JRGS News Archive Page 13
JRGS Alumni Society

Archived News/Activities

- Page 13 - Jan thru Feb 2004 -

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.

 

  Phil Terry (JRGS 1970-77) recalls the last of the selective intake...

I went to JRGS from 1970 to 1977, the "Last of the Selective Intake". I now live in Simi Valley, California, not far from The Mill webmaster Mel Lambert in Burbank, just north of Los Angeles.

   My parents still live in New Addington, where I was born. I was gutted when, on visiting them one year with my children, my parents announced that I couldn't "show the kids [the old school in Shirley] 'cos they've knocked it down!"
   I found The Mill website, which is growing impressively, and it is some consolation to me. Please don't remove it without some notice so we can save it; I couldn't face losing it again. I guess I know now how the Tamworth Road guys must have felt about the Shirley school.
   Regarding the Seventies era at JRGS, and the transfer from Grammar School to High School, and later Comprehensive, I noticed lots of Fifties to mid-Sixties, lots of Eighties high-schoolers, but none of us transition people. I'm quite bitter about it even after all these years. Maybe the rest are too, so no-one is interested enough to find your site. I found it because when I returned from the "pulled it down and put up a parking lot," holiday above I Googled to try and find some pictures to show my kids.

   As to Mr. Patterson, the headmaster during my era, nothing about him or the school really sticks in my mind. He took over from Mr. Lowe and had to tackle the dirty work of transition over which he actually had no control. It can't have been as easy job, and the management relationships with the teachers must have been tricky. Probably he was very good but from my point of view he didn't really impose a vision or style on the school that I remember.

   Unfortunately, I was at the school when it became co-educational. I'm sure we all remember Mr. "Smut" Smith. "Boy," in stentorian tones, and the whole corridor freezes. Well, when the girls came, "Hey you, young lady" got the response "Go [expletive] yourself" from a sweet looking 14-year old. He just stood there, mouth agape, as she skipped off giggling with her friends... and the boys all sniggered! My hat goes off to "Smut" for sticking it out.

   I finally had the pleasure of having Mr. Smith for Maths A-level in 1976/77. With us Grammarians he was his old self. When I read on the site some peoples' views of him and Mr. "Rhino" Rees, who I never had, but was around for awhile, I find I have more forgiving feelings about both these teachers. To be honest, we can't have been easy and what they took in the Seventies was a lot more than payback.

   In terms of the impact that the school had on my subsequent career, I thank God for the Grammar School and the teachers who stuck it out with us through the transition - it made me who I am. Unfortunately, I came unglued in university; again frustration with the system and the political interference rather than the subject matter. I dropped out and got into computer.
   The photograph shown left was taken in 1994; click on the thumbnail to view a larger version.

   Recently, I checked the JRGS Teacher's Page, Mr. Green died in 1989 - for reasons I will explain later, I was quite indebted to him. He was there till 1975 (my O-Level year) and I think he was still there in 1977;  I did A-Level Biology with Mr. McCauliffe (spelling?)

   Is there any "conduit" to the teaching staff or are all the contacts here students. Some of the "Taught Until" dates on the staff page are wrong. [Corrections have since been made - ML.] Mr. "Smut" Smith was definitely still there when I left in 1977, along with Mr. Green. Believe it or not, Mr. Peacock was still there teaching geology to Sixth formers when I was in the first or second form - which was amazing to us because he was blind! They said he could tell you about the rock specimens since he knew them by heart and feel. I think he was part time.

   Mr. Probert, the Metalwork teacher, was still there until 1973. I never had Mr. "Rhino" Rees, but he was at Ruskin when I started, probably part of the 1973 exodus [a major proportion of the teaching staff seem to have left in 1973 when Mr. Lowe retired - ML], but may have been part of the drain in 1971 or 1972.

   Mr. Wilkinson was there in 1971 but gone by 1973.

   I don't see Mr. Marsden, the Chemistry teacher, mentioned. I don't know when he started but my impression was he was quite senior at the school. Mr. Marsden administered exams and such like by fourth form but he was relatively young. He was still teaching at the new college site when I went back for a reunion one year. Come to think of it, that must have been right before they demolished the school. No one mentioned it.

   What did happen to the organ?

  A lot of the old timers you guys write about were still there in 1971 when I arrived, a larger than usual number left and retired at the end of 1971, again in 1972 and then the big bang in 1973 with Mr. Lowe leaving. I bought a bowl of cactus from Mr. Lowe at a Mill Fair for my Mum. It was on her kitchen window edge for years, overgrown. (God knows how many other pots have been split off it over the years.)

   Mr. "Ego" Murray, Mr. Tyron the French teacher were there in 1971 gone by 1973. Mr. Maggs was still there when I left in 1977; he seemed to actually thrive on the new kids, got younger and was quite laid back really. Good to see he did well until 1987.

