JRGS News Archive Page 66
JRGS Alumni Society

Archived News/Activities

- Page 66 - May thru Jun 2011 -

JRGS Alumni Society


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.

 Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1963-65) reports on a new book about the Lanfranc crash...

"The Lanfranc Boys" by Rosalind JonesRecently, I received an email from Rosalind Jones, who has now completed her book on the Lanfranc Air Crash - shown left - in which she lost her brother Quentin Green. Rosalind, who normally writes books on wildlife, contacted me a few years ago having read the short JRGS Alumni website article about our sporting past, in which I made reference to both John Wells and Trevor Condell, who were also killed in the crash of a Cunard Eagle Airways plane near Stavanger, Norway, in 1961.
   As Rosalind writes: "Good News! The Lanfranc Boys is finally finished. It is dedicated to the families and friends of those who died and to all involved in the rescue, especially the Red Cross Hjelpkorps. The book will be launched with a book signing at Waterstone’s bookshop in the Whitgift Centre in Croydon on Wednesday, June 29th, between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm. If anyone is available, I will be delighted to meet you."
   Before the Waterstone’s signing, Rosalind will spend an hour at Archbishop Lanfranc School, where she has been invited me to speak to a year group that is marking the 50th Anniversary with a history project about the tragedy. "The school's headmaster, David Clark, has suggested that the school shop can be a small outlet for the book with their retail profit going into a ‘Lanfranc Boys’ fund," Rosalind adds, "to help needy pupils with the cost of school trips. This seemed very appropriate."
   The large-size paperback book features 316 pages, including 42 pages of photographs in monochrome and colour. The Lanfranc Boys costs £12.99. Eventually, it will be offered as an ebook that can be downloaded into a computer, iPhone, iPad, or Kindle. Croydon-based Filament Publishers are handling marketing and distribution. Profits will be donated to The Norwegian Red Cross.
   "In order to achieve a low unit retail price," Rosalind says, "I am initially having 3,000 books printed to give me economies of scale. Advance sales will help me finance the publication." Accordingly, the book can be purchased from a website, via debit/credit card or PayPal. Books will be posted from Croydon to purchasers at the time of publication at the end of June, including a postage and handling charge.

Mike Etheridge, Sanderstead, Surrey. June 2011 Email

ML adds: On 9th August 1961 a chartered plane carrying 34 schoolboys and two teachers from the Archbishop Lanfranc Secondary Boys School crashed in a storm off the Norwegian coast. A preliminary report of an inquiry commission stated that no technical failure was discovered in the aircraft or its equipment.
   According to the above-mentioned website, The Lanfranc Boys is dedicated to victim’s families and contains previously unpublished personal accounts and memories from 200 people in Britain and Norway.
   Incidentally, Rosalind's brother Anthony Green, now aged 70, was at John Ruskin in the mid-Fifties and now lives in Hong Kong.


 Peter Oxlade (JRCS 1940-44) reports on a visit with former teacher Charles Smith...

I have visited and made telephone calls to Charles Smith whom, you will be aware, I have known for many years. Over that time we have become firm friends. Obviously, Charles - who is now 98 years old - is suffering some ill health. As each month passes, his steps get shorter and his walking frame more difficult to handle.
   Recently, Charles was taken ill in his home and transported to a London hospital. After spending more than two weeks in the hospital, the doctors released him to come home.
   His wife Elisabeth has made arrangements for Social Services to provide home help for Charles and he manages to cope with that with some effort.
   This week, for the first time in a while, he went to the "Wednesday Club" for a social visit (transported by Social Services). He seems to appreciate this outing, and it gives Elisabeth a much-needed break and space that she needs.
    I spoke to Charles yesterday and we reminisced over War-time Ruskin - a subject he always enjoys but finds difficulty in remembering.

Peter Oxlade, June 2011 Email

Charles E Smith - March 2005

 Charles Edward Smith,
March, 2005, aged 92



 Phil Terry (JRGS 1970-77) recalls some fond - and less-fond - school memories...

