JRGS News Archive Page 21
JRGS Alumni Society

Archived News/Activities

- Page 29 - February thru March 2005 -

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.

 Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) reports on Alan Murray's Thanksgiving Service...

   Alan Leslie Murray - 7 July 1914 to 4 March 2005 

Nearly 40 years after leaving John Ruskin School, I joined 100 family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Alan Murray for a very moving memorial service at St. Swithun's C of E Church, Grovelands Road, Purley, Croydon, Surrey, at 2.30pm on Monday 21st March, 2005. The beautiful mild and sunny spring weather and the openness and freshness of the church seemed to match Alan's temperament - keen, alive and optimistic.
   The service to this well-loved, humane and respected man and teacher lasted about an hour, with a chance to meet old friends afterwards over refreshments. The music, hymns and readings reflected his life and character. A tribute from his son John, which is reproduced below; a reading by his son Alan from Little Gidding by T S Eliot; music by J S Bach; singing by the congregation led by a choir of friends and family; and, at the end, a short political song by Joan Baez.
   The four-page program is included here; click on any item to view an enlarged version.

Page 1 Page 2 Page 4
Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

   As well as his sons Alan and John, his family included his daughter Dorothea, plus grandchildren from England, France and Canada. The church had been the one attended by Alan Murray with his late wife Phyllis; indeed Alan had played the organ there for many years. We learned more about his life, from his birth in Essex at the start of the first world war, university at Cambridge, music, politics, books, and of course teaching. He began his career in Cheshire and in 1952 joined John Ruskin Grammar School, first at Tamworth Road and then at Shirley, becoming Head of History, retiring in 1977 by which time it had become John Ruskin High.
   Some amusing stories were told about his friendly manner and informality, but he was respected at all times by staff and students for his high standards and dedication to learning in the widest possible manner. His good nature and positive character remained until the end, despite being incapacitated by a stroke for the last five years of his life.

Westview Nursing Home, Foxley
Lane, Purley, where Alan Murray
lived following his 1996 stroke.

St. Swithun's Parish Church, Grovelands Road, Purley, scene of
the moving Thanksgiving Service.

Interior of St Swithun's Church as family, friends and colleagues
gathered for the service.

Left-to-right: Ian Butterworth, Anthony Hasler, Michael Noakes, Cliff Cummins, Charles Smith and Martin Nunn.

Left-to-right: Ian Butterworth, Anthony Hasler, Paul Graham, Michael Noakes, Charles Smith and Martin Nunn.

Our intrepid reporter, Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) with Cliff Cummins (JRGS 1956-62).

   Also there, as pictured above, were ex-staff Charles Smith (1942-78), Martin Nunn (1959-73), Tony Hasler (1960-72) and Ian Butterworth (1963-71+). All were in good health and eager to share stories about the school, old friends and their late colleague. Click on any image to view an enlarged version. As well as myself, ex-pupils included Cliff Cummins (1956-62, who has made contributions to the John Ruskin School website), Bob Hawkins (1958-64, who many of you will remember in school productions and as Secretary of the 15 Society), and Michael Noakes (1957-63, now living in Buckinghamshire, and star of many school sports and athletics). See pages 32 and 33 of the April 1961 school magazine for information and a photo of Michael.
    A large-format version of Ian Butterworth, Anthony Hasler, Michael Noakes, Cliff Cummins, Charles Smith and Martin Nunn photo suitable for printing can be accessed here. [WARNING: This file is 400 Kbytes - ML]
    We heard news of many ex-members of staff. Charles Peacock, Head of Geography for many years, sadly died last year aged 93 in Wales. Brian Cook, Physics, is on the mend after a recent operation. Dr Terry James, Music, has returned to his native Wales after living in Los Angeles for some time. Tony Hasler is in contact with his fellow PE and sports teacher Neville Graham, who recently moved to Perth in Western Australia.
   More news about JRGS staff to come later.

Paul Graham, Iver, Bucks, March 2005 email

Alan Murray Junior replies: It was good to meet you, Paul, and so many old boys and masters at Alan's funeral on Monday. I am attaching the tribute that was read at the service, and also the article by John Chilvers that appeared in the church magazine, itself based on a 1970 interview, containing details indicating that at least some of my tribute was slightly inaccurate.
   I would be grateful if you could forward this to other John Ruskin pupils and teachers, and you are welcome to put it on the John Ruskin website, either in full, or abridged, or altered to include details from the church obituary.
   I would also be grateful if you could convey the thanks of our family to the many old pupils who continued to write to him and visit him, particularly in the difficult last nine years.
   Best wishes and thanks.

