JRGS News Archive Page 49
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- Page 49 - October 2008 -

JRGS Alumni Society


  Maurice Whitfield (JRGS 1959-66) visits Shirley Hills and the famous Windmill...

While in the area recently, I took some photos on a lovely autumn day in Shirley. The sense of nostalgia from visiting these places is as powerful an experience as time-travel - the muddy football boots and sodden ball, journeys home through Shirley Hills and that fantastic landmark, The Windmill.
   Click on any thumbnail to view a larger version.
   Regarding damage reported below by David Anderson, maybe The Mill has received a fresh coat of parakeet-resistant paint. It's certainly in very well-preserved condition.
   I remember The Mill being used as a changing room for those having a PE lesson on the running track and sandpit area. But how did we get inside it? There must have been steps or a ladder.

The Shirley Mill

The Shirley Mill

The Shirley Mill

Shirley Hills panorama

This panoramic image was taken from the Observation Platform on Shirley Hills which, if I remember correctly, was built during my time at JRGS. It shows the view looking north - Crystal Palace to the right, with central Croydon in the centre spreading to the left.
   And here is a panorama taken at the changing rooms at Oaks Road Sports Ground - fond memories of those muddy football boots. The buildings are as I remember them. Not beautiful architecture, but they certainly trigger memories. The playing fields and goal posts are exactly as they were in the Sixties.

Oaks Road Changing Rooms

Since I have now returned to live in Croydon, I could perhaps be of service to Alumni members from my era, '59 - '66, who may have lived far away for a long time. Would anybody like a photo of their childhood home as it is now, for example? I'd be pleased to do this, since it would help to make the dog walk more interesting!

Maurice Whitfield, Woodside Green, London SE25, October 2008 Email

Roger Adcock (JRGS 1963-68) adds: Maurice asks how we got into the windmill. This left-hand photo taken in June 1967of mostly 5G shows where we entered The Mill via a door at the rear. The right-hand image is one that I took on 5th July 2006 of the newly refurbished Mill - that entrance door is still there.
   Click on either thumbnail to view a larger version.

5G in 1967

JRGS Windmill in 2006

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: The way to the upper floors of The Mill was by a steep wooden ladder – forbidden to go there – but I remember doing it at least once, though it may have been on an official task. Old furniture and sports stuff was stored on the upper floors. The ladder – or a modern replacement, but similar – was still there when I visited it about a year ago on an Open Day.


 John Heath (JRGS 1969-71) recalls sixth-form life and teachers in the late-Sixties...

I joined the JRGS sixth form in 1969, having completed my O-Levels at Ingram Secondary Modern in Thornton Heath. Accompanying me from Ingram were David Herbert Tucker and Michael Close, both of whom I have lost touch with. David was a keen Crystal Palace supporter and (conveniently) lived round the corner from the Selhurst Park ground. He did brilliantly at A-Level and in 1971 went on to the University of Surrey to study Human Sciences. I went on to the University of Sussex to study sociology.
   I remember the fug of cigar smoke in Mr. "Joe" Lowe's office, the beakish aspect of Mr. "Wally" Cracknell, the tip-tap of blind Mr. "Pad" Peacock's white cane on the corridors, the panache of Mr. Johnny Rowlands (ex-LSE, economics teacher), the astuteness of Mr. "'Robbo" Robertson (who introduced me to U.S. history), the primness of Mr. Nun (who taught us about the geography of Australia, illustrated with slides from his holiday there, including one of him in some Aborigine initiation ritual), and the benign good humour of Mr. "Eggo" Murray, who said that he had "middle of the road" outlook, based on subscribing to The Guardian, The Observer and the New Statesman (he was appalled by Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech). I wrote to Mr. Murray from the backlands of Brazil in 1977 where I was doing some doctoral fieldwork on the peasantry and he was kind enough to reply.
 Distinguished colleagues were Phil Tidd (who represented the Liberals in the school mock elections) and Martin Laffin (Labour - his mother was Mayor of Croydon some years later), who went on to Cambridge (history) and Sussex (philosophy) respectively. I was intimidated by the breadth of their extra-curricular reading and their articulateness. I remember Martin quoting from Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies with almost evangelical fervour. Martin and I subsequently shared a flat in Hove during our last year at Sussex. He is now an academic - formerly at the University of Cardiff, now at the University of York, I think.
   History was always my first love and I took an "A" in that subject at A-Level.
   It is perhaps ironic that I now work at The World Bank in Washington, DC, an organization dominated by economists, and that I am nominally an economist myself when my A-Level grade in economics was "C". This is no reflection on the excellent teaching and exhilarating classes offered by Johnny Rowlands (who, sometimes, en route from his bachelor digs, would give me a lift up to the school in his spiffy Ford Capri, picking me up at Thornton Heath clock tower).

