I was at the school from about 1914 to 1921 and can assure you that at that time its educational reputation was exceedingly high. The Headmaster, J.H. Hichens, sat on the Headmasters' Conference and the school ranked high amongst the "minor Public Schools".
Hichens himself, who did no actual teaching, always wore a morning (frock) coat and on his sallies down Glossop Road, always wore a black silk hat and carried an umbrella: as he also had some eye affliction which necessitated dark glasses, he made a very impressive figure. He was much respected.
The Second Master was Lloyd Davies (L.D.), fearsome to pupils but a splendid teacher of French and German.
The Senior Maths Master was Nicholas (old Nick, of course) who had his own method of punishment. He would manipulate the delinquent's head into the right position and then administer a stinging slap across the cheek.
The Head of the Junior School was F.T. Saville (known to all as Toby) who was a native of Rye in Sussex. He used to take a bunch of boys (of which I was one) down to camp on the beach at Winchelsea each August. He usually managed to tempt 2 or 3 of the School 1st XI to join the party so that we were able to muster a scratch side to play matches against Winchelsea, Rye and Icklesham.
I went to King Edward's in 1917 when my family moved to Sheffield from London. I was then just 13. When three years later my father (who was the Minister of Carver Street Chapel) moved to Brighton, I became a boarder at Lynwood for my last two years at school.
J.H. Hichens was a great Headmaster. Taking over an obscure day school in 1904, he had succeeded by 1914 in bringing it into the front rank of English day-schools. It was easy then (and it is even easier today) to criticise his emphasis on examination results in general and on scholarships won at Oxford and Cambridge in particular. One must judge his work against the background of the social structure of the community that the school served and the educational ideas then current. Hichens was by upbringing and temperament a conservative; he was a wise and experienced administrator rather than a prophet. The fact that he was a really good schoolmaster kept him from ever regarding examination results as more than a means to an end.
I think that it was the artistic element in him that accounted for his obvious delight whenever the Scholarship Examiners at Oxford or Cambridge selected one of his rough diamonds for polishing; he was a gentleman of the old school and he must have found the blunt informality of many of those with whom he had to deal, rather difficult to appreciate.
In my last year at school my father asked one of his friends on the Governing Body to find out from Hichens how I was getting on. His reply - "Quite an able boy and a hard worker, but rather rough - yes, rather rough" came as a shock to one who, with the conceit of the 18-year old, had thought himself to be a valuable cultivating influence in the school! Very few of the boys who passed through the school could go to Oxford or Cambridge without the help of a scholarship.
Hichens' enthusiasm was infectious and we worked hard to realise our ambitions. But although the economic urge to work was strong, we were never crammed and we never became the victims of over-specialisation. In the years between the wars, there was a good deal of criticism at Oxford and Cambridge of the boys who came up as scholars from some of the great city day-schools. It was said that an alarming proportion of these scholars failed to justify their early promise because they had been over-taught at school. But I never heard any such criticism of Old Edwardians.
The teaching of the sixth form was first rate, for Hichens had gathered together a group of distinguished teachers in all branches of learning, who gave us a real and lasting enthusiasm for our work. Hichens himself took his full share of sixth form teaching. His lectures on Inorganic Chemistry were lucid and thorough. We did very little written work for him but in the evenings we would go in twos and threes to his house and would give him our verbal answers to questions of the type set in scholarship examinations. These answers he would amplify and criticise as we went along. It was an unusual method of teaching chemistry but as his eyesight was rapidly failing, he had to develop this technique to compensate for the fact that he could do very little reading.
Of the other masters who taught Science to the sixth form, I remember clearly and with gratitude Redstone, whose careful and conscientious teaching methods were humanised by flashes of real humour; and Thompson, whose quiet manner and immense patience were entirely characteristic of one who was a life-long member of the Society of Friends. All those who taught Science to the sixth form would be ready to acknowledge their debt to the sound teaching of H.V.S. Shorter in the Fifth.
In contrast to these quietly effective teachers, Lloyd Davies and Nicholas were rather terrifying figures until one got to know them. Being by nature a poor linguist, I incurred Lloyd Davies' wrath on more than one occasion; eventually he became resigned to my incompetence and I remember him handing back to me a French Prose containing at least half a dozen howlers (marked with his characteristic "cartwheels"!) with the comment "Three years of an advanced Science Course is enough to make a blithering idiot of anybody".
I also fell out of favour with Nicholas when I deserted Mathematics for Science. He thought that I had answered to pressure from Hichens, but he was, for once, quite wrong. Although a fine teacher of Mathematics, he did not realise that I had reached my mathematical ceiling with the Group III Higher Certificate papers, and that my interest in Mathematics up to that point was not that of a pure mathematician (like my friend E.H. Linfoot who sat next to me), but that of a scientist who wanted Mathematics as a laboursaving tool. As I spent my last two years at School at Lynwood it is natural that I should have clearer memories of F.T. Saville than of any other master, except Hichens himself. It is perhaps strange that Freddy Saville won and retained such warm affection from all those who were under him at Lynwood, for his uncertain moods were a sore trial to his prefects. His reactions were quite unpredictable, and yet one could never harbour a grudge against him for more than five minutes. His immense enthusiasm for games gave him a unique place in the school for, in my time, no other master took any active part in the games of the school. But my happiest memories of Freddie Saville are associated with Winchelsea rather than with Sheffield.
The camps that he ran there every August for so many years were one of the happiest features of our schooldays - so much so that some of us continued to go year after year after we had left school.
I have vivid memories of cricket at Rye and Northiam, of days in the sun at Camber Sands, or trips up the Rother to Newenden and Bodiam Castle and of many other delightful excursions in which Freddy Saville was, year after year, the leading spirit.
Apart from Lynwood and the Winchelsea camp, his third consuming interest was the junior School and it was a source of great pleasure and satisfaction to all his friends - as well as to himself - that his long career at KES ended with his Headmastership of the Junior School in its new premises at Clarkehouse.
It is intended that the height, weight and chest measurements of all boys in the school shall be taken three times annually at intervals of four months. The records of these measurements will be preserved, so that the physical development of any boy can always be seen.
Observations were taken throughout the school in October, February and June last, but these do not as yet afford sufficient data to lead to many general conclusions. It is, however, gratifying to notice in most cases a satisfactory increase in chest expansion, due, no doubt, in a large measure to regular visits to the gymnasium. Similar observations in other schools have shown that boys from 16 to 18 who have been subject to a good system of gymnastic and physical training have an advantage over those who have not been so subject to the extent of two of three inches in chest girth.
This fact may serve to stimulate some of the less energetic amongst us to more keenness about the gymnasium, out-door sports, and military drill.
Those who possess Graph Books will find it interesting to devote a few of the last pages, as some are already doing, to keeping their own records, so that they may test for themselves the effect of regular exercise upon physical development.
The Headmaster (J.H. Hichens) was to most of us a rather remote figure. I recall particularly his interview with the six candidates for Oxford scholarships. We were not permitted to apply to different colleges to avoid cutting each others' throats.
Of the six, five of us got Firsts and one a Soccer Blue as well. Three of us become Professors in our various universities.
The school staff contained some notable characters. The Head of Classics was Robert Johnson, a bachelor who lived at Lynwood. He used to play Rugby 'fives', right hand against left, in the school courts. Lloyd Davies (French and German) had been an army coach. He dictated a number of rules of which a single breach led to the 'swiping' of the rest of the exercise. Rumour had it that he kept a close watch on the Stock Market (perhaps because he would not have enough pensionable years as a schoolmaster). The ups and downs of his shares might explain the corresponding variations of his temper.
Mr. Marsh taught us English and I recall one final period on a Monday afternoon (never a very inspiring moment) when he held his class spellbound when he read Shelley's Adonais.
A rather different fate attended the attempt to teach the Classical Sixth some Mathematics and Science. Perhaps, as we were not expected to offer them for a public examination, the enterprise was stillborn. An elderly member of staff, who had perhaps not looked at the subject for years, tried to teach us Differential and Integral Calculus. His frequent phrase "Let's see the form in which the answer is given at the back of the book" (Hall and Knight) did not deceive his class who followed suit. I could never get the question and answer to meet in the middle. A real mathematician on the staff set and marked our papers with a top mark of 19%! Next year Redstone himself was detailed to teach us Electricity and Magnetism. We were introduced to the principle of the balance of forces with two magnets set in opposition to each other. I plonked a third magnet immediately above their meeting point with most gratifying results. Mr. Redstone was horrified "I am afraid that you have irreparably damaged this tangent galvanometer". Years later, when I gave away the prizes I was able to offer him my very belated apologies!
These were good days, I shall always be grateful for what KES did for me but at the age of 88 I have no wish to repeat them.
Mr. Nicholas's room was beside that of the French master, Mr. McGrath. If you deserved 4/6 swipes of the cane you had to go to the porter's office at the entrance where you collected a cane and a book and you would take them to Mr. Nicholas (after having been entered in the book). If you were in the French class you could hear a lad go shuffling by very slowly and go into Mr. Nicholas. He had a booming voice and you could hear, the lad take a chair outside into the corridor. Then McGrath would stop his class, go to the blackboard and stand ready. Then you would hear Nicholas' voice saying "don't flinch boy, take it like a man" and McGrath would score on the blackboard - this was the point; when he had finished and the boy took the chair back Nicholas would give him one penny for a do-nut. You had to go and buy a do-nut from the tuck shop and take it back to his classroom where you then bit it to see if there was any jam inside; if there was no jam inside you got another beating. About one in ten had no jam in.
A lad had got a pair of pants that he had made out of the inner tube of a motor bike. When you were going to be caned by the Master this was done in the classroom and you bent down to get a whack; the procedure went - the teacher would smooth your backside with his hand to see if you had stuffed anything down your trousers etc. This lad charged 4d. for you to borrow his rubber pants - but it worked - if you had got them stuffed down then the Master could not feel anything.
By the time of the war, this lad owned a successful engineering steelworks business - it must have been paid for on the profits of hiring out his rubber trousers! One master used to take a run at us down the centre of the classroom. One lad one day had had enough and had raised four pence to hire the rubber trousers. He stuffed these down his trousers. The master took a run at him, left-hand upper cut. He hit the lad's bottom and it rebounded - because of the rubber - and nearly broke his wrist. He had it in a sling for ages.
There are 92 names on the bronze plaque commemorating the school's dead of the Great War. For a school that had only been opened for eight years when the 1914-18 war broke out, the number of fatalities is truly incredible.
To read the obituaries of old boys, who volunteered to be the Junior Officers and NCOs of Kitchener's New Armies and who subsequently fell in the conflict, is a desperately poignant reminder of a generation of young men whose talents and lives were squandered so meaninglessly.
Whilst school life in 1914 and 1915 continued on the surface as in peacetime, many Old Edwardians enthusiastically rushed to join the forces, including a good number in the Sheffield City Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. By November 1914,99 were recorded in the school magazine's Roll of Honour, a title that at that time indicated service for King and Country but which later would have a more fateful meaning.
Sixth formers, no longer awaited Oxbridge scholarships but a subaltern's life on the Western Front, whilst a fund was started in late 1914 to enable 13 refugees from occupied Belgium to come to KES, five as boarders at Lynwood. Visitors to the school reflected the jingoism of the time, with one Old Edwardian giving a lecture on the comparative merits of British and German guns, shells and armour-plating, whilst others in khaki exhorted boys to go and do 'something' for their country. This sentiment was echoed by H.A.L. Fisher at the 1915 Speech Day, who congratulated pupils on their patriotic spirit and the vigour with which they were taking part in the national struggle.
It was in this spirit that Old Boys volunteered but the war they were ensnared into was not one of elan and movement, like the last major European conflict of 1870-71, but one of murderous defences, almost impossible to breach. The first deaths came in 1915; ironically one of the first was Pte. Leonard Bennett of the Allied Infantry Force who, having emigrated to Australia, returned to the very tip of Europe to die in a bayonet charge on Gallipoli.
Also amongst the dead were four old boys who had each been Head of School in the four years from 1912-16. W.P. Taylor, G. Holmes, D.S. Thornton and B.O. Robinson were all killed as 2nd lieutenants in local infantry regiments leading assaults on German trenches. The latter, serving with the Hallamshires, had only left the school in July 1916 and was killed early in the morning of 9th October 1917 at Passchendaele.
One member of staff recalled, years later, how he had spent one hot summer afternoon covering with earth a number of Old Boys of the school who were lying on the gentle slopes near Sevre, Somme, on 1st July 1916.
There were many others; Masters and Old Edwardians, served in all branches of the forces, including the RFC/RAF, the Navy and the Canadian and Australian contingents. Many performed with heroism and were awarded gallantry medals. Their names are recorded on the Honours Boards outside the Library and include twenty-two Military Crosses, of which Capt. R. Oxspring, M.C. and two bars, of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry got an unbelievable three awards.
By 1917 the war impinged heavily on school life. Speech Day, which during 1915 and 1916 had included the singing of the National Anthems of the Allies, was abandoned for the duration. Assemblies often included the reading of the names of those killed, their photos staring out like icons from the pages of the school magazine, whilst convalescent soldiers from nearby hospitals watched the house football matches at Whiteley Woods.
At the end, a memorial service was held at the Cathedral on 9th April 1919. The addresses reflect the mixed emotions and attitudes of this most pointless of wars, although at the time it was seen as a great victory if not the final ever conflict. One person at the service recorded of the dead - "we heard their footsteps as we walked to the Cathedral and in the stillness of the hush of the Eleventh Hour they once again took their places with us. They too return."
War with Germany was over. I became a pupil at King Edward's and a completely new way of life began. Every day the Headmaster, Mr. Hichens, arrived wearing frock coat and top hat. Too detached from his pupils to be popular, he strove for the betterment of his school and he was proud when able to announce its recognition as a public school. His frequent edicts that "certain things were simply not done" did have effects, though mocked at the time.
The staff were mostly good although some were elderly and in poor health, but teaching and order were of a high standard. Some teachers did impose punishment of four detentions (one hour) for very slight provocation, whilst others maintained discipline by force of their own personality.
Corporal punishment was given by the Head only; known as 'twancs' it entailed bending over and receiving up to six strokes of a cane. Of course, some teachers did give the occasional clip and 'Nicky' would always give a culprit the option of four detentions or a face boxing which would send the recipient reeling. No-one ever chose the detentions - we prided ourselves on being tough.
With both Wednesday and Saturday half-day holidays there was time for sport and other interests. The Head tried to persuade parents of new pupils to sign their sons for compulsory games, a mistaken policy in my opinion as it caused resentment. Voluntary 'gym' was better but, being after school in the evenings and with many boys living a large distance away, and homework, little time remained for relaxation.
I remember excavation work at Beauchief Abbey by some, under the leadership of Mr. Elgar ... football and cricket were the most popular games ... each year a few came on motor-cycles in which many. more were interested. Of personal moment was being told one Saturday morning that I was to play football for the 2nd eleven against the Central School; my gear was at home. A frantic dash to catch a tram to Middlewood, resist Mother's urges to have a proper meal, rush back to Whiteley Wood, changing into gear on the tram-car. It was the first time we had played them and we won.
In the return game I played for the 1st eleven and again we won. They did, however, have the better facilities,- even hot water. I also remember one very wet night with the O.T.C. when the Colonel came to inspect the guard and as we tumbled out there was an outburst of profanity from a lad whose buttock had been punctured by a bayonet. Happy, wonderful days.
I crossed the threshold of the school in 1922 as a rather timid 10 year old, with a scholarship which paid the fees and a handsome £5 a year into the bargain.
I was given to understand at the time that, technically, the school was on the margin of being a public school, since the Headmaster attended the Headmasters' Conference; but if indeed the school had achieved such a status, it did not last. Dr. Hichens, the Headmaster at the time, was the author of a little book which was exceedingly helpful to those struggling with chemistry, but he was a distant and rather formidable figure, and it was important to avoid being summoned to his study, whether for good or for bad.
A later Headmaster, Ronald Gurner, managed to get into controversy with the local Education Committee - I recall some fuss about the Officers' Training Corps; but the Headmaster with whom I had most to do was R.B. Graham, a Quaker, who made no secret of his preferences by inviting to dinner those boys who were going to Oxford, and the few of us who were going to Cambridge to afternoon tea!
It was then the practice to push people ahead regardless. I for one took School Certificate just at age 14, and then Higher School Certificate at 15 and every year thereafter - I managed four. I suppose all this helped in compiling the impressive number of passes to be announced at Speech Day. In my last year or two, I was one of a small group of so-called "scholarship boys" and we were left to work pretty well by ourselves.
Several members of that group attained considerable distinction in later life, including a number of honours (an outcome which the school accepted with resolute silence).
But although at that stage we were much on our own, we nevertheless owed a great deal in our school careers to some admirable teachers.
Seventy years have passed since I left King Edward's in December 1925 and yet I can recall the years I spent there with remarkable clarity. I had started life at KES in the Junior School with a form master with the unique name, for a teacher, of Bircham.
I had come from a small private school, and moving into the atmosphere of a school of some 600 boys and a strict form of discipline, was initially an awesome experience. KES was a grammar school with a fine tradition and the headmaster of my time, J.H. Hichens, was a formidable yet kindly character, surrounded by a team of masters who, to a youngster, were distinctly aweinspiring.
Lloyd Davies (Room 45) - a Welshman was assistant head, a man who subsequently taught me French and German and whose bark was certainly a good deal worse than his bite; Nicholas, senior maths master, in whose classes I was never good enough to be placed, and Johnson the Latin master, a fearsome character, who would stand outside his room on the top corridor waiting to catch boys who ran along the corridor - something which was forbidden and which, if caught by Johnson, resulted in one receiving four detentions, a punishment which meant an hour's detention after school. Schooldays for me were not days to which I would have wanted to return.
I was not fond of sports and gymnastics I hated. The latter I finally managed to avoid permanently as a result of being knocked down by a car when crossing Clarkehouse Road with my bicycle. The accident was fortunately not a serious one but it resulted in my having to produce a doctor's note temporarily excusing me from gymnastics. I managed to use it for the rest of my school life and I made good use of the time gained in what was known as a free period, where one could study whatever one wished.
I regret never having succeeded in learning to swim. It seemed that some years previously a boy had been drowned in the swimming baths and during the whole of my school life, they remained closed. Today the baths at KES are modern and very much used and everyone learns to swim.
There were a number of Jewish and Catholic boys at school and none attended prayers. We would all stand outside the Assembly Hall quietly whilst prayers were taking place and subsequently enter for announcements. Jewish boys also did not attend Scripture lessons but were allowed a free period to work at whatever subject we wished. This was an occasion when we found ourselves mixing with some of the sixth form boys who ensured that discipline was maintained.
The Jewish boys were additionally faced with the problem of having to be absent from Saturday morning lessons as well as on the religious festivals - yet despite the complications which this engendered, our scholastic record was a very creditable one.
In my early days at KES there was apparent a degree of antiSemitism amongst some of the boys, in part due to the Germansounding names of a few of the Jewish boys, whilst the reading of the Merchant of Venice as a set book in my first year did not help. As I grew older I became much less aware of this problem. I made a number of good friends amongst the non-Jewish boys, whilst amongst the masters I cannot recall any with whom I was not on friendly terms.
Nevertheless, discipline was the keynote of the education at KES and that discipline as well as the general education I received there, has stood me in good stead all my life.
I clearly remember the Head, J.H. Hichens, who lived in a large house at the top of the road. He came to school in a frock-coat with silk facings and wore a silk top-hat. We were, of course, taught to raise our caps when he passed. It was an essential for every boy to wear a cap and a school tie. He always acknowledged us by sweeping his silk hat off with an almost Elizabethan flourish.
The Maths master had his own method of punishment, the usual 1-4 detentions. He, however, gave the boys an option of a slap on the face instead of being kept in for one hour - this I think without question would today mean the institution of a prosecution for assault. More serious offences could result in a beating by the Head. The O.T.C. was very active during that period, which was a comparatively short time after the end of World War 1. It was under the aegis of Leonard Beswick who, I believe, was the only boy to receive a rank above Sergeant in its history.
There were inkwells in each desk. One boy put calcium carbide in. The mess was special. Wooden pens with nibs and blotting paper were provided. When I first entered the school it had an Officer Training Corps with an armoury of service rifles and a large machine gun kept on the gymnasium balcony. A year or two later the Corps was abandoned and Scouts took its place.
There were two First War field guns as decoration near the Newbould Lane entrance. I do not know if they were German trophies. Cars were a rarity and the asphalted part of the ground was used in outof -hours to play ball games, mostly football with a standard ball that would not break windows.
I was a keen fives player which was a form of squash played with both hands and a hard ball. There were two of the common plain courts plus two glorious Eton 'fives' courts - an imitation of the buttresses around Eton college. Eton 'fives' was great fun - I have read of it being the best of all wall games.
There was an open-air swimming bath with no water-cleaning facility and no swimming costumes! Our swimming team included Mike Taylor, later Commonwealth and Student Games champion and myself, who represented the Universities Athletic Union; we both learned to swim like this from reading the same book, "Swimming the American Crawl".
The school was gas lit and rather dark and eerie, particularly when Mr. W.A.L. Mease or 'Wally' for short was reading ghost stories on winter afternoons.
As a new boy, and long after, morning assemblies in the school hall were rather frightening. First the prefects came in, followed by Mr. Nicholas - Pa Nick - the second master and a rather fearsome character. The slightest movement or whisper would catch his eye, followed by the words See me afterwards boy, - so off to Room 63 in fear and trembling.
The Head in my earliest days was Mr. Gurner who was followed by Mr. R.B. Graham who had made a name as a mountaineer - he was still Head when I left in the summer of 1935. I remember Form 3A with Mr. J.W. Whitfield who was rather handy with the gym slipper and having only one eye, tended to miss the target sometimes. One special service I remember was by the school memorial every 11th November.
I came to Sheffield early in 1925 and was installed at Lynwood, the preparatory and also the boarding annexe to the school. This was run by Toby and Mrs. Saville, being a very small head of the junior School and his much larger wife, the mainstay. At the end of six months I managed to pass the so-called entrance examination, despite numerous errors, and I progressed through the school from then until the end of 1929 where I ended up in the fifth form which was then broken up into various sets. This short report of my school career is of no interest without mention of the characters I encountered on my way. My first year in the junior School was under the tutelage of, as far as I can recollect, a Miss Turner. Apart from the school secretary I think she was the only female member of the staff. This was accompanied by my first school literature, "The White Company" and I find that each step upwards is memorised from the set book. The next form, and my last in the Junior School, was commanded by the late W.A.L. Mease who was certainly the noisiest teacher I ever encountered.
Constant complaints were made by Saville and Turner but with little effect, particularly in the early afternoon when Wally, as he was known, reflected a liquid lunch. 'Kidnapped' was the set book and as you will recall there is a scene in the block house where Captain Smollett reprimands the others for leaving their posts to form an audience to a parley with Long John Silver.
He bellows "quarters" and the boy selected to do this uttered the word in a weak and undecided way. Despite coaching from Wally he was unable to produce the effect required of him. There was only one answer; flinging the door of the classroom open Wally advanced to the head of the stairs and bawled "QUARTERS" in a voice that brought everybody out of the other rooms. He then returned to his desk and remarked quietly "That is what I meant". Looking back I feel he was worthy of a higher position, being no mean classical scholar. He was also a very fine singer.
At my year of entry the Head was Hichens who, with his deputy, held these positions until they retired in June 1926/27. Their successors were Gurner and Nicholas, the latter still being in office when I left and Gurner being replaced by Graham in 1928. Gurner had a rooted objection to the detention system which operated in the school. He thought it was a waste of time and energy and brought about an immediate abolition, substituting immediate caning in its place. This could be carried out by any master provided the school porter, Flood, was in attendance.
This was fair enough but I always felt that it was sadistic to expect the culprit to make the long journey to Flood's sanctum to inform him that his presence was required. To add insult to the forthcoming injury, Flood had a habit of trying out the cane on the statues in the Entrance Hall. Graham, who seemed rather a retiring character was received with some degree of hero worship as being a member of the 1925 Everest expedition. The fame of Nicholas as second master was legendary. I am sure he will have had honourable mention from other pupils who were at school in his era. Nevertheless, it will not hurt to recall a few of his characteristics. He took his place on the dais at assembly each morning, rising as a signal to the school when the Head entered. His time was spent dealing with letters received from parents to explain their son's absence and it was advisable to have these notes on his table before he arrived.
To deliver one to him in person was an ordeal to be avoided as this resulted in an enquiry into your state of health and the reasons for your absence delivered in a loud voice for the benefit of the rest of the school. He was a great believer in the benefit of eating roast beef and you would find yourself being asked what you had eaten for Sunday lunch. An admission that you had partaken of lamb, pork etc. would often result in a minor retribution.
'Titch' Lee, who was aptly named, being small indeed but extremely vigorous, insisted in the class doing five minutes P.E. on a cold morning which left most of the class breathless. In a Christmas issue of the school magazine an attempt was made to give the trade mark sayings of the masters. In the event of a disaster in the lab. Lee would dispel criticism of his operation by "Rot, lab. Assistant's fault". "Yew boy heah" was attributed to Nicholas who had a boy at the school. Consequently, as in 'Midshipman Easy' we had young Nick and old Nick.
During the first years at school the O.T.C. was abolished and replaced by the Boy Scouts. Another master, short in stature, named Storey sprinted up the stairs in full scout masters regalia only to receive a firm clip on the ear from one of the prefects coupled with a reminder that running on the stairs was prohibited!
Two men have had an enduring effect on my life - both teachers at KES - Dr. C.J. McGrath and Mr. Green. I was at the school from 1929-35 when I went to live in Scotland where the third influence stamped her mark on my life - my English literature teacher.
'CJ' or 'Sir Cumference' not only taught history - he made me love and respect it, creating a strain of enthusiasm I still have. He was a Channel Islander by birth and was reputed to have been in the secret service in World War 1. But he also had another side - a caring for others. He ran a boys club in the inner city of Sheffield, promoting dramatic presentations and sporting fixtures where only abject poverty and deprivation were apparent. He used to take a few of us with him - it was from him that I learned what service to others is.
He lived in Rustlings Road with his sister; his home was a home from home for many an Old Edwardian; I corresponded with him for many years and last saw him, with my wife, shortly before he died.
Mr. Green was my French teacher - but more important to me he ran an Explorers Club on a Wednesday afternoon, thus enabling those of us who hated sport to escape into Derbyshire to walks of adventure and curiosity creating an appetite I have never lost. He also took a party to Wimereux in the summer of 1933, ostensibly to speak French; my pal Peter Tyzack and I learned how to ask for eclairs in French (!) and how to ask for a return ticket on a tram to Boulogne. We did not know it at the time but he was a sick man and died a few months later in his home in the crescent between the school and St. Mark's church. A kindly man.
The impression that is almost the strongest of my school years is of competitiveness at every turn. Endless tests, fortnightly lists. Holidays, quite the most loved item in the Curriculum of the whole year, always given in the name of one of the academic wonders produced by the school. This is about the strongest recollection I have of the school I left some 66 years ago.
Yet the strongest impression of all of the school is, I think, of nonachievers, those not able to compete, especially, to use a phrase I first heard in an English lesson at the school while reading Shelley's Adonais, the "inheritors of unfulfilled renown". My own brother, A.M. Hall, at the school from 1918-23, was to be of this company because although he became a Hastings Classical Scholar of Queens College, Oxford, in 1923, he died tragically from a sting, in the long vacation 1925. Perhaps it was that tragedy, happening in my life at the age of 15, that made me remember with painful clarity and understanding the greater tragedy in life of those who were not allowed even to compete.
The name Ardern remains through the years as one in the first tragedy. In Mr. Saville's House, Lynwood, which was devoted to Boarders, a boy eating too much ice cream sitting in pain on the sill outside one of the dormitory windows, fell and was killed. Another boy, only in pyjamas, rushed out seeking help through the streets. From shock or pneumonia his death too came with such suddenness that I recall both being mentioned on the same day as I sat, a second-former, in the gallery when J.H. Hichens, the Headmaster, reported it at the Opening Assembly of the school.
In 1926, shortly after my own brilliant brother's death, the Mellor Boys, sons of Councillor Mellor, rider and pillion passenger, both died in the same motor cycle accident. So even the child comes to understand, in a way in which he will never forget, how, even if school seems never to have been designed for his particular interests and needs, his troubles are put into perspective by awareness of those denied the power to achieve at all.
A great niece who happens to attend the school today (which is surprising because we left the city more than 50 years ago) tells me the names of both her uncles A.M. and J.M. Hall appear on the school Honours List to this day my brother's Open Scholarship and my much slighter Exhibition. That was news to me. I know no Holiday at any rate was given in my day for me to enjoy. That, I should have recalled! I feel sure what happened is that kind masters, in sympathy for my parents at what was a notable grief for many at the time, saw that this consolation, by a little stretching of the imagination, should be made. Still, even the black sheep of some schools sometimes come to some good, even if late. The college at Oxford for which I was honoured at King Edward's did make me one of its Honorary Fellows in the course of time.
Based on a conversation between Ruth Warrender, aged 11 - student in Y7 in 1995 and her grandfather.
When I first started school I was 8 years old. To get into the school you had to pass quite a difficult entrance exam, also your parents had to pay a fee for your education and buy all your books. There were only six boys who, if they passed the Scholarship exam, could have free education. This was supposed to help people who could not afford the education but some were so poor that even if the education was free they could not send their children.
At the school there were approximately 720 children divided into Junior School with 4 houses (Angles, Normans, Saxons and Britons) and Senior school with 7 houses (Haddon, Clumber, Chatsworth, Sherwood, Welbeck, Wentworth and Lynwood). Some boys were boarders (about 6 or 7 when I was there); they were in Lynwood house. Lynwood house is actually a place on Clarkehouse Road. The Junior School was on Newbould Lane, two houses next to a church.
We boys often were naughty. When I was younger I played no tricks on anybody but I can tell you one I saw. In the science laboratory, we had stools with holes in the middle, one boy was sitting down and leaning over to look at an experiment. Another boy put a piece of ice under the bottom of the stool, under the boy and he then pushed it under the boy with a long ruler. This was obviously a terrible shock. Every new boy also got ducked under water in a sink.
I never got the cane but I did get impositions, which were writing lines. For very serious offences some boys were punished by the cane. At 14 or 15 you took the school certificate which was Oxford and Cambridge Board (KES was the only Sheffield school to do Oxford and Cambridge).
To me, education is in business to provide documented evidence of what you have achieved - it's called certification - an in-word today with such emphasis on training; certainly no less important is the moulding and formation of right attitudes.
Apart from very modest achievements in School and Higher Certificates I realise now the very deep influence of masters such as Watling, Clay, Carter and Co. in creating respect for the discipline of authority. Running along the upper floor corridor within earshot of Mr. Watling was a most hazardous risk few would undertake!
I am afraid there was little realisation of the extent to which some of our teachers had been marked by World War 1.
Happily my first teachers in the Junior School were ladies with sterness of a different nature. I shall never forget the homely atmosphere of the old Victorian house in Newbould Lane, nor the very neat earphone type hairstyle worn by Miss Turner.
Dr. Hichens was Headmaster when I started and I can picture him now in school assembly with his deputy head, Lloyd Davies, sitting on his right - both of them soon due to retire. In my early days I suffered with a stammer and my parents, I know, were grateful for the understanding and reassurance he gave them about my settling in at the school.
Swimming for pleasure and fitness hag been a lifelong benefit. The original and very basic open-air bath had been closed and was certainly a forbidden and locked-up area. Rumour had it that a boy had drowned there. When the bath was re-opened (still in its basic state) house points were awarded to any learners who could swim a breadth. This was one of the very few occasions when I was able to contribute house points to Chatsworth! I did manage 26th place in one senior cross-country run and remember Mr. Nicholas saying "Well done, boy".
Integrity in all our affairs is essential and with all the ups and downs I look back with deep gratitude for my time at King Edward's. I pray that with the unprecedented challenge and opportunities of the next 90 years, King Edward's will be given continuing resources, spiritual and material, to do justice to its past illustrious record.
'Bogey' Marsh was our English master in School Certificate Year (about 1927). I'll always remember the fire and enthusiasm he put into his readings of Chaucer and Shakespeare (especially Lady Macbeth's soliloquy). He was a thick-set fellow about the same size as Ronnie Corbett and had piercing eyes, prominent white teeth and black curly hair.
One morning, just after prayers as Dr. J.H. Hichens, MA, the Headmaster (who was very short-sighted) was going through his papers preparatory to making announcements when suddenly 'Bogey' appeared ascending the steps leading to the dais table. When the Headmaster saw him advancing towards his table he greeted him with the words "Sit down, boy, sit down" to the great amusement of the assembled masters and boys. Dr. Hichens was a kindly old man who walked to school down Glossop Road every morning from the School House wearing a black morning coat, knee breeches and gaiters.
Long Tom was the nickname we gave to a very tall Chemistry master named Thompson who for some reason had his suits cut for him with 5 or 6 buttons down the jacket fronts, the top one being tight up under his chin. This size of jacket was obviously necessary to accommodate a large number of pockets into which he put his penknives, spatulas and the like, for use in dealing with chemicals. The overall effect when he sat down at a bench high up on a rostrum was to make him look taller than ever. It was not unusual to pass by his cupboard in the Advanced Chemistry Lab and see purple fumes issuing from it because he was distilling iodine, or he would be holding a burning cloth soaked in ether which he was about to throw out of the window! He had lost the end of one of his fingers making explosives, I was told.
One time Long Tom was lecturing us in Organic Chemistry and his description of the properties of Methyl Isocyanide was "a gas with a most horrible smell, absolutely appalling" then, looking down over the top of his half-moon spectacles he espied the boy in the front row, way way below him. "You won't make it Constantine, will you?" he begged.
The Physics Master, H. Redstone (Trotsky) had a wonderful repertoire of 'stock phrases' which readily recurred in his lectures. E.J. Clarke and myself would draw up two lists under headings United and Wednesday and each would be given an equal number of expressions. These were credited with a goal as they occurred and at the end of the lesson we would declare that, for example, Wednesday had won say 7-5. His most common sayings were "as it were", "to all intents and purposes" and "the flask would be broken to smithereens".
Finally, probably the greatest character and the terror of forms 5 and below was Mr. Nicholas, or Old Nick as he was called. Incidentally he had a son at the school. The father had a great sense of humour which became more and more evident as one graduated to the higher forms. He was known to be a gambling man and if he saw a scrap of paper on the floor of his classroom he would say "pick up that betting slip, boy". In his more pleasant moods he would digress from Maths to ask of his class that if anyone could produce a nursery rhyme which he had not had from them before, he would give them two pence.
One day, someone did and Old Nick congratulated him but, feeling in his pocket found he had no change. Whereupon he just looked across the room at his son and said "Hey, Nicholas, lend me two pence".
Mr. Baylis was the first full-time Music Master but the funds granted to him for equipment were very meagre. He had to go round to pawnbroker shops to pick up second-hand wind instruments. This was typical of the interest in the 'after-school' activities of the boys.
At the age of nine I was admitted to the Junior School, a house in Newbould Lane and was taught by Miss Copley, a competent middle-aged spinster. I then moved to 'Toby' Saville's form; Mr. Saville ran the school's boarding house, Lynwood in Clarkehouse Road. My father died when I was 11 and nobody could have been kinder than Toby who counselled me and invited me to Lynwood for several meals.
Ronald Gurner was Headmaster of the Senior School and, as he attended the Headmasters' Conference, we were classed as a Public School. He wrote a novel about the school, "The Riven Pall".
Mr. Nicholas, Deputy Head and our Maths master, had a room on the top floor, a voice which froze us at 200 yards and a cane of painful memories! Across the corridor 'Jerry' Chambers taught us English, printed on the black board and was everlastingly extolling the virtues of the good manners of Bradford against the bad manners of Sheffield! "When I walk along the station platform in Sheffield I find every corner seat taken and nobody has the courtesy to invite me to have theirs". There was never any litter on the streets of Bradford! He would halt his discourse and exclaim "Was you speaking Smith?" and continue teaching us English!
In this period the Sheffield Labour Council decided that we should not have an Officer Training Corps and disbanded it substituting a Scout Troop. After years of distinguished speakers at Speech Day we had the Lord Mayor who started his oration with "Ow appy I am to be ere" - causing titters throughout the hall and resulting in us losing the traditional day's holiday!
The first meeting, held on 6th July 1927 with 22 boys, will live in the minds of those present for many years to come. The ceremony was held outside in front of the main staircase. Picture, if you can, a semi circle formed by the members of the new troop in their picturesque uniform of navy blue with neckerchief in the school colours of blue and white. Immediately behind in their uniforms were a line of pupils who were also scouts of other troops in the city and behind these the rest of the school.
The first camp was held at Whiteley Wood Hall, then at Sawdon, Scarborough. They left Sheffield by the LNER train and the most remarkable events appeared to be the Plum Duff made by Siddall and the hens who outwitted Chatburn and finally ate his food. But a good time was had by all.
During the Christmas meeting it was decided, amongst other things, that the boys need not salute Scout officers whilst in school, except when in the gym which is where meetings were held.
Many more camps were held - Plymouth, Wakefield (visited by Sir Robert Baden-Powell), Derwent, Kandersteg. Most of these camps appeared to be rather wet and the highlight at one camp seemed to be the "trifle that was served for tea". In 1928 it was even reported in The Times that the 167th King Edward VII School Scout Troop had left for two weeks camping next to Lake Lugano in Switzerland.
The troop became so successful that in 1929 they divided into two troops (A and B). At Easter 1930, 41 boys, 22 from KES, went to Algeria and although they had missed 3 nights sleep on the journey, still managed to sing and march in step through the streets, which impressed and amazed the Algerians. This visit was widely reported in the press and they actually left in cattle trucks for Biskra, where camels were rounded up to give the 41 boys a starlight camel ride. A fascinating sight this must have been. Mr. Alan Orme, writer of Scout News in the Sheffield Mail was 'sworn in' whilst in Algeria and became the first scout of the 167th to be sworn in out of England.
The early part of the 1930s saw the beginning of the erection of the Scout Hut in the grounds.
Scouting continued as enthusiastically as it had started for many years, eventually creating yet another troop (C troop) and still going away to camp many times each year - getting through miles and miles of string for their knots and eating mountains of plum duff followed by brisk games such as pirates.
They eventually started a Wolf Club pack in the 1950s. The troop helped with Bob-a-Job weeks, gave Christmas parties for 'poor' children, helped collect money for the Refugee Campaign and many other 'good and worthy causes'. They helped celebrate the Baden-Powell centenary in 1957.
Over the years the KES Scout Troop has provided a lot of boys with an enormous amount of fun and companionship and given them memories that have stood the test of time. But all this would not have been possible without the dedication and time willingly given by the Leaders of the KES School staff.
The last entry in the logs " we arrived back at School to the tune of "just look at you. You're filthy. It's a good bath for you my lad!" Women never learn "
Earliest reminiscences are of the Junior School, then a house in Newbould Lane which the writer entered in 1931; these reminiscences firstly evoke the old open air swimming bath and its impact upon a very small non-swimmer. The dreaded day would arrive without the hoped-for parental note reporting a severe cold, and
down we would troop to that ancient stone structure and the dark green depths of the bath itself, a Roman replica without the heating. Naked and shivering, boys and masters alike, we would plunge or, most of us, creep gingerly down the steps, into the opaque and chill waters of the shallow end, so-called, but neck-deep to the vertically challenged 'titch'.
Non-swimmers, clutching the slippery bath edge were exhorted to "duck" before their rudimentary swimming instruction, whilst the unexpected disturbance drove the pond-skaters to the remoter corners of the bath. Sounds of chattering teeth and the patter of sticky feet around the bath sides remain as vivid memories over sixty years later. Those sybarites who know only the modern bath missed a memorable aspect of the spartan life of earlier days. Come the warmer weather and leaving the algae to flourish, thoughts shift to the Lynwood garden party. Idyllic surroundings, ladies serving lemonade from large bowls, small performances from "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and gentle competitions in the lazy sunshine.
The School Shout, involving the whole School at the end of the Autumn Term, provided an equally improbable occasion, in this case for the relaxation of discipline and the unbridled enjoyment of rumbustious stage variety turns; the one unacceptable misdemeanour on these occasions was co-ordinated stamping in the gallery, which called down wrathful intervention from the redoubtable Second Master of the time, H. Nicholas (Old Nick) who otherwise restrained his customary stentorian summonses to "63". Disorder ruling for a night, perhaps a safety valve for lively spirits? The time came for the great leap into the Senior School and with it the long awaited opportunity to join the School Scouts, one
of the outstanding perquisites of the time, with its thriving troops and ambitious camping, hiking and canoeing activities. These, with the friendship and profound influence of such sterling and cultured characters as George Smith and Gordon Cumming, set the pattern for future outdoor life for many pupils of the School. Poignant thoughts, though, of Phil Browne, Alec Oates, the Fulford brothers and many others who did not survive the war to enjoy it. The central themes of the Senior School - its outstanding scholastic achievements, its overall ethos and corporate spirit and its immense influence throughout later life - must form another story.
However, most wildly improbable of all would have been any idea that the writer might one day see two grand-daughters able to acquire their own memorable experiences of King Edward VII School.
Football, cricket and running took place, of course, at the senior school and at Whiteley Wood where we were barred one winter when the neighbouring farm had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. In the summer there was some nude bathing in the old baths which had been affected by fire. The water was a putrid green in hot weather and I recall being one of a group of pupils instructed to carry it in canvas buckets to water the main cricket pitch. The prominent position of the school meant that a good view was obtained of the barrage balloons in the west of the city.
One day in a strong wind several lost their stabilising fins resulting in one balloon gyrating on the end of its cable which swept the roof tops till it broke. I remember taking my school certificate oral examination in the Library and being questioned by the examiner about a barrage balloon to be seen outside the window.
I entered the junior School in 1933 which was then situated in two semi-detached houses across Newbould Lane from the school. 'Toby' Saville was ably supported by Misses Jones, Turner and Copley, Mr. McKay and Charles 'Daddy' Wright who was later to become the Squire of Eyam, living in the fine Hall.
Terms always started on a mid-week afternoon and pupils were required to bring with them two things. Firstly a form signed by the parent to declare that the pupil was free from infectious diseases; this was collected by masters before we were allowed past the doors of the school. A cheque for six guineas was required to be placed in a wicker basket in the school vestibule.
I had a close view of the organisation of the annual Athletic Sports since my father was responsible for the organisation of this important event in the school's calendar. The heats were held at Whiteley Woods and the one mile race plus the long and high jump completed the final on the school close. A printed programme was produced for the final, listing boys' names and running numbers for each event, divided into different age groups. There were also house events such as relay races and tug-of-war.
On the final Sports Day, a Saturday afternoon, a marquee was erected near the pavilion with tables to hold the cups and prizes in the early days. The band of the Yorkshire Dragoons played during the afternoon. A well-known Sheffield dignitary, usually female, presented the trophies. The local paper regularly featured a cartoon of the personalities, boys, staff, and visitors. 'Fatty' McGrath, who was the starter, was always included.
The school had a swimming bath for many years. The original one was open, unheated and the water had a greenish tinge. It was surrounded by a ten foot high masonry wall and in the absence of changing rooms we changed on the bath side. Visits to the baths were to be avoided at all costs and I only recall one or two visits in the Junior School! Toby Saville was reputed to take a morning dip there on summer mornings.
The new baths were a wonderful luxury and under the guidance of Mr. Watson swimming became a regular lesson in the timetable. The baths have since been modified most notably by the removal of diving facilities and making the pool shallower.
I recall many staff and their foibles:
'Billy' Effron who taught Geography and Spanish. He had worked in South America on the railways and could very easily be led to tell his experiences.
'Gassy' Gaskin who taught Geography and lacked the ability to keep the rowdier elements in the class in order. He was the senior Scoutmaster for the KES troop.
'Long John' Thompson, a Chemistry teacher of the old school, who until the day he retired, maybe in 1935/6, wore a dark blue suit which buttoned up nearly to the neck and a high stiff starched collar.
'Tommy' Atkins who taught me much of my Maths and left during the early part of the war, as a conscientious objector.
Mr. Whitfield who taught French and helped knock the vocabulary into pupils with a 'morceau de bois' applied to the posterior. He left pre-war to go to Oxford University.
'Old Nick' Nicholas was one of the major characters as Second Master. Notable for requiring pupils to pick up the smallest piece of litter on the school premises and stopping the slightest suggestion of a run along the corridor.
Mr. Hickox, the Head of Chemistry, who later married Miss Jones of the Junior School, left for Ellesmere School.
Gordon 'Cheese' Cumming, an old boy of the school who returned to teach History. He married during the year. He was my form master and invited the form to his new home for tea and to meet his wife. We all felt this was a wonderful gesture.
'Clarence' Helliwell came to teach Art and possibly Woodwork. He transformed the school by brightening the dining room with very large oil paintings.
'Trotsky' Redstone and Physics were inseparable. Many pupils owe him a great debt for his teaching of physics and he was never known to raise his voice or smile! The physics apparatus was closely guarded.
War had a major affect on KES. Parents had been consulted as to whether they wished their son to be evacuated in the event of war and a small number had indicated their desire to take advantage of evacuation. On the Friday preceding the outbreak of war these pupils were to gather at a junior School on Abbeydale Road. In the event very few turned up. Under the leadership of S. V. Carter they walked to Heeley Station where they boarded a train to Loughborough. After a few weeks the boys and staff returned home to Sheffield.
The school could not re-open in September 1939 until shelters had been constructed and Home Service was organised. Boys were grouped by age and home district and met in the homes of pupils, sitting round the dining room table. Peripatetic teachers toured these groups setting work and advising on difficulties, spending about 15 minutes in an hour with any group.
Meanwhile a labyrinth of trenches was dug on the school close and concreted to form a maze of underground passages with wooden slatted benches along the walls. Once back at school we had air raid drills which required evacuation of the school into the shelters; sometimes the wearing of gas masks was required.The carrying of gas masks was compulsory at all times and the Headmaster set a good example with a very prominent white strap to the box diagonally across his chest.
In December 1940 the city was the target for German bombers on two nights. The Upper School escaped damage although St. Mark's was burned out and a land mine fell on Clarkehouse Road by the Botanical Gardens. This caused many windows to be broken in the Junior School which by this time was housed in Clarke House. Senior boys who managed to reach KES on the following morning volunteered to brush up the glass on the floor of the junior School.
School was suspended for the final week of term and it was converted to a hostel for people whose homes had been destroyed or who had been evacuated due to danger from unexploded bombs. Camp beds and blankets appeared from emergency stores and senior boys and staff moved desks aside to install beds. One job I recall doing was spraying the rooms with a disinfectant each day.
The Headmaster in an immaculate suit stood out among the evacuees who had only the clothes they were wearing on the night of the raid. Some staff were allocated duties either on the day shift with the Headmaster in charge or night shift with S.V. Carter in charge.
The most important person of all was Mrs. Hellstrip, the school cook, who with her kitchen helpers fed the temporary residents at KES. I think they had all returned home or moved to other accommodation by the beginning of the January term.
I recall Speech Days in the school hall when the boys were crowded onto wooden benches which spilled out into the corridor. The very large sash windows between the hall and corridor were lifted to allow those banished to the corridor to hear the speeches, choir and orchestra, if only faintly. Parents and boys all had to sit on hard wooden seats without cushions.
The table on the platform was laden with books for presentation to prize winners. 'Marcus' Watling organised the dispensing of the books so that they reached the correct recipients. My visits to the school, Glossop Road building, of course, have convinced me of the unchanging face of the building. The library is now where I learned woodwork and the inside toilets have replaced the old white-washed outside ones; these are the most noticeable changes!
I attended KES from September 1934 to July 1943. Throughout this period the tuition fees were £36 per annum. There was no inflation in those days.
There were 700 boys in the school, usually several forms in each year, with about 30 boys in each form. Based on examination results, the brightest boys were placed in the top form each year and the slowest boys in the bottom form, with the intermediate performers graded in the forms between. This procedure produced a vibrant, eager, competitive spirit.
The top form was not necessarily called A, nor was the bottom always D, as a result of the application of the theories of educational psychologists at that time. If a boy went through the school always in D forms, he would develop an inferiority complex. Conversely a boy who was always in A forms would become an objectionable person, over self-confident and egotistical.
To raise two topical subjects - there was some bullying and the curriculum was far too much. We were overwhelmed by English, French, German, Latin (some boys also took classical Greek), History, Geography, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Divinity, Art, Music, Woodwork, Gymnastics, Swimming, Athletics, Cricket and Football.
The teaching was excellent. Each of the masters was an enthusiast for his subject and loaded us fully with masses of homework. Some masters wore graduate gowns and carried canes, which they used on us when necessary. The headmaster also wore a mortarboard but kept his cane in his study, where he used it on us for serious misdemeanours.
In the evenings, as though we had not enough to do already, the societies beckoned, in theory voluntary, in reality driven by social pressures. These included the Scouts, Choir, Orchestra, Scientific Society, Philatelic Society and others.
During the Second World War we volunteered for 'fire-watching' duty, on guard all night to extinguish any enemy incendiary bomb which might fall on the school. None ever did.
King Edward VII School was considered to be the elite grammar school for boys. Its prestige was unquestioned. The equivalent school for girls was the High School situated on the other side of Newbould Lane. The Headmaster was rarely seen not wearing academic dress, cap (mortar board) and gown; it was, of course, customary for the teaching staff to wear a gown for most of the time.
I was awarded a scholarship by Sheffield Education Committee following the Secondary School Entrance Examination, so my school fees were paid by them. However, my parents were asked to pay for school dinners and part of the cost of books. They also had the expense of school uniform, navy-blue blazer with badge (the distinctive white lion) on breast pocket, cap and football and cricket kit. A tie was obligatory. The Transitus (Lower VI) and VI forms had the privilege of wearing a special tie with an extra silver stripe.
Sports Days were held on the grassed playing area in front of the school. Speech Day, the annual presentation of book prizes and sports trophies, took place in the Assembly Hall, an evening occasion when as a new pupil I remember wondering at the distinctive coloured gowns and hoods worn by the masters and representing the universities and colleges at which they graduated.
I remember - homework was 2 to 3 hours per evening; Saturday morning school with lessons 9 a.m. to 12 noon or 12.15 p.m.; my first form room, 2D, first floor, the door opposite the top of the steps. I could keep books locked away in my desk and I had my own key. There was an inkwell, we wrote with a pen nib and ink and we had blotting paper; there were no women teachers in the senior school.
In those pre war days you were thought to be a bit of a snob if you went to a posh school like King Ted's. I also remember the open-air baths, like those of old Rome in stonework with a flagged surround and icy cold water. Told to jump in or be ducked under the surface was not too helpful to non-swimmers. There was no rail around the sides of the bath to hang on to.
The Gymnasium - at the end of term a special treat was to be allowed to play 'Pirates' a sort of cops and robbers game. All the equipment could be used, wall bars, ladders, ropes, mats, vault horse and boxes, beams etc. If being chased, you must not allow your foot to touch the floor otherwise you were out.
The bottom corridor was very dark and lined with metal cage-like lockers where we kept our coats, PE kit and towel and hid if late for Assembly, hoping not to be discovered. The porter, who lived in the lodge by the Glossop Road gate, would be in his distinctive uniform and on patrol. Being reported for not attending Assembly might have had serious consequences.
The Refectory - board tables, long low forms to sit on and a top table for the masters, reminiscent of 'Glorious Food' scenes in 'Oliver'. We had set places and at the head of each table, a prefect in charge who served the food.
The younger boys did the 'fagging', the fetching and carrying to and from the kitchen. After clearing away the first pile of plates, it was not unknown for you to discover on your return from the kitchen, that your spoon had mustard on its underside or your spotted dick had received a helping of salt. Drinking water was available. Coke had not arrived.
The library - bookcases, shelves all highly polished, as was the floor. The books were mainly non-fiction and for reference only. There was a very large oval table. This is where the Oxford and Cambridge Language Oral Examinations were held.
The Science Labs - I recall a rabbit being imprisoned in a fume cupboard. Biology had not long been introduced into the curriculum for science side pupils; modern studies did Spanish or German (French and Latin were compulsory for the first three years) and classical scholars swotted away at Greek unseen translations, but the rabbit knew none of this. It was dead when we saw it. Who had left the lab. door unlocked at lunch-time? Rumour had it that a master had gassed the poor thing. Even worse, a boy might have poisoned it. It didn't much matter. The rabbit was destined for dissection that afternoon in the interests of education.
Wednesday afternoons - football at Whiteley Woods playing fields, or cricket (white shirt and flannels). If cancelled because of bad weather we were free to go home. The Masters v. Senior Boys matches were notable events. After showering and changing we would make our way through the woods to Hangingwater Road and call at a corner shop for doughnuts and Vimto, then on to the tram stop. Fare to the city was 1/2d.
The cross-country run from Whiteley Woods pavilion, via Wire Mill Dam, Forge Dam, up Porter Clough, along to Round House and back down Ringinglow Road and Whiteley Wood Road took about 40 minutes. The Junior School ran a shorter route up Jacob's Ladder, an exceedingly steep climb over the fields from the valley to Ringinglow Road - about 25 minutes.
It was no joke getting a 'stitch' as you tried to keep up the pace, or having the PE master bawling out instructions to use the correct part of the foot and shouting "Run on your balls, boy". On our return to the pavilion we were exhausted. House points had been earned. Good, "Well Done that man".
The School Office - a 'sacred' place, rarely visited unless you were sent on an errand to collect stationery or cyclostyled sheets, to sign a receipt for new textbooks or purchase geometrical instruments, 4 figure mathematical tables or sent for the cane. You had to be on your very best behaviour and your manners had to be exemplary.
The Office was spotless, the counter style desk top highly polished. There was a small wicket gate beyond which there was No Entry into what was undoubtedly a very efficient domain, exclusively female except for the Registrar. Close your eyes and you could smell the polish, leather bound volumes, new paper, typewriter ribbons, Gestetner skins and inks, carbon paper and the like. On the opposite side of the vestibule the Headmaster's Study where you got a look in only if your parents had requested an interview or you were summoned to be given a severe reprimand. Morning Assembly in the Main Hall - you had to be in your place by 8.55 prompt. Enter J.S. Nicholas to take his seat on the platform. Any boy who now entered the hall was late and would be spotted at once. The Deputy Head's voice rang out "You boy, see me afterwards in 63". At 9.00 exactly J.S. Nicholas espying the Head leaving his study, would stand, this being the signal for everyone also to stand. You could hear a pin drop as R.B. Graham walked through the hall and up the three or four steps on to the platform.
There would be a hymn (if you were without hymn book the best plan was to move the lips meaningfully to ward off any suspicion of non participation) followed by bible reading (usually Head Boy's privilege) and a prayer.
After any announcements the Head made a dignified exit. We dispersed quietly, form by form, to registration and first lessons.
I still smile when I recall from R.B. Graham's days the visit of the 'World Traveller.' This took place on a weekday morning when, on conclusion of the normal assembly proceedings, all pupils remained in the Assembly Hall. The year may have been 1936 or 37.
The Headmaster introduced this tanned stalwart clad in his khakis - shirt, shorts and pith helmet. I'm sure that he kept most of us enthralled with his story of working his way around the World, complete with anecdotes of interesting and exciting events that had befallen him.
I recall that I was quite enthralled by his yarns, squirming at the stories of snakes in South America and hooting with laughter at his story of a meal in China. Knowing little or no Chinese he asked if the meat was chicken by crowing like a cock. The response he received was a shaking head, and a very loud 'meouw'.
He spoke for perhaps an hour. Quite apart from his talk we were all quite pleased to have no lessons until after Break.
It was something like six months later I heard that the chap was a complete con-man, an impostor - but it was only whispered about, presumably because those 'on high' didn't want to look foolish.
I joined the school in September 1937 having gained a place as a result of passing the then 11+. The Headmaster at that time was R.B. Graham, a classicist who left in 1938 to take up a similar position at Bradford Grammar School. He was succeeded by Dr. A.W. Barton, previously an Assistant Master at Repton. Barton was a physicist whose two claims to fame were that he had worked with Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and that he was an international football referee.
Barton's arrival, his attitude and actions, some of which verged on the bizarre, led to a somewhat disturbed period in the school's history. He very quickly managed to antagonise the whole of the Senior Common Room and this antagonism spread throughout the whole school. Two incidents may illustrate how the school felt: The letters NBG began to appear under Barton's signature on all notices posted on the school notice boards, and one Saturday morning (yes, we went to school on Saturday mornings!) we arrived at school to find hoisted to the flagstaff for all the world to see, a large white sheet with a stark message in big red letters "KES REVOLT AGAINST TYRANNY".
I believe that these two incidents did have some moderating effect on Barton but the relationship between him and the Common Room remained cool to say the least and he was never regarded with any affection by the school as a whole. That the school continued to function successfully on all fronts was a tribute to a very dedicated band of masters. Barton eventually left, I believe sometime in the early fifties to go to the City of London School, much to the chagrin of two of the KES staff who had gone there to get away from him!
In December 1940 Sheffield suffered two very severe bombing raids which left the city centre devastated but all the steelworks untouched. I walked to school the morning after the first raid - a very salutary experience for a 14 year old to see shattered bodies and buildings, trams and buses blown apart and rubble everywhere. The school became a rest centre and the Christmas holiday was extended by a week.
One very sad incident occurred in 1941. Gordon Strange, a member of the KES Scout Troop was on duty at a War Weapons Week Exhibition at the City Hall in Barkers Pool. He happened to be standing in front of a large calibre anti-tank rifle as it was being demonstrated. Unfortunately a live round had been left in the breech and Gordon was killed instantly.
I left KES in 1944, after seven happy and rewarding years, to go on to Oxford to read chemistry. I left with many affectionate memories of the staff who taught me.
I started at KES in September 1939 which was when the war started. No-one was prepared for such an eventuality, including the school, so air-raid shelters had to be quickly designed and built - Junior School ones by reinforcing the cellars and Senior School by digging a rabbit warren under the School Close. In the meantime, parents were invited to lend a room of the family home for 'home service' and on the first day of term about a dozen boys congregated at 43 Carr Road.
Our house was quite a pleasant detached one in what was becoming a somewhat run-down area and it had a fairly big garden which included a tennis lawn. I think everyone enjoyed being there except the masters, one or two of whom would call in each day for an hour or so; unfortunately Walkley was rather out on a limb as far as they were concerned and, of course, they had to travel either by bicycle or buses and trams. Only three of us were in the Junior School, the other two being Peter Green (who remains a very good friend) and Eric Green - no relation, but both from Hillsborough - both a year ahead of me.
The only junior School master who visited, and only once a week I believe, was Mr. Ward and he did his best to teach us the odd thing or two but for the rest it was "Ah Johansson, and what are you doing today?" "I'm drawing from this book of birds, Sir" "Oh, very good, carry on". The next day "And what are you doing today Johansson?" "I'm drawing birds, Sir" "Well you'd better have a change; here's a book of butterflies!"
After three weeks we moved to Jim and John Cooper's house in Bates Street, off Weston Road which was nearer to town and the school and therefore much more convenient for the staff, but I think it was a disappointment for all of us lads, especially as I seem to remember that my mother made hot buttered toast for us in break time! The new venue was a rather larger house and it had a ballroom which we used as our schoolroom. It was very much bigger both in area and height than our dining room and by this time, early October, it was getting colder so we missed the cosiness of our previous billet. There was a garden but I don't remember going out to play in it - probably too cold. The teaching continued in the same vein!
Five or six weeks later the shelters were ready and we returned to the schools. I was in J (Junior) 2A but had done so little for the first part of the term that I did badly at the end of term and was moved down to J2C for the next two terms. However, I recovered, won the form prize, and rejoined the A stream for the rest of my schooldays.
The two years 1939-40 formed a curious part of the history of KES. Not only were there three Headmasters but the declaration of war in September 1939 raised problems. No more than 12 pupils were allowed to be in one building for educational purposes unless there was an adequate air-raid shelter. Until KES managed to create such a shelter under the playing field between the school and Clarkehouse Road, classes of 12 were scattered all round Sheffield in the houses of co-operative and long-suffering parents.
Conditions were, of course, far from ideal and there were far more classes than there were teachers so the prefects lent a hand in looking after the classes. In principle, a teacher would call on every class during every lesson but this was not always possible so the prefects would end up running the class, setting work and so on. The prefects' own work suffered during this time but I suspect that they gained more than they lost.
There is plenty of evidence to indicate that behaviour was often far from perfect. A good friend of mine who is currently a journalist in Manchester became Deputy Head Boy. On one occasion he was walking past a classroom in total uproar. There was an enormous amount of noise and boys were throwing things at one another across the room. On seeing this he went into the classroom, told them to be quiet, re-established order very quickly only to realise when quiet reigned that the French master taking the class was sitting in the middle of the room explaining a problem to one of the boys.
On one occasion four boys, aged about 15, decided that an 11-year old needed to be taken down a peg and retribution returned for a number of pranks. At this point they opened the window on the top floor and hung him out of it, holding on to his feet. He was terrified of course. Physical retribution to them came very quickly - administered by the games master!
The school Shout was a sort of burlesque show, an annual opportunity for the boys to tease the Staff, to make harmless fun of the favourite sayings and gestures which characterised them as viewed from the classroom floor. This entertainment was put on a week or two after the annual staff play, which was always the main butt of school humour.
At the time which I am now remembering, the staff play was "Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure". Eric Laughton, who later held the Chair of Latin at Sheffield University, wrote a skit called "Wilfred Wopplejohn's Adventure" in which all the minor mistakes and mishaps of the staff production were magnified in a comic way. For example, there was a scene in the original play when the hapless butler had to switch on all the lights in the stage room. It was obvious that the wiring was all wrong, and the lights came on in the wrong places.
The scene as presented in the school version ended with the butler going all round the stage pressing one switch after another until the one remaining light came on. He had been given a wig to wear which made him look exactly like the Headmaster. So his problem with the lights, and the other indignities which he was made to suffer, went down very well with the audience.
On another occasion, Eric wrote for the Shout a play in schoolboy French, entitled "Le Voyage de Monsieur Perichon". The only line of this which I can remember was: "J'ai l' omnibus circulaire", "I've missed the bus". That will give an idea of the sort of jokes introduced.
It goes without saying that the staff loved this annual event. They could be seen in the front row, giggling and nudging each other as they identified their colleagues in the caricatures on the stage. The other tradition was the Latin speech with which the Captain of the School had to welcome the distinguished person who came to present the prizes on Speech Day. When it fell to me to make the speech the prize-giver was Sir William Bragg of X-ray fame. 'X-ray' presented a difficulty; 'Radius X-nominatus' had to do for that. One of the sentences - the whole speech is burnt into my memory - ran as follows:
"Felicem sane nos huius urbis cives accepimus illum, nescio quem, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas", or "Happy do we, the citizens of this place, regard anyone who can find out the causes of things". The last three words are the motto of Sheffield University. It was thought rather neat to work them into the speech. But what Mr. Watling, the Latin Master who helped to turn my original effort into Latin, had not foreseen, was the effect of the last word on disorderly elements in the junior School, sitting up in the Gallery, not understanding a word, and delighted to recognise some familiar sounds. For them "causas" came out as "cow's arse". The noisy joy of the juniors infected the rest of the school and there was a long pause in the proceedings.
I had to apologise to Sir William afterwards, assuring him that this schoolboyish-seeming joke had not been deliberate. I don't think he was entirely convinced, but he was obviously very amused.
One of the recollections which must be documented is Home Service. When the War started in September 1939 the school closed so that the Close could be dug up to build Air Raid Shelters to accommodate 600 boys.
During those six months, pupils were divided up geographically (not by age) to avoid having to travel during air raids. Volunteer parents, including mine, gave up whole rooms in their houses for touring bands of teachers to come round and teach, in a multi-disciplinary manner, mixed ages of boys. The tasks were organised and handled well - many of us learned subjects we would never have broached; teachers really got to know us and not many parents had their houses wrecked by the groups of 8 to 10 boys!
Often we were left alone, and parents, passers-by, relatives and neighbours would enforce discipline and add their own idiosyncratic views on education. This went on all over the suburbs of Sheffield. The school seemed very dull when we returned, although the Blitz nights of Thursday and Sunday in December 1940 made us appreciate what bombing was.
Dr. Barton arrived as the new Headmaster at the beginning of the war, a new broom determined to sweep vigorously away any dust that might have accumulated in the interregnum preceding him. His more rigorous discipline caused resentment and rebellion. There was a general feeling of unrest and there were protests in the form of scribbled 'NBC's on his private noticeboard.
One morning, I arrived at school to find everyone at the front of the building craning heads to see the school porter struggling to pull down a crude white banner flying from the flagpole atop the main pediment. It must have been hoisted by disgruntled sixthformers who did 'fire-watching' duties on the school premises at night. Eventually, I managed to read its message: "KES revolts against tyranny".
When we were sitting in the assembly hall waiting first for the deputy head to arrive, followed by the staff and prefects, and then the Head, a whispered message was passed round the hall: 'We don't sing the hymn'. Eventually Dr. Barton swept in down the centre aisle, wearing his mortar board with his gown billowing out behind him, mounted the platform, deposited his mortar board on the desk in front of him and announced the number of the hymn.
I was a junior at the time and went in terror of both Dr. Barton, a tall, cold and forbidding figure, and the big boys of the Upper School, who were liable to seize stray small boys and shut them up in one of the wire-mesh lockers that lined the dark corridors.
I was in the classic dilemma of the ordinary citizen in times of revolution. If you side with the authorities, the revolutionaries will get you; if you don't then the authorities will get you instead What was I to do to save my skin? I decided on a compromise: I would mouth the words soundlessly.
The piano sounded the introductory bars; there was some desultory singing from those who either hadn't got the message or who decided to sing not too loudly and see what everybody else did. That quickly died away and Dr. Barton was left singing a solo.
He continued right through the hymn and indeed right through the remainder of the assembly routine with the lesson, the prayers and the notices. Then, at the point where he normally donned his mortar board and left the platform followed by the hierarchy, he announced instead "We will now sing the hymn again". And in the end, we did. The immediate challenge to his authority had collapsed; some ringleaders were later dealt with; the rebellion was over.
Teachers are nothing if not performers and like show-biz personalities they have their catchphrases.
The most quoted teacher at KES in my day was probably Mr. Nicholas, the deputy Head and Senior Maths Master. He was known as 'Old Nick' and his "See me in room 63" struck terror into the stoutest heart. He was a creature of routines and one of them was going through the maths homework on the blackboard.
Each step was accompanied by a ritual "Who follows ... who doesn't?" When as an innocent newcomer to his class I put my hand up at the second question, he said in a kindly voice, "Oh, come and show me what you don't understand". What I pointed to on the blackboard must have been of staggering simplicity: Nick looked at it for a moment in incomprehension, then bawled "Well, why not, you blithering idiot?" Needless to say, I learned the ritual, if not the maths, very quickly.
A fringe benefit of the war was that, because of clothes rationing, we were allowed to wear sports jackets instead of blazers. Nick had an eagle eye for spotting a new one. The wearer would be invited in front of the class, where Nick would pinch the sleeve and comment approvingly. "Nice bit of stuff". Then, if the jacket was the least bit colourful, he would add, after a pause ".... bit duck-shooting though!"
The war took away many of the young teachers and to replace them came WOMEN and refugees. One of the former was Mrs. Buchatsch who taught German and constantly exhorted us to put some Bovril into our German vocabulary. Some of the latter suffered the cruel fate, after being driven from Germany, of being harried by us pupils for being foreign. Dr. Behrens was one of them. That he had been a headmaster in his own country counted for nothing with us. Regrettably, we delighted in provoking him into rages which his English could not cope with: "Vat do you zere? It's enough now. Ze next vone I cane" My sincere apologies to him posthumously.
One of the teachers who was old enough not to be called up was Mr. Redstone, known to pupils as 'Trotsky'. There was a standard impersonation of him in a very nasal voice which was not a bit like him but which everyone could easily do. Trotsky was an excellent teacher of physics and his response to any pupil who gave the result of a problem as, say "five" became his catchphrase: "You must state your units. You wouldn't go into a chemist's shop and ask for five, would you?"
After the war, staff who had been called up gradually returned, often preceded by a reputation that had somehow lingered as a folk memory. 'Spike' Fletcher, who came back from the navy, was alleged to stride into a room, kicking aside any schoolbags that got in his way and throw open the windows declaring "This room smells of boy!"
The reality was much milder and I remember Spike for his introducing us to records of "Die Schone Mullerin" in the lunch hour and for invitations to his home in Crosspool to have tea and talk
German with German prisoners of war he had invited from the POW camp at Lodgemoor. In class, we often tried to distract him from the business of the lesson to talking about something else, like his war experiences. Despite his wary "Is that another red herring?" we nearly always succeeded.
As a boy of nine, I first became a pupil of King Edward VII Junior School in 1936. By that Autumn, the Junior School had moved from its earlier premises in Newbould Lane to a large, extended and converted house in its own grounds at the bottom of Clarke Drive, a cul de sac off Clarkehouse Road. A back entrance at the end of Clarke Dell, a parallel cul de sac, led to the playground behind the school. As well as classrooms, the school contained rooms specially equipped for the teaching of nature studies, art and handicrafts. There was a large hall, which had a platform at one end and which doubled as a gym and music room. A shower room for use after gym completed the facilities.
Admission to the junior School was by entrance examination and presumably by parental ability to pay the fees of 8 guineas (£8.40) per term. There were eight forms at that time, each of about 18-20 boys and each with its own form master or mistress: J3 (8-9 years), J2 A, B, C (9-10 years) and JI A, B, C, D (10-11 years) and from the J1s it was usual to move into one of the forms in the first year of the main school (curiously named 2A, B and C. What happened to Form 1?). French as a first foreign language was started in the J1s, as was homework - two subjects supposedly of twenty minutes each per evening, but which often took longer. The school aimed at academic excellence, and did not confine teaching to the 3 R's. To foster competition in schoolwork, every two to three weeks the marks achieved by each member of the form were totalled and a class list in descending order of achievement was produced. School was attended on six mornings per week and on three afternoons: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The day started for a junior boy in the gallery of the hall of the main school, where at 8.55 a.m. the whole school assembled initially under the eye of the Second Master. The Headmaster in cap and gown then arrived from his study and held a short non-denominational religious service followed by announcements. At about 9.15 a.m. the juniors lined up outside along the path to the Newbould Lane gate and then walked in crocodile down the hill to Clarkehouse Road and along to the junior School. There were four lessons every morning, split evenly by a ten minute break (for milk, 1/2d. per 1/3 pint) and school finished at 12.15 p.m. for lunch, either at home if one lived close enough or at school with sandwiches brought from home that morning. Meals were not provided. Afternoon school, of two lessons, was held from 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.
In about 1937, the present school swimming baths were opened close to Clarkehouse Road and, as in the main school, each form in the Junior School had a compulsory swimming lesson each week. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we played soccer or cricket, as appropriate, on the school playing fields which were situated at Whiteley Woods, Fulwood. At first one could take a tram from Crookes Junction (1 /2d. fare), but the trams were replaced in about 1937 by buses to Fulwood (route 60), running up Glossop Road as they do at present. Alighting at Woofindin Road one would walk down the footpath to the Woods, over the stream and up the other side to the playing fields and the school pavilion to get changed. Each game was supervised by a master and there were enough boys in the school for each 'house' usually to field two XIs. Before 1936 there were four 'houses' - Angles (dark blue football shirts), Saxons (light blue), Britons (green) and Normans (red), but the intake that year were all put into a new house: Osborne (brown and white quarters) named after the previous owner of the building, a member of a well-known Sheffield family. Games were compulsory, unless a boy was excused on medical grounds. If bad weather prevented outdoor games, it was usual to have a half-holiday.
Extracts from 'Child of the War' by George MacBeth first published in 1987 by Jonathan Cape. Printed by kind permission of his widow, Penny MacBeth. Selected by his friend and contemporary, John Bingham.
King Edward VII School had once been Wesley College. It was an establishment of some antiquity and indeed of some pretension. At the date I began attending classes there it boasted a junior as well as a senior branch, and both were fee-paying.
The School, and particularly its reactionary and rather splendid Victorian headmaster, Dr. Barton - known because of his initials as 'Arse - Wiper' - was very proud of its direct-grant status, and this was bitterly, albeit unsuccessfully, defended against the attempt by the local council to absorb the school into the public structure of Sheffield education.
I remember meetings, proclamations, lists of names ...
In 1940, the school was still quite safely private. There were boarders, who were put up in 'Toby' Saville's house at the bottom of our road, and a larger number of day boys like myself ...
The daily walks to school along streets littered with the detritus of aerial combat, the nightly overhearing of news bulletins grim with the propaganda of retreat, the frequent stopping of lessons to practice. the rapid donning of our respiratory apparatus - these became the ceremonies of a shared world.
The gas-mask practices were particularly involving. Properly fitted, it would still tend to steam over and cloud the eye-piece with a veiling mist, like a window in a hot room after rain. Sounds would clog into a soupy thickness and the strange, gas-mask smell compounded of stale air, hot rubber and congealed fear would rise like a coiling miasma to block the nose.
Still, these grim rituals, like the later filing down into prepared shelters, were a welcome break from the ordinary business of lessons and, as such, were cherished and looked forward to.
Sometimes I think that I heard the shell, sometimes I even think that my mother says I mentioned hearing it. It may be so, I don't know any more. What I do remember is hearing something I'd never heard before - the sound of my mother crying, somewhere in the distance. Then, a little later, someone came in and said that I had to be a brave boy from now on and look after my mother, because my father was dead.
I didn't cry. I thought it was important not to cry. Boys didn't cry. My father had died, and he was a hero, but that wasn't something to cry about.
What had happened, seemingly, is that an anti-aircraft shell had failed to explode in the sky. It had gone up and then come down in Clarkehouse Road, where my father was walking. It had either fallen very near, or actually struck him. I don't know exactly where it was, but I believe it to have been within the half-circle made by the wall leading to the classical gates of the Botanical Gardens.
It strikes me as a noble place to have been killed.
Dr. Barton was at once a severe and an inspiring man. He was the only master in the school invariably seen wearing a gown, and frequently a mortar board as well, so that he presented himself in the threatening regalia of office at all times, like a military policeman or general.
Indeed, he was very fond of military metaphor, and would exhort us from the platform at school assembly as members of "a school of this calibre", as if the institution were a cannon of especially ferocious bore, aiming a series of destructive projectiles, ourselves, into a world of Nazi muddle and decay. Dr. Barton's physiognomy was a great asset in his oratory. He had an eagle's hook of a nose, like a beak of a Viking ship, and his mouth below it was curved round and down into a supercilious, Roman smile.
I once sold John Bingham the Law of Multiple Proportions for six pence in a mathematics exam. Unfortunately, we were caught, and made to write out a hundred times, the notorious Cribber's Hymn:
Yield not to temptation
For yielding is sin,
Each victory helps us
Another to win.
Echoes of the Western Desert and the Italian Campaign resound from those last two lines. I like to think that I learned a lesson against risking too quick a buck from this experience.
Towards the end of my teens there was an acceleration of intellectual interests:
THE DRAMATIC SOCIETY was under the control of the senior Latin master, E.F. Watling, a tall gaunt man, like a diving-board set up on end. At this time, the late 1940s, he was achieving some fame as the Penguin translator of Sophocles. Old Watling - we always called masters old, whatever their age - was an effective and an enterprising director who kept an eye on what was new. In a production of Maxwell Anderson's Winterset, I had laid under a table through the big scene in the role of the hobo, a tongue-tied derelict whose main line, several times repeated is "I got a piece of bread".
A set of cartoons remains in my filing cabinet, sent to me by their artist, the school physics master, whom we always knew as 'Trotsky', because of his neat, small beard. He drew these cartoons in careful crayon in 1950 and sent them to me nearly thirty years later, wanting his drawing and the memory of the production to survive his approaching death.
FILM MAKING WITH THE CINEMA CLUB - the central character in the film was a dead dog.
The dog was bought, in the sultriest of August weather, from a Sheffield vet and, wrapped in a travelling bag, borne on the luggage rack of a crowded train down to Ross-on-Wye. Every night the corpse would be buried, and every morning, with increasing misgivings, exhumed. The plot of the film involved a Scout, who suffered a nervous breakdown after seeing a favourite dog run over by a train,
THE SHEFFIELD ANTI-COMMUNIST LEAGUE - the enemy was no longer the Germany army; it was now the grinding tracks of the Soviet tanks which had advanced from Stalingrad, disgorging, in the stale aftermath of victory, a sinister fifth column of industrial subverters, dangerous at lathe and anvil. So we supposed. After all, Karl Marx had said the revolution would start in England. The school might say what it will, but we were still in the forefront of insight...
The streets beckoned, though, and it was more fun to ride on the back of a motor bike to a draughty hall where someone had to be heckled than to lounge around a littered table in the school library and put one's civil questions with the word "sir" at the end.
THE KES ICE CREAM ARMY - a slightly older boy, Norman Adsetts, had a father who was then the largest ice-cream manufacturer - after Walls and Lyons - in the north of England and he had the shrewd notion of inviting his son to employ boys from King Edward's to sell wafers at football and cricket matches at Bramall Lane.
The star of the force was Bertie Round, moon-faced and a crack swimmer. Bertie was a noted rake as well as a famed swimmer. Perhaps the skilful manipulation of the limbs is essential for both vocations.
I had already tasted the sweets of power as a school prefect, with access to the private room at the right of the Assembly Hall, where the table-tennis table would sometimes be stripped of its net so that a drumhead court martial could be held, and some poor lad who had committed an offence summarily sentenced and treated to a beating. The beatings record, as it was known, was broken in my second term (as head prefect). One factor contributing to this opportunity was the arrival, only one term earlier, of a new and evidently more cautious headmaster, Nathaniel Clapton. He proved much too willing to accept a glib senior boy's interpretation of normal practice, and I made full use of this benefit.
I know that adult salaciousness is liable to assume that the beating of small boys is always a matter for perverse delight to the schoolmaster, and of corrupting stimulus to the boy. I seriously doubt this.
The men who beat me as a boy I remember as expressing no passion other than anger and I certainly recall no sensation other than an unadulterated stinging. It would certainly arouse pride in one's own power to withstand pain without crying out and this, perhaps is an evil thing.
(This poem first appeared in the School Magazine of 1949)
The horn in the night has risen.
Up from the mist of sleep, Fear flames.
Here come the blind butchers,
Staggering in the darkness.
Sing while the chopper falls!
Sing! Sing! and drown the din!
Sing while the chopper falls!
Sing! Sing! and drown the din!
All over. There go the butchers,
Dipping their bloody hands in the East.
Dawn draws the bandage,
And the wounds of the City scream.
When I entered King Edward's for the first time fifty-three years ago, in September 1942, there were thirty-one of us in Form 2D, the class for boys who had entered by the 'Scholarship' from Sheffield schools. We made up a quarter of the first year's intake while the rest, coming from the junior School and from the external entrance examination, were mostly fee-paying.
Fifty-three years earlier, in 1889, about the time that the Sheffield Royal Grammar merged with the Collegiate, and fifteen years before they joined with Wesley College in the present building, there were just three students from the 'elementary' schools of Sheffield.
This progress towards the school of today, with its wide access to the community, accelerated in 1946, after the 1944 Education Act, when the whole of the first year entry was made up of 'scholarship' boys and fundamental change was introduced - no more Saturday morning school, eight periods per day instead of seven, and we even stopped using the 'Public School Hymn Book' at morning assembly.
Taking this historical perspective I suddenly realise that I am likely to be seen by the pupil of today as a relic of the past, associated with events which, however real they may be to me are about as relevant and intelligible as I would have viewed the end of the nineteenth century in 1942. Even so, what were the features of the school which I recall from my eight years at King Ted's, to 1950 when I left to do my National Service in the Royal Air Force?
On the first day, I became a member of a House, and Clumber became, and remained, a separate loyalty which is still embedded today. My first recollection, staring in Assembly at the row of eight trophy cabinets above the platform, was that Clumber had none at all. Eight years later it was full of cups, and I had won one of them for Putting the Shot - now there's glory for you! The first sign of scholastic achievement came in my third year when, somewhat to my surprise and that of Mr. Nicholas, or 'Nick' the senior mathematics teacher of the school and a very strict disciplinarian, I won the Mathematics Prize for the year. Nick's teaching methods, though effective, were occasionally eccentric, and he had marked us on the basis of a rolling verbal quiz in which an ability to memorise the precise definitions of Euclidean Geometry had given me an unassailable lead. Since this quiz did on one occasion shift to the repetition, from memory, of nursery rhymes (at which I proved equally competent) it was quite appropriate that my prize for that year was the Oxford Book of Light Verse, a most useful primer for my future career.
Looking back over fifty years I suppose that my lasting recollection of the school, gratitude to patient and understanding teachers, is for the scope it provided, in an era of quite rigid specialisation, for me to indulge in a personal taste for variety and change which defied the system. In my early years at the school, I had been earmarked for a classical education, and so my School Certificate subjects had a strong element of Latin, Greek, Greek History etc with only one General Science paper. I chose then to shift directly to the Science stream, studying Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, with a brief excursion into Biology. Finally I switched again, to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford. Whatever it may have been that led me along this circuitous route, which must have taxed the patience of both my teachers and my parents, the end result has been a 'Jack of all Trades' mentality which has never left me.
Finally, a confession. In preparation for the Prefects' Dance in the Assembly Hall in my last year, I was charged with going to buy the Boracic Acid crystals which would make the floor suitable for dancing. Not quite understanding my brief, I bought Boracic acid powder which proved to be a most effective anti-skid treatment, making the Prefects' Dance that "year a weird and challenging experience. Not many people knew that - until now.
When I arrived at King Edward's in September 1949, for what turned out to be seven happy years, it was with some foreboding.
Like many of my contemporaries I came from a working class background. A snooty old boy had told my mother, rather sniffily "In my day you had to have money to get into King Edward's". "Well now you need brains", she replied. A touch of working class pride and aggression had arrived.
Our early introduction to etiquette occurred on the second day. A few of us were playing football outside the school when the formidable Dr. Barton arrived. Tall, hook-nosed, a former football referee, he was the very stereotype of a grammar or public school Head, the two being indistinguishable at the time. This, you will appreciate, was pre-trendy time, before the "Call me Dave" school of Headship that evolved in some schools in the 1960s.
"You boys must raise your caps when you first see me" he began "and say 'Good morning, Dr. Barton'. If you see me later in the day, then just touch the peak of your cap with one finger. Now let me see you do it". We dutifully rehearsed our a.m. and p.m. Headmaster-greeting techniques. A few weeks later my mother and I were travelling on a bus up to a school concert. Dr. Barton got on. "Good evening Mrs. Wragg", he said, raising his trilby. So it was all about politeness and respect for each other, not just power and hierarchy. I was impressed, though not half as much as my working class mum.
Since I never wore a hat, the hat-raising curriculum turned out to have limited value for me, but much else did.
My lifelong interest in music roots directly in the engaging enthusiasm of Norman Barnes, an extraordinary music teacher. In adult life I was later to direct projects and write books on teaching skills. Not for me the stereotype about good teachers all having immaculate class control. Norman Barnes inspired generations through cheerful anarchy. Small wonder there were double doors on the music room.
My strongest memories are of friends, sport, plays, concerts, and some mainly good teachers.
Not every lesson was inspiring and the awful feeling that, after what seemed like a lifetime, only the first ten minutes had elapsed of a 40-minute lesson, taught me graphically what the notion of 'subjective time' really meant.
School plays were hilarious. I was the second witch in Macbeth - well, we all have to start somewhere. In the final scene, when the severed head of the central character is cast contemptuously on to the ground, we never got the real thing (a papier mache lump on a wire frame, lovingly crafted in the Art Room) until the first night. It bounced across the apron stage and clonked down the aisle. Riotous laughter drowned Macduff's heroic "behold, where stands Th' usurper's cursed head". Er, about ten rows back, methinks. Such events prepared me brilliantly never to be fazed whatever happens when lecturing or broadcasting.
The day started quite normally. However it was soon clear that something was 'up'. Mr. Baker entered and left - we stood up as we always did if and when a member of staff entered the room - especially the Headmaster! Someone else also entered and left after a whispered conversation with Mrs. Mitchell.
Then came the summons - all boys were to assemble in the Gym at once. The Junior School (all boys!!) filed into the Gym where someone had assembled a radio (of all things). The radio was switched on: reception was not good - there was a lot of crackling. Was it static? No - it was the sound of gunfire!! There was also a running commentary - Wynford Vaughan Thomas - which apparently was coming from France. We were then told by Mr. Baker that the Allies had landed in France earlier that morning. We continued to listen for a while - say half an hour - and then returned to our lessons. We took the news in our stride. After all, we had all endured the blitz and had followed the news of the North African campaign and the landings in Italy.
Junior School, then up to the big school in September 1944 with sports days on Wednesdays and Saturdays being the highlight of my week. Football in the Autumn term, cross-country the next term and cricket to follow, with swimming, water polo, running and badminton, together with Scouting in C Troop of the 167th KES Group. After negotiating successfully, to my father's great surprise, the School Certificate exams in the summer of 1949, my mind - up to that point occupied by important matters of sporting and scouting activity - turned to girls and the problems associated with dealing with such mysterious beings.
I was aware of the SCHOOL DANCE to be held in the hall at school and the need to equip myself with a female partner for this occasion.. but what on earth did you talk to them about.. and how do you dance with them.. and how on earth do you progress in the touching and kissing activities some of my more advanced school friends described with relish as we changed after the double swimming lesson? Who to turn to for tips was a problem. Not my mother or father, of course, as they would not know much about this important matter, being so old. My sisters are both younger than myself so any discussions with them would undermine my edge of superiority over them and to let on that I was a novice in these matters to my peer group was, again, unthinkable.
So I decided to take some dancing lessons and, once we returned from the Scout camp in Switzerland, take out a girl whom I had known since childhood, a blond-haired beauty called Helen. A month after our first walk (when I spent most of my time trying to think of anything which I could say to her), I tried to kiss her at the back door of her house. The door slammed in my face - the dance was only three weeks away and I was partnerless!
Helen had a close friend called Barbara, a good looker with lovely dark hair. To my surprise she volunteered herself for duty as my partner at the School Dance and I took no chances of fouling my own nest again.. so I did not take her out beforehand, or try to kiss her.. one's self confidence at 16 years of age is a little fragile. The day arrived and in the evening, following my bi-weekly shave, and well talcumed under my armpits, I called for Barbara and we set off. The evening passed in a daze and, much to my secret relief, Barbara was taken home by Keith (a decent fast bowler who had just been made a prefect).
A year is a long time when you are sixteen, going on seventeen, and I was playing left-wing for the school second eleven at football, patrol leader in the Scouts, and United were having a good season.. so girls could wait until I had learned some fancy steps at dancing class, had mastered the rudiments of tennis, and had time to spare from the important things in life. After all October 1950 was a long way away!
I arrived in Sheffield from the South shortly after the blitz of 1941. After a term at Ecclesfield Grammar, I was entered for KES but failed the entrance test for being unable to give the meaning of 'Fare Stage' (a term unknown in Maidstone!) However, after a term cramming at Westbourne Prep. School I finally became a fully-fledged Edwardian in 1942; here I stayed until in 1949 my presence was required by the Royal Navy to perform my National Service.
A school full of 'characters', both boys and staff peopled my life for these six years which still remain vivid in my imagination as I am about to qualify for the old-age pension! Here are some of them...
The formidable Headmaster, Dr. Barton, who took us for Divinity and General Science and regaled us with tales of his days researching the atom at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.
Mr. Nicholas, 'Old Nick' the assistant Head who put the fear of God in all of us as he tried to teach us additional maths in the lower sixth (called 'Transitus' in those far-off days), in which I scored 2% in the 'mock' School Cert. (I was a linguist!) - he wasn't very happy with me.
Harry Scutt, the senior French master who caned anyone who didn't score a 7 out of 10 in the weekly vocabulary test; the threat of 'the twank', as this barbaric practice was called, made good French scholars of all of us!
'Marcus' Watling (Latin) a normally placid man who only lost his temper once when we collected matchboxes full of ladybirds in the playing fields and released them all over his desk before class - I think Johny Sussams got the 'twank' for that episode!
Mr. Gascoigne (Gassy), who taught Scripture also lost his temper once when he caught a boy reading 'Health and Efficiency' under the desk instead of studying the Gospel according to St. Mark - in his anger he tore the offending magazine into small pieces and sent the culprit to Dr. Barton for appropriate punishment.
'Spike' Fletcher, who 'taught', if I remember correctly, Geography, but spent most of the time talking about his wartime experiences in occupied Denmark (his wife was Danish) and telling us how to pronounce the resistance password "Rod grede med flode" (red cabbage with cream) which apparently only a Dane could say properly.
Miss Panneth, a large German amazon of a woman who taught something or other (I remember not what) - how she came to be teaching in wartime England puzzled us somewhat - we were all sure she was a spy! She wielded the cane like a prize-fighter, especially when some joker in the class left a condom (called a 'freddy' in those days) on her desk one day!
'Trotsky' the Physics master whom Brian 'Polly' Palfryman, my best friend, would ring up in the evening and in a heavy Jewish accent mutter down the phone - "I've got a body, did you want a body?" (don't ask me why!).
E.V. Bramall, a great favourite, who taught French and Spanish and was one of the first Englishmen to visit Spain just after the war in 1946 (I followed in his footsteps in 1950).
Mr. Claymore who taught us English Literature; Mr. Carter who took over as deputy head from 'Old Nick' when he retired to Robin Hood's Bay and many others whose names I forget.
KES was politically highly controversial in 1941 when I joined. The school was then fee-paying with twenty five per cent scholarship boys selected by the 11-plus exam and with a smaller number of boarders. The school was represented at the Public School Headmasters' Annual Conference.
KES was the only fee-paying school in Sheffield which educated boys to what is now A-levels. It was a centre of academic excellence run on broad, liberal lines with emphasis on competitive sports and a wide range of extra-curricular activities. A sensible discipline co-existed with individualism and, indeed, non-conformity.
For all these reasons, KES was ideologically offensive to the Labour council which had dominated Sheffield since the twenties. That is why KES was a political target. Probably because of subsidy, the Council could influence school policy. Already in the thirties, as Hitler's aggression grew, the pacifist council had abolished the Officer Training Corps (OTC). The strong-minded and able headmaster, Dr. A.W. Barton, managed, however, to maintain a high degree of independence. KES drew on the whole Sheffield area both for fee-paying and scholarship boys.
The 11-plus exam system allowed a great deal of parental choice and schools were listed in order of preference. Parental criteria varied: academic excellence, family connections, nearness to home, amenities, religion, school philosophy. The choice was made from a number of good Sheffield grammar and other schools. As for KES fee payers, even allowing for the massive inflation since then, the modest fees of around £15 a term in the early forties allowed the school to draw from a wide socio-economic range. Ironically, the weapon which destroyed the school's independence was forged not by the Labour Party but by the Tory dominated wartime government. This weapon was the 1944 Education Act, whose author was R.A. Butler.
A determined resistance campaign of meetings, letters, petitions, led by Dr. Barton and strongly supported by the parents, was crushed by the steamroller of consensus politics. KES then became another very good grammar school with entry one hundred per cent based on the 11-plus exam. But much of the school's uniqueness was lost.
Dr. Barton managed the change and then he left, succeeded by a Council nominee, the amiable Mr. Nat Clapton. Around the time Dr. Barton left; KES was claimed to be the British school with the third or fourth largest number of students at Oxford and Cambridge.
Many fond memories include:
Our porter (always in uniform) called Gillman who lived in the house adjoining the school. Among his various duties was to ring the bell between lessons.
Our groundsman called 'Wag' short for Waghorn. He attended to all matters including putting studs in football boots and serving fruit squashes. These were orange, blackcurrant and lime and cost 1d. for a small measure, 2d. for a medium measure and if you were very rich 3d. for a large measure. These measures were then poured into a class tumbler and filled with cold tap water. Delicious.
'Johnnie' Watson our swimming instructor always answered his telephone (when it rang) "King Edward swimming bath" This was until the City Council took over and he was told to answer "Swimming bath at King Edward's".
One interesting episode concerned our Headmaster, Dr. Barton. He was awe inspiring and very much respected. He kept his dignity and bearing and straight face at all times. Except for one occasion when his true feelings slipped out. We had a powerful swimming team and we travelled to various schools and various schools visited us.
For. financial reasons we were not able to travel to London to compete against the very famous City of London School. But we invited them to visit us if they won the National Schools' Swimming Championships. This they did and accepted our challenge and came to Sheffield. Among the packed spectators was the emotionless, but involved Dr. Barton. With two events to go, I as school breast-stroke champion, was matched against the City of London School's swimming captain of huge proportions and butterfly breast-stroke champion. It was a 200 yards event. I swam the slower orthodox breast stroke and their swimming champion, who was Polish, swam the then new butterfly. After the second length he was half a length in front of me but as the sixth length approached I was slowly catching him up. On the final length I crept closer and I could hear the school screaming 'Kalman' and urging me on.
And yes, the great Dr. Barton lost his cool and was jumping up and down and waving me on. I finally won by a touch. Dr. Barton had settled down again and came up to me and said "well done, Kalman". I will never forget those words. We won the contest by one point. I left school at the same time as Dr. Barton and joined the RAF where I taught maths and indulged in my interest in the stage. This, taking together my swimming abilities and my musical contribution to the RAF band, gave me arguably the best years of my life (it really sounds as if my conceit is only exceeded by my arrogance - but that's the modesty in me). You see, I am a holocaust survivor who arrived in England in 1939, not knowing the language or if I would ever see my parents again. I did - but that is another story. I have a pride in being an Old Edwardian, something which is at best super and at worst, super.
For the first five years of my time at the school, the country was at war. It is true that some of my memories will not differ essentially from those of boys attending the school before and after the war, but others certainly do.
Towards the end of my first term, on Friday the 13th December to be precise, there was no school. Sheffield had, during the previous night, suffered its first major air-raid and large parts of the city centre and many residential areas were stricken with chaos, devastation and the loss of life. As a result we had an exceptionally long Christmas holiday, one that lasted until the 20th January, because the school became a hostel for those made homeless by the raid.
As the war continued its weary course, many of the younger teachers disappeared into the armed forces to be replaced by women teachers (to some of the regular staff it really must have seemed that the world was out of joint!) and by teachers who had fled the Nazi persecution. One was a lecturer from Vienna University, another the Headmaster of a prestigious Berlin school; with our limited perspective we had little idea at the time how traumatic the change must have been for them.
In the sixth form, pupils took turns to do night duty as air-raid wardens and in the early stages of the war the school day officially began at 9.50 a.m. to allow pupils to catch up on sleep that had been disrupted by the nightly sirens (the air-raid warnings). The tuckshop, at the back of the school, still functioned in a rather half-hearted manner and for most of the time there was little on offer except rather unattractive liquorice roots. For those keen on their languages there were, of course, no trips abroad, no exchanges. The only foreign children we got to know were a few children who, with or without their parents, had fled from Germany and Austria. I cannot honestly say that they had an easy time and, as boys of eleven and twelve, we had little or no idea what had brought them to our shores.
At the same time, however, we were constantly made aware that war was no picnic; the number of former pupils whom we learned would not return grew month by month and by the end of the war over ninety had lost their lives. Occasionally the depressing picture was relieved by some spectacular piece of news, such as the announcement one lunch-time in the school refectory that Germany's most powerful battleship, the BISMARCK, which three days before had sunk the pride of the British Navy, the HOOD, had herself been cornered and sunk in the Channel.
The cheering that greeted this news was something I shall find it hard to forget. But strange as it may seem now, particularly when one reads of the atmosphere that prevailed during the First World War, there was no overwhelming anti-German feeling. Germany's cultural achievements in music, literature, the arts, science, were never belittled and I clearly remember the occasion when the Head, A.W. Barton, urged us to attend a performance by the Halle Orchestra of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, because it was "one of man's greatest achievements". Of course, there are more personal memories. Looking back, I must admit that I found my first year or so a daunting experience. Before I even set foot in the school I had been warned to beware of the second master, Mr. Nicholas, known to all as Nick. If late for school or if guilty of the most minor transgression, one had to expect to be directed to Room 63, there to await at the very best a dressing-down not easily forgotten or, more likely, a touch of the cane.
Even during his own maths classes, Nick would disappear from the room to prowl the corridors, ensuring that all was as it should be and that nobody was standing outside a classroom, having been ejected for bad behaviour. A long time passed before I learned that he had a more human side. Settling down in a new school can be a trying time and, as a boy who had won a place at 'King Ted's' as a result of the 11-plus exam and therefore been allocated to Form 2D, there was the additional feeling that one did not really belong. Forms 2A, 2B and 2C contained only fee-paying pupils, which meant among other things that they had to pay for their books and so owned them, whereas members of 2D had their books on loan and were expected to hand them in when they were no longer in use. Even when, higher up the school, fee-paying and non fee-paying pupils shared a class, the discrimination involving books remained.
By the time I was in Transitus (The Lower Sixth) in Room 47,1 was beginning to appreciate much that the school had to offer. The discipline no longer impinged so much on one's daily round, one was no longer threatened with the slipper by the prefects, compulsory games had ceased to be compulsory - certainly in my house, Sherwood, if not in Chatsworth, where Nick was in charge. In the lunch-hour our own version of shove-ha'penny played on the form-teacher's desk was pursued with considerable keenness. Then there were the so-called 'trials' in which some poor victims, class-mates, had to defend themselves against some trumped-up charge. School societies flourished, including the International Discussion Group, of which I was a fairly keen member.
But I can also still feel a 'frisson' when my memory takes me back to a certain French class where an ability to duck a blackboard rubber was, at certain moments, of far greater importance than knowing the present tense of 'faire', or to a P.E. period in the gym when a failure to time your jump to avoid the whirling bean bag meant abuse and a painful bruise, or to the weekly swimming lesson when forgetting one's swimming trunks was certainly not accepted as a reason for not participating! And the recollection of the weekly bus-ride to Whiteley Woods for the games afternoon, when one's silent prayer that morning for torrential rain had not been answered, can still evoke that feeling of misery - how ironic that some fifteen years later I found myself having to coach rugby and actually enjoying it! Nevertheless, despite less happy moments, school for me, certainly in the Upper School, was enjoyable and I look back with real pleasure to much that King Ted's had to offer.
After a period in the Junior School I joined the Big School in form 2B. My brother John, some five years older than I, was nearing his final year at KES. To have one's father a master at the school could be seen by some as an insurance against being unable to do one's homework or punishment for one's wrongdoing. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. S.V. Carter was a kindly disciplinarian form master to 2D, the scholarship boys. He was a natural-born teacher. During the altercations with authority, intent I am sure to show family connections were immaterial, I was beaten by Dr. A.W. Barton and 'fatty' McGrath. None of this, I wish to point out, in view of modern teaching, did me the slightest harm and I firmly believe, quite a lot of good.
It was wartime and as the school did not possess air raid shelters - home service was instituted while shelters were dug on the school close. Lessons in family homes were run for the pupils but were a logistic nightmare for the staff. As war continued the younger masters joined the forces and were replaced by female members of staff. Miss Knight and, unbelievably, Miss Daft, of mature years stood no nonsense. Misses Parnell and Horne, our younger mistresses, caused something of a sensation, Miss Horne in due course marrying one of my contemporaries. Masters joining the staff were restricted to the elderly and the unfit. In retrospect we were not always kind.
Professor Behrens, a learned man who had escaped Hitler's clutches, with very limited command of the English language, tried his best to impart his considerable knowledge to a far from responsive class. Dear kind Mr. Irons, our divinity master, not a good disciplinarian, declared that my form should stay in for misbehaviour, and watched helplessly while desks moved forward in lines, as if by magic, and pupils escaped through the open ground-floor windows. It all seemed fun at the time!
Despite the difficulty of the times, a dedicated band of teachers managed to mould most of us into, I believe, respectful, grateful young people, proud to have been at KES.
I was one of the intake of pupils in September 1948, the first to be wholly selected from the '11-plus' examination results. Previously I had attended Ecclesall Church School.
At that time the Headmaster was the redoubtable Dr. Barton. As a rather timid eleven year old I found the school quite daunting and did not really settle for the first eighteen months. The emphasis was rather classical, with Latin a compulsory subject for the first two years, and Greek available as an option. The Head Boy during my early days was one D.C. Law, now a Solicitor in Sheffield, but then also a very good runner and I believe that he was a participant in the first sub four-minute mile run at Oxford.
Early memories include needing ration coupons to buy sweets at the school tuck shop; joining the school Scouts No. 167 troop; sports afternoons at Whiteley Woods with Mr. Waghorn as groundsman; belonging to Clumber House; joining the school choir directed by Mr. Barnes - the highlight of which was performing and recording St. Matthew's Passion at Ecclesall Parish Church (one way of missing a few lessons!).
One of the more memorable events in my life was my first holiday abroad, which was organised by the school. This was a visit to Switzerland in 1952. The journey, by train and cross-channel ferry, lasted the best part of 24 hours each way. The colour and variety of all that we found on our arrival was in dramatic contrast to life at home, where Britain was still burdened with the remaining effects of World War II. Mr. Kopke was the master in charge of the trip and I remember the year when I was in his form with great affection. He could be quite volatile, but with great effect and commanded our instant respect.
Whilst one can never be a good judge of oneself, I found that I was branded by some as a 'King Ted's' type so it must be concluded that the school's influence on my character definitely made its mark. I was never one of the high achievers but undoubtedly benefitted from all that the school had to offer.
Role Reversal - 1942; three years into the second World War. God was on our side, we were holding our own against the combined forces of evil and I entered form 2D along with all the other scholarship boys.
It was pure Boys' Own Paper stuff. AWB was the Headmaster, 'Old Nick' reigned supreme in room 63 on the top corridor and directly opposite sat a mountain of a man Dr. (Fatty) McGrath. Although he, justly, could claim the title of Doctor as a consequence of his degree of Docteur es Lettres from the Sorbonne he was never allowed to use it and was always called 'Mister'.
'Fatty' McGrath did his best to introduce us to the delights of the French language with varying degrees of success. Those of us who committed serious errors of language, application or behaviour were punished by having our names imprinted, letter by letter, on our posteriors with a gym slipper; in retrospect I am sure that he had a copy of Larouse under the arm that was administering the chastisement.
Mr. (Dr. ) McGrath could hardly be described as a natural athlete, but without fail he appeared at every Sports Day as the official starter armed with a pistol loaded with blanks and woe betide any competitor who tried to jump the gun. As a future medic I had no further academic contact with him after 2D nor at House Meetings since he was on Clumber and I was a member (and later House Captain) of Haddon; our only contacts were at Sports Day. It was some years later when I met him again. I was a final year medical student and attached to a local G.P. for community experience. I was sent to visit a lonely, gravely ill old man on a flat on Rustlings Road. I could hardly restrain my tears when he thanked me and called me 'Sir'.
During the summers of 1950 - 53 we always used to look forward to lunchtime when we could play cricket. The large tree near the entrance gate from Newbould Lane was the wicket and that part of the playground on front of it was our pitch. Whenever a certain Deputy Headmaster, known to all as 'Old Nick' walked along the path between the gate and the school, it was a great temptation to hook the ball hard on his direction, but few of us dared! Every lunchtime we practised our skills and on Wednesdays we played for our House XIs at Whiteley Woods. In 1951 I gained a place on the school XI and in 1953 I joined the Old Edwardians C.C. Whilst at Nottingham University I played for the Old Edwardians C.C. during the long summer vacations and in 1956, after graduating, I played my last match at Whiteley Woods against a London Schoolmasters' touring team. It seemed that all through the match I was either bowling at, or batting against, one man. So at the end of the match when we adjourned to the pub at Ringinglow it was natural to sit together and down a beer or two. My fiancee joined us and was introduced to this cricketer, Reg. Much later that evening Reg came to say goodbye, but promised he would meet us again when the team returned the following year. I explained that I was leaving Sheffield to travel south to my first job. When I told Reg this was at Reading in Berkshire, he was amazed and explained to me that he was a master at Reading School. We met up the following Spring and Reg introduced me to his local cricket club which had only been formed three years before, several of the players being ex-pupils of Reading School. I have just completed my 38th season with that club, including the last 34 years as General and Fixture Secretary! Who would have thought that a chance battle on the cricket field at Whiteley Woods could lead to so much enjoyment and SO many friends so far away and for so many years. Thank you Reg, and thank you King Edward's School.
I remember - being taken to watch King George VI and Queen Elizabeth drive up Glossop Road on their way to open Ladybower Reservoir.
I also seem to recall my grandfather talking of his school days at Wesley College, the forerunner of King Edward VII School.
My principal memories are those of the excellent academic teaching and of the characters who gave it to us. Dr. Barton (of Meat, Light and Sound) set the standard, with his awesome presence. The class average in his year-end Divinity class exams actually reached 76%. Not so formal was 'Billy' Efron who was all too easily side-tracked into describing his experiences of working on the Argentinean Railway. What a way to learn geography!
The two cultures were clearly established at the school long before C.P. Snow, and as a scientist one suspected a severe bias towards Classics which seemed to attract the brightest pupils. I shall never forget the way in which scientists were boycotted in Latin classes by the Classics teacher, who concentrated on the A-level pupils during our delayed 0-level year.
Mr. Redstone (Trotsky) has pride of place for his excellent Physics teaching. Who can forget his dry pedantic tones, or his illustration of the thermal properties of a rubber bung when his fingers steamed as he removed it from scalding water! "Carry a little physics problem around in your head to think of on the top of the tram" was his sound advice. Mr. Wallace, rumoured to have strong left-wing politics, was more extreme in his Maths teaching. I still retain his little blue 'Maths Formula Book' recently consulted when checking the odds for the National Lottery Prizes!
Chemistry was the most difficult subject to master, but 'Curly' Harper, whom I don't ever recall seeing carrying a book, brought reason and order out of the masses of chaotic facts. "Just remember this form of the Periodic Table and all is straight-forward". In present times one marvels at the mouthfuls of acid and alkali one was allowed to sample during titrations and the array of chemicals unlocked on the open benches! I don't recall any deaths.
My own greatest sin at school was to be seen to place my feet on the lower back of the seat in front in the hall, while it was being used as an impromptu classroom. A fellow transgressor and myself were 'sent to fetch the cane' but were spared its use on us. Nevertheless, this crime still makes me feel uneasy when my feet stray onto the lower rung of the pew in front during long sermons in Church.
We hear a lot these days about 'level playing fields' but it wasn't until I came South that I actually experienced playing football on one and one unswept by winter gales off the moors! I fondly remember the sandwiches of cut bread and a micro-layer of jam as the ultimate reward for a hard match at Whitely Woods!
To revisit one's old school for the first time in fifty years will seem a strange choice to today's pupils but to Keith Hulley and myself it was a must.
We remembered our class mates with great enthusiasm then sadly thought of the few who had passed away. None of our teachers have survived. Because of the war the only teachers we had were either too old to serve in the armed forces or physical wrecks, too infirm to pass the medical. Women teachers came in to the school for the first time and in retrospect I think they had a pretty tough time in trying to keep order.
Their only recourse was to have one or two singled out to be beaten by the Headmaster on Saturdays at mid-day. A select band would be kept waiting for twenty minutes or so until Dr. Barton was ready to administer his six of the best. Maths classes were never popular and we were occasionally relieved by the sirens sounding an air-raid warning and we all went to the underground shelters in front of the school. The threat of being bombed by the Luftwaffe seemed preferable to a completed maths lesson!
We remembered Whiteley Woods and bread and jam open sandwiches at a penny each and, commonly known as 'fly catchers'. Thank you King Ted's for welcoming us back and despite the hardships of wartime the lasting friendships which have endured for a half a century will live on for a few more years.
I have always been proud to have gone to 'our' school. The daily morning assembly was enjoyable and the hymns sung at those get togethers keep coming up, bringing back fond memories.
I remember dashing out to the 'backs' in the cold or snowy or rainy weather. The hustling from one classroom to the next classroom. The big event each day of lining up in the canteen for our lunch. Sitting on the benches at the table and eating with the elbows well tucked in - not much room. This did help, though, when eating in the Royal Air Force mess a few years later; the practice had made it easier to handle.
The Wednesday sports afternoon was somewhat of a mixed memory. Although I dreamed of having great soccer and cricket skills, I was usually selected for the last team or more often than not to challenge the 'run'. Hopefully the 'short' one but sometimes the dreaded 'long' one. But shockingly enough I did find myself, very occasionally sitting sheepishly in the Cinema with a pal or two.
Unfortunately my schoolwork was not much better, as I started in J2A and finished up in 5E. I did manage to get my School Certificate, which stood me in good stead for my working days. The many times I had to write out lines and stay after 4.15 p.m. are memories that go with 'our' school.
An important time for me seemed to be the many hours I spent in the swimming pool. I recall many fond memories of swim periods and every lunchtime then going back for second sitting lunch. Swimming on the school team and visiting other schools was a highlight.
In my first swim race in the baths, a half length freestyle, six small boys were standing at the centre, five facing one end and me facing the other end. Dr. Barton stood up and called to the official "that boy is going the wrong way". "It's O.K." replied the official, "he is going to do the backstroke". I did and won, smiling.
When I was in 5A, our form room was presided over by Harry Scutt, who, incidentally could translate from one foreign language to another for dictation as he went along. This room had a balcony which was easily accessible from the floor to ceiling windows but did not have the benefit of any protective railings at its edges - the Health and Safety people would be apoplectic these days! It was forbidden to go on to this balcony, for obvious reasons, but boys being boys, many of us did so.
The punishment, if caught, was known in advance (a sort of Fixed Penalty to use present day parlance) namely four of the best. The same room was lined with glass-fronted bookcases, vulnerable to high spirited boys. Consequently, any boys found fighting in the form room were subject to the same 'fixed penalty'. Many of us received the expected punishment and took it like men. It could not happen in these 'enlightened' days, but I doubt if we suffered any lasting ill-effects.
Going back to Harry Scutt, he used to make appalling puns. One such concerned a boy called Trotter. Harry told him to "Trotter-long" to the library for a certain book. Trotter replied "Very well, sir, I'll scutt-le away". Harry was not impressed and gave him four strokes of the cane for impertinence.
'Pop' Baker was the Junior School Headmaster, with Mrs. Smith as his assistant and rumours of an illicit relationship abounded - quite unfounded, of course! This was wartime and a Flying Fortress came down in Endcliffe Woods on its way back from a continental mission in 1944. Almost the whole school invaded the woods, scavenging for pieces of wreckage and my memento was a muddy 8-foot twisted metal spar, carried all the way home and kept for 20 years!
This was the Barton era - to a second-former AWB was a formidable and forbidding, mortar-boarded Headmaster - with Old Nick (Nicholas) as his deputy.
The cane was very much in evidence and certainly deterred. There were many teachers to remember, some coming back from the war. There was the room on the top floor from which, if you had good eyesight, you could see the score when Yorkshire were playing at Bramall Lane. If Hutton was batting, you could get down after school in time to watch him.
Sport meant a great deal to me and flourished at KES. My heroes amongst the older boys were the cricket, football and athletics stars (rugby and tennis had not yet arrived). Highlights of my schooldays were the big school matches against teams like Manchester Grammar, Bradford Grammar, Leeds Grammar, QEGS Wakefield and the local needle games with High Storrs, Woodhouse Grammar, Rotherham Grammar and the others.
Playing cricket on that extraordinary Whiteley Woods ground, if you fielded 20 yards down the slope all you could see was the batsman's head! I had no idea what visiting teams thought of it but it produced some good cricketers.
I found an old diary of mine from 1951 - my penultimate year at KES and I quote from Thursday 11th January - "All the form told off by Clapton for misbehaviour. Someone stuck paper in the keyhole. Several privileges stopped indefinitely. No going out early in dinner now, or going in the form room in dinner hour".
I suspect school life was gentler then.
Passing the 11 plus for King Ted's was a rare event in Sheffield 5 in the late 1940s. "Tha'll never gerr in theer" said one of my pals on the street, friends I was soon to be parted from by the social chasm that opened up between us the moment I did pass.
Setting out every day for Sheffield's top grammar school on the other, leafy side of the city, encased in the distinctive navy blue uniform and cap, entering that daunting neo-classical facade, inevitably meant becoming an outsider in the local neighbourhood, where almost all my age group went to Hartley Brook Secondary Modern.
The next seven years were a near all-enveloping experience of the classic grammar school education, with all its strengths and limitations. The strengths were there in abundance; a critical mass of impressively gifted boys and masters; a strong school ethos - tough but fair with plenty of sport and overtime, a thorough grounding in History, English Literature, French and Spanish.
I did not do well in the Sciences and Maths and was not one of Clarence's talented artists. I vividly recall the love of France and French literature which oozed from every pore of Victor Bramhall and the equally intense but more languidly presented love of English from Gerry Claypole.
Overwhelmingly, however, I remember the mesmeric force of John Burridge's teaching and influence. I was one of a small group whom he was determined to lick into shape both academically and socially. He forced us to respond to painting, theatre, sculpture, architecture, and the novels of Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene.
The trouble was that we were - in the main - callow provincial youths. He was the Jean Brodie for a bunch of 'Likely Lads' who, pitched into the heady atmosphere of Oxbridge colleges, found it all a mixed blessing. In the end, we coped, and gained greatly from it, but not without a love-hate reaction to the whole process. Several friendships made at school lasted well into adult life though we have by now lost touch for too long. Sadly, Tony Howarth, one of my closest friends died in his early forties though not before writing a pioneering textbook on 20th century world history.
Though hierarchical and quite traditional about discipline, the school was a lively and relaxed enough place. Its main limitations were, being single-sex, not only were girls not there but no links of any sort existed with the girls' grammar school just across the road; the creative arts in general and the performing arts in particular, were seriously neglected; as a result, we were all rather conformist, sloping off for a smoke in the Botanical Gardens being our main escape.
There was plenty of space in this small world to be securely yourself so there was no real point in pursuing the exotic or the wayward. Adolescents need stability but they also need a challenge and it was John Burridge's achievement to shock us out of our complacency by excoriating sarcasm, inspired repartee and contempt for any but the highest standards.
All in all, now that the school is a comprehensive, a change with which I wholly agree, I hope the strengths remain and the limitations are less pronounced. The broadening of the curriculum and the social mix is the great achievement of the comprehensive school. Despite the constrictions, I remember King Ted's with great warmth and hope that it flourishes far into the future.
I came to Sheffield from the North East in the latter stages of the War and the family returned to the North East during my National Service.
The school was originally fee-paying and had a much longer working week than its counterparts elsewhere in the city. A full six day week, with lessons on Saturday morning and games on both Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. I remember being captured on film by the Cine Club as I struggled in last on the compulsory cross-country run. Thereafter I obtained a job as Marshall! During the war, we had women teachers and some of these were young and nubile. Particularly Miss Manners (Chemistry) and Miss Horne (Latin). In my early days at KES I remember seeing Miss Horne being chased around the outside of the building by the 6th form who seemed intent on rape and pillage. The Second Master (Nick) Nicholas used to cruise around the corridors looking for troublemakers. Ian Fells and I had been sent out of Music to stand outside the room. We spotted Nick in the distance. Ian was small enough to squeeze into one of the wire-mesh lockers lining the corridor. I was too large and so was taken off to Nick's study and beaten, no questions asked, just bent over and caned. Nick also taught Geometry by rote. Even today, I can recite a large part of the Theorem of Pythagoras word perfect.
Once in the 6th form our interests widened and we discovered girls. The highlight was the Christmas Dance when bevies of girls from the nearby Convent were drafted in. Frantic tuition in the rudiments of ballroom dancing beforehand, since this was pre-disco, pre-rock and roll. John Bingham and George MacBeth going out at lunchtime to a local baker and bringing back a large brown suitcase full of currant buns which they sold at a 100% mark-up to younger boys. Later discovered and beaten. School plays - Advanced from 3rd- electrician to a small speaking part, although I never really mastered an Irish policeman's accent in Winterset. The female parts were taken by the younger boys as in Shakespeare's time.
In 1950 the Korean War meant National Service was increased from 18 months to 2 years. For those with Oxbridge entry two academic years hence, this meant a rush to join the Colours. Messrs. Fells and Ferguson spent a profitable 3 weeks awaiting call-up, working in the School Office issuing text books but more importantly, exercise books, which became a form of negotiable currency.
Few recollections here except that the nature teacher 'wobbled' from behind as she walked and the Head (Mr. Baker) had a lovely study where I remember being caned - with my elbows resting on his desk chair seat, it being the position in which one's posterior was pressed tightest against grey flannel shorts!
To the Senior School under Dr. A W Barton, a cadaverous giant in whose study I found myself only once - again a painful experience. In those days if you were punished, you were punished twice - once at school and once at home at the end of term when the 'report' was received, listing any punishments given.
I recall the Deputy Head, Mr. Nicholas who lived up Newbould Lane, taught Maths and struck terror into all who dared arrive late for school. He never took me and I always treated him with awe. He was always elderly (wartime teachers mostly were) and smelt like an ashtray!
Mr. Scutt taught French, had grey wispy hair and a nicotine stained moustache. His finger nails curled round the ends of his fingers and I swear were never cut. On one occasion he asked me to run an errand for him during class and as a play on my name, he told me to "be sartin to be quick about it" to which I replied that I would scuttle along! One hundred lines later, I regretted my outburst!
Of the ladies, I remember three, for different reasons. Lillian Williams taught History. For homework I often used to copy out the same work that had been highly marked - that of Peterkens in the form above me. My copy was never highly marked and I felt there was no justice as I could not complain to her how unfairly she was treating me! She had a pet phrase. When writing on the blackboard if someone was making a noise she would retort "I know who's making that noise" and, turning to face the class would finish "who was it?" It became our 'trademark' of her. Then there was Miss Manners who didn't only teach you manners. A dainty, blond miss with glasses, and Miss Horne with an 'e' who had a fantastic reputation that was probably complete fiction! Between the two of them they brightened many a dark day. Smoking was taught: in the Scout den behind the 'bricks' (lavatories) - quite safe there as access was via a rope which wasn't let down except for friends-or behind the church in the crescent on the opposite side of the main road that ran alongside the school towards Fulwood. Because it was a crescent, if prefects came looking up one side, one could always escape down the other side. Such excitement!!
The swimming baths - what an initiation that was when we of the 2nd year got undressed at the same time as the sixth formers were drying off and getting dressed. How huge they were - particularly 'between their legs' and all very hairy in most peculiar places! Such was the relatively sheltered upbringing at KES in wartime. (We would probably have been expelled for looking at a copy of Health and Efficiency, that risque magazine that passed from desk to desk).
It was war time, that slight lull and period of apprehension between 1939 and the end of hostilities in 1945. We always knew we would beat the Germans but Mr. Churchill told us to work hard and be confident of eventual success.
So 31 rather terrified, yet eager, little boys aged 11, from all over Sheffield, started in Room 39 as Form 2D, the 'scholarship' class. Not all 31 had 'passed' the old 11-plus examination from their local council school. Some had failed but their parents, keen to get them in to the best school in the city, had agreed to pay the necessary fees.
Why 2D? We were all reasonably bright lads. Well - tradition had it that 2A, 2B and 2C were 'reserved' for those boys who had been in KES Junior School for 2,3 or even 4 years - again as fee-payers. We were new to all the traditions and would need careful nurturing like house plants if we were to fulfil our not inconsiderable potential.
At our council schools we had been the creme-de-la-creme - favourites of our teachers because of our ability. Now we were suddenly transplanted into the hothouse.
But back to that first day in September 1942. Our form master, who was to prove to be our saviour when under attack, was a certain Sidney Victor Carter, maths and science master, better known to generations at King Edward's as 'Sam'. Why 'Sam'? Even his own sons, John now 70 and Michael 65, never knew why 'Sam' emerged. And they were both educated at KES!
Sam Carter was a stern disciplinarian who was kind and tolerant if you worked hard and managed to get your sums right. We learnt Algebra with him (I can still help my grandchildren with simultaneous equations) and remember he had to cram into us in one year what 2A, 2B and 2C had been learning for 2 years in the Junior School. The same applied to French and Geometry. Yet at the end of the school year nearly all 2D landed in 3A.
What a fine teacher Sam Carter was. Luckily for 2D and many other schoolboys he won a post at KES in that year, 1921, and he remained until ill-health forced early retirement in 1958. He died 10 years later in his Knowle Lane home, loved, respected and slightly feared by countless generations of Old Edwardians, especially those in Welbeck House. They do not make them like Sam Carter any more.
Unlike the Great War, the outbreak of war in 1939 presaged no vain enthusiasm for glory; in the sombre mood of early September, KES, like the rest of the nation, expected Armageddon from the air to occur immediately.
The school was not considered sufficiently vulnerable to be evacuated to the country, but until adequate air raid shelters were built in front of the School, the boys were dispersed to private homes in five different residential districts. Named the Home Service Scheme it entailed masters bicycling round from house to house, teaching groups of a dozen pupils at a time, under the watchful eyes of the 'Hostesses' whose homes they used. Not until 2nd December did the school reconvene at Glossop Road, take possession of their new shelters (where hundreds of treble voices could be heard during air raid practices singing "hang out the washing on the Siegfried line") and share the building for half a year with Nether Edge Grammar School.
This necessitated operating the 'freakish' hours of an exhausting double shift to accommodate both schools. By 1st December 1939, seventy Old Boys had joined up and by March 1940 this number had doubled. In the first full year of the war sixteen masters were called up, creating gaps in the staffing, a situation that would recur throughout the war.
During the six years 1939-45, sixty-seven teaching staff appointments were made including, in May 1941, Miss Daft, who became the first woman teacher in the history of King Edward VII School. She was followed by twenty more ladies, without whose contribution the school could not have continued. Despite the external and internal complications and changes, school life continued remarkably smoothly. By 1940 the reality of wartime, as in 1915, began to seep into school life. The first old boys were reported killed or missing. P/O Malcolm Ravenhill, a fighter pilot who had fought over the Dunkirk beaches and in the Battle of Britain, was shot down in a dog fight over London at the end of September.
In December incendiary bombs fell on the school on the night of the Sheffield Blitz. One member of staff records seeing Gilman, the Porter, calmly putting out incendiary bombs in Room 71, as if he had been doing it all his life. A two hundred strong ATC squadron (No. 366) was formed for members of the school and Old Edwardians as part of a national scheme for pre-entry of cadets to the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm, whilst the Scouts, not to be outdone, formed an Air Section.
Senior pupils acted as L.D.V. or A.R.P. wardens and messengers, whilst others did fire watching at the school, climbing three flights of stairs in the early hours of the morning to observe Sheffield from over the corinthian capitals of the main entrance. A most promising student, Gordon Strange, whilst helping with the KES Scouts at an exhibition at the City Hall during Sheffield War Weapons week, was killed by the accidental discharge of an anti-tank gun. He was not even 15 years of age and his name is included on the school war memorial, the youngest Edwardian to die in either of the world wars. During 1941 the number of Old Boys killed in the war rose. Most of these were RAF air crew, as often as not Sergeant-Pilots, some even more tragically and uselessly dying in training accidents.
Altogether the RAF accounts for half the Old Edwardians killed in the war. One of the very last to die was Flight-Sergeant H.N. Stauber who left the school in 1937, volunteered for the RAF and was a veteran of forty-five ops as a wireless operator/air-gunner. He was killed at the end of March 1945 struggling back near Hamburg heading for the sea after a raid on Hanover. He was one day short of his twenty-third birthday and six weeks short of the end of hostilities.
One fighter pilot, who left a posthumous record in the school magazine of the air war over Ceylon, where he had chased Zeros in Hurricanes, was F/O David Fulford, DFC. He had flown Spitfires in the Battle of Britain and taken part in a propaganda film about the battle where, ironically, he flew a captured Heinkel. After service in Ceylon he returned to Britain and went down over the channel in November 1942. He had been at KES from 1928-38 and was just 22 years old. Old Edwardians served on all fronts of this global war. Two officers, Lionel Wigram and Roy Hooper perhaps exemplify, as well as most, the school's contribution to the struggle against Nazism and the loss of part of another generation of talented young men.
Major Lionel Wigram of the Royal Fusiliers was at KES from 1918-25 gaining a State Scholarship at The Queen's College, Oxford. He subsequently became a solicitor in London and served on the Marylebone Borough Council. After a distinguished wartime military career he was selected to write the Official Manual of Infantry Battle Drill and was appointed Commandant of first GHQ Battle School for the training of instructors. After service in Sicily, he was despatched to Italy serving behind the enemy lines with the Italian partisans. He was killed leading a night attack by the Italians on a German-held village in February 1944.
Lieut. W. Roy Hooper, Royal Tank Regiment, had left the school in 1933 and been a journalist with the Sheffield Independent before moving to the News Chronicle as their local correspondent. Enlisting in 1939 he became one of the first Commandos, before later service with the 'Desert Rats' in North Africa and Italy. Returning to Britain he took part in the Normandy battles including the Falaise Pocket and was killed in the evacuation from Arnhem in September 1944 when he selflessly went back into his burning tank to rescue his gunner. In 1946 his father sent one of his final articles to the school and it was printed in the school magazine. It was a brilliant description of the trapping of the German 7th Army at Falaise and underlined what a promising writer and journalist had been lost.
When VE and VJ days came King Edward VII School had paid a higher price than most schools. One hundred and ten Old Edwardians died in World War II. The Old Edwardians Association arranged for a new plaque to record the names of the fallen, the date 1939-45 to be added to the stone cross war memorial and instituted a fund for an organ, which eventually took its place in the Assembly Hall in 1950.
One of the highlights of the sixth-formers' social year in the mid and late 50s and indeed of that of most other sixth-formers of neighbouring schools, was the annual KES Prefects' Ball, usually held on a Friday night in early January at the Greystones Ballroom (subsequently The Shades night Club, and now Napoleon's).
The event was graced by members of the staff room, with 'Jack' Hemming normally acting as M.C. and 'Bert' Harrison and 'Clarence' McKay showing immaculate manners and footwork on the dance floor. Spot prizes, consisting of free entrance tickets for two people to the principal picture houses in the centre of Sheffield (wheedled out of the respective managers by various of the prefects) - plus a vigorous sales campaign aimed at and through the prefects' opposite numbers in other schools, always ensured a full house and a rousing evening.
The constant problem was how to eliminate tickets falling into the hands of lawless elements in other schools and how to keep out the real 'Teddy Boys' who would normally turn up at the Greystones for any function that was on.
The annual Prefects' Dinner, normally held in Grindleford in December, was a more private and selective occasion, involving a great deal of work with British Rail and a formal, written request to the local District Manager that the 11.15 p.m. from Manchester should make an unscheduled stop at Grindleford Station to bring the diners home. As far as I can remember the train always DID stop although hearts raced on the cold platform as the train steamed into view.
A prefectorial evening tour of the drinking spots south of Hathersage, generally in cars lent for the occasion by generous parents, rounded off in the summer term a good social year for the guardians of law and order and prepared us for the rigours of under-graduate life ahead.
Initially, I remember some remarkable performing arts at the school. The performances of Handel's oratorios 'Judas Maccabeus' and, later, 'Alexander's Feast' would rank as unusual achievements for a school choir and orchestra even today. The vocal and instrumental soloists were mainly drawn from the pupils themselves, and set standards of excellence and provided school heroes to counterbalance the more obvious sporting stars.
The evocative Victoria Hall in Sheffield provided a suitably formal but not intimidating setting for what became for many the high points of the school year. These occasions were prepared with detailed care and remembered long afterwards by pupils with affection and an enormous sense of achievement. At the centre of this shared enthusiasm was Norman Barnes, the school's energetic and accomplished music master, then at the height of his creative powers.
Later in my time the school's dramatic tradition was revived under Bruce Chalmers, who produced some spectacular Shakespeare, involving large numbers of boys. The feat was organisational as well as artistic, since parents and friends were dragooned into making the costumes and properties to the designer's order. Previously, the school had taken the more usual (and more expensive) option of hiring from professional stage costumiers.
A dramatic climax for this particular generation was reached in 1957 with Edward Watling's direction of 'King Oedipus,' in his own translation. After the war E.F. Watling had been commissioned, by Penguin Books, to translate all of Sophocles' plays into idiomatic and actable English, which he did superbly. His first-rate scholarship was matched by an equally fine dramatic imagination. Lucky were the pupils who encountered either.
When in 1976 I joined the National Schools Inspectorate, I discovered that five of my former KES teachers were now Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools: Brian Arthur, Bruce Chalmers, Alan Turberfield, Ron Wastnedge and Bob Young. Each of them became mentors and friends. Ron Wastnedge used to fell me how terrifying it had been for a young teacher to face the KES sixth form, which exhibited "more the atmosphere of a university than a school".
If you were in full command of your subject you were accepted by the boys, if not, you could be destroyed by them, for the school's ethos was not built up by suffering fools gladly. The general expectations set very high standards and gave a remarkable start in life to many, but for those pupils who were too introverted, too unorthodox or too inflexible there was little for their comfort. KES in the 1950's was a proud, daunting, unpitying yet highly imaginative place in which to be educated. Ultimately it was successful, as this is what the City of Sheffield then required from an education at its Royal Grammar School: demonstration of the rise of a meritocracy.
The fifties were another planet. Whoever thought it was a good idea to cream off some clever boys (by way of a couple of hours of brain teasers) and send them to be drilled by clever men whose skills and values they were driven to replicate for ever? Driven is the key word. The school was truly the hammer-forge of adulthood. The atmosphere was deeply constrained, fiercely competitive and endlessly hierarchical. Who was better than who? Who was top and who was bottom? Who was promoted up the stream and who was to drown in the depths of 5G? Who had the most O's and A's? Who was going to Oxbridge and who wasn't?
I wasn't for one, although I tried hard enough. Even so, I was good at games and good enough in the end to do the sixth form bit. Relief. To be in, not out. To succeed, not fail.
The die was cast. From then until now I've been a competitor externally and internally. Authority, standards and perfection. The holy trinity of the Grammar school, deeply flawed and gone forever I hope. Of course who's to say "It was the place's fault"?
My mother reckons it's because I'm a Virgo and nothing to do with the great King Ted's.
The best moments? A pedagogic system like that can only express love and affection and delight in one way - through the enthusiasm of a teacher for the wonderful richness of his own knowledge as opposed to the sheer pedantry and hurdle-jumping which was the staple diet of the school day. Mr. May, a Leavisite who glowed in the dark, told me some things about poetry and writing and values that have stayed forever. Thanks for that.
After their first two years of mandatory French and Latin, aspiring third-year linguists at KES could choose a third language among classical Greek, German or Spanish. The fate of such 'Greeks' in the mid-1950s was in the hands of the dynamic Denis Henry, deaf and lofty E.F. Watling, astringent 'Tug' Wilson, and civilised, erudite and drama-producing Bruce Chalmers.
Although committed to an ancient past, classicists in those days still had good academic prospects - a Latin O-level was, after all, de rigeur for all Oxbridge entrants. The twin spirits of Gaul and Iberia were distilled in room 27, the stamping ground of cultivated, dapper 'Spiv' Bramhall (whose army captain's storage trunk still stood in one corner), assisted from the attic floor by John Sinclair. Would-be 'Germans' were teutonised in room 30 by 'Jo' Oppenheimer and O.R. Johnston in 44. At school Speech Days in the Victoria Hall, the full array of languages taught was annually unfurled in declamations that were interspersed between the various musical items.
Amidst all this, however, the spirit of the Slavs hardly impinged on our awareness. Russian was reputedly taught only at Firth Park Grammar School and was as yet unrepresented at Sheffield University. Other things Russian that caught our attention were the launch and beeping orbits of the first sputnik, and the scandal surrounding Boris Pasternak's Nobel Prize Award. At that time, though, I failed to dash off and read Doctor Zhivago, the retribution for which would be an almost life-long preoccupation with that novel's author.
At certain times, too, the School was visited by 'old boys' wearing services uniform, some of whom had evidently been recruited for special training in Russian and drafted for this purpose to bleak and distant spots on Fifeness and Bodmin Moor.
At Easter 1959 three sixth-formers went on a French course to the Lycee Michelet in Paris. Whilst there our third companion and myself were reluctantly hauled by Stephen Linstead to a twilit corner of Montparnasse, to a half-empty and run-down cinema called 'Le Pagode'. This was the only spot in Western Europe where one could see the "E" of Eisenstein's cinema epic 'Ivan the Terrible.' That film made an indelible impression and thus an earlier mild curiosity turned into a blazing enthusiasm, fuelled the following autumn by the arrival on the KES staff of G.Y. Adam, a linguist who included Russian in his active repertoire.
For the next several years a Russian O-level class was in operation and I myself formed a one-man 'fast stream' and so began a life-long involvement with Russia and its language. I am uncertain whether Russian is still taught at KES but I would like to think that its continuance or revival were possible. The subject is now increasingly 'relevant' - certainly much more so than it seemed to us in the fifties. I was recently reminded of this while on a visit with my Russian wife to our relatives in the Southern Urals. On the shore of Bannoye Lake one Sunday afternoon last September, we were approached by a group of audibly Yorkshire workmen. Temporarily drafted to the local Magnitogorsk steel plant, they were alerted to our presence by the little wizened Bashkir who hovered nearby selling fresh roasted shashlyk .... "Na, then, which one o' you lot comes from Sheffield?"
The stormclouds were clearly threatening; outside, there were only a few fluffy clouds, nothing to indicate imminent rainfall, but inside... the view from the back of the Assembly Hall of the Headmaster's countenance showed clearly that something unpleasant was about to be discharged.
At the back of the Hall, while the religious part of Assembly was dismissed briefly, in accordance with the letter, if not the spirit of the Education Act, unease was palpable. The conscience of Class 4(1) was hardly without blemish and its members were uneasily aware of the fact. Several of its components thought of happier, less stressful days.
The British Ambassador to NATO nervously adjusted his middle-school tie and wished he were somewhere else, perhaps trying to achieve a co-ordinated NATO response to Bosnia; the representative of the British Council in Jordan looked gloomily at his scuffed suedes and thought of less taxing moments, such as trying to maintain a cultural programme in the face of Government cuts.
The distinguished astrophysicist looked skywards (where else?), probably hoping for celestial protection, the lawyer wished he was in court, even facing one of the less brilliant judges on the circuit; the ex-president of Yorkshire Schools Cross Country would rather have been braving the wintry elements of Graves Park than awaiting the imminent judgment.
The star of local radio was forced to interrupt his concern over thinning hair and concentrate his mind on what was about to happen. Even interviewing the most recalcitrant local octogenarian on his daily show was less of an ordeal. Compared to this same ordeal, the national Director of a German multi-national car firm considered that hard bargaining with his paymasters in Stuttgart was less of a strain on the' nerves. Your scribe, fidgeting in his stiff school flannels, was also awaiting events with trepidation. He had survived many years at Madrid University, political upheavals, changes in the curriculum, anguished interviews with students he had failed, but this was worse, much worse.
The angry bark of the Headmaster confirmed their fears. Class 4(1) is the worst-behaved, most undisciplined class that the school has ever known. Cowering from the public tongue lashing, 4(1) skulked off to Maths. What would become of us? Had we any future?
September 1956. The same scene, the same characters. The Headmaster, with an air of discomfort, announces " Last year's class 4(1) has achieved the best GCE results in the history of the school." The boys done well.
I'd wanted to go to King Ted's since I was five. It had been praised as the "most successful grammar school in England" by the Times Educational Supplement. All Sheffield knew it was the best. Some people still think it was.
I think that it was one of the most disturbed and disturbing establishments I've ever been in. I was yelled at in the vestibule on my very first morning while we were still queuing, and I was yelled at in the vestibule on the very last afternoon when I was trying to say goodbye. There was so much yelling. And hitting, of course, with canes and rulers and slippers and fists and feet and chalk and board rubbers and books and light bulbs. And there were so many rules, and so many 'thought' policemen. Thus, Oxford was better than Cambridge, just, and Cambridge was much better than Durham, which was better than London. Or Greek was best, then Latin, which was better than French which was better than German which was better than Spanish which was easy.
Arts subjects were better than sciences, but Art itself was only better than Woodwork. Biology was for girls. Girls didn't matter except that they could get pregnant and stop you getting to Oxford. Most pupils had to fail so that twenty each year could be painted onto the Honours Board when they'd gone. Old and dead was always best. Yet my King Edward's itself wasn't really old at all. It was just a muddle of jumbled bits of the 1944 Act and provincial snobberies and whatever bric-a-brac they could pinch from the public schools, like the recondite rules about stairs and ties and badges, its gowned teachers, its Backs, Close, Latin song, Greek declamations, sporting blues, honours boards, houses, initiations, surnames, beatings, prefects, sub-prefects, and smug teaching about things that were valued most highly only when they were most useless.
Most of the teachers were shabby bullies. All of them went in humiliating daily fear of the dreadful Headmaster, N.L. Clapton, who jeered and snarled his fat way through their lives as much as through ours. They were grimly cynical about their subjects, dictating and boring straight from their text books. They set us endless memorising homeworks to occupy every night for seven years so we didn't join youth clubs or talk to our parents. They were all Tories of course, living in fear of the working-class of Sheffield who paid their wages. That was why we were caned for not wearing our caps on the buses or for eating in the, street. They were usually racists too, of course. One Geography teacher started every lesson, as he shut the curtains for another epidiascope tour of African huts while we played with our trousers "Right, let's see how the wogs are getting on". (Another Geography teacher was more interested in sending pretty boys to collect the cane from the staffroom, and stand outside the classroom till the end of the lesson when he'd decide whether to hurt them or not).
Above all there was this provincial thinness about my King Edward's. Nothing was as good as it should have been, even by their own low standards. Nobody rejoiced about anything. We grew up frightened by the 'ethos' (oh! beware schools with an ethos), but tempted by it as well. We nearly learned from those dim men to be as uncreative as they were, as bullying, and as unenthusiastic.
The few O.K. teachers who did know their subjects and didn't hit us, and even seemed to like us, must have known what was going on round them but they never did much about it, and that was no excuse, six years since Nuremburg.
After Oxford I went to London for ten years to teach English in two early comprehensive schools, and met far better teachers and, at last, some girls. But I've gone on having nightmares ever since. I set my first novel in a school, called the Headmaster Clapton, and murdered him humiliatingly in his lavatory on the fourth page.
It wasn't what I'd been taught at my King Edward's - to create, to imagine things differently, to change them. There was no creativity at my King Edward's, only twitchy classical music, essays and translations. What there was instead was that particular nastiness that you find in all-male establishments when everyone's desperate not to let on that they do sometimes love and care for each other in spite of everything. And we did.
Some of the friends and lovers I had in that Broomhill concentration camp are dear friends still, forty years on. In spite of the relentless competitiveness, and dark sarcasm from the teachers, we actually laughed a lot (they didn't like that). We did help each, other, and we didn't let the buggers win. We taught ourselves things they never knew about as we tossed our way together in and out of puberty. It was a small triumph of the human spirit - and just about the only consolation I can find in my King Edward's story, then or now .... I didn't go back inside for decades, and then suddenly did, fairly often. The building was eerily unchanged - my locker with its dint was still there, and the smell of the dining hall, and the cupola view from the music room, and the sound of the organ, and the Honours Boards like great wooden tombstones, with all the names with all their initials, of those who'd gone to Oxford, never to be heard of again (because of course that was the final failure of the old King Edward's - even our successes never really achieved much, cloned by those clapped-out teachers, scared of ideas, chaos and girls).
I like going to King Edward's these days. The LLR has stopped smelling of boys trousers and Hydrochloric Acid, and is now a theatre space, making some of the most amazing young people's drama in Britain. I've broadcast a class of students talking, where the tuck shop used to be, about sex and relationships, more sensibly than I can, even now (we had to read pages 27 and 28 of Green, one afternoon, and not giggle, or, for once, make notes).
I've interviewed students on strike (and being allowed to hold a revolutionary meeting about it in my school hall, where we prayed every morning for seven years to thank God for being there, without noticing that he wasn't). There are women teachers now, and girl students. There are black pupils, and the bulb's gone in the epidiascope. The Headmaster's got a beard. And now there's this book.
They wouldn't have liked that, in the days when King Edward's was the most successful grammar school in Britain, and you could hear the screams to prove it all the way down Newbould Lane.
I haven't been back to King Ted's and, not being a joiner of clubs, I did not heed the urging in the School Rules "to become a member of the Old Edwardians' Association". Nor, to tell the truth, had I thought much about it until I received a letter from the present Headmaster soliciting contributions from Old Edwardians who have achieved a degree of public distinction or notoriety. He added ambiguously "It would appear that you come into this category".
This ambivalent compliment led me to reflect on the grim, Graeco-Romano-Pennine building where I spent the seven most formative years of my life.
It is hard in retrospect to steer clear of clichés ('a passport to life') or caricatures. Some of my friends, guilty at having an elitist education, have tended to focus on the school's faults; its exam mania (I left with sixteen 'O'levels); its attention to the brightest at the expense of those who most needed help; its efforts to ape the public school that it emphatically wasn't (the 'House spirit' and the Latin school song which even the classicists couldn't understand). In my view, its least endearing trait was that, while it forced us like hot-house plants in the race for prizes, it did not equip us for the less regimented ethos of university and the world beyond. The gap between the school's exam results and the performance of Old Edwardians in finals and subsequent careers is not a flattering comment on King Ted's and many schools like it.
My other reservation is that, in treating us as if we were immature little savages, the school encouraged us to turn out so. I kept a copy of the School Rules (1952) since they struck me as ludicrous even at the time. They certainly sum up the strait-laced 'thou shalt not' mood of the place. We were warned that "Any misconduct committed in holidays or outside school hours may affect the honour of the School (capital 'S') and may have repercussions..." And so on. Perhaps all schools, at that time, had rules like these and almost Chinese regulations on uniforms, absences and sport. Their effect was, of course, to encourage us to reject the system and flout its laws. It was a matter of honour, for example, to defy the rule against smoking.
This led, during my fifth-form days, to a surreal interview with the Head, Nat Clapton. I was reported, along with two friends for having a fag in the Botanical Gardens. "What do you think you were up to?" he snarled at me. "Smoking, Sir" I replied. "And you?" to the second. "Holding the pack, Sir". "And I suppose you" he growled at the third, "were holding the match?" "No sir. It had gone out!" This appealed to Clapton's cynical, tinder-dry sense of humour and we were let off without a caning.
But the fact that punishment was so much part of our lives underlines another way in which the school failed to make the most of the quality of the boys and staff that it housed. The 'them and us' atmosphere was partly the fault of the immature little savages, but it was also part of the school's ethos. This gulf between them and us was, for me, breached only in a Staff Review towards the end of my time there. Part of the plot involved planting Rony Robinson on the front row of the balcony, dressed as for a football match and armed with a box of cabbages, to heckle the performers. The Deputy Head, a man of military bearing and zero humour, took it on himself to reprimand Rony just as he got into his stride.
Listening to this from the other side of the curtain, one of the staff commented to me "That silly old bugger's making a fool of himself again". It was the fringe events - school plays, concerts and reviews - that gave me the pleasures and tastes which have lasted long after the Latin, Greek and Chemistry have been forgotten. And that suggests that King Ted's wasn't just a forcing house. Indeed sport had, if anything, too much esteem: it was not until the sixth form that the hegemony of the football and cricket stars was eclipsed.
I recall the shock caused by the only good speaker we ever had at Speech Day - an old boy called 'Rabbit' Williams from, I think, Rhodes' House - when he began "It's usual on these occasions to say that everyone, not just the lucky prize-winners, deserves to be commended. That's rubbish. Let's face it: tonight is Swots' Night".
I haven't yet mentioned the education we received. The grammar schools have had a bad press from the educational establishment since they were abolished. But I wonder if anywhere in the state system one can today find the stimulus, the challenge and the sense of exploration that King Ted's provided. Or, to touch on more controversial ground, how do bright boys and girls who happen not to be born in the western wards of the city, obtain the passport that King Ted's and High Storrs once provided? A school that regularly sent thirty boys a year to Oxbridge and Durham - many from poor families - was making a serious contribution to equality of opportunity.
The best teachers - 'Tug' Wilson, 'Tick' Robinson, 'Spiv' Bramhall and many others - were as good as any I came across at Oxford or London.
Paradoxically, the most talented or conscientious were often not the best communicators. The distinguished classicist Marcus Watling was perhaps too engrossed in making up crosswords for The Times or translating Greek plays for Penguin Classics to spare much attention for us. 'Trotsky' Redstone, who spoke and looked like a central European scientific genius, gave up trying to explain the logic behind differential calculus, observing mysteriously that one day, when we were walking down the street, it would suddenly hit us. I've been walking the streets for thirty-five years since and I still haven't got it!
The most exciting teachers were often the least conventional. Jake Ingram, an ex-Yorkshire cricketer, kept us riveted by throwing pellets of chalk at anyone whose attention wandered and we learnt from him that mathematics were fun. There was an inspirational Greek literature master who went into a trance and acted each role, emerging to keep us alert by throwing a light bulb for us to catch. He also had a ferocious temper and one day, when he informed us that his light bulb had gone because "that silly Fairall boy simply wasn't looking" we learnt later that he had thrown the bulb at poor Fairall's head in a paroxysm. But he communicated the excitement of Greek tragedy and left none of us - including Fairall, I suppose - untouched.
For me, the arch-representative of this group was the odious history master, Burridge, who used sarcasm, posturing, humiliation and intellectual snobbery to force us to read and think more widely. I learnt more from him than from anyone. The education we received certainly had its defects. It turned us out over-specialised and, in our year, almost unanimously atheist. But it gave us an ability to reason and debate - and to get the results onto paper against the clock - which was not taught better anywhere in the country.
I certainly felt at no disadvantage when I came across the products of the best maintained public schools at Oxford and in the Foreign Office. I do not think that my son, who was a scholar at Winchester, enjoyed a better education.
One reason is that, unlike public school boys, we had a balanced existence. We had a proper home life. We did paper rounds. We had girlfriends - though King Ted's characteristically had a rule against school dances so that some of us had to cycle down to the Mecca Ballroom in the lunch-hour for Rock and Roll and talent-spotting. And that, as much as Greek theatre, Macaulay, Handel and French poetry, is what education is about.
I look back on my schooldays and King Edward's with great pleasure. Memories are less concerned with academic work than with extra-curricular activity.
There were only two records in the prefects' room; these we played repeatedly on the Dansette. Inexplicably they were "American Pie" by Don McLean and "Matthew and Son" by Cat Stevens. My friends were in a band called Blase. I used to carry the equipment.
One of my favourite teachers was H.B.D. 'Herbie' Dobson, who could always be diverted from teaching us French or German by questions about firearms, on which he had an encyclopaedic knowledge. Another was N.J. 'Norman' Barnes, who taught music with huge enthusiasm and humour.
It was a great delight when, following publicity about my appointment as Controller of Radio 1, he wrote to fill me in on his life and those of other former pupils. It was during my school days that I developed a lifelong hatred of sport. Even today I shudder at the thought of playing rugby in a blizzard on top of what appeared to be a mountain!
I must have been a nuisance to teach. Indeed, one school report described me as 'facetious'. A couple of years below me was a boy called Graham Fellowes who gave a marvellous performance as Billy Liar in the school play. Some years later, the first broadcast I ever made on Radio 1 was an interview with Graham, who was then operating under the name of Jilted John and having a chart hit. Now he calls himself John Shuttleworth and has just completed a very successful comedy series on Radio 1.
It is also a little known fact that BBC Radio's Boxing Correspondent, John Rawling, used to sit behind me in Economics at King Edward's!
I remember the school and its staff with affection and, twenty years later, would like to apologise for being a pain in the neck!!
Assembly. A collective act of religion. The compulsory requirement of the 1944 Education Act. The time - 9.00 a.m. any morning in the 1950s. The place - King Edward VII School Hall.
This was no religious ceremony. This was the defining moment of the KES school day where boys and masters met. For most of us this was the only moment of the school day when we saw the Headmaster. For some it was the only contact in an entire school career.
Nathaniel Clapton was no ordinary teacher. He did not appear to like politicians, parents or pupils. He was not seen in classrooms. His business was manufacturing examination success, and his tools were sarcasm, fear and the work ethic. Every morning before school, he walked across the playground to the great stone staircase at the front of the school. At the top of the steps he turned left into his office. Here he changed into his black gown. He was about to make his public appearance.
Meanwhile, the school was assembling in the hall opposite his office. A few seconds before nine, a praetorian guard of selfconscious sub-prefects and blue-ribboned prefects walked to the front of the hall. Their arrival heralded the Headmaster. Just before he entered, the hall went silent.
We had a hymn, then prayers for the day. But the Headmaster came into his own during the Lord's Prayer. "Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us - but not necessarily you, Laughton. Lead us not into temptation..." His eyes were open, scanning the hall all the time.
There were no cheers for exam successes or sporting triumphs. Schoolboys sated on wartime escape films knew better than to create an unnecessary disturbance on parade. The staff sat silent at the back. Mr. Clapton's tongue was a mighty weapon which had been under-used for fifteen hours. "There have been more complaints about behaviour at the Fulwood bus stop. I'd be extremely grateful if you could remember once and for all that, although I know you're animals, although the staff know you're animals, the general public don't yet know you're animals. Stop it!"
And so it went on, day after day, year after year. Nowadays Headteachers need to be parent-friendly, good committee men and women, skilled at extracting sponsorship from their communities, tactful, considerate.
Not so Mr. Clapton. He was a lonely man, and I am sure he preferred the company of his pupils to other forms of life, except the school cat. Some of us finally met him if we made it to the sixth form. "What do you plan to do next, boy?" "I want to go into oil, sir". "Oh.. a sardine!"
He liked sharing a joke on these occasions, and I suppose it was as useful as most career advice of the time. There were many fine teachers at King Edward's in those days, E.F. Watling, Gerry Claypole, Jack Hemming, Geoff Ingham, Tom Cook, Peter Points - and many more. There were school plays, school concerts, Scout troops, societies, sporting opportunities. But the abiding memory is of Mr. Clapton's assemblies. We were never left in any doubt that school was what came before work. We knew who was the Boss.
I remember with particular pleasure the four tours we (Mr. T.K. Robinson, Dr. B. Knowles and myself) arranged for the Cricket 1st XI in the Whitsuntide holidays 1962-65. As far as I know this is the only period at the school when such trips have taken place. Games were arranged through staff contacts and there were four full-day matches on each tour.
There were several enthusiastic cricketers on the staff who joined us, providing cars for the transport of the team and acting as umpires on the tour. The four tours were to North Yorkshire, Worcester and the Midlands, Norfolk and Scotland.
On the North Yorkshire trip we were joined by a parent with a Bentley car which proved an admirable form of transport for the team bag. At Ashville College, Harrogate, C.J. Linfoot hit a century
in a game that ended in a tie. The game at Clitheroe was memorable for the lovely ground at the foot of Pendle Hill. On the Midlands tour we arrived at The King's College, Worcester ground to find it under two feet of water. The river Severn had burst its banks a few hours earlier. (A photograph of the scene appeared in the next issue of the School magazine).
In Scotland the highlights were haggis, neeps and fatties for lunch in Musselburgh and the discovery that Scottish school teams wore white flannel shorts and knee-length stockings in the school colours. Our hotelier in Edinburgh insisted on giving some of us Scottish National Party ties.
Memories of the Norfolk tour are of a lovely Norwich School ground in the shadow of the great Cathedral and of our overnight stay before our game in March. The party was split between two small hotels and those staying in one discovered that their fellow guest, an attractive young lady, was appearing at the local night club, billed as an 'exotic dancer'. There was reported to have been some excitement.
Former pupils I meet occasionally still say how enjoyable these trips were and since we played against a great variety of schools in a fairly wide area they had considerable social value. It would be nice to think that one day they might be revived.
It was the year when the booking of the City Hall for prizegiving had failed to materialise. That grand public occasion, highlighted by speeches and musical entertainment and occupying most of an evening, was to be replaced by an afternoon session in the school's assembly hall. Early on the appointed day, furniture was put in place on the stage: rows of Governors' chairs and a large table to hold the piles of prize books left little room to manoeuvre.
During the lunch break the master in charge of prizes set about his task of arranging the books in the correct order for distribution. The Deputy Head, who customarily read out the names of prizewinners in small groups, would as usual pass each book to the Headmaster at the appropriate time and stand back. Thus the wooden lectern, whence the names were read out, required a convenient position on the table. And so it came to pass that the aforementioned lectern was positioned by fate's mischievous hand directly beneath the ceiling vent, a grating in the floor of a walk-in cupboard on the very top corridor.
The cupboard door happened to be unlocked and several pairs of eyes, unknown to the arranger below, were peering down. A plot was quickly hatched: one large bag of fine white flour, some string and a candle were procured locally.
The string was anchored and stretched taut to prevent the opened bag from toppling and disgorging its contents. Beneath the string the candle was set and, at the commencement of prize distribution, it was lit.
Meanwhile in the densely packed hall everything was running smoothly and according to plan. The Deputy Head was standing behind the lectern, not the Headmaster as the plotters may have surmised. The figure in the dark suit and black academic gown, distinguished by the white silk lining of his Cambridge MA's hood, had paused as the latest batch of prizewinners was shaking hands, receiving books and striding across the stage to thunderous applause.
At this moment the burning string snapped and silence fell. For without warning the heavens opened, and what appeared to be a shower of fine snow filtered down from the lofty ceiling - directly on target. It began to build up on the person of the Deputy Head. As if mesmerised he adopted a statuesque pose and remained like that for a while. The perfect white cone that had formed on the lens of his horizontally held spectacles should have appealed to his mathematical precision, but it was hard to pierce that inscrutable expression. At any rate with a superhuman effort he preserved an impassive dignity resembling the poet's personification of old Mount Atlas who stands visible to all, while his head and shoulders sustain a deep covering of virgin snow.
The Headmaster's first reaction expressed the joy of his relief at his lucky escape. A broad smile lit up his face, but he soon exchanged it for the stern looks which would suit the occasion better. Meanwhile a jostling column of lady teachers was filing out of assembly as fast as its feet could shuffle, hands over mouths stifling their mirth. When the Deputy Head and the ladies had returned, the programme was duly completed, the innocent audience was kept behind to satisfy pedagogic inflexibility, and the culprits awaited news of their operation at a safe distance, hardly daring to hope that the timing could have been so good and the aim so sure.
The most amazing day of my school life was Speech Day 1974. The occasion was being held at the school rather than at the City Hall because it was during the power strike and electricity was being saved. Various local dignitaries were in attendance. A plot had been hatched some weeks before which involved the idea of a massive amount of flour (about 8 lbs I think!) being dumped on the VIPs on stage.
This- was to be achieved by suspending a box containing the flour over a huge ventilation grill in the ceiling above the stage. The grill was accessed via a trap door in Dave Anderson's room on the top floor. The box was to be suspended by a wire and a candle was to be placed underneath the wire to be lit just before the meeting. The flame would then burn through the wire, the box would fall and the 8 lbs of flour would cascade through the ventilation grill down onto the speakers below.
The scheme was devised by Phil Beet who tragically was to be killed in a car accident later that year. All of us "in the know" never really believed he would pull it off. The strict regime of the school at that time meant that this was serious misbehaviour!
The day duly arrived. The look-outs did their job, Phil and accomplices lit the candle and we all sat down for Speech Day. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife because rumour had got round that something 'big' was going to happen. Twenty minutes into the meeting, the end of the world seemed to happen. A huge column of flour rained down from the ceiling exploding right over the head of Deputy Headmaster, Arthur Jackson, who was in midsentence.
Many people actually thought the roof was caving in so panic and pandemonium ensued. I was sitting in between Phil Beet and Mr. Charles Baker who was possibly the most fearsome master of that time. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or faint. Order was eventually restored and the Masters stormed off-stage to decide what to do. We all sat around for hours while a roll call was conducted, presumably under the belief that the culprit would not be present. In fact I was sitting next to him!
When the presentation of prizes eventually happened, the first name called out to receive a prize was that of Whitehead! This went down very well with the audience, but the dignitaries on stage did not seem to appreciate the joke. I don't think any proof was ever established though the culprit did spend an awful lot of time being questioned in the Headmaster's office. News of the incident reached the newspapers and for anyone present that day, it was a moment they would never forget.
"Be warned!" said Professor Armitage (Professor of Education at Sheffield University) "recently I had a student at King Edward's teaching French and only a fortnight ago he came to see me, sat in the chair in which you are sitting now, and in tears begged me to take him away". The boys were intellectually HIS master. They would not allow him to write a sentence on the board without criticising some point of grammar - real or imagined. "Although you have completed a research degree you will need to prepare your lessons carefully otherwise you will suffer the same fate!"
On arriving at the school for interview, entering through the main door up that long flight of steps, I was met by a gentleman whom I thought was the janitor but in fact turned out to be the Headmaster, Mr. N.L. Clapton!
I quickly found that Prof. Armitage's advice was well founded. The boys were extremely able and in the early 60's King Edwards was one of the most academic schools in the country. Almost all boys took their O-levels after four years and then some would go on to take A-level mathematics in one year at the end of the fifth form. One of my first lessons with 4.2 (the second stream in the fourth year) involved teaching the straight line propagation of light using the example of a pin-hole camera.
I can see the boys to this day sitting at the benches in Physics Lab.1 - Wager, Pollard, Searby, Taylor ... Pollard, I think, quickly pointed out to me that light did not always travel in straight lines as light from stars passing near the sun is curved as a result of the sun's gravity! If I remember correctly, ten or more of these boys later gained Natural Science scholarships to Oxford or Cambridge.
Although I had just completed three years scientific research the intellectual challenge of teaching at King Edward's School was an experience I will never forget. On my first day Mr. Clapton let it be known that the main sanction in the school was the use of the cane. On one occasion a colleague broke the cane (which was kept in the Staff room) whilst applying it to a boy's bottom. He sent the unfortunate victim to the Headmaster for another one.
The Headmaster grumpily followed him as he returned to my colleague who was then advised to "give him another for breaking my b.... cane!"
The staffroom was full of very able professionals who were dedicated to the welfare of the boys and the future of the school. Few of us at that time approved of the change to comprehensive education. I have no doubt that later generations feel equally loyal to the mixed comprehensive but for me it will always remain a pity that Leeds, Bradford, Newcastle and Manchester, to name but a few cities, have been able to retain their major boys' grammar schools but the King Edward's as I knew it had to disappear.
1972 was the year I joined the sixth form. We were the rear guard Grammar School. Those ahead of us and immediately behind us were there because of the 11+. We had all suffered the discipline of school uniform, prefects and lack of common room. But times were changing fast. Girls, of whom an unfortunate thirteen or so had drifted into the sixth form two years ago, were still unknown in our forms.
Our teachers were still dedicated to the highest ideals, driving us to match the speed of the best in the class, not as others have put it since, of slowing us, to share the pace of the most dilatory. My memory, sweetened by time, is of excellent teaching, competitive pupils who dealt mercilessly with the incompetent or worse still, ignorant, and school books that were almost extinct. I know my maths O-level text books were pre-war. I know also that my parents paid for all my A-level course reference works.
The story I heard, that the school was offered a language lab and refused it, saying it required books first (and not gaining either), is possibly only hearsay. What was undeniable at the time was that while we had known only consistent starvation of resources (causing, I suspect, no disadvantage to any of us pupils) we bore witness to a positively decadent spending that seemed to us to have little to do with education.
What was being spent was amazing, what it was being spent on, unbelievable. But there it was, and we grammar school leftovers were bemused bystanders, until I saw my chance. We had watched a classroom being taken out of commission and being floored with (and think of pre-war text books held together with ancient sellotape while digesting this) kitchen tiles, around 15 new electric cookers, kitchen tables, crockery, cutlery, saucepans and other utensils, and of course fridges to store food. Wonderful, we thought. We could warm up pasties for lunch. But no, these facilities were out of bounds for us. After all, it's not as though we were to convert to A-level Home Economics overnight. But there was one chink in the armour.
The huge covered yard area, next to Glossop Road, had spawned a new classroom underneath it. It was in fact a motor maintenance classroom, and included a couple of inspection pits, several full sets of top quality tools, and the services of a large, amiable but potentially disturbing ex-South African policeman as motor maintenance supervisor.
To most of our year, this class was of little significance. But to the owner of a 15 year-old British motorcycle being maintained, not only on a shoestring, but on a needs-only basis, this was Nirvana. We sixth formers had timetables that looked very much like the university timetables we were to inherit two years later. The core subjects were the priority, and other subjects could be filled in, on the basis of how what was available at periods of inactivity, matched what was actually of interest.
A judicious inspection of our ex-South African policeman's classes, revealed that two periods per week matched two of my otherwise unutilised parts of the timetable. Timetables at that time pre-dated computers and were the result of the impressive calculating capacity of the then Assistant Head Mr. Jackson ('Flynk' - to his pupils). We used to wonder whether ft was the limitations of this system that kept essential 0-level courses such as Economics out of King Edward's, even though by A-level it had become the second biggest class.
Our Economics teacher, who put trading into perspective in a way I've never forgotten, is still weaving the magic at Glossop Road today, albeit part-time. My first year Economics at Nottingham University looked pale beside Mr. Anderson's lucid delivery of the Oxford and Cambridge A-level syllabus.
Timetables, as designed by Mr. Jackson, were law. You could do what you could do. There were no special circumstances - so I dutifully took my 1958 Matchless 500 single into the covered motor maintenance shed two periods each week. At this point, I must admit to not endearing myself to the school authorities, since motorcycles had only been a problem to them since my friend, Mark Chitty, and I had acquired one each.
Ancient and unreliable, we worshipped them and in our peer group, at least, they earned some respect. The problems began when one of us narrowly missed a member of staff, sleepily heading into the building one morning. The incident was reported and the edict issued. "No motorcycle engines to be run within the school grounds". Obviously, we were expected to switch off at the gates and push the offending vehicles to the allotted spaces. No doubt well-intentioned, the edict increased the hazards for all parties. It became a game of skill and daring to reach terminal velocity just at the gates, when we would dutifully cut the engine, coasting in, in deadly silence, all six hundredweight of man and machine, manoeuvring skilfully between arriving pupils and staff.
The confrontation came in the second term. I'd had a persistent problem with the electrics on the bike and snow and salt hadn't helped. I had resolved to replace the control box in my chosen maintenance period after break. The project took longer than I expected and I was late leaving my 'other world' and had been spotted. A minion came to lever me out of my Economics lesson to see Mr. Jackson.
He was livid. I could actually see his point. The maintenance workshop hadn't been built for me, and I wasn't meant to be spending lesson time in there if there were academic studies I could be tackling.
But Geography and General Studies hadn't appealed and I reckoned my eleven O-levels would see me through. He didn't like my attitude. In fact, he liked it so little, I was sent home to "shave off my moustache" (quite a compliment at 17) and to use the two periods a week for study. I was banned from any further visits to the maintenance workshops.
We knew we were at the end of an era. There was no resentment of the system that had spawned us, or the system that followed us. We probably had a sneaking sympathy for staff that had survived our vindictive ambition who had now to learn how to motivate remedial pupils. Possibly even between one lesson and the next. But it was probably only a passing thought. Most of us had little idea what we were going to do with our lives. We just knew we weren't going to be teachers.
An extract from the speech given at the Old Edwardians' Dinner on 8th April 1971 by Jack Newman, President of National Federation of Plumbing and Heating Engineers.
"I've been to OE. Dinners on several occasions and I have heard speeches by men who were my contemporaries at KES. Men who have distinguished themselves in peace and war. Men who were University Dons, who have been advisors to Prime Ministers. Men of the Church who had reached high office, men who in our own city and everywhere else had risen to the top of their professions and men who, by their own ability have led the industries of Sheffield for many years. Men who were Lord Mayor and Master Cutler, in fact the top in every sphere of activity.
And now your President asks me, a product of Hunters Bar Council School and scholarship lad of 1919, when three quarters of the intake were paying, me - who attained the high rank of Lance Corporal in the O.T.C. in 1921, who managed to get 5 credits in the School Certificate Exam, who never made the first or second elevens at either football or cricket, who never ran in the cross country and whose only claim to fame in the school sports was the loss of his cap under the tarpaulin and a useless endeavour to somersault over the pig net. I'll never know why I ran with my cap on, because I wasn't bald then! Your President asks me to propose the toast to the O.E. Association.
It's so long since I became a member, 1923, that I should know more about the School than most men here. It is a funny thing what an educational establishment such as KES can do to everyone who went there. What a sense of superiority it gives over those who only went to the Central School or later to any of the other similar institutions. How it stays with you throughout your life and without getting sentimental, how much the old school spirit means. But now I hear they have GIRLS at the old school - GIRLS! They are all right in the right place at the right time and perhaps I might add in the right position, but to be Old Edwardians!!
Or should it be Old Edwardiennes?
How is the Association going to cope with this breaching of the bastions? Shall we be coming here in future accompanied by our wives or sweethearts or other female encumbrances? Shall we be told we've had enough to drink? Shall we have to be careful of our speech or the jokes we resurrect? Shall we have to leave out the punch line in the limericks? Will there be in a few years time a Barbara Castle addressing you and proposing a Toast to the Association? Perish the thought!
A plague on the people who have perpetrated this perilous piece of pedantry. Or, am I wrong? Is it that the boys of today want to look so much like their sisters that without turning them upside down you can't tell which from t'other and our Lords and Masters decided that they might as well learn together as lean together. I should think that the officers of the Association have a hard time in front of them to decide what to do!
In 1969 King Edward VII School became a co-educational comprehensive school. A school magazine of the period carried this collection of mainly girls' impressions.
"Crosspool School is now a far better school named King Edward VII School..."
"Crosspool School, as it was before, was uncrowded, happy and moreover everyone knew each other. But now, in an overcrowded, disjointed situation, we are the guinea-pigs of whoever is trying to make the two schools as one ...."
"The atmosphere has changed; liberalism has become stronger and there has been a general relaxation of school rules ...."
"We had homework last year but not as much as this year. The teachers seem to be pushing work into us, as we have over an hour's homework every day ...."
"The fuss made about having girls in the school is simply a reflection of the stupidity of the original single-sex education."
"We should have our own smoke room for those old enough to smoke ...."
"A new and very good winter sport has been introduced to the pupils of Darwin Lane - Cross Country ...."
"We have a great pitch at Darwin Lane but we have to play at Whiteley Woods or Castle Dyke."
"We are apathetic, we realise it - but we are not much bothered by it. Very few of us are Christians of any strong conviction, and the traditional Bible reading, hymn-singing, prayer-praying assembly has become a bore. To everyone at KES this much is obvious."
"The prefects are too big-headed."
"I enjoy the relative freedom of the Upper School. I can do homework on the nights I want, and the amount of work I put in depends on me."
"The fourth year ought to be able to talk to the girls - we should be able to stop in school and do homework."
"One cannot be certain that one will be able to see the headmaster at all times."
"The house situation should be abolished as it does no good and no-one takes any notice of it."
"....They may regard our indifference (relatively speaking) to the 'fair name of the school' as a degenerative step towards arrogant irresponsibility. If so, we can but point out that to us KES is no more than a collection of facilities for our education; necessary for providing what we require (and, as far as possible, what WE THINK we require) from the facilities at a school's disposal."
"1969 was a bad year for the disciplinarians with the birth of the S.A.U. (Schools Action Union)."
"Why does the gym at Glossop Road resemble a second-class bear-pit?"
"I honestly don't know how that prefect bends down without the boys whistling or her dress splitting, she wears it that short and tight."
"At first I felt like a worm in a million tons of earth...."
"The first day or two we were treated like some strange objects from outer space and were even photographed for the newspapers, but now things have settled down and we are beginning to feel more at home..."
"As a newcomer from an all-girls High School I know what it must feel like to be a masculine noun in the first declension. Apart from the comparative vastness of the building, one of the first things I noticed was the boys' pride in the school institution, and the relaxed manner, sometimes tending towards indiscipline ...."
"From hearsay one arrived at the impression that the boys were hard-working and well-mannered. The impression was soon shattered as I watched the scrapping and bullying between boys whilst getting on and off the bus. These new impressions continued inside the school. Once in the building one is confronted by hundreds of boys shouting and generally messing around, and the masters seem loathe to discipline them ..."
"The general discipline is not strict and the general atmosphere of the school is relaxed and happy. The hardest thing to get used to is the calling of the boys by their surnames. This to me seems very impersonal, and being the only girl in my subject, I feel slightly embarrassed at being the only person called by a Christian name ..."
"The teachers treated us rather warily at first, seeming to be afraid of offending us - this however, wore off after a day or two! The younger boys of the school seemed to be rather horrified at our arrival, and looked at us as if we would ultimately bring the school to a terrible and untimely end...."
"There is an attitude to work and learning which I think is marvellous and have never seen in another school...."
Does any contemporary reader recognise her contribution? (Editor)
Once a week we had Middle School Assembly and on this morning the Headmaster, attired as usual in his black gown, was accompanied on the platform by the Head of Middle School and the Tutor for Third Year Girls.
Some years previously Bible readings had been replaced by pieces of suitable edification. These were becoming harder to find but on this occasion 'The Times' had saved the day with a letter on the economic plight of the nation. The Headmaster began to read: the assembly began to yawn... Suddenly, in full flow, with a puzzled look on his face, the Head stopped. Instant silence - this usually meant trouble for someone. Not today. 'P.S.B.R.' the Head read it again. Whatever can it be?
Pupil turned to pupil and the 'buzz' began. Mr. Jones looked angrily to the left, while Mrs. Cooper eyed the Third Year Girls on the right even more menacingly. "Can you help us, Mr. Jones?" asked the Head. "I beg your pardon, Sir", replied Mr. Jones whose attention was now focused on the trouble-makers on the back row. "P.S.B.R." said the Head, a little crossly.
A moment's thought. "I wonder" said Mr. Jones "is it something to do with British Rail" An undercurrent of laughter now supplemented the noise. Mrs. Cooper was not amused and was soon busy noting the names of Third Year girls to be 'dealt with afterwards'. It took a moment before the Head could capture her attention and repeat the question "Can you help us with P.S.B.R.?"
The school hushed. Did she know the answer? Ever-eager to please, the Third Year Tutor gathered her thoughts and then announced in her assembly voice "It's the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds". Everyone fell about; even the Head coughed; no-one enjoyed the moment more than the Third Year girls. It was, indeed, an edifying start to another memorable day at King Edward's.
I was among the first intake of pupils in the first year of the school becoming comprehensive. I moved down from the Crosspool site in my third year. The education standards were excellent and I was in the top stream of pupils taking their O-levels in the fourth form instead of the fifth form as usual which was one of the benefits of the Grammar School. I also took an A-level in the first year of the sixth form when I would have been taking my O-levels at a comprehensive school.
A few of the teachers maintained their regimented approach to education, such as Mr. Adam in Languages who made all the pupils sit in alphabetical order. I seem to recall Mr. C. Baker who taught Religious Studies and ruled with a rod of iron. These methods were not harmful and I am sure would improve the educational standards of some schools today. The boys were most courteous and polite to us and even opened doors in the first few weeks, but it did not take long for us to be treated as one of them. They did not seem to resent the intrusion of females to their school.
The teachers maintained their high standards and I succeeded in obtaining 7 O-levels and 2 A-levels, mostly in Ancient Languages which I felt the school was very good at. By the time I left school, the grammar school traditions had been fully integrated into the comprehensive traditions.
The other good things which happened as part of the grammar tradition were Carol Concerts held in the Cathedral, Prize Giving held at the City Hall and School Concerts also held in the City Hall.
I was at King Ted's from 1974-76. I got four A-levels and was a bit of a Thesp! The first girls at the school were my age but of course it had been co-ed for five years. I did two plays - the school play was a very big deal and I now realise how much work went into it. The first was Hobson's Choice (dir. Mr. Ferretti) with Jonathan Jones - a brilliant actor - as Willie and Trevor (Tinker) Bell as Hobson.
Graham Fellowes, then a 5th year was one of Hobson's younger daughters' suitors. He went on to be "Jilted John". I saw him try to pick up Gail Tilsley on Coronation Street once. Now he is a cult comic character - John Shuttleworth; you can catch him late on Radio 4. Graham took the eponymous lead in the following year's production, directed by Nick Jones, Billy Liar. I had the Julie Christie role (but she's aged better than me!) and Graham put it about that I was a rubbish kisser!
I felt very privileged to be a prefect as we had our own common room. Above the tea-urn there was a hand-written notice from the conscientious Janice "Please empty the slops bucket on Friday afternoon or mould will grow". Thereafter to every posted instruction in the Prefects' Room was added the warning " or mould will grow".
"Please close the door ... or mould will grow"
Mary Milton to see Mr. Sharrock at break ... or mould will grow"
The slops bucket was disgusting. Mould DID grow. There was a robust and intimidating boy in our year called Ian Wragg and a prefect called Brian (Stan) Smith. Stan was very quiet and kind - this cannot be too emphatically stated - but one end of term he got into a scrap with Ian Wragg and threw the slops bucket all over him. Heave ...
The Prefects' Room also had in it a huge papier-maché chicken. Julian Burr could throw his weight about too so it was a gesture of some defiance when his blazer was left, no - hidden inside the chicken.
Once, on my birthday, I decided to be rebellious and wear jeans, which were forbidden. It seems mad now telling an 18 year old they can't wear jeans. This was the very day that Mr. (Charlie) Baker sought me out to read at Assembly. He was very persistent but I refused point blank saying it was my birthday. In fact the truth was I didn't want to be caught out in jeans. A lot of rumours surround Mr. Baker, I don't know what became of him. I liked the Deputy Head, Mr. Jackson, very much. I have no idea why he was called Flink. He enabled me to study Spanish because I was the only person in our year who wanted to do it. I studied with the 7th form when I was in the 6th and with the 6th when I was in the 7th. I got a B.A. in Spanish which I hope justifies his efforts.
The worst experience I had at KES was when I was chosen to enter a competition called 'Top Two' which intended to find two teenagers to represent the Young People of South Yorkshire. Graham Fellowes and I were the nominees from KES and we won the Sheffield heat. This meant we went into the final which was held during a weekend at the Queen's Hotel, Barnsley. It was the worst weekend of my life. I was nearly the oldest and had to try and get on with, nay, make an impression on these dreadful, ignorant louts from Donnie and Rotherham and Barnsley. There was a lot of illegal Babycham drinking and consequent snogging in the evening and we had to vote for one finalist we considered 'Top Two'. I decided to vote for Graham and whichever girl knew how to use her knife and fork! But none of them did. Graham said I was just a snob. Too right!
We used to get Punch in the library and the cartoon captions were re-written to amuse and embarrass fellow students. You were given an alter-ego and it was fun working out who was who. I was known as Glenda because of the acting and was mortified every time my name appeared. However we all knew that it was much better to die of shame to the insinuations and revelations in the library copy of Punch than not to be mentioned at all. Punch was doctored, usually by the 8th form - a select band in third year sixth, not necessarily repeating A-levels, who had a wealth of privileges.
I used to get the 50 bus home and can confirm these rumours - KES boys did help Birkdale :boys with their homework and they did throw Birkdale boys' caps out of the window!
Those who were sixth formers in 1983 will, by this title, be reminded of Christmas Pudding. Wax ones to be precise. Along with blackjack between lessons one of the distractions of the day came in the form of the Young Enterprise scheme.
The idea was to set up a model working company supervised by our economics master and under the auspices of a national organisation. Just the ticket for the Thatcherite 80's. There was no shortage of recruits - largely as we were sponsored by Whitbread and our first meeting was convened in the private pub within the brewery.
We elected an executive committee. I stood for everything and my first success in an election was last year (elected to the General Medical Council 1994) - presumably demonstrating the benefits of an electorate that doesn't personally know the candidates. We brain-stormed our new corporation's name, King Whit, using equal measures of KES, Whitbread and free beer. We issued our shares and sold them to our parents and fourth formers. Then we pondered the form in which our youthful enterprise was to be manifested. We thought hard. Car washing? Baby-sitting? Military consultancy?
Luckily our teacher and leader had an idea up his sleeve. For some reason he had access to several hundred candles in the form of Christmas puddings and what was more, the turkeys were being fattened as we spoke - a perfect business opportunity. Only they were a few years old and a bit dusty, and the custard looked distinctly, well - green! We went into production re-icing the cake as it were. We soon diversified into home-grown candles and Christmas cards (if I remember rightly). We distributed from a stall in the school foyer and directly to our shareholders. I think the odd local shop might have taken a few even odder puddings!
Things ran smoothly and the novelty began to wear thin - at this stage the author tried to agitate a blue-collar strike over management perks and overtime payments. In fact, two of us walked out for a whole hour, but the relentless pudding output was not disrupted. They got everywhere, even in the prefects' room for all I know. Then came the conference where all the schools in the region had their various tat compared. We narrowly missed the prize, despite an outrageously constructed stall. After this we were instructed to buckle down and take the Young Enterprise diploma. We all passed and one juvenile tycoon gained distinctions, given out at a dinner at the Cutler's Hall which provided a forum for all the chairpersons to present their reports and cooked books and generally to insult the rival schools.
Armed with this experience of trade, oppressive management techniques, wheeler-dealing, backstabbing and politics, I rather naively entered medicine with no inkling that these would all prove to be essential skills!! Still, the Christmas dinner centrepiece requires no thought - the original is still being burnt!
Occasionally a vignette of the School's life reaches the public.
In 1981, Professor E.C. Wragg (Professor of
Education at Exeter University and Old Edwardian) was quoted in the Daily
Express as follows:
"One of the finest teachers I had was Norman Barnes, who taught me music. His lessons were a shambles. But there were lulls in the storm. He was a complete enthusiast and gave us a lifelong love of music."
"People remember, well into their 80s or 90s what happens at school. They can tell the most vivid stories. Now the pupils are back at school, something will happen that will be retold in the year 2050."
The said Norman Barnes, who was a music teacher at the school for more than three decades, felt moved to reply to Professor Wragg.
"Dear Professor Wragg,
My attention has been drawn to a passage in the Daily Express of 9th September 1981 in which you mention me by name and say of me (I quote) "his lessons were a shambles". My first impulse was to ask you for the name of your solicitors - or even for those of your seconds so that this contumely could be met with the treatment it deserves, either through the law or by cold steel.
However, I then thought that you had perhaps not realised that you were in fact a privileged observer, albeit in its earlier stages, of a new teaching technique which later become known simply as 'F.D.'. I myself indeed had not, at that time fined down the concept so that it could be encapsulated in just two words. It was another teacher who, by an intuitive leap, arrived at the paradox which is the nub of my Method.
This came about as follows: The Headmaster of another Grammar School (Grammar Schools, by the way, were in those days also known as Incomprehensive Schools because in no way could they comprehend what was going to hit them in twenty years time). However, I digress ... the Headmaster of the said Grammar School, known as High Storrs, rang up the Headmaster of KES and said "I have a new music chappie here and he doesn't seem to be coping very well. Could he come to you for a day and observe your man at work?" Thus it was that for one whole day this music teacher dogged my footsteps up and down the corridors, in and out of my varied habitats, marvelling at what went on around me. (Goodness knows what he would have made of my antics in more recent years among a tribe known as 'Remedials' whom I found quite incomprehensible, and they me).
Whether this experience furthered his competence and/or his subsequent career I know not, BUT as he left the building he said to a colleague of mine "Cor!" (or some such barbarism) "I couldn't carry on like that! He (me, you understand) believes in FREE DISCIPLINE". So to this day, when the happy chaos that surrounds me is commented on, I explain that it is not chaos but F.D. and that once I raise the baton the serried ranks will produce a performance of high order and discipline (in the antique sense). I cannot, however, claim 100% success for my Method. An Old Edwardian of a later generation than yourself complained recently that he could remember my jokes perfectly but not the facts which they were designed to imprint on his memory. For instance (he said) I remember your saying that AN OSTINATO IS NOT A BL CAR ASSEMBLED IN JAPAN, but I don't remember what an Ostinato is! Doubtless you find that other systems have their little flaws and hiccups? By the way - for those of your students who, like me, just can't remember all those girls' names, I make a gift of my solution to the problem.
Just two names suffice: all good girls I call AGATHA (and a linguist who declaimed Goethe and Heine at the Speech Days of 54 and 55 won't need that explaining) all poisonous ones SALMONELLA. (Scenario: "Sit down Salmonella' (screech). My name's NOT Salmonella!")
Reading further in the scrap from the Daily Express, I see one or two expressions which serve to mitigate the offence, so I will insist that you write to me telling the route by which you reached your present eminence and whether you have news of others of your days at KES. With all good wishes. All is forgiven.
"I remember you", I say, "You wore bright red lipstick and a white polo neck jumper. You hung out on the bottom corridor with all the intimidating people."
"I remember you", she says "your mum was always giving you peanut butter sandwiches. And you were really annoying."
But amazingly enough, from this dazzlingly unsuccessful beginning, we develop a super-glue friendship. Imagine, if you will, five Old Edwardians meeting up for dinner. It requires little suspension of disbelief. So imagine, then, that the five were not particular friends at school. Indeed, they barely knew each other. (Still, your pulse is hardly racing). The five in question do not work together, nor are they involved in common pursuits or leisure activities. But they share one thing - a village. And that village is called Hong Kong.
Three years ago, I decided to move there, an intrepid explorer in search of TinTin-esque adventure. However, I didn't bank on the world-hugging tentacles of King Teds. The illusion of isolation lasts maybe ten months. Then comes the phone call. Yup, she of the intimidating white polo neck and red lipstick (or was it red polo neck and white lipstick?) Clare Connolly of 5J hits the island and we decide to share a flat. Hong Kong has still not recovered from the shock. Six months later, I am applying for jobs in television. One time, as I fax through my C.V., I accidentally send my covering letter twice. The second letter is a revised version, intended to make me sound more assertive, professional and accomplished.
The simultaneous arrival of both instantly shatters any image of sophistication (or even competence) I am attempting to create. So mortifying is the mistake, I immediately write myself off as one of the more cerebrally challenged applicants and forget all about it. Two days later an Executive Producer at Start TV - Tim Usborne - calls to invite me for interview. My astonishment supersedes any other emotion, and once again I am rendered stunningly inarticulate. "You were at King Edward's weren't you?" he says. "I must have been in the same year as your sister." I mutter a silent prayer to the Gods of nepotism and networking. But Tim's priorities are quite clear. "Just a short interview, mind, then I really want to catch up on the King Ted's gossip."
A few months after this, Zoe Rick turns up. In former times we have both creaked under the pressure of a 'Velarde' measure of homework. (Namely, one that can see you comfortably through the summer vac and well into your mid-thirties). But now, she has finished a French degree and is looking for work. I have been
tutoring modern languages and am locked into a contract I now desperately want to break. A deal is struck. Zoe's new boss is enchanted with her and releases me without so much as a murmur (I now recall with indignation) and the domino-push continues. So I have become hardened to the whims and flukes of coincidence. Or think I have. One night last year I walk into a club in central Hong Kong. It is a little after 4 a.m. when things are not always at their most coherent. A gorgeous dancer slicks past me and then retraces her steps pointedly. I wonder if I'm in trouble. "Emily Maitlis" she says. "Polly Dyson" I reply on autospeed, barely registering the fact that we last met about eight years ago, eight thousand miles away in a PE lesson. It's funny what a weapon a full name is. Within seconds, we were both reduced to snivelling twelve year olds. The reunion continues. But now instead of exchanging tedious 'small world' pleasantries, I begin to wonder:
What did they actually teach us at school to send us in droves to a barren rock in the middle of the South China Sea? Were we nurtured on Colonial fervour? Did Young Enterprise seize our collective entrepreneurial imagination a little too forcefully? Was the Chinese National Anthem piped imperceptibly through every crevice of Lynwood? Did the radical Michael Lewis impart subliminal pro-Communist propaganda through our assembly snoozes? But the place is perhaps immaterial. I am starting to believe a tour of the world would reveal many reunions similar to ours. Teddites who can recall the 'batman' cape of Russell Sharrock; the beady twinkle that teased above the half-moons of Dorothy Hall; the draconian 'gatings' of Mrs. Cooper (you note that even nine years on she remains too awe-inspiring to possess a first name); the glare of John Gallacher that could erupt without warning into laughter; the spirit of Elvis exorcised annually from Nick Jones ... Surely, surely it's naive to think we in Hong Kong are alone in our experience? So instead I imagine little pockets of people, in Reykjavik perhaps, Iran, Java or Eritrea - where troops gather around Eskimo tea or Indonesian rat wine to unravel the cabalistic mysteries of King Ted's.
When I hear the name 'King Ted's', thoughts of my school days come flooding back to me. I remember I cried on my very first day there, feeling unloved and lonely. I had sacrificed my old friends for the sake of education. At the age of fourteen, who cares about education? I lived and laughed for the day! I didn't know it then, but things were about to change. I remember a run-in with my PE teacher when I cracked a joke about his smoking attitudes, not knowing that he was behind me until I turned around and saw the fiery look on his face, and jumped into the swimming pool for cover.
I remember my Jimi Hendrix impersonation for Red Nose Day in front of a crowd of over two hundred screaming students. I was wearing a wig, designer flares, a shirt straight from the sixties and I also had a wooden guitar (Fender 'Shattercaster', made in technology) that worked, i.e. it broke into at least twenty 'pieces once I bounced it against the stage floor. My first (and last) experience of stardom!
I remember all the teachers dressed up for Red Nose Day too. They were a weird lot! Also the end of term 'revues' where would-be actors, singers and comedians had' the courage to get up on stage only to be laughed off, booed off or even worse, thrown off stage. I remember the countless games of chess and bridge, some I'd rather forget. It was through chess that I found my very first friend, and soon after I was surrounded by them and their wit, humour and goals in life (however strange and perverse!).
I remember the Biology field trips, especially the one to Filey, where approximately forty students, trampled on, threw, stole, squashed, mushed, burnt and even ate the natural fauna and flora present, and also managed to transfer as much of it back to King Ted's as possible. The next two weeks the whole school stank like a big jar of jellied eels! It's amazing how the eco-system manages to stabilise each year. Maybe there's a PhD in it for some bright spark, on "The Response of the Eco-system in Filey, to Forty Hyperactive A-level Students from King Ted's". I remember my Technology project called RALF-Robotic Automated Line Follower, a mixture of wood, metal and state of the art GCSE circuitry, thrown together to transport those valuable office documents from one side of the building to another. The most important thing I learnt from it is that there's a huge difference between theory and practice. I remember the sad excuses some of my friends had for bunking PE. For example "My dog ate my shorts" (slap) or "I forgot my note sir" (slap) or "It hurts when I do this, sir!" "Well don't do it then" (SLAP). I remember my 'Youth Action' where every Wednesday afternoon for two years I would help around at Broomhill First School where the kids looked up to me for guidance, maturity and a fine example of manners.
To me these memories, haphazardly put together, are what come to mind when I think of 'ye olde school'. Not just the great history behind the place but rather the history we created together, in a safe enjoyable and happy environment. There'll come a time when I won't be able to recall these sweet, fun-loving memories and all I'll have is that warm feeling inside of me that I was once, and still am, an Old Edwardian. Surely that's enough!
In 1990 I had the difficult task of choosing which secondary school I wished to attend. I had a few to choose from but the one that stood out above the rest was King Edward's. Not only did it have an excellent reputation in Sheffield, but it was also much more widely respected. Apart from this I had a link through my grandfather who attended the school in the 1930s.
There were two major differences between my grandfather's time and my own. The first was that Lower School (previously Crosspool Secondary Modern School) now houses the first three years of study for ages 11 to 14 and the original school, which is now Upper School, takes students who are doing GCSEs and A-levels. This split-site arrangement replaced the former single main school in the Clarkehouse Road building. The original adjacent Junior School, taking boys from eight upwards had long since been abolished. The second and biggest difference, however, was that the school now accepted girls as well as boys.
Lower School, based at Darwin Lane, is a relatively new building compared to Upper School. It appeared to be a very sterile building, made up of straight lines and corners, but as I was to find out, it was the people inside who made the place 'come alive'.
The biggest character at Lower School was Mrs. Cooper, who was a wonderful lady just as long as you stayed on the right side of her. She would stand at the front of the dinner queue and if anyone tried to push in or was making too much noise, then the corridors would reverberate with her booming voice. Even if you had not done anything wrong, you still froze and started to pray that it was not you who was going to be on the receiving end of her dreaded temper. Looking back, the years at Lower School were not too difficult and were very enjoyable but as one teacher told us at Upper School "The fun's over, no enjoying school from now on, just hard work and exams". In fact I really enjoyed my first three years at Upper School, including exams!
The main building is architecturally more magnificent than Lower School and it also has the most amazing atmosphere. All of the boards that boast the achievements of previous students exude pride and success, showing present students what can be achieved given the backing and the hard work. King Edward's is full of history, but it is also a very modern school in its main views and policies.
Students are listened to and there is a strong feeling of mutual student/teacher respect. In a time when the state of education is uncertain, King Edward VII School still manages to uphold its reputation for giving a first-class education to people from a wide range of cultures, backgrounds and abilities. This year a new building is to be opened, next to the main school, which shows that King Edward's is ready to serve the next generation of students well into the next century.
The bus left the stop. I was a bit nervous but was more excited than anything else. The bus was quieter than I had expected. I found out that this was because the other years, for some reason about settling in, hadn't been allowed to come on the bus.
When the bus reached its destination I didn't know how to feel. A part of me said "That building's huge, I'll never be able to find my way about". The other half said "Wow! That playground's huge!"
None of us really knew what to do. There was a whole mass of other kids who didn't know what to do so we joined them to make a sea of uncertainty. We then went to the hall. I'm not sure how we got there. I just flowed along with the others. In the hall we were told who was in our class. Our class - basically a little puddle of uncertainty - went up endless flights of stairs to our classroom. The teacher talked. My brain decided that there was rather a lot of learning and told me that it was slightly nervous. The lessons were as I expected (the whole two of them) just introducing many basic formalities. I went home thinking - "there's a lot of stuff to remember and a lot of stuff more, aargh!" Although it all seems silly now.
When you were at this school, didn't you find its policies sometimes hard to understand? For instance, the school's policy on holding hands in public.
As a 13-year old girl I have experienced a lot of controversy on this subject. A short while ago we were told that "We at KES just don't do that, think of the reputation it would get us with visitors". And naturally, me and a group of friends, eager to show signs of rebellion, drew up a petition. The majority of people who signed this petition agreed that holding hands was a perfectly normal and acceptable sign of affection.
But when it comes to the crunch, do people visiting the school really find this show of care rude? It is to my understanding that people visiting KES would find it quite the opposite. In fact, to me, it would suggest a caring and friendly atmosphere. I find this, and other policies here quite hard to understand, wouldn't you agree? Or were things different in your day...?
Lessons are voluntary - that is to say, you must either attend all or face the consequences. After being told repeatedly in Y12 Tuesday morning assembly that, once chosen, complementary time psychology lessons were not an option, I felt that I should show some interest and attend.
The topic for the day was IQ testing. Well the battle was on. Trevor, the year's most charismatic personality, and myself are both Mensans. Being such, we had both endured the mental strain of IQ testing before.
However, devastated to find out that my result had been one point higher than his own, Trevor was desperate to get even. We were given half an hour to complete the test, and as Dr. Burnet dished out the test sheets, I glanced at Trevor to catch a smug smile on his face; he was certain that his ego would be restored. It was pure revenge.
The first week the tests were performed, I again came out with one more point than my Mensa friend! The following week, on Trevor's request, we were to take another test (he was still intent on getting even). So the test was repeated, a series of anagrams, number sequences, picture sequences and other puzzles mostly followed by the daunting question - "What comes next?"
Much to Trevor's joy and delight he managed to score above me on this occasion, thus proving - according to Trevor's valued opinion - the unreliability of the tests.
Needless to say he didn't ask to repeat the test again "Quit while you're ahead" was his philosophy, but not until you are ahead! Oh well, as he says, they are unreliable as far as intelligence testing goes! Trevor - I demand a re-match...
We class schools, you see, into four grades - Leading School, First-rate School, Good School, and School!
There have been many events, during the past six years that I have attended King Edward VII School, which would qualify this school for many of the above brackets, but one which stands out in my mind took place in 1994. The British Education system was (and it still is) undergoing a tempestuous time, mainly due to the lack of public funding and the blasé attitude of the present government. In March 1994 some students at Upper School took part in a protest against the Government's policy of reducing the value of grants to students in Higher Education.
Many of the Upper School students walked out on an organised 'strike' and marched to the central building for Education on Leopold Street.
Although this event was mainly hijacked by members of certain extremist parties, it certainly shows a certain 'school of thought' or ability of students at KES to understand and oppose decisions and policies made and presented by those in power.
This action, although opposed by the Headteacher, illustrates the fact that King Edward VII School merits the qualification of a 'Leading School' in that it has more than fulfilled, in many cases, its function to encourage and assist its pupils to flourish into considerate, individual members of society, able to interpret the society in which they live, yet also to confront and oppose many of the factors they find to be mistaken, or misplaced, both independently and as a group.
In short, the school performs its major role most confidently; to nurture and assist its pupils to leave as fully aware, motivated members of the society at large; people who appreciate the fact that they have an important role to play in the evolution of society and the power to change things they find offensive and ideologically unsound.
Since I have been going to King Ted's I feel that it has become almost a second home.
Teachers in annoyance have often asked but mostly stated the fact that "you are here to learn". In truth, however, school is a place the pupils go to meet and talk with one another. Any intellectual enrichment is merely a by-product of this.
The stone cold Victorian visage which confronts each new pupil belies the warm, cosmopolitan nature of its populace. The tribal bands who roam the corridors, laughing and joking, filling the building with noise (which can be particularly annoying during examinations) are at first intimidating, but later ignored by all but the school's 'elder statesmen'.
During schooltime the building seems to absorb the energy of its occupants as the sound of running feet reverberates around until the bell sounds a death knell for activity. The eerie nature of the silent rooms seems almost to imprint itself on the odd student who shuffles along mouse-like, caught surprised by the brevity of the lunch hour. The entire character of the school has been shaped by countless generations and no amount of brave words by a naive newcomer can change the pattern of life within the school.
One terrible recollection of King Edward VII School was in my first year of A-level study. A few weeks after the start of term, as keen and enthusiastic as I was, I decided on the advice of my French Teacher, to go and watch a French video, in my free time, in the dark room of Melbourne Annexe (the old 'Headmaster's House' which was being used for extra classroom space at that time).
After about an hour of watching the film I had become really engrossed in the story; I looked at my watch and saw there were only ten minutes to close of school. I decided to carry on watching for another few minutes.
The next time I turned to my watch, I saw it was 4.30 p.m. I looked out of the room and saw the cleaners going about their duties and some teachers still working in the staffroom. I decided to carry on watching, thinking that I would go when the cleaner entered the room. When I next lifted my head from the screen it was already 5.30 p.m. I decided it was certainly time to go. I opened the door of the small dark room and peered out. Complete darkness met my eyes. Gradually my heart began thumping harder and louder. I slowly crept along the corridor looking into a few rooms.
Each time I saw no-one and with each extra room I became more frantic. Then I turned on the light and the sound of a shrill burglar alarm met my ears. I ran down the stairs, rushed to the front door and tried to open it. Thank heaven it was a Yale lock, I could open it from the inside.
I walked into the porch and calmly tried the porch door. This time, however, I wasn't so lucky. The old wooden door was firmly locked. I was becoming ever more worried as it was Friday and the prospect of spending a weekend in an old 19th century mansion didn't seem appealing.
I remember my mother's words of "always stop, stand still and stay calm in a crisis" and took heed. I began to think rationally. I decided to go back into the house and ring the school. I turned around and to my horror saw the yale-lock door had slammed shut behind me. I was trapped in the porch! All rational and logical thought escaped me.
I began to push the door, it would not budge at all! All the time the burglar alarm had kept ringing in my ears. It did not do much to help me think clearly. Eventually with one big push, with the whole weight of my body behind the door, the door flung open.
At last, freedom! I ran down the path back to the school and straight down to the Headteacher's office. I knocked on the door and then began to formulate my story. Mr. Lewis answered and I began slowly and humbly to recount my predicament. One can guess what his response was!
When I think about the time I spent at school, the things which initially seem to stand out are exams - the keys to desired doors leading to the next stage of the academic journey. Yet is is impossible to look back on KES in the two dimensional terms of slips of paper. What lies slightly below the surface are the days, the effort, the attitudes of many - which not only made those results but reminded me of why I wanted them.
Results which (when safely received!) do not compare to the reward of Mrs. Hall's burst of congratulations when I eagerly went to tell of my offer from Oxford. Without the immeasurable support, the encouragement (and the tactical scepticism!) of my teachers, I would not have had that place nor the year just passed. It is perhaps only possible to clearly perceive strong influences when one is no longer in direct contact with them. At times KES had the influence of the institution that it had to be, yet it was rarely conceived as such. Far more affecting were its individual parts: the fun and arguments with friends, a memorable lesson, the words of individuals.
Yet I refer to 'past' influences and inevitably even after only one year some names are forgotten and days that were full of detail merge into a 'good' or a 'bad' term. KES is an experience which cannot really be weighed up and evaluated from isolated fragments of years. It is one which has more, for example, in an understanding of a multiplicity of perspectives and cultures, implicit rather than overt in the school's ethos and which is now manifest in my reaction against certain views flying about Oxford. It is not only the fear and elation of exams, the exhilaration of waiting to go on stage either as an actor, speaker or musician, but what is also important is the 'delayed reaction' of KES: a broad and fundamental base of knowledge, opportunity and enjoyment which can be carried on into the future. A basis which will hopefully remain for the increasingly unfamiliar faces of the present and of the years to come.
It was with great trepidation that I entered the Newbould Lane gates in September 1948. For the first time the new intake consisted entirely of 'scholarship' boys. Fee-paying had ended, the school had become a fully maintained Grammar School and we had been 'selected' by means of the 11-plus examination.
A hundred and twenty new boys, in new blazers with breast pocket badges of rampant lions. A hundred and twenty new caps with pie-chart piping; how self-conscious we felt. King Edward VII School was a quantum leap from Lydgate Lane Junior School. I'm sure we were passably numerate and literate but French, Latin, Divinity, Science in a laboratory, PE in a gymnasium, were wonders or horrors unbeknown to boys of my ilk.
The memories flood back - of Gilman the school porter, a man of many parts, military smart, uniformed, the bell ringer, the Headmaster's emissary and school caretaker - of 'Wag' the groundsman and cricket coach, an ex-county cricketer, a raconteur with a profitable line in soft drinks dispensed from Shippam's paste pots. My first Headmaster was Dr. A.W. Barton, hawklike, imperious, begowned, and, to me somewhat incongruously, a Cup Final referee. A.W.B. was the author of a standard Physics textbook, Heat, Light: and Sound and the hackneyed joke was that it generated much heat but cast little light. My second Headmaster was N.L. Clapton, feared yet revered by pupils and staff alike. A man who kept his finger firmly on the pulse of the school while rarely venturing from his study. When he did, one could have heard the proverbial pin drop. I had joined a school with a fine academic tradition and yet many of my most vivid memories relate to school sport. Not just football and cricket but to 'standard sports', the mass start of the school cross-country championship, and to the obstacle race on Sports Day.
In my early years Saturday morning games were still compulsory, a carry over from the independent days. Wednesday afternoons meant Games for the entire school. House matches were played at Whiteley Woods, Bents Green, Ringinglow and Furness Field - adjacent to Wire Mill Dam and well fertilised with cow pats! Even now I see my peer group not in their business suits but in their different coloured House shirts. No transport was provided from school, it was a matter of public transport and legs, but woe betide anyone who turned up late. Who could forget the cloying mud of Whiteley Woods, a pavilion without electricity, and showers which predated modern plumbing? If the weather was too bad and Wednesday games were postponed, Friday afternoon lessons were held instead, and the games session moved to Friday. If there was no improvement in the weather, then horror of horrors, we had Friday afternoon lessons again. The swimming baths were part of the school's resources. Everyone learnt to swim very quickly, if only to get rid of the white swimming trunks which identified and stigmatised the non-swimmers. Swimming champions abounded and on Friday evenings after school the House water-polo league was as keenly contested as any national championship.
Does time play tricks with the memory or were there really more 'characters' in teaching in those days? Perhaps it was more fashionable for boys to use nicknames for staff. Every boy in school knew 'Marcus' and 'Trotsky','Spiv','Chalk' and 'Cheese' although every teacher was always respectfully addressed as 'Sir', including the female English teacher who somehow had breached the male bastion! I was far from the greatest scholar to have been educated at KES. I regret to say I did not make the honours board but I had seven happy years. Forty years on I can still sing the school song in Latin, and do so with pride, but I must confess that I never did understand what it meant.
"Tempus est ut concinamus..." ...
Twelve years after I left King Edward VII School 'for ever' I was back. T.K. Robinson, my Economics teacher and mentor, had moved to Scotland and after a short interregnum I was appointed as Head of Economics and Political Studies. The school was once again at a point of change. Sheffield Education Authority had adopted the principle of Comprehensive education, selection was to disappear, and KES was to merge with Crosspool Secondary School. Even more traumatic to some of the old male staff was the fact that the school would become co-educational.
This was to my advantage. I was still in awe of the senior staff who remained from my schooldays, and uneasy about how they would react to my appointment. I had, however, been teaching for eight years in a co-educational school and was therefore deemed to be an 'expert'. My acceptance was secured.
The school I rejoined in 1967 was not dissimilar to the one I had left in 1955 except that many more young staff had replaced some of the war veterans. Talent abounded in many fields. The Times crossword was completed before 9.00 a.m. There was some sharp Bridge bidding at lunchtime, but above all no school in the area could match the Staff football team. There was an extensive fixture list and the team remained invincible for several seasons.
At my interview the future of KES was mapped out and I was assured that after comprehensive reorganisation there would be a building programme and we would all be on one site within five years. Reality proved otherwise. By the 1970s we had two major sites, at Glossop Road and Darwin Lane, and two annexes, at Lynwood and Melbourne.
As one punster pointed out we had our own 'Four-site Saga!' It is perhaps appropriate that as I step back from the 'chalk face' a new building is in its final phase of construction. The Economics department will finally come in from the cold, not to mention the damp, of Melbourne Annexe. Stoicism has long been an essential characteristic of Melbourne occupants.
In the distant days virtually every member of staff had responsibility for running some sort of school team, or extra curricular activity. I found myself in charge of the Senior boys tennis team in the summer, and refereeing soccer matches on many a foul Saturday morning in the winter. In the seventies school sport became more diversified and I introduced squash into the Wednesday afternoon curriculum.
Hallamshire Squash Club was a good deal warmer than Castle Dyke in February. Somehow or other I also became the 'competitions' man as we entered groups in computer-based management games, 'Stockpiler', a Stock Exchange Competition, and the European Schools' Day Essay Competition.
It was no great surprise when I was asked to set up the school's first Young Enterprise Company in 1978. With the help of British Syphon Industries 'Kesco' was created. Seventeen companies later and fifteen years after being invited to join the Sheffield Area Board, I am still involved with the scheme. I look back with much pleasure at the number of ex-students whose progress in the business world began with hands-on management experience in a School Y.E. company.
There have been many changes. Uniform, the prefects, the House System and the 'Backs' have disappeared. Industrial action, increasing paperwork, the National Curriculum, Tertiary reorganisation, GCSE, GNVQ, mushrooming meetings and lack of facilities have taken their toll. Staff energy and ability to maintain the number of school teams and frequency of fixtures has been eroded. Competition and compulsion, for a time, became dirty words.
It always seemed odd to me that praise for teamwork in academic or vocational contexts was not extended to the sports field where its existence and virtue were most apparent. The Fives Courts have gone from the School yard and the Shove Ha'penny board disappeared from the Staffroom. Control of the swimming baths moved from Education to Recreation, and then out of Council or school control. The wooden pavilion at Whiteley Woods was deemed unsafe, a victim of old age, dry rot, and the pounding of a million football studs. The lack of funds to maintain it adequately and the failure to replace it, represent for me, a monumental act of educational vandalism. Its loss, and by association the loss of the cricket wicket, is a deprivation to the school whose sporting facilities have never remotely matched its achievements.
I came as a boy in 1948, I depart as 'Father of the House'. I have been associated with the School for more than half of its life. I have been privileged to have worked with so many dedicated professionals, and blessed with so many students who have been a joy to teach. The stressful moments and the difficult pupils are transitory and the brain fortunately focuses on the happier times.
It always gives me great pleasure when I meet former pupils and they are keen to update me on their lifestyle and achievements, but I knew it was time to go when recently one no-longer-so-youngman stopped me in the street and said "Didn't you used to be Mr. Anderson...?!"
I first crossed the hallowed portals of King Edward VII school in the academic year 1963-64 as a Dip-Ed (now PGCE) student, to observe History lessons in Rooms 7 and 8 (now the boys' toilets and PE staffroom).
I can clearly remember the small first-year boys, all in their smart blazers, half-listening to the fascinating story of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes! Little did I know then that in 1971 I would become a part-time teacher there, or that indeed I would remain until 1994, having been a Year Tutor for sixth form girls and latterly as Head of Post-16 Studies.
I never saw the Headmaster in 1963 but I did work closely with Mr. Sharrock and the present Headteacher, Michael Lewis. What memories! How can I possibly select one? Perhaps just a gentle ramble through will suffice. After Easter 1971 when I joined the staff, my first class was an 0-level group of boys. It contained, I believe, the first ever 'streaker' (nothing to do with me!)
Girls were few and far between but gradually over the years more and more came through from Lower School and joined the sixth form from elsewhere. Throughout my years at the School I have worked with excellent colleagues and friends and fantastic students. Academically one particular outstanding student won a prize as the best A-level History Candidate in the whole of the JMB entry. Although outstanding academic achievement gives pleasure, much satisfaction is also found in the achievements of all students who progress through O-level, GCSE and A-level and onto their future careers, in whatever field they choose.
It is our job to enable students to fulfil their potential and to congratulate them and take pride and pleasure in their success. Many memories abound - "I can't return my history textbook, Miss, the dog's eaten it" (absolutely true) - a dog with a genuine academic appetite, no doubt!
The day the 16 mm film on the rise of Mussolini rapidly became his fall as the reel of film slipped off the spool and cascaded all over the floor in LLR (Now the Drama Studio). The "please rewind after use" request from Union Road was quite difficult to achieve - thank you, belatedly, Dr. Marcer!
Teaching almost the whole of an A-level History lesson in Room 7 standing on a chair - as a mouse scampered backwards and forwards from behind a cupboard!
Taking part with Eileen Velarde and Mary McDonough in a concert organised by Brian Orwell, compered by John Eyes, in aid of the "Feed the World" appeal for the famine in Ethiopia in 1985. For the record, we recited Roger McGough's 'Chaos Rules in the Classroom' in genuine scouse accents!
My final memory has to be the wonderful 'send off' cards, gifts and good wishes by the Y12 and Y13 students in 1994.1 am now an Old Edwardian and am delighted to attend the annual dinner of the Association. I was happy, also, to have been instrumental in encouraging the Association to open its doors to the girls of KES back in the 1980s.
When I first approached Michael Lewis with the idea for an anniversary book I had no comprehension of the wealth of material that would come flooding in, nor how much time would be involved in the purely secretarial tasks. I suppose that had I been an 'old boy' myself I might have anticipated the strong bonds that exist between the 'Old Edwardians' and their school.
The editorial team has had a great deal of enjoyment out of reading the many submissions that we have received; sitting in the 'Headmaster's Study' we have all felt that sense of history which I feel comes alive in these pages. We have been present at all the major incidents across the years and learned to respect and admire those teachers whose memory lives on through the writings of their students.
It would be wrong of me not to thank all the contributors for their efforts - without them this book could not exist. I should also like to thank all the editorial team: Julie Bloor, John Eyes, Michael Lewis, Ros Wilkes and most especially Ann Smith around whom most of the day-to-day running and administration has centred. As to the future, who knows. We may feel that a reprint is needed in a few months, as many more manuscripts arrive on our desks; or we might just leave that to the hundredth anniversary.