A moving tribute to Mr. Murray read at the service by his son John Murray -

Before Alan had his major debilitating stroke in 1996, he had begun to write down some of his memories in a manuscript that was planned to have 25 chapters. Unfortunately, only five of them, covering the period from his birth in 1914 up to about 1935, were completed, and notes on two or three others survive. We would like to eventually reconstruct the missing chapters, and would be very grateful to hear from any of you who have memories of him, or details about those parts of his life that we are unfamiliar with.

   It is not going to be possible in the time available to say all the things that should be said today, so I shall just touch on a few of the sides of Alan’s life and character, and the effect that he had upon so many lives. My father lived a long and very full life, which in messages of sympathy some of you have described as “richly rewarding”, “fulfilled and wonderful”, and as “a life well lived”.

   One of his earliest memories dates from the end of the First World War in 1918. It was of a great family party at his grandparents in Ilford, Essex, to celebrate the return of family members from the fighting in France. Alan, who was four years old, spent most of the evening close to the piano, where his grandmother was providing the music for the dancing and the songs. That image of his grandmother at the piano stayed with him until he died, and Music became a tremendously important part, perhaps the most important part, of Alan’s life.

   He learned to sing and play the piano with such rapid progress that he was considered for a career as a concert pianist, but eventually settled down as an extremely active and gifted amateur musician.

   He met Phyllis Manning, a bright and vivacious student teacher, at church in Upminster when he was a teenager, and they were married in 1939. We three children, Alan, John and Dorothea, were born between 1943 and 1949. Music surrounded us as children, and listening to my father playing the piano downstairs as we drifted off to sleep is one of those warm, homely childhood memories that we share.

   Johann Sebastian Bach was the composer that he loved and revered the most, and soon after we moved to Purley in 1952 he joined the newly-formed London Bach Society, where he sang Bass. In 1957 they began a series of concerts in which every single one of Bach’s 210 surviving cantatas were sung. This took them until 1987, and as singers joined and retired, Alan was one of only 4 members to sing every single cantata over the thirty years.

   After his retirement in 1977, he was in demand to play in orchestras and concerts throughout South London, Surrey and neighbouring counties, often taking his beloved harpsichord with him in the back of the car. He had taken up the organ before the war, and amongst many other commitments was organist and choirmaster of this church of St Swithun’s in the 1960s.

   Regarding his political life, he was really apolitical until he read J. B. Priestley’s English Journey, and H. G. Wells’ A short history of the world in the 1930s. Thereafter he essentially became a socialist, and was a member of the Labour Party until he died. There is no doubt that his Christian beliefs were behind his lifelong commitment to world peace. He was actually a pacifist before World War II, but when it came to the crunch, he thought that the Nazi Party was so close to being an absolute evil that he did join up, and spent the war as a health and hygiene lecturer to the troops.

   He was very disturbed by the advent of nuclear weapons and the arms race in the 1950s, and joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when it was formed. After his retirement, he became involved in Peace groups locally, and one of the charities closest to his heart and thinking was Christian CND, to which you are invited to contribute in his memory.

   Our memories of him as children were of a father who certainly did not rule the house with a rod of iron, but who took a close and loving interest in everything that we did. Although he could be angry when we pushed him too far, I never saw him depressed, and his abiding temperament, which I am sure you will all corroborate, was of someone who remained fundamentally cheerful and happy even under the most difficult circumstances.

   After they had been married for 23 years, my mother started to show increasing signs of the schizophrenia, and later severe diabetes, that was to affect her for the remaining 27 years of her life. It is difficult to fully appreciate the devastating effect that this must have had on my father, but he remained devotedly attached to her, and nursed her through the most distressing, and at times primitive and bungled medical procedures of those times. He had watched his father do the same with my grandmother, who when he was five years old contracted osteomyelitis, which confined her to bed for 35 years until a cure was found in the 1950s. He was determined that Phyllis’ illness should not affect their social lives, and with thoughtful attentiveness continued to take her out to dinner-parties, concerts and plays, always considerate, cheerful, and above all hopeful, until her death in 1989.

   When Alan had the devastating stroke that left him paralysed down his left side in 1996, his remarkably optimistic temperament again came to his rescue. It never ceased to astound me how anyone could remain so cheerful when trapped helpless and unable to move for the rest of their life, and not only that but to make new friends, and become loved and admired by a new set of people until the day that he died.

   To return to his youth, Alan did outstandingly well at school and went on to read History at Cambridge; the first of the family ever to go to university. He became a schoolmaster, teaching history as his main subject, firstly at Runcorn and Helsby, Cheshire, and later at John Ruskin School, Shirley, where he eventually became Head of Department.