   Mr. McElroy stayed until we finished O-Levels; that he retired in 1977 is probably right. Mr. Woodward left in 1973. The Woodwork teacher in 1971 was Mr. Weller (spelling?); he left to be replaced by Mr. Smith.

   Mr. Harrison was teaching Geography in 1971 and gone in 1973. Mr. Suffling, who taught sports and maths, was gone in 1973. Mr. Dalziel came joined in 1973 was my form teacher for three years.

   I can't remember the rest; many only lasted a year, Drama, English, RE, sports... all fresh young things out of teacher training. They weren't smart enough to keep ahead of us Grammarians and weren't tough enough to handle the ravening hoards.

Phil Terry, Simi Valley, CA, USA, February 2004, email

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: Wonderful memories. Really great that you got in touch and supplied a link to the late 1970s. Mel and I have been trying to fill that gap for a while.

   Regarding  your comments about JRGS staff, we have made contact with some of them. Ian Butterworth (Music), Mr. Whitehead, Neville "Piggy" Graham (no relation) come to mind, and some of them have provided items for the site. Alan Murray, now over 90 in a retirement home, dictated a very nice reply to a letter I sent him. One or two others didn't reply when we tracked them down. Mr. Marsden must have replaced Mr. Pearman from my era.

  Any idea whether there were school magazines published after 1971? That was the last we have at the moment.

Phil Terry comments: Christopher Marsden, the Chemistry teacher should be key. I never really talked to him as an adult (i.e. after school) but to me as a first former he was "Old School" - so he must have started at least a year before! - and he was there way afterwards. When did they open the College at the new site?

   One year - must have been before 1992 when I left for the States, I'm thinking '90 or '91 - I went to a reunion at JRGS Shirley and I talked briefly with Mr. Marsden; he was working at the new site.

   When we transitioned he was the Master in Charge of administering the O-Level and CSE papers. I suspect he was one of the avant garde who actually wanted the streaming/selection to stop, so if I could get hold of him I'd love to get the perspective of an adult who actually lived through that change.

   A big problem with my recollections is that they are the memories of a naive child interpreted through the experience of a jaundiced adult!

   Mr. MacCauliffe (spelling?) was another (Biology) teacher who was at JRGS the whole time. When we left after A-Levels he invited a whole bunch of us to go to an establishment in London, just outside London Bridge station. "The Boot and Flogger" was a wine bar/restaurant, very darkly lit, warehouse/dungeon sort of place, sawdust on the floor, chairs made out of old wine casks with cutouts, tables made out of wine cask tops, etc. It was the first time I'd ever had alcohol; I drank red wine all night.

   We all talked with him for hours, the place closed after midnight and I just caught the last train home. I was drunk as a skunk but had missed the last bus home from East Croydon! I couldn't afford a taxi (didn't actually have a clue how they worked either) so I had to walk home to New Addington! I think I got in about 4:30 or 5:00 AM and went to bed stone cold sober! So it was much later at college that I was introduced to the notion of "a hangover."

   Even back then a lot of the talk that evening was about the transition, the effects on the teachers, who was for/against, etc. It was he who told me about Mr. Natan's travails, which made us all pretty shamefaced.

   I used to play violin/viola in Junior school and in the last year there we played with some other schools in some Croydon school orchestra stuff - auditions I think, which is where I first saw Ian Butterworth. In junior school the music lessons were for those with aptitude instead of RE. When I saw Mr. Butterworth in the first week of school it turned out that the music lessons at JRGS were in your lunch hour or before or after school. My reaction was "Well screw that!" so I never had any further interaction with him. He left at the end of my first form, 1971.

   Bob Dalziel was a new teacher, Mathematics, who came in during the transition and stayed for a long time. He was my form teacher for three years and a really nice guy. If you look at my entry on friendsreunited.com you see about "Knives on the mill annex." Some of us used to carry knives - just little penknives; nothing outrageous - and used to play splits with them mainly. Anyway, I had a couple and I got really good at throwing them, about 9 or 10 feet and stick in the tree or whatever every time. Won a lot of money playing splits.

   The Mill Annex was also where all the smokers used to hang out, round back amongst the rhododendrons. So obviously as well as throwing at trees we used to throw them in the wooden back of the annex. It kind of snowballed into a craze. I think everyone in our class carried knives and of course everyone had to have the biggest and baddest. Sheath knives arrived, bowie knives, a kirku? (Ghurka curved thingy). And we'd all practice with each others knives to see who could throw best. It was like the Olympic games round the back of that annex.

   So one day, Doctor James appears at registration and says: "There appear to be a lot of holes appearing in the trees around here. It has got to stop!" (Masters would see us playing splits on the Mill Pitch so I don't think the existence of knives was any big secret or anything. There was nothing nasty about this, we weren't fighting with them or anything so I think they'd been turning a blind eye. There was nothing in the rules against them as far as I can remember - at that point).

