|On not becoming a Thespian - David Waterhouse||The History & Philosophy of Science - Chris Snuggs||A Visit to the Sick Bay - Chris Snuggs||Staff v Boys Football Matches - Chris Snuggs|
|I danced with Mrs G. H. Bailey - Chris Snuggs||I wanted to be Sam - Chris Snuggs||The STOWE SCHOOL Exchanges - Chris Snuggs||Memories of Halls House in early 60s - CS|
|The One & Only Harvey Angel - Chris Snuggs||My Travelling Scholarship - Chris Snuggs||WHS in the 60s - Louis Parperis||The Queen visits Ipswich on 21 July, 1961 - CS|
On Not Becoming A Thespian . . . David Waterhouse - Corners '58 to '61
I remember to this day when I discovered that I could perform in front of an audience without dying of embarrassment. Like many who grow tall very quickly, and are useless at sport, I was a quiet, self-effacing boy not given to putting myself forward – a picture many who knew me as, for example, a sergeant - and later an officer - in the regular army might not immediately recognize. But it was so.
Thus, when a forthcoming play remained short of a couple of cast members and Derek Thornbery – a wise man and probably the best teacher I ever had – suggested me for it, I ignored his suggestion in the hope that it would go away. He persisted, however, and so I ended up on the cast of "The Shoemakers' Holiday" – performed over two nights in the WHS grounds in July 1960.
To be clear, it was a minuscule part: a couple of minutes on stage and about two dozen words, half of which were "rhubarb". Mark Wing-Davey played a leading role and my only claim to thespian glory remains that I once shared a stage with Zaphod Beeblebrox.
But the ground didn't open up and swallow me. I discovered not only that I could do it but also that performing on stage, however briefly, was actually quite satisfying. Also enjoyable were the dressing up, the rehearsals and the sense of belonging to a group of people engaged in a joint enterprise. Doc Thornbery took me aside and offered a "Well done" – if I hadn't had a lot to do, at least I had done it competently.
And so I looked out for further opportunities; along came a reading for Murder in the Cathedral and I put my name down. (Note that word "reading", if you will: it's relevant.) I recall the passage, about the temptations and the greatest treason of all: "to do the right deed for the wrong reason" – a notion, by the way, that lodged itself in my subconscious and may have influenced my approach to various things later in life.
In charge was Patrick Hutton, who didn't teach any of my classes and whom I did not know.
I knew about 'readings', of course – they happened in church every Sunday. They involved reading fluently and enunciating clearly, in a confident voice that carried to the back of the room, and that is what I did. That there would be acting involved I did not doubt, but that would come later, on stage, when lines had been learned; it no more occurred to me to 'act' at the reading than it would have done were I giving a reading in church. The bottom fell out of my world when I was peremptorily dismissed with the words, "No, no, no – you're just reading." So I had been dismissed, from a reading, for reading. I realized in later years that, despite the misnomer, it wasn't a reading at all: it was a casting call and acting was expected. But that wasn't clear to me at the time, either before or after, and I had no idea what had just happened. I crept away with my tail between my legs and never dipped a toe into that particular pool again.
Okay, show-biz wasn't deprived of a glittering talent: I was never destined to join the likes of Neil Pearson et al. But amateur dramatics would have been fun; it might have contributed to my personal development and I think I could have been good enough at it to justify the opportunity. It's an ill wind, though, that blows nobody any good; in later years it fell to me to give students and other applicants news they didn't want to hear – I hope I never did so without explanation or supportive advice.
Sometime in 1963-64 someone organized some dance lessons for 6th formers. I have no idea who the prime movers were - it could have been some senior boys or individual staff members I suppose. I don't remember much except that this took place in the gym - why not in the main hall I cannot imagine. And of course I also remember that Mrs Bailey was one of the instructors, but I cannot remember who else was there. Nor do I remember the music - or anything else!
But I do remember Mrs Bailey on that evening very clearly. What a lovely lady she was; a truly class act from a beautiful family.