A profound love of the Arts...

There were things about my father that we gradually became aware were different from other fathers that we knew. There were huge numbers of books in the house, and every time there was a book we wanted or needed to read, or a piece of music we wanted to hear, it always seemed that we already had it in the house. He was a strong devotee not just of music, but of Literature, Theatre and the Arts in general. As a family we were frequent theatre-goers, concert-goers, and would visit most of the major Art Exhibitions in London, which gave us children a background, knowledge and love of the Arts from an early age that has provided us with a lifelong interest, and was a tremendous advantage when it came to exam time.

   He seemed to have the ability to inspire affection and respect in young people, and to mix and chat with them socially in such a way that all age differences were quickly forgotten. This was certainly true of his grandchildren, each of which he had a special affection for, and who are gathered here today not just from this country, but from France and Canada as well. His grandson Stevie from Canada, unable to make it today, has specially asked that we mention the debt of gratitude that he feels towards Alan for what he taught him over the years, as well as the close bond of affection that he shall never forget.

   But his affection was not just restricted to family members. When we were teenagers, his Fifth and Sixth form pupils were frequent visitors to the house, sometimes coming to the door in lively groups to ask my father out to the pub to celebrate their exam results, something that I would never have dreamed of doing with my own teachers, none of whom were anything like that approachable. Even some of my own teenage friends said to me how they wished they had a father like mine, and would borrow books and consult him on matters historical, musical and intellectual.

    Many of his pupils stayed in contact with him and became life-long friends, but I never quite appreciated how completely he had broken down all barriers of age and authority until many years later, when an ex-pupil told me what used to go on. No pupils were allowed out of school in the lunch hour, but my father and the music master would regularly lunch at a nearby pub where many Sixth formers were also habitually assembled. At a certain point in the proceedings, the music master would get one of the boys to slip a vodka into my father’s beer, and the lunch hour would end with Alan driving back to school with boys perched all over the inside and the outside of his car. All strictly against school rules and accepted practice, but the exam results that Alan got out of his pupils seemed to give him carte blanche as to his methods.

   He has left behind him three children, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, the latter of whom are almost equally divided between French, English and Canadian nationalities. It is, of course, sad to say goodbye, but at the same time I can only feel that his many qualities have not died, but that his abiding characteristics live on and grow in his many descendants. Far wider than this, I am also confident that he has been a strong influence for good in the lives of many, many friends and former pupils.

   I have left the matter of Alan’s religious beliefs to the last. Although in an argument he was capable of taking up other intellectual and philosophical humanist standpoints, he remained a committed Christian in his beliefs and actions and was a lifelong churchgoer, in whom the liturgy and music of the church were deeply ingrained. On the title page of his memories is a brief introductory paragraph which ends with a short prayer in Latin and English, and this is perhaps a fitting note on which to end.


The following article by John Chilvers appeared in the St. Swithun's Church magazine, and is based on a 1970 interview.
(As John Murray points out, however: "It contains details indicating that at least some of my tribute was slightly inaccurate" - ML.)


Alan’s death on March 4 at the age of 90 has to be seen as a happy release, freeing him to embark on the new adventure that undoubtedly lies ahead of him. He was a lovely man and it is sad that we have been largely deprived of his fellowship in worship at St Swithun’s in recent years. Throughout his long period of disability (some 9-10 years) at Westside Nursing Home in Foxley Lane, he has remained in remarkably good spirits. Initially it was possible for him to be brought to church by car, but this eventually proved too painful – though he was able to come for the special occasion of the Golden Jubilee last summer. All who visited him at Westside will testify to the warmth of his welcome and the alertness of his mind, even when his body was causing pain and distress. Even in the last few weeks when he was becoming very frail, he would recognise one’s voice immediately on arrival and invariably express gratitude to his visitor by name on leaving.

   For the benefit of recent members of the church it may be helpful to recall extracts from Jill Broadley’s profile of Alan and Phyl when she interviewed them as her “Personality of the Month” for the August 1970 issue of the Magazine, shortly after Alan had returned for a second stint as St Swithun’s Organist and Choirmaster. She learnt that Alan had been born in Essex and educated first in Upminster and then at the Royal Liberty School, Romford. He was always keenly interested in piano and organ music, and learnt to play both instruments in this period. He enjoyed games and played tennis and football for the school. At 18, he entered Magdalen College, Cambridge, and gained an Honours Degree in History in 1935. He then did a Teacher Training Course at the Institute of Education and took his LRAM at the same time. However, unable to find a suitable history teaching post, he began his career by teaching General Subjects in a Secondary Modern School in Upminster.

