JRGS News Archive Page 97
JRGS Alumni Society

Archived News/Activities

- Page 97 - April  thru May 2020 -

JRGS Alumni Society


 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 recovery.
   My other neighbour across the road and I decided that we should show our appreciation for all her efforts, and those of her colleagues, by giving her back garden a facelift. She was finding life quite difficult at that time.
   A tree against one of my fence panels was in need of serious surgery, so we attended to that. An ivy plant beside the tree had its roots deep and quite thick. After two or three afternoons of effort we managed to have that taken care of. Over the years, the ivy had entangled itself through my fence panels to the extent that its removal resulted in the virtual collapse of the panels. So four new panels were ordered and delivered.
   While awaiting their delivery, the pair of us removed the panel behind my shed in order to effect replacement of five shiplap boards that had long gone the way of all flesh. That done, the four new panels had arrived and were put in place. It was not really a job for a pair of septuagenarians, but we managed with the help of choice vocabulary. Then they were creosoted on both sides. My neighbour is delighted with the results. The rest of her garden is next on our agenda. Click on any thumbnail to view a larger image.

James Daniell's garden project

The back-garden refurbishment project - almost completed.

James Daniell's garden project

James Daniell's garden project

James Daniell's garden project

Replacement shiplap boards

A tidy worksite!

The jigsaw puzzle

   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.
   Mornings, apart from usual chores, found me giving patriotic paint jobs to my garden bench and decorator’s steps. It was quite effective. My daughter’s mother-in-law suggested that a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle might also be an appropriate choice of activity. It was more of a challenge than a suggestion, so I dug around in a cupboard where I knew I could find a number of long-forgotten puzzles. Keen eyes will see that at 9 o’clock, right at the edge, a piece is missing. It can stay behind the piano until I can call in assistance for its recovery.
   One of my four brothers, a restless soul, is in lockdown with his wife in Alicante, Eastern Spain, and the restrictions there are rigorous and authoritarian in their intensity. So, those of us who can take refuge in our gardens during these troubles and with good weather to make it easier are very fortunate.

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

Your Webmaster 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 both Waterstone's and Thamesweb.
Paperback 146pp, 210 x 150 mm | Published 14 July 2000 | ISBN-10: 0953851001 | ISBN-13: 978-0953851003

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.
   So. Andrew, Dave, where are you now? I started my working life in cartography at a polytechnic but, wanting something a bit less desk-bound, moved to geography laboratory and fieldwork at a university. I spent 34 years in that work. I wonder what Mr. Peacock ("Pad", "Paddy") would think of that! He and JRGS helped to sow the seeds and the flowers came up.
   With reference to the Ray Billing's book, alumni interested in the impact of WWII on Croydon might find a website about V1 and V2 casualties worth a look. A total of 141 V1 and four V2s fell in the Croydon area between June 1944 and March 1945. A total of 8,938
people were killed in Southern England during the V1 and V2 attacks, with 25,00 being seriously injured. Tens of thousands of houses and other buildings were damaged or destroyed.
   My mother's family home in South Norwood was badly damaged by a V1 that fell in the next road (Denmark Road,) which was destroyed. Everyone was okay, but the family had to move to another house opposite, which was intact. I recall the front bedroom ceiling having a large crack in it that was still there in the early 2000's! The shockwave had reached it.
   Searching the internet, I found this map of bomb sites in the Croydon area, many of which made excellent playgrounds for small boys in the 1950s and 60s. More.
   Click on thumbnail to view a larger version

A south London street after being bombed during The Blitz
Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


 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.

Jim Thomas on the long-jump pit.

 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 found on page 11 of the July 1920 school magazine. He is also author of a book, The Trail Beyond The Toadstool, mentioned earlier this year.
   In the first recording he recounts the founding of the school, recollections of William Field, a couple of teachers and school dinners, together with his exam results. Click here
   The second recording covers the first school meals and a female teacher. Click here
   The final recording details my grandfather's academic achievements and some career advice. Click here
The Certificate of The First Class in Economic Geography can be viewed here.

