Trip to Sweden 1959

Account by Chris Meakin + Magazine report

Sweden 1959

[By Chris Meakin, KES 55-62, April 2004]

It is interesting to see who was on the 1960 trip to Sweden - Howard Culley, musician Bernard Argent and others - because until Don Nicolson started up this excellent site I was unaware there had even been a 1960 trip, even though I was then just in transit myself from the school's fifth to the sixth form.

A year earlier, August 1959, eight of us had visited Sweden on what I believe was the pioneer tour, also led by Mr F D A Burns and accompanied by his delightful wife. The KES party was: Richard Crookes, Jim Gunson, Colin Hague, Mike Hill, Roger Letch, Chris Meakin, Edward Trickett and Peter Wileman.

Everyone was from the 1955 intake year, so most of us were 15. Mike Hill is now a professor in New Zealand, Jim Gunson a maths lecturer in British Columbia, and I think I am still in contact with just about all the others too, living in the UK (April 2004). Perhaps we are all just about due for a 45th anniversary reunion.

For some odd reason probably connected with cheap tickets, we flew from the little-known Blackbushe airport after an interminable coach drive down from London. We were strapped into a converted bomber, piston-engined of course, and for reasons of safety paranoia all the seats faced the rear of the aircraft. The flight took hours, but we did have a very fine view of the chain of lakes across northern Denmark before we landed at Gothenburg. After the obligatory trip to inspect Sweden's new stadium built for the World Cup we took the electric train up the coast and so to Grebbestad.

The eldest of the Swedish boys, Tore Sjoberg and I shared a room and were given the role of monitors - not that it amounted to anything apart from waking people up in the morning. Anyway, with Mick Hill in the party, who stood a snowball's chance anyway? The days all followed an idyllic routine - 1959 was one of the finest summers on record and the Swedish coast felt more like the Mediterranean.

While Mr Burns taught the Swedes English in the morning, we eight Brits all gallantly escorted Mrs Burns on a swimming expedition among the coastal rocks and pools. Back at the ranch the kitchen staff included a particularly friendly girl called Mona, it turned out rather younger than she looked. Mona banged a large steel triangle to summon us for our food, and Mick Hill soon concluded she needed some affable Anglo-Saxon company between meals. Lunch was followed by an afternoon for fraternisation with the Swedish lads, but to be honest there was not all that much else to do in Grebbestad apart from climb its rocks and scoff things on the tea bar ship permanently moored in the harbour.

Highlight of the tour was a full day coach trip up the coast to Oslo. The Swedish-Norwegian border was an arch bridge high across a river, with white arrows painted in the road to cross traffic over because in those days Sweden still drove on the left, Norway on the right. Oslo was most memorable for its harbour and quays, its island museums containing exhumed Viking ships, and a postwar town hall quite unlike anything to be seen in Barker's Pool.

In many ways the best bit of the whole thing was the journey home. At the docks in Gothenburg we joined the steam ship Suecia, an ancient vessel whose former cargo holds had been fitted out with airless dormitory cabins containing many bunk beds. We eight sturdy chaps from Sheffield were totally out-numbered by a horde of Irish girl guides on their way home from some kind of international jamboree in Sweden. It rapidly became clear none of them had seen any boys for weeks, and several were feeling somewhat the worse for it. Jim Gunson and I - if memory serves me right - were the principal beneficiaries of their deep-rooted sense of deprivation. She taught me quite a bit, did that Irish girl guide Elizabeth Mills and after two nights at sea, Tilbury Docks hove into view far too soon.

Funny thing. When I first married in 1970 and moved into Trinity Church Square, Bermondsey, a couple living across the square had lately moved to London from Dublin. It eventually emerged Celia Aston, the wife, had actually been one of those Irish girl guides on the good ship Suecia over a decade previously. Celia even produced a gang photograph of herself and friends on board including, right in the middle the tall, unmistakable and unforgettable Elizabeth Mills. I often wonder what happened to her.


