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 Bob Hyslop (JRGS 1953-60) revisits his books whose hero attended the school...

Following my retirement in 2006 I have written historical novels and thrillers, all of which are now online. As part of that contribution to The Mill in July 2016, I provided an extract from one of my books, entitled Stay-Away Runs Away. The book's fictitious hero, Jonas Forbes, was an old boy of John Ruskin Central School. As I wrote, Jonas left in the school in 1945; the book contained several references to the then-headmaster Mr. McLeod.
   Recently, I came across the following quotation from John Ruskin (1819-1900) that so sums up the worthless individual entrusted to Jonas as an escort to safety in London, with the Mafia in pursuit: "When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package."
   Here, in an extract from Dare Call It Treason, is one of the lighter moments, revealing a common response to encountering grammar school pupils 60 ago:

   “You don’t say much, do you, Forbes?” No response. “I hope you can speak Russian – eh?”
"Dare Call it Treason" by Bob Hyslop   “No, sir. Unfortunately, I don’t. My school tried to shove French down my throat with limited success and Latin just wasn’t on offer.”
   “One of those Grammar School types – eh?”
“No sir! Perish the thought, sir. My school didn’t turn Grammar till after I’d left, sir.”
   “Form of celebration?
   “I don’t think dear old McLeod would have bothered with all that rubbish,” replied Jonas, remembering how his Head had managed to keep the school going through wartime shortages. He had to admit the old man had been fair – on the whole.
   “That was a joke, Forbes,” snapped the bureaucrat, upset that a rare lapse into humour had been ignored.
   “Sorry, sir. “The apology didn’t approach the eyes. “I didn’t have much to do with languages until I joined the army.”
   Another foray into a folder – this time the one relating to Jonas Forbes. A frown appeared. “But your overseas war service was limited to Korea! You didn’t tackle Chinese?”
   “Good God, no, sir!” The laughter in the eyes grew. “It was hard enough trying to communicate with our allies, sir – and I do include the Yanks.”
   “So what languages can you speak?”
  “A smattering of this and that – “
   “’Smattering’ isn’t good enough, Forbes!”

   As usual, the targets are pomposity and ignorance. Researching the 16 thrillers in "The Jonas Forbes Saga" revealed how much has changed in the world. I wonder, in fictional accounts of today’s world, how much would surprise, horrify, amuse or impress a reader.

Bob Hyslop, Chichester, West Sussex; June 2020 Email


 Your Webmaster receives a fascinating image of the school hall from 1958

Recently, I received an email from Justine Bainbridge, which reads as follows: "I’ll spare you from a convoluted story, but the long and the short of it is that I found an old flash drive, and it has some very cool photos on it. I think your alumni may like the one I attach of John Ruskin School in 1958.
   "I'm about to post some of the other pics to Facebook, to see if I can locate the rightful owner."
   Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version.

This image looks to have been taken at the conclusion of a Speech Day in the main School Hall - parents seem to exiting before JRGS pupils. Held in Friday 28th of November,1958, at 7:30, the speaker that year was R. M. H. Thompson MP, who at the time served as Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Health.
   Does anybody spot a familiar face? Maybe their own?
   I confirmed with Justine that she was not a former pupil. "No," she says, "I didn't attend the school. I'm actually in Scotland and I was a (mature!) student at Forth Valley College in Stirling, and went on to degree studies at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. At some point - although I don't know where, when, or why - this flash drive ended up in my toolbox here in lower Perthshire. It's an absolute mystery as to who it belonged to prior to that.
   "On the flash drive there's a file named 'Family History'. I opened it up just the other day whilst looking for an old birth certificate, thinking this was a drive and file of my own that I'd forgotten about. Of course, that was when I realise that it isn't mine Each file has either a first name, a date, or a location attached to it, but the information is scant. There are no surnames, no full addresses, and some folks are simply labelled as 'Mum,' or 'Granddad,' or by their first name.
   "I'm a big fan of family research so I've been using Ancestry.com alongside Google Maps and Facebook to see if anything at all registered. That's when I found The Mill website. From census books, old maps, etc. I've established that the pic labelled '263 Long Lane' may have been taken in Croydon in the mid 1950s/60s.
   "I'd love to track them down so that I can return this flash drive to the rightful owner. I'll send some other pics shortly, once I'm on my laptop. There's no more like this big group shot, but some of the other pics may be of former pupils. One may have been called Michael."
   Justine also supplied this image shown right of a JRGS pupil named John, in his new school uniform and about to set off for his first day at JRGS in September 1957. Does anybody recognise these streets or the setting?
   Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version.

