Monday, 13 August 2007

Far too many years of Symonds...

....although very few of them mine!
I'm actually a very recent "old symondian" - I attended Symonds' as a sixth former from 1990-1992.  However, I have a fair history with the place and have heard talk of Symonds' throughout my life.
My grandfather (Raymond Cox) taught there for a long time (will have to ask my father about dates, but I think he retired in 1967 or 1968), both my father and uncle went to Symonds' as boys - Tim Cox is my dad (he would have been there in the early 60s) and Mike Cox my uncle (he would have been there earlier - in the late 50s I guess).  And my mother currently teaches A level chemisty at Symonds', and has done for the last 20+ years but is due to retire next year.
I think the thing I found most amazing is that Colin Harris taught me A level maths (Although he retired at the end of my lower 6th - apparently not due to me!!) and he had also taught both my father and uncle! 
I would love to hear stories about my grandfather and what he was like as a teacher (I loved the story in another thread about him being a crackshot with a blackboard eraser!!)  He died when I was quite young and I only have quite dim and distant memories of him.


  1. If your Grand-father was L W R Cox, I remember him very well.His nick-name was Pongo Cox and he was the most inspirational of my teachers and gave me a life-long love of Botany. Although I got Biology at A -Level I did not get enough other science subjects and so (fortunately as it turned out!) had to change career direction and joined an overseas bank, spending my entire career overseas in Africa and Asia, indulging my love of Botany along the way,having some wonderful tropical gardens at Bank houses and visiting some of the world's major botanical gardens. I can still recall Pongo saying to me that students should be allowed to take books into exams as the purpose of education is to teach you how to use the world's sources of knowledge and NOT how much you can memorise. Very wise i thought. I can still smell the formaldehyde rising from the dead rabbit that we were dissecting on a hot summer's afternoon and looking at the ghoulish specimens in jars at the back of the classroom. I recalled them years later when I was working in Korea and happened upon this back-street shop selling various reptiles preserved in wine.(Ugh!)

  2. Yep - that's Granpa :)  His first name was Leonard, but everyone knew him as Raymond (his third intial - no idea why!) and when I asked my dad about the nickname of Pongo he said he was known as Pongo too because of Granpa.  Apparently, for a long time Granpa though he was known as Pongo because it is a type of ape and he taught biology - but it was much simpler as he later discovered when an ex-pupil was talking to himn - it was because he let students smell a really horrid smelling chemical that was simlar to the putrefication of dead vegitation (I think), hence earning the "Pongo" nickname. Wonderful to hear he inspired someone :)  Thankyou!

  3. Tut,tut! Your Granpa would have marked your homework in red ball-pen to correct your spelling of 'putrefaction of dead vegetation'. I once used the word 'adaption' of a species and was quickly corrected to 'adaptation' and have remembered that moment ever since.

  4. He taught me in the early '60s, before he retired and Crunchy took over. Yep, he told us the story of how he got his nickname - and he was proud of it!  He originally thought it was after an old taxonomic name for the family of great apes, but was hugely amused to learn the real reason.  One of my memories is dissecting an earthworm, and looking blankly at the contents.  Pongo said “Look at that enormous pair of ovaries.  They must be the largest I’ve ever seen in lumbricus terrestris.”  He had much better eyesight that I had!   Definitely an inspirational - if a little daunting - teacher.


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