Memories and More Memories of Wellingborough Grammar School: Mr Woolley and the War Years
by Graham and David Tall
Mr John Hyde
This book is a jolly good read. Any ‘boy’ who was at the school at that time will love to have it as it provides an accurate account of the teachers and what happened at the school. I found the background to the war and the detailed information on the Grammar school boys who fought of considerable interest. Particularly as I later got to know Donald Braybrooke of Bomber Command and Bert Catlin of Coastal Command after they returned. Indeed I think that any Old Grammarian who buys this book will have difficulty putting it down and the same will be true of anybody with a father who went to the school or one who fought in the war.
I was initially torn between recounting two different experiences, the first about ‘Humph’ (‘Beery’ Ward), the second about ‘Albert’ Richmond.
The stories about R.V.S. Ward relate to his nick-name and, a point of concern raised in this book, about why he wasn’t recruited to the forces. ‘Humph’ was a man who always took responsibility for a Rugby team and a Cricket team. Once the team was travelling by train to King’s School Peterborough, the weather was misty and the train stopped in the middle of nowhere for some time; ‘Humph’ wound down the door window and suddenly announced that he knew where they were, identifying a building just ahead as ‘The Fox and Hounds’. Another tale relates to the fact that ‘Humph’ suddenly disappeared from the school for a day. Rumour had it that this was because the Ministry of Defence suddenly realised that they had forgotten to enlist him and, to avoid a scandal, they arranged to ‘call him up’, supply him with kit etc. and then ‘demob’ him on the same day.
The second story relates to ‘Albert’ Richmond. In a sense this memory is one I regret. Mr Richmond was a Lancastrian gentleman of somewhat unfortunate appearance which was accompanied by his appeals in mathematics to “watch the board while I go through it” and “every time I open my mouth some fool speaks”.
He was actually a good teacher and in our third year some of us decided not to play him up. Colin McCall and myself ended the year at the top of the ‘B’ stream and jumped a year to take the School Certificate with the older boys in the ‘Remove’ class. And, how appropriate that name was: the class contained some very disruptive elements (one or two of whom subsequently joined the police!), and it was bedlam! Consequently, in the ‘Mock’ exam, I scored just 5% in geometry and that result, even when added to algebra, arithmetic and trigonometry, would almost certainly mean I would have failed. I felt very guilty, Father had spent all that money paying for me to have a place in the school, and if I failed then I would have to leave.
A number of boys discovered that if ‘Albert’ excluded them from the class and they wandered back to their form room, ‘Sam’ Harris, our form teacher would let us in. Suddenly, after Christmas, the ‘Remove’ was taught mathematics by ‘Sam’. ‘Sam’ would set us a problem and roam around the room carrying his large bible. If he spotted an error, he would point to the same and the bible descended on your head. Not a vicious blow, but enough to remind you later where you had gone wrong.
The Tall boys, having gently conned me into reading the book to see if I would write a foreword – no commitment, I was told – have left me with no choice but to say that the book does the school proud.
John P. Hyde