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA; June 2020 Email

ML adds: I have received an additional five images from Justine Bainbridge that show our mystery JRGS pupil, "John," in football kit and cricket whites, together with other unidentified locations. Click on any thumbnail to view a larger version.


John in soccer kit - July 1958

John in cricket whites - 1958

John and friend - date unknown

John in Long Lane front garden - date unknown

Families at an unknown event

Terry Weight (JRGS 1959-66) adds: Which of these photos is labelled "263 Long Lane"? (My family lived quite near there.) I ask because the area behind this house - Longheath Gardens - was (I think) full of those small prefabricated homes that are shown in the baby photo. It also seems possible that the gate in the baby photo and the small boys photo could be the same, but I think the prefabs were not replaced until the Sixties, and then with the multi-storey buildings there now. So, I suspect it is not the same gate since there is a house in the background. However, I don’t recognise the road with John on his first day at school; I don’t think this is Long Lane. If his first day was September 1958, he was of course one year ahead of us. It looks to me in the speech-day photo of 1958 that John is three rows back and three from the left.
   I am puzzled by the photo labelled John in cricket whites - 1957. He is wearing a JRGS cap. If he started in 1958, he would not be doing this in 1957 or 1958. [ML: This has been corrected; see below.]

John Byford (JRGS 1959-66) adds: The clue is 263 Long Lane; it would have been prefabs back in 1958. It's part of the A222 from Croydon, imagine driving along Lower Addiscombe Road; at Ashburton Park the A222 becomes Long Lane; and, not far from Elmers End, it becomes Croydon Road. The prefabs would have been not far from where Long Lane becomes Croydon Road.
   There were 102 prefabs built on the Longheath Estate from 1945-49 (By way of comparison there were 320 in New Addington, where my family lived, together the webmaster's.) More information from this website. And there is a image a pre-fabricated Arcon house taken on Longheath Estate can be seen here.

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: I sometimes used to cycle along Long Lane on my way home - although via Portland Road in South Norwood was a bit shorter - and remember it well. I looked on Google Earth and there are newish houses replacing the prefabs.

Paul Johnson (JRGS 1966-73) adds: Isn't that a remarkable story! Flash drives haven't been around that long, relatively speaking, so someone will be missing it! I'm afraid that 1958 was a bit before my time, but I reckon someone's going to come up with a name or two!

Mike Beaumont (JRGS 1955-60) adds: I cannot spot myself in that 1958 speech-day photo - I’d have been 14. But it brings back memories of being in that hall about six rows back, with the rich sounds from the organ and singing the school song and, at Christmas, Adeste Fideles!

Roger Hall (JRGS 1959-66) adds: I have no idea who "John" is, but what a lovely set of photos that are very evocative of the era. I wonder if the perfabs are a part what became the Monkshill Estate between Shirley and West Wickham?

Your Webmaster adds: Justine has confirmed that the prefab image file is labelled 263 Long Lane. As she writes: "You would not believe the lengths I've gone to over the last week to come up with that Croydon theory! If I told you I'd turned the Internet upside-down, then that would be a pretty apt description of my investigative efforts. If anything, I'm dedicated when it comes to research!"
   Regarding the image shown above of two children on a garden gate, "I had sent this one to you as a location reference as houses can be seen in the background," Justine says. "There's definitely a few kids in the family, possibly two or more siblings - or perhaps cousins - by the names of Michael, Maureen and Karen. Their mother may be called Irene/Rene or Esther."
   Justine also clarifies:
   ● John in uniform dated Sept 1957.
John in football strip dated July 1958.
John in cricket whites is dated 1958 only.

Justine has also sent another batch of images from the flash drive, covering a seaside visit, an office outing and more shots of domestic life.
   As she writes: "Some pics add context to the story and, in particular, to John. In addition to the seaside photograph, there's an additional folder named 'Hemsby' within the main 'Family History' folder. These show family members together on holiday in Norfolk. It looks like there are perhaps five children in the family. To recap, four of those names, so far, are Maureen, John, Karen and Michael. [Hemsby is a seaside resort some 7.5 miles/12.1 km north of Great Yarmouth - ML]
   "I have no idea what school was the scene of the schoolgirl picture, but that seems to be John's sister Maureen sitting bottom right.
   "In the family group besides a caravan, the car number plate was registered in London in 1957. I'm wondering if John and Michael were twins!? If not, they do seem very close in age.
   "I've added the final picture below because it would appear to provide some info about the occupation of John's dad. According to the bus board, it's an annual staff outing. The firm of Percy Trilnick made women and children's clothing, and was located in London's Regent Street.
   "I'm still no closer to a family surname but I've yet to post these to Facebook."
Click on any thumbnail to view a larger version.

