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JRGS Alumni Society

  

 Clive Whitehead (JRGS 1950-52) reports sad news about Mr. Neville Graham

On 23rd December, 2019, I attended the funeral in Perth, Western Australia, of Neville Graham (JRGS Teacher 1957-69). He was 87 years old and had suffered for several years from facial skin cancer the result, he said, of spending most of his life working as a PE master in the sun. “Nev” was a popular master at John Ruskin from 1957 until his departure for New Zealand in 1969. He was forever endeared to his beloved Form 5G.
   The funeral was attended by about 25 people. Neville's eldest son and his wife Pat were in attendance at what was a simple but moving farewell. He hailed from Tyneside, the youngest of a family of 11 siblings. His father was a miner but none of the children ever followed him down the pit. Nev was a talented sportsman who excelled at soccer and he had trials as a youngster with Blackpool, Liverpool, and Tottenham before joining Burnley. He studied for a degree in PE at Loughborough College before obtaining his first teaching job at John Ruskin.
   I first met Neville when I taught at John Ruskin in 1966-67; we played together in the staff cricket team. It was mainly through me that Nev decided to emigrate to Christchurch, New Zealand. I told the headmaster of my previous teaching school - Linwood High School - that I knew a first-class teacher who was keen to emigrate. The rest is history. Neville taught for the next 20 years at Linwood. He became head of the PE department and an outstanding member of staff. For many years he played a major role as both a coach and administrator of boys' soccer in Christchurch.
   Neville was one of those teachers who form the backbone of any teaching staff and he played sport not to win at all costs but to instil in boys a love of sportsmanship and fair play. In later life he expressed grave concern at the win at all costs now so prevalent in modern sport. While resident in New Zealand he also became a keen fly fisherman. He eventually came to live in Perth in retirement because both of his sons moved to Australia.
   Neville was a true gentleman and a close friend of Mr. Charles “Smithy” Smith, who needs no introduction to Ruskin boys. For many years they exchanged Christmas cards until "Smithy" died. At the funeral service my mind was living the many happy memories I had of teaching at John Ruskin, and the staff gatherings after a staff cricket match on a balmy summer evening in Selsdon. It all seems so long ago and even more so walking down Tamworth Road as a first-day pupil in 1950 in my new school uniform. I was destined to be in Form 1H, Miss Hickmott's class. We called her the eighth wonder of the world. On our first meeting her, she told us her name and said “on all occasions when you speak to me you will address me as "Madam"'!
   In retrospect, I was very fortunate to meet and get to know Neville as a friend and teaching colleague. His wife Pat is a few years younger than Neville but still drives her car and leads an active life.”

Clive Whitehead, Perth, Western Australia, January 2020 Email

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: I admired Neville Graham; he was fair and sympathetic and had high standards.

Your webmaster adds: My top memory of Mr. "Piggy" Graham is more prosaic. As our PE/games teacher, in the autumn of 1959 I recall that he supervised our showers following sports activities, either in the gym or on The Mill Pitch. I recall being a skinny member of 1M and taking my first communal shower with some 30 other skinny schoolboys. To defuse our embarrassment, Mr. Graham advising us how to grow hair of our chests. “At night, sprinkle some salt on your chests,” he said. “Then, when the hairs come out for a drink, tie a knot in them!” He was a lovely, caring teacher. He will be much missed.
   An appreciation of 1967’s 5G, of which he was form master, can be found here:

And here is a link to a contribution to The Mill from April 2006, when John Byford (JRGS 1959-66) reported that current Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson (JRGS 1958-654) had spoken warmly of Neville Graham.

Chris Rook (JRGS 1961-68) adds: At Ruskin during the Sixties, Neville Graham was a constant feature of my school life, due to the fact that I and a few friends spent much of our time in the gym or on the Mill Pitch under his tutelage. He was a "good egg" - firm but friendly, with a strong sense of purpose towards his subject and the ethos of the school. His track suit bore the initials LCPE (Loughborough College of Physical Education).
   I'm bound to say that I reckon it was the Golden Age of JRGS.  He, Tony Hasler and Charles Smith (also known by schoolboy sobriquets) built a first-class school football team. (I could only make Second 11.)  One of their successes was the development of a talented footballer, Steve Kember. He was in the year above so we didn't see much of him, and he went on to play pro at the highest level - so then we had to pay to watch him.

   I recall a game at the Oaks Road grounds. A very good player - Colin Bunn - was about to take a corner and, to his dismay, Mr. G. shouted "left foot". Such was his commitment to bring on good talent - a great teacher, by any measure.

   I have an abiding memory of a framed poem hanging on the changing room wall - I may not have it word perfect:

   And when the one great scorer comes
   To write against your name
  
He writes not if you won or lost
   But how you played the game.

Of course, anyone could have put it there, but I rather think it was Piggy. Rest in Peace Mr. G.

Jim Thomas (JRGS 1959-66) adds: Mr. Graham started lacrosse at the school in my second year, and I joined at the beginning. I played lacrosse from the second year to Upper 6th in the school team. We practiced on The Mill Pitch behind the Windmill and played [at the sports field] down Oaks Road – at start it was like a ploughed field but then it was flattened out.
   We played against teams from schools around South East: Sidcup, etc.
We purchased our own Crosse or stick, leather gloves and a padded hat. But we had school team shirts that we quite thick, for some protection! The ball was solid rubber (very hard) and similar in size to a tennis ball.
   When playing, we ran with ball in the Crosse and, to stop someone, you could body check and hit an opponent's Crosse to drop the ball.
   I also seem to recall a chap who helped with the sports called Sid [Bishop, who was a green keeper at Mitcham or such where! Can anyone remember him?

Your Webmaster adds: According to Wikipedia, Lacrosse is based on games played by various Native American communities as early as 1100 AD. By the 17th Century, a version of lacrosse was well-established and documented by Jesuit missionary priests in the territory of present-day Canada. In the traditional aboriginal Canadian version, each team consisted of about 100 to 1,000 men on a field several miles long; games lasted from sunup to sundown for two to three days and were played as part of ceremonial ritual. By 1900 there were dozens of men's clubs in Canada, the United States, England, Australia and New Zealand, the women's game being introduced in Scotland in 1890.
   Field lacrosse is the men's outdoor version, with 10 players on each team: three attackmen, three midfielders, three defensemen and one goalie. The lacrosse stick between 40 and 42 inches, and is used by attackmen and midfielders. A maximum of four players - the three defensemen and sometimes one defensive midfielder - per team can carry a longer stick that is between 52 and 72 inches long. The goalie uses a stick with a head as wide as 12 inches that can be between 40 and 72 inches long.

  

 Martin Burl (JRGS 1961-63) recalls A-Levels at the school and offers a poem…

John AdkinsDuring our recent table-tennis match at the Redhill Methodist Church Hall, Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1963-65) told me about The Mill. I'm afraid that my memories of the two years I spent there doing A-Levels are very hazy. I came with a great sense of inferiority from a secondary modern school. I scraped through a couple of A-Levels, and did the first year of a general science degree at West Ham, but dropped out and got a job.
   My most important influence came from Mr. John Adkins, my physics teacher, pictured right, who was involved in running Croydon Schools Camps - a Christian organisation - to which I was invited. I think I also went to Christian union meetings at school. John also ran Crusaders, a boy's bible class, which I joined later. At my first camp at Brighstone on the Isle of Wight, I was a tent officer, as I was a sixth former. I was responsible for morning devotions in the tent, yet was very ignorant of the bible. I was a choir boy at St. Luke's, Woodside, which was very high Anglo-Catholic! I became a real Christian at the camp at age 17, and it was the most important decision of my life.
   The following poem is about the famous windmill, which I hope will be of interest.

Roses, Rings & Parakeets

A windmill still stands on the site
where I once went to school.
Now houses, streets and gardens crawl,
extending left and right.

That windmill has some residents,
who flew in recently.
Their ancestors across the sea
had no malign intents,

but their descendants, thriving here,
although our climate’s cool,
don’t care for history at all,
and pecking without fear

at sails becalmed upon that mill,
to sharpen up their beaks,
breed consternation in antiques
who have to pay the bill.

These immigrants are colourful,
most numerous and shrill;
grey squirrels, knotweed, crayfish,
fill the spaces which they rule;

likewise these birds have joined that roll
of foreign creatures known –
Elstree, not Luna House has sown
them, breeding now beyond control.

As the JRGS Alumni may know, rose-ringed parakeets have made their home in the windmill on the site of the old John Ruskin Grammar School in Shirley, Croydon, which is now a housing estate. The birds have done about £50,000 damage to the sails.

Martin Burl, Woldingham, Surrey; November 2019 Email

Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1963-65) adds: I remember Martin telling me, with a smile on his face, about school trips to Croyde Bay in North Devon with John Adkins and Mr. Anthony Davey, and their excessive driving in Adkin's Morris 1000 and Davey's Triumph Herald. (I also remember a trip in the latter.)

  

 Dave Anderson (JRGS 1964-71) uncovers an interesting YouTube video ...

During a recent very wet and windy Saturday, I came across an old film on YouTube entitled "A Car Journey from South London through Kent in 1964'" - the year that I started at JRGS! (More). I think the snow was from that wicked winter of 1962-63.

"A Car Journey from South London through Kent in 1964'"

While the film is a bit disjointed and out of order, it is still a memory jerker. I'm just glad someone recorded and uploaded it all those years later. I am sure the alumni will recognise some of these places; I did. The video takes you back to a simpler uncluttered South London when nearly every vehicle was British; vast change in this area now. Take a look at the comments below the posting, which are interesting.
    I have been trying to work out the cameraman's car. Was it an Austin A40?

David Anderson, Southampton, Hampshire; November 2019 Email

Your Webmaster adds: The six-minute YouTube video uploaded by Mackenzie Rough reportedly follows a road trip through Kent and Surrey driving along the A20 through Sittingbourne, Coulsdon North, Crayford and other towns, in addition to Thornton Heath and Crystal Palace, plus Redhill, Hooley, Bexleyheath Broadway, Forest Hill, London Road, past Devonshire Road and Coulsdon, Surrey. This British Pathe video from 1964 might also appeal.

  

 Richard “Tom” Thomas (JRGS 1957-64) announces program for Alumni Reunion

Co-organiser Ian Macdonald (JRGS 1958-65) and I have been developing a program for the planned John Ruskin Golden Alumnus 2020 Centennial Reunion, which will held at John Ruskin College on Wednesday 10th June. The program will commence at around 11:00 AM with Alumni collecting their name badges and registering their arrival. This will be followed by a welcome at 11.15 AM and then tours of the college given by current students. Lunch will be at 1.00 PM. A programme including a performance by the Golden Alumnus rock band "Alumnirock", videos and presentations will follow. The Reunion will wind down from about 4:00 PM.
   From 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM the John Ruskin College Centennial Celebrations will be held, to include all other alumni and staff who worked and studied at successor Ruskin Schools, together with other invited guests. The college principal, Kevin Standish, and college staff extend a cordial invitation to Golden Alumni to attend the John Ruskin College celebrations.
   Anyone connected with the school who thinks they may be able to join the Golden Alumnus Reunion should please let us know as soon as possible, so that we can plan with some knowledge of likely attendance. Please reply to Ian or me to register your potential interest and that of your spouse or partner, as appropriate. This response will not be taken as a firm “registration“, but will help immensely with our planning processes for the Reunion.
   Ian or I will contact you again in 2020 with the cost of Reunion attendance and lunch, when you will be able to make your decision on attending the Reunion and then make your pre-payment.
   In your reply about potential interest in the Reunion, please also indicate on a similar basis whether or not you might stay on for all or part of the John Ruskin College celebrations.

Richard "Tom" Thomas, Shrewsbury, Shropshire; November 2019 Email

  

 Richard “Tom” Thomas (JRGS 1957-64) announces Golden Alumni Reunion

During the 2015 Reunion held at John Ruskin College, the then-principal, Mohammed Ramzan, coined the name “John Ruskin Golden Alumni” for schoolboys of John Ruskin Grammar School and earlier JR schools. Our webmaster has raised this term again within recent postings. Reunion co-organiser Ian Macdonald (JRGS 1958-65) and I find this a very appropriate reference, and so use it in this announcement.
   The John Ruskin Golden Alumni 2020 Reunion, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of John Ruskin Schools in Croydon, will be held at John Ruskin College, Selsdon Park Road, South Croydon, CR2 8J, on Wednesday, 10th June 2020. Spouses and partners of alumni are very welcome to attend.

   To help us with planning of the Golden Alumni Reunion, if you intend to attend please reply to Ian or me, to register your interest and that of your spouse or partner, as appropriate. Please let us know, even if you had previously replied to the polling for the reunion's date. Firm bookings and payments will be taken later, starting between two or three months before the event.
   As we develop plans for the 2020 Reunion, further details will be published on The Mill.
   Both Ian and I urge you to make every effort to attend this historic celebration, as the presence of a good number of John Ruskin Golden Alumni will mark this special event in a very memorable manner.
   As we have said in earlier announcements, not only does 2020 mark the Centennial of our school's founding at Scarbrook Road, Croydon, in January 1920, but it is also the 85th Anniversary of the school's move to Tamworth Road, the 75th Anniversary of the school achieving grammar school status, and the 65th Anniversary of its relocation to the Upper Shirley Road site.

Richard "Tom" Thomas, Shrewsbury, Shropshire; October 2019 Email

Your Webmaster adds: Please note that this event on 10 June is separate from the now cancelled John Ruskin 2020 Centennial Celebration which, as Anne Smith (JRGS/JRHS Teacher & Principal 1970-99) told me during a trip to the UK in June, was to be held at the sixth-form college next year on 12 January, 2020, the 100th Anniversary of the school's formal opening date at the Scarbrook Road site with 210 schoolboys.
   And, having reviewed my travel plans for next year, sadly I will be usable to attend the June event.

Karl Smith (JRGS 1946-51) adds: I've got somewhat mixed feelings about becoming a Golden Alumni - it might create a sort of "Us & Them" division, although we older members are falling by the wayside. Too many of my own years are already long gone. This year I've been forced to limit what I do since having a stroke in April - my first ever enforced stay in hospital; I've got balance and stamina problems. I also had a fall in the garden last Sunday when I tripped while pushing a loaded barrow that tipped over me! It took my wife and two sons 40 minutes to get me up again because my legs had become useless. Oh, the joys of getting old!
   Back to the history of JRGS ... I recall that the school was in Scarbrook Road at one time and, I think, went to Tamworth Road in 1935. There it was classed a Central School, being given Grammar School status around 1945. I came back to Croydon from South Wales in November 1945, transferring from Pontypridd Grammar School to JRGS at that time. I can't remember if I started at the end of the autumn term or in  January 1946.
   Anyway, I entered the Fourth Form with Mr. C. E. Smith as form master. At the end of that year I remained in the forth because I was one of the younger ones, and it was possibly determined that I wouldn't be ready for School Cert that year. So I was in the first year to take the London exams instead of Oxford. Moving into the Sixth Form I spent three years and sat the last Higher Schools Cert and the first A-Level, gaining extra qualifications in Maths under Mr. "Puncher" Pearce's and Mr. S. G. Evans' tuition.
   The late Roy Baldwin and I shared the school prizes for Maths (he got Pure, I got Applied). Roy later taught at the Upper Shirley Road site for a short time. That's a bit of a coincidence because Roy and I had started at Waddon Junior School in 1938 as rising five-year olds, but went to different places during the war. He was an evacuee but my father worked in aviation and was dispersed from Croydon to the new aero-engine overhaul facility set up in South Wales. It's still there, now owned by GE and a major engine-overhaul set up.
   I missed out on the new JRGS site at Shirley and note with sadness the changeover to comprehensive that cost the school so many of its first-class teachers. We had concerns about that changeover and the education powers' insistence that all comprehensive schools would be the same and achieve sixth-form qualifications even without experienced staff. That cost us dearly because we then paid for independent schooling.
   I've blathered on long enough, must get on with breakfast washing up and garage "tidying" of 30-year old clutter. First though, I have to displace our neighbours' cat who is sharing lap space with my computer. Why be difficult when, with a little more effort, you can be impossible?
   I want to wish our webmaster all the best in all his ventures, and thanks yet again for all the past news. I have enjoyed The Mill ever since I discovered it a few years back.

 

 David John Waghorn (JRGS 1950-55) is looking for fellow classmates...

l was a pupil at the school between 1950 and 1955, and would like to make contact with any of my year group who may still be around. l left prior to the move to the new school in Shirley. However, I was given the task by the Mr. Lowe, the headmaster, to record an index of loose furnishings such as pictures, etc. ahead of the school move.
   I find looking through The Mill website brings back many happy memories.
   PS: At school l was known as John, although most called me "Wag".

David John Waghorn, Chesham Bois, Bucks; October 2019 Email

  

 James Daniell (JRGS 1954-59) recalls his era at the school - and two encounters...

I’m fairly certain that amongst my treasures I have a 1956 School Photo. There isn’t one on The Mill website. Surely someone must have provided one; if they have not, I’m your man. And here is the result.
   As can be seen from the enlargement below, I’m seated directly below Mr. Clark and Mr. Warne, an unruly length of hair compromising vision iJames Daniell - March 1956 school photon my right eye. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version.
   At the time I was impressed at how smoothly the photographic session went, a very well behaved bunch of young men. I'm confident that I could put names to faces of just about all my classmates who were then in the very laid-back custody of Mr. "Ernie" Catchpole, who looked after my form through three years up to O-Levels. My first-form master was Mr. Alan "Ego" Murray - an ideal introduction to senior school - and my second was Mr. "Chico" Culcheth, who left the school in 1957 to join Monks Park School, Bristol.
   The Mill’s Teachers Page shows Messrs Clark and Warne in a photo taken of all the teachers a month or two prior to the move up to Shirley in 1955.
   The Tamworth Road building was still there in the Seventies, and was being used as a Croydon Council office. I wandered into the yard one day whilst on a visit back to Croydon to see my parents. A kind gentleman walking across the yard asked me if he could be of assistance. On being told that the room behind the windows to the right of the entrance steps was my classroom for three months, he very graciously took me into the building to see my old room. It made my day.
    A brief tale. One day back in the Seventies I was in Grants [Croydon department store] with my wife helping with the Christmas shopping chore. I spotted Roy Burton whilst in the gifts department. Roy was a particularly good friend and I have just found out from The Mill that he concluded his cadet stint with J Coy. as Company Sergeant Major/CSM. Bravo, Roy.
   Anyway, I warned my wife that I would attract his attention in a rather unorthodox fashion. I hid myself behind a display of baubles and tinsel before treating the occupants of the gifts department to a rousing first verse of “When the light of truth is fading ..." etc. from the school song. "This will bring him rushing to my side," I thought. No such luck! Roy must have quit the scene fairly promptly and I haven’t seen him since.
   As you can imagine, I was the subject of some curious stares. (And in trouble with the wife again.)
   And regarding my possibly odd sense of humour ... Yes, I abandoned all pretence to sophistication and convention around the time I was in third year of Latin under Mr. David "Rhino" Rees. He brought me into contact with many quirky characters along the way, and kept me at arm’s length from those with little or no sense of humour.
   Best wishes to alumni; I love the site.

James Daniell, Margate, Kent; October 2019 Email

  

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