03 January 2005

Memories of some early fifties masters.

Happy New Year to all!
Handy Andy's contribution has prompted me to stir and add this contribution by Russon Wooldridge who is not a member of the list but has his own webpage which includes quite a lot about old school characters. I haven't added it to the 'eulogies' page because the memories are sometimes not so flattering or simply not true!  I post it with apologies where due.
best regards,
"School was a way of leaving home for a while, particularly in later years. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were taken up with sports. Besides the different inter-house competitions, I was on various school teams for cricket, hockey, track-and-field, cross-country running, fives and chess. The senior art master, Randy Renton, and his wife ran one of the boarding houses. Mrs. Renton was famous for her cricket teas, particularly her rice crispy and syrup cakes, so home matches had a special attraction. We went to play teams at a number of schools including Winchester College, Eastleigh, Brockenhurst, Bournemouth, Taunton's and King Edward VI in Southampton, and Midhurst in Sussex
Randy, who was Doc's son-in-law, had foibles that were tolerated by the board of governors, and even admired by the boys. We had a double period with him; he would set up a still life at the beginning, tell us to get on with it, then go round to the pub until it was time to collect in our work. Like his father-in-law he had the reputation of being a skirt-chaser. Whether true or not, the reputation was just part of the aura surrounding the masters. Jack Northeast, the junior art and geography master, and Tom Pierce, the junior English and nature master, both worked freelance on The Hampshire Chronicle. Tom's "slipper" was feared, whereas "E.O." Jones' (junior Latin) "Alsatian" had a bark that was a lot worse than its bite, and his aim with pieces of chalk was erratic to say the least. Whynot Woodhouse, noted for his scepticism and the grounding he gave boys in critical thinking, was the proprietor of the Chronicle. Fluebrush Smith had in-laws in France, and the other senior French master, Oink Griffin, occasionally made laconic remarks about his cottage-cum-nature-sanctuary in Chandlers Ford. Fergie Ferguson, the junior chemistry and biology master, favoured experiments that involved lighting a match, so that he could take a drag on a cigarette in class. Cozens (no-one dared give him a nickname), the senior maths master, brought his dog with him to class; the dog was docile, even if his owner was less so, and would lie under his master's desk. Papa Watts bored us in history class, but entertained us as a member of the chorus in amateur Gilbert and Sullivan productions we attended in Winchester.
Terry had a terrific memory but was not very good at translating Latin. We sat next to each other for most subjects. The chemistry-with-physics master called us Peek and Frean, or Laurel and Hardy, or Fortnum and Mason, etc. In Latin tests I would whisper to Terry where the passage began and ended (it would be from Book II of Virgil's Æneid) and he would then reel off the translation from memory. His elder sister went to Brockenhurst Grammar School and had a copy of the teacher's edition of the maths book we were using one year. So on our way to school on the train we would work backwards from the answer to the question filling in the intermediate steps. We all did very well in maths that year. The master, Harry Hawkins, was sure he knew a relative of mine, and I ended up getting 110% for the year.
Harry was considered slightly mad. We found out early – we had probably inherited the knowledge from the previous year's class – that he could be hypnotized by a swinging light bulb (the classroom was lit by bulbs on long flexes). So we tried it out one day. Harry's bulging eyes were transfixed by the swinging bulb and he walked straight towards it scattering desks left and right. Another day, Harry was bending over the milk crates in the hall during morning break when his balls were grabbed between his legs by a boy who had mistaken him for a tall friend."

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