Factual Details (JCHM)

Summer English School for Boys
Monday 3 August - Monday 17 August, 1959
held at Göteborg o. Bohusläns Folkhögskola, Grebbestad, Sweden

The residential Summer School comprised 2-3 Swedish schoolmasters who taught English and I estimate about 24 Swedish schoolboys, together with the party from King Edward VII, Sheffield.

Swedish boys whose names I recorded:
Tore Sjöberg (very likable and mature, born 1943, eldest of the party);
Peter Hasselblad (had Quite An Air about him, I would say born 1943);
Ivar Bergwall (the impressive athletic type, I would say born 1943);
Åke Nordström (rather academic and quiet, born late 1944 or early 1945);
Henrik Holmquiss (born about 1945, I would say, and an amazing character);
Per Ossmer (the total clown of the school, born 1944, maybe 1945);
Staffan Hane (what might be called a card, born 1944-ish);
Per Kindblom (the baby of the school, probably born 1946);
Sverker Martin-Löf (really nice guy, born I would say 1944).

Party from King Edward VII School, Sheffield: Mr F D A (always, affectionately, "Shorty") Burns and his wife; 1955 intake: Richard Crookes, Jim Gunson, Colin Hague, Mike Hill, Roger Letch, Chris Meakin, Edward Trickett, Peter Wileman. (See MS Leavers Easter 1962, Arts Leavers 1962 for photos of several of these.)

Storbrittanien - Sverige

[KES Magazine Jan 1960]

ON the first of August, a party of eight boys and retinue left Sheffield on an educational visit to Sweden, at the invitation of " Folkuniversitet ". A coach took us from London through the fields of England to Blackbushe airport, where we boarded a Hermes aircraft. After an exhilarating flight, terra firma rose to meet us at Torslanda airport. A fool and his luggage are soon parted, but fortunately nothing was lost. After a brief sojourn at Goteborg (Gothenburg) we travelled by train (at a speed unknown to B.R.) to Tanum; thence by bus to Grebbestad. We were hospitably welcomed by Lector Ek, the Swede in charge of the course.

The following day, our Swedish hosts arrived and we quickly became firm friends. Tuesday saw the beginning of the regular routine, viz.
7.0. Awakened by pneumatic drills followed by blasting.
7.30 Officially awakened by triangle solo of Swedish folk-music.
8.15 Sour milk, porridge, etc.
8.45-11.45 Three lessons with a quarter-hour break between. During these lessons we discussed all aspects of life in England and Sweden, and read "Three Men in a Boat".

After lunch, most people went swimming and after fighting off a vast army-of wasps-we returned for dinner. For dinner we sampled many exotic dishes. After this we aided and abetted the Swedes with their prep. or found some pastime. Then we went off in groups to establish relations with the local inhabitants and to taste traditional Swedish beverages and varm korvs (hot dogs). Ten o'clock was curfew hour.

Among the extra-curricular activities were featured trips to places of interest, boat-trips to Fjallbacka and to an island, and a coach trip to see the famous Tanum rock carvings (carved by neolithic Swedes). Another visit of a more intellectual kind was to see a product of English cinematography, namely "The Tommy Steele Story". Five of our party went by coach to Oslo, where they saw Viking ships, the Kon Tiki craft, and other relics. At Grebbestad, a small village on the Bohuslan peninsular, life was never dull. Thrice weekly there were open-air dances, at which some successfully performed traditional dances such as slow quicksteps and "smooches" (instruction provided by the kitchen staff).

We had many recreational activities. The sea was calm and it was a common sight to see a certain Tarzan-like gentleman imploring us to not sink his airbed. You can take a man to water but... Basket-ball and table tennis were played in the well-equipped gym. Meanwhile the poet of the party wandered through the countryside studying the fauna.

Much enjoyment was had in preparing a humorous tape-recording on the lines of the Goon Show for the final party, though there were many language difficulties. After this hilarious party our Swedish friends left and two days later we also departed. After viewing the beautiful city of Goteborg, we embarked on S.S. Suecia. We had a very comfortable journey. Some played deck-games while others provided their own amusements. Our poet friend went in search of leprechauns on deck.

We all came back with an appreciation of the fact that youth is the same abroad, and that the only barrier between us is linguistic.

R. N. C., J. R. G. [Crookes, Gunson]