Questions asked:      Return to Memories 1943-47

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1) Did you go to the school aged 12 - after 1944 we went aged 11 as elementary schools were changed to primary
     schools?

2) I think before the 1944 act the county awarded scholarships - but some parents paid for the lads to go - am I
    correct?

3) Classes: 2AII 3AII was there a 2AI and a 3AI (me, I was a B streamer - my brother, intelligent so and so was
     an A streamer. And was it 2 or 3 form entry?

4) How big were the classes? Ours were of the order of 30.

5) School Number - what is this? I don't remember having one.

6) Can you give any descriptions of the teachers, their humour, their method and frequency of discipline, their level of
     commitment. We have virtually no information on Mr. Nicholas - who my brother insists on calling ‘Tinbum’, but
     others call ‘Nick’ and I, think of as ‘Ivor’!

7) What was Mr. Woolley like?

8) Did things change when HAW took over - or did the school ethos essentially stay the same. Can you remember
     any changes?

9) Were you there when they introduced the Old boys form reading prizes (list of books given out at the beginning of
     the year, and a simple test at the end the winners getting a prize on speech day?

10) You say 5B was divided into Science Fifth or Arts Fifth - was their a 5A?

11) What was Dr. Jackson like when he first taught you? He's probably the staff member who has had most written
       about him by subsequent pupils. I'm convinced he read out to us stories he had written for comics like
       Adventure, Wizard, Rover and Hotspur - but no one else has confirmed it for me.

12) Did you get any info from Mr ‘Chunky’ Pine - PE, Mr Payne - Art or Mr Dunning - Geography on their war
       experiences. Did they then have the nicknames Eddy and Jake?

13) Interested in the day trips - made a great impact on us also.

14) Were their many house competitions in your time?

I'd like to hear your memories of Rugby - games and people, Speech Days, Sports Days etc. Did Mr. Nicholas teach rugby at that time?


1) Did you go to the school aged 12 - after 1944 we went aged 11 as elementary schools were changed to primary
     schools?

I was 12 years old when I started at the Grammar School in 1943. I took the Scholarship exam the previous year and did not obtain a scholarship, these were not plentiful - Michael King went in 1942 and I was on the same class as he was in Primary School. (We met last year at the Old Boys Dinner). Scholarships in those days were quite difficult, but they had a system of awarding ‘Promotion Marks’ which indicated to teachers and parents that paying for a child to go to either the Grammar School or High School would be of benefit and not a waste of money.

2) I think before the 1944 act the county awarded scholarships - but some parents paid for the lads to go - am I
     correct?

The 1944 Education Act made it easier for my parents. My parents discovered that I had indeed been awarded a Promotion Mark and so entry into the school was eased a little under the entry system. You were correct in your assumption that a majority of parents paid for the children. The cost at WGS when I started was a sum of Half a Crown (2/6d) over the course of school working weeks. As my Father earned £4.0s and at that time had to pay Income Tax of 50% (wartime conditions) this amounted to an eighth of his income. Incidentally even with ‘winning’ a scholarship some children were not able to take up the places as parents were unable to afford things like uniforms etc.

3) Classes: 2AII 3AII was there a 2AI and a 3AI?

On arriving at WGS on the first day we had to take an entrance exam and this settled into which form you entered - mine being 2A11. Some boys without Promotion Marks had to sit a separate entrance exam.

A WGS Class. - I am not sure but I believe I am right that the class-s were 2AI, 2AII (these two ( am sure of) and 2A. It appears odd that the highest class looks out of place but from memory thats how it went. It was for sure a three form class set up.

4) How big were the classes? Ours were of the order of 30.

In those days there were around 30 boys per class, but I seem to remember this increased slightly over the years. The total boys in school were 400 plus a few. I remember this as the number in class was always entered on the end of Term Reports. Your weight and height were also entered on your Report.

5) School Number - what is this? I don't remember having one.

The School Number was given on the first day at school. All kit had to have name and number on it. Even shoes had short bronze nail in the instep - most local shoe repairers undertook this - Mr Ager in Thomas St. did mine. The Plimsolls had the name on both feet and the name was displayed such that it could be read by a Prefect.

6) Can you give any descriptions of the teachers, their humour, their method and frequency of discipline, their level
     of committment. We have virtually no information on Mr. Nicholas - who my brother insists on calling 'Tinbum',
     but others call 'Nick' and who I think of as 'Ivor'!