I don't know that I can fully capture the importance of this place in my life. Seven years were spent at JRHS, five in the same classroom in a modular building annex on the Mill Pitch. But, more importantly, this is where I saw something great, something freely offered to us to take advantage of, which was then, before my eyes, slowly and systematically destroyed, time and again each opportunity being yanked away just before we had the chance to grasp it. With hindsight this is where my philosophical and political identity was formed.
   Before getting into all that I'd like to give an idea of the place through the eyes of the 11-yea- old on first entering its grounds.

Love at first sight
My mum tells me that when I was little and we'd ride on the bus to Croydon to go shopping every time we passed
JRHS 1991the school with the great big windmill in its grounds that I would say: "I'm going to go to that school."
   I don't remember that but what I do remember is the Open Day for prospective students and their parents. You could choose from among the local schools in your area a preference for which ones you wanted. To aid in this process you could attend open days. Which one you actually got into depended on your scores in the Eleven Plus and the bureaucrats had the final choice as to how they matched students to schools to make everything balance out.
   I don't remember walking into the school or, even though I don't remember them, I'm sure this must have been the pattern, the presentations in the assembly hall to parents on curriculum and uniforms and such like. But what I do remember is touring round the school watching various displays and exhibitions by the teachers and students.
   Imagine yourself wandering into the Elysian Fields and watching the fabulous mythical creatures, Gods and Goddesses, etc., wandering around enjoying themselves with wonderful pursuits. That's what I remember seeing.
   First, the setting of the school: a huge imposing three-storey building with a huge blacktop playground on one side, beautiful cloister-like gardens on the other, the quadrangle, in the middle of which is a windmill, an 19th Century fully working post mill. Behind the quadrangle and the mill there was a huge playing field. All of this set amongst huge trees in a hillside setting of Shirley Hills, a huge - to a child - wild forest parkland.
   In the playground the Air Training Corp in full uniform carrying real rifles (.22 caliber Lee Enfields) were parading and doing drills in front of the officer with the metal hook arm. This was Cptn. Maggs, by day the Latin master, who had lost his arm in The War. The guys learned to fly gliders and by the time you left Six Form as an 18 year old you would have a glider pilots license.
   Walk around in the building and you had the usual classrooms, lots of desks, blackboards, etc. Every room was a panoramic view of Shirley Hills, woodland, golf courses, the quadrangle and of course, The Mill. But one arm of the building was the laboratories. Real chemistry labs with benches, gas taps, bunsens burning away, things bubbling, condenser tubes dripping with coloured chemicals, and the smell! The biology labs with the stuffed animals and specimen jars of dissected animals. The physics labs with all the optical experiments, the pendulums. This was paradise.
   Out on the Mill Pitch... the sixth formers were practicing archery. Real bows and arrows with those huge straw targets with the bulls-eye in the middle. Sixth formers, those golden haired men who shave and have facial hair, strolling up and down unsupervised by teachers, competing in archery. Gods indeed.
   Into the Gymnasium. Ropes, wall bars, pommel horses, asymmetric bars, gymnasts doing flips and somersaults. Men with hairy armpits and chests doing crucifix positions on the rings with muscles I didn't even know people had. These sixth formers were very intimidating. Then the gymnasts cleared and the fencers came out. Real sword fighting! All of these activities were performed like clockwork with no apparent control from teachers, no shouting of instructions, just a quiet "Boys" from Mr. Hasler.
   The Assembly Hall. A huge three-keyboard cathedral organ being played by a student at one end. A huge stage, with lighting, curtains, drama performances at the other. The grand piano, the orchestra with Mr. Butterworth.
   The Workshops. A fully equipped metal working shop, lathes, furnace, welding equipment. A fully equipped wood shop, saw bench, lathes, band saw. I think my Dad thought he'd died and gone to heaven when we saw that one.
   All of this was mine. Me, the son of a working class man, this was mine.