   But Doc was right, it had gotten out of hand - every tree for miles around looked like a dartboard. So Mr. Dalziel stands up and says, "OK, I'm going to go out of the room for ten minutes and everyone who has a knife is to put it on my desk at the front here. I'll put them in the drawer, you can take them home tonight and after that I never want to see them again. But if I see any of you with a knife today or after this you'll be for it." What a stand up guy, you couldn't be fairer than that now could you.

   So try to imagine his face when he came back into the room. There were so many knives on that desk they were falling on the floor! You couldn't get them all in all the drawers let alone one. They had to collect them up in the wastepaper baskets and put them in the little locked store room in the music room! There was a one-foot Bowie knife in there. White as a sheet.

   Mr. Dalziel stuck by his bargain and it was never mentioned again. But God help us if they saw the back of the Annex! I actually brought polyfiller and paint from home to repair it. Proves that old "Percy" [Eagleton] never did any maintenance.

  That reminds me of another craze: Keys. Everyone had keys for padlocks on their lockers; cheap things. Usually your key could open someone else's locker somewhere, right? So we all started to collect old keys, to see how many locker you could open. No stealing or anything, just crazy kids collect anything type of competition stuff. Well, my old Pop had an old jar full of old keys (don't ask me why) so I had this huge old key ring full of keys. Now, not many people know this, but we managed to put together a set of keys which gave us access to The Mill! The outer door was easy. It took us a few months to find one for the trapdoor to the first floor. Damn, the second floor trap had a lock as well. That took nearly a year. Damn, the third one was locked as well... We used to do this early in the morning when the Quadrangle was empty and the gym guys hadn't yet arrived. (The door was at the back facing the workshops.)

   Finally I gave up. I told the school I was doing a photo competition for a magazine and could my older sister and I (she was a keen photographer: did her own development and everything) have access to the Mill? "Percy" gave her the keys, she took photographs of me at the top of the mill and I took plasticine impressions of the keys! Well that was the plan, "but Percy" wouldn't let us out of his sight. Still got the photographs somewhere. I'll try and dig them out for you.

   Well, enough of me prattling. (I bet you think I'm making this up) I'll see if I can get some other friendsreunited.com guys to confirm the knives. (Of course, we've all got careers and kids to worry about now, right?)

Paul Graham: I was at JR - probably about 1962 - when they introduced the new lockers and forced us all into paying for the cheap and nasty padlocks and keys. Some member of staff, possibly JCL, stood up in assembly and reassured us that every one was individual. Right, what were the D1 to D12 numbers engraved on the padlocks and keys then? Just 12 different keys for 400 or so pupils? I remember asking a member of staff about it but they just stonewalled, and forbade anything except the "authorised" locks. I remember filing the number off mine.

   Regarding The Mill, we were luckier with access to it. The Mill was used as a store for old furniture and some sports stuff, I think, and as senior pupils in the mid-Sixties we often used to go in there, not always supervised.

   I wonder if Christopher Marsden is still teaching at the new JR site?

   There's probably still some staff there from the mid-Seventies who could tell a tale. So, "Perce" Eagleton was still there in the Seventies! He must have been getting on then.

   You asked about the School Organ. Sadly it was dismantled and junked. Somewhere on the site are some photos from the demolition year, some of the organ, plus some stories about it.
   The last school mag we have is for 1971. Do you remember any published during your time?

Phil Terry : Regarding padlocks and keys, when we were there you brought your own padlock so yours truly had to have 50 or so keys, half a dozen from each major manufacturer to stand a good chance of hitting a locker!

   Access to The Mill was the other thing that disappeared, the "opportunities yanked away when we got there." When I arrived the Quad was for Sixth Form only; other students could traverse up the side to, what you would call, The Music Room and Gym. (When I got there the Mill Annex was the Music Room, the Music Room was the Drama Room and the Gym... the Gym - got it?) The Sixth Form had lots of privileges denied the lower school (like the Archery!). By Third Form all these "traditions" were gone.
   Regarding Christopher Marsden still teaching at the new JR site, I contacted the College a couple of years ago (by email), and used their website, but they don't really make the staff available on line. Didn't get a response. If anybody gets hold of Mr. Marsden, please give him my email address.

   Whoever made the decision to scrap the School Organ should be taken out and shot. No, shooting is too good for them. (Please research that and open a "Hall of Shame" on the site. In fact, I might have a go at that myself.) I've never really researched all the history of who made what decisions on the "Croydon County Council Education Committee", the city, county and central government. I'll start a Hall of Shame for them all. As you see I tend to lump them all under "Labour Party" and "Socialists," but I am actually aware that some of the decisions, if not initially, made by them were actually implemented by the Tories, "Milk-Snatcher" Thatcher, etc, on the basis that "The People had spoken - The Bastards," as a recent news item recounted.

   Do I remember any school magazine being published during my time? Nope. The only way you become aware of school traditions is by the fact that they happen every year! The Mill Fair, for example. If the school published one in 1971, I don't remember it, If it died on the vine because the teachers or Sixth who nurtured it left in 1972 or '73, I wouldn't have known about it. Again, the "barriers" that prevent First Formers interacting with Sixth Formers cuts off that way of learning the traditions. Shame really.

 

Brian Thorogood (JRGS 1951-56) reminiscences abut the fair sex...

I attended JRGS in the days before co-education, and a good 10 years before Philip Larkin's immortal words:

   "Sex was invented in 1963,
   along with Lady Chatterley
   and the Beatles first LP.
"

John Ruskin boys alluded to, but I very much doubt if they had any experience of, the fair sex. Boys bragged of course, but bragging it mostly was. During the 1950s the sexes were kept well segregated, and only on certain occasions during the school year were there fraternities.
   The girls' school closely appropriated for this purpose was Coloma Convent, the school my sister Sylvia attended. Here, as at John Ruskin, the Sixth Form pupils wore a tasselled skull cap. Sylvia told me that one senior girl was engaged to be married! I pondered over such events, for I was fast approaching puberty, and the Richmal Crompton books on William and his siblings Robert and Ethel were beginning to come into reality.

   School assembly in Tamworth Road took place in the Upper Hall. First- and second-year pupils sat in the front on the floor, with third, fourth and fifth formers at the side, bedecked with distinctive flashes below their blazer badges, for excellence in gymnastics, cricket, football and English etc. The masters and head boy sat on the rostrum.

   On this particular occasion, Mr. Lowe leaned heavily on the fine inscribed wooden lectern, made by Mr. Chinnock years earlier. He had been informed by the Headmistress of the Old Palace School that some of our boys had been plying her girls with offers of doughnuts in the school dinner hour! Mr. Lowe made it quite clear that such behaviour would cease immediately or expulsions would follow. I turned round to see four third formers, their faces red as beetroot, looking most uncomfortable.

   The end-of-term dance for fifth and sixth formers was an exception. A few boys in my class had learnt to dance, notably Roy Scott, Vic Bivand and Rowe, and during the Easter of 1955 I joined the Henry Whiteside School of Dancing in Wellesley Road, Croydon, gaining a bronze and silver medallion. At the 1955 School Dance Roy Scott turned up in black coat and tails. Seeing Scott walk in, Mr. Cracknell nearly had a heart attack, unaware that he was taking part in a set formation dancing display.

   About this time I ceased my weekly visits to the Astoria cinema, Norwood Junction, with Vic Bivand, where we watched Norman Wisdom films. Donning my father's raincoat, I ventured into the infamous Eros cinema in Croydon High Street, and into "X"-certificate rated films. I was 14 at the time, and got quite a "buzz" for apparently being taken for a 16-year old.

   Re-viewing the films, all these years on, I cannot understand what the Home Office censor's fuss was about! They are now so tame as to be laughable... a bedroom door ajar, or a glimpse of stocking.

   The school swimming gala alternated yearly between Croydon baths and Thornton Heath baths. In 1953 Bernard Maguire took his pretty young girlfriend along as a spectator. I was so envious and impressed. It was customary at the end of the evening for a water polo match to take place with the boys from Selhurst Grammar School. One Selhurst boy was wearing a "track suit", the first time I had seen anybody wearing one, for we were living under British post-war austerity. I can only assume he came from a well-to-do family.

   Also in 1953, I took part as an "extra" in the school play, Shakespeare's King Henry IV Part 1. At the end of the play, our school captain lay on stage dying, and another boy and I had to carry him off, gloriously. He was rather heavy to manage, and we very nearly "debagged" him in the process, much to his alarm and the amusement of the Coloma Convent girls sitting in the front row.

   Another regular Coloma rendezvous was with the combined Cercle Français groups. Mr. Fisher only allowed us to speak French, absolutely no English. I would have found it difficult as a shy and self-conscious boy to chat them up in my native tongue, let alone in French in which my vocabulary was totally lacking in such matters. Perhaps it was all for the best as I rather value my elderly bachelorhood, being still nervous of "the ladies".

Brian "Bone" V. Thorogood, Willowbank, Wick, Scotland; February 2004.

 

 Trevor Adcock (JRGS 1967-72) updates the caption for his 1968 lacrosse photo...

1968 Lacross Team

I can add some more names to the school Lacrosse Team photo dated 1970, but probably from 1968
Standing (from left): PS (?), Mark Turner, Trevor Buck, John Wells, RW (?), W (?), JM (?).

Seated (from left): Derry Cornwell, Peter Bennett, Nigel Smellie, Robert Keywood and myself. Click on the image to view a larger version.

 John Ruskin was one of a few schools in the area to have lacrosse teams and many pupils went on to play for local clubs like Purley and Croydon. (Geoff Cattle was one of them.) I have particularly fond memories of playing for the Purley club with Mark (Tess) Turner and Trevor Buck before having to give it up when I went to university in Glasgow.

   It was a tough sport with a lot of body contact. Although this is a team photo, we really did play with very little protection. One or two have heavy gloves and I have a facemask, but there is a distinct lack of headgear (except the goalie’s bobble hat!). I may now be a "grumpy old man" but this just wouldn’t be allowed nowadays. With the injuries we picked up, I wonder why it was then?
   Anyone else have memories about lacrosse at John Ruskin?

Doug Ford (JRGS 1966-72) adds: I checked out the lacrosse picture and know that the guy second from the right in the back row (W?) is Malcolm Watkinson, who used to live close to the school on Shirley Church Road.

  Trevor Adcock, February 2004, email

 

 Ian Macdonald (JRGS 1958-65) unearths a fascinating image from 1965...

Standing (left-to-right): John Whittington (joined 1963 from Ashburton); Ian Macdonald; J. Harrod; Richard Marsh; Anthony L. Margree; John G. Cobley; John A. Turner; Harry F. Dutton; Roger F. Searle; Keith Looseley; George Strelczuk.

Squatting (left-to-right): John D. Mauchline; Ian P. Castro; Clive Pearson.

Click on image to download a larger version.

The picture of 1965 JRGS Prefects was taken on playing fields near the Woodwork Room close to end of term on a Friday afternoon, since we are in ACF uniform and only changed in lunch hour to preserve the precious creases in our trousers!

Ian Mcdonald, London, January 2004; email.

Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1963-65) adds: The last person squatting on the right could be Clive Pearson, not "Pearman". Clive was a good cricketer - I played a few games of cricket with him after we left Ruskin.

   Clive left Ruskin in 1966 after staying on an extra year, and eventually became a school teacher at Ashburton School, which he attended before joining Ruskin school in 1964. (Another ex-Ashburton/Ruskin schoolboy, Paul Smallwood, also became a teacher at Ashburton school.)

   I was very surprised and saddened to hear of Ian (Iggy) Green's death. [more] Prior to Ian getting married he used to socialise with ex-Ruskin lads Roger Hurst, David Guscott, John White and myself. The last time I saw him was outside his house where we inspected his newly acquired MG Midget sports car. It was about this time I seem to remember he announced he was getting married, and this must have accounted for the fact that we lost touch with him.

   I used to see John Whittington very often at Croydon Council up to 1997. John worked in the Legal Department. If still at Croydon Council John should be able to retire next year after 40 years service.

John Cobley (JRGS 1958-65) adds: I can identify or correct the names of several pictured here, including Anthony L. Margree, John A. Turner, Harold Dunton, Roger F. Searle, David J. Mauchlin and Ian P. Castro, who is now Professor of Fluid Dynamics at the University of Southampton [more].

Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) adds: A full list of 1965 Prefects appears on page 14 of the July 1965 JRGS School Magazine. I can offer some corrections plus initials and first names: J. Harrad; John D. Mauchline; Clive Pearson (as Mike Etheridge suggested in a recent email).
   Also, there were quite a few missing from the photo. As well as "The Boss" Ian Davies - School Captain 1964-65; Richard Marsh was his deputy - there was Cliff Preddy, A. White, Brian Dyer, P. Green, John Heslop, J. Hussey, Stephen Lander, Martin Loveday, Martin Preuveneers, J. Wenn and P. Wynn, as well as myself.

Keith Looseley (JRGS 1958-65) adds: I have only just discovered this excellent website! I, too, still have my copy of that 1965 Prefects photo, and confirm all the names are correct (e.g. Pearson, not Pearman). Names to go with the initials given by Paul Graham are A. White - Alan, J. Hussey - John, P. Wynn - Phil.
   I have lost contact with everyone - but would be glad to hear from contemporaries.

 

 Roger Hall (JRGS 1959-66) recalls the unrivalled joys of Latin...

I got 2% in my Latin O-Level mock; I got my name right but the date wrong. No marks at all for the timetable of the 130 buses passing by during those pleasurable three hours.

   And does anyone remember some Latin passage translation along the lines of "The maidens beat their naked breasts with their hands?" (I think someone - Ceres or Persephone? - had just been carried off to the underworld.)

   Poor old unworldly Mr. "Beaky" Cornwall then made a hash of the whole lesson by saying we were out of luck and had mixed up the sentence, only to have to say after all that that was the translation. As Fifth formers could we have wished for any more enjoyment in a Friday afternoon Latin lesson?

