JRGS News Archive Page 68

Archived News/Activities

- Page 68 - Oct thru Nov 2011 -


Lack of space prevents our including the following items on the main News Page, but here are some interesting
events/comments from the past several months.

 A venerated schoolteacher - Charles  E. Smith - celebrates a landmark birthday...

Flying Officer Charles Smith Charles E Smith - March 2005

Flying Officer RAFVR,
Charles E. Smith

Charles Edward Smith,
March 2005, aged 92

Today, 16th November, former schoolmaster Charles Edward Smith is enjoying his 99th birthday.
   All of us who knew him during his illustrious days at Tamworth Road and Upper Shirley Road will want to wish Charles the very, very best on this special day, and to pass fondest regards to him and his wife Elisabeth.
   CES served at JRGS for a remarkable 36 years, from 1942 to 1978, teaching mathematics & physical education.
   A full profile can be found here, in which he writes: "I consider that it was a real privilege to have had the opportunity of teaching at John Ruskin, and I cherish my memories of that rewarding and happy time."
   The self-styled mixture of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan and/or The Ogre at the Top of the Beanstalk finally transitioned into full retirement as recently as 1992.

From JRCS/JRGS/JRHS Alumni throughout the world.

Jonathan Sindall (JRGS 1956-60) adds: From many of us, I’m sure, thanks for sending Mr. "Smuts" Smith a birthday card.
   I was at JRGS for four years (’56 - '60, I think) and my maths classes were taken by "Smuts" and Mr. Derek Peasey. I have good memories of them both.

Geoff van Beek/Downer (JRGS 1962-69) adds: Happy Birthday Mr. Smith. A man of your mathematical stature deserves to progress to the more difficult triple digits!

Peter Oxlade (JRGS 1940-44) adds: I visited Charles Smith on the day after his 99th, leaving the actual day free for his family. I found him to be in a very weak and frail condition and although he was obviously pleased to see me it did take time for him to take it all in. The conversation was mostly one-way, of course, and he slipped from an awake mode to one where he dozed off at frequent intervals.
   I went though a whole list of masters and boys that we had previously had many enjoyable times talking of old times etc. When I got to Mel Lambert's name he looked a bit puzzled and then said "Computer!" Well, Charles did make the connection, albeit not Mel's time at Ruskin.
   He evidently was most impressed with the card from The Alumni, as were his family.
   I was going to see Charles this week but, on talking to Elisabeth this morning, she advised me that one of the ground-floor rooms in their house has now been converted to a bedroom for Charles and the hospital bed delivered by the NHS is the incorrect model and has to be changed - so the release from hospital is now in some doubt. I further understand from Elisabeth that the live-in nurse, who has been such a good thing for them, is due to leave this weekend and it is hoped that another nurse can be found to look after both the Smiths as soon as possible.
   Elizabeth has suffered two strokes this year and, although I am sure she will be delighted to have Charles back home, the strain will be very difficult for her to deal with certainly if a another nurse cannot be found.
   Elisabeth has particularly asked me to thank you all for your kind emails and apologized that she had not been able time-wise to use the PC.


 Steve Simpson (JRGS 1970-74) fondly recalls his Shirley schooldays...