The First Form
And so it was. I passed the Eleven Plus and me and a bunch of my mates, all working class lads from Castle Hill who just had the potential to benefit from this, Clive Robinson, Dennis Jordan, Dave Corby, Stuart Danks, Bob Thompson, we walked through those gates in September in our newly bought school uniforms which our parents probably had to scramble to pay for at the shop in Croydon that supplied them. Also walking through those gates were the sons of the rich and famous in the area, bankers, lawyers, county councilors, politicians, business owners. And we mixed - not always as friends, we were cruel to each other, we bullied, insulted, but we played and we learnt, and we united against teachers and systems we shared dislikes for, and we came to know each other and our backgrounds and we formed life long friendships.
   Ah, the First Formers. The lowest form of life on the totem pole, fair game to everyone. But, you knew your turn would come, one day you would be one of the Gods, the sixth formers with their own lounge room which even the teachers weren't allowed in!
   In junior school I was bullied in a bad way, singled out by a bully with issues. This lead to health problems and was raised to parent and school levels. It only really resolved when the bully went to his school, Overbury, and I went to Ruskin. So I know what bullying is. The stuff that went on at Ruskin was completely different and I only have positive memories of it. It was institutional, age-based. No one particular person picked on you, and no-one picked on anyone in particular. It was just, if you are a third grader, you'd better show respect and distance to fourth and above and the second and first had better stay the hell out of your way! And whoever you were you'd better look out for "Smut," "Rhino" and "JoLo" (teachers and headmaster, if you didn't guess).

I was happy...
My first form teacher was Mr. Harrison, who taught geography and history. I still remember the roman road project we did with him. So we were 1H and we were in a two-room modular building erected on the Mill Pitch. It was the music room separated by a cloakroom from our classroom. This unique location, surrounded by trees with a view of the mill, was my form room for the next five years. Of course every 40 mins was a new lesson somewhere in the school so we weren't in the same room seven hours a day!

The Sound of Distant Drums...
In the final assembly that year, 1971, the headmaster, Mr. Lowe, made some announcements in morning assembly after the hymns and lesson. The government had abolished the Eleven Plus and the schools were to be re-organised! To this day I don't understand the purpose of this plan but here was the concrete result. We were to take no more pupils in at first grade for three years. So when I entered the Second Form, guess what? No First Formers, we were still the lowest form of life on the totem pole.
   In the fourth year we would take in pupils from the local comprehensive schools to form a much enlarged Fourth Form. So when I was to became a Fourth Former there was to suddenly be a whole bunch of strange guys and JRHS 1991girls. Oh yes, that was to be the other change!
   So for two years things went on as before as far as we could tell, apart from being at the bottom of the pole the whole time nothing much else would change - well they took away the playground and built a big two-storey building to be the new art rooms, domestic science, and sixth-form center. We were basically being re-organised to be the senior school with the other schools being the middle schools. What could be wrong with that?
   My second form teacher was Mr. Suffling, the sports teacher, so we were 2S. He taught mathematics as well. In the third form is was Mr. Dalziel, 3D; he was mathematics. We were 4D and 5D as well.

The Bombshell...
In the final assembly of the Third Form the headmaster made another announcement in assembly. Every year there would be teachers leaving and joining and this was the time to announce them. Occasionally, we would celebrate retirements. That morning he announced 25 to 30 teachers retiring or leaving, over half the faculty. The bottom fell out of our world.
   When we walked through the gates into Fourth Form in September what was left of the rest of it blew up.

The Wasteland...
It seems what the teachers knew, but that no one would talk about, was that the intake into our schools wasn't just a cross-section of the whole ability range no longer separated and streamed coming in as first years. It appears that the worst of the pupils from the existing non-selective schools were extracted and dumped in our school. Its seems the Labour Party view was that in order to form two average schools from a school which was above average and one which was below average you had to take the worst of one and mix them with the best of the other.
   Now understand, I'm a working class lad in a good school. This wasn't some snobbish bankers son complaining about the hoi poloi. We were getting kids with criminal records, kids who had attacked teachers, who stole.
   All of the grammar school kids were regularly mugged for the next two years. We just handed over our lunch money to avoid any trouble. I never saw violence but the threat was there.
   So the archery and fencing equipment went into storage in The Mill under lock and key. The gym equipment was never taken out, we simply played murder ball, or jungle gym on the wall bars for 30 minutes to "let off steam." The gym teachers and coaches were replaced by kids fresh out of teacher training college who'd majored in sports. The ATC was disbanded. The rifle range in the basement under the labs became storage. The wood and metal shops were reduced to arts and crafts. (We used to learn joints and build furniture, now its shape a piece of 2x4 into a boat and paint it. Stick a dowel in it and call it a funnel and you've got bonus points for a steam ship.)
   The Rugby, Lacrosse, Cricket and all the other sports and teams and leagues where County and National Honors were sometimes won disappeared as we all played soccer. The huge yearly drama production where tickets were sold and local newspaper theatre critics would come and comment were no longer put on. The magnificent choir, the sixth formers singing descant to the hymns, the huge organ playing masterpieces of classical music in a school-wide assembly were no more. Now assembly rotated around the forms so they could fit in once a week for announcements and notices. Sometimes we even had a new teacher join to replace the endless array of substitutes.

