward for Devon County last term.”
The “Old Boys’ News” section of the Spring 1936 edition of Penwithian included a list of forty-seven paid-up members (out of a membership of eighty) and concluded with a reminder to the rest of the members: “. . . we appeal to all Old Boys to get in communication . . . with the object of becoming a genuine ‘Old Penwithian’ “Bearing in mind that there were potentially about thirteen hundred Old Boys in 1936, a membership of eighty represents approximately 6% (trust me – I was a Math’s teacher!) There are currently three hundred and two names on our present database out of a potential membership of perhaps four thousand? This represents a similar percentage membership, however, whereas more than half were “Paid-up members” in 1936, and no doubt the reminder will have increased that figure, we have less than one third – ninety-eight out of three hundred and two.
Can we learn anything from this? Could you provide information about your own career which could be added to the Database and which could be printed in an “Old Boys’ News” section in the New Penwithian? Could you help the Association field an Old Boys’ Team in a particular sport? Have you been “in communication” with the Treasurer “with the object of becoming a genuine Old Penwithian”?
Database Manager, Member of Staff 1969-1980
Latest additions/changes to the Database
Tim Rowe (1974-1980)
Simon Rowe (1977-1980)
Martin Scrase (1954-1961)- change of address.
W. F. Toms (1940-?
Peter M. Guttridge (1962-1966)
Dr. Nicholas Marston (1970-?)
Graham Turner (1972-77)
Chris Goninan (Staff 1968-1980)
A plea from the Database Manager
If the address on the envelope which brought your copy of the New Penwithian is incomplete, or if you have moved and it was forwarded to you from a previous address, please send us an update of your address.