   Called up in November 1940, Alan served five years in the Hygiene School of the RAMC where he became a Sanitary Instructor. When demobbed he was offered his first History teaching position at Runcorn Grammar School in Cheshire and spent the next six years there. In December 1952 he took a post at the John Ruskin Grammar School in Croydon. By 1970 he was Head of the History Department there, also helping out with the General Music of the school, Sixth Form Studies and the Library.

   His future wife, Phyl, was born in Wallington but moved to Upminster in 1926. She and Alan met through the Upminster Congregational Church, and they both belonged to the same teenage “gang”. They eventually married in 1939. Their wedding day was highlighted (if that is the right word) by thick fog; so to this day there is no photographic proof of the wedding.

   Their first child, Alan, was born in 1943. Like his brother and sister, he became a prominent member of St Swithun’s choir and youth societies. He attended Whitgift School and gained a scholarship to Magdalen College, Cambridge, where he read History and Theology. By 1970, he was married, with two children, and living in Cambridge; but he subsequently remarried, had two further children and now lives in Highbury. John was born in 1945 and became a chorister in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace. After attending the City of London School, he followed his father and brother to Magdalen to read Geography, which led on to research work in the field of Astronomy and Planetary Geology. In 1967 he married Ann Bliss, whose family then lived in Purley Knoll. They had two children and Jill Bingham remembers her saying with great sincerity: “I have the most wonderful father-in-law.” The feeling was mutual because he was devastated by her premature death some years later. Dorothea was born in 1949 and went to school in Oxted. Having married soon after leaving school, she and her husband went to Vancouver where they brought up their three children.

   Alan and Phyl lived at 89 Woodcote Valley Road up to June 1976, at which date they moved to Northwood Avenue – making way for The Binghams to move in. Jill recalls their kindness and how happy they were to know that another family was moving in to their very special home where their children had grown up. Sadly, Phyl died peacefully in her sleep in April 1989 after many months in which life had become increasingly difficult and Alan had cared for her most lovingly.

   Politics was always a central concern in Alan’s life. He chaired the South Croydon Labour Party in the 1970s and later the Croydon Peace Council. Many were the articles he wrote in this magazine on Nuclear Disarmament and related subjects. Given the uncomfortable role he assumed as an ever-present social conscience within the St Swithun’s community, it was a tribute to the innate niceness of the man that he was loved and respected, and not resented – and who knows how many he influenced in the direction of greater humanity?

And here we include fond tributes to Mr. Murray from several former JRGS pupils:

Colin Peretti (JRGS 1955-60): The passing of Mr. Murray was very sad. I remember him from fourth and fifth year history. He had a quiet but firm manner, and he obviously had some influence on me as I managed to pass O-Level History. I also have a keen interest and a number of books about the Tudors, a subject that has been dealt with very well on TV over the past few years.

Peter Wilson (JRGS 1956-63): So sad to learn of Mr. Murray's passing - he was a really lovely man who made the subject interesting too (even though I eventually gave up History when we had the 'Physics or History' choice to make). I can remember him playing football in the Staff versus School match, and quite enjoying himself.

Roger Hall (JRGS 1959-66) and a member of Mr. Murray's 1961/2 3M class: I am really sad to hear this news. I thought that Alan Murray (we called him "Egg," if I remember, on account of his lack of hair!) was one of the kindest masters at the school and a really talented teacher. He made history interesting and treated us with respect. He also had a great sense of humour. One of the good guys.

Michael Horner (JRGS 1959-64) another member of 1961/2's 3M: I saw the news – and my memory can still recall the man. A grand age.
   PS: I am now back living in New Zealand again, albeit travelling to Asia every month for a little longer. I have had good intentions to write something for the web site for the last three years – it's about time! [email]

Cliff Preddy ( JRGS 1963-65): It has been moving to read the tributes to Alan Murray. He did always seem to be way ahead of his time in the way he dealt with us as pupils.
   Thank you for all the time and effort put into the JRGS site to keep us informed. [Memories of JRGS 15 Society]

Other memories from JRGS Alumni:

Maurice Lees and the JRGS 15 Society; Paul Graham's School Recollections; Report of 15 Society Activities;

JRGS MagazineAs Paul Graham observes, various issues of the JRGS School Magazine also contains many fond memories of Mr. Alan Murray.