The Survivors
The grammar school kids and the teachers who remained had an unwritten pact. We weren't the usual kids and they did what they could to help give us what we should have had.
JRHS 1991   For example, to study biochemistry at university you need a Biology O Level. The O levels are done in fourth and fifth form. We didn't find out about college requirements until the fifth form. The new school schedule, with all these strange new CSE subjects, hadn't had room for it. There was no demand so it wasn't available.
   I and a couple of other guys went to Mr. Green, who was the biology teacher as well as the teacher with the job of drawing up the school schedules, teachers to classes to kids, and said: "Well, we DEMAND it!" Do you know what that man did for us? He said, if you eight guys promise to work hard with me I'll teach you during the lunch hour of what's left of the fifth form. So we did our two year biology O level in two terms of lunch hour lessons with Mr. Green. And we all passed with As and Bs.
   As the grammar school kids left and moved through the system, these teachers of lower grades would move on. After O levels and CSE s most of the really bad mob disappeared, they didn't stay on in the sixth form (some were arrested and sent off into the juvenile justice system!) so some of the teachers stayed. They had found diamonds in the rough in the now more balanced and normal intake to whom they again felt obligated to give of their best. God Bless them.
   I was recently reminded that another change was enacted at the same time. The school leaving age was raised. I don't remember being aware of that at the time because our family view was that we were expected to take advantage of a full education, go to university, etc., all of the things which our parents couldn't get in their day. So I suppose I shouldn't be so judgmental of that first fourth form intake who left just as soon as they were allowed. They were probably bitter and angry too. There they were happy in their "secondary modern" school, set to leave at 14 and get jobs with their mates when bang! They were dumped into completely new surrounding for another two years, with all these snobby, grammar school kids.
   In the lower and upper sixth our form teacher was Mr. Natan, a University Dean from Celyon displaced because of the civil war on the island which lead to its change of name. He was a refugee making a new life from scratch in Britain with his family. We found all this out afterwards. If we'd known before we might have been more forgiving of some of his quirks. He taught Physics.
   Obviously, the system recovered. The quality had irredeemable gone down from what it was but the transition was badly managed and unnecessarily brutal to all involved. As always, the best will manage despite not because of the education they received, the worst will be disproportionately catered for and get better than they deserve and the vast majority in the middle get a watered down version of what the best used to get.
   There will always be a bell curve of abilities in a population attempting any endeavour. Its seems self evident to me that the minorities on the two wings, the worst and the best, have vastly different requirements. Equally clearly, the majority in the middle would be best helped by a system designed for them, not a beefed up version of the lowest or a watered down version of the highest. One size does not fit all.