   Or... "The shouts of the sailors hit the sky."
   Derek Smith: "Poor sky."
   "Beaky:" "100 lines, Smith."
   Derek: "Oh thank you, sir."
   "Beaky:" "200 lines."
   Derek: "OH THANK YOU, SIR."
   "Beaky:" "1,000 lines."
   Derek: " No, you are not allowed to give that many lines."
And so on.
   I wonder if Derek's book of "Beakyisms" is still in existence? He used to write down all the insults "Beaky" hurled at us, sometimes asking him to repeat them! [more].

   What a lot we must have been to teach.

Roger Hall, Cardiff, January 2004 email.

 

 Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) has been practicing his French translation...

Whilst looking through the old magazines as they appear on the Alumni web site, I found an article in one of the 1951 editions entitled, "Noël en Provence" written by the French Assistant at that time. [Autumn 1951 issue, pages 9 and 10.] Today, having printed it off, it formed a good part of my U3A French Conversation Group's translation exercise.

   Trouble was that some of the words written over 50 years ago, which between the four of us we could not translate, did not appear in our "modern" French dictionaries, so we had to resort to the old, large one which normally sits collecting dust on a shelf of the book-case! One example was the word "Pastoral" (with a capital P) which, apart from the obvious, meant a Nativity Play. The other one I remember was "personnages" which, according to the old dictionary translated as, "The clay figures used to adorn the Christmas cribs in Provence". Try finding that interpretation in a modern dictionary!

   Everyone said that the passage was an interesting insight into old Provençal Christmas customs. For example, children did not hang up stockings over the fireplace on Christmas night but instead placed slippers on the hearth for the presents that were delivered by Jesus whilst they were asleep. (No mention of Père Noël for this job!)

*U3A = University of the Third Age - a wrinklies self-help organisation.


Here is the original from the Autumn 1951 School Magazine (interestingly enough my French spell/grammar checker picked out a few minor errors in the original text which I had rigourously copied!):

Noël en Provence

En Provence, comme ailleurs en France et dans le monde, Noël est avant tout une fête de l’enfance.

   On ne peut comprendre la fête de Noël si l’on ne retrouve les yeux et l’âme de son enfance.

   Noël en Provence est une fête toute chargée de traditions comme le sapin est chargé de guirlandes, de bougies et de dorures. La crèche, les souliers devant la cheminée, la Pastoral, les vieux cantiques provençaux sont les dorures et les enluminures qui fascinent les yeux de tous petits, créant cette atmosphère de tiédeur et de lumière qui enveloppe l’âme et le corps dans un halo de douceur et de chaude clarté.

   La crèche est sans doute l’une des plus vieilles traditions du Noël provençal. C’est une représentation de la fête de la Nativité, de la scène de la naissance du Christ dans l’étable de Bethléem, que les enfants construisent avec ferveur dans chacune des maisons provençales. La crèche se prépare plusieurs jours avant Noël. Cela commence par une expédition dans les bois pour y ramasser la mousse qui servira à tapisser la crèche, pour y collecter des branches de pin, de buis, de houx, de genièvre qui formeront des guirlandes de verdure autour des personnages rassembles près du berceau de l’enfant Jésus. Ces personnages, ce sont les santons, petites figurines en argile délicieusement façonnées, ouvragées et peintes, dont quelques-unes sont de réelles merveilles artistiques. Les santons représentent et illustrent les personnages des vieux contes provençaux, des vieilles légendes du pays qui tendent à transporter dans le cadre de la Provence les évènements de la Nativité.

   La fête de Noël commence avec la soirée du 24 Décembre. Les familles sont assemblées pour le repas traditionnel, la table mise le plus souvent auprès de la crèche illuminée et toute fraîche de mousse et de verdure. Le menu du repas est composé avec une rigueur fixe; soupe de poisson, céleri aux anchois, poisson braise et les fameux treize desserts que ma mémoire défaillante se refuse à énumérer en intégralité. Il y a bien pourtant les noix, les mandarines, le nougat, les raisins secs, les figues sèches, les dattes, les papillotes, et la bûche de Noël.

   La viellée de Noël débute ensuite. Jadis on y chantait les vieux cantiques provençaux en attendant le départ pour las messe de minuit; aujourd’hui on écoute ces mêmes cantiques à la radio ; c’est moins romanesque main nous sommes à une époque dite de progrès …

   Les enfants, qui n’iront pas à la messe de minuit – une faveur qui, lorsqu’elle est accordée, marque la fin d’un age de candeur et d’insouciance, - posent avec ferveur leurs souliers devant la cheminée. Au matin ils les trouveront pleins de friandises, environnes de jouets merveilleux déposés là durant leur sommeil par l’enfant Jésus revenu en notre monde pour y faire sourdre dans chaque foyer une délicieuse source de joie et de bonheur pur et lumineux. Las messe de minuit est le centre et le point culminant de cette fête. Les cloches carillonnent dans la nuit, appelant les fidèles, et les familles se groupent dans les églises éblouissantes de la lumière de mille cierges. Les cantiques en langue provençale alternent avec les phrases l’immuable liturgie. Au retour on trouve encore la table mise pour le réveillon. C’est quelquefois une collation toute simple mais il peut prendre l’ampleur d’un repas gargantuesque qui ne s’achève qu’aux premières lueurs du matin, a ;’heure ou les enfants déjà s’éveillent et se glissent hors de leurs lits vers la cheminée encombrée.

