JRGS News Archive Page 96
JRGS Alumni Society

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- Page 96 - February thru April 2020 -

JRGS Alumni Society


 Your Webmaster reports the sad death of H. A. "Peter" Otway (JRCS 1938-42)

It is with a very heavy heart that I record the passing of Henry Arthur McRae "Peter" Otway (JRCS 1938-42) who, according to his son, Mark Otway, died peacefully on April 26 at his care home.
   In a contribution to The Mill back in 2002, Peter recalled wartime life at the school and during his evacuation to Shoreham, Sussex. "At first the bombing in daylight was very disruptive to school work," he wrote. "But when it went to night bombing this was hardly disruptive at all - if you were still alive! Generally, the teachers at that time were over age for joining the forces, although one or two did so."
   And a year later: "As one of the evacuees, I recall being billeted over a shop - Express Dairy - in Shoreham. However, my father came to the conclusion that this place was probably more dangerous than Croydon, and so I came back. I did not go back to John Ruskin until it opened again in Croydon, and lost nearly a year's tuition."

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


 David Anderson (JRGS 1964-1971) reports on books & websites about Croydon...

If anyone finds themselves with time on their hands during the current totally unprecedented circumstances, the Internet may help to ease the boredom and Cabin Fever (let alone any other kind).
"The Best of Times"   I recently found a book in my local Oxfam Bookshop that might be of interest. Out of bounds now, but available on that big internet auction site for not a lot of money, the book is entitled The 50s & 60s The Best of Times" (Growing Up and Being Young in Britain by Alison Pressley | UK EBay number 191313552571 | ISBN 978--84317-065-5 | Published by Michael O Mara Books Ltd. The cover is shown left; click on the thumbnail to view a large version.
   The book covers the whole spectrum of life and is divided into two sections - The 50's and The 60's - offering 225 pages of sheer nostalgia with text by celebrities, and others, who remember those days. There are lots of illustrations, photos and advertisements from the publications we read back then. It covers the whole spectrum of life. Well worth a look, the book will certainly stir up those memories of a lifestyle that has now passed into Modern History. There's the original ad for the film If..., "a hand grenade of a film". You can view it on YouTube. I recall seeing it at The Astoria Cinema in Purley. As we left an old lady asked me what I thought of it. I was speechless! It was a hard hitting film and it blew me and my friends away!
   UK commercial TV sometimes has advertisements that feature Croydon, the latest one is for Aunt Bessie's Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire Pudding adYorkshire Pudding. You can clearly see St. Georges House - the old Nestles building on the west side of Park Lane. I recall it being built and being very impressed by its 25 stories, the tallest building for many miles. The ad prompted me to search and this site came up; a key frame is shown right; click on thumbnail to view a large version.
   Croydon also features in a surprising number of films; this site will get you started.
   I recall St Georges Walk and the office buildings in Katharine Street being built as I passed each day on the number 130 Routemaster bus on the way to JRGS in Shirley. That area is now being redeveloped. Our school is gone, the bus is in a museum and the new Croydon I saw being built is in the 1960s is now being knocked down. I must be getting old!
   Hoping you all find this interesting; maybe other alumni can come up with their discoveries? Thank goodness for The Mill and the Internet! Wishing you all good health.

David Anderson, Southampton, Hampshire; March 2020 Email


 Graham Donaldson (JRGS 1962-69) reports on Sixties transport in Croydon...

The continuing in-home quarantine - no going out apart from food shopping (if you can find any left) - has given me the opportunity to have a grand tidy up, which has unearthed a few gems. I include here extracts from leaflets produced by London Transport for the conversion of Croydon's two trolleybus routes - 654 and 630 to motorbus operation; these documents must be quite rare now. Click on any thumbnail to view a larger image.

Trolleybus Routes into Croydon

Trolleybus Routes into Croydon

 Front cover of March 1959 leaflet

Page 2 of March 1959 leaflet

Trolleybus Routes into Croydon

Trolleybus Routes into Croydon

Front cover of July 1960 leaflet

Page 2 of July 1960 leaflet

As recounted in my Croydon Routemaster book, Route 64 was unusual in that it featured in both trolleybus conversions. The first extension, via Norwood Junction to Elmers End Garage (peak journeys to Eden Park), was probably unnecessary and only lasted three months. I suspect (although I have no proof) that it only happened because the bus planners thought the trolleybuses were the usual 70-seaters, whereas they only seated 60 because of safety concerns regarding longer and heavier vehicles on Anerley Hill. Surplus RTs were used in this conversion because Routemaster/RM production had yet to get under way.
   Route 64 was extended a second time to supplement the new Route 220 across Mitcham Common, initially to Wimbledon Stadium (which trolleybus blinds always described as summerstown). But, again this did not last long and the route was cut back to Tooting Broadway. The additional buses needed were Routemasters allocated to Elmers End garage, but Croydon continued with RTs for some years to come.
   Although as a child I frequently encountered the 654 - we initially lived with my paternal grandparents who had quite a big house in South Norwood - I can only recall one ride on a 630 to Mitcham Fair. But I often saw them turning at West Croydon, it was not unusual for a dewirement to occur because the circle was fairly tight. Drivers had to be very careful to describe an arc wider than that of the wiring - otherwise the tension would cause one or both poles to fly off! Then, a long bamboo pole would be retrieved from under the vehicle to hook them back on again. I tried it once at Sandtoft working trolleybus museum, near Doncaster, and it's not easy.
   I guess the current Social Distancing will also mean no Ruskin Centenary Event in June after all. Worrying times.