But it reminds me how many extras the staff helped to org anise and facilitate. It is quite astonishing how many clubs and societies functioned at the school over the four decades. I have no way of knowing whether this was typical of boarding schools - public or otherwise - but I suspect we probably outdid most of them in this area. And once again it was the commitment of the staff that enabled this. So many were involved in one extra-curricular activity or another - or several. Boys were really lucky to have the chance to pursue so many non-academic interests out of lesson time, and thereby learned a lot of course. For myself, I don't remember getting involved too much in any particular thing; I guess I had no great interests apart from work, music and sport. I did join the Young Farmers Club and fed the pigs. That wasn't out of any particular interest in pigs - though in fact it is always pleasing to feed another creature - but because members of the YFC could attend the end-of-term barbeques to which girls were invited. I have absolutely no idea what the rationale for inviting girls was; perhaps someone else does! But we didn't care much about the rationale, only the fact that it happened!
The clubs and societies changed a lot over the years, but their history is one the school can be proud of, and I have done my best to record them here. http://www.whs-archives.net/docs/janus/clubs.htm
The History & Philosophy of Science ..... Chris Snuggs
Academically, one of the things I most enjoyed at WHS was doing "The History and Philosophy of Science" in the Lower VIth. I have no idea whose stroke of genius it was (or of the bleedin' obvious depending on how one looks at it) to add this course to the curriculum. What could be more fascinating than to learn about how we arrived at this point of knowledge? What more humbling than to read about the geniuses reponsible for our intellectual evolution and development?
I had loved science classes throughout the previous years, but this was the first opportunity to learn about Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Lister and others. I don't know whether such a course is taught these days, but it should be. And allied to it would be a course to learn about great philosophers. After all, they should be the people to guide us, no? I remember thinking many times since that it was a huge pity I only learned the names of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, Edmund Burke et al AFTER school. (My collection of philosophers' quotes is here!)
Still, it was what it was, but I will always be grateful to whoever started that History of Philosophy & Science course. Sadly, I can't remember who taught it. This lack of memory for important details worries me, but then the brain - be it ever so astounding (even in my case) - can only retain so much ......
I Wanted To Be Sam ... Chris Snuggs - Berners/Halls '58 to '64
Seeing Jon Kemp so magnificently play a discordant piano reminded me of my WHS musical career ...
My uncle Albert played the piano. He was rather eccentric and had had some mental issues before I knew him during my early childhood in the 1950s. After the war (and I never found out what he did in it - nothing much I suspect) he was offered a job in Fleet Street doing something menial, but was blocked by the unions of the time. He then became a “tallyman” as it was explained to me, which involves going from door to door trying to flog stuff ....
Anyway, by the time I knew him, he was unemployed and living with my paternal grandparents in Kingston, with whom I stayed for three months when I was 5 when my father was in hospital after a heart attack. Albert only had two occupations besides the necessities of life: one was walking the dog in Richmond Park (something I often did with him as a kid) and the other was playing the mini grand-piano he somewhat surreally had in his tiny lounge. He played Chopin, Beethoven and other stuff, and was really very good. So by the time I went to WHS I had a love of that music in my blood.
But I found myself to be incredibly busy at school: lessons, sport, clubs and so on .... As for music, I had already dabbled with my father’s clarinet, though like him never had any lessons. I did not think about the piano at that time, but got involved playing the clarinet with the school orchestra. At some point during my early WHS years I must have acquired a clarinet from somewhere. I’m pretty sure it was not my father’s, but the details are long gone from my brain.
The clarinet went OK, and I managed to pretend to be a musician in the orchestra, but in the 4th form there snuck up unawares a latent desire to play the piano. I had always regretted not having had lessons as my father and uncle had done - though in my father’s case he had soon managed to get out of them. I grew up in Camberwell in the early 50s playing on bombsites; somehow having piano lessons didn’t really fit into the surroundings or circumstances - and anyway, there was never much money going spare for such trivialities.
Well, by 1962 or so my Dad had been promoted to Transport Manager at Iliffe & Co, a publishing company near Blackfriars Bridge in London, and I managed to persuade him to pay for piano lessons at school. These were with the kind Mrs Agate, she being the mother of a reputedly-georgeous daughter of our age but whom I never saw. I don’t blame her mother from keeping her at arms length from us lot! Having said that, I did hear a rumour once that she HAD a boyfriend at the school, but if she did, they both kept it pretty secret!
The lessons went OK, but I soