Friday, 18 December 2009
Friday, 16 October 2009
Sunday, 9 August 2009
I visited the Hamshire Record Office in Winchester recently and was surprised to see that they were selling (for £1) a nice booklet (A4 size 28 pages) titled "Peter Symonds: Merchant, Almshouse, School and College". The booklet was produced to commemorate the reopening of the Northbrook building on 18th January 2008. It is not clear who published it, but it appears to be written by Dr John Hare who is on the staff of the college and David Rymill of the Hampshire Record Office.
As its title suggests, the booklet starts by describing Peter Symonds himself and the almshouses. There then is a lot of material on the history of the school, together with a fair number of photographs that I have never seen before.
Has anyone else seen this booklet? If there is some interest, I will scan some of the illustrations and put them on this site.
Perhaps you could post a few bits and pieces about yourself George and your years spent at PSSW for all to share ...
Hope you enjoy the site and maybe catch up with some class-mates and share some memories ...
Sunday, 19 July 2009
Monday, 29 June 2009
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Panoramic school photographs were taken during my time in the 1950s. The motorised camera slowly panned round and It was said that, on occasion, a boy would run around the back of the group to the other end so as to be photographed twice, although I've not personally seen evidence of this - maybe you have?
These photos. were taken by Panora Ltd. of London, which ceased to be in the late 1980s. I understand that the company's negatives dating from 1968 to 1985 were deposited with the Documentary Photography Archive, whose collections are housed at The Greater Manchester County Record Office. Earlier negatives have not survived so if you have any prints, hang on to them!
Does anyone know of a group, society or association for alumni (or alumnae) of Eggar's Grammar School, Alton, Hants.? I have a 1954 Eggar's photo., by Panora Ltd., which may be of interest to someone.
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Is anyone able to help with Names and/or Nicknames for any of the Teachers shown above who were present in 1958, please ...
To assist with identification, we will number them left to right with 1 to 8 on the top row and
9 & 10 on the 2nd. row ...
No.7 is possibly Mr. Steve (Chalky) White
Very many thanks ...
NOTE: Since posting this, No.7 is confirmed as Mr. Steve (Chalky) White, No.3 as Mr. Cyril Stapleton (was that his real first name, or a nick-name after the Band Leader?), No.8 Mr. (Fergie) Ferguson and No.10 Mr. Bray, but was it Neddie or Reggie ?
The others remain unidentified or are in doubt still.
Doug from WOZ
PSSW '45 - '50
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
I feel reasonably certain that there must be many other pics and 'tales' out there, perhaps hidden away in shoe-boxes, or suitcases in the attic and temporarily forgotten ... we would love to share them with you on our site ...
Once again, many thanks John ...
Keep smiling everyone ...
All the best ...
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
These came from the school magazine, mostly of the athletics day of that year, and yes that's me in the results photo - a delinquent then in my baseball boots - the only kid wearing them in the whole school! If anyone can be recognised.. I think the masters are Brian Bass (English), John (?) Pierce and the others I can't remember.
Friday, 22 May 2009
Friday, 8 May 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Doug Clews 12th. April 2009
Sixty Years of Cricket Memories
Reprinted by kind permission of the Hampshire Chronicle
During a cricket career spanning 60 years, George Pierce found his love for the game, and the natural world, satisfied on the beautiful village grounds of his native Hampshire.
The setting of the game was always important to him and the downland wickets at Owslebury, on which he was brought up, were, and still are, a source of constant pleasure.
They provided him with a rich vein of material on which to draw for an article he wrote in the famous country publication, ‘The Field’ magazine. “Downland wickets are very springy and have a character all of their own. In those days there were no gang mowers. You had some long grass in the outfield so you could not score fours. You had to hit a six to get a boundary,” said Mr. Pierce. ''You could be fielding in the deep and find skylark nests with eggs in them, nests of partridges, or a hare. If Owslebury were playing some rather more important team, the farmer would get the shepherds to bring the sheep up and get the grass down a bit. They left hazards that ruined a few pairs of trousers. I remember playing at Compton, down by the school. I went back for a catch in the outfield and fell over a sow with a litter of pigs. It all added to the interest of the game,” he continued. ''If a ball could not be found, and many were not, the fielders had to shout 'lost ball' and the batsmen would get six runs. If you did not shout 'lost ball' they could keep running. There were some fine goings on when you pretended not to find the ball and then ran someone out”, he recalled.
Now 75, Mr. Pierce only retired from playing three years ago, and recently relinquished his Chairmanship of Old Symondians, a post he had held since the club was formed 32 years ago.
He was born in Owslebury, the eldest son of the village school Headmaster, whose name was also George. His mother, Daisy, taught at the school.
When Mr. Pierce senior was called up at the start of the Great War,
Mrs. Pierce took over the running of the school.
''My father said: ‘You’re in charge now, my son, I will expect your to look after your mother and brothers.’ No sooner had he gone when I set into my two brothers and gave them a hiding and said: ‘Dad’s told me to look after you,’ he fondly remembered.
For his work in education Mr. Pierce senior was rewarded with an MBE and the school won the ‘All England Bird and Tree Shield’.
After Owslebury school, the young Mr. Pierce became a pupil at Peter Symonds' School in Winchester, cycling there and back every day. ''It got pretty miserable if you got wet through on your way to school, because you could not dry yourself. I sometimes smile a bit wryly when you find people cannot now get to school because the bus is not running”, he declared.
Mr. Pierce went everywhere by foot or bike, whether he was playing for Owslebury school or travelling to the County ground in Southampton for coaching. As a teenager he played for the village team as well as for Peter Symonds', where he was destined to become captain of cricket.
''In those days we used to play Tichborne. That was a real estate ground; old Sir Joseph Tichborne was alive. He used to have his marquee and house parties. Young Tony Tichborne used to play as a boy. The butler was the umpire. In one game there was an appeal for a stumping, but he gave not out; an appeal for leg before, not out; an appeal for a catch at the wicket, not out. The butler eventually said 'His Lordship is not at home'. It was very good fun''.
From 1928 to 1930, Mr. Pierce studied at the teacher training college in Winchester and took up his first teaching position at Christchurch.
There he taught the former Hampshire wicket-keeper, Leo Harrison, and turned out for the Bournemouth Sports Club during the summer. In 1933 he returned to his old school in Winchester to teach English, and he was allowed to take natural history as a non-examination subject.
One of the most memorable moments of that period was a match between Winchester College and Peter Symonds' in 1936. Appearing for the College that day was the young William Whitelaw, who went on to become a leading Conservative politician and a Viscount. He made 127 opening the batting before he was dismissed by EW Eveleigh, another young man destined for high office as the Rt. Hon. Edward Walter Eveleigh, Lord Justice of Appeal. In that same match Mr. Pierce was Peter Symonds' top scorer, run out with his total on 54. Three years earlier, he had made his first ever century, 103 including 17 boundaries, for Old Symondians against Old Eggar’s.
During the thirties, Mr. Pierce began a long association with St. Cross Cricket Club, and was made captain after the war. He also played for The Hampshire Eskimos, a team of Hampshire farmers who came together to play the Invalids, a London press XI. ''The Invalids were formed in protest at the encroachment of the football season on the cricket season”, Mr. Pierce recalled. ''They challenged a team of local farmers to a game on a matting wicket at Broadhalfpenny Down on New Year's Day in 1926 or 1927. It was filmed and I remember going to watch it. The hounds met on the pitch. They had a bagged fox. Away went the hounds after the fox and they got on with the game. It was a three sweater day. They said they would repeat it every year, which they never did, but it caused the creation of the Hampshire Eskimos,'' he continued. ''The Eskimos had a white blazer with a red running fox and an Australian style white cap. That was a good class of cricket”, he enthused.
To this day a plaque commemorating the Eskimos' first game was kept at the famous Bat and Ball public house on Broadhalfpenny Down.
During the war Mr. Pierce was stationed at Lincoln, where he was a physical fitness officer in Bomber command. “I met a lot of first class cricketers, and had my best cricket in the Air Force. The most distinguished thing I did was to run out the captain of England, Bob Wyatt. Unfortunately, we were on the same side. I was not too popular I may say,” he joked.
One summer a match was organised between a strong team representing the National Fire Service and RAF Scampton, at the Lincoln County Ground. 'The Fire Service team included the Langridge brothers, John and James, Harold Gimlett and Snowden, the captain of North Hants. It was for their charity. I captained the Air Force. When the day broke it was pouring with rain, but it cleared up. They batted first and got a hell of a lot of runs before declaring at tea. After tea we were 50 without loss. Someone said the pubs were open and we were all out for 66,” said Mr. Pierce.
He reminisced about another game before the war when he played for Bramshaw against Hampshire. “We had 15 runs against 11, and I remember bowling against Philip Mead. He had a bat like a barn door, and I never got a ball past him''.
Another of his adversaries was the legendary England cricket captain CB Fry. He played against him at the Royal Navy training establishment, HMS Mercury, and later met him on a train from London to Winchester.
''Sitting opposite me was CB Fry. He had a monocle. I said: ‘I played against you sir, at the training ship Mercury.' He replied 'Did you? Did you get me out?’ I said ‘No’. He said 'I did not think so, otherwise I would have remembered you.’ With that he started reading ‘The Times' and did not speak again said Mr. Pierce.
In the early 1950’s he suggested the idea of forming an Old Symondians’ Cricket Club to a group of boys who had finished their A levels. “They were very suspicious at the beginning,” he explained “but after mulling it over that is what they did, and I became the Chairman” he explained. Since then he has been on every Old Boy’s tour and between 1960 and 1971 his slow left arm bowling earned him the Cany Cup as the club’s top wicket-taker.