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."
   Mr. Cook is pictured below with his wife Elaine at the Second Grand JRGS Reunion at The Surprise pub in Shirley during September 2010; image by Dave Talks (JRGS 1968-75).

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.
   His sons, Andrew and Peter, also attended the sixth form at JRGS and were in the school orchestra; Andrew later taught Physics at JRGS, while Peter taught at a school in nearby Bromley. Mr. Cook played violin in the JRGS school orchestra, and played on both the master's staff cricket team and the staff football team. According to Mr. Martin Nunn (JRGS teacher 1957-73), writing in April 2002: "Brian is now retired but, despite hearing problems, makes various musical instruments." More

   Peter adds: "My father had a long and happy retirement that took him all over Europe, especially Cremona and Mittenwald - the Italian and German centres of violin making, respectively.
   "Finally, he reminisced about an experiment in air pressure in which he held an inverted beaker full of water with a piece of card under the water. This apparatus was held over the head of a boy. It did not go as well as planned!"

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.
   The other thing I remember was that, when teaching about levers, Brian would seize on a boy and use him as a kind of seesaw to illustrate his point.

Roger Hall (JRGS 1959-66) adds: 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.)
   How about the alumni submitting their funniest memories of incidents with members of staff?
   He was a really nice and good teacher.

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?”
   For me, my years at JRGS in the Sixties taught me about self-determination and accountability; if somebody asks me to do something, it is up to me to fulfill that promise. I feel that, without exception, our teachers – maybe more so in the fifth and sixth forms as we reached a critical level of maturity – acted as role models and instilled a sense of responsibility.
   I was never a prefect, but I knew that my fellow school chums always acted fairly, and were particularly kind to incoming “brats” – they could remember what an alarming experience it had been when we were 11-year-olds and, I assume, opted to not perpetuate that terror.

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.

Roger Hall (JRGS 1959-66) 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 differing skills.
   Looking back, having to learn to cope with that variation of people stood me in very good stead in adult business life when I had to deal and put up with just as wide a range of "colleagues".
   For sure there are some grim memories, but also lots of wonderful and happy memories. The happy friendly personality of Mr. Alan Murray and the respect given by Mr. Ken Cripps standout as two of the best amongst many.
   One learns to cope with and get on with a situation. Perhaps my classic was being phoned up at 2am one Sunday morning to be told that the computer system for which I was the national IT manager was collapsing. It just happened to be the whole of the UK’s 999 Emergency Service. It is at times such as this that one regresses to: "I want my mummy!" But you get through it, just as we will hopefully get through this.
   I was in the cadets and that taught me to get on and do things. So, after I just made it back from a holiday in Spain on the day they "locked down", I contacted the Porlock Parish Council. (I had been vice chair until I stepped down last May.) Within a week, a group of six of us had organised a village self-help and support system, ranging from home delivery of local shopping, telephone support, and information to help people carry on shopping and living. It works perfectly. Apart from one naughty expedition to the supermarkets before Easter, my partner Di and I at 72 years old have been able to shield ourselves in comfort. So JRGS taught me to help myself and be self-reliant.
   Mind you, I am lucky enough to live in Exmoor National Park and have a nice garden. So I have become a full-time home gardener and drinker of red wine (well, any wine really) and am actually enjoying myself. But then I feel guilty because of the tragedy that is happening around us.
   So as we did at school: Carry on and do your best.

In closing, I have a topical joke, which I have titled "Are My Testicles Black?"
- There is a 19-year-old man in intensive care with COVID-19.
- A student nurse is giving him a blanket bath.
- He gasps from underneath his mask 'Nurse are my testicles black?'
- The embarrassed nurse explains that she is only washing his top half and his feet.
- But he struggles and asks again.
- Worried that the patient will get upset and raise his blood pressure, the nurse overcomes her embarrassment, lifts the sheets and holding his manhood in one hand, cradles his testicles in the other and carefully inspects them.
- "No, sir, they aren't black."
- The 19-year-old now takes off his mask and gasps: "Nurse, that was truly wonderful. Now listen very, very carefully. 'Are my test results back'?"

David Anderson JRGS (1964-1971) adds: 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.
   With everything else that is going on at present, a number of personalities who were an important part of that decade have recently passed away. In normal times this would have been big news - actress Honor Blackman of James Bond fame ("Pussy Galore") and Sir Stirling Moss ("Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?") being just two. Another important name - but not so high profile - was Ronan O'Rahilly the driving force behind the setting up and running of the first UK Pirate Radio ship, Radio Caroline.
   This was a major development in changing the world of radio broadcasting in the UK. Radio Caroline broke the mould of the old ways, as did so much else back then. Many of us used to listen to the great pop music of the wonderful decade that was the Sixties. I recall listening to the pirate ship on my battery-powered Japanese made (or sometimes Hong Kong) transistor radio. Plastic body, leather case, small ... and so much better than the big old radiogram "piece of furniture" on which you could only get Radio Luxembourg that faded in and out as the evening drew on. Better still, you could listen anywhere, not needing mains power. The old ways of radio broadcasting were truly shaken up and changed forever by these two developments.
   If you want to be reminded what they sounded like, there's lots on YouTube videos about the pirate radio ships, including Caroline, King, City, London etc.. Can you remember the jingles, the short links recorded in Texas and imported from American-style radio? Google for the full story and here's this link to Mr. O'Rahilly's obituary.

Geoffrey Farmer (JRGS 1959-64) 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.)
   As to what I learned from Ruskin to help me through these troubling times, well I could prattle on about self discipline, ambition, self reliance and other key life skills. But the short answer is simple: Compared to a double-maths lesson, this lockdown is a walk in the park.
   Best regards, and stay safe, one and all.

Graham Dewey (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.
   I was lucky enough not to be a total lone figure coming as I did from right the other side of Croydon, as I also had a friend from junior school, Dave Block (JRGS 1960-6x), go up to Ruskin two years before me. We have stayed in touch over the years, going to each others weddings, etc., as you do with friends. I moved to Dorset for work and was really surprised when David changed jobs to work for a local housing association - nothing to do with me - and moved into a village just four miles away. Unfortunately, Dave had a massive stroke the Christmas before last, and is now fairly house-bound. When we were allowed to go about, it meant that I could repay all of the years of friendship by calling in and spending time with him and his wife. This pandemic has changed things, but we still shop for them, etc.
   Ruskin was a great place to teach you about people and the value of friendship and all that that means. Although my time there was not the best, I will never regret going to that school and will be always thankful for the moral code that Mr. "Joe" Lowe instilled in us boys.

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.
   I learned to surround myself with highly competent subordinates and delegated as much authority to them as possible, while recognising that the overall responsibility of my organisation was mine alone. In his way my own incompetence did not show too brightly. Here are images of a four-page PDF document that is my latest story.
   Click on each thumbnail to view a larger version. Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4.

Coronavvirus Pandemic - John "Jack" Jackman

Coronavvirus Pandemic - John "Jack" Jackman

Coronavvirus Pandemic - John "Jack" Jackman

Coronavvirus Pandemic - John "Jack" Jackman

Derek Charlwood (JRGS 1958-64) adds: Geoffrey Farmer’s comments - a former neighbour from Monks Hill - made me chuckle.
   I hated school with a passion. I hated the bullying both by the boys and some of the masters, none of the lessons seemed to make sense, I dreaded Sunday evenings and I left with just one O level.
   My first day at work, as a junior at British Rail in Croydon I was being taught my duties and had to clip two pieces of paper to a file. My “tutor” very kindly told me that I was trying to put the paper clip on the wrong way. Strangely that was a light bulb moment, work made sense and I went on to have two very successful careers, the first in the travel industry, and later as an audiologist. I must have learnt more than I realised at school by osmosis!
   Stay safe all.

Grant Harrison (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.
   I was so excited when I found I was going to JRGS, but really hadn't any idea what it meant or how it would change my life. That first day was bewildering as I had my new cap immediately thrown in a puddle and, and was pretty scarred until us new Brats got into the safety of the school itself.
   Then a whole new world opened up. To learn Latin, French and later German was fascinating. The teachers in their gowns and mortar boards came from another planet. We were taught to be self reliant. Roger Hall (JRGS 1959-66) and I were sergeants in the Army Cadet Force, which gave us a whole range of new experiences. We were certainly aware that we were lucky to be there, and tried to take advantage of everything it had to offer. But, most of all, it gave me confidence in later life that, whatever situation I was facing, I had that background that would see me through. Let's face it, if you can survive double Latin on a Friday afternoon with Mr. "Rhino" Reece you can survive anything.
   It did, however, create a gap with my parents who knew nothing of what I was going through, and never really would. The independence it gave me rather unnerved them - mind you, it was the 1960s and our attitudes and lack of deference were the signature of our generation.
   That feeling of confidence is still with me as I get involved in things here in rural North Norfolk at the age of nearly 72, so thank you JRGS. I know it sounds a bit corny but I actually mean it.

Ian Macdonald (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.
   All this lead to my realising that you can use memory after school, which I did by then learning three foreign languages to interpreter/translator level. I still use two for interpreting and three for translating, and this has kept me gainfully occupied in social lockdown, thanks to early inspiration from Mr. May, Mr. "Rhino" Rees and Mr. Ken Maggs.

Graham Donaldson (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!
   I must admit that I didn’t mind the lockdown too much at first, since it was a good opportunity to actually do jobs around the house that I’d been meaning to get around to, along with a few research projects. But you can only find so much in the protracted absence of any face-to-face conversation. However, I can at least be grateful that I have a garden which, since Easter, has seen a section of model railway under construction! It can depict three eras on the Southern Railway: "Push-pull’ steam; a 1950s electric unit; and a modern diesel "Turbo"’ as used on the non-electrified Uckfield line. Well, it fills the time.
   The picture below shows the electric "2EPB" unit in operation in BR blue. Although it's everyone’s favourite colour scheme, it reminds me of how they were during my commuting days in the 1970s and 80s. Two-car units were the norm on Addiscombe/Sanderstead-Elmers End shuttles, being more than adequate for the usual number of passengers. Today, of course, trams use part of the old railway alignment and are (normally) very busy.
   Click in the thumbnail to view a larger version.

An electric "2EPB" unit in operation in BR blue.

On 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.
   It’s probably an age thing, but I can’t say I rate any modern, so-called comedy. We won’t see the likes of The Goodies, Monty Python or Fawlty Towers again.

Jeremy Clarke (JRGS 1951-57) adds: 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.
   During my working life, as computing was introduced into business from the late-1960s, I was tasked - horrible word! - with writing specifications and operating manuals. Writing reports and appraisals also fell my way. On another slant entirely for as long as I can remember I've had an interest in railways - their history, in particular - and for the last 30 years I have been fortunate enough to have articles published regularly in specialist railway magazines, including being commissioned to write several of them. Lockdown gives me some uninterrupted - nearly! - time to research and keep my computer keyboard running hot.
   The other master who impressed me from my earliest days was Mr. Chinnock, who taught woodwork. He was a gentle soul with the most wonderful lilt in his voice and a real craftsman whose patience we 11- and 12 -years olds must have tried terribly. I learned the basics of carpentry and more from him, something that really flowered rather a long time after I'd left school. In 1971 I became a member of the Great Cockcrow Railway, a 7 1/4" miniature line at Chertsey, Surrey, arguably one of the finest of its type in the country. This was in its earliest days and as it expanded and became better known the need for additional and suitable rolling stock became an issue. I designed and built - remembering Mr. Chinnock's advice - more than 20 new coaches over a period of years. It also became common that if any timber needed attending to it was "Get Jeremy on to it".
   Finally, one other master never to be forgotten, was the inimitable Mr. Charles Smith. He was my form master for four years, from 1952 to 1955, during which time we found he wasn't nearly as fierce an individual as the one we met for our first PE lesson. I met him many years later at the Fairfield Halls when he was stewarding. I hadn't seen him since 1957 but something about the man who inspected my ticket stirred a memory. I asked him, "Are you by chance Mr. Charles Smith"? He nodded and I told him who I was and that I'd been in his form for those four years. He took a few moments and then said: "Ah, yes, maths and music and hopeless at football". Spot on! Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to talk to him further nor did I ever meet him there again - a great shame and a miss to regret.


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