Graham Donaldson, South Croydon, Surrey; March 2020 Email
 Duncan Smith (JRGS 1957-63) adds: I'm not sure if this is appropriate for The Mill, but I began to do a blog that includes many of the long-distance walks I've done in the UK, plus a few other bit and pieces. I thought it might amuse the alumni during the unpleasant times we're all having right now around the world.
   Kia Kaha (stay strong), from New Zealand.

Vernon Reeve (JRGS 1954-61) adds; I remember both the 654 and 630 trolleybuses, one of which took my father, my brother and me on to Putney to pick up the River Boat to Hampton Court, several times in the 50s .The Route 64 stopped right outside our house and was our preferred route into Croydon from Addington.
   Does anyone know the whereabouts of Mick ( Michael ) Simmons (JRGS 1954-1961)? He was in the Army Cadet Force and, after leaving school went to work for the John Lewis Partnership. He married a lovely girl called Diana and went to live in Seaford. He was part of a "Tribe" that included me, John Wilkinson and Roy Burton, both of whom, sadly, no are longer with us.


 Mike Briggs promotes a book written by his grandfather, an original JRGS pupil…

It "The Trail Beyond TheTToadstool" by A. L.Staceyseems that the audio recordings uploaded in early 2004 of my late grandfather, Alfred L. Stacey, who was one of the original pupils at John Ruskin Boys' Central School, are no longer functional. [ML adds: These files will be replaced ASAP.] Incidentally, I was amused to note the warning below the recordings that "It may take a couple of minutes to access and download each file via a 28.8 KB modem" - thankfully the technology has improved somewhat since then!

   The alumni might also be interested to know that a manuscript written by my grandfather will finally be published next month, on Friday, 24th April, 2020, entitled The Trail Beyond The Toadstool. First published in the our school magazine, my grandfather developed a passion for writing at JRGS and, in addition to prose, became a prolific writer of verse, including writing verses for greeting card companies.

   The Trail Beyond The Toadstool by A. L. Stacey, recounts a magical journey involving sprites, goblins and fairies, that unfolds one boring Saturday morning after Pat, the female protagonist, kicks a toadstool.
   The easy-to-read book (reading-age 7-9, but of interest from age five and up) features 64 pages and 14 full-page colour illustrations. the book is being published by Sheredean Publishing at £6.99, ISBN 978-1-5272-5020-8, and will be available to order from traditional and online bookshops in many countries. (Except the USA, due to spelling differences).
   Clock on the thumbnail to view a larger version.

   For more information about the book click here and a flyer here.

Mike Briggs, Paris, France; March 2020


 Your Webmaster discovers Ruskin Park in Camberwell, South London...


While researching via Google Maps The Camberwell Submarine, a Brutalist building in Lambeth, I noticed that just to the east in nearby Camberwell there is an open space new to me but which I must have driven past many times while travelling from New Addington to Central London. Ruskin Park, just off Denmark Hill in Camberwell - and within the London Borough of Lambeth, South London - opened on 2 February, 1907, with an area of 24 acres; in 1910, 12 acres was added on its south-west side. The following images were secured in the mid-Fifties or early-Sixties.

As might be expected, the park was named after John Ruskin (1819–1900), a poet, writer and a champion of diverse green spaces, as well as of the Arts and Crafts movement, who lived near the open space. Reportedly, during World War I, recruits of the 21st Battalion, London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles) and based at nearby Flodden Road in Camberwell, trained in the park.
   Located between Camberwell, Brixton and Herne Hill, Ruskin Park contains several heritage features as well as sports facilities. On-site facilities include tennis and games courts, a children's play area plus a paddling pool, ponds, formal gardens and a wooden bandstand. It is one of Lambeth's nine Green Flag Award-winning parks, having secured this title for the first time in 2009. (The Green Flag Award recognises the achievements made by everybody to provide the community with a viable green space.) Immediately adjacent to Ruskin Park are King's College Hospital and Maudsley Hospital. Friends of Ruskin Park

Connection to Pink Floyd
An iconic Pink Floyd photo shoot - reportedly their first - took place in Ruskin Park in 1967. Founding band members Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright were captured by Colin Prime, who was a disc jockey as well as a photographer. The band was photographed sitting on benches, or in or near the Ruskin Park Portico, a remaining part of the 18th Century villas that once encircled Denmark Hill.

"All the guys were in high spirits at the time - Syd was performing cartwheels - but quite laid back," Prime recalls. "After some slightly more formal shots I experimented and came up with these images." Colin recalls.
   One of the photos was also used by Barrett to create a silhouette illustration of the band for the back cover of the group’s debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, named after the seventh chapter from Wind in the Willows and released in August, 1967, four months after the shoot.