He took his last hat-trick after reaching the grand old age of 70 in a third XI match. “They called it a geri-atric”, he quipped.
Mr. Pierce is a member of the MCC, and one of the highlights of his playing career came when he represented that club in the King Edward VI School in the Southampton Centenary match. ''I thought I was in as a bowler, but I made the top score for the MCC with 31 before I was out leg before.
Mr. Pierce, who was affectionately known to his pupils as ''Tom'', retired from teaching in 1974, and the Old Boys made him a life member of the Hampshire County Cricket Club.
He spent the following winter in Australia with former teaching colleague, Mr. Eric Hammond, watching the England Test series and made another visit four years later.
Much has changed in the sixty years since Mr. Pierce first held a cricket bat, and he feels the gang mower has had the biggest impact. ''The outfield was cut, and that made a tremendous difference to the run scoring,” he explained. ''Everything has improved. The gear has improved. I remember at Owslebury we did not have enough pads to wear. You had one pad, which you were supposed to put on your front leg. One day the local Vicar went out with the pad on the wrong leg, and he said he thought he was going to bat at the other end! There were very few white flannels then. Villagers turned up in their best blue trousers, braces and belts. They were looked on as a bit of a pansy if they started wearing whites,” he continued.
The one thing Mr. Pierce regrets is the demise of cricket in schools. “You need good wickets, outfields, nets and equipment, and that adds up to too much money and time for most of the Council schools. Unless the clubs have youth teams the boys are going to miss out”, he said.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
………….FWM. Cox, ordained deacon in 1922, had succeeded Cockle as second master in 1929, as well as presiding over Wyke Lodge. On his retirement in 1937, he was succeeded in both posts by Christopher John Cozens. This remarkable man deserves more notice. George Pierce has written of him:
Christopher John Cozens who came from Andover Grammar School via University College, Southampton, was always referred to by staff and boys as "Cozy" for as long as I can remember. I first met "Cozy" in 1923 when I entered Peter Symonds' School as a boy. He then taught maths to the lower and middle school who feared and respected him. We learned, though he did not tell us, that he had been an artillery officer in the Great War and that he had been awarded the military cross. He was certainly a crack shot with a piece of chalk. Nobody ever ragged Cozy, such behaviour was unthinkable. Even minor misdemeanours such as yawning and inattention were punished by a shrewd blow on the head with a wooden board rubber which left the culprit with a lump on his skull and a film of chalk dust in his hair.
He used to teach in Bigg Room and we often wondered how he could detect and name an inattentive pupil when he had his back turned to the class and was writing on the blackboard. It was some time before we discovered that a picture, craftily hung above the board, reflected any movement in its glass. In those old fashioned days, boys were expected to know their multiplication tables and their rods, roods, bushels and fathoms. To confess to Cozy that you did not know your tables was to ask for trouble. "You don't know !" he would storm. "Tell me anything you know anything at all about anything." Aghast at this paralysing carte blanche, the wretched boy would collapse into silence and tears. [I must say that I don’t remember this kind of thing happening! Jim Wishart]
Those who have read so far will have come to the conclusion that Cozy was something of a martinet. Indeed he was. Cribbers and Slackers had a terrible time with him but they learned to be grateful to him in the end for he was a first class schoolmaster who expected, and obtained, first class results. He never forgot to set the prep, and plenty of it, and he never forgot to mark it thoroughly. He never spared the boys and he never spared himself. It was rumoured that he refused to give 100% for any set of examination answers claiming that none could be perfect and that on one occasion when confronted with a paper with which he could find no fault, he shook a blot on it, put a ring round it and deducted one mark for untidiness.
In 1933, I came back to the school as a master and, except during the war, worked side by side with Cozy for 22 years. It was somewhat embarrassing at first to call him "Cozy" to his face and one instinctively raised an arm to ward off the intimidating board rubber. However, these reactions soon disappeared and one turned to him for wise advice and found him a kind and sympathetic friend. He was by then senior mathematical master and in 1937 he succeeded the late Rev. EWM. Cox as second master and as master of Wyke Lodge.
Perhaps his piece de resistance was the school timetable, a massively complicated sheet which he compiled and amended himself. This was regarded, at least by the junior members of the staff, as sacrosanct; tampering with the timetable was not to be thought of.
Occasionally, in some staff room horse play, it was accidentally torn or defaced. Retribution was swift and devastating. Cozy's wrath had to be seen to be believed.
Another abiding memory of that Lent term is of the Saturday morning sessions with the small "scholarship group" in the seventh form. There were five or six in the group. Although he shouldered an increasingly heavy burden of work at school, he still found time to write several mathematical text books and to mark external Oxford examination papers. In 1947, he became President of the Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters and afterwards their Honorary Secretary of the Oxford Standing Joint Committee and was extremely active in other important organisations not directly connected with the school.
In his spare time, though one may well wonder if he had any, he was an omnivorous reader, a bon vivant, and a generous host who presided over his Wyke Lodge parties, wreathed in tobacco smoke, with a Pickwickian benevolence. He was fond of his pipe and his pint and he was a fluent raconteur whose stories were enriched by repetition."
Steve White's views are those of one coming later to the scene:
"One of my great regrets is that I knew Christopher Cozens only during the last six years or so of his life. When one saw the enthusiasm and dedication that he was able to bring to Peter Symonds' affairs during what must, of necessity, have been his declining years, one could only wonder at the kind of man he must have been in his twenties and thirties.
In all the human activities in which I have had some measure of success, I have always found that to study the expert is one of the surest ways to improvement. In my early days at Peter Symonds, there were two or three clear experts to be studied, but none had such a profound effect upon me as CJC.
To say that a man who was so kind and helpful to me instilled in me a feeling of awe gives an impression of a distant, lofty figure, in some way rather unapproachable, and this, as far as I am concerned, he never proved to be, for all the reassurance that I could get when I entered on my motor bike on that January day in 1950 CJC. put me at my ease from the start.
Yet speaking to boys who were at school at that time, one finds that they often use the word “awesome" as they look back at him across the years. certainly looking. Although I was older and more experienced than most students embarking on their first teaching practice, I was looking back on it and knowing subsequently what a busy man he was, I marvel that he was prepared to give up the time to ensure that I got off to as good a start as possible.
Although it is more than forty years ago, I can remember vividly those sessions in Baker Room (now the General Office) with, as usual, the windows and doors open, even though it was mid winter, and the certain feeling, never revised, that here was a real master in action.
I was one of the few on School Practice to be subjected to an inspection by the External examiner. This daunting episode also took place in Baker Room with one of the fifth forms as the victims. What Cozy had said to them I do not know but to underline the crucial nature of the exercise, he accompanied the examiner into the room, enquired whether I had everything that I needed, surveyed the audience and retired. They could hardly have been more co operative. Several of his teaching devices I used until my retirement, including the weekly test and running league table, which I have no doubt would be frowned upon in certain educational circles group I think, although Freddie Johnson is the only one that I can actually recall, and CJC. used to set them about half a dozen questions to be done during the week. Cozy was often away on Saturday morning on AMA business and he used to give me the questions on a Thursday and ask me to go over them on Saturday. I can remember even now the hours I used to put in on Thursday and Friday evening so as to have a reasonable mastery by the Saturday morning. I have no doubt that they were pretty routine questions to him and that he had no idea of the great struggle I was having each week.
He was a complete master of his trade and I have never ceased to wonder at the facility with which he could conjure a question out of his head just when he needed it not for him the feverish search throughout the text book out it came pat with just the right numbers to give a reasonable and uncomplicated answer. I do not think that the idea of having a mathematical syllabus within the school ever occurred to him he assumed that all the mathematics staff knew what ought to be taught and were getting on with it.
Needless to say, no boy ever considered giving him any disciplinary trouble in his classroom, but some amusing tales are told of his methods for dealing with happenings outside the classroom. These applied particularly to boarders. One of his favourite tricks was to send the unfortunate offender with a message for Jack Northeast in Crawley early in the morning. A reply was required before morning school. It is said that the owner of an allotment in Bereweeke Road once complained to CJC. that some of the Wyke Lodge boarders were pinching his carrots. Nothing was said but the next few meals served in the boarding house consisted of carrots and only carrots. The problem was cured.
During the years between 1950 and 1955, Cozy was certainly the dominant figure as far as the staff and the boys were concerned. He ran the day to day affairs of the school and Doc seemed more concerned with the relationships with the City and with the Authority. CJC. never seemed idle. I cannot recall him sitting back reading a newspaper or engaging in indolent chatter. There was always something to be done. The photograph I have of him in my room conjures his most frequent scene of action sitting at the head of the table in the old Staff Room marking scripts, checking timetables or carrying out one of the multitude of tasks that he set for himself."
Doug Clews - April 2009
Harold Perkins died on 14th September 1994. He was both pupil and master at Peter Symonds. The following obituary appeared in the Hampshire Chronicle and was contributed by his son Mark [1955-62].
“Harold Perkins, a former pupil at Peter Symonds’ School, and a local musician, has died at the age of 84.
Harold was born in Bristol, where he was a chorister at St Mary Redcliffe. His parents moved to Winchester in 1922 and he attended St Thomas School and sang at St Thomas Church in Southgate Street, where the distinguished organist, Mr Ernest Savage, started Harold on learning to play the organ.
He became a pupil at Peter Symonds’ School in 1924, during which time he was influenced by successive headmasters, the Rev. Telford Varley and Dr P.T. Freeman. Harold excelled in music and sport, particularly cricket, where he was encouraged by the late Harold Child and was a contemporary of another cricket enthusiast, the late George Pierce.
After studying at teacher training college at Southampton between 1928 and 1932, Harold took up his first teaching post in Bristol. Again, music and sport were his interests – teaching one and organising the other.
