Memories and More Memories of Wellingborough Grammar School
by David and Graham Tall
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Memories of Wellingborough Grammar School £17.95 (to buy contact email@example.com)
By David and Graham Tall
It is both a pleasure and a privilege to be asked to write a few introductory words about Wellingborough Grammar School because WGS was an outstanding grammar school.
The grammar schools, and the whole post-1944 Education Act system, gave opportunities to children of my generation that our predecessors never had. At the same time, the priorities of the system meant that anything over and above the preparation for examinations depended more than ever on individual teachers’ calibre and enthusiasm. And that is where we were particularly blessed.
There was one teacher at Wellingborough who really ignited my interest in words, and the use of words. He was my English teacher, Mr Cooksey, and he managed to transmit his passion for the written word in a way that was irresistible. He was also concerned to see that we could discern the difference between an accurate report in a newspaper and a loaded one. He urged us to read two newspapers rather than one. During its courageous opposition to the Suez invasion, he urged us to make the Observer one of those two papers. He made us more aware of the outside world. He introduced us to John Osborne and explained the significance of Jimmy Porter.
In addition to English, my other Sixth Form subjects were Latin and History. When it came to writing history essays at home I was very grateful for my father’s treasured set of encyclopaedias, until one day when I was writing an essay on Gladstone. The encyclopaedia’s profile of the great man concluded with the words: ‘W.E. Gladstone retired from politics in 1892 and is now living at Hawarden Castle near Chester.’ It dawned on me that perhaps I was not receiving the full benefit of the latest research on the subject!
I have many light-hearted memories of WGS. Producing plays in the House Plays competition and acting in the School plays, masterminded by Spike Jackson. My roles usually involved wearing a beard and meeting an untimely end early in the first act, as was the case with Banquo and Sir Roger Ackroyd.
When Bill Haley fever was at its peak, we got some soapy water, put it in small bottles and sold it at the corner of the street in Wellingborough as Bill Haley’s Bath Water. Four or five people snapped up this bargain at threepence a time.
We had a very successful series of bogus letters printed by the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph and on one memorable occasion, I “took a day off” – in order to watch Jim Laker complete his historic 19-wicket haul against the Australians.
On a more serious note, I remember the school’s Toc H group and Jake Dunning’s most treasured quotation from the founder, Tubby Clayton, “Service is the rent we pay for our room on earth”.
Then there were the words of that outstanding Headmaster, H A Wrenn, to all new arrivals – that they should always have a book in their pocket so that they could study it whilst standing in a bus queue or on a journey and use all their time well. I always say that I don’t like wasting money but I hate wasting time. So the influence of H A Wrenn lives on in my life to this day!
As you can tell, my memories of Wellingborough Grammar School are very happy ones. But my primary emotion – shared, as you will read, by the other contributors to this book – is one of gratitude. I do not think I could have achieved whatever I have achieved without WGS.
Sir David Frost