John R. Heath, Washington DC, USA, October 2008 Email


 Clive Whitehead (JRGS 1950-52) explains Anne Smith's recent claim to fame...

I was not only a pupil at the old JRGS school in Tamworth Road from September 1950 until May 1952, but returned in the late-Sixties as a teacher of Social Studies, English and PE. During the past few years I have become friends with Anne Smith, ex-staff member at John Ruskin GS and later Principal of John Ruskin High School and Sixth Form College.
   My friendship with Anne began when, a couple of years back, she wrote about her time at John Ruskin for The Mill. Subsequently, I wrote to Anne, introduced myself and suggested that she might write an article on her thoughts about English comprehensive schooling since the late 1950s for an academic journal that I edit, Education Research and Perspectives. Anne agreed to my suggestion and since then I have had lunch with her a couple of times at her home in East Croydon. She had never visited Australia so arranged to come on a three-week tour. The tour was to start in Perth, Western Australia, so we arranged for her to spend several days beforehand at our home as our guest.
   But her arrival was not without incident. With Anne's full permission here is her story and her brief claim to fame. We thought The Alumni might be interested.
   Anne was due to arrive in Perth a few days in advance of the main touring party and stay with me. I checked that her flight was on schedule when I left for the airport about 30 minutes before landing. By the time I arrived there was a notice to say that the flight was delayed but no reason was stated. After wandering around the airport until well after the original landing time I was eventually given a brief printed statement by Qantas Airlines' ground staff to say that the aircraft had made an unscheduled landing at Learmonth in the far north of Australia and was not expected in Perth for another four or five hours. No further details were available. I duly got in my car and drove home again to await further advice on the flight.
   As I drove home radio reports started to come in about many passengers being injured in flight, hence the emergency landing. I gather that at about the same time the UK news services started to pick up the story. To cut a long story short, the plane's flight computer gave trouble and the aircraft plunged some 6,000 feet before the pilot managed to regain control. No doubt all the details have since been amply covered in the UK press. [more]
   On a personal level, Anne managed to phone me to say that she was all right although bruised but the message was brief. Eventually, I picked her up from the airport at about 1.15 AM the next morning. She subsequently said that she had been asleep without her seatbelt being locked in position when the plane nose dived. The first she knew was coming down from hitting the luggage locker above her. She fell heavily back into her seat and as a result received major bruising on her posterior and shoulder. She might have been more severely injured had she not been asleep and her body therefore totally relaxed. She said there was real panic in the plane as people thought momentarily that the plane was going to disintegrate. Some people were badly injured. She had nothing but praise for the professionalism of the Qantas Flight Captain and his crew.
   She was also very generously compensated financially by the airline to the extent that her flight to Australia and back will now be free of charge. She was also given a generous sum to cover other expenses. Unfortunately, she did not get her cabin baggage until several days later because all baggage was impounded while an official investigation into the incident was started, so she had to do some "essential" shopping in Fremantle. Naturally, the incident occupied prime time for several days on Australian TV and radio as passengers recounted their experiences.
   I am glad to report that Anne subsequently enjoyed her extra days in Perth. She visited the old Pentonville-style prison at Fremantle, which is now a tourist venue - it only ceased to be a working prison in 1991 - and also visited the Perth Mint and spent a day on Rottnest Island located off the coast near Fremantle. On a couple of occasions we dined out courtesy of Qantas compensation money. She subsequently joined the main tour party without mishap and from her later emails appears to have been having a wonderful time down under.
   In particular, she said she has fallen in love with the Aussie Outback and its spectacular sunsets. Luckily for her she missed the really hot weather of summer but seemingly only just. It was 35C in Perth today - a taste of what is in store this summer.

