Reminiscences of Graham Haigh - 1952-57
Trawling through the rich repository of both remembered and long forgotten names and anecdotes, I see mentions have been made of some of the following in the mid-50's, but a good story is always worth repeating from the perspective of another observer of the time:
Devonald the mad chemistry master: yes I remember the explosion he created, also his wicked habit of applying a length of bunsen tubing to the backside of any boy who displeased him. He used to hurl the rubber as well with brutal and terrifying accuracy. I was terrified of him. The story about his car being manhandled onto the school stage gave me some chuckles. I remember it well, sitting there bedecked with toilet paper. It was an ancient Austin Seven or Morris Eight I think. Undoubtedly more than one master had trouble keeping a straight face.
Poor "Eggie" Eagers who tried to teach us French. We used to mimic his somewhat unusual speech patterns mercilessly and he must have heard us. What of Dr Bradley ("Twink")? He was Irish I believe and on more than one occasion likened teaching us English to "casting pearls before swine". Twink always wore his black gown and would sweep everywhere through school at a furious pace like some reincarnation of Dracula. Occasionally he would climb on a classroom windowsill to deal with the complicated window closures, for all the world looking like one of those early attempts at man-powered flight.
Mr Attridge our German master, sent the whole class into uncontrollable disorder with mirth when he announced that today's subject would be "Mein Fahrt". And poor Mr Pritchett's efforts at Latin: my report in Form 2 stated (in red ink): "Has made little or no progress this term". My father had been a stellar Latin scholar in his day at St Paul's, so not unnaturally I got taken to task for this failure.
But our exchange visit to France in 1956 was a marvellous time. Maj. Skillen I think it was arranged this and a group of us travelled by train, in my case to Grenoble,each to spend two weeks with a different French family. It wasn't I who had the idea, although I certainly joined in, of filling up balloons with water from the train toilet and hurling them out of the windows at people waiting on station platforms as the express passed through.
"Swanny" Amos' enthusiasm for PT passed me by and I was forever getting my mother to write me excuse notes. I hated all sports, they all seemed to be carried out in freezing weather with a lot of shouting and running around which I found very unpleasant and totally pointless!
But enduring thanks to "Skully" Yelland, who made Shakespeare (formerly so dry and unappealing) both understandable and enjoyable by bringing it to life so well. Our trip to see Belinda Lee and the Regent's Park Theatre perform "As You Like It" in the open air on a glorious summer evening was memorable and I have no doubt both contributed to my excellent English GCE's.
Who was it who threw the thunderflash in the swimming pool? Who took the hands from the school clock and put them amongst the cutlery in the canteen? Who hung a pair of young ladies' intimate undergarments on the lightning conductor?. "Will the perpetrators of this atrocity have the courage of their convictions to come forward?" (I quote from Square's thundering tones at Assembly -- I can'r remember any perps owning up!)
Why was the custard always lumpy? Although I recall the bangers weren't at all bad.
I was an ardent supporter of the Afro-American Music Society and always relished when "Square" Simpson read out the programme for the week's meeting at assembly. It must have cost his puritanical heart dear to get his strangled Scots accent around "Jarz (sic) Music". Mr Oliver earned my undying loyalty when he linked the development of the blues to the burgeoning genre of rock n roll, and of course he was right.
Once I was singled out by RSM (or?CSM) R.L.Joseph on CCF parade for that fearsome offence "dirty flesh!", screamed out in his best parade ground bellow. This of course got me put on "jankers" (defaulter's parade) and I think I had to sweep out the Armoury or something. I got my own back when I saw his photo posted on the Notice Board and surreptitiously wrote on it "Muscle From The Neck Up". I never did get found out. Sar-Major if you ever read this my most humble apologies --
I was however very proud when taking my Certificate A exam to be singled out by the visiting inspecting officer for "giving the smartest salute he had ever seen from a cadet".
Like my peers at the time I was caught up in the rock n roll revolution, and we used to write our version of the week's Top 10 on the board. It always featured Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Fats Domino. I remember being blown away when we all heard Heartbreak Hotel for the first time and we somehow knew the world would never be quite the same again. Alan Freed's Rock n Roll Party relayed scratchily on Radio Luxembourg was a must every week to find out all these wonderful new records which you just couldn't get in UK. The Goon Show was another craze of the time. My personal revolution as a result of all this adolescent muscle-flexing got me pulled up by Jim Golland for "a disgustingly greasy hairstyle" (I was very proud of what I believed was a good "Tony Curtis"), wearing black suede "brothel creepers" and the orange fluorescent socks which were all the rage at the time. "Golly" however was a reasonable man (so he told me!) and was therefore going to give me a warning on this occasion.
To my discredit I started a fist fight with Holley, a prefect I always hated (Heaven knows why). That was my own personal "go and wait under the Clock" experience.
Now in retrospect I believe "Susie" Whiteside had some deep personal problems. His rage and almost delight at thrashing miscreants with a plimsoll (me included) and causing real pain were unsavourily beyond the schoolmasterly norm of the day. Imagine that happening in this day and age!
The wind currents in the Quad were unique and were capable of keeping our paper darts aloft for minutes at a time. My design was universally adopted after it proved the most effective aerodynamically, one of its examples having turned up in Lowlands Road!
That terrible train crash at Harrow & Wealdstone will always remain with me. I was crossing the bridge in a 114 bus that morning when it happened. The noise was unbelievable and everything halted, everyone stunned. In the afternoon coming home rescue efforts were still going on and there was a row of bodies shrouded in white along the platform. I had nightmares for some time after.
Naturally all us young bucks considered ourselves the answer to every maiden's prayer and our exploratory forays into the newly discovered wide world opening before us were furtively shared and discussed endlessly. Naturally facts took second place to fantasy and embroidered tales of alleged progress with, and even more dubious triumphs over, the young ladies who currently held attractions for us. I was very competitive in this area and for 1957's school concert, I invited to attend with me a pair of identical twins, Sheila and Jean, who lived nearby. For a good week or two thereafter I was able to bask in the glow of the acknowledged Lothario of Form V, having entered the Hall with a very pretty twin on each arm!
Finally if Peter Tribe ever reads this, as you know we shared common interest in aeromodelling well after we both left HCS. It may interest you to know that the mark made by the pencil you stabbed me with violently during that Physics lesson only disappeared a couple of years ago!