Memories of CJ Cozens taken from Neil Jenkinson’s book, The History of Peter Symonds.
………….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."