Clive Whitehead, Perth, Western Australia, October 2005 Email

Your Webmaster adds: On Sunday October 26, the globe-trotting Anne Smith reported that she was off to Singapore for three days "after a hectic three weeks in Australia with hardly a moment for feet to touch ground. As you can see, I have survived, and enjoyed travelling from Perth and Fremantle to Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, the Flying Doctor base, Cairns, Port Douglas, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney (with a trip to the opera as well), Canberra, the Blue Mountains, Melbourne and Ballarat. It has been great!"
   Incidentally, Clive Whitehead is Associate Professor and Senior Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia's Graduate School of Education, where his key research is "history of education, especially British colonial education and British education policy in India. Plus educational planning in developing countries, especially those in South East Asia and the South Pacific." [more]
   Finally, Clive reports on recent meetings with former JRGS master Neville Graham, who taught PE at the school from 1957 to 1969. [more] "We haven't been in touch for over a year," Clive tells us, "but have met together on several occasions since Nev came to Perth. Incidentally, it was through me that Nev emigrated to Christchurch, New Zealand. I got to know him when I was a staff member at JR and subsequently put in a good word for him which resulted in him getting a teaching position at the same high school that I had taught at - Linwood High School. He stayed there until he retired.
   "I still recall meeting him in Auckland when he and his young family arrived in NZ in 1969 [aboard Shaw Saville Line's RMS Aranda]. His wife Pat and their two sons flew down to Christchurch [from Auckland] while Nev and I drove overnight in his newly imported car through the North Island to Wellington. We then caught the inter-island ferry across Cook Strait to the South Island and motored on to Christchurch. The middle of the North Island is rugged and remote country and only the car's headlights pierced the inky blackness. Nev had no idea where we were going as I sped through the darkness.
   "It all now seems a long time ago - half a lifetime to be precise. I think his move to NZ was Ruskin's loss and Linwood's gain. He proved a fine and very popular acquisition to the Linwood staff and, as always, was and still is the quintessential "English gentleman"! To the best of my knowledge, golf features prominently in his daily life. I would say that he and Pat are growing old very gracefully.
   "I see from the JR website that he was in touch recently with his class 5G of old. He has always had a soft spot for them." [more]


 David Anderson (JRGS 1964-71) discovers that parakeets are attacking The Mill...

I thought that the Alumni might be interested in current a story from the Croydon Guardian dated Oct 3rd. [more]

Curse of the African Queen strikes windmill

It survived the Blitz, several lightning strikes and threats of demolition but now Shirley Windmill is being gradually destroyed by a new enemy - parrots.
   Rose-ringed parakeets have been sharpening their beaks on the 150-year-old windmill’s sails, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.
   Volunteers who work at the mill during open days say that some damage has been inflicted on the timber sails, which cost about £50,000 for a set of four.
   John Jackson, chairman of the friends of Shirley Windmill, said: “Croydon Council are monitoring the damage carefully. It is not too bad at the moment but if it becomes a health and safety issue we may have to close the mill to the public.
   “Replacing the sails would be hugely expensive, even just replacing the individual timber struts would be a big job.”
   In July, the Croydon Guardian reported that the parakeets have caused about £10,000 worth of damage to the spire of St John’s church in Shirley by pecking at the shingle.
   The birds, which come from Africa and Asia, are not native to Britain. It is thought that they started breeding in London in the 1950s.
   One theory is that a whole flock of the birds escaped from Shepperton Studios in Surrey from the set of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.
   Mr. Jackson said: “They are a nuisance but I have to admit they are pretty impressive.
   “I saw two of them dive bomb an pigeon the other day, they saw him off in no time at all.”
   Mr. Jackson said that they have no idea how to get rid of the birds, so will just have to keep monitoring the damage to the sails.
   Apart from the parakeets, the mill suffered two air strikes during the Second World War.
   The mill had to be rebuilt in 1854 to replace the previous mill that burned down in a fire. It has also been struck numerous times by lightning.
   The windmill, at the top of Postmill Close off Upper Shirley Road, is open to visitors over the summer every year.
   The last open day for this year will take place on Sunday.

Bizarre I know, and the story does have a serious side but whoever would have thought this could be a problem in the good old Surrey suburb of Shirley?

David Anderson, Southampton, Hants, October 2008 Email.

Shirley Windmill - parakeetsMike Etheridge (JRGS 1962-65) adds: Here is the latest on damage to The Windmill's sails being caused by Parakeets, taken from The Green Guardian, as attached right.
   Click on the thumbnail to view a full-size image.
   No doubt the damaged sails can be repaired with Polyfilla!

Geoff van Beek/Downer (JRGS 1962-69) adds: Many thanks for the latest JRGS update concerning damage to the mill by rose-ringed parakeets.
   The escape-from-Shepperton-Studios theory might be considered plausible were it not for the fact that flocks of these birds are also to be seen in major Dutch cities, including Rotterdam, Delft and The Hague.
   It is a pity that the school, and the protection it afforded to the mill, has gone: parakeets and parrots can talk, so a typical Ruskin solution would have been to address them sternly during one of their mill-sail assemblies with the immortal words: "THE MILL IS OUT OF BOUNDS!" (And The Mill can be renamed Polyvilla. Sorry!)

