- Page 97 - April thru May 2020 -
- Page 97 - April thru May 2020 -
James Daniell (JRGS 1954-59) helps a neigbour with a back-garden facelift...
We were halfway through Week 2 of lockdown when I
greeted my next-door neighbour returning from work. It was early evening
and quite apparent as she got out of her car that she'd experienced
another harrowing shift. She’s a nurse at our local hospital here in
Margate, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital. A few days later I
learned that one of my neighbour's two daughters - also a nurse but at
the Royal Brompton Hospital in South-West London - had fallen victim,
one of the first, to Covid-19. Fortunately, she has made a complete
And my pal from across the road thinks
it would be appropriate to lay a new patio for her - not a fellow to do
things by halves. He had 10 years service with the RAF at several
stations around the globe and, upon leaving the force, joined the fire
service, where he worked his way up - no pun intended - from a fireman
to an area chief.
James Daniell, Margate, Kent; May 2020 Email
Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1963-65) discovers a book by a wartime alumnus…
Last week a friend of mine gave me a copy of Get Down! by Ray Billings (JRCS 1939-44), as he knew I was interested in local history during WW2. My friend acquired the book at this year's annual Croydon Airport Society's Open Day. On pages 75 and 76 - see below, center and right - the writer notes he was a pupil at JRGS in Tamworth Road, and that two of his teachers were none other than Mr. Smith and Mr. Cracknell, who later taught Ray's son, Andrew. Having checked the speech day pages there is mention in 1969 of A. Billings, who achieved eight O-Levesls. Unfortunately, pages for 1971 - when he might have taken A-Levels - are missing.
The book gives a very good account of the war years in Croydon and beyond, and reminds me of stories my older family members have told, including my 100-year old brother-in-law's account of 217 Squadron that he served in during the conflict.
Mike Etheridge, Sanderstead, Surrey; May 2019 Email
adds: The book is available on
Amazon UK, which states: "This
fascinating book celebrates the 60th
anniversary of the author's experiences as a teenager living in Croydon
and Eastbourne during the lead up to the Battle of Britain, the Blitz,
with memories of coastal hit-and-run raids, of V1 Flying bombs and V2
Rocket attacks, and more from the period 1940-45." It also stocked by
Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: The book sounds interesting; I like the dry sense of humour. Ray's son, A. J. Billings, took A-Levels in 1971, but it wouldn’t get reported until 1972. Sadly, 1971 was the last year any JR school magazine was printed.
Doug Ford (JRGS 1966-72) adds: Ray Billings’ book is also available on Amazon in the US ... for a premium!
David Anderson (JRGS
1964-1971) adds: I can confirm that I studied A-Level
Geology with Andrew Billings as mentioned in the recent
contribution sent in by Mike Etheridge. On Archived News page 77
I mention our field trip to
Pembrokeshire in October 1970 - there were three of us, David (Dave)
Tucker being the third. About this time Mr. Peacock, the Senior
Geography and Geology Master (above Mr. Nunn) lost his sight as a
result of suffering with diabetes. He soldiered bravely on and we used
to go to his house called "Kenmare" in Addiscombe for classes. He read
from braille textbooks. His favourite phrase was "Right, let's press
on", and he did.
A south London street after being bombed during The Blitz
Jim Thomas (JRGS 1959-66) demonstrates his long-jump athletic prowess…
I was looking through some old photos in the drawer and came across this one of me in the long-jump pit on the field behind The Mill.
Hope all of you are keeping well. Click on the thumbnail to access a larger version.
Jim Thomas, Camberley, Surrey; May 2019 Email
Your Webmaster adds: I recall that the long-jump and high-jump pits were located at the northern end of The Mill Pitch, close to the gate that lead through into Oaks Road and thence to the Sports Ground. The house in this image looks to be the one next to The Surprise pub, meaning that the long-jump pit ran north-south along the eastern edge of the pitch. And that look like a sixth former - or a Prefect? - holding a rake used to level the sand. I wonder what a typical long jump would have been for lads of our age, and what schoolchildren can achieve now. (Assuming, of course, that sport is still taught in secondary schools.)