Steve Simpson - 1970 Steve Simpson - 2011
1970 2011

Arriving with trepidation on my first day at John Ruskin Grammar School (the rumours of what first-year boys were put through – mostly unfounded – made one quite nervous), I remember lining up, in full uniform (cap in hand) awaiting to be summoned into the vast building which would be my second home for the next few years.
   There were a few of my friends from primary school (Monks Orchard) at least, that I wasn’t totally sticking out like a sore thumb.
   Most of my memories of the five years at Ruskin revolve around my sporting prowess and the masters/teachers that took us under their wing and gave up their time to teach/coach and sometimes make us excel at these wonderful games. Sure, the education was second to none and I did “eventually” walk away with five O-levels (not bad... not great), but football, cricket, basketball, I could always find the time for those. We were the first school/year to be introduced to a new program called "Integrated Science," which was a double O-Level pass (you could still get one; thankfully I did).
   Mr. "Smut" Smith was our first-year house master. He was also responsible for our first real foray into “real” mathematics, but was also responsible for the first-year football team. I recall a memory of one wintry morning at some god-forsaken football field where he took me aside and explained to me that I could not possibly take every throw-in, every corner kick, every free-kick... I was good but there’s no “I” in "team".
   There are various teachers that influenced (mostly) my sporting exploits, of which Alan Suffling and John Gregory stand out. I would later in life (well only a few years after graduating) re-acquaint with "Suff" at Carshalton F. C. for a season. I did manage to shake Latin after the first year (I’m sure Mr. "Rhino" Rees was grateful of that – I am sure I was). Music... ah, yes, Music. The Doctor James - Christ, he scared me to death. I think I sang like an angel at the auditions (why did I do that ?) and then a year and half of torture in the choir. I ended up getting my Mum to write him a letter to get me out and I avoided him like the plague for a whole term. He finally cornered me , but didn’t beat me to a pulp. Ha, ha!
   The third year saw the invasion from Shirley High. You could say one good thing came from that – I met my future first wife – I’m only on my second now, but that is enough for a lifetime.
   I think the consensus of my peers at the time, that this "marriage of schools" was not the best thing to happen to the Grammar School mentality but, nevertheless, it went ahead regardless.
   This was supposed to be a little insight of my time at JRGS but I’m sure I could, if I really thought about it, write for pages. I made a lot of good friends during these years and kept a few , mostly on the Sunday football circuit.
   I emigrated to Canada in 1981 (where I have lived ever since) with that now, ex-first wife (and a two year-old son).
   I found the JRGS website a few years back and constantly look at the updates, quite a few of which were long before my time. When I saw the school photo from 1970... well, how scary did we all look with our “Beatles” hairdos. But, the memories came flooding back. I hope this little essay will jog some memories.

Steve Simpson, Toronto, Canada November 2011 Email.


 Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) reports an honour for Sixties alumnus Martin Ashley...

Martin AshleyMartin William Ashley (JRGS 1966-69), MVO Dipl Arch RIBA, was recently named in the Queen's New Year Honour List as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order. Born in April 1952, Martin - pictured left - is known for restoration of ecclesiastical buildings and royal properties, and is a specialist in period and listed buildings.
   He joined the JRGS fourth year in 1966, having been at secondary school in Dublin. After A-Levels in 1969, Martin studied a diploma in architecture at Kingston Polytechnic and, in 1976, completed a scholarship with Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He worked for Purcell Miller Tritton and became a partner before setting up his own business, Martin Ashley Architects, in 1994. Since 1999, Martin has held the post of Surveyor of the Fabric St Georges Chapel, Windsor. Currently, he is an architect member of Guildford Diocesan Advisory Committee, and lectures on the philosophy and principles of historic building conservation.
   Martin's recent architectural projects include St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, Cowdray Ruins, Buckingham Palace (Grand Entrance Portico Steps, Carriage Landings and Quadrangle East Elevation), St James Palace (The Queen's Chapel) and Dorcester Abbey.
   Recent industry awards include South East Region Building Conservation Award, Georgian Group Architectural Awards 2010: Restoration of a Georgian building in an urban setting and RICS Awards 2010 Building Conservation Award (commended), Natural Stone Awards 2008, Repair & Restoration Award for St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
   According to Wikipedia, The Royal Victorian Order (Ordre royal de Victoria) is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry that recognises distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys. Established in 1896, the order's chapel is the Savoy Chapel; its official day is 20 June, and its motto is Victoria, alluding to the society's founder, Queen Victoria.

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA November 2011 Email


 Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) reports the sad death of alumnus Gerald Southgate...