Memories of school
I spent more time learning Chemistry from Mr. Marsden and his lab technicians in detention, for not handing in homework, than I did anywhere else! I spent hours in that lab, polishing the benches while asking questions. When detention was over (20 mins, max) I would be there another hour helping (hindering?) the lab technicians. Why do you do that? What's that for? How does that work?
   For example, they would be making up solutions for titration experiments in class the next day. In class we would learn how to find the amount of x by titrating against known solutions of y. All the standard stuff. But what they don't teach you at O and A level is that before you can do this you have to have an estimate of how much x you are expecting in order to get a titration solution y which will give you an accurate color change over a sufficient volume of titrant to be measurable with reasonable error. So in detention before I'd learnt how to do the whole calculation from scratch, mole volumes from the reaction equations, rather than just the last step given in the cooking recipe in class. I had Mr. Marsden for Chemistry for seven years. People like him have an impact - firm, fair and fun, and he obviously knew and loved his subject.
JRHS 1991   The music room was next door to our form room and was the lair of Doc James. He was long haired with a wild beard, a red headed Welshman? Passionate about music. He wrote some film scores and eventually left to do that professionally. He would be hunched up in his chair in a fur coat when we all marched in and sat down for music. He would spray the room with deodorant spray because "boys stink." He had a couple of canes and a "cat 'o' nine tails" made our of one of those plaited leather dog leads, unravelled. He used them occasionally but mainly they were for show. His bark was worse than his bite! (James Robertson Justice in the Dr. Sparrow films is the picture you need to have in mind.)
   It was against school rules to climb the trees. One lunch time a ball got stuck in a tree near the teacher's car park on the Mill Pitch. I climbed up to get it. As I was hanging from the lowest branch, about to drop to the ground, I got caught with a couple of great stinging swipes. Doc James had caught me. He thrashed me right there in front of everyone. It hurt like hell but you know what's funny? Then and to this day I had no problem with that, it was part of the cat and mouse game we played. I lost that time and I got what the rules said was coming, but I'd climbed trees a thousand time without being caught. Fair cop, no problem.
   But, I nearly had a serious run in with the authorities over Doc James for a totally unrelated issue. We were playing poker in the back of our form room one Christmas term at lunch time. Suddenly the whole room went quiet. Looking up there was Doc James standing in the door way, bright red and quivering with rage. "You're all in detention tonight!" Slam.
   What was that about? It turns out he was going down the steps from the mill pitch which were snowy and icy and slipped, falling on his derriere. On picking himself up he sees a bunch of boys in our class who'd seen it happen, laughing. This infuriated him. Obviously, the boys denied it when he came it, he couldn't be bothered to work out who it was so he bagged the lot of us.
   Now this didn't seem fair to me. So I left it 20 minutes or so and then knocked on the music room door and went in. Now this was how it was supposed to go. "Sir, I understand you've put us all in detention?" "Yes." "Why is that, sir?" "Because you all laughed at someone's misfortune, namely me falling in the snow." "Oh I see, sir. Well actually I didn't see that and I didn't laugh so do I have to come to the detention?" At this point he would have said "No" if he'd calmed down and seen reason, or "Yes" and explained that he couldn't work out who to blame. In either case I would of been happy. I would have been out of detention or at least made an honest attempt to escape it.

Here's what actually happened.
"Sir, I understand we are all in detention?" Long drawn out "Yes." "Why...." I vaguely remember him leaping out of his chair faster than I've ever seen anyone move and I then remember waking up under the piano with him JRHS 1991quivering and screaming for me to get out of his classroom and that if I ever talked to him that way again I'd rue the day I was born. My ear also hurt and was very red. I was livid. My Dad is deaf in one ear and when he heard that this guy had hit me in the ear he was with me. We were going to report his guy to the school, the education board, the works.
   My sister, who worked as a lab technician at another school, kinda quieted the situation down. She explained what his view might have been. He just scolded a room full of disrespectful boys. Then one of them walks in and says "Why do we have to do detention just for laughing at you, get a life man, don't be so sensitive." Wouldn't you clock such an insolent little brat? Well, yes, I would but that's not what I was going to say. I only got as far as "Why..." OK, so he was a little quick off the mark but... So, thanks to my sister, I let him off.
   And what's really amazing is from that day on, Doc James always seemed to treat me a little differently; there was always a twinkle in his eye when he had his little dig jokes. I like to think it was because he had more respect for someone who tried to stand up to him, rather than that he was afraid I might report him. In hindsight, he was one of my favourite teachers.
   He came back to visit the school after he had left to go to Hollywood for film scores, composing, etc. He arrived in the playground in a full length fur coat, in a bright pink limousine taxi. There were kids leaning out the windows waving at him like he was a rock star. Why was he everyone's favourite? Assembly time, music on the big cathedral organ. He'd be playing hymn music, background classical stuff. When in the rear view mirror he'd see the Headmaster and staff walking in and everyone stood up he'd play musical tricks. If you had paid attention in his music classes you'd realise he'd just segued into the "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba" from Aida. A snigger would pass around the hall and a quick look of puzzlement would pass over the headmaster's face. He'd extemporise variations on the Wedding March into some other tune. Everyone is laughing at the headmaster but he can't fight back because it was there for one or two notes and then it was gone again.
   We loved Doc James. And if he spotted any sort of musical ability in you, obviously I failed that test, you were one of the chosen few and no effort would be spared to grow a love of music and develop those abilities. By the time we left school, a couple of the boys in my form were playing that full school organ, could jam away on a piano playing anything you wanted in any style you asked for: Beethoven Boogie Woogie!
   I'm sure many of you reading this think that I'm making it all up. Honest, these guys were characters and, apart from Mr. Suffling, I think all of them made us better. Rather them than some bland by-the-book nondescript.

I had forgotten quite how strongly I felt about all this until I was visiting back home with my kids and said I should go show them my old school. And my Mum quite nonchalantly says "Oh, didn't you know, they knocked it down a couple of years ago." I hope they didn't notice but I was gutted by this and nearly moved to tears. All that is left is the Windmill, now the centre piece of an up market housing development, and this website.

Phil Terry, Simi Valley, CA, USA, May 2011, Email | School images by Cliff Cummings (JRGS 1956-62).

 Anne Smith (JRGS/JRHS teacher & principal 1970-99) adds:  The contribution from Phil Terry is beautifully written, especially the first part, where he describes his own reaction to his first visit to John Ruskin. Clearly, Phil's year suffered from being the bottom form from the first to the fifth year, and this is emphasised for him by his delight at being in a grammar school and his hope of rising to become a - male! - god in the sixth form with all those years below him.
   But there are nevertheless basic inaccuracies in his piece that, for me, undermines its emotional effect.
   Intake into the new comprehensive was not from the local "comprehensive schools", but from the local secondary modern school, Shirley High. John Ruskin, like the other grammar schools, was to be a 14-18 school with the others becoming 11-14 feeder schools or 11-16 schools that could feed the grammar schools at 16+. I have written elsewhere of the weaknesses of a system like this, of the change at 14+ and the establishment of a two-tier system, as well as the failure to advertise teaching posts in comprehensive schools so that those teachers who were able to teach across the ability range were appointed. So I won't go into it again.
   The new building that so destroyed the playground was a building designed to support the raising of the school leaving age; Phil is right in suggesting that the simultaneous raising of the school leaving age with re-organisation made the latter more difficult. However, the statement that "the worst of the pupils from the existing non-selective schools were extracted and dumped in our school", and the reason given for this in the following sentence, is simply rubbish.
   All the new intake was the year group from Shirley High School and no other pupils entered at 14. Rose-tinted glasses, I am afraid, lead Phil to overlook the fact that there were grammar-school pupils as well as those from secondary-modern schools who stole and bullied and had criminal records; there was a stabbing in the boys' toilets in the early 70s that was upon a grammar-school boy by a grammar-school boy. I do not remember any other stabbings in my time at Ruskin, and before my time there was a pupil who was known for his ability to strip any car (often a teacher's) in a very few minutes. Those are simply examples. A pupil after Phil's time who regularly sold drugs to other students was a refugee from Dulwich College, which would not lead me to generalise about that establishment either.

Quality of teaching staff
Comments about the quality of teachers employed at Ruskin in the early days after re-organisation are generalised and inaccurate. Phil can only be passing on gossip in any case as he cannot have been taught by all of them. I myself was educated at Oxford and taught at independent and selective schools before applying to teach at Ruskin the year before re-organisation; one of those who came straight from university and training, Keith Lockton, was described by HMI as the best history teacher he had ever come across. Very few staff were employed who did not have good degrees and taught across the ability range.
   Huge drama productions continued until Walter McElroy retired and it seemed no longer appropriate to have plays which took so many out of class for so long and sometimes lasted until after the last bus had gone. It is true to say that it was far more difficult to maintain a huge choir and orchestra as the age group narrowed; but music continued to be taught successfully even after Terry James returned to (yes, he had been into film music before coming to teach because his doctor felt that he needed a less stressful career as he had heart problems!) to the film world. It was from the comprehensive intake that we sent our first music student to Oxford - a black woman, in fact - and another student asked to be taken off the waiting list for Cambridge as she preferred another university (I think, Bristol).
   When I first came to Ruskin I was amazed by the number of boys who left with no O-Levels, or only one or two. These boys, who were at the bottom of the grammar school, represent the middle group who would later add to the academic achievements of the school with at least five or six good grades. The quality was not irredeemably reduced; by the time I left when the school had become a college the pass rate for A-Levels was well over 90% and the college had results beaten in Croydon only by the selective and mostly the independent schools. Not only that but not all the intake from Shirley High left and went to prison at 16; even into the early days there were non-selective pupils who went on the academic success in the sixth form.