Mike Briggs has recordings of his grandfather, Alfred Stacey (JRCS 1920-2x)...
ML notes: Back in 2004 Mike Briggs supplied The Mill with audio recordings of his late grandfather, Alfred Stacey, who was one of the original pupils at John Ruskin Boy's Central School when it opened in 1920 at Scarbrook Road, Croydon. For reasons I am still wrestling with, those files no longer function correctly on the site. Here are replacements.
These three recordings total approximately 10 minutes and
cover the same content as the two I provided in 2004; they're just split
up differently. Alfred L. Stacey was the author of Form G Notes to be
page 11 of the July
1920 school magazine. He is also author of a book, The Trail Beyond
mentioned earlier this year.
Copyright in these recordings is held by M Briggs. They have been made available under license for the personal use of people accessing the Web site of the John Ruskin Grammar School Alumni Society, and may not be edited, modified, republished, sold, leased, rented, broadcast or used for any commercial purpose without the written permission of M Briggs. ©2022 Mike Briggs. All rights reserved.
Mike Briggs, Paris, France; May 2020
Duncan Smith (JRGS 1957-63) adds: My uncle, Max Eggert, was an early pupil at John Ruskin in the 1920s.
Your Webmaster reports the sad death of former JRGS teacher Brian Cook…
It is with deep regret that I report the passing of
Mr. Brian Cook, a physics and mathematics teacher at JRGS
intermittently from 1960 to 1972. According to an email I have received
from his son, Peter Cook, Mr. Cook passed away in November 2019
after a long illness, aged 86. "In the early 70s, my father was a
contemporary of Mr. Philip Murphy (Modern Languages, including
French and Russian) and Mr. Ian Butterworth (Music)," Peter
writes. "My father always spoke fondly of his time at Ruskin; Philip
also spoke at his funeral."
Having joined the school in January 1960, Mr. Cook taught
at JRGS until December 1965, when he took up a post at Northbrook
Secondary School, Lee, South East London, and thence to Warlingham Girls
School in Surrey. He returned to JRGS in September 1967, before finally
leaving after May 1971 to join Whyteleafe Grammar School for Girls and
then Oxted Grammar School, also in Surrey.
Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA; May 2020 Email
Anne Smith (JRHS/JRC teacher/principal 1970-99) adds:
I once got a rabbit from Brian Cook. He'd bought it for his son Andrew
without thinking; Andrew had asthma and was allergic to the rabbit.
I am so sad to learn of the death of Brian Cook. I was taught physics by
him, and have very happy memories. Not least for the three metre-ruler
rule! I remember that the Physics Laboratory Assistant, Mr. Ford, would
only allow Mr. Cook three rulers per class. We would goad him so that he
quickly broke two, and then whenever he wanted to hit us again we would
say: "Mr Ford won’t let you have another one". Great theatrics would
follow. But, in this case, it was all good fun and enjoyed by both him
and us. (Well, that is my memory which may or may not be accurate.)
Graham Donaldson (JRGS 1962-69) adds: I was sorry to hear about the sad death of Brian Cook, I met up with him again at the 2010 Reunion at The Surprise. Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at physics!
Your Webmaster reflects upon the "Ruskin Spirit" during at-home quarantine...
As we continue to come to terms with the COVID-19
pandemic - with social distancing and a “stay-at-home” mandate - it
occurred to me that we might share contributions that address this
question: "What did you learn from your Ruskin School experience that
stands you in good stead during these troubling times?”
Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA; April 2020 Email
Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: The thing that JR taught me that is most relevant to this situation is the ability to think critically from first principles. It’s more crucial than ever to cut through the bullshit and to determine what is important in life.
adds: My memories of JRGS
are that we had excellent facilities, along with teachers from a broad
range of backgrounds, with widely differing personalities and widely
In closing, I have a topical
joke, which I have titled "Are My Testicles Black?"