Gerald Southgate


The Guardian recently published an obituary for our colleague Gerald Donald Southgate (JRGS 1941-48), pictured left, who died on 7 July 2011 at Highgate Nursing Home, Hornsey Lane, London. He was a significant public figure who, amongst other campaigns, fought for the retention and improvement of Islington’s period squares and terraces.
   Gerald's name occurs a few times in school magazines. in 1948, had been the Chairman of the Croydon Youth Council. He left the Upper Sixth that year to join the Royal Engineers, after taking the London Higher School Certificate (equivalent of present day A-Levels). Although he was born in the Croydon area in 1930, Gerald lived most of his adult life in North London.
   As The Guardian reports: "In the more turbulent days of London's municipal politics, with pressure on local government spending, plus the eternal internal wrangles of the Labour party, scarcely a day went by that the Evening Standard was not quoting Gerald Southgate, who has died aged 81. Gerald was leader of the majority party at Islington council from 1972 to 1981 and, in spite of his somewhat uncompromising attitude to rival opinions, made a significant impact on council decisions.
   "His fellow ward councillor at that time, David Hyams, recalls him as a valuable colleague, extremely diligent in the time he gave to council affairs and his handling of controversial issues, not least the vexed future of the Agricultural Hall, and the Angel underground station and street plan. There was considerable pressure for change, and conflicting ideas about the future of large areas of council-owned properties. Gerald stood for the retention and improvement of many of Islington's period terraces and squares, which would otherwise have been bulldozed in favour of concrete blocks."
   Within six years of leaving JRGS, Gerald was elected as a Labour councillor to the-then Croydon County Borough Council. "He was elected to the education committee," The Guardian reports, "and swiftly took advantage of the opportunity to have himself appointed a governor of his old school, to the obvious discomfiture of some of the teaching staff.
   "He served until 1960 before moving into central London. He fought two general elections for the party and settled into Islington politics, representing the Clerkenwell ward between 1968 and 1982, and 1986 to 1990. He was a member of the Camden and Islington health authority from 1982 to 1990, and mental health manager from 1983 until shortly before his final illness. Inevitably, he fell foul of the Labour party's internecine squabbles, eventually leaving the party.
   "Close friends appreciated Gerald's remarkable erudition and passions for poetry, music and history. Most contentious conversations over some esoteric date would automatically be settled as one or the other would say: 'Gerald will know'."
Gerald was born on 2 June 1930 and is survived by his sister, Eileen.
   Incidentally, the funeral was held at 11:00 AM on Friday, 22 July, 2011, at Charterhouse, a former Carthusian monastery in London, to the north of what is now Charterhouse Square. The building is formally known as Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse, and is a registered charity. Since the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, the house has served as private mansion, a boys' school and an almshouse, which it remains to this day.

Paul Graham, Iver, Bucks, October 2010 Email.