In 1939 Harold and his brother were given two tickets for the Wembley cup final when Portsmouth beat Wolves 4 – 1. He continued his support for Pompey from the 50’s, which he has passed on to two of his sons and a grandson.
Harold served in the war from 1941-1946 with the Royal Armoured Corps as an instructor, first at Bovington and latterly in India. He returned to Bristol for a few years until, in 1950, he was appointed music master at Peter Symonds’ School.
His appointment by Dr Freeman was a moment that gave him much pleasure, as Peter Symonds’ school was held in much affection by him. The family connection then saw his brother Jim and three sons all attending the school and he was a keen supporter of the Old Symondians’ Association.
In addition to establishing a strong musical tradition at Peter Symonds’, Harold Perkins was also busy in a number of other spheres. He managed football and cricket teams for several years and was an officer in the army section of the school cadet force for 20 years. He also founded a school brass band, which developed into the successful
Mid-Hants Schools’ Band. He retired as a school-teacher in 1970.
Harold was also active as a church organist. He was appointed organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity, Winchester, in 1953, a post he held until 1977. During his working years and, in retirement, Harold was actively involved with the Winchester and District Association of Organists, became president of Friary Bowling Club before becoming a founding member of Littleton Bowling Club, which he served as secretary and president.
Harold was a committed Christian and assisted the YMCA, Polynesian Society, Missions to Seamen, Christian Aid and the Children’s Society. He also served as churchwarden at Holy Trinity and was appointed the first co-lay chairman of the Deanery Synod.
Harold died after a short illness and the funeral was held at Holy Trinity Church, Winchester. He is survived by his wife, Doreen and three sons, Terrence, Mark and Robert. He also leaves seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.”
“I first met Paul Woodhouse when he returned to teach at Peter Symonds’ School after World War II in which he had served with distinction, mostly in the Middle East.
His return to School, in late 1945 coincided with the first of the 11+ intakes. There we were – boys from many walks of life. In several cases our fathers had been away for years on active service -–some not to return. Many of us were confused, certainly we did not know how to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities the School had to offer – and straightaway he made his mark.
My first memories are the sight of him walking in that even, measured stride he had adopted, from the back garden of his beloved Dirleton, the length of the school playing field on his way to school. He was as regular as clockwork. The sight of him in the brown sports jacket he favoured, walking down the playing field in the morning told you it was time to start packing up your game of cricket or soccer and wash off the mud, ready for the school bell and morning prayers because to arrive late was to risk the wrath of the Head, and that was to be avoided at all costs.
But the way he really made his mark was through his total commitment to the school and all of us there. He took a special interest in those of us who were disadvantaged in some way. In my own case my father had returned from the war severely wounded and incapacitated. So he took me under his wing, became as it were my mentor and in many ways took over where my father left off. Metaphorically he picked me up by the scruff of the neck pointed me in the right direction saying –
“Young man, this is how you behave”. He gave me ambition and an understanding and love of history which has given me so much pleasure over the years and he encouraged me to take an active part in games – especially soccer and cricket – even to the extent of paying for the coaching courses which my parents could not afford. Perhaps, most important of all though, he gave me standards – standards which have stood me in good stead throughout my life.
But I was only one of many boys to whom he gave advice, practical help and encouragement all the time we were at School. We owe him a considerable debt.
At the same time Paul Woodhouse was a man of many parts. A graduate of Kings College, London, he first arrived at the School in 1931 from Portsmouth Grammar School. In the years before the war he commanded the school OTC and played a very active part in the 4th TA Battalion, the Royal Hampshire Regiment, where he commanded the Winchester company. Throughout his time at the school, having been an enthusiastic games player himself, he gave total support to the school teams. He was always on the touchline at football matches, or during the cricket season, on the boundary of Outer Field, and on occasions he would even pack several of us in his car and drive us away to matches. In many ways he was the best sort of schoolmaster. Just to teach us was not enough. He gave the school, his colleagues and boys total support and commitment in everything.
Another important thread which ran through his life was his work in the community. He was before the war, Chairman of the Round Table and for many years a member of several Masonic Lodges and a keen and practical supporter of their charitable works. His enthusiasm for sport – especially rugby –found expression in his support of the Winchester Rugby Club, of which he was president for a number of years.
Understandably though, his most important contribution to the city and civic life could be seen in his service as a city Councillor. From 1947 he served as an independent councillor for St Michael’s Ward and in 1956/7 was elected to be Mayor of the City of Winchester, an honour and privilege of which he was immensely proud.
Finally in 1939 he had become joint proprietor of the Hampshire Chronicle after his marriage to Monica and served for many years as a director of Jacob and Johnson, the company name of the Hampshire Chronicle and its associated newspapers. But again it was not enough just to be a newspaper proprietor. For him the Hampshire Chronicle was part of the fabric of the City and the wider county of Hampshire. It recorded the big events, live VE day, or a change of government but much more important it provided a living history – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – of the people of Winchester and nearby. It recorded their births and their marriages told of their examination achievements and highlighted the deliberation so the city Council, reported on the latest performance of the Operatic Society and the success of the village fete. If you had scored a goal or a try or taken some wickets, in the match report your name was there for all to see and recorded for posterity. In this way, the Hampshire Chronicle, for him, helped to develop the sense of community and the sense of belonging which he believed to be so important.
May I close by saying that Paul Woodhouse was an honourable, decent and caring man. Many of us owe him a debt which perhaps we can only repay through service to others and in so doing follow the very fine example he set for us all.
“It is a great honour for me to be asked to pay this tribute to such a remarkably talented man as George. All of us here feel a profound sense of loss at his passing; none more so than Ruth and Jane and their families and Alan, his brother. So also must Tim be feeling at the far side of the world in New Zealand.
George’s death leads us all to reflect on the qualities which he so eminently exhibited as father, grandfather, friend and colleague. As Ruth and Jane have remarked, he was a man who loved his fellow men, just as he loved a good chat, a pipe and a pint. His good humour and generosity of spirit were always apparent, as was his sense of duty.
George Pierce was born in 1908, when his father was headmaster of Owslebury Church of England School. From there he went to High Wycombe to live with his grandparents and was for a time at the Royal Grammar School there. But in 1923 he came back to Owslebury and entered his true and lasting inheritance when he came to Peter Symonds’ School. He went on to King Alfred’s College [or Winchester training College as it was then called] in 1928 and emerged with distinctions, fully fledged as a schoolmaster in 1930. By 1933 he was back on the school staff where he used his learning and his great abilities as a games player in the encouragement of countless generations of Symondians. He remained there for the rest of his working life until his retirement in 1974, except for that memorable period during World war Two when he served as physical fitness officer at RAF Scampton to 617 Squadron, the ‘Dambusters’. Many were the tales George could tell of those days.
There were sadnesses in his family life in the period after the war and George was left to bring up his young family, not entirely by himself but with the support of his aging parents, whom he in turn was to support through their declining years in Hatherley Road. It was through the back garden gate that he went to work over all those years; in the springtime seeing whether his left arm would still ‘go over’ in the various cricket games to be found on the school field on his way.
Probably the most remarkable thing about George was the way in which his talents complemented one another. Two of the outstanding qualities he had were, on the one hand, his profound knowledge of natural history and, on the other, his great ability to write about nature and the countryside. He inherited much knowledge from his father but this only gave him a start. He built on this over his lifetime and became an outstanding naturalist whose learning was nowhere more apparent than in the classroom but also in the pages of the Hampshire Chronicle, the Hampshire Review, the Hampshire County Magazine and The Field. The illustrations were often the work of his old friend and colleague, Jack Northeast.
To these qualities were added his love of literature and poetry and what better way to illustrate this theme than some lines of Wordsworth, which he quoted in a Hampshire Chronicle article of April 22nd 1950 entitled ‘The Poet of Nature’. He was writing of the inspiration and driving force of nature in Wordsworth’s life but surely George was also writing about himself:
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart and soul of all my moral being.
This love of nature communicated itself both to his readers and pupils. His readers wrote appreciative letters to him personally and to his editors, while his pupils gained in enthusiasm and knowledge as they practised their ornithological skills and gardened in the school grounds. They worked on a fine rose bed outside Morys Room on which I chanced to compliment George one summer morning. ‘So it should be’ he said, ‘it’s been well composted…..there are a few dead boys under there!’
George had an extraordinary memory too. Not only could he quote Shakespeare and Housman by the yard [‘Three lines only, George, ‘ Eric Hammond used to say] but he could also recall the events and experiences of his youth as he showed in his articles in The Hampshire Magazine on ‘Village Life in Days Gone By’. These make entrancing reading . The connection between Housman and country life as evoked in ‘The Shropshire Lad’ struck a profound chord in George’s life and learning. He liked his pint, as I have said, and it comes as no surprise that he should often have quoted these lines:
Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man
As a games player George’s interests were wide. He played Rugby well as he did fives and squash but above all else he loved cricket. He went on playing what was for him the greatest of games into his seventies. He served the Old Symondian Association as Sports secretary for well over a decade and raised many powerful sides against the school. He was largely instrumental in persuading the Canytes’ side, composed of young Old Symondians, to become the Old Symondian Club in the early 1950s and he himself played and toured with them for the best part of thirty years. He also played for MCC, St Cross, and for the Stoats as well as for Owslebury in his earlier years. It afforded great amusement to play for the Old Symondians at Owslebury on his 50t birthday in 1959, when his first ball was hit out of the ground for 6 by one of his village school contemporaries, who he maintained, had ‘cribbed the Lord’s Prayer from me’ in his time. ‘You can’t sink much lower than that’, he added. ‘Many happy returns, George ‘ said his old friend. Three balls later George had him caught. ‘And many happy returns to you too!’ was his comment, as he trapped yet another man beguiled by his craft in a long career of left arm spin. He was a good batsman too and an excellent close fielder.