Most of the teachers were very good - that is both male and female. I did not like Dr. Jackson, he was VERY strict. He always referred to us boys as ‘gents’ in that nasal cockney accent of his. I remember there was a boy who sat at the back corner seat on the right looking forward - he had a book and if you spoke he entered your name in it for punishment - I remember this boy’s name, but will not repeat it. Dr Jackson’s system was 3 ‘Whacks’ on the backside with what he called ‘the Twanker’. This was made of wood and was off the front of school desks which acted as a buffer against other desks. I think it was about 15” long 4” wide and three eighths of an inch thick.

Using plimsolls was another method of punishment - used regularly by masters and prefects. Female members of staff did not undertake this punishment and they sent you to a Master - Dr Jackson catered for Miss Bates transgressors.

Mr Nicholas, I only met up with him when he took us for Divinity after Mr Woolley had left - the Bozeat cleric arriving meant this task was no longer necessary for Mr Nicholas. He did operate as the Chief of the School ATC. His great interest was sport of any nature, but particularly Rugby and Cricket. I seem to remember he had some connection with International Rugby and possibly at Regional level. I am unaware of the names - Tinbum, Nick or Ivor for Mr.Nicholas.

Another Master who I enjoyed was Mr Holmes, he was good in the way he told and explained the Chemistry as a subject and he had a humorous way when dictating notes. For example, he started on one occasion thus - The chemical in this experiment is sulphuretted hydrogen --- Mr Holmes started off (spelling out)  t  h  e   c  h  e  m  i  c  a  l    i  n   t  h  i  s   e  x  p  e  r  i  m  e  n  t    i  s - spell it yourself!    In the final year in Chemistry we concentrated on titration (used in volumetric analysis) and when I was an Apprentice at Morris Motors titration was used on a daily basis.

Mr Sterry was Welsh and spoke far too quickly for what you had to write up. There was a constant number of boys asking to look at your Biology book, it affected me in the same way. I just did not like the man.

Mr Kent (known as ‘Elfey’ Kent to us) and I got on OK for a bit but eventually I was glad to leave Art for Chemistry. He was an RA, Royal Academician and could draw and paint well. The Art class had seating which went around three walls and to get to your own seat meant that you had to climb over it to gain access, unless you were fortunate to have an end seat. He had difficulty in walking properly for I forget the cause now. ‘Elfey’ moved on and Mr Phillips too over, his type of art was not in my interest.

The best two masters were I believe Sam Harris (Maths) and Cook (History) Sam Harris was well known for explaining what we had to learn and he would explain in detail and then ask if everyone was happy about what he had told them. In the first few lessons people were not happy about saying that they did not understand. You could sense that he wanted you to ask questions and so that became the policy for understanding. He would ask a question after an explanation, he would then say something like ‘what is the angle at point ‘A’ and point ‘B’. I particularly remember we were having an explanation of two angles with an angle between them and he asked the class what was the difference between the two. I shot my hand up and he asked me, ‘they are the same’ was my remark. He said “Good boy”. I was delighted. I learnt so much from him when he asked these sort of questions. There was very little discipline required in his class and obviously no ‘Twanking’. He was respected by most of the boys.
Mr T.G. Cook was again an excellent Master and all the notes we took for School Cert. were written by the words that he gave us. When the notes were added to our History books he would explain every written paragraph. We made addition notes if we wished on separate pieces of paper, it was not always necessary but it could be done if wanted.

Mr Wintersgill was the Music Master. Your first class with him held the terrors of having to sing a solo song in public, he then decided if you should be in the School Choir. Never having sung solo before, I did not look forward to this but somehow managed to get into the Choir. The School Choir gave recitals at various times throughout the school year. Mr Wintersgill also arranged for a trio or quartet to perform to the whole school. These people came from Sharnbrook and played ‘Chamber Music’ One of the lady violinists had the habit of leaving her violin under her chin, just pointing forward whilst she ‘rested’ her arms. This caused much hilarity amongst the boys and smothered laughs and giggles could be heard breaking out. Once this happened Mr Woolley removed his mortar board, and brought it down on the edge of the mortar board with a resounding crack - it never failed to quell any further disturbance. During these performances boys from the lower forms were expected to climb the bars and sit there for the performance. A somewhat uncomfortable position. My wife tells me that girls from various school including the High School were invited to these performances, it was considered to be of cultural value to them! They just came to see the boys! Mr Wintersgill was an accomplished musician and played the piano for assemblies and such like, accompanying the choir when they gave public performances. There was also a ‘special choir’ of which I remember little

I was not impressed with the female masters. I had a few classes from Miss Pat Gregory, Mrs Castle was not very good in my eyes. However Mrs Allan was excellent. She taught Latin for two years and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was 2nd in the class during the first year and 5th in the second year, some of the best results I obtained. Latin was stopped after July 1945, I assume that with the war finishing Mrs Allan was ‘finished’ and then there was no other individual to take her place. I always remember passing the female ‘Masters’ room when the door opened outwards and Mrs Allan appeared. She said in the rather nice manner “Would you fetch the tea for us from the Kitchen”? I said I would and obtained the teas which were three plus milk and sugar. I knocked the door of the female Masters room and Mrs Allan then asked me to pour the tea for them. She said I made a very good job of pouring the tea’s. I sincerely hoped that I would never have to do that gain!

7) What was Mr. Woolley like.

Mr Woolley - I thought him a very good Headmaster. He could be very severe on boys who offended. He taught Divinity to our class and I learnt a great deal from the Bible during these classes. He always stopped 10 minutes from the end for questions, these could be on anything, not necessarily Divinity. I remember one boy - name with held - but that day he was the first with a question. The question “I have only one ball and can anything be done about this”? The Head told him yes it could and went on at great lengths about the technicalities. No one ever laughed or was silly about these questions - was this the first occasion for Sex Education as WGS?

Incidentally during my time at WGS all members of staff wore gowns every day, and Mr Woolley used his mortar boards as well. (Many years after I was living and working in South Africa and met an American who had been on a years exchange teaching with Eton College. He told me his story of his total surprise when arriving, to discover he was expected to wear a gown - he had never seen these worn regularly except on the Movies, and he wondered how his exchange found it when he wore his gown on the first day).

I remember an incident in the quadrangle when a school boy went berserk and I had just returned from cross country, it was just after school hours. I think I am right in saying that we were locked in the Changing Room by a prefect, it could have been a master. The boy ran towards the Art Class and he had a piece of wood, he hit the Art Room window, I think it was broken, he then used the wood to hit another boy on the back of his head. The Headmaster saw what happened and walked behind the offending boy and just loudly said, “Come with me”. The boy followed the Head to his study meekly and without any other words being said. The injured boy was from Wollaston and he was carried to the Hospital across the road from the school. The Head walked in front of the offending boy and never turned round, he was never seen in school again.

The School supported the Cottage Hospital regularly by donations and usually bought some piece of equipment that the hospital wanted. The Hospital would always deal with any injuries that occurred in school, not necessary to call ambulance - you just carried them across the road!

8) Did things change when HAW took over - or did the school ethos essentially stay the same. Can you remember
     any changes?

I do not think there were many changes with the arrival of HAW in fact I would think that it did not change at all but things indicate that there was more freedom in school. He liked Sport and regularly ran with the boys on cross country. He had an interest in Cricket. Shortly after his arrival , I was running cross country and taking an unauthorised short cut, when I heard the sounds of someone running behind me, glancing round I discovered that I had the new Head close on my tail - he was following me for the correct route! He was obviously not aware of this as I heard nothing further of the event - a close shave!

Cross Country was often run when bad weather precluded games of Rugby. We ran frequently when snow was falling and also when considerable amounts of snow lay on the ground. I always felt sorry for the boys who were ‘excused PE and Games’ and acted as markers, sometimes noted names of folks who passed them. They were stuck out in the wilds of Doddington and Wilby and having little protection other than gaberdine macs and school caps. They got very cold and wet, most of us preferred to be running than standing still getting wet and cold.


9) Were you there when they introduced the Old boys form reading prizes (list of books given out at the beginning
    of the year, and a simple test at the end the winners getting a prize on speech day?

I do not recall there being any Old Boys reading prizes in my time at school.

10) You say 5B was divided into Science Fifth or Arts Fifth - was their a 5A?

There was a 5A and 5B which was split so that some boys from each form could attend Science which basically was Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. The other boys would attend Art classes and perhaps others, I am uncertain about that now. The third class at the same level as 5A and 5B I think were called the Lower Fifth.

11) What was Dr. Jackson like when he first taught you? He's probably the staff member who has had most written
      about him by subsequent pupils. I'm convinced he read out to us stories he had written for comics like Adventure,
      Wizard, Rover and Hotspur - but no one else has confirmed it for me.

