Toc H begun 1954/5 Home Page
On 19th September the Senior School had the pleasure and distinction of receiving a visit from the Revd. P.B.Clayton who gave a lively and interesting talk on the early days of the Toc H movement. Autumn Term 1947 Magazine
The origins of Toc H at WGS Newspaper Article Photo of Toc H Group circa 1960 The impact of Toc H
1974 Coeducational Toc H with 50 regularly attending members.
The origins of Toc H at WGS Steve Regis see also newspaper article below.
Starting Toc H arose from a conversation between myself and Wrenn in which he suggested that instead of my starting a Christian Union (or was it Fellowship?- for I went to him with some such request) why didn't I make enquiries into the possibility of starting a Toc H group? I think he felt this would be more useful than a CU type set up. In this he was quite right. But I don't think he realised (in fact he admitted as much to me before I left) what it might involve.
I had not remembered (and maybe didn't know at the time) that Tubby Clayton had visited the school a few years previously which is maybe why Wrenn knew something about Toc H. At that time there were two Toc H branches in Wellingborough. The senior/older one met at the Hind Hotel and was named 'Wellingborough Branch' while the younger spin off 'Broadway Branch' met near the cattle market. I was soon linked in with this more youthful branch where I became a member and it was mainly through them that the school branch worked - hence all the contacts with Children's Homes etc. (Both my brother David and I also joined Broadways - Graham Tall, webmaster)
It's good to recall some of the originals of that group. Paul Wills was also a part of it. Younger than myself by a year or two I was somewhat in awe of him. When I rabbitted on about this and that he would sit there quietly and seem to look right through me. Tragically he died having broken his neck making a rugby tackle. This affected me deeply at the time - and a great deal since. I felt the world would have been a better place had he lived and in consequence often felt I should make sure I did something worthwhile with my own life and not let it simply jog along. (Or, to put it more flippantly, using that favourite Toc H slogan, "Are you really living or just walking around to save funeral expenses?")
The Toc H group had a major effect not only on the people it sought to serve but those who joined it. Toc H as a movement and philosophy always knew it had impermanence written into it. The concept was that a local branch might take root, grow, flourish for a while and then wither away (though sometimes they took a long time withering!) Toc H's own roots were indeed too narrow to flourish in a wider context - which is not to demean what it achieved in its day. I am only glad that the Toc H branch at WGS flourished so abundantly and achieved so much. (And find in my own head a suitable closing of that more raw and open gestalt of Paul Wills' death.) Steve Regis (notionally 1949, entered school 1952)
Picture below includes several members of the 1955 intake.
Whilst I was a member, none of us at school ever thought we could become a Branch in our own right - but then, none of us new of the Group's origins and the semi-promise that we could eventually become a Branch. Intermittent links continued with Broadways, one member occasionally coming to group meetings. The teacher supporting the group was Mr. Dunning, although he wasn't always present at group meetings. We had a range of officers and certainly enjoyed our tea and biscuits! Main jobs were delivering books around the two small Wellingborough hospitals, digging gardens etc. In my time, the link to visits to Hinwick boys home seemed to come primarily through my membership of Broadways branch - but I have no idea, whether I started the visits before I joined Broadways, ie whilst a member of WGS Toc H. Graham Tall (1955)
The impact of Toc H
One of the last pages in the Nora’s scrap album (around 1973) includes a large newspaper cutting in which Mr Wrenn refers to the importance of clubs and societies in the life of the school and to Toc H in particular:These activities range from the radio and folk clubs to the Christian
Fellowship and the geology club, but towering above the other activities in the school is Toc H, which every year provides a day trip for some of the senior citizens of the town. Last year’s trip took them to Woburn, a departure from the traditional trip to Hunstanton.
Arend Hoogervorst (1966–74) explains that
The Hunstanton trips were paid for from funds raised by the annual ‘Toc H Concert’ (a cross between Monty Python, drag extraordinaire and Oxford Footlights) – I was involved in organising and acting in a couple and I even recall doing a skit on Prize Giving where I imitated HAW in my head boy year. Tin Bum sat in the front row and was not amused, but nevertheless just as appreciated by the senior citizens.
Two WGS boys subsequently went to work for Toc H, interestingly probably the first and last members. The first, Steve Regis, a foundation member was instrumental in forming the group in the school. The second, Arend Hoogervorst (1966–74) a head boy, was involved in the school's closing years:
Arend explains his experience of Toc H as follows.
My first experiences of Toc H at the Grammar School set me on a life changing course which resulted in me ending up in South Africa . Whilst a member of the school Toc H group, I was contacted by the senior Toc H members in the Northants region and I got involved with the wider work of Toc H. I was later chosen as a member of a representative team of Toc-Hers from the UK to visit South Africa in 1974 on a 6 week information exchange programme. We toured around South Africa looking at various Toc H social projects. As a result of that, I was invited to return as a Toc H National Field Staff Officer in South Africa on two year contract. I took up the offer in 1979 and had a whirlwind two years which included running a community centre in Soweto and helping to start the first Hospice organisation in Johannesburg . From there I went on to practice my university training as an applied Environmental Scientist and I’ve been over here ever since..
Dor Knap brings back fond memories as I attended about three Toc H weekend retreats for training/teambuilding exercises. The atmosphere and ambience of the location was just amazing and I made some wonderful friends there. We also played some amazing “murder games” in the house which had lots of nooks and crannies to hide “bodies”. I do remember we had some abysmal “detectives” resulting in games going on into the wee small hours…
Regards, Arend Hoogervorst (1966–74)
1974 Coeducational Toc H with 50 regularly attending members.