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

Bernard Maguire (JRGS 1951-59) adds: Alumni may be interested to know that John Ruskin's parents are buried in the churchyard at St John's Church, Shirley Church Road, near our school former site on Upper Shirley Road. Close to the church's east window, the grave was refurbished a few years ago by the Ruskin Society, which visited from Coniston - Brantwood, the writer/poet's long-time home, is on the shores of Coniston Water - and held a short service and talk in church, noting the Ruskin crest and inscriptions on the memorial. It is now a Grade II listed monument.
   I was churchwarden at the time. When the Society learned that I was a former JRGS pupil, they put me on the spot and got me to sing the school song from the pulpit. I was surprised that I still remembered the words. (Two verses.) I am now the church's verger and would be happy to point out to visitors the memorial, and explain why his parents wished to be buried in Shirley.
   Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago I visited an old classmate, Graham Davidson, in Bearley in the Cotswolds. We played in the same skiffle group in the Fifties and revived some songs - we were still a bit rubbish!

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: I took the following pictures 18 months ago in Ruskin Park, while doing a South London walk. It’s still a nice little open space, not as well known as it might be, and very close to where John (Byford not Ruskin) lives. It has associations with Mendelssohn too.
   Click on any thumbnail to view a larger version.

View of
Central London

memorial sundial

Source of
Earl's Sluice

By the way, Earl’s Sluice is one of London’s forgotten, and largely now underground, rivers – like the River Fleet and the River Tyburn. The Earl’s Sluice goes north west through Camberwell, Walworth, Burgess Park and Bermondsey to The Thames at Rotherhithe near Greenland Dock, combining with the River Peck on its way. I was walking the route at the time. The Earl is the 11th Century Robert Fitzroy, Earl of Gloucester, whose land the sluice river went through, and who first used it as a drainage channel. I have also walked the River Wandle, from South Croydon to The Thames at Wandsworth.



 Rodger Holcombe (JRGS 1959-64) reports the sad death of Robert "Bob" Hoffman

I have been asked by his family if The Mill could announce the death of Robert "Bob" Hoffman (JRGS 1958-1965), who died on the 8th of February after a short illness. The funeral will be held at Beckenham Crematorium on Thursday, 27th February at 14:30, for those who might want to attend.
   Bob was a close friend during our mid-teens. Although I didn’t see him very often after he went off to Saudi Arabia and Australia, he was a pal for sure.
   I’m just leaving Santander, Northern Spain, on a ferry for Portsmouth en route from Portugal, which is a bit of a home from home.

Rodger Holcombe, Burgau, Western Algarve, Portugal, February 2020 Email

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: I remember Bob Hoffman from several drama productions, including Mole in the play Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne, based on Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. A program for the JRGS Junior Dramatic Society performance in April 1960 can be seen here; John Cobley (JRGS 1958-65) recalled the production, with some interesting images.
   Bob was also on the 1962 JRGS Drama Exchange trip with Mr. “Fred” Field and Mr. Robertshaw to Louviers, Paris and Dieppe – along with myself, Roger Searle (JRGS 1959-66), Grant Harrison (JRGS 1959-66) and others. Our production was well received, though we were never quite sure whether the loud laughter was directed at us or because of the natural humour in the productions. (See July 1962 school magazine for details.)
   Staying with French families was quite an education. Amongst other things I seem to recall my first taste of home-made eau de vie, camembert and kissing a girl – not all at the same time!
   Sorry, but I can’t attend the funeral on Thursday.

Peter Hood (Selhurst Grammar Alumnus) reports: Bob Hoffman's funeral was a quiet family affair attended by his daughters, grandchildren, brother, former wife and a few old friends. A poem was read and tributes were given by his daughters and brother. The very traditional Christian service at Beckenham crematorium was followed by a wake at Bob's local - The Chancery in Bromley Road.
   We did, of course, give Rodger's apologies; Sue, Malcolm and Christine send you their love and best wishes. Keep us posted on how you're doing.
ML Adds: Sadly, Rodger was unable to attend Bob Hoffman's funeral because the day before he was suddenly admitted to Eastbourne General Hospital Stroke Unit. I am sure that all of the JRGS Alumni wish him well and a speedy recovery.
   I have just heard that he's been cleared of anything serious. "I am getting better and should be out of hospital by the weekend," Rodger writes. Wonderful news!

Harold Fish  (JRGS 19519-56) adds: Thanks to Roger Holcombe for sharing the sad news about Bob Hoffman. While I do not remember Bob as a fellow student, I do remember him as "Mole". In fact, ever since the picture I have carried in my head when reading Wind in the Willows to my children and grandchildren has always been of Bob's portrayal of Mole.
   The production was my first chance to tread the boards - I was the back legs of Alfred the Horse! I have always remained so grateful to Mr. "Knacker" Neale for making the theatre so exciting for me. (Mr. Neale taught English and Drama before leaving JRGS in December 1959 to join West Bridgford Grammar School in Nottingham.)


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