JRGS Les Peagam Memories
JRGS Alumni Society

Les Peagram's Memories
John Ruskin Alumnus 1951-56

JRGS Alumni Society

 

1956

2002

  Forms: 1 thru 5

1956

2002

 

In 1951, much to the surprise of my parents and the teaching staff at the South Norwood Primary School, I passed my 11+ exams. Mind you if they were surprised, I was flabbergasted. As has been mentioned by others, parts of South Norwood, particularly the area in which my parents lived, were socially disadvantaged and youngsters of the day just did not go to Grammar School. My father certainly did not really see any advantage in me going to John Ruskin, as it would give me no any extra assistance in life as a delivery van driver, which he was and which he expected me to do also after I left School. My mother, being a canny Scot, saw things differently and so, after many a domestic argument, I headed for the "Big School" in West Croydon.
  
 As a reward for passing the scholarship, my parents bought me a new Raleigh bicycle – not “drop handlebars” as I had hoped but comfortable enough to ride from South Norwood to West Croydon. Little did I know that, later, I would have to ride it to Shirley Hills, a much more difficult task. If it was really wet, I was allowed to go by public transport. I was expected to take either the 75 bus or the 654 trolleybus from the northern side of Norwood Junction Station, but I remember it being easier to get the 197 bus from "our side" of the station to the centre of Croydon and walk the rest. If I timed it right I could even get a no. 12 bus, a longer and more indirect route to Croydon, but with an even chance that one of my older cousins would that day be the clippie, which saved me the fare!

    At school, I was just "one of the class" not being outstanding in any subject with the exception, perhaps, of music. I had, after all, been brought up in a Salvation Army family so music was an integral part of my life. Because of this, I soon found myself in the School Orchestra playing trumpet music on the fugal horn, later switching to the euphonium, an instrument which I really loved playing and wish that, today, I could still do so.

    Sport left me totally cold. Later on, after leaving school, when sport did play some part in my life, I did find myself being persuaded to play for the Old Boys against the School team (we were thrashed) and during the tea interval, Mr. Smith, who I recall as being the Sports Master, challenged me to prove that I had actually been at the school as a pupil as he could not ever remember me during the years I was there. Scoring a duck and dropping a catch in the match did not endear me to him even then.

    Reverting to Tamworth Road days, whilst I did not make much impression on the School Staff, I did have one very beneficial asset. Coming from a poor background, our family could not afford to use the sweet coupon allocation – rationing was still in force for some items. Others in the class could afford to buy sweets but did not have the relevant ration coupons. Consequently, I lodged my spare coupons with the sweet shop on the opposite corner of the road and went 50/50 with those who had spare cash.  I also recall that in order to have the school lunches, we had to pay, on a Monday, for the whole week - I think it was 9d a day. I, somehow, managed to pay for Tuesday to Friday leaving me with Monday's lunch money to spend at the chip shop which was situated further up Tamworth Road towards West Croydon Station.

    Whether it was the move away from the Tamworth Road building, which I found very dark and depressive, to the more open area at Shirley Hills, or my growing up (slightly), I seemed to take more interest in school work. It helped that my younger brother, who was, and still is today, considerably cleverer than I, won a scholarship to Selhurst Grammar School and, suddenly, I had someone to look up to and to compete with at home. I still did not shine at any subject in particular; even music started to lose its appeal once we delved deeper into its theory. Part of the reason for this could have been that to get to the new premises required three separate buses or, as my parents would prefer, a long and arduous bicycle ride which left me exhausted by the time I had made the long climb up from Ashburton Park - mind you, going home was a breeze, except for those days I had to balance the euphonium, in its very heavy case, on the handlebars and the final short sharp pull up Portland Road in South Norwood.

    In those days, severe misdemeanors were still punished at school by "six of the best", a fate that I experienced on two occasions. The first for making some sort of stupid remark to Mr. Rees during a Latin lesson, a subject I could not stand. And the second for climbing out of a window in one of the wings of the Shirley Hills building to retrieve a ball that had been hit onto a lower roof from the playground. I may have been the last one to be chosen when the other pupils selected sides for playground games but I was always first when it came to doing something daring! On other visits to Mr. "Joe" Lowe's office, I, fortunately, came away merely with severe reprimands.

    Despite seeming not to shine at any particular subject, the best efforts of the various members of staff obviously paid off as in 1956 I left the school with a motley group of O-Levels (English Language, Mathematics, Music, Geography and Biology) which, at the time, enabled me to get a job with the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company in their Pensions Department.

    For the next 34 years I remained in the pensions and personnel management field, moving, each time upwards, through a pensions consultancy to the Nestle Company, where I became the UK Pension Fund Manager and on to Grindlays Bank, an International Bank based in London but with most of its operations in the Indian sub continent, Africa, the Middle and the Far East.  During this time I put more effort into self education than I had expended at school, and became a Fellow of the Insurance Institute (FCII) through night school and day release at the Croydon College of Technology and Design, where I subsequently obtained a Diploma in Management Studies (D.M.S) and also served on their Academic Council. I was extremely flattered to be invited to become one of the founding Fellows of the Pensions Management Institute (FPMI) when that body was formed and served as a Senior Examiner.

    In 1983, Grindlays Bank was taken over by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Corporation ("ANZ"), one of the four major Australian Banks, and by 1985 I had moved to their headquarters in Melbourne, the State Capital of Victoria, as Group Pensions Manager, followed by three years as Group Manager, Human Resources Manager and finally until my retirement in 1990 as Chief Manager, Special Assignments, Group Human Resources. The assignment in Melbourne was meant to be for three years but after 17 years I am still here, and for the last 12 years I have been retired - the astute amongst you will have worked out that I retired at age 50 - well, being well versed in pension matters, if I couldn't work an early retirement, on advantageous terms, who could!

    Today, as I look out of the window across the foothills of the Great Dividing Range - we live on acreage "in the bush" about 60 miles north of Melbourne - I often reflect back to my school days in the Croydon area. Never, as a young lad growing up in South Norwood in the immediate post war years, could I have imagined that I would have lived, worked or holidayed in over 60 different countries - the whole range from A-Z (Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe). It's a good job that Geography was one of my five O-Levels! Mind you, as we are experiencing one of the worst drought periods in Australian history, we could do with some of that rain that constantly fell as I struggled on my bicycle to school.

    With two daughters and four grandchildren still in the UK, Anne and I are regular visitors "back home" although our other two daughters and six grandchildren here in Australia also keep us very busy.

Les Peagam, Heathcote, Victoria, Australia, November 2002 email

Les & Anne

Anne and I on a rare occasion that we had to dress formally in Australia.

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