Just as was the case in his love of nature, so did his love of cricket communicate itself to boys in his charge. His return to teach at Peter Symonds’ in 1947 marked the beginning of a fine period in Peter Symonds’ cricket as he took charge of the under 15 side, many of whom caught his enthusiasm and moved on to very successful playing careers.
So there developed the cycle of the schoolmaster’s life. In George’s case the cycle of nature’s year had its inevitable influence, but so too did the sporting seasons, the form mastering and the examinations. Extremely important to George was the RAF section of the CCF, the Arduous Training camps in the Lakes and the Peak District and the annual summer camps involving meeting Old Symondians serving in the RAF. On one such occasion great surprise was created when the instruction ‘Tell him Tom Pierce wants to see him’ induced the appearance of the extremely busy Paddy Hine, now Sir Patrick, who was commanding the demonstration squadron at the time. Another memory George always treasured was a visit one evening on his way back from watching Hampshire at Portsmouth, to see Brian Brown, now Sir Brian, who was serving on HMS Britannia.
In his retirement George continued to play cricket and bowls, to drink in the Wessex Hotel, in his favourite corner, with his lifelong friend Eric Hammond and more recently in the Roebuck each evening. Pub quizzes and crosswords in The Times and The Telegraph kept his mind active as did the quizzes he set his family and friends, and he continued to take his country walks and his trips to watch Hampshire play cricket. He and Eric always attended OS golf matches. It was with Eric he went on two world cruises. In the winter of 1974-5 this took in the England tour of Australia. A card from west Africa told me, inimitably, ‘We have met two widows and they are teaching us the cha-cha’. Triumphs for the Pierce/Hammond team in the shop’s quizzes were clearly inevitable.
No words of mine can really do justice to this remarkable and splendid man. We all have our memories of his warmth, his charm his impish and sometimes naughty wit. No man was a shrewder or more generous judge of his fellow humans. The news that he would be present at any gathering was welcome news indeed and every occasion that he graced was special for his presence. We thank God that we counted him a friend and none of us will ever forget the memory.
“John Cooksey, who died, aged 84 on April 17th, was a brilliant schoolmaster, coming to teach at Peter Symonds’ School, Winchester, in 1929, straight from a double first in Classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he had just missed a Fellowship.
He taught at Peter Symonds’ for the next 129 terms, five of them as Head in the period in which the school was transformed to a sixth form college.
Countless Symondians benefited from his exceptional teaching of both Classics and history. He was a first-rate scholar, but he carried his learning lightly and utterly without ostentation.
The range of his knowledge was astonishing and the way in which he imparted it was equally remarkable. He was a demanding teacher, but those whom he taught found that, in an almost miraculous way, they know their subject and could perform wonders in public examinations and for university scholarships.
Here, indeed was an academic preparation which equipped a boy for life and there are many Old Symondians of considerable eminence who still count themselves fortunate to have been taught by him.
Even as Second Master, he continued to teach a heavy timetable and yet could still find time to examine 1000 O level Latin scripts per summer and also to moderate the marking of others and to be the chief examiner for the Oxford Examination Board.
In his younger days he was a vigorous sportsman, playing rugby, cricket and fives. In later years, his dedication to Worcester county Cricket Club and West Bromwich Albion were well known and their bad days rarely went unremarked.
Indeed, there was a time when a small duck would appear on his blackboard if his friend, the then Worcester captain, had failed to trouble the county scorer on the previous day.
John Cooksey was a family man who enjoyed the privilege of having his family around him. He became Housemaster at Varley’s and later of School House and he was joined in the work by his wife, Betty, who survives him and his daughter, Elisabeth, who continues to work at Peter Symonds’ to this day.
Every summer, with the term over and all that O level marking behind him, the family made for Scotland, which he greatly loved and about which his knowledge was almost encyclopaedic.
After his retirement in 1973, the trips became more frequent and it seems sadly appropriate that his life ended as he was returning from his favourite holiday home.
At his funeral at Southampton Crematorium, an address was given by John Ashurst, Head of Peter Symonds’ from 1963 – 1971. It was a fitting tribute to a fine school master, whose like one rarely sees today”
[I'm indebted to Ms Carol Liston of the Winchester Local Studies Library for providing me with copies of the Hampshire Chronicle's obituary of Doc, a brief report of tributes paid at the City Magistrates Court, and a report of his memorial service, from the library's microfilm archive of back issues of the newspaper. I've transcribed the articles by hand. _ Chris Cooper.]
HAMPSHIRE CHRONICLE SATURDAY 25 AUGUST 1956
The Late Dr. P. T. Freeman
NEARLY 1000 AT CATHEDRAL MEMORIAL SERVICE
The memorial service to Dr. P.T. Freeman, Headmaster of Peter Symonds' School, Winchester, which was held at Winchester Cathedral on Wednesday at noon, drew an attendance of mourners of quite unusual proportions and representative in the widest possible ways of life and activities in Hampshire. A congregation of over 900 scholars, ex-scholars and associates in public and social life of the late Doctor thronged the great Nave to take part in a quite simple service in memory of one whose contribution to the community in this area during the past 30 years or so was obviously tremendous.
The service itself began after the preliminary sentences by the saying of the 121st Psalm. The Lesson, from the Revelation of St. John, was read by the Rev. J. H. P. Still, Chaplain to Dr. Freeman's own Lodge of Freemasons, Economy (No. 76). Bunyan's hymn, "He who would valiant be," was followed by prayers, said by the Sacrist (the Rev. E. Bannister), very appropriately, when one remembered Dr. Freeman's life. Arthur Hugh Clough's "Say not, the struggle naught availeth" was sung, and further prayers and the Blessing by Bishop Leslie Lang brought the quite short ceremony to a close.
Other robed clergy present were Canon F. R. Money, Canon R. B. Lloyd and Canon G. Uppington. At the organ Mr Isidore Harvey played two Bach Chorales before the service -- "Sheep may safely graze" and "Jesu, joy of man's desiring" -- and at the conclusion the First Movement from Rheinberger's Sonata in A Minor.
The family mourners were Mrs. Freeman (widow), Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Freeman (son and daughter-in-law), Mr. and Mrs. A. Barron Renton (son-in-law and daughter) and Mr. W. C. Cavill.
Civic representatives included the Mayor of Winchester (Councillor Paul Woodhouse), the Mayor and Mayoress of Romsey (Councillor and Mrs. H. G. Mackrell, also representing Mr. K. V. Mackrell and Mr. A. G. Mackrell), and the Deputy Mayor of Winchester (Councillor Mrs. F. S. Thackeray).
The County Education Authority was represented by Ald. A. H. Quilley (Chairman of the Education Committee), Mr. J. W. Parr (Vice-Chairman), and Mr. W. Coates (County Education Officer). Mr. F. L. Freeman represented the Southampton Borough Education Committee.
Mr. Parr also represented Sir George Gater (Chairman of the Governing Body of Peter Symonds' School and Warden of Winchester College).
Mrs. W. Coates (Deputy Chairman) and Mr. W. Moss (Clerk to the Justices) represented the Winchester City Bench, and there was a large attendance of Magistrates and members of the legal profession.
Dr. Freeman's great interest in Freemasonry was reflected in the large number of Masons present and Lodges represented. Dr. Wilfrid Attenborough (Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master), Mr. F. O. Goodman (Deputy Provincial Grand Master), Mr. C. J. H. Jones (Provincial Grand Secretary) and Mr. A. E. Madgwick (Provincial Grand Treasurer) represented the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Province; and there were also present many members of Dr. Freeman's own Lodges, Economy (No. 76), Old Symondians (No. 5734), Twelve Brothers, Southampton (No. 785), and Royal Gloucester, Southampton (No. 130).
Among others represented were Winchester Mark Lodge, William of Wykeham Lodge, Richard Taunton Lodge, Basing Lodge, Lodge of Concord, Lodge of Peace and Harmony, University Lodge, Southampton, Hampshire Lodge of Emulation, Winton Rose Croix, Wessex Lodge, United Brothers Lodge, and Beech Lodge.
Official representatives of the Old Symondians' Association were: Mr. E. G. Vokes (Chairman), Mr W. R. Cox (Vice-Chairman), Mr C. A. Bath (Hon. Assistant Secretary), and Mr. A.J. Harding (Hon. Treasurer), the latter also attending as Chairman of the Winchester Operatic Society, of which the late Dr. Freeman was a Vice-President. Mrs R. G. Croft represented Mr. Reg . Croft (Hon. Secretary of the O.S.A), who was unable to attend owing to family illness. The Old Tauntonians and Old Edwardians' Associations were also represented, and many pupils and members of the staff of Peter Symonds' School also attended.
Among the many schools represented were Andover Grammar School, Taunton's School, Southampton, King Edward VI. School, Southampton, Eggars Grammar School, Alton, Price's School, Fareham, Eastleigh County High School, Queen Mary's School, Basingstoke, Winchester County High School for Girls, Brockenhurst County Grammar School, North End Secondary School, Eastleigh, Winchester County Secondary School for Boys, Winchester School of Art, St. Faith's School, Winchester, Purbrook Park School, and Nethercliffe School, Winchester.
Other bodies represented included Winchester Rotary Club, Winchester Inner Wheel Club, Winchester Round Table, the Royal Winchester Golf Club, the Headmasters' Conference, the Hampshire Constabulary, the N.S.P.C.C., Winchester City Football Club, the Winchester Group Hospital Management Committee, the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, the League of Friends of the Winchester Hospitals, Winchester Chamber of Commerce, the Missions to Seamen, the Hartley Society, Southampton University, the Diocesan Education Committee, and King Alfred's College, Winchester.
Among those present were:--
[There follows an extremely long list of mourners. Anyone wishing to check whether any particular names are on there should contact me, Chris Cooper.]
- - -
Canon F. R. Money, before his sermon at Matins at Winchester Cathedral on Sunday, made reference to the late Dr. Freeman in the following terms: --
To-day we remember before God the late Dr. P. T. Freeman, an eminent citizen, a notable schoolmaster and an unassuming good man. We thank God for his long years of fine and varied service to this city and county. His loyal and enthusiastic attachment to Peter Symonds' School as Headmaster lasted for 30 years. The quality of this Public School, which is widely appreciated, is due to the first two Headmasters, the Rev. Telford Varley and Dr. P. T. Freeman, whose statesmanship and zeal for well nigh 60 years earned the loyalty of the teaching staff and Old Symondians.
The life of a teacher is arduous and busy, and only occasional glimpses of his influence come as a reminder of the gratitude, which so many owe to him. Such a glimpse came to me when a mother said: "I have never forgotten what Dr. Freeman said when my boy died; and his simple words have always been an encouragement to me. The words were: 'Your boy was an Old Symondian and still is.'" In that "sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life" we commend the soul of Percy Tom Freeman to the mercy of God.
Doug Clews 9th. April 2009
Obituary of Dr P T Freeman
I'm indebted to Ms Carol Liston of the Winchester Local Studies Library for providing me with copies of the Hampshire Chronicle's obituary of Doc, a brief report of tributes paid at the City Magistrates Court, and a report of his memorial service, from the library's microfilm archive of back issues of the newspaper. I've transcribed the articles here.
HAMPSHIRE CHRONICLE SATURDAY 18 AUGUST 1956
DEATH OF DR. P. T. FREEMAN
Peter Symonds' School
The death took place early on Wednesday morning of Dr. Percy Tom Freeman, M.B.E., B. Sc., Ph.D., F.R.I.C., F.Z.S., J.P. He had not been in good health for some time past and a little over three weeks before he had undergone a major operation to the lung in the Southampton Chest Hospital. He had made good progress, however, in his recovery and had been able to return home, but early this week he had a relapse. He was taken to the Royal Hampshire County hospital at Winchester where his death took place.
Dr. Freeman was by birth a Dorset man and he retained his love of Dorset and its writers (particularly Thomas Hardy and William Barnes) throughout his life. Born at Wimborne Minster, he received his early education at the Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School there, and he received his first college training at Southampton, at the University College, later to become Southampton University. With the outbreak of the first World War, he served with the Royal Engineers as a Captain, and in that capacity he was engaged on research work for the sound location of aircraft. The results of his work were, in fact, still in use for that purpose right up to the beginning of the second World War, when the development of radar made them obsolete; he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services in this field.
Back from the war, he resumed his studies at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he graduated and subsequently was awarded his doctorate, again for research work in physics. He became a science master first at Portsmouth Secondary School and then at King Edward VI. School, Southampton, where he was senior science master. His first headship was at Purbrook Park County High School in 1925, but it only lasted about a year, for in 1926 he was appointed Head Master of Peter Symonds' School, Winchester, where he had been for the past 30 years.
Dr. Freeman succeeded the Rev. Telford Varley in this position. Mr. Varley had built the school from its beginning, when it was housed in other buildings in the city in the last decade of the 19th century; he had taken it from its early days in the new building -- built for some 150 scholars -- up to something over twice that number and, when Dr. Freeman came there, it was expanding far beyond what the physical provisions of the school would hold, and it had established already a name which caused it to draw scholars from an area far beyond that for which it was originally intended to provide. Dr. Freeman took it on from where Mr. Varley left off, and under him the school continued to rise in size and in general stature.
Under Dr. Freeman's regime, the school became one of those on the Headmasters' Conference, and the number of scholars today is put at over 600. Dr. Freeman himself was recognised as an educationist to such an extent that he was elected Chairman of the Headmasters' Association in 1948, that honour, strangely enough, coinciding with the honouring of his second master of that time, Mr. C. J. Cozens, by his election as President of the Assistant Masters' Association.
Succeeding a classical scholar and a historian, Dr. Freeman brought to Peter Symonds' School a wider conception of modern education in certain respects. As a scientist with biology and natural history as very much his hobbies, he extended the curriculum and gave added emphasis to some of the existing activities, both in and out of school. Like his predecessor, he was a staunch supporter of the educational benefits of Cadet Force training, and for a time he held the rank of Cadet Lieut.-Colonel, commanding the 1st Cadet Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.
As a schoolmaster he was a firm believer in the need for a Christian background to all phases of teaching and his forthright views upon the matter were expressed in his book "Christianity and Boys," published during the war. His opinions on the matter were often unorthodox and drew, in fact, vigorous opposition from some Church quarters, but he defended them, as he had expressed them, in trenchant and refreshing style.
Of his work and personality as a Head Master, there are many in the district who can speak. He saw not only the school grow but also the Old Symondians' Association, of which he became President upon his arrival at the school and which he enthusiastically supported until now it has over 1000 members. He knew each boy and his peculiarities, and did much to remove difficulties, economic and otherwise, which stood in their way. Particularly interesting in the educational sphere was the link which he helped to establish between the school and Winchester College which enabled outstanding boys who were likely to benefit from education at the latter to be given that opportunity -- a link which has now been taken over by the County Education Authority and expanded to cover the county.
Dr. Freeman's greatest disappointment, probably, was in his failure to get Peter Symonds' School established as a "Direct Ministry Grant" school, when the educational system of this area was re-organised with the implementation of the 1944 Act. He fought the issue "to the last ditch" with a great deal of support from the Local Education Authority, and only when he received the Minister of Education's refusal did he give up the battle.
Outside of the school and its kindred organisations, Dr. Freeman's interests were manifold, and his influence in the city and the county was considerable. To educational administration he gave a great deal of time. In the pre-war days he sat for some while on the old Winchester Education Committee, when the city was a "Part III. Authority," governing its own elementary education. In May, 1945, he was appointed a member of the Hampshire County Education Authority, as one of the selected members of the Committee, representative of teaching interests in the county. On that Committee he did a great deal of work, especially on some of the special advisory Committees, and in the main Committee itself he regularly expressed his own downright and commonsense views in unmistakable fashion. From 1945 up to the time of his death he served in this capacity, often when other work and ill-health made it far from easy.
He was appointed a magistrate for the City of Winchester in 1940 and regularly sat upon the Bench, both in the ordinary and the Juvenile Court. His special knowledge of young people made him an obvious choice in time as Chairman of the Juvenile Panel, a position which he gave up a few years ago when he was appointed Chairman of the whole Bench, in succession to Mr. Frank Warren. He was still holding that position at the time of his death though his health in recent months had interfered considerably with his work there. As a magistrate he combined the same frank commonsense which he showed in other spheres of life with a kindly consideration for offenders, especially young ones, whom he was always anxious to help back to a firmer footing in life.
Freemasonry for many years was one of his great interests and he worked with the energy and enthusiasm which he brought to everything he took up, on its behalf. He was a Past Master of the Lodge of Economy (No. 76) and for many years he was Secretary of that Lodge. He fulfilled one of his ambitions when he was able to form the Old Symondians' Lodge (No. 5734) and became its first Master. He held Grand Lodge and Provincial Rank -- Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and Past Provincial Grand Registrar.
Winchester Rotary Club was another of his interests though his health in recent years had forced him to retire from it. He was one of its early Presidents and played a large part in building it up to its present position in the city. There were many other organisations in the city, cultural and social, which owed a lot to his support, encouragement, and, sometimes, inspiration. The Winchester Operatic Society particularly should be mentioned for he was a great lover of Gilbert and Sullivan and he was unfailing in his zeal for these annual productions. He was a Vice-President of the Society and when the President in former days was absent -- abroad or in ill-health -- he often took over the reins and led them in their series of successful productions.
Despite his many activities and numerous interests, Dr. Freeman managed to find the opportunity to follow his principal hobby -- the observation of nature. He was a real student of natural history and he was never happier than when he was able to snatch some time to carry out some careful watching of the habits of wild life in some of the quiet retreats in this part of the county.
Finally, one should say something of him as a sportsman. He was a supporter of practically all the sporting organisations in Winchester for, in his younger days, he had been a keen and accomplished sportsman himself. Association football was his principal pursuit in this line, and he played amateur football in the highest sporting circles. Though he did not get his Blue at Oxford, he played for the University on a number of occasions. Just before that, when he was still in the Army in 1919, he was the only amateur member of the Royal Engineers' team which won the Army Cup that year. He did all he could to foster sport in the school and in the district.
He was 65 years of age and was, in fact, retiring from the headmastership of Peter Symonds' School, to which he had devoted so much of his life, at Easter next.
Doctor Freeman was married in 1914 to Miss Hill, daughter of the late Benjamin J. Hill, of Southsea. He is survived by his wife, his son, Mr A. K. Freeman, M.A., and his daughter Mrs. Allan Renton -- all still living in Winchester.
The funeral and cremation service was held privately yesterday (Friday). A memorial service is being held next Wednesday, at Winchester Cathedral, at noon.
- - -
Tributes at City Magistrates Court
Before the normal business of Winchester City Magistrates Court began yesterday (Friday), the presiding magistrate, Mrs. W. Coates, paid tribute to their former Chairman. Mrs. Coates said she was expressing the profound sorrow which the Bench felt at the death of Dr. Freeman. He had been appointed to the Commission of Peace in 1940 and had held office as Chairman with distinction since 1954. He was also Chairman of the Juvenile Court Committee and had represented the Bench on the Magistrates Court Committee.