I never recalled hearing stories that Doc Jackson wrote for comics. He may have done so after he started at WGS. When he first met my class we were entering into acting - Doc called this Drama. It was done by first moving the desks to provide room and then entering into Action, Mime, or Tableau. Doc picked the subject, any of the three items just mentioned and at the end of each the marks were presented for each group and totalised at the end.

12) Did you get any info from Mr 'Chunky' Pine - PE, Mr Payne - Art or Mr Dunning - Geography on their war
      experiences. Did they then have the nicknames Eddy and Jake?

I have no information on the returning Masters. I do remember that ‘Chunky’ had a motor cycle and it was obviously previously owned by someone who had been in the ARP as there was a diamond pattern on the side of the petrol tank with letters which indicated the use but I now do not remember the letters.

The masters who went to war are a difficult case. When I arrived at WGS Mr. Burrel came out of retirement to help in school. At that time there were three 'lady' masters which became four when Miss Bates arrived. That made for a total of five extra masters. I do believe that the four who returned from the war were originally at the school. Could it be that some one went from school to war and never returned?

13) Interested in the day trips - made a great impact on us also.

Day Trips.- I think I covered this in my first e mail.

14) Were their many house competitions in your time?

Many House competitions. These were based on Athletics, partcularly running, 100 yards etc, Long Jump, High Jump, Hop Skip and Jump etc. Naturally Rugby and Cricket also. Drama competitions on stage in school hall, these were popular although the actors hardly varied from year to year.

I'd like to hear your memories of Rugby - games and people, Speech Days, Sports Days etc. Did Mr. Nicholas teach rugby at that time?

SCHOOL commenced each day with a full school assembly held in the Hall. One wore plimsolls for this and Prefects were strict in observing this. Bible reading, and hymns were sung, and notices were read out. Names of any Old Boy who was killed in action were read out at this time. A sombre thought as some had only been pupils at the school a short time previously. Names of the deceased were entered in a Book of Rememberance which was kept on a plaque in the main entrance to the school. After the notices were read, and prior to the religous part, Catholics and Jews were shown outside the Hall.

CAP RAISING. On entering the Grammar School in the early days we were given instructions on many items. The one that I remember well is how to raise your cap in the correct manner particularly to members of staff. It was given that the cap was raised up at the front allowing the rear part to reside as it was, save ‘good morning or whatever’ and then replace the front part of the cap to its original position. We were told that if you lifted the cap too high on replacing it the rear part of the cap was then covered with that which you had difficulty in replacing.

DRYING ON THE QUADRANGLE On some occasions after PE and a cold shower we would be sent out onto the grass of the Quadrangle to dry ourselves. In a warm sunny day it was very pleasant, but I always thought that Mrs Allan might look through the glass of her class room door and see a number of naked boys

MALE AND FEMALE CHEMISTRY In my last year, 1946 -1947 girls from the High School in London Road came to our school for Chemistry lessons with 6th form Grammar School boys. It was once a week.

A POSSIBLE BOOK There was a period I believe it was shortly after I had left school (1947) when there were ideas that a book should be commenced giving details of what boys did in employment and details of which University they were at etc. I believe that this was thought of by Masters, it could even have been the Head master. Unfortunately this all fell by the wayside due I understand to three boys taking jobs that were considered not suitable for entering in ‘the’ book if it had come to light. The company concerned is known. I do know one of the three boys, have forgotten his name but he still lives in Wellingborough.

THE HEAD MASTERS GOOD LADY Mrs Woolley visited the school on a regular basis and always came on her ‘sit up and beg’ ladies cycle, on the left had of the handlebar she always had a zinc bucket which generally had eggs within it. I was never in the know of exactly where the eggs went. She was a very nice lady.

THE MAN WHO DID EVERYTHING The names of this man is now forgotten but he was a nice guy and I believe he worked hard. His jobs were, looking after the vegetables grown in the area in the North East part of the school, he kept the central heating system working during the winter, that is shovelling coal or was it coke on the boiler. Cleaning out the ash and wheel barrowing it out to a heap. Cutting the grass in the playing field and also the grass in the Quadrangle. Empty the rubbish bins contained in class rooms and other areas of the school.

POTATO PICKING All schools had to pick potatoes and a certain time was placed on pupils. I picked on two occasions, the first being at Easton Maudit. We were bussed to the farm and had a day just bending, picking up potatoes and bagging them, we were left on our own. It was all horse and cart work. I was amazed at the number of boys who smoked. Lunch time was taken and then back to work the busses came for us and we walked back to the farm to be picked up.