Terence Morris (JRGS 1942-50) adds: Gerald Southgate was a member of the first cohort of sixth formers following the transformation by the 1944 Education Act of John Ruskin from a Selective Central School into a Grammar School. It had, until then, in the words of its great headmaster A. W. Macleod, “provided grammar school education on the cheap”. When Christopher Lowe succeeded him in 1945 the school had no proper library and the 20 or so pupils who made up the sixth form came to rely heavily on the facilities of the Reference Library in Katharine Street.
   Seriously under-resourced and remaining small for the first five years, it was nevertheless a group that achieved some astonishing subsequent results, due in no small measure to the dedication and enthusiasm of the teaching staff. Gerald was one of those who benefited.
   Conscripted in 1948, Gerald was sent to Villach in Austria, where he became responsible for the running of the weekly military train that ran back and forth between Trieste and the Hook of Holland. The army allocated this to him on the ground that his father worked for the Southern (later British Railways!) Since most of the work was done by civilian staff he took the opportunity to enrich his knowledge of art and literature, visiting the great cities of Vienna and Salzburg while preparing for university entrance. He went up to the London School of Economics in October 1949 to read for the BSc (Econ), but he was not comfortable there and transferred to the University of Leicester. There he ran into financial difficulties, not helped by the fact that at time the County Borough of Croydon was among the most parsimonious (some would say Scrooge-like) of authorities in the country when it came to supporting impecunious students.
   Leaving Leicester without a degree he did a variety of jobs and travelled in Europe.
   In 1954 Gerald began on the political career that was effectively to shape the major part of his life. Elected to Croydon Council for Labour and becoming a member of the Education committee, he became a governor of John Ruskin, something that initially seemed to produce a frisson of anxiety among certain members of the teaching staff. After six years on Croydon Council he moved into north London and in 1968 was elected to the Islington Council of which he was Leader from 1972 until 1981. Immersed in a range of municipal concerns, he was forthright in resisting the destruction of the many squares and terraces that were the legacy of Islington’s past and targets for demolition and development. That the great Agricultural Hall remains is perhaps his most lasting monument.
   Uncompromising in his views he, like many others, left the Labour Party for the SDP, signalling the end of his political career. He later became the highly regarded Secretary of the Art Workers Guild. An extraordinary polymath, whose knowledge and understanding of the arts, literature, politics and history was immense, he scarcely needed a university degree.
He retired to live in Sutton’s Hospital in the Charterhouse at Smithfield, but his last years were cruelly marred by distressing illness and a series of major surgical interventions. He faced his fate with extraordinary courage and resignation.
   Among those who have brought distinction to the name of John Ruskin by their contribution to public life over the years, his is a name eminently worthy of remembrance.


 David Shoubridge (JRGS 1955-63) discovers The Mill and recalls school sports...

Quite by chance I recently found the Ruskin Alumni Society site, and have spent much time reading the articles and viewing the photographs.
   I was at Ruskin on Shirley Hills Road from 1955 to 1963 and enjoyed my time there enormously. I left to work for Croydon Borough Council (subsequently the London Borough of Croydon) but left the area in 1967.
   Whilst not brilliant academically - leaving with a handful of O-Levels and some A-Levels - I enjoyed a varied sporting life throughout the school, playing in some award-winning teams. I was fortunate that I joined from my primary (Spring Park) in 1955 when a whole group of sporting/talented lads came from other schools throughout the Borough. Others came in subsequent years so I was able to move through the school playing in many winning football and cricket teams.
   I read with pleasure the article from Charles Smith and enjoyed seeing the photographs of members of staff at the school in my time.
   Now retired and living in Leicester, I could not attend the recent Reunions but wish to convey my very best wishes to any attendees who might remember me.
   If there are further functions, I will try to attend as I still enjoy reasonable health.

David Shoubridge, Leicester, October 2011 Email


 Brian Thorogood (JRGS 1951-56) recalls a trip to the Festival of Britain...

