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- Page 53 - Mar thru May 2009 -

JRGS Alumni Society


 Peter Hurn (JRGS 1967-73) unearths a couple of vintage school badges...

My mum (aged 91) was going through an old suitcase this morning and found these old school badges.

School_badge - 1954 School badge - 1967

Circa 1954 - the year my brother
Brian Hurn (JRGS 1954-60) started at JRGS.

Circa 1967 - the year I started at JRGS

They are interesting to compare, being only 13 years apart but some major changes in style and content. Do any other Alumni still have their badges? I bet some do - if they have mothers like ours! Click on either thumbnail to view a larger version.
   Discussing the subject further, my Mum and I decided that the older version was a better design. And better quality too on the older one, with the gold colouring on banner and on the turrets but on the newer one just yellow turrets. And there is more detail in the leaves in the top left corner.
   My family lived in New Addington, in Hares Bank. I went to Rowdown infants & juniors, 1961-67; I was school captain and cricket captain in 1967. My brother Brian went to Overbury Juniors, I think, as my parents then lived in Northdowns Road before I was born (in fact until I was three months old).

Peter Hurn, Wallington, May 2009 Email

Tony Childs (1947-53) adds: I too was School Captain (and cricket and football) - it makes you spit! In my day the head boy had a slightly different badge, surrounded by gold braid, now very tarnished, as can be see my the image shown right - click on the thumbnail to view a larger version.
   Incidentally, I visited Brantwood, Ruskin's home on Lake Coniston, last year and was interested to find a coat of arms in one room with Age Quod Agis as its motto but a different shield. I was informed that it was the Ruskin coat of arms and that the school would have been able to use the motto but not the coat of arms. There is also a John Ruskin School in Coniston.

JRGS badge - early-Fifties

JRGS badge - 1960

Anne Smith (JRGS/JRHS teacher and SFC Princal 1970-99) adds: In 2000, John Ruskin School in Coniston sent the Sixth Form College a fax wishing us a Happy Birthday on the 100th anniversary of John Ruskin's death.

Harold Fish (1951-56) adds: Sight of the 1954 badge brought a lump to my throat and I must say that I prefer it to the later version! Then I would wouldn't I?
   Tony Child's update is fascinating! I remember a Childs being school captain in my early days in West Croydon [at the former Tamworth Road site]. I have no recollection of a face, but the Captain's badge is very familiar.
   Looking at these badges again I remembered what it meant to me for a while. We were not at all well off as a family and I liked to go dancing Fridays and Saturdays at the Royston Ballroom in Penge. Trouble was I only owned one jacket, i.e. my school jacket, complete with badge. Now you couldn't go to a dance in a school jacket with badge so, unknown to my Mum, I would cut the badge off the jacket between leaving home and reaching the dance. Sunday evenings in bed, at times under the blanket with a torch, I would sew the badge back on again.
   One Monday morning Mr. "Joe" Lowe complained that the badge was not sewn on straight and said that my mother should do something about it! Those were the days.
   Many, many thanks for all that The Alumni are doing with the site. I find it intellectually and emotionally most satisfying!

Cliff Cummins (1956-62) adds: Here is a copy of my old school badge. As can be seen from the image upper-right, it is the same as Brian Hurn's badge, but with blue house-colour infill [for Beta House].
   Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version.

Geoff van Beek -  formerly Downer  - (1962-60) adds: The badge that adorned my JRGS blazer was the new, improved Sixties version. Anyone still wearing the older version was obviously a Weasley.
   Now, looking back, I feel that the older version was aesthetically more pleasing. My question now is: Can anybody explain the heraldic origins and significance of the shield, including the deluxe version designated to prefects? The Hogwarts badge I understand!


 Keith Hunter (JRGS 1968-75) recalls school life during the Seventies transition...

I was a pupil at JRGS between September 1968 and July 1975 - in fact I was deputy Head Boy during the 1974-75 school year.
   The Windmill Guide for September's Reunion Meeting, Martin Nunn, was form teacher in my 2nd Year, the same year I appear in the 1970 school photo published on the website. My time at the school transcended the period of Mr. Lowe and Mr. Patterson as head, and William Cracknell as deputy head.
   I witnessed first-hand the switchover from Grammar School to 14-18 Comprehensive, carrying on my education in separate all-boy Grammar School classes when the mixed-sex and -ability classes began to be introduced. I thus witnessed the exodus of some of the most talented teachers, who disapproved of the change.
   I was taught by Ian Butterworth, Colin Chambers, Vic Gee, Anthony Hasler, Terry James, Ken Maggs, Walter McElroy, Alan Murray, Martin Nunn, J Preddy, Len Probert, John Ratcliffe, David Rees, John Rowlands, Charles Smith, Ken Tryon, Robin Wilkinson & Ron Woodward, to name a few.
   I also have an elder brother, Ken Hunter, who was a pupil between September 1963 and July 1969. He now lives in New Zealand. He was taught in the sixth form by "Sam" Chaundy and "Puncher" Pearce, both of whom I knew by sight as a new first year, but was never actually taught by.
   I was sad to read about the death of  Alan Murray. He did teach me some history, but mainly it was John Rowlands for O-Level. I also remember him from the 15 Society and political discussions. In 1974 there was a mock election in parallel to the real one and the result was close, almost mirroring the actual result with Labour just beating the Conservatives. I was "agent" to the Tory candidate Graham Bignell, who lost. Graham was a tall, handsome and most affable young man who always had the most attractive of girl friends of which we were quite jealous.
   My fondest memory of Mr. Murray was whilst in the upper sixth form in early summer 1975. Several lunchtimes he and another pupil who was fortunate to have access to a car drove a group of us to a country pub where we had mainly liquid lunches. Despite being in school uniform the pub did serve us, the only precondition being we removed our school ties! He was the only teacher in my experience who was so enlightened as to mix with his elder pupils socially and treat us as truly young adults. In return we would buy him Pilsner diabetic beers.

Teacher Comments/Updates

 I am also able to update some of the information on dates for the school master's page.
   Mr. Wilkinson was my form teacher in my first year and left at the end of that year so he left JRGS in July 1969.
   The fearsome David "Rhino" Rees taught me Latin in my first and second years. He left in July 1970. (Ken Maggs taught me Latin in my 3rd, 4th and 5th year.) I can remember on occasions "Rhino" disappearing into his little room cupboard in the front of his class room during lessons having set us some work and then us seeing smoke coming from underneath the door; he always reeked of tobacco and breathed heavily.
   Also his fearsome attacks of thrown chalk and board rubbers for those not paying attention and his ultimate punishment for those that had not done their homework and prepared their translations of passages from Caesar’s Gallic Wars or showing belligerence; the grabbing of a pupil by his hair and then being shaken from side to side. On one occasion I remember a pupil deliberately provoking him into this action, having absolutely caked his hair before hand with Brylcream, with inevitable results. The last laugh was on Mr. Rees, however, as the boy was later caned for his insolence. Despite his strong discipline he was a most excellent teacher of a difficult subject and was sorely missed at least from an academic point of view after he left.
   Is Charles "Smuts" Smith still alive and will he be coming to the reunion? I also recall he had a fearsome temper and often shouted in a sarcastic manner at his errant pupils. He taught me both O-Level and then A-Level Pure and Applied Maths. It is thanks to his efforts that I eventually ended up doing a joint honours degree in Maths & Physics at King's College London.

State Grammar Schools

I have never forgotten my grammar school education and appreciate perhaps more than others the privilege it was to have had such an education having witnessed the destruction of standards both academic and behavioural that inevitably came with the introduction of mixed-ability schools in the early 1970s. I deliberately chose to live in Kent, which is one of two (I believe) counties that still have state grammar schools.
   I have four sons, all of whom passed their 11+ in the old traditional way and went to Maidstone Grammar School. Two are still there (aged 16 & 13) and my two eldest sons (aged 21 & 19) are now at St. Peter’s College Oxford and Imperial College London, respectively -  testament to the rewards that a traditional state Grammar School can still offer to those with ability and the inclination to work hard, independent of their financial means or background.

Keith Hunter, Maidstone, Kent, April 2009 Email


  Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) discovers nautical links to our school's namesake...

Grand Union Canal - Sunday, 29th Jan 2009

SS Ruskin - May 1897

John Ruskin the writer, John Ruskin the school, John Ruskin the train... and now John Ruskin the canal narrow boat. We saw this last Sunday while on a walk along the Grand Union Canal, Uxbridge. Click on the thumbnail left to view a full-size version
   The quotation along the side of the narrow boat - There is no Wealth But Life - comes from a political book Ruskin wrote in the 1860s called “Unto This Last”.
   The only reference I can find to a JR ship is the attached right, dated 1897.These shipping records of passengers were collected by the then Board of Trade for all vessels leaving the UK for ports other than domestic or European ones from 1890. They are now held by the National Archives at Kew, London, (ex-Public Record Office), reference BT27. I have a subscription to a firm that has scanned and digitized the information.
   The ship SS Ruskin was leaving Newport, South Wales, for Buenos Aires, on 12 May 1897.

Paul Graham, Iver, Bucks, April 2009 Email


  Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) updates his collection of books about Croydon...
Croydon Between The Wars - cover Croydon Between The Wars Queen's Gardens - cover Queen's Garden - page 29

"Croydon Between the Wars"
ISBN: 0 906047 07 2

"The Queen's Gardens"
A history of Central Croydon landmark

During a visit last December to the Croydon Library, I added to my growing collection of books about the history and heritage of Croydon.

   The first book is published by the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society (CNHSS), 96a Brighton Road, South Croydon, CR2 6AD. Artwork design ©CNHSS. All rights reserved.

   The other book is a London Borough of Croydon Parks Department Publication from June 1983, the 100th Anniversary of Croydon's incorporation.

Mel Lambert, April 2009, email

Anne Smith (JRGS/JRHS teacher and SFC Princal1970-99) adds: Many of the Croydon histories have been written by Brian Lancaster, who joined the staff of John Ruskin as a historian after the second reorganisation.

ML adds: I overlooked mentioning that The Queen's Gardens was written and designed by R. T. Harrison and N. R. Oates, while Croydon Between The Wars, like other publications from the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society, was edited by John Gent.


  John Graney (JRGS 1962-67) recalls headmaster Mr. Lowe and a form letter...

 Further to the recent recollection by John Walker (JRGS 1958-65) of the 1964 Mock Election, I remember standing at the bottom of the playground steps as Mr. "Joe" Lowe announced the result. I did vote but I can't remember who for! I was in 3G and did not automatically get a vote but had to earn it by attending a number of hustings meetings. The Head was careful to state, with a little laugh, that although interesting this result was "obviously" no indication of what the result of the real election would be. I do remember some celebration and singing of "Avjo".
   I have always harboured the notion that Mr. Lowe was surprised and disappointed by John Walker's and Harold Wilson's victories. I may be doing him an injustice, but John is right - Mr. Lowe was aloof. Perhaps the word is 'patrician'. In fact, he seemed to me to be a different sort of being altogether and not one I aspired to emulate. Was I the only one to find Nature Study lessons entirely puzzling?
   When I left the school from 5C and before the O-Level results were announced, Mickey Richardson and I had a short interview with Mr. Lowe in a corridor, where he said that we "ought to join the JR Old Boys Association" as we were "the sort of chap who would be remaining in the area". I am afraid that I never considered either for a moment.
   When I applied to join the Royal Navy four years later they required that one of my referees must be the head teacher of my school. I wrote and asked for a reference and I assume one was given because I was duly appointed to Britannia Royal Naval College as an officer under training.  (I don't know if my reference was a glowing tribute or indeed if it would have had any influence either way. I applied to join the Navy during a postal strike. They had not had an application for quite a while when I walked into the Old Admiralty Building in Whitehall and asked for a job. I suspect it was that little spark of initiative that got me into Dartmouth rather than anything J. C, Lowe might have written about me.)
JCL Letter from 1971   Once established, I wrote to Mr. Lowe to thank him for the reference and inform him of my progress in life. The response, shown left, was less than edifying. I don't know where he got the concept of a "transfer" from. I was a direct-entry officer cadet. It hurt me at the time and still looks like a scruffy little bit of paper nearly 38 years later. Admittedly, as John Walker says, these were days before photocopying. Am I being oversensitive? Did anyone else get one quite like this? Even at the age of 20 and before being promoted to the dizzy heights of midshipman RN I had become used to being addressed as "Mr. Graney".

John Graney, Brading, Isle of Wight. March 2009 Email

Derek Falkner (JRGS 1954-61) adds: John Graney mentioned singing "AVJO" after the mock election. I wonder if The Alumni is aware that Mr. Lowe knew exactly what "AVJO" meant? I heard him explaining it to another member of staff; apparently it is shorthand for the Latin phrase "Ave Joe", or "Welcome Joe". I didn't want to disillusion him. This was during my time in the sixth form, so it would have been around 1960.

Anne Smith (JRHS Teacher/Principal 1970-99) adds: John Lowe was indeed aloof. He was chronically shy; but also suffered from having become Head at a very early age and, like other male heads I have known, sometimes thought that his name was spelled G O D. In any case, the letter included above is inexcusable.
   I think that John Lowe's tenure was unusually long even for those days because it means he became a head very young. Young appointers these days don't normally stay on for the rest of their careers but go on to something else. He once told me he was nervous before every assembly and he was certainly frightened of anyone who stood up to him. He was scared stiff of Dr. Terry James!

Bob Lisney (JRGS 1958-65) ) adds: Interesting that this 1964 Mock Election has come up because I stood as the Conservative Candidate [against John Walker as the Labour Candidate]. I was not and am not politically motivated - and was not of that persuasion - but I do recall that the conservative faction could not get anyone to stand. Communist was very popular I recall and there was real interest in making it a real campaign event.
    I took the view that even without any publicity the innate constituency of the school pupils and their backgrounds would throw up a close show, and even a conservative victory, so I stood with the aim of not doing anything. To my horror I had mandatory to do three lunchtime events to explain and cajole people to vote for me.
    As I did not even know what the conservative policies were I had to go to the Norbury office and get some leaflets. I remember being met by elderly ladies with blue-rinse hairstyles and posh voices who were very nice to me and wished me well.
    I read the brochures, took out the key messages and that became my input to these meetings which, again to my surprise, were well attended. The other campaigners were really getting up a head of steam - and I wasn’t! - so I found I had to defend some rigorous questioning about the reasons for these policies. As I did no know the answers I had to make everything up.
    I was a real disaster. However, I do not recall the outcome but I thought that labour won but conservatives came out OK - I may have been third after the communists! There was still a reasonable number of votes considering they had nothing to vote for! I assume someone may have the outcomes somewhere.
    I then spent most of my working life working in councils in a political environment and still regularly visit the corridors of power in Westminster. So perhaps my first brush with politics did in some way inspire me to take the agendas seriously in the future.

Grant Harrison (JRGS 1959-66) adds: I was corresponding the other day with John Byford about these elections. He was the Welsh Nationalist candidate and I was his publicity officer. We distributed scores of little strips of paper around the school designed to look like telegrams. They read something like "Welsh Nationalist meeting stop Classroom 10 stop Welsh Nationalist meeting". I think many people came, obeying the instruction to "stop Welsh Nationalist meeting".
   Anyway we had a fantastic attendance. The classroom was overflowing and John proved a great orator for his cause. Can't remember how many votes we got though!

John Byford (JRGS 1959- 66) adds: The electorate was made up of the fifth and sixth forms; boys below the fifth could vote if they attended at least three of the meetings. (Was a register kept? Or were boys issued with a loyalty card, stamped at each election meeting they attended?) There were five candidates in all, each of whom held three meetings. Grant Harrison is spot on about the tremendous attendance, so tremendous that Mr. Rees took great delight in entering the meeting and appointing himself as a Guardian of the Peace; needless to say there were no more questions!
   The result: John Walker (Labour) 114 votes; Robert Lisney (Conservative) 105; Charles Held (Liberal) 65; "Butch" McCutcheon (Communist) 59; John Byford (Plaid Cymru) 10.
   Although Mr. Lowe acted as Principal Returning Officer, it was Mr. Murray who organised the election and made it such a success. Many years later when we (the British Library) took on the logistical support for taking a Private Members Bill through the Houses of Parliament that became the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 I would tell the story of the election to the MPs and Peers whom I was lobbying.


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