David Anderson replies: It just struck me that the comments from Geoffrey Van BEEK about the parakeets were most appropriate! He should know.
   I remember Geoffrey when he was at JRGS using his other surname of Downer. In the Sixth Form he had a green Honda 50, which he used to leave in Oaks Road (the unofficial bike park) and come down the hill past us all waiting for buses outside the school. I have never heard a Honda 50 being revved so high: 10,000 rpm and 60 mph. How it stood it I don't know.
   The bird theme continues as I had the thought that had a certain Deputy Headmaster still been around those parakeets wouldn't have stood a chance. Do you remember the Vulture-like appearance of Mr. "Wally" Cracknell? Those beady eyes, the scrawny neck, the beak-like nose, the academic gown plumage. Say out loud in a bird-like way: "NNNWAARRK!! Wally Burd!"
   Always good for amusement in Assembly.

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: And I could make a joke about a polygon but I don’t think Mr. "Puncher" Pearce would approve!


 Roger Adcock (JRGS 1963-68) recalls his father's European school field trips...

My father Brian Adcock attended John Ruskin School from 1931 until 1936. From his photographs, shown below, it seems that he went on two school trips.
   First, in 1932 to Gibraltar travelling on the Orient Line RMS Orama. Below is a scan of the actual postcard he sent back to his mother. On the reverse he says" "We are all having very nice weather. I have not been sick yet" which was, no doubt, of great comfort to my grandmother!
   The post card was posted in Toulon-sur-Mer near Marseille with a UK 1.5d stamp!

Of interest may be that The Orama was built by Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness in 1924 for the Orient Line with accommodation for 1,700 passengers. She was converted to a troopship in 1940, and used to transport the British Expeditionary Force to Norway following the German Invasion. On the 8th June 1940, she was sunk 300 miles West of Narvik, by the German High Seas Fleet comprising Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Admiral Hipper. The Orama lost 19 killed and 280 taken prisoner. There were heavy losses on the other allied ships also sunk, the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious, two destroyers HMS Ardent and Acasta, the trawler Juniper and the oil tanker Oil Pioneer.

I attach above German photos of the sinking of The Orama. One with a German destroyer going past ( centre) and the other of survivors boarding a German ship (left).

   And here are two images from a school trip to Belgium during 1936. Click on thumbnail to view a larger version.

Brian Adcock - JRGS 1936 Brian Adcock - JRGS Belgium 1936
A school trip to Belgium at Easter 1936. Boys are seen sitting at train station all in caps so perhaps we can assume they are in transit. We know they visited the WW1 battlefields while in Belgium. (I also have some quite poor photos of the boys with machine guns and hats they had picked up in the trench areas.) A group of JRGS boys and schoolmasters standing outside the hotel in Blankenburg, near Ostend. My father is taller boy four from left at front. I cannot quite read the sign but the word "Hotel" can be read.
   A note on the reverse says: "Outside hotel."

My brother Trevor Adcock (JRGS 1965-72) also helped find all of these materials in our Dad's papers.

Roger Adcock, Oxted, Surrey, October 2008 Email

The Man Who Hit the "Scharnhorst"Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1962-65) adds:  I found Roger's story and pictures very interesting. A year or two ago I read the controversial story of the sinking of HMS Glorious, and of the heroic attack on the two German battle cruisers by the two British destroyers that were also sunk. About a year ago in Oakhampton in a second-hand bookshop, I found an old paperback book written by one of two survivors from the destroyers. The sailor in question was an ordinary seaman who was tasked with the firing of torpedoes from one of the destroyers. Just prior to the sinking of his ship he described in the book how without orders he fired a torpedo at the Scharnhorst and scored a hit which put the German ship out of action for some time afterwards. After he was rescued with the other survivor nobody would believe his story as there were no witnesses that he single-handed had damaged the Scharnhorst, and he received no recognition or reward till several years after.
    I wonder if Roger has read the same book? An extract from The Man Who Hit the "Scharnhorst" - Ordeal of Leading Seaman Nick Carter by John Austin & Nick Carter (seen right):
   "In June 1940, Leading Seaman Cyril "Nick" Carter was serving in the British destroyer H.M.S. Acasta when she and her sister-ship H.M.S. Ardent were ordered to escort the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious from Norway back to Britain. En route, German warships attacked and sank all three ships with the loss of more than 1,500 lives. From Acasta's ships company of 161 men, there was only one survivor: Nick Carter. a vivid, moving and thought-provoking account of a deeply tragic and very controversial episode in the history of the Royal Navy, which places very intense personal recollections from a survivor of the battle in the context of a review of the events surrounding the Norwegian campaign."
   For information on Man Who Hit the "Scharnhorst" - The Ordeal of Leading Seaman Nick Carter click here.


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