Appointment - Autumn 1952 page 5;

"Know Your Staff" (Mr "B") - highly recommended!; Dec 1963 pages 13 and page 14; Music - Jun 1953 page 22 and Feb 1956 page 8;

15 Society - Jun 1960 page 25 and page 26, Dec 1963 page 28, Jul 1965 page 28 and Jul 1966 page 27 and page 28;

Debating Society - Apr 1961 page 30 and Jul 1964 page 24;

Archaeological Society - Dec 1963 page 25;

Mock Elections - Jul 1965 page 24 and page 25;

Drama Criticism - Jul 1966 page 11 and page 12, May 1967 page 8, May 1968 page 8 and page 9, May 1969 page 13 and page 14, and May 1971 page 8 and page 9.


 Peter Oxlade (JRGS 1940-44) goes in Search of a Legend, Charles Smith...

It was whilst writing my memories of my school days at Ruskin that I became increasingly aware that I was reviewing a timescale of more than 60 years. The corridors of the buildings in Tamworth Road along which I had trudged and found shelter in the 40s as a boy, are now part of a sad looking depository. Memories of shared times and ghosts of yesteryear flooded back as I stood again just outside the old John Ruskin Central.
   The school moved its home in 1955 to a new location in Shirley next to the Shirley Windmill. It had to follow that the site should become affectionately called “The Mill”.
   I had returned to the school as a member of the governing body, to become involved in the proposed development plans for a new Sixth Form College that was to be housed in a completely refurbished ex-John Newman School in Selsdon Park Road, at a cost to Croydon Council of some £8m.
   The move to Further Education dramatically changed life for the teaching staff and the Governing Body. Following the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, it was the newly constructed Education Funding Council that took control of all post 16 Education and training in 1993 and the LEA control.
   The intention of the Act was to achieve widening and increased participation of learning. More were to be encouraged to enter post-16 education as the manufacturing base declined and the blue-collar jobs disappeared the finance and leisure industries took up the slack.
   “Unit funding” based on a formula fund for each learner was introduced, together with a linking with “Funding and Performance” measured by admission numbers, retention and achievement. A far more rigorous and accountable regime was to be introduced, and reduced funding applied to encourage colleges (now “Corporations”) to introduce efficiency gains.
   One Ruskin sceptic of the change expressed to me their distaste of this development by saying that it just encouraged the right-wing “College Employers Forum” led by Roger Ward to reduce the teaching holidays from 14 weeks to 7 or 8, and to concentrate on “bums on seats”. One wonders why it was not considered by the majority to be the best thing since sliced bread?
 Now named John Ruskin College, it teaches a numerically much greater and wider based clientele from students to adult learners.
   Since completing my memories of the school of 1940-44, I realised that there could only be a very few souls, still living, who had experienced an active association in various capacities with three of the four Ruskin establishments. (Tamworth Road, The Mill and the College)? Was I to be a lone survivor who had experienced such an insignificant but pleasing association?
   It was when I was proof reading my memories for JRGS Alumni that I realised that both Mr. C. E. Smith and Mr. W. Cracknell, both of whom had taught me between 1940 and 1944, had served John Ruskin in its varies guises as John Ruskin Central, John Ruskin Grammar and John Ruskin High at both the Tamworth Road and Mill sites
   Was it possible that those who had taught me in the early 1940s had survived old father time? I found that sadly Mr. William Cracknell, who retired in 1976 after 40 years at Ruskin, had died in 2000 but I could not find out anything about Mr. Smith, other than that he was at The Mill until he retired in 1978. After his retirement he carried out voluntary work at the Fairfield Halls. But no one seemed to be able to tell me anything more.

