JRGS News Archive Page 51
JRGS Alumni Society

Archived News/Activities

- Page 51 - Dec 2008 thru Jan 2009 -

JRGS Alumni Society


Martin Preuveneers (JRGS 1958-65) meets up with a fellow Alumnus...

John Cobley and Martin Preuveneers

John and Evelyn Cobley with Martin and Maxine Preuveneers

Pictured in the right-hand image
(left-to-right): JC and his wife
Evelyn; MP with his wife Maxine.

Last Friday [January 23], John Cobley (JRGS 1958- 65) and I got together in San Francisco. John hosted a Burns Night Party at his house, and invited his circle of ex-pat friends. There were poetry readings many with musical accompaniments, along with haggis and whisky - all of which made for a most enjoyable evening.
   Click on either thumbnail to view a larger version.
   John is Professor of Chemistry at The University of San Francisco, while I'm with Zephyr Biotech, just across the Bay in Oakland.

Martin Preuveneers, Alameda, CA, USA, January 2009 Email


 Mike Blamire (JRGS 1956-57) unearths his parents' School Welcoming Letter...

I found the following document while digging through the "stuff" that keeps growing in my basement. Click on any thumbnail to view a large version.

JRGS Welcoming Letter - page 1 JRGS Welcoming Letter - page 2 JRGS Welcoming Letter - page 3

It is the school welcoming letter that was sent to my parents in July 1956. Pretty standard fare, but it may interest some of The Alumni. The most noticeable thing is that, although my parents are addressed in the letter, my name is not mentioned; I can't imagine that happening these days.

Mike Blamire, Belleville, Ontario, Canada, January 2009 Email

ML adds: Interested readers might like to compare this document with one issued by Mr. Lowe in May 1964. Here, the parents' names do not appear, making the letter even more impersonal.

Norman Day (JRGS 1960-66) adds: Many thanks to Mike for that letter – fascinating. I suspect it probably remained unchanged for a decade! However my admittedly imperfect memory has the name of the school outfitters in Surrey Street [mentioned on page 2 of the document] as "Hewitts" rather than "Howitts" though I can’t see how such a mistake could have got through. [Maybe the "e" of Hewitts has been distorted to an "o," either during the original duplication process or during scanning? - ML]
   I can still remember being measured up in that establishment with my friend Graham Priest, when the Hewitts sales assistant asked us if we could fight well enough to survive as "Brats". Neither or Graham or I actually had any trouble of that nature, though many of the smaller "Brats" were bullied – even (perhaps especially?) by their contemporaries.


 Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) reports on a recent Alumni Meeting in Croydon...

JRGS Alumni 29 December 2009

Left-to-right: Mel Lambert, John Byford and Paul Graham

During a brief trip to London over the Christmas Holidays, I managed to journey to the Croydon Archives - more details below - and to meet that evening with Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) and John Byford (JRGS 1959-66), first at the Spread Eagle pub, located at the corner of High Street and Katharine Street, adjacent to the Croydon Town Hall, and thence for dinner at The Pizza Express, South End, close to Coombe Road. The resultant conversation was wide ranging, and of many topics, including schooldays and the current economic climate in Europe and North America.
   John had brought along a wonderful collection of images from a Geography Field Trip in 1966, and some fascinating local postcards he had secured on eBay.
   All in all, the evening included good eating, drinking, laughing and reminiscing – the years rolled away and the evening flashed by. We plan to meet up again in 2009.
   Apologies to other JRGS Alumni members for lack of notice about the gathering, but the timing of my visit to the Croydon Archives was critical - details of the opening hours were only available to me close to my departure from America - and I only had a single day to attend that fine establishment and set up a meeting with old friends. There is always next time!
   Below are several images I managed to secure from Croydon Archives - I also located a number of noteworthy documents, including minutes of various planning meetings,  the contents of which I will share at a later date.

Snow at Upper Shirley Road Snow at Upper Shirley Road Snow at Upper Shirley Road Snow at Upper Shirley Road

These four images within the Upper Shirley Road site show a major snow fall and pupils responding accordingly. The photographer remains unidentified.
  As Paul Graham offers: "The Big Freeze was 1962-63, when it started snowing on Boxing Day, with continuous snow on the ground until March. Two feet of snow, and higher in drifts, was very common. Getting to school was a problem. The photos look like that era."
   Which rings another bell. January 1963 was the month I did O-Level mocks. Having been caught by Mr. Charles Smith throwing snowballs in the back quad with fellow members of 5U, I had to write out 1,000 10-letter words the night before a French O-Level exam - needless to say I didn't fare too well in that mock!

/Army Cadet Force

Croydon Archives

School Library

The Amy Cadet Force and a
side-valve BSA motorcycle
that provided experience of
vehicle repair - date unknown

The Chemistry Laboratory
at Upper Shirley Road
- date unknown

The School Library Laboratory
at Upper Shirley Road, with
Mr. Martin Nunn (right)
- date unknown

New Addington - 1953

Shirley Windmill

Field Trip - 1966

New Addington housing estate, 1953, showing the view along King Henry's Drive towards the roundabout where the Addington Hotel used to stand.

The Windmill at Upper Shirley
Road during construction of the
new school during the mid-Fifties

A Field Trip to Thursley Common Ecological Trail in 1964, with John Cobley (left) and Mr. Ian Kay (right)

The large-format images show various scenes of school life, plus the surrounding areas; the last image dates from either 1964 or 1965, with some familiar faces.
   Can anybody identify the schoolboys shown is some of other photographs?

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA. January 2009 Email

John Cobley (JRGS 1958-65) adds: Thanks for finding this image of Thursley Common, especially since I do not even remember going on this field trip!
   Second from right is John Rivers, who died of a brain tumour at about 44 years old. It might be worth celebrating the life of John Rivers with this picture; he was a man of whom JRGS should be exceptionally proud. I have located two amazing obituaries of John, one of which contains a photo of John in his prime. [Guardian obituary - ML ]
   Third from right is Peter Hylands; I recently located Peter in the internet. I'm not sure who is pictured fourth from right. Mr. Kay taught A-Level Botany; he deserves recognition for his influence on the pupils in this picture.
   I checked out the A-Level subjects taken. We all passed A-Level Botany, except for John Rivers, who passed Pure Mathematics, Chemistry and Zoology. My hunch is that it was a Botany Field Trip since the ecology of plants is what you would mainly see on a trail. Why John Rivers was on the trip I don't know. All three of us were taught and passed A-Level Zoology under the tutelage of Mr. Dennis "Harry" Green. Perhaps John Rivers just came along for the ride; perhaps it was a Biology Field Trip. I wonder who took the picture?

Paul Graham adds: I am fairly sure the pupil in the left foreground of the School Library photograph looking uncharacteristically studious is Rodger Holcombe.

Peter Wilson (JRGS 1956-63) adds: In the Ecological Trail picture I am sure the "unknown" boy in the striped shirt is John Brightwell. He and his parents lived in Wickham Road, Shirley - I think his father worked for Sainsbury's in some senior management position. John had a younger, and rather nice, sister, Jill Brightwell. Can't remember which school she went to - possibly Lady Edridge, possibly Coloma? She was friends with Jill Deverell, who did go to Coloma.
   Jill's brother John Deverell went to Ruskin and played chess for the school; he and I still exchange Christmas Cards. He'd had polio as a youngster and had one leg in a caliper with a built-up boot. I remember that John excelled at darts, table-tennis, billiards/snooker and played a pretty good game of chess too. I last saw Jill and John Deverell at their 21st Party - they were twins - in December 1966 - and I think Jill Brightwell had been at their birthday party the previous year, which would have been the last time I met her. I think that The Deverells lived in a cul-de-sac off Bridle Road, Shirley, possibly called Graham Close.

John Graney (JRGS 1962-67) adds: Sorry, but all of the boys pictured in these images are a mystery to me, except for the bottom-right - the Field Trip to Thursley Common. I do remember John Rivers as a sixth former when I was a "brat". Alan Bailey was the school captain then. Does anyone else remember Rivers' performance of "Dulce et decorum est"? I was very affected by that even as a callow youth.
   I do remember Mr. Kay. I also remember that he was coughing when he was carried onto the stage in some production or other in a coffin, which had IDK - for Ian Deverell Kay - on one side and "I Decay" on the other. Both he and Martin Nunn (also pictured above) were form teachers of mine at Ruskin - I hope both are well.
   However, the photograph in the picture bottom-left is not actually of the area where the Addington Hotel once stood. That is at least half a mile away although it is in the direction the camera is pointed; the road crossing centre of the picture is King Henry's Drive.
   The coach (one of Worralls?) is facing Gascoigne Road; to the left of it is Queen Elizabeth's Drive. The unmade road to the right of the picture by the two huts is Goldcrest Way. Most of the houses in the picture are the pre-war "Addington Garden Village," known to the rest of us as the Boots Estate. To some of us who lived in the rest of New Addington, the Boots Estate seemed rather posh. I don't know what they thought of us!
   A block of flats was later built on the site where the coach is parked. The area where the photographer stands was a great playground for us in the 1950s and early '60s - there was quite a bit of hawthorn scrub and streams to dam. Oddly enough, I don't think we had a name for the area. It was just there. Happy Days!

Cliff Cummins (JRGS 1956-62) adds: With regard to Peter Wilson’s reference to John Deverell, I occasionally meet him for lunch in Oxted, where I live and where John has been working on a part-time basis for Tandridge District Council. We have a common interest in genealogy and I have been able to assist John in tracing passenger lists on voyages made by some of his Salvation Army ancestors.

Derek Charlwood (JRGS 1958-64) adds: The photo with the rather elegant lady, sitting - I believe the boy sitting second from left as we look, leaning forward, wearing a blazer, is Derek Chase. However, he would have been a year or two older than Norman, joining JRGS at the same time as me, in 1958. Also the photo in the library with Martin Nunn - the boy at the back with the big quiff of blond hair is, I believe, Richard (Humph) Humphries.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scanned images shown here are Copyright Croydon Council, and are reproduced by permission of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service.


 John Byford (JRGS 1959-66) has unearthed some interesting photos & postcards...

I recently came across a series of images taken during a Geography Field trip to the Slapton Ley Field Centre, Devon, from 2nd to 9th of March, 1966, along with a number of postcards of Croydon Views that I secured on eBay. My thanks to Paul Graham for scanning these images. Click on any thumbnail to view a full-size version.

Slapton Ley Field Centre 01

Slapton Ley Field Centre 02

Slapton Ley Field Centre 03

The left-hand image shows Clive Poole, back to camera, and me, along with a group of uninterested donkeys, while the centre image (left-to-right) shows Paul Rayner (JRGS), Phil Bailey (Prince Henry's Grammar School), John unknown, George Strelczuk (JRGS) and Ed Howell (Harrow School), with Clive Poole (JRGS) and myself in front. The right-hand image shows the Slapton Ley Field Centre.
   Sadly, no other photos exist, otherwise there would be one of the magnificent steam engine that hauled our train from Paddington to Kingswear. (The line from Paignton to Kingswear is still in existence as the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway. )
   After a rain-swept journey the rest of the week was unseasonably mild and sunny, we did all the things that on did on geography field trips, identified classic geographic features - the ria at Kingsbridge, the amazing features of Slapton Sands, drank too much of the local cider, and generally had a goodtime. (Kingsbridge has one of the best examples of a ria in the world; it's a drowned river valley, often confused with fjords which, as any Geography student will tell you, are formed by glacial action. San Francisco Bay also is a ria.)
   Click here to view the following postcards as a continuous PDF file.

Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard
Church Street, Croydon,
during early-Fifties.
Copyright: F. Frith & Co. Ltd. Reigate
West Croydon Station, during
late Forties or early Fifties.
Copyright: None stated
George Street, Croydon, at the
turn of the 20th Century.
Field's "Croydon Series No. 67"
Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard
Croydon Underpass and
Norfolk House.
Copyright: None stated
Suffolk House and
Fairfield Halls.
Copyright: None stated
Upper Shirley Road at the
turn of the 20th Century.
Copyright: A. Wyatt, Croydon
Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard
The Old Windmill, Shirley, at
the turn of the 19th Century.
Field's "Academy Series No. 278"
Oaks Road, Shirley, during
mid-Fifties. (Note incorrect spelling.)
Copyright: Real Photograph
Addington Hills during
Copyright: C. H. Price
Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard Croydon Postcard
Central Parade, New Addington,
during Sixties.
Copyright: F. Frith & Co. Ltd. Reigate
First Day on Routes C3/C4, New Addington, 18th April, 1970.
Copyright: Pamlin Prints, Croydon
Croydon High Street in the Fifties, with the Davis Theatre on right, Surrey Street on left, and Milletts in the centre - still there 50 years later.
Copyright: Francis Frith

John Byford, Camberwell, London, January 2008 Email

George Strelczuk (JRGS 1958-66) adds: The chap to my right in the central image from the Geography Field trip to the Slapton Ley Field Centre is John Bailey from the (then) Prince Henry's Grammar School, Evesham, and on my left is Ed Howell from Harrow School. Unfortunately, like John, I don't recall Phil.

Terence Morris (JRGS 1942-50) adds: With reference to  John Byford’s interesting photos of bygone Croydon, the one of Church Street has a connection with John Ruskin School. On the right hand side of the picture is Carters Menswear shop, which was the official School outfitters and the only place from which the compulsory blazer badges and house ties could be bought when I started in 1942. No-one else sold the black blazers. And you needed clothes coupons, of course, for everything except ties. Provided, however, that they were grey, you could get the trousers anywhere, and the best value was at Marks and Spencer in North End, just by Station Road. They also did the best shirts.
   Does anyone still in Croydon know what is planned for the site of the old Propeller Pub on Purley Way. Going past every few months I have seen it demolished, boarded up and now there seems to be some sort of hole! Is the real propeller that served as a pub sign in existence anywhere?

Grant Harrison (JRGS 1959-66) adds: Thank you so much, John, for your latest contribution to the JRGS website. Apart from those amazing pictures of you on the field trip (that is just how I remember you!) the pictures of Croydon are fascinating.
   They are of particular interest to me because from about 1953 to 1960 I lived in central Croydon in a little two-up/two-down terrace house that stood where Debenham's car park is now - just around the corner from the Swop Shop. So I grew up around Church Street and the High Street. The branch of British Home Stores that is shown was where Bob Seward and I did our first summer job working in the canteen. He used to give me lift there on his Lambretta LI 150!
   In 1960 we moved to Addiscombe and in 1964 to leafy middle-class Shirley. I guess my basically working-class parents had very upwardly mobile ambitions!

Mike Marsh (JRGS (1949-55) adds: I noticed that in a the above recollections, John Byford states: "Sadly, no

other photos exist, otherwise there would be one of the magnificent steam engine that hauled our train from Paddington to Kingswear. (The line from Paignton to Kingswear is still in existence as the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway.)"
   I thought that the Alumni might like to see these two attached pictures taken on the Paignton/Kingswear line. Way back now, and on an excursion, but I think still in the days of steam. Rather doubtful that this was the locomotive referred to, but steam nevertheless, and on that same line.
   I guess the image was taken back in the Sixties. Click on either thumbnail to view a larger version.
   The locomotive pictured here - Lydham Manor 7827 - is still extant and running on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway. I have just discovered that Lydney Manor was rebuilt in 1973, so she must have been brand "new" out of the workshops that year.


 Alan Maynell (JRGS 1957-62) recalls his prank-laden school life and fellow pupils...

I started at the school in 1957, class 1H with Mr. Hancock, the music teacher. Next I drew the short straw and got Mr. "Rhino" Rees. Third year is a blank, but Mr. Robertshaw was my form master in both the 4th and 5th year. I gave up studying as a bad job at that point!
Mr. "Horace" Howden   My memories are almost entirely of pranks, etc., not the least of which was our hanging an effigy of Mr. "Joe" Lowe from the Windmill on the eve of school open day. I recall being on one end of the "lineup" for the school photo and when the camera began to turn, jumping down and running to the other end so that I got in twice! We found out how to make the classroom clocks go backwards, which was fun for a day, and I will never forget poor Mr. Nunn's face when, on a school field day to Caterham Downs, I caught an adder and showed him. He nearly died on the spot.
   I attach a sketch, shown left, made during my schooldays of Mr. "Horace" Howden, who taught geography. I remember sticking a map of UK on my exercise book and coming out of Loch Ness was a monster... complete with a "Horace" for its head. He was not amused!
   My classmates included "Topsy" Turvey, Paul Socolof, Richard Irving, Brian Kirby, "Biff" Bailey, not one but two Peter Alan Thomases, Stephen Turner, Robert Finch, Brian Buckley, Childs, Atkinson, Brindley, Lovatt and, of course, many others.
   From the same year I recall Paul Reed, Roger Knott, Robert Lynn and Peter Howard. Maybe these names will spur someone else into getting in touch.
   Only one or two of us will remember an episode that took place involving a lad who - here I am guessing his Christian name - Brian Mcguire. He was mad as a hatter about space travel etc. and no doubt became a rocket scientist. One lunch time, a few of us trooped up to the highest point on Shirley Hills, near to the cafe, where we prepared to launch one of Brian's home made rockets. It was quite a large affair: probably a metre or so in height, at the push of a button or, more probably in those days, the lighting of a match, the projectile took off at tremendous speed but began to look as though central Croydon might be where it would come down, injuring hundreds etc. Silence!
   We all wandered back to school fearing the very worst but we never heard any more. Phew, another escape.

Post-JRGS Experiences

After leaving Ruskin, I went into a not as boring as it might sound career in banking. I spent may years as a "trouble shooter" and eventually was lucky enough to be posted to Jersey where my love of sailing became irresistible and one day I cast off the mooring lines and went Blue Water Sailing.
   I now live in Southern Spain where, in between trying to keep pace with running my rather modest olive farm, I spend a great deal of time on my other passion, fast motorbikes, as I am in charge of the Almeria Race Circuit.
   Retirement began here in an urbanisation near the coast. I was involved in cycling and, as a veteran, I was competing in mountain bike races all over the place. However, not being able to sit still for long, we - that is I and my "sort of Norwegian, born in Africa" wife, Ingeborg - decided to "go bush".
   We bought some abandoned farmland in the middle of nowhere and built a rambling farmhouse that one day threatens to be finished. We cleared most of the fields and planted olives, grape vines, citrus and soft-fruit trees. The array of garages and storage sheds grows continually as the collection of tractors, ploughs, trailers, wine presses, motorbikes, cars, quads, etc. expands. The "Good Life" had nothing on this.
   We don't have trouble with rogue elephants here, but keeping the wild boar and mountain goats out of the vegetable field at night takes some doing!
   Normal retirement really - like being host to about 80 Russian riders on track today. Wouldn't change a thing!

Alan Maynell, Sierra de Bedar, Almeria Province, Spain, January 2009 Email


 Alan Wilson (JRGS 1957-62) recalls his school days and some influential teachers...

I joined in 3M from Weymouth Grammar in 1957 and left for Reading University in 1962. Our family moved to Weymouth from Ilford in the East End of London in 1949 as food was poor as well as rationed. I was not a strong lad and the countryside was a great attraction. We lived in and around Weymouth until my parents could stand the slower pace of life no longer. Both obtained work in the City of London and we moved to Croydon in November 1957.
   My schooling had been at Weymouth Grammar School to this point where I had been in the equivalent of the "U" stream at John Ruskin Grammar School. On my arrival at Ruskin the judgment was made that I should go into 3M as it was felt the "U" stream would be a step too far. I was asked to sit the end-of-Autumn-term exams in 3M in order that my fit with the Ruskin syllabus and hence needs for any special tuition could be assessed. Needless to say, I did not do too well but was mortified to be placed bottom of the form (I thought my results would be kept apart from the usual ranking!).
   Mr. Des May was our form master and he was a tough taskmaster, but a fair one. He and the maths master Mr. Derek Peasey had concluded that my maths was weak and it was decided with my parents that I should undergo extra tuition in maths in lunch hours. I found the subject difficult to understand especially the algebra which was like an extra foreign language at that time. This coupled with the change from co-ed to an all boys school were the main changes I noticed.
   With the help of Derek Peasey and the (sometimes physical) encouragement of Des May, I managed to concentrate and catch up to the point of leading the class at the end of 1958 summer term exams. I obviously felt at home at Ruskin as I had been performing poorly at Weymouth GS and was not at all happy there. Whilst my performance in exams was good I found time to enjoy sport and also welcomed the interest of Mr. Murray and Mr. Nunn to the extent they tutored some of us in lunch hours and after school in order to take History and or Geography O-Level a year early rather than drop the subjects at the end of the fourth year.
   Reflecting on life at Ruskin it was obvious that there were several extremely dedicated and perceptive staff at that time. It was at the end of the fifth year that the course of my life was really turned. Mr. May was holding the end-of-year parent/teacher meetings. My parents had persuaded me to consider entering banking as a career after O-Levels and this was mentioned to Des. He was adamant that my future lay in taking A-Levels and going on to University. This path was not one familiar to me or my parents and so it had not entered the realms of possibilities. Des was so positive, however, that we sat down and considered his words and I then embarked on a totally new course in my life.
   I never looked back and it transpired that I had passed 10 O-Levels and eventually gained a State Scholarship (in Physics, Pure Maths and Applied Maths – after remedial Maths in 3M!). This gave me entry to Reading University to study physics. After obtaining a B.Sc. in 1965 I returned to Reading to obtain a PhD in Applied Physics in 1970.
   Cutting the story short, I made a career in the electricity supply industry as a reactor physicist eventually becoming the Manager of one of the UK Nuclear Power Stations before changing tack and becoming the business planning manager of the privatised National Power. When this role came to an end I went to Fiji on a voluntary posting to work for the electricity supply company there for six months before returning to run the timetable branch of Railtrack in Swindon for seven years, finally retiring aged 60 in 1993.
   As you can see, Des changed the direction of my life and I have always been grateful to him and to the dedicated staff at Ruskin who helped this lad from Dorset to fulfill his potential. I had made several attempts to find Des over the years to thank him for his character-building work on my behalf (as well as a giving me a decent smattering of French). His approach to his form was to ensure that they achieved to their potential in each and every subject. He was jealous of our performance and always encouraged us to perform to our abilities in all subjects – even to the point of pain when we resisted!
Alan Wilson - 2007   It was with a great surprise when an email arrived via FriendsReunited.com from Wally Walters, a former classmate now in Australia. He was still in touch with Des and rapidly I was able to contact him and we had an amazing conversation that culminated in meeting again with three other form members in 2007. (And reported elsewhere on the website).
   I was able to tell Des my story and to thank him for his forceful persuasion – as he had left the school on a promotion immediately after the parent/teacher meeting in 1960 he had no idea of the effect that he had. It was instructive to compare notes with the other form members as they all regarded Des as being most formative in their lives. Des maintains that as a teacher new to the profession when he entered Ruskin that we taught him more than he taught us – but we know differently.
   It would be wrong to ignore the help and encouragement that I received from other members of staff. My geographical knowledge and thirst for travel came from Martin Nunn’s enthusiasm for Geography. My Maths was due in no small part to Derek Peasey and Mr. Smith but the advanced work was due to Mr. "Puncher" Pearce. My physics was largely due to the diligence of Mr. Chaundy – with whom I did not have an easy relationship but who wisely counselled me to “enjoy the social life of a friendly live-in small university of Reading”. Indeed Reading suited me very well with its close community spirit.
   All in all, five years at Ruskin changed my life and very much for the better and I have at last been able to record my appreciation of the establishment and the many dedicated staff too numerous to mention in their entirety.

Alan Wilson, Box, Wiltshire, December 2008 Email


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