I had just started my first year at JRGS in the autumn term 1951, with Miss Hickmott as our form mistress. Two weeks later - on September 20 - the whole school travelled up en masse to London from West Croydon railway station on a specially commissioned train. It was a very special day: my first school trip, 60 years ago, to the Festival of Britain, South Bank.
   My classmate, Goff, had suggested JRGS schoolboys at the Festival of Britain - 20 Sep 1951I take my sandwich lunch in a paper bag, which could then be discarded, leaving one free of hold-alls, etc. A sunny day, and you can see in the photograph shown right, taken from page 7 of the 1951 school magazine: three junior boys, Morton, Feeney and Thorogood, all first formers, wearing our customary school caps. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version. I am in the center of the column of boys, with Morton on the left and Feeney in the middle. Mr. "Wally" Cracknell and Miss Hickmott are a few rows behind us to the right.
   On arriving at the site, Morton and Feeny then decided - and told me - that they did not want my company, thus I was on my own for that day. However, at even such a young age of 11 years, I had begun to realise that I was a natural loner, enjoying my own company, and was happy to explore and learn from the experience unhindered. The school encouraged sociability, and one had to be good at sports and a good mixer. Carl Jung’s Introversion would not have been acceptable in a boys’ school circa 1951.
   My first impression that morning was of a very large site to explore, and lots of other young people present from other schools, with not many adults about. The Skylon, by the side of the gardens, was the first construction to view. A truly marvellous feat of engineering as it appeared to be free-standing! On closer inspection, however, it was supported by very thin, high-torsion wires, a new engineering invention after the war, which I was later to encounter at college training in structural engineering.
   Quite a few pupils from other schools were sitting by the water fountains, including pretty girls in their own school uniforms, but I would have been far too shy to have gone up to talk to them.
   The Dome of Discovery was a target for the older boys as the rumour was that one display therein showed how a baby was conceived and born. This building was structurally innovative as the dome roofing was free-standing and made of pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete. It was a very large “shell” roof which prefigured structures later built in Latin America with more relaxed building regulations than in Britain.
Festival of Britain poster   The British Film Institute building - there to this day - was showing art-house movies. I am still ordering DVDs from the BFI all these years later. I was always a keen film buff, which lead school colleague Rowe to remark: “Your taste is too highbrow, Bone”.
   The Royal Festival Hall was a fine example of modern architecture. I did not go inside that building on that day as it appeared far too formidable then. I finally entered its doors in 1965 when I first saw the American folk singer Joan Baez, performing to an audience of 2,000 people.
   Amongst other things I observed was a 15-year-old lad practicing football shots in a prepared goal net area on the outskirts of the site. He had obviously been chosen for his particular skills, and I often wondered if years later he had become a premier-league footballer. I also noticed a more austere building where grown up men were entering and leaving. I asked an older boy what this was, to be told it was for alcoholic consumption. As a complete teetotaller to this day I was not particularly impressed. However, I did not see any of our teachers entering thereof, to their credit methinks. There was also a “historic” venue with British Transport vehicles on view and an actual Second World War Spitfire aeroplane arranged in the air as though in flight, again supported by very thin torsion wires.
   Back home at 4.30 pm, walking across the bridge to Charing Cross railway station, and sharing a carriage with other first formers. I had not taken Goff’s advice, and gave my remaining carrier of sandwiches to the other boys. One boy had somehow managed to purchase a Blighty magazine that day and was ardently looking at the “naughty” pictures, much to Miss Hickmott’s disgust. At West Croydon station I walked Miss Hickmott home and thanked her for a very enjoyable day. Indeed, she complimented me by saying that I was the only boy who had thanked her. She was the very first member of the fair sex I ever walked home. I felt very grown up that day.

Festival of Britain - 1951

South Bank Exhibition Site - 1951

Graphic created by: Design Council/Council of Industrial Design | From University of Brighton Design Archives.

Brian (Bone) V Thorogood, Willowbank, Wick, Scotland KW1 4NZ, October 2011

AnnFestival of Britain - 1951e Smith (JRHS teacher/principal 1970-99) adds: I too was at the South Bank on one day or another, with my own school. My enduring memento is a rather wonky tile made by me with the Festival of Britain logo and 1951 on it, drawn (rather well for me) in longhand.

Chris Gorring (JRGS 1951-57) adds: I was on the same trip as Brian Thorogood to the Festival of Britain. Incidentally, Miss Hickmott was always called “Fanny” by 1H students, but not to her face of course!

Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) adds: During the summer of 1951, I was taken by my parents to the Festival of Britain on the South Bank. I am pictured right with a large cowboy hat and my favourite toy rabbit - it had a bendy, inner-metal armature, I recall. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the scene with my parents and baby-sister Lesley, who was one year old at the time. I remember the visit as being on a wonderfully sunny day, but can recall little of the actual exhibits.


A full list of archived News/Events Pages can be found here.

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