Donning my Genealogical Hat
Having put on my genealogical hat, I discovered much to my delight that there was a Mr. Chas. Smith living in the Croydon area – but was it to be the right one? With some trepidation I determined to try a telephone call. On that wet and windy Sunday morning a friendly lady answered my enquiry call. Taking a deep breath I explained who I was and that I had been a pupil at John Ruskin in the 1940s and wondered if the Mr. Charles Smith I was seeking did reside there.
   To my great delight, I discovered that I had the correct location and that she was in fact Mrs. Elisabeth Smith, wife of Charles Smith, the ex-John Ruskin teacher that I had been seeking. Asking if it would be possible for me to speak to him, she replied that as he had just gone upstairs it would be difficult at this time. I suggested I would ring back later that day when suddenly a voice boomed “...and who are you then?” It was, and could only be, our Charles Smith. I had found him.
   So there it was – after more than 60 years, I was talking to the legend of John Ruskin. We spoke of many things for over half and hour. I promised to forward to him the two photographs I still had of our Soccer team for 1943, and he responded that he would seek out any photos that I may be interested in and could use.
   It was one of the most pleasant and emotional telephone calls I had ever made in my life and one I will always treasure.
   On a Saturday afternoon some weeks later the doorbell rang and, upon opening the door, I was confronted with a lady and a gentleman smiling broadly at me. I cheerily said, “Good afternoon can I help you?” The gentleman, in a now familiar voice boomed out “You don’t recognise me?” It was, of course, Mr. Smith and his charming wife  Elisabeth.
   I gladly welcomed them into my home and in no time at all we were all engaged in a very pleasant conversation, mainly about the John Ruskin connection et al, of course, but many other topics including our families. The Smiths have six grandchildren and the Oxlade’s five. We had therefore a lot more in common than John Ruskin.
   Mr. Smith had brought with him some photographs of Ruskin groups and provided me with some of the names of those depicted, and I provided him with a copy of the Governing Body and others present at the formal celebration opening of the new establishment in Selsdon Park Road.
   This was a meeting that I had hoped for but never thought would happen. To be faced with the Legend I had often talked of was a huge delight and one which will, I pray, be repeated.
   I intend to visit Mr. Smith soon and this time I will be armed with a digital camera in order to ensure that the meeting can be caught on screen!

Peter Oxlade, March 2005 email.


 Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) looks for John Ruskin's memorial stone in Lake District...

Lake DistrictI have just been lucky enough to have my son take me up to the Lake District for a long weekend. I had not expected to see the Lakes again, at least from any height, but we did manage to climb a hill I had not visited before. Not having been up in the area at all for the past 20 years, this was quite a personal achievement that I had not expected to enjoy. I hesitate to say just how high it was considering that I have, at one time or another, climbed most if not all of the major and highest peaks in the Lake District over the previous 20 years. This image of me, shown left, was taken on Lord's Seat above Whinlatter, at a moderate 1811 feet.
   PS - Don't forget I am quite a bit older than many of the other contributors here, and nothing like as fit as I used to be! We had already slogged almost up to Great End from Seathwaite the previous day. That was quite far enough for day one.
   On the morning we were due to leave, I suddenly remembered the photograph on the web site of Ruskin's memorial stone "by a mountain lake," which was not all that clear. So I thought we might take this in on the way home and take another, better, picture of it. Bear in mind that the B&B was in Keswick. I enquired of our hostess and the other guests as to exactly where it was and no one could tell me. I searched through several guide books, most of which mentioned Ruskin at Coniston but none said anything about the stone tablet. I knew that Ruskin's house, Brantwood, was near Coniston overlooking the lake, and that the Ruskin Museum was in Coniston village, so assumed that the stone tablet was there as well.
   So we set off on a miserable morning with rain and snow (we had had two glorious, dry, if cold, days over the weekend) down to Coniston. We arrived just as the museum was opening so I popped in there to ask the whereabouts of the stone. "This one?" the curator enquired, pointing to a postcard. Yes, it certainly was. That, he replied, is at Friars Crag near KESWICK! We had been nearby all weekend and now we had travelled a good few miles down to Coniston on the way home to learn that it was behind us!
   So, no photograph I am afraid, but I did email our hostess who has promised to go and take a picture of the stone for me when her digital camera returns from being on holiday with her son, so maybe before too long we may indeed have a better picture. I could copy the postcard and send it, but we would possibly run into copyright problems. It is an interesting card though, with both the front and rear inscriptions on the one picture.

Mike Marsh, Great Cornard, Sudbury, Suffolk, March 2005 email


 Brian Thorogood (JRGS 1951-56) recalls John Ruskin boys and Croydon cinemas...