David Anderson JRGS
While this contribution is not strictly what our webmaster asked for, I
thought it might strike chord with alumni who were at JRGS in the 1960s.
adds: Here in Seaford,
due to an underlying condition, I am subject to a three-month total
lockdown - no leaving home at all, for whatever reason. I keep myself
occupied with my books, my stamp collection, and, like our webmaster, I
have started two new writing projects: a COVID-19 journal; and an
autobiography. (The Mill will be a great asset for the latter project.)
(JRGS 1962-67) adds: It
was a very daunting first school day. Having got off the bus I found
myself in the main entrance, where apparently I should not have been, to
be guided by a more senior boy to the playground where I should have
been. That boy was Colin Rickard (JRGS 195x-6x) with whom I
worked as a consultant to his NHS department (not medical) for the last
25 years of my career, having been in contact with him over the previous
decades. We have also shared many fund-raising exploits over the years,
and are still friends to this day.
John "Jack" Jackaman
(JRGS 49-51) adds: I am
now living in splendid isolation north of our Webmaster in Canada. I too
enjoy writing from time to time and recently put my thoughts to paper on
the younger generations. It is not a scientific paper with footnotes and
references; it is just thoughts about my own experiences in what is
turning out to be a long life. Much of it takes place in the UK. My
sixth-form years at JR had a long-term effect on my life, and allowed me
to be reasonably successful in a life time of leadership position both
in and out of the military.
(JRGS 1958-64) adds:
Geoffrey Farmer’s comments - a former neighbour from Monks Hill - made
(JRGS 1959-66) adds:
There was a documentary on BBC4 a while ago in which a number of
well-known names talked about going to a grammar school in the 1960s,
particularly if you came from a fairly humble background. Neil Kinnock
and Edwina Currie were among the contributors, and they evoked similar
memories from me.
(JRGS 1958-65) adds:
What Ruskin taught me that relates to the present sad situation is that
you have to use whatever abilities you have or can develop to see you
through a situation. Mr. Des May, our French teacher, made us
repeat exercises if we didn't do well first time. He also insisted on
rote learning of vocabulary lists. That system was later reinforced in
Latin for irregular verbs and declensions. Additionally, we then
memorised for AL more or less by heart the translations of five Latin
set books: Horace The Odes; Virgil's Aeneid, lines
216-952; Caesar's Gallic Wars, book 5, chapters 1-23; Livy's
History of Rome chapters 1-40; and Cicero's Pro Milone.
(JRGS 1962-69) adds:
Even before our webmaster
invited us to share experiences about current events, it had occurred to
me that it bears some resemblance to cramming for exams. Week after week
of revision, with the sun (invariably) streaming down outside and
wishing you could be doing something else – but it had to be. The
difference was, of course, that you did at least have an end date!
the subject of those who have sadly passed away as a result of the
Coronavirus another, of course, is the comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor
– famous for The Goodies and, on the radio, I’m Sorry I’ll
Read That Again. Who could forget his character Lady Constance i.e.:
“Suddenly they came across an old wreck; Uhhhhh-oh!; Sorry Lady
Constance, we didn’t realize you were there!” etc.
Jeremy Clarke (JRGS 1951-57)
A number of the recent contributors talking about the
valuable things JR taught them that have proved useful during the
lockdown reminds me of two masters in particular who I remember had a
lasting influence on me. My first-form master was Mr. "Wally"
Cracknell, perhaps as kind an introduction to grammar school life as
one could find. He was also, of course, a splendid English master and
though I had a reputation at my junior school of writing quite fluently
Mr. Cracknell laid down the real foundations of good English.
A full list of archived News/Events Pages can be found here.
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©2022 JRGS Alumni Society. All Rights Reserved. Last revised: 30.05.22