   Noël en Provence, ce sont toutes ces scènes qu’il faut avoir vécues pour en comprendre toute la douce saveur de joie tranquille et de bonheur familial. - Pierre Francou


Well, after a somewhat shaky start, here is my translation. The language is somewhat flowery, perhaps, even in translation, but I think maybe the French itself is even more so! The figures mentioned above, or "les personnages", are actually "les santons", in the same sentence.

Christmas in Provence

In Provence, like elsewhere in France and the rest of the world, Christmas is above all a festival of childhood.

   One cannot understand the festival of Christmas if one does not find again the eyes and mind of one’s own childhood.

   Christmas in Provence is a festival passionately charged with traditions like the tree is decorated with tinsel garlands and gilded candles. The crib, the slippers in front of the fireplace, the Nativity Play, the old Provençal carols are the enchantment and illumination which fascinates the eyes of all children, creating an atmosphere of warmth and light which envelops the body and soul in a halo of peace and bright well-being.

   The crib is without doubt one of the oldest traditions of a Provençal Christmas. It is a representation of the Festival of the Nativity, the scene of the birth of Christ in a Bethlehem stable, which the children eagerly construct in every Provençal home. The crib is prepared several days before Christmas. It starts with an expedition to the woods to pick the moss which will line the crib, to collect some branches of pine, box, holly and juniper which will form the garlands of greenery around the figures assembled near the cradle of the baby Jesus. These characters are the clay figures [les santons] which will inhabit the crib, figurines delicately carved and painted which are themselves a marvellous work of art. The figures represent and illustrate the people from the old Provençal tales and legends of the countryside which tend to convey, in the context of Provence, the events of the Nativity.

   The festival of Christmas starts with the evening of the 24th December. Families are gathered for a traditional meal, the table is laid usually near the illuminated crib with all fresh moss and greenery. The menu for the meal is rigorously fixed: fish soup, celery with anchovies, mixed fish and the famous thirteen desserts which my memory refuses to fully enumerate for me. There are, nevertheless, nuts, tangerines, nougat, dried raisins and figs, dates, wrapped sweets and the Yule log.

   Christmas Evening starts afterwards. Formally one would have been singing the old Provençal carols whilst waiting to go to Midnight Mass; today one listens to the same carols on the radio; it is less romantic but we are said to be in a period of progress…

   The children who are not going to the Midnight Mass – a favour which, when it is granted, marks the end of an age of naivety and nonchalance - will eagerly place their slippers in front of the chimney. In the morning will find them well filled with delicacies, surrounded by marvellous playthings, put there whilst they were asleep by the baby Jesus returning to our world and bringing to each home a delicious source of joy and pure happiness and light. Midnight Mass is the centre and the culminating point of each festival. The bells ring out in the night, calling the faithful, and the families gather in the churches which are dazzlingly illuminated by thousands of candles. The carols in the Provençal language alternate with the unchanging liturgy. On returning one finds again the table set for Christmas Eve dinner. Sometimes it a very simple meal but it takes on the extent of a gargantuan meal which lasts through to the first light of morning, at a time when the children have already got themselves up and crept downstairs towards the loaded chimney-place.

   Christmas in Provence, it is made up of all these scenes that it is necessary to have for an understanding of all the subtle flavour, tranquil joy and familiar happiness. - Pierre Francou

Mike Marsh, Great Cornard, Sudbury, Suffolk, January 2004; email.

 

 Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) looks back at GCE O/A-Level successes...

O Levels 1963 O Level Jan 64 A  Level Jan 66

Recently I calculated that some four decades ago I finally finished with GCE O- and A-Levels. It proved to be a long process - involving two retries - but I emerged in January 1966 with six University of London Ordinary Levels and three Advanced Levels - see certificates shown left.

Click on any image to download a larger version.

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, January 2004; email.

 

 Brian Thorogood (JRGS 1951-56) recalls extra-curricular activities...

