Harrow County School for Boys

Reminiscences of Richard Watson (1953-60)

I was most intrigued to read a selection of the comments and reminiscences and compare them with my own memories and opinions of life at HCS.  So I'm taking the opportunity to insert my recollections for what they're worth.

I joined in '53 and went through 1B, 2B, 3B, 4C, V2, L6ScB and A6ScB (got this from the school report book which I still have!).

Other than a bit of maths and physics, I clearly wasn't cut out for academic studies but it wasn't till the start of the 5th when I had to choose a subject to accompany applied maths, that I discovered the bit of the school tucked away out of sight of the front entrance; namely the technical/practical subjects department (Tech. drawing, woodwork, metalwork). Yes, OK I'm a bit of a peasant but clearly, this wasn't a part of the school that ARS cared to acknowledge. I was faced at the time with doing biology ("bilge" as it was affectionately referred to) - this being the subject listed as partnering applied maths. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who understood the relationship. Having experienced "bilge" and Bigham in earlier years, I knew this was of no interest to me and was uncharacteristically bold enough at the time to suggest there might be something more appropriate I could take. "Well; you could do woodwork, metalwork, and engineering drawing, I suppose" came the eventual and very doubtful reply. Although being three subjects in place of just the one, I couldn't imagine much homework being involved, so I jumped at the chance. It was only then that I discovered this hitherto unknown part of the building. The other spin-off of taking these 'unmentionable' subjects was that I finally escaped HCS (as that's what it felt like) with five A levels. These were scraped passes and I was always reluctant to admit the subjects.

As to school life in general; I found it largely boring for someone not interested in sport or dramatics (I suppose there were other things) and I got the distinct impression that 'square' simply put a stop to anything that caused any trouble. Hence, no going into the building during breaktimes, no wandering on the school field and certainly, no going off the school premises. Increasingly I felt like a POW, and the spiked railings all around completed the impression. Perhaps as a parting gesture I could have instituted a "Build a machine gun tower for HCS" fund. Bored by this environment, a mate (just who, I wonder) and I, intrigued by what Harrow town had to offer at lunch breaks, would contrive to get out occasionally. Getting out was easy enough as it only needed a quick sighting to determine if anyone was making checks on lunch passes. Getting back was usually OK but when one time there was a gate check in evidence, we had to put plan B into action. My five year older brother had told me it was possible to get into the swimming pool from the road at the back (was this Gayton Road?) though I'd never investigated this. I don't recall the details but sure enough we managed a couple of wall/fence scrambles and dropped down on to the school field. Avoiding the barbed wire and land mines (sorry, I'm getting carried away), we regained the safety of the play ground (was it really called that?).

One other 'jolly' was during one of the school scout troup camps on the field. We were supposed to be attending some sort of meeting/service in the hall but the prospect didn't seem very rewarding compared to shinning up one of the drainpipes and exploring the roof. A few of us (once again, who?) achieved this and we found ourselves looking down on the other unfortunates in the hall via some windows at ceiling level. Why Mees should have chosen to look up at this moment is a mystery. My mental picture is one of him exceeding all known 0-60 acceleration figures as he left the hall in pursuit. Panic set in immediately. Risking drainpipes was nothing compared with the wrath of Mees though no-one felt like descending a drainpipe in a hurry. The windows to the prefects' common room presented themselves and we made a dash across the roof. Clearly, this was how Mees thought we'd got up there and he must have headed in that direction himself. Once inside the building, I guess we just scattered in all directions, some to fall straight into his clutches. For my part, I recall hiding in the navy cadet whaler under its canvas cover. Mees dispensed vicious punishment to the ones he'd caught and commenced an enquiry into who else was involved. I was shit scared - nothing brave about me when it came to thrashings - but luckily I don't think anyone else got caught. Anyone who can corroborate or dispute the details of this - please contact me!

As to the masters and discipline as a whole, I suppose I felt that in general if one broke the rules, or more importantly, got caught, then well ......... One time, having been apprehended for something or other, I was given the choice of a caning by 'square' or detention. Thinking that 'square's' canings were fairly mild and that it would only take five minutes instead of an hour, I opted for the hard stuff. My countenance must have fallen on hearing that he was too busy at the time and referred me to George Thorn who's reputation with the stick was far worse.

I've read many references to Bigham but didn't realise what a demon he apparently was. True, I was gobsmacked when Bigham, having asked one day what colour urine was (during a biology lesson, I should add), hauled out the young lad who answered "yellow", and whacked him. I've wondered ever since whether I shouldn't consult my doctor because I pass yellow urine.

Generally the masters were OK. I guess I learned that if I toed the line, things would be acceptable and the higher up the school I got, the better (slightly) we were treated. However there were some who I agree were probably sadists. 'Suzie' Whiteside was one I reckon (though I've seen no references to him from others), as I have this recollection of him hanging around anywhere where trouble might arise so he could capture the offender and wreak vengeance. He once stopped his car one afternoon along the road between Pinner and Pinner Green to ask me why I wasn't wearing my cap (don't talk to me about b****y caps). I was within a few hundred yards of home and felt I'd finished with school for the day. What really bugged me was that I thought it was a motorist slowing down to ask the way and I only went over to the car to give assistance! The next day, in a feeble attempt to make a point of principle, I told him I'd been at a friend's house and was returning home from there, not school. It was weak but worth a try I thought. Not so - he asked the address of this friend and was triumphant when I couldn't give an answer. I got 'lines' for not wearing my cap, and a thrashing for lying. There was no further discussion. I never had the spirit to stand up to any of them.

On the positive side; Yelland was great and made English interesting; Boreman was great with maths and there was a youngish, trendy type that took French (Kincaid, that was it) who was also good, but French; well I mean! There were other good ones too only I don't recall the names. One though, who I dreaded initially, was Webb, the woodwork master and affectionately known to us louts anyway, as "Heap", probably on account of his size and shape. To start with, we dreaded the sound of his footsteps along the corridor. Then one day, fed up with boring break times, I was brave enough (with Mick Betts) to ask him if we could construct the frame of a canvas covered kayak in his workshop. To my amazement, he was enthusiastic! It was hardly carpentry but perhaps no one had ever shown any on-going interest in using any of his tools for other than compulsory exercises in woodwork. Not only did he produce free bits of timber (shhh) but he almost encouraged us to carry on with the construction during the periods when we were supposed to be doing engineering drawing with him. I often wonder what happened to him. Only recently, in the last couple of months did I finally put a match to this trusty vessel at just around its 43rd anniversary!

I'd be chuffed to hear from anyone who was aware of any of these happenings! Mates I recall:- Mick Betts, Dave Stokes, (?) Barker, Pete Garwood, Phil Copp and sadly, Chris Grubb (RIP)

Richard Watson 1953 - 1960

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