An inexpensive form of entertainment in the 1950s was a visit to the cinema. For 1/6d in the front stalls, to 2/3d in the balcony, one could enjoy two to three including a main feature in colour from Hollywood, a black and white B-film, Pathé newsreel, a couple of cartoons, and the trailer advertising next week’s film. Walls choc ices at 6d were an added luxury in the interval, when the latest number 1 hit parade single was played over the theatre’s audio system.
   I first went with Vic Bivand one Tuesday evening, after completing homework, to the Astoria cinema at Norwood Junction, to see Norman Wisdom in Trouble in Store. “Bev” Bivand arrived in casual gear, surprised that I was still wearing my school blazer. However, I soon learnt that, in order to get into adult-rated films, I needed my father’s raincoat and, being tall for my 14 years, could gain admittance to X-rated films. With Bernard Maguire I saw House of Wax and The Man in the White Suit, at the aforementioned Astoria, where, with Sykes, we went to view the horror film Them. I produced a packet of cigarettes to impress my peers.
   But it was to the infamous Eros cinema in Croydon High Street that I first ventured aged nearly 15 to see a “sex” film, trembling as I walked the long corridor to the pay desk, but boasting of course the next morning in class. So, so, tame by today’s standards – a bedroom door slightly ajar, or silk stockings strung over the bed rails. The rest, as they say, was up to one’s imagination. I was not the only boy keen to appear so grown-up. One lad in the third form removed his school blazer badge and played truant one afternoon to the Eros.
Planned school visits included the Davis Theatre to see The Ascent of Everest, and to the Savoy to see Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar. On Open Day in 1952, a 16mm film made by Patel was shown to parents and students in the Chemistry Laboratory at the Tamworth Road building. I remember Pike was filmed knee deep in snow and Patel on an African trip.
   I took Roy Scott to the Odeon cinema in Croydon, with complimentary tickets supplied by my father’s company, more in order to impress with my affluence, for Scott was the most popular boy in our class.
   I was beginning to form a critical eye, even at such an early age, remarking to Rowe that I considered James Dean in Rebel without a Cause inferior in direction compared to East of Eden. Within a year or so of leaving school, my artistic discipline prepared me for a visual appreciation of art-house movies. The New Wave of continental directors - Goddard, Fellini, Truffaut and Renoir – took up my time with visits to London’s Oxford Street and the Classic cinema in South Croydon to see Mr. Hulot’s Holiday and the pre-war Greta Garbo.
   As for my late father’s raincoat, it has long since gone, but I scour the local jumble sales diligently searching for a replacement of that drape!

Brian (Bone) V Thorogood, Willowbank, Wick, Scotland KW1 4NZ, March 2005


 Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1963-65) recalls the fashionable Windsor Knot...

ML writes: Mike and I have been corresponding about securing images for the site. We discovered that he appears in the 1964 school photograph - shown left; shown right is a recent image. "it's a few years old so the complete chromosome degeneration is not indicated," Mike says. Mike had commented on the neatness of his school tie knot, and I asked about the contemporary "Windsor Knot."

Ah, The Windsor knot. The school trend to tie the Windsor knot - if I remember rightly - followed on from the Teddy boy's boot-lace tie fashion in the late 1950s.
   Some of the lads were practicing tying the Windsor knot at my first Secondary school. Norbury Manor. I can remember trying myself and finishing up with all knot and no tie, and have not attempted the Windsor knot since!
   There is a current trend in Croydon schools and, no doubt. others for pupils to tie huge knots in school ties, and to wear hair gel. Some pupils at my children's school, Riddlesdown, have been put on "uniform report" as a result. My wife Linda informed me that this trend is now creeping into primary schools.
   During the 1970s in some Sidcup schools there was a practice called "tie taging". Unfortunate new pupils were subjected to having the tags on the backs of their ties pulled and cut off. The interior stitching of the ties normally suffered as a result, and the ties would always look untidy from then on. This practice, I understand, was never quite as bad as the "Bog Wash"!
   The worst experience I have had with a tie was at a "black tie" function at the Queens Hotel at Crystal Palace. Just as I was about to sit down for the evening meal, the elastic holding my bow tie became unstitched and the tie shot round to the back of my neck - much to everyone's amusement!
   By the way, I can tie Wickham's Fancies, Black Buzzers, Corixias or most other trout flies, which are far more complex than a Windsor knot!

Mike Etheridge, March 2005; email

Roger Adcock (JRGS 1963-68) adds: See http://www.tie-a-tie.net/windsor.html

Mike Etheridge reflects further about his schooldays: I joined JRGS in September 1963 from Norbury Manor. Initially, for about one term, I was in John "Biff" Byford's fifth-year class (5B, with Mr. Beebe) as I had to repeat English Language O-Level. During the same term, I also attended the A-level Pure and Applied Maths and Physics classes with Lower-Sixth Science Alpha. I eventually joined the Alpha class (Mr. Cook) for the last two terms in 1964. In 1965 I was with Upper Sixth Science Alpha (Mr. Pierce). During the latter term of 1965 after a poor mock A-level result in Applied Maths I dropped the subject.
   I was never very confident at school with exams and this was not helped by the fact that like many others I suffered with nervousness and, on occasions, lack of sleep due to the thought of exams. I remember that the night before one of the A-level Physics papers I suffered from a really bad tooth ache due to a wisdom tooth breaking through. I was in absolute agony and could not sleep.
   In desperation, despite not being a religious person, I prayed to god that he take the pain away. Without exaggeration at this precise moment the pain left me and never returned. I have obviously never forgotten this happening, and when I have doubts about the existence of the Lord I always remember that I passed A-level Physics and no doubt Pure Maths with his help!
   I found out later in life with other exams (Electrical Engineering) that my degree of suffering with nervousness and sleeplessness was vastly reduced if I did sufficient revision, which also improved my confidence level. As a result, God had less to do with my success!


