Harrow County Staff

Mr. J. T. Bodiam - Science Master, 1959-66

John Bodiam died in November 2004 after a long illness.


By Frank Kirkham 1961-69

I was sad to learn that Mr John Bodiam had passed away. I managed a grade E at Chemistry O level. I never found chemistry easy but remember a good deal of it being fun under his teaching. Some of the experiments he showed us came under the heading “bucket” chemistry! “For this experiment we need a pinch of salt,” he would say, tipping a huge amount of sodium chloride from an enormous cube-shaped tin into a large beaker. Big bangs and much smoke were the entertaining result. “This is arsenic, good for mothers-in-law,” was another favourite saying.

In 1961/2, form 1B had their weekly chemistry during periods 1 and 2 in a laboratory on C floor (C7, I think). JTB would start every lesson with an oral test consisting of ten dictated questions, which we answered in our ‘rough’ books. He would get us to swap books before reading out the answers. Having marked our neighbour’s test, books would be given back. He would then go through the register asking us to announce our own mark out of ten and he recorded these in his mark book, no doubt using his distinctive fountain pen containing red ink. We soon learned that it was a good idea to have scored seven or eight. To score less resulted in some kind of corporal punishment (usually the slipper referred to by Mick Boggis) and to call out nine or ten meant that you were more likely to be one of the two or three whose tests he would check, seemingly at random.

After assembly on Wednesdays, we would make our way up to C7, enter the room, find our seats (or stools) and await JTB’s arrival. On one such morning, we were talking loudly amongst ourselves when the staff room door opened. “Number one!” he shouted down the corridor. “What is the formula for water?” And, as he entered the lab: “Number two!” Meanwhile there was a panic-stricken scramble for rough books, pens and textbooks while we desperately tried to remember the first few questions in our heads.

On another occasion that year, two sorry-looking boys were already standing at the front of the lab before we arrived. Their crime had apparently been to carve their names onto desks in JTB’s form room (a non-lab containing a hotchpotch of mixed desks of variable vintage). How they had found space to add a fresh name I have no idea! (And it was probably a mistake to carve their own names!). JTB picked up a Bunsen burner with rubber tubing attached. He swung the tubing round in the air to create a loud and frightening swishing sound and proceeded to whip each boy over the backside six times each. They were reduced to tears and I know that several of us wet ourselves just witnessing the event. I shall withhold the identity of those two boys for the time being. Despite the fact that they were in our year group, I never liked to ask them about the incident. Perhaps, as at least one of them has an email address on this website, we shall hear their version in due course.

That incident apart, I remember JTB as a good teacher. He certainly made chemistry clear and interesting. In 2A we had Mr Steed and for the first term in 3B we had Mr Hood. He only lasted the one term, probably because he had absolutely no control or discipline whatsoever. Mr JA Gibbs, who started at the school in January 1964, did a much better job for the next two terms of the third year but I was delighted to have JTB again for the fourth (O level) year.

He drove a Hillman Minx and lived at one time in, or near, Denham. I do not know whether he drove to Harrow every day but on at least two occasions he was driving along Long Lane in Ickenham at the moment I was waiting to cross the road to go to the station. He sometimes stopped and gave me, and whoever I was with, a lift to school. One day, as we rounded a bend near Ruislip Manor, JTB had to slow down to avoid two girls aged about ten riding two abreast on their little two wheeler bicycles.  JTB simply said: “Too young for you!”

He was a CCF officer in the naval section. As I was an army cadet, I thought that our CCF paths would not cross but, on Arduous Training in the Galloways in July 1965, JTB led a group of us on a two-day expedition across some wild country. We camped alongside Loch Twachton at the foot of Merrick. JTB was great fun on this expedition and taught us a great deal. That year was his last on arduous training (my first) and I was, personally, sorry that he left HCS the following year.

Two of his fellow navy-section officers, Reg Goff and Arthur Haley, have also recently passed away. Mr Caprara, if you are out there, do take great care!!

            Frank Kirkham, January 2005

'JIM' Bodiam

by Mick Boggis

It is sad to hear of Jim Bodiam's death. Perhaps I have been under a misapprehension for the last 40+ years, but I always understood him to be Jim, not John. I stand to be corrected.

Most of my contemporaries only seem to have fairly negative recollections of him, but I found him an excellent teacher, one of the best in my school career. He could also be very funny if you got on the right side of him. His rather startling blond hairstyle quickly earnt him the nickname Bogbrush, I recall.

He also started the Radio Club, which was probably the first School Society I joined (possibly the only one),  where we discussed the relative merits of superheterodyne and TRF receivers and other esoterica. He carried one of the 60's-standard-issue Size 14 slippers around in a very battered briefcase, but when in C7 or C8 favoured a length of reinforced laboratory hose to beat us with. Ah, happy days!

He managed to teach me enough Chemistry to enable me to get a B at O-level in the 4th. year, the only one I got that year, and for this I am still grateful. He was my House Section Master (remember that particular bit of Simpson idiocy c1963?), and was thus duly dragged into ARS's study one afternoon where I was about to be caned yet again for something or other, probably truancy, smoking, insolence, or all three. To my amazement, he spoke up for me, telling The Good Doctor that my academic progress had been much improved of late, particularly in science subjects. Square was surprised at this, but nevertheless still caned me. However, I've never forgotten JB's intervention, as it was probably the only time in my entire school career that any member of staff ever voluntarily had a good word to say about me.

Mick Boggis, January 2005

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