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JRGS Alumni Society


 Richard “Tom” Thomas (1957-64) identifies dates for 2020 Centennial Reunion...

JRGS Reunion co-organiser Ian Macdonald (JRGS 1958-65) and I have attended two meetings at John Ruskin College regarding celebrations in 2020 of the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of Ruskin Schools in Croydon. Three possible Wednesdays have been identified in June 2020 when we would be able to hold the JRGS 2020 Centennial Reunion at John Ruskin College. At the suggestion of our webmaster we are polling JRGS Alumni on their availability on those dates.
   The three dates are: Wednesday, 10 June; Wednesday, 17 June; and Wednesday, 24 June, 2020.
   Can Alumni that are planning to attend the 2020 Reunion please e-mail Ian at
ian@macinterp.com or Tom at richard.thomas6@talktalk.net to indicate on which of these three dates they will be available, and on which dates they will not be available? Can all email replies please be sent to us by Friday 13 September 2019?

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


 Your Webmaster reports on alumni meetings during a recent London trip ...

During a recent five-week trip to London for family and business meetings, I had the opportunity to get together with several JRGS Alumni and a former head teacher, comprising Martin Preuveneers (JRGS 1958-65) and John Cobley (JRGS 1958-65) for an Indian meal near Mayfair; Anne Smith (JRGS/JRHS Teacher & Principal 1970-99) for a tour of Croydon; John Byford (JRGS 1959-66) at a restaurant near the Young Vic in Southwark; plus Richard "Tom" Thomas ((JRGS 1957-64) and Ian Macdonald (JRGS 1958-65) close to the South Bank.

   On Friday 7th of June, I travelled from Richmond, West London, to Mayfair to visit Martin Preuveneers' townhouse close to the former American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, where John Cobley was staying the night before journeying to Eastbourne later that week to visit his sister and other relatives. The image below features Your Correspondent (left) with John and Martin.

Martin was in town for a few days with his wife Maxine from their permanent home in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco in Northern California. As we learned, the former US Embassy is currently being converted into a seven-star hotel at a reported cost of £1 billion. (The Grade 2 listed building's unique façade will be preserved, however, while the interior is completely demolished, and new levels constructed below ground level; the renovation project is scheduled to take five years.)
   I last saw John some four years ago during a trip to the City by The Bay, and a modern-art visit to SFMOMA. He recently ended his career as a professor at the University of San Francisco, and no longer teaches his course for arts students on biological evolution. But he still plays guitar regularly in a local pub.
   Our luncheon venue was Indian Accent on Albemarle Street, where all three of us opted to try the two-course lunch with optional desert. Described as specializing in Western Indian cuisine, the restaurant’s menu was rather unusual, to say the least. Following an Amuse Bouche of a vegetarian flapjack with accompanying curried soup, I opted for raw mango prawn with jersey potatoes, followed by chicken tikka, dubba gosht with a baked egg. The table accompaniments included tadka sesame vegetables, dal, steamed basmati rice, watercress and cucumber raita, plus roti, naan and paratha breads.
   For dessert, I elected to try the aamras, mangoes with cardamom cheesecake with summer berries, some of which I shared with both John and Martin.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

Our lunch spread at Indian Accent restaurant,
 with roti, naan and paratha breads.

My main course comprised chicken tikka,
dubba gosht served with a baked egg.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

My dessert: aamras, mangoes and cardamom
cheesecake with summer berries.

John 's desert choice was equally exotic,
and topped with vanilla bean ice cream.

After our nearly three-hour lunch, during which we caught up with all kinds of domestic matters, plus retirement plans, our party strolled back to Martin’s house for a welcome cup of tea, and more chat about the world. Because all three of us have now lived in California for several dozen years, comparisons between England in the Eighties and now were inevitable. All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to fall back into the company of true friends. We promised to get together again in the very near future.
   Incidentally, on the return journey we all dropped into The Royal Institution at 21 Albemarle Street, an organisation founded in 1799 to advance scientific education and research. All three of us had attended one or more of the Institution's annual Christmas Lectures, which were founded by Michael Faraday in 1825. I can recall one in the mid-Sixties that involved, during one section, an admixture of flower blooms and liquid nitrogen, with remarkable results.