 Former Ruskin teacher John Rowlands reports the sad passing of Alan Murray...

Alan Murray

Taken in 1970

All those who knew him will be sorry to learn of the death on March 4, aged 90, of Alan Murray, who taught at John Ruskin from 1952 to 1977, and was for much of this time the School's Head of History.
   A Thanksgiving Service took place at 2.30 pm on Monday 21st March at St Swithun's Church, Grovelands Road, Purley.
   No flowers were requested; donations instead to Christian CND or Shelter.
   For many, Alan was the embodiment, for a quarter of a century, of all that was best about John Ruskin Grammar School.
   As Head of History, he set high standards of scholarship and, over the years, scores of his pupils prospered academically under his care.
   Alan was a cultured, humane and socially conscious man who brought to his task a deep interest in the world about him, something he fervently encouraged in his pupils. The sixth-form 15 Society was Alan's creation and it continued to thrive at the School long after his retirement as a forum for political and social debate on contemporary issues. Leading figures of the day would attend as guest speakers, including Neil Kinnock and Lord Tonypandy, the Speaker of the House of Commons.
   Those who were taught by Alan will have their own vivid memories of a kindly and gracious teacher, approachable and warm in his dealings with all.
   As a colleague, he was exactly the same - an inspiration to us all.

John Rowlands, John Ruskin Sixth Form College, Selsdon, March 2005 email.

LetterML adds: John Rowlands joined the teaching staff at John Ruskin Grammar School's Shirley Road site in 1966, and has been with the school - now a Sixth Form College - for close to 40 years.
  And here, shown left, is a letter sent to Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) by Mr. Murray. Because Mr. Murray was recovering from a recent stroke, the correspondence was written out for him by his son Alan, but signed in his own hand. By coincidence, the letter is dated almost exactly three years ago.


 Chris Bennett from The Croydon Archive looks into the school name mystery...

Regarding origins of the choice of name for John Ruskin School, here is what I can come up with so far.
   Among the records of Croydon Education Committee, I have found the report of Stuart Robertson, Chief Inspector of Schools, concerning the proposed schools in the Central Polytechnic and South Norwood Polytechnic.
   Robertson writes: "The name 'John Ruskin' is suggested for the Boys School in the Central Polytechnic because the nobility and beauty of honest commerce and the claim it makes for intellectual power were prominent thoughts in the educational gospel of that great writer and because the school will stand but a stone's throw from the site of 'The King's Head' where his maternal grandmother dwelt and from the home of the aunt of whom he speaks so lovingly in the chapter 'The Springs of Wandel' in Praeterita".
   What this does not say is whether or not any previous discussion of the name has taken place; certainly I can find no mention of Samuel Coleridge Taylor's name in the minutes. (SCT had only died a few years before, in 1912.)
   I am certainly not saying that SCT was not suggested as the name for the new school, but I cannot find any reference to it at present. Any member of The Society who wishes to come and continue the research would be welcome; appointments in the normal way.
   The reference to W. C. Berwick Sayers is probably relevant. If anyone had put SCT's name forward for the new school, it is certainly likely that it would have been him. As well as being Borough Librarian from 1915 to 1947, he was an early champion of SCT and wrote Samuel Coleridge Taylor Musician: His life and letters (1st ed. 1915, 2nd ed., 1927). I cannot find a reference to the Central Day School in the second edition.

   Sayers did write a (very brief) history of the town (The Story of Croydon: An Introductory History, 1925) in which, in the chapter entitled 'The Great Men of Croydon', he describes SCT as "the most original and certainly the most popular musician of his generation"; Ruskin incidentally scrapes a brief mention when "as a child, he used to visit his maiden aunt, who was the daughter of the landlady of the Old Kings Head in Market St."
   However, the local historical works for which Sayers is best remembered are the two monumental histories of Croydon in the two World Wars: Croydon and the Great War (1920, with H. Keatley Moore) and Croydon and the Second World War (1949). It is rare for a day or two to pass here at CLSL&A where we do not need to refer to one or both of these two magnificent works.
   Finally, Herbert Roberts served as Education Officer from 1935 until his death in 1954. Hope this is of use.

Christopher I. Bennett, Archivist, Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service, March 2005 email.


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