I wonder how many old boys remember the special visits during the school year?
   One of the first was with Mr. Hancock in 1952 to the Davis Theatre in Croydon High Street to see the premier British ballerina Margot Fonteyn dancing on stage. I had never seen anyone so famous before, and enquired of Mr. Hancock whether "she was real, or was it just her stand-in"! Her career must have been flagging a little at this time, before her great partnership with Rudolf Nureyev. For her to dance at the Davis Theatre must have been somewhat of a comedown from appearances at Sadlers Wells.
   It was also at the Davis that the Croydon school children were taken to view the film "The Conquest of Everest". At school, the British Empire was still whispered by the likes of Mr. Peacock our Geography master.
   Another visit with Mr. Hancock and the music group was to the Civic Hall and a Saturday morning recital by the prominent clarinetist Jack Brymer (who died just last year, 2003) and his ensemble. After the performance I went home and practiced all afternoon on my descant recorder - having wonderful aspirations.
   During 1954, whilst I was a fourth former, we went to the Savoy cinema to view the black and white movie of "Julius Caesar," with a notable cast, including Marlon Brando. As I knew Brando to be the rebellious young man par excellence, I asked a sixth former what he thought of the actor's performance, obviously hoping for an elucidating reply to support my own teenage angst. It would be another year before I was to discover my own adolescent hero, James Dean, well-suited to me as the archetypal content of his three films closely mirrored my own slow descent into madness.

Brian "Bone" V. Thorogood, Willowbank, Wick, Scotland; January 2004

Cliff Cummins (JRGS 1956-62) adds: I am grateful to Brian Thorogood for his interesting snippets, but I think he underestimates the importance of the Davis Theatre, which was one of the largest in Europe.

   The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra made its debut there on the 15th September 1946 under Sir Thomas Beecham in front of a packed house of 4,000 people (yes 4,000!).

   Beniamino Gigli sang at the Davis Theatre on the 28th December 1947.

   The Compton Theatre Organ at the Davis was considered to be on of the finest and largest in the UK and was actually larger than the one at the Empire Leicester Square!

   Margot Fonteyn's career was certainly not flagging in 1952. Born in Reigate, she dominated ballet for more than 40 years. In 1954 she became President of the Royal Academy of Dancing and in 1956 she was created Dame of the British Empire. She danced frequently with Nureyev throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Margot Fonteyn StatueThe savoy cinema’s opening in Broad Green in March 1936.  Picture: Croydon local studies library Roger Adcock (JRGS 1963-68) adds: Cliff is right and much in Reigate on Dame Margot Fonteyn. Personally, I like the beautiful sculpture and gardens as a tribute to her on the one-way system of the A25 at Reigate at the foot of Reigate hill, as shown left. Worth stopping off that way sometime.

   Incidentally, the buildings behind are on the site of the Wadham Stringer garage - the tree enjoys a preservation order! [more]

And who recalls the Savoy Cinema, Broad Green, West Croydon, shown right? >>more.

 

 Mike Briggs provides two recordings of his grandfather, an original Ruskin pupil...

I thought JRGS Alumni would be interested in an audio recording of my late grandfather, who was one of the original pupils when John Ruskin Boys' Central School opened in 1920 in Scarbrook Road, Croydon.

   My grandfather was Mr. Alfred L. Stacey, the author of Form "G" Notes to be found on page 11 of the July 1920 school magazine. In the recording he recounts the founding of the school, recollections of William Field, a couple of teachers, and school dinners, together with his exam results, etc.

   The total recording is around 10 minutes; for convenience, it has been divided into two files. Simply click on the appropriate hyperlink below and the Real Player application should launch automatically on your computer. (If you don't have the RealAudio program, simply visit the company's website to download a free player.)

   In playing or downloading these recordings you acknowledge your agreement to the following terms, under which they are made available on this Web site: The copyright in these recordings is held by M Briggs. These recordings have been made available under license for the personal use of people accessing the Web site of the John Ruskin Grammar School Alumni Society, and may not be edited, modified, republished, sold, leased, rented, broadcast or used for any commercial purpose without the written permission of M Briggs. ©2021 Mike Briggs. All rights reserved.

PLAY Part 1 - School's humble origins; first headmaster; speaking properly; first school meals.

PLAY Part 2 - Female teacher; Royal Society of Arts academic achievements; career advice.

CAUTION: It may take a couple of minutes to access and download each file via a 28.8 KB modem. If you live in an area where dialup connection is intermittent, email Mel Lambert to request a copy of the original 600 KB files.

Mel Lambert adds: It is most gracious of Mike to have provided these audio recollections from his late grandfather, Alfred "Alf" Stacey. The recordings are remarkable in their clarity and help to flesh out our appreciation of the school's origins and the important role it played in the history and culture of Croydon.
   William Field, the school's first headmaster, sounds like a remarkable individual, dedicated to the higher ideals of education. Mike says that he made several hours of audio recordings before his grandfather's death, spanning memories of much of his life. (Incidentally, Mike Briggs did not attend our school.)

 

More Archived News/Events have been moved here...

Please send any messages and memorabilia to webmaster
©2021 JRGS Alumni Society. All Rights Reserved. Last revised: 01.01.21