The second visit was to Hardwick, this is where the fun started. We got off the bus and looked for the farm, a farm cart came past and we found we had been dropped in the wrong place. We should have been taken to Gt.Harrowden. We were told to walk across the fields, it was almost 3 miles. The farmer was unpleasant to us for being late and we then had another walk down the road towards Wellingborough to start picking the potatoes.

THE RINGSTEAD PREP. Boys came by train to London Road Station on the Peterborough to Northampton train. The boys travelling always called it the Ringstead Prep and many boys from other stations on the line to Wellingborough made quite a number of travellers. They travelled home on a similar train. They did walk from and too the Railways stations to the school regardless of weather.

POSTMEN During the 1946 Christmas rush, the Post Office in Wellingborough asked for volunteers to help with the mail. Girls from the High School did most of the sorting and we boys plodded the streets with many letters some times having to have two bags of mail. We worked for about 10 days, and I remember that I was paid £1 and a half penny an hour.

SPEECH DAYS. Of course I remember a few Speech Days, but there is very little that I can say about theme as they were very similar and Lord Brooke of Oakley who was Chairman of the Governors always said at the end of his speech, he mumbled a bit, ‘I would like the school to have an extra day on the Christmas Holiday. We all agreed although we did not consider it a fantastic amount to shout about. The last Speech Day I remember was that there were so many people going to be present that we used the Palace Cinema. Lady Vaux who was a Governor sat on the stage and was noted for showing a fair amount of leg!

RETURN FROM HOLIDAYS AND COMMENCEMENT OF TERMS. The school always opened the school doors after the holidays and at the commencement of term starting at 10.00am.

AGRICULTURE CAMP Every July or August the school entered boys who wished to go on a School Harvesting Holiday, you could camp for two or three weeks. The School Scouts also camped with us. It was an unusual period for boys as they had taken their exams and when you finished you were considered to be on holiday. This was the case with myself and I had been given the instructions that follow. On the Friday night prescribed we boys took our bikes down London Road Station and loaded our bikes into a railways van. This was due to travel later in the evening and would be at Wallingford ready for us to ride our bikes to the camp site just south east of Wallingford. The next move was to be a London Road Station early the next morning. We had to change trains at the following stations, Northampton, Blisworth, Bletchley, Oxford, Cholsey and then finally to Wallingford. We had arrived but the bikes had not and we had to walk to the camp which was a good way, the van with the bikes arrived the following Wednesday.

Mr Cook and Mr Dunning were in charge of us and would do all the cooking. We had to fetch tents and fill palliases with hay, once finished we were hungry. The cooking was excellent and we hoped that it would be maintained - it did. We had a lot of rainy days and nights and instead of working for either 12 or 19 days I worked 4 days and that was on weeding. The Harvest was late so instead of picking up a nice quantity of cash the return was rather poor. Scouts on the camp with no work were kept busy with boys who were also Scouts. I came home after my 2 weeks and had to take my bike with me, travelled home the reverse way to the arrival route and basically that was the end of my Wellingborough Grammar School days.

Harvest Camps were arranged in the immediate post-war period (prime mover Jake Dunning) for those having sat their School Certs or Higher S.C.s.  Michael King 

MISS BAVIN. I have not mentioned Miss Bavin, but my wife and I did go to her funeral and there were quite a few items that came up about her. Derek Pearce said a great deal about her when he gave the eulogy, I am sure that he could be a source of information about her. He was about 2 years ahead of me at school.

Something the wife remembered about Nora Bavin, not really connected WGS, but her other ‘love’ ‘Girl Guides’. When my daughter went from Guides to Rangers, Miss Bavin was in charge of the Rangers. The girls were all terrified of Miss Bavin, and when she came home, my daughter said that they had to call her Nora and not Miss B, and also what did Dad do when he was at school, as Nora had said, to her, Ah, Gennis, I remember your father well at Wellingborough Grammar School! I assured her that I did nothing that could possibly have affected Miss Bavin, or did she see the boys running around the Quad drying after showers?!!

A private thought about the boys from the WGS.   I remember going to register for National Service on the 14 April 1949 and the road was full of boys I had not seen from school days, I met a few after that date, but it seemed quite strange. One guy I remember was Tom Cartright, he had just been demobbed from the Army after a stint in Malaya. I did meet up with some when I played Rugby for the Old Boys, the second team.

Keith W Gennis. June 2005