Front Garden- April 1958

 Seaside Visit - TBA

Family Group - 1956/7

Playing in front garden - April 1958

Family holiday in Hemsby, Norfolk

Family outing - date unknown

School Photograph - May 1958

Works Outing - 27_August, 1938

John's sister, Maureen, seen center row far right

Annual staff outing - 27 August, 1938

Finally, here is a map from Google.com of Long Lane, Woodside, where John's family may have lived, and an image of the house at the end of the street - 263 Long Lane - pictured in July 2109. ©Google.
   Click on either thumbnail to view a larger version.

263 Long Lane - July 2019

Terry Weight adds: What an interesting detective story! I assume alumni know that old electoral rolls are available either in the local library or in document form at the British Library. Perhaps someone living in Croydon might look?
   As we see in Google Maps street view, 263 Long Lane is a red brick house of a very similar age to where I lived. My old house was built in 1947. I suspect these houses were built at virtually the same time. The Baby Photo shows prefabs opposite. John would have been born in early 1947 or late 1946, and therefore the photo could therefore be at the front of 263 (just). In this case, it is possible that three prefabs were at that time on the small piece of land between 263 Long Lane and the main road, which you can see in Google Maps.
   The Playing in the Front Garden Photo a puzzle. The house is pebble-dashed, suggesting this is not 263 Long Lane nor does it look like a prefab. I also note that the house in the Cricket Whites and Football Kit photos is also pebble dashed. I think there were pebbled dashed, pre-war houses in the area of Long Lane, look at the houses in Mardell Road and also further up Long Lane, going towards Croydon, between Bywood Avenue and Stroud Green Way.
   I also note that there is no "twin" in the photo by the Car and Caravan; perhaps Michael was a cousin, or took the photo. It seems slightly unlikely that John’s "twin" would not also be attending JRGS, and they would probably be much more memorable to The Mill readers. If he was a twin, it is possible Michael died before 1958.
   The photo John and Friend also may not have been taken at 263 Long Lane. The house in the background is a similar vintage to those of my house and 263. I don’t think this is opposite 263, although the houses now on the other side of the main road are much more modern.
   I am also still puzzled by the Cricket Whites photo. John could have been trying them on for the photo in 1958, but he would not have worn them for a game or sports afternoon until 1959.
   Other than that, I still have no names to suggest. I'm not sure that this contribution helps much in finding the family except perhaps the electoral roll suggestion.

Vernon Rees (JRGS 1958-65) adds: "John" was a couple of years behind me so I don't recognize him. However, close scrutiny of the 1958 School Photo may put him in the second row from the front and ninth from the far left. Identifying those either side of him may prove fruitful. The picture of John sitting on the gate with a friend shows them both wearing caps from The Life Boys, the junior branch of The Boys Brigade, so that may be an avenue of research. Regrettably I am a duffer at this new fangled technology, although I did find a number of sites relating to the Boys Brigade.
   I hope that may be some help.

Bob Hyslop JRGS 1953-60) adds: I’m sure I’d have been somewhere at any Speech Day in those years – if it was for the event on 28/11/58 then I appeared on the programme. In the photo, on the front line, second from the right) is Peter Grey (with glasses), who accepted O-Level prizes for History & Geography; on his right is Terry Procter who, two years later, received A-Level prizes for English & Latin. We three, after 60+ years, are still friends and intercommunicate regularly, though time has undermined personal visits.
   In 1974 I attended the function for the retirement of headmaster  John Christopher Lowe MA. Two scraps of conversation remain with me: Mr. David Rees regretting the advent of girls into the school (and I’m sure many ex-pupils will know why); and the only fellow classmate there commenting that nobody was interested in what he’d done - he owned two small companies - unlike ex-pupils who’d thrived in the academic world. (I was then a lecturer at Chichester College.) In a way, both comments sum up changing attitudes.


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