 Richard Thomas & Ian Macdonald announce details of upcoming Ruskin Reunion...

The MillThe third John Ruskin Grand Reunion will be held between noon and 6:00 PM on Saturday 17th September, 2011, at The Surprise pub function room, with tours of The Shirley Windmill. As before, a hot buffet will be served.
   The reunion will be open to Alumni, teaching and other staff members who attended at Tamworth Road or at the Shirley Windmill site, plus their spouses/partners.
   We are giving early notice in case Alumni wish to arrange any holidays or business visits around this important date.
   The charge per head, including the buffet, will be approximately £10. Parking at Coloma School will be about £1.50p. Arrangements and charges will be confirmed later and then payment will be sought.
   Since space is limited, responses will to be treated on a First-come/First-served basis; as with last year's reunion, attendance cannot exceed 120 people.
   Please make every effort to contact your contemporaries who may not know about the reunion and rummage around for memorabilia so that we can offer a special event to as many John Ruskin Alumni and other members as possible. >>SIGN UP HERE<<

   Co-organisers: Ian Macdonald (JRGS 1958–65) and Richard "Tom" Thomas (JRGS 1957–64).

Richard "Tom" Thomas, Shrewsbury, Shropshire. May 2011 Email


 Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) reports the sad death of Peter Tomkins in Spain...

Peter Tomkins - 1964On 8th April 2011 Peter Tomkins (JRGS 1959-66) died in southern Spain after a very long illness. According to his wife Pam, because of Peter's ill heath the couple retired to Spain in 2001. "Peter had a brain tumour that was removed some years ago," Pam says. "He never fully regained his health, although Peter was able to enjoy his retirement here in Spain. Last June he had a blood clot removed from brain, but he never recovered and remained confined to the house."
   After his time at JRGS, Peter (pictured left in 1964 during an Upper Sixth biology field trip and below in Egypt) attended Nottingham University, graduating in 1969 with a BSc in Psychology, followed by a masters degree from Lancaster, after which time he was employed as a psychologist at the Home Office.
   Because of a stressful divorce from his first wife, in 1986 Peter was granted medical retirement from the Home Office, although he continued to do private work until his illness in 2000.
   "JRGS must have been quite some school," Pam states. "Peter always talked about his time there as some of the happiest of his life.
   "This picture was taken 2009 in Egypt, with The Valley of the Kings in the background, although I'm not sure Peter would approve of it. He was always saying how old and grey everyone looked in JRGS Reunion pictures - not realising he was grey also!
   "I had intended to stay here in Spain, although our son, who is now 31, is looking to emigrate to Australia so I shall go with him and his wife."
   "Thanks again for all your hard work as webmaster; be assured that it is much appreciated."

Peter Tomkins - Egypt, 2009
   Because of our similar A-Level subjects, including Zoology, Chemistry and Physics, Peter and I shared several classes in the sixth form. We also spent a number of Friday nights with a gang of fellow Ruskinites at The Oak public house in Wickham Road, Shirley. I recall that Peter's favourite tipple was a Pink Gin, for reasons that were never fully explained. (Mine, at the time, was a port and lemon - only because that was what my parents drank at Christmas.) Halcyon days, indeed.
   I spoke with Peter several times about a year ago via telephone to his home in Campo Amor, Spain. He told me of his time in 1970/71 while securing an MA in Organisational Psychology from the University of Lancaster, and subsequent career as a senior psychologist with the Home Office. Peter also reported that he had been retired for several years. I offered that I was rather jealous of his freedom!

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA May 2011 Email


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