"He was a wise, good man," continued Mrs. Coates, "and those who served with him will always be grateful for the inspiration he gave us, for the example he set in his complete, selfless devotion to duty, and for the courtesy and dignity with which he presided in Court. It was always his nature to be zealous to assure that justice should be done in all things to all men, and we shall share with his family their sorrow and sadness, and also their just pride in the fulfilment of a life of service so unsparingly given."
Mr J. G. Stanier, on behalf of the legal profession, Mr W. Moss, Clerk to the Magistrates, Supt. R. E. Pascall and Mr F. C. Chambers, Principal Probation Officer for Hampshire, all added their tribute to Dr. Freeman, and the Court stood in silence in memory of "a friend for whom we had admiration and affection."
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Many thanks to John Piper for supplying the photos and some of the names ... other names were provided by, Peter Smith, Ray Elliott, Ian Baldwin, John Scott, John Lankester, Richard Dearnaly and Doug Clews.
Although some pictures are 'duplicated' in the 'Masters' Album, the decision has been made not to delete any, our thanks and appreciation going to those people who posted the originals.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
This version varies, in minor ways, from the original, as Peter 'updated' it earlier this year ... Thank you for the current version Peter !!!
Doug Clews 05 March 2009
MEMORIES OF PETER SYMONDS’ SCHOOL, WINCHESTER (September 1945 - August 1952)
Much has already been told of the history of Peter Symonds – the school’s ethos, its buildings and sports and other facilities, and also its headmasters’ and masters’ qualities and personalities - particularly by Neil Jenkinson in his excellent definitive work “The History of Peter Symonds”. The following account gives my own recollections of life as a day-boy at the school in the immediate post-war period of 1945-52.
I was born on 7 December 1934 at Eastleigh, Hampshire, the only child of a small shopkeeper (grocery/greengrocery) and a former housemaid, but my early years were spent in Chandler's Ford, then still a small but growing village on the outskirts of Eastleigh. I attended Kings Road Junior School, Chandler's Ford from 1940-1945. During the Second World War, big changes in secondary education had been planned by the Government for implementation when the war ended. As a consequence, the 11+ scholarship examination for entry into free grammar schools was introduced in 1945 and during the spring that year, I went with classmates from Kings Road, Chandler’s Ford, to the area 11+ examinations held in Northend School, Eastleigh. The exam was in two parts ("an intelligence test" and the "3 Rs"). You had to pass the first part to be able to take the second, which was several weeks later I think that from Kings Road School 9 children were successful in the 11+ exams in 1945; 3 girls and 6 boys including myself, out of a class of around 45 children. I left Kings Road in July 1945, aged 10½, just before victory over Japan and the end of the war, three boys and myself going on to Peter Symonds.
I nearly did not go to Peter Symonds at all. At first I opted for Barton Peveril Grammar School (Mixed) in Eastleigh because, like Kings Road, it had no Saturday morning lessons. However, as my best friend at Kings Road, John Forder, was going to Peter Symonds, I changed my mind despite the prospect of Saturday mornings in school until 12.30pm! However there was the consolation of no school on Wednesday afternoons at Peter Symonds, which was formally set aside for team games, but those not chosen were able to go home. I rarely played team games after the first couple of years, because I was a poor football and cricket player, but I did take part in athletics, and in the annual school cross country run (which was compulsory).
In early September 1945 my father took me in his van for my first day at Peter Symonds but he never visited the school again, and my mother never went there. This was not unusual; parents simply did not visit their children’s schools in those days. Like other children who were not within official walking or cycling distance of school (about 3miles), I had a free scholar’s bus season ticket for travel to and from Winchester in term time. Some boys had free railway passes. Peter Symonds was so different from Kings Road - it was on a much larger scale, with several hundred boys, including boarders, aged 10/11 to 18/19 years, and there were many football and cricket pitches. There was also a squash and fives court where games could be played daily, plus a tennis court and swimming pool for summer use. The school day was longer; in the first year it ended at 3.20pm and 4pm in the later years, whereas it had been 3 to 3.15pm (I think) at Kings Road. However, Peter Symonds did finish at 12.30pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There was a compulsory school uniform at Peter Symonds – consisting of a cap in the school colours (dark blue and yellow), the school tie of blue with yellow stripes, and (optional) a blazer with the school badge. The Head and the teachers (called masters) normally wore academic gowns. The Headmaster was Dr P.T. Freeman (inevitably, always known as “Doc.”), who had a BSc degree from University College, Southampton, and a subsequent Ph.D. in physics at Oxford.
In my first year I was in Form 3B. In preparation for the change to a free grammar school, Years 1 and 2 had been abolished, and by September 1945 any previous fee-paying pupils and scholarship holders were joined by 11+ entrants in Form 3 (the new Year 1). I do not know why I went into 3B; I don’t think it was alphabetical selection, but Form 4 (Year 2) was divided alphabetically and I went into 4B. Year 3 was divided into V2General, Literature and Science streams and I went into V2Science; later Years were similarly divided into named streams - V1 (Year 4); VI2 (Year 5); VI1 (Year 6) but Year 7 was not divided, and simply called Form VII; it also included one or two boys who were in their eighth year at the school).
Each form had a daily timetable of lessons, and we moved from room to room for the different classes. Games were included in the timetable, but there was no Physical Education. Classrooms were not numbered, but all had names - usually a man associated with the founding and development of the school eg Dobson, Braithwaite, Morris, or a subject eg The Advanced Chemistry Laboratory, The Art Room. There was also The Lecture Room, with theatre-like rising tiers of desks. At the end of each 40-minute ‘period’ for a lesson, a boy was sent out from Mackenzie Room, which had a clock, to walk around the outside of the school buildings ringing a hand bell to signal the move to another classroom.
Discipline at Peter Symonds was much stricter than at Kings Road, and was enforced both by masters and prefects. In addition to the usual schoolboy misbehaviour, not wearing school ties at school, or not wearing school caps and ties on the journeys to and from school, were serious offences. Any misdemeanours in the streets or on bus or train journeys, or at any other time, while wearing school uniform, was also punishable, usually by prefects who had powers to impose punishments ranging from a telling off or going round the school grounds picking up waste paper to a few whacks with a plimsole across one’s bottom. I once got into trouble for “eating in the street”, even though I was in Chandler’s Ford after school but I had not taken off my school cap and tie. A prefect travelling home by bus had seen my “offence” of eating a sandwich while in the street, and I was duly admonished the next day with a telling off! Other travel-related offences included not giving up a seat to a lady or an elderly person on the bus, pushing in the bus queue or getting on or off the bus, and noisy behaviour on the bus.
Once every year we had to attend the Founder’s Day Service in Winchester Cathedral - always on a Saturday afternoon early in the summer term. Attendance was checked by masters or prefects, and boys not present were punished by Doc - normally by a subsequent Saturday afternoon detention. But as Founder’s Day usually coincided with a fun-fair at Bar End, not too far from the cathedral, attendance was not too much of an imposition when set against a subsequent visit to the fair.
Most classroom or other transgressions were punished by masters giving detention - from 3.20pm to 4pm in the first year, or on Wednesday and/or Saturday afternoons in later years; or by giving “lines” - a typical punishment was to have to write out 500 times “Procrastination is the thief of time”. I had my share of this tiresome chore, but I acquired a technique of writing the lines in such a way that the task seemed not too onerous (by writing the individual words in turn down the page, for example “procrastination” 500 times, then “is” 500 times, etc.). Very serious breaches of discipline were punished by a teacher, or even by Doc, using a cane, or suspension or even expulsion though these last two were very few. Failure to hand in homework with the excuse that “I forgot to bring it to school”, resulted in being sent home with instructions to bring it to school later the same day, or incur a punishment.
At Peter Symonds there were four ‘houses’ into which all pupils were allocated to provide a kind of sports league table. Symonds (exclusively for boarders); Northbrook; Kirby; and Mackenzie - of which I was a member and which always came bottom. Symonds was always top. I think there were inter-house competitions in soccer; cricket and athletics; possibly also in swimming. The top-house cup was for overall performance in all the relevant sports. There was also a "Victor Ludorum" cup for the best individual boy's performance at the school athletics meeting held every summer term on the outer playing field in Bereweeke Road.
During summer terms I enjoyed time spent swimming in the school’s outdoor pool (particularly as swimming replaced ordinary lessons!); I also went sometimes with other boys at lunchtimes in the summer to the Winchester outdoor Lido in nearby Worthy Road. Another enjoyable occasion happened about a week after I started at Peter Symonds when the whole school went en-masse to a special showing at the local Odeon Cinema in North Walls of Laurence Olivier’s film “Henry V”, then still new and much-acclaimed. After that I looked forward to similar school visits, but unfortunately the event was a one-off, and no school cinema outing ever occurred again in my time!
In my first year at first Peter Symonds there was no school canteen and like many other day-boys usually went for lunch (then called dinner) to the British Restaurant in Jewry Street or to other cafés in that area. Sometimes we bought fish and chips from a “chippy” in Stockbridge Road. The British Restaurant was above the Co-Op store in Jewry Street, adjacent to the City Library. The Restaurant had been opened by the government during the war, as part of a chain of national restaurants to provide cheap, wholesome food to help maintain health and morale (a 2-course lunch was about 1 shilling (5p), and meals eaten there were not part of a family’s food ration.
In subsequent years there was a new school canteen for school dinners, which cost 5 old pence (decimal 2p). Pupils bought dinner tokens once a week from their form masters. One particular recollection I still have of school dinners is of finding a slug in a salad - on complaining, the dinner-duty master said that even the Grill Restaurant of the Savoy Hotel in London occasionally served slugs in this way, and that one should not complain! I did not dare ask at the time how the master came to know about the quality of food in that famous eating establishment (particularly on a teacher’s salary), or perhaps he was dining out on the fame of being a Prisoner of War in Germany who had once met and spoken with Adolf Hitler who was visiting a POW camp.