Oil painting by Terence Cuneo showing Lawrence Bragg delivering a Christmas Lecture on electrostatics in
the 1961–1962 series. Bill Coates is operating the Wimshurst machine, while the President of The Royal
Institution, Lord Brabazon, is seated on the chair.

Within the reading room/library, John commented that such book collections are becoming a rarity, with most reference texts now available on-line or central servers at university libraries. (John also commented on the use of custom software to spot plagiarism and downright copying in essays and submitted journal papers, but that might be the subject of a future submission.)

On Friday 14th of June, I journeyed down to Croydon for lunch with Anne Smith, and to catch up with progress on the planned Ruskin Centenary Celebrations next year. We met at Croydon Park Hotel near East Croydon Station, for a pleasant buffet lunch and catch-up. I had not seen Anne in person since a dinner in December 2009 at the Beefeater Coombe Lodge with other alumni. The venue on Coombe Road was close to our former sports grounds on Oaks Road, Shirley.
   Here is an image of Anne captured in the aptly-named square close to East Croydon Station, and the site of recent shop and office developments.

London Trip - June and July, 2019

Because I had arrived on an early train, I took the opportunity to spend 40 minutes wandering west along George Street from the station towards the town center, to revisit locations I had not seen for several years.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

East Croydon railway station and tram tracks.

Restaurant modules in shipping containers.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

Corner of George Street and Park Lane,

Corner of George Street and Wellesley Road.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

Wellesley Road looking north, with underpass.

Park Lane looking south towards Fairfield Halls.

London Trip - June and July, 2019

London Trip - June and July, 2019

George Street at Wellesley Road, looking west.

Former Allders department store on North End.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

North End with former Kennard's store, now Debenhams.

Alms Houses at corner of George Street & North End.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

Opposite corner of George Street and High Street.

Former Grants store on western side of High Street.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

The Spread Eagle pub on Katherine Street ...

... adjacent to Croydon Town Hall, built in 1895.

London Trip - June and July, 2019 London Trip - June and July, 2019

Remodeled Fairfield Halls, to be re-opened soon.

Closed for three years, the makeover cost £30 million.

Anne and I discussed the upcoming Ruskin Centenary Reunion, which will comprise two complimentary events. On 12 January, 2020, The Ruskin Sixth Form College, now part of the Redhill-based East Surrey College, will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of our school opening for business at Scarbrook Road. In mid-June, on dates still to be finalized, JRGS Alumni will join with college staff and pupils to celebrate 100 years of the school's history, including displays of memorabilia and related materials. As Anne explained, the current planning committee of six individuals, including herself, Richard "Tom" Thomas and Ian Macdonald, are finalizing dates and content, with details being shared soon here on The Mill. Please stay tuned!
   I was also reminded that Anne this year is celebrating 50 years of association with John Ruskin Schools, starting in 1969 as a comparatively young woman of 32. Anne started her teaching career at a girls' independent boarding school, leaving it when she became pregnant; after the birth of her son she taught part time before moving to Croydon in 1964 to teach English at Selhurst Grammar School for Girls. She is thankful of a long, successful career, and one that is moving into a new phase with the Centenary Celebrations.

