Harrow County School for Boys

Reminiscences of Robert Bogin 1959-67

The good:

Paul Oliver who gave me a lifelong interest in the blues

Don Kincaid made French seem like real life rather than just a dry subject

Ubi Lane - a kindly man who tried to persuade us to study Classics as opposed to other Classics Masters who frightened the life out of us.

Jim Golland who gave me a love of Shakespeare and Alexander Pope despite his acid tongue (one report entry read "blissfully competent").

Fred Bilson and his tales of Paul McCartney & John Lennon.

As a Jew, I found very little prejudice at the school from other boys.

The bad:

Swanny Amos selecting a thorny switch from the hedge to slash the legs of the laggards returning from the games field (I was plump and slow!).

Regular slippering and beating with the thin ropes that raised and lowered the climbing ropes.

Colonel Bigham (need I say more). Chapter 2 of the biology book (human reproduction) was given to us as homework reading and thereafter never mentioned again.

The funny:

 Speech Days - one year an inflated Yogi Bear descended upon the honoured guest, lowered by string running back to fifth formers in the balcony. The Square's apoplectic reaction was something to behold . Another time an alarm clock was locked into the desk on the stage and set to go off during the speeches.

The new regime of Avery (a decent man) & Cowan. Twelve advanced six formers were found to have been drinking at the Havelock two days before Christmas break (one pint each in the company of two enlightened masters).  We all trooped into Mr Avery's office having agreed not to look at each other.  Unfortunately, while being admonished, a trombone being played in a nearby classroom reduced us to fits of hysteria and we were all suspended from school for the last two days (heinous crime!)

A psychotic teacher called 'Hitler' Hambly who made us draw one inch margins around the page and measured them to the nearest 1/32". Any deviation meant the slipper. His rage was something to behold and he finally cracked a bone in his hand by hammering the desk (later left the school hurriedly after breaking a blood vessel in a boy's ear).

Classroom A1 with the swing doors at the back - if you were very quiet, you could leave the class during a lesson, go for a quick fag, and return unnoticed.

Trying to beat out the drum rhythm of "Wipe Out" and "Lets Dance" on the desks.

The awful sound of the pipe band practising. I never thought that one day this experience would lead to selling 300 sets of Scottish bagpipes to the Kuwait Army following the Gulf War (another story!).

One boy (cannot remember who) operated an insurance scheme against the slipper. You paid one penny per lesson and if you were slippered, received sixpence. Unfortunately, the return was too tempting and boys performed antics in class to receive the slipper and win a handsome profit. The scheme went bankrupt after the first day.

Listening to the Test Match with one of the new tiny transistor radios in ones inside pocket and a wire down the sleeve and earphone in the palm of one's hand. The whisper would go round "Cowdrey's out".

Calcium carbide(?) in an ink well just as one left the class. The next class suffered the result.

Whoopee cushions on masters' chairs, stink bombs, small exploding devices scattered around the master's chair

The joy at having a student teacher (boys can be cruel).

I could go on and on like this but to summarise, there was much cruelty at the school by masters and if you were not Oxbridge material, you were not worth much.  Most of the teaching was good and the sometimes harsh discipline gave one some native cunning which I have found useful in life.  The school could have done better for me but I consider myself to be a fairly well rounded and certainly happy individual.

I would welcome any contact with contemporaries.

Robert Bogin

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