There was no à la carte menu at school in those days, nor were there dire Government warnings about the risk of obesity - ‘Hobson’s Choice’ was the ‘Dish of the Day’, usually meat or mince, sausages, pies etc with 2 veg and a stodgy pudding with custard or a baked milk pudding eg rice, macaroni, tapioca, semolina. As there was still food rationing, it was frowned upon to leave anything uneaten, but the risk of obesity, even if anybody knew what it meant or had ever seen or heard the word, would have been the last thing on pupils’ minds. However, one thing to remember when setting out from class to go to dinner was to not hurry - it was a punishable offence to cross the school playing fields to get to the canteen in Hatherley Road, as also was running down Owens Road/Hatherley Road, which was regarded as unseemly.
There was homework at Peter Symonds, which I had never had to do before. From Year 1, the timetable included homework on six nights a week, with 3 subjects per night on which we were expected to spend 40minutes per subject ie 2 hours per night. For the first time I had male teachers, although for a couple of years there were still female teachers (mistresses) who had been recruited during the war, and three taught me art, geography, and biology. However, they were all gradually replaced by masters returning to civilian life. The school secretary was Doc’s daughter, and she was married to one of the school’s art masters.
Another school ritual was the daily morning hymn and prayers in the Hall, led by Doc in academic gown and mortar board headgear on the stage in front, with the masters in their academic gowns along one side of the Hall and the prefects along the other. Boys were lined up standing, in forms, in the body of the Hall. It was a serious offence to miss or be late for prayers, and a punishment was always given to transgressors. My favourite hymn was “Lord dismiss us with thy blessing”, always sung on the last day of term; conversely my least favourite was “Lord receive us with thy blessing”, sung on the first day of term. After Doc and the masters had left the Hall, the Head Prefect called out - “Forms turn, lead on”, at which we all turned to the left and ambled off to our first classes. Boys of religions and faiths other than Church of England were excused from this daily ritual.
There was one aspect of school life to which I quickly took a dislike. This was the “Corps” or Combined Cadet Force to give it its proper name. This had three sections - army, navy and air force - but the last two could only be entered after an initial spell in the army section. Corps was not compulsory and was, I think, entered in year 3 and military uniform had to be worn. But for the first couple of years all boys were required to spend the last school period before lunch on Mondays and Fridays doing military-style “square bashing” - this activity was also known as “Harry’s Army”, after the master in charge, “Harry” Hawkins. We had to form up in full school uniform into platoons of about 18 boys commanded by senior boys, and march around the roads near the school with military precision. Fortunately there was little traffic around Owens Road and neighbouring side roads in those days, although I did wonder what local residents thought of Peter Symonds’ boys playing at soldiers in this way! It did not appeal to me at all, and as soon as I had the option I chose not to be any part of the Corps, which took place on Friday afternoons. I had to do some compulsory school work instead, with like-minded boys, but in the Sixth Form at least I could usefully get on with important A- and, later, S-level study.
I went by bus to Winchester from Chandler’s Ford and walked the last half mile or so to school from the stop at the city library in Jewry Street, via City Road, Stockbridge Road and Cranworth Road. There were also a variety of alternate walking routes, some starting from a bus stop in Southgate Street. For several years during and after the war, a large fleet of buses ferried workers in the mornings and evenings between Southampton and Vickers Aircraft factory, Hursley via Chandler’s Ford. In the mornings one of these buses would return to the bus stop at the corner of Hursley Road/Winchester Road in Chandler’s Ford to take passengers to Winchester. Because there was a shortage of buses and the Vickers journeys had a national priority, the bus company (Hants & Dorset) had acquired some buses from London, so there was also the novelty of sometimes having an old London Transport red double-decker bus, with outside stairs, for the journey to Winchester. The normal service buses to Winchester filled up after a few stops in Chandler’s Ford, hence the need for additional buses in the mornings.
From Winchester the afternoon buses to Southampton were often nearly or completely full before the Jewry Street stop, so like many other Chandler’s Ford boys I would walk down through the back streets of Winchester to the bus station opposite the Guildhall. On Saturdays at lunchtime, there was in the early years a special bus which ran non-stop via the Winchester by-pass to Shawford Down, and so it reached Chandler’s Ford more quickly. At first the buses between Southampton and Winchester were every 30 minutes, but after a year or two the frequency became every 15 minutes in the mornings and every 20 minutes in the afternoon. The normal journey time was about 30 minutes, and the buses stopped at most stops when not full.
A very solemn annual event at school was the annual Remembrance Day service in November for Old Symondians killed in the wars since the school was founded in 1897. The names of old boys who had died on active wartime service were read out by Doc, and there were always tears in his eyes. It was a very moving occasion, which I still recall every 11th November as the years pass.
It took me a while to find my feet in this new environment, but by the end of the first year I was near the top of my class, but I was stronger on languages (French, Latin and German) than Science and Maths for a couple of years. However in the third year, I began specialising in science and did fairly well in Chemistry, Physics and Maths as well as in French and Latin, mainly due to having more senior and much better masters, in particular “Sam” Simpson for Chemistry and “Cozy” Cozens for Maths. As well as finishing with German, I had by now also dropped History and Geography which I hated and in which I had never done well previously. I once spent a whole lesson hiding in a classroom cupboard with another boy to avoid a History lesson; the class knew we were there but did not alert the master.
“Doc” had a once-weekly slot with every form individually in the Lecture Room (upstairs in the main building above his study) to teach ‘Divinity’. Inevitably these lessons were nicknamed “Docology”. The emphasis was certainly not on religion, being more inclined towards natural history, but a wide range of topics was touched on. My strongest recollections of those fascinating hours spent in the lecture room with Doc are first, his frequent complaining about the 'nationalisation' of the school by the Labour Government of 1945-1951; and second, his stories of old boys who came to him asking for help with getting jobs, but whom Doc was unable to help (so he said) because they hadn't worked hard enough at school. He was also resentful of the fact that the school was required to provide pupils with free milk (a one-third pint bottle to each pupil) at morning break; also that he had had to walk some 5 miles each way to and from school when he was a pupil in Dorset - no free bus passes in those days, no school milk, nor school dinners of any sort. Subsidised cooked school meals, and free travel passes, further fuelled Doc’s withering remarks about socialism. However, because of his external commitments, Doc did not always turn up for these lessons, and we sometimes had another master drafted in with a different agenda. Otherwise it was a free and often very noisy period! And happily there was never any homework for ‘docology’!
The winter months of early 1947 were one of the coldest periods of the 20th century. It was very difficult to get to and from school because many roads were untreated and very icy, and the buses slipped and slithered. Trains were also severely disrupted. Because of a national coal shortage the school was eventually unheated, so it closed for about a week or so until things improved. However, while at school there was fun to be had by making very long slides down the frozen playing fields, even though we shivered in the classrooms.
In July 1949 I got my School Certificate national qualification with a distinction in maths; credits in 5 other subjects - Chemistry, Physics, Latin, French and English Language - and a pass in English Literature. Five passes were required to get a School Certificate. I failed Art; I could not draw nor paint, and I still cannot do so. GCEs were introduced nationally the following year, without the previous school certificate requirement of a minimum number of passes. This was, in retrospect, a step towards learning and qualifying through modules of subjects, which today is very commonplace, even at degree level. We took some of the new GCE exams in both 1950 and 1951 to make certain we also had passes at Ordinary (O) Level in core subjects such as English, French and Maths; and then in 1951 we had a first try at the new Advanced (A) levels.
School life had changed considerably for me when I went into the Lower Sixth Form in September 1949. Although only 14, I was now a senior pupil. I had fewer subjects to tackle, concentrating on A-level Pure Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Chemistry, but I still did O-level English and French, and something vaguely called “Civics” which was mainly learning about the work and operation of Parliament by having our own “mock-Parliament”, including Question Time. I was the Hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, which I discovered was somewhere in Cheshire! There was no set homework timetable for the Sixth Form nor any school exams, but course work had to be handed in, usually by given dates, although it could be done in “Private Study” periods in the school library (which also served as the Sixth Form Common Room), or at home. Work groups were smaller as many boys had left after School Certificate. There were no detentions or other punishments for Sixth Formers, but we were expected to behave responsibly. I also remember going on Sixth Form visits to the Morris Car works at Cowley, Oxford and to the Houses of Parliament, followed by an unofficial visit to the bright lights of Piccadilly and Soho! Academic discipline was quite lax and I took things lightly in my first two years in the Sixth Form. One diversion was playing card games in the Sixth Form Common Room, such as solo whist, brag or poker, using for chips some of the large stock of pocket-sized copies of the German poet Goethe’s “Werke” from the library’s shelves.
In the Upper Sixth we had official contact with the Sixth Form at the nearby Winchester County High School for Girls through ballroom dancing lessons there with its Lower and Upper Sixth girls on Thursday evenings during the autumn and winter terms. Two of the County High mistresses (Miss Hogben and Miss Stuart-Smith) gave instruction and supervised - or rather, chaperoned - the proceedings. The girls sat on one side of the hall and the boys on the other. Boys had politely to ask girls “please may I have the pleasure of this dance?”, but girls could not ask the boys. Close contact while dancing was not allowed - only an approved hold that was deemed to be ‘proper’ for dancing. Partners had to be escorted to their seats after a dance. Music was provided by old 78rpm gramaphone dance records - ‘quicksteps, foxtrots, and waltzes, plus some ‘Old Thyme Dances’ such as the St. Bernard’s Waltz and the Square Tango. A favourite of mine was a quickstep, danced to Glen Miller’s “American Patrol”, a recording which I still enjoy and which always reminds me of dancing classes at the County High.
There was a lot of awkwardness on both sides at first, and inevitably a realization of what we had been missing by being at single-sex schools. But the dancing lessons were appreciated and I certainly benefited from them. We also had an end of term dance in December in the Awdry Tea Rooms above WH Smith’s in the city, organised jointly by members of the two sixth forms, and held without the chaperones! A nearby hostelry was a convenient venue for alternative refreshments and unchaperoned female company on this festive occasion.
Dancing classes were the first occasions I had had any regular contact with girls in an academic environment since leaving Kings Road five years earlier! Lifelong relationships started for several couples at the County High dancing lessons, although not immediately for me. I did eventually marry a County High girl (Muriel Elliott, also from Chandler’s Ford, and whose two brothers were at Peter Symonds in the 1950s), but she is several years younger than me, and we got together a few years after I had left school.
Although I enjoyed Chemistry and Pure Maths and could handle their concepts and uses readily, I was not so at ease with Physics and Applied Mathematics. They did not click so readily with me, nor did I find the teaching of them inspiring or effective. During the Easter school holidays in 1951, I had a job (obtained through School!) in the motor licences department of Hampshire County Council at the Castle in Winchester, when probably it would have been better for me to have been doing some serious revision for A-levels. As I did no revision whatsoever for my first encounter with A-level exams, or indeed any academic work other than the course work I was required to do, it came as no surprise to me, although I was disappointed, that I passed only Chemistry and Pure Maths at A-level. I scraped an O-level pass in Physics (whereas I was expected by the master to have passed at A-level), but I failed Applied Maths completely!
I realized that I had to buck my ideas up, and to have some serious personal aims. This setback was therefore a spur to me and I started my third year in the Sixth (or rather the Seventh Form as it was then called) with a determination to do well and to go on to university. I was also made a school prefect by Doc, as were most of my fellow Seventh Formers.
In addition to buckling down with new vigour to the course work, I began to think seriously about a choice of university. I ruled out Oxford and Cambridge because of my previous poor A-level results. Also, though I was still only 16, I knew that my parents could not afford to keep me on at school for a fourth year in the sixth form to try for Oxford or Cambridge. As there was no official “Careers Master”, I discussed various possibilities with appropriate masters, and also with other boys in my year. I began collecting information from individual universities - there was no central Clearing House then. There was no question of a “gap year” for wider experience and travel before starting at university, unless it was in the armed forces - all fit males had to do 2 years of National Service at 18, unless exempted eg by being in higher education or in an exempt professional training or an apprenticeship.
On my 17th birthday I got my provisional driving license, and my father taught me to drive over the next couple of months, particularly going over the test routes with me in Winchester each week. I was successful first time at the test and after that, very occasionally, I drove myself to school - something of a novelty in those days when most of the masters still came to school on bicycles or walked. I had now acquired a useful skill for adult life. The dancing lessons at the County High, plus the festive dance at the Awdry Tea Rooms, continued as in the previous year, and for a while I was very friendly with one of the girls.
In February/March 1952 I applied to and went for interviews at Southampton, Bristol and Birmingham Universities. For a number of candidates simultaneously, Southampton held tests in practical chemistry in a laboratory followed by an interview with each candidate, while Bristol had several formal written examination papers in the Great Hall there but no interviews or practical work. Both Bristol and Southampton used these occasions also for awarding university scholarships as well as offering places. The trip to Bristol was made with several school mates who had applied for places there in various subjects, and we stayed at the mens’ hall of residence adjacent to Isambard Brunel’s Suspension Bridge. I was unsuccessful at Bristol. Southampton offered me a place to read Honours Chemistry, which I turned down as I wanted to live away from home and the Southampton area.
At Birmingham University I did well at interview and Birmingham quickly gave me a conditional offer to read Honours Chemistry, provided I got 4 A-levels second time around. I also applied for both a State Scholarship from the Ministry of Education and a County Major Scholarship from Hampshire County Council. Either would be necessary for me actually to be able to afford to go university. A State Scholarship was awarded solely on examination results, but an interview was necessary for the County Major award. I did not do very well at this interview, which seemed to be more about what literature I read and what I did outside chemistry, than about my strong interest in the subject and why I wanted to go to university to further my education. I revised seriously in the Easter holidays, particularly in physics and applied maths, and concentrated also on working through old A (and S) exam papers.
In late June/early July 1952, aged 17½ I re-took my four A-level exams, this time with Chemistry and Pure Maths at Scholarship Level, and at the beginning of August I went with a school party for a week to St Malo in France - the first time I had been abroad or even on a real holiday, but for the last time I was treated as a schoolboy. I threw my prefect’s cap into Southampton Water as the steamer set off for France, and with fellow Symondians settled down - literally - to enjoy the company of some young ladies from a girls’ school in the North of England who were also going to France and in like-minded holiday mood. In mid-August I learnt that I had obtained Scholarship Level Chemistry, and A levels in Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Physics (just missing S-level pass in Pure Maths, in which, I think, only 1 boy at Peter Symonds reached S-level that year). Today’s A-level equivalents for me would probably be an A*, an A, a B and a C. Birmingham confirmed its offer of a place and the Ministry of Education awarded me a State Scholarship for all fees and a maintenance grant for 3 years at Birmingham. I was also given (rather grudgingly I felt) an Honorary County Major Scholarship by Hampshire County Council.
I would be the first member of either of my parents’ families to go to university, although several of my cousins went to grammar schools. It may seem odd, but at that time I still had no clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life, and I hoped Birmingham would help me to decide. In 1952 at Peter Symonds, I think 5 boys including myself got State Scholarships - 2 in Chemistry, 2 in Classics (Latin and Greek) and 1 in Economics; another half a dozen or so got Hampshire and other Counties’ Major Scholarships in various subjects, but financial awards were the same for both types of scholarship, and depended on the university attended and whether living in hall, lodgings or at home. Students generally were not allowed to live in flats. I was sorry to be parting from John Forder, with whom I had shared school life both at Kings Road and Peter Symonds, but he was not going to university and after National Service he would be joining British Railways as a trainee engineer.
Looking back, although success in the 11+ exam led me into an education I might not have had otherwise, I nevertheless owe much to Peter Symonds for its general environment which enabled me to begin to develop my abilities and intellectual interests. Thanks are due in particular to “Sam” Simpson for inspiring and encouraging me to specialize in Chemistry; also to “Cozy” Cozens for giving me a good understanding and grasp of the Pure Maths I needed as a chemist. Peter Symonds certainly gave me a sound all-round basic training, as later I got an Upper Second Class Honours BSc in Chemistry from Birmingham in 1955, and a Ph.D. in Physical-Organic Chemistry from Southampton University in 1958 (with financial help from an extension of my State Scholarship). Incidentally there was an Old Symondian (Dr John Bevington) on the chemistry teaching staff at Birmingham, whom I encountered occasionally - he eventually became a Professor of Chemistry at Lancaster University).
I started work as a research scientist at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston in September 1958, beginning a 33-year career in the Civil Service, initially in research work and later in general administration, all of which spanned a number of locations and departments. After Aldermaston and then the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down, I worked in London for several Whitehall Departments including at the Cabinet Office with the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government (then Sir Alan Cottrell FRS, who went on to become Master of Jesus College, Cambridge). While at the Cabinet Office I became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, of which I had been an Associate Member since my first degree
Latterly I worked in a number of different policy areas, some not even related to chemistry or even science, such as regional policy, finance and, finally, the regulation of telecommunications. My training and education certainly gave me an interesting career, with latterly a lot of UK and overseas travel in Europe, and also to Australia and Malaysia. Muriel and I moved from Chandler’s Ford to Basingstoke, then to Allington, Wiltshire followed by Ash Vale, Surrey, and later to Farnham, Surrey before I took early retirement from my last posting at the Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL) on 30 September 1991, and in 1992 we moved to Cotleigh, near Honiton, in East Devon.
In 2003 we moved again, to Mere in Wiltshire to be closer to our three grandchildren in Farnham and Hampton Hill, while still being relatively near with a son in Lyme Regis. John Forder and I are still in touch; he is now living in retirement in York after a career with British Railways, while Muriel keeps in touch with Jill Townend (née Cozens ) - Cozy’s niece, who was in the same year at the County High as Muriel (interestingly, Jill was at one time boarding at Peter Symonds’ Wyke Lodge with ‘Uncle Chris and Aunt Daisy’ Cozens. Also, during my last year, a girl came from the County High came to school several times a week for biology lessons, and she won a State Scholarship to University. These were early portents of changes to come later in the life of Peter Symonds, first becoming a mixed School and eventually a very successful mixed Sixth Form College – one of the top half dozen in the country.
The ability to do ballroom dancing remains a useful skill, which Muriel and I still put to use in retirement by going weekly to “sequence dancing” - a type of ballroom dancing. The basic steps learnt on Thursday evenings long ago at the County High (Muriel several years later than myself) are still useful in sequence dances such as the “Susanne Quickstep”, the “Bermuda Foxtrot” and the “Emmerdale Waltz”, and we have also moved on to more exotic sequence dances such as the “Rumba Sirocco” and the “Saunter Together”. However, sometimes we even do the “Square Tango” or the “St Bernard’s Waltz” - both still danced just as we learnt them at the County High in the 1950s.
I wish I had others, but the only photographic record I have of my formative years at school is a photograph of myself in my second year at Peter Symonds (See Students Album – Peter Smith at 12) and a copy of the Prefects’ Photo for 1951/52 (See Prefects Album).
The above is adapted from “In War and Peace: My Early Life and Times (1934 - 1958)” by Peter Smith, which was written originally for my grandchildren to tell them about life in the mid-20th century.
© Dr P J A Smith 2000, 2006 and 2009. All rights reserved