On Tuesday 18th of June, following a matinee performance of Githa Sowerby’s new play, Rutherford and Son, at the National Theater, I journeyed to Southwalk for dinner with John Byford, who had selected a favourite venue: The Baltic Restaurant. Specialising in the cuisines of Eastern and Central Europe, the menu is extensive, with a cornucopia of fresh fish and vodkas for the curious. For my starter I opted for Sledz - marinated herring with pickles - followed by Blinis with a selection of smoked fish and aubergine caviars.
   Since my head was still full of Sowerby’s play, which reportedly was inspired by her own experience of growing up in a family-run factory in Gateshead, I was favorably disposed to hearing middle-European accents from restaurant staff, and to stories of John's recent family visits to the Czech Republic and travels to Switzerland, Austria and Lithuania. We also compared notes about our respective time at the University of Sussex - mine on the sciences and John in the arts - before graduating and taking up life in The Fast Lane, so to speak. We both agreed that our working-class backgrounds - like a lot of our contemporaries at JRGS in the late-Fifties - had stood us in good staid, and provided a useful frame of reference during the turbulent Sixties and Seventies. John agreed that we had come along but retained favourable impressions of life on the New Addington council estate.
   For my part, I am indebted to the teachers and staff at JRGS for making me a better person that I knew I was capable of becoming, and providing a invaluable sense of cultural perspective. If I had my time over again, I'd take an arts degree - probably 19th century history, which fascinates me - but I have no complaints whatsoever about my current point of reference.
   John also told me about his regular art experiences at the Courtauld Institute, whose galleries adjacent to Somerset House are scheduled to re-open in the new future. While at the British Library he had returned to the University of Sussex to give a lecture about the British Library. It was interesting to be back on the campus, he told me, and to deliver a talk in the large Arts Lecture Theatre A, a room I also remember from regular film shows on Wednesday afternoons, while other undergraduates were off participating in various sporting activities.
   Turning briefly to politics, we wondered at the fate of the UK after Brexit and my "disappointment at the stupidly of the English." John recommended the Financial Times for its objectivity, unbiased reporting and the quality of its prose.
   In true Ruskin style we adjourned to the refurbished Ring public house next door for a swift one for the road.

London Trip - June and July, 2019

Your correspondent (right) with John Byford

London Trip - June and July, 2019

London Trip - June and July, 2019

 My starter: Sledz - marinated herring with pickles.

My main course: Blinis with smoked fish.

On Monday 1st of July, I journeyed into London via Waterloo for a very pleasant lunch at Brasserie Blanc restaurant, close to the South Bank, with Richard "Tom" Thomas and Ian Macdonald. It was my first time meeting Tom; I last got together with Ian at a Pizza Express in Victoria in November 23, 2002.
   As mentioned above, both Tom and Ian are members of the planning committee for next year's Ruskin Centenary Celebrations, and are currently working on a date for the JRGS Alumni meeting some time in June. I again offered to put The Mill at their disposal, as well as securing feedback regarding suitable dates for the gathering from the email list of alumni that I maintain.
   Both Tom and Ian shared details of health issues they and their families are facing, a inevitable result, we concluded, of Anno Domini. We parted mid-afternoon at Waterloo, with Ian heading off to East Croydon and then Shirley, where he lives close to The Windmill, Tom to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, and myself to Richmond via Southwest Railway.
   The image below features Your Correspondent (center) with Tom and Ian.

London Trip - June and July, 2019

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA. July 2019 Email

 Karl W. Smith (JRGS 1946-52) adds: Thanks to our Webmaster for all these updates, which are most interesting. My problem is that you all seem so young, having attended JRGS so long after I went to the school in Tamworth Road. Since I've not been back to Croydon - other than to pass around it on either Purley Way or Beddington Lane - since my parents moved away from there in the early 1970s these pictures show so many changes. Mind you, my Teddy Bear bought from Hamleys in George Street still has pride of place in my home, having comforted several of our sons in the intervening years. I'm not sure if he left the shop in December 1934 or 1935!

Michael Beaumont (JRGS 1955-60) adds: With regard to our webmaster's report of his recent visit to Croydon, it was great to see the photos of central Croydon, which brought back a host of memories.
   I lived with my parents and sisters in Thornton Heath for all my years at school. In the early years, before I started cycling to school, I caught the bus from Thornton Heath Pond to Shirley Hills. It went past a number of the locations these pictures feature: straight up the London Road through Broad Green; past what was then Croydon General Hospital on one side and the Co-0p at 99 London Road opposite; through the centre of Croydon past West Croydon Station, Woolworths, M&S, the gates at the entrance to Whitgift Middle and Allders Arcade on the left, Kennard's on the right; the Alms Houses on the left and then turned up George Street over Wellesley Road past East Croydon Station; and so on.
   The picture of the opposite corner of George Street and High Street shows the old Westminster Bank building where my uncle was Chief Cashier at the time. Next to Grants was the stationers and book shop Roffey and Clarke. Crown Hill led to Surrey Street Market and British Home Stores, etc., etc.


 Your Webmaster reports the sad death of Peter Hylands (JRGS 1958-64)...

I have just discovered that Professor Peter "Pudge" Hylands, pictured left, died after a short illness on 10 June, 2019. According to a news item on the website of Sibelius Natural Products, a company Peter worked with for several years, "As well as being a highly valued member of our Science Advisory Board, he was also the Head of the Pharmacy Department & Joint Head of Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at King’s College London. He will be greatly missed by all."
   Peter left JRGS in June 1964 with A-Levels in Botany, Chemistry and Zoology, and joined the London School of Pharmacy the following September. He graduated with a B.Pharm degrees with Uppers Second Class Honours in 1967. He also holds PhD, C. Chem and FRSC degrees.
   According to the Kings College, London website, "Professor Hylands started his career with academic appointments in the University of Strasbourg, as a Royal Society European Fellow, and then in the University of London. His special research interest has always been natural products in medicine. He joined the commercial world in 1988 as Director of Chemistry and then Research Director of biopharmaceutical companies in the UK and the USA.
   "He has consulted for the United Nations and Commonwealth Science Council. He has worked or collaborated with institutions on every continent regarding natural medicines and natural product research and development. He served on a number of boards, advisory boards and government committees and is the former Head of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, King’s College London. He taught organic chemistry, including the application of spectroscopy to structural studies, and pharmacognosy for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
   "His research emphasised the application of chemometrics and emerging biotechnologies to the problems of standardisation and quality control of plant medicines. He had a research group in the Centre for Natural Medicines Research, King’s College London of which he [served] as the director."
   Peter has many years’ experience in natural-product research and development, with an emphasis on the isolation and structural determination of novel bioactive compounds, both in academia and industry. He also led multidisciplinary research programmes in Europe, the Americas and various Asian countries; he has been an invited speaker all over the world. Important aspects of his recent research included innovative chemometric metabonomic approaches to natural-product research, notably the standardisation of plant extracts.

   He's pictured here - fourth from left in the top row -
during a JRGS Biology Field Trip in Spring, 1964; click on thumbnail to view a larger version:

JRGS Field Trip - Spring 1964

Back row, from left: John Ashby Turner; Paresh D. Gajjar; UNKNOWN; Peter J. Hylands ("Pudge"); I. A. Eastwood; Terry H. Rabbitts; John D. Wheal; Harold Dunton; Graham J. Fentiman (with shovel); David Farnsworth; Peter Tomkins; and Derek Smith.
Front row, from left : Malcolm Bayly; Mel Lambert; UNKNOWN; Roger Searle; John P. W. Rivers; Martin Preuveneers; Russell Ead; and Graham Telfer.

© Croydon Council; reproduced by permission of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service.

   And here, third from left, Peter is pictured during a JRGS Botany Field Trip to Thursley Common Ecological Trail in 1964; click on thumbnail to view a larger version:

School Biology Field Trip - 1964

From left: John Cobley, John Brightwell, Peter Hylands, John Rivers and Mr. Ian Kay, who taught A-Level Botany at the school and served as Assistant Biology Master.

© Croydon Council; reproduced by permission of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service.

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA; July 2019 Email


 Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) meets up with a fellow alumnus in Somerset...

Last week, my wife, Jane, and I were on holiday in north Devon and Somerset, walking the coast path and exploring Exmoor. It was wonderful countryside and coastal scenery. We chose Porlock as a base because it was so central but, of course, it had the added advantage of being able to catch up with Roger Hall (JRGS 1959-66) for the first time after a gap of 54 years. We both lived in the South Norwood area for a time, and also had drama productions and the Chess Club in common.
   The years just rolled away, helped by an excellent meal at The Ship public house at Porlock Weir. Whilst we were there Roger was able to show us the local Porlock Oysters operation that he has been involved in. The photo below includes Roger and his partner Di, as well as Jane and me. Train buffs will note the wall poster relating to the West Somerset Steam Railway which, I’m happy to report, made an excellent day out for Jane and I whilst we were there. Click on either thumbnail to view a larger version.

Porlock Bay

The Ship_Inn,  Porlock Weir

View of Porlock Bay overlooking The Bristol Channel.

Roger Hall and Di Scott (left) with Jane & Paul Graham.

Paul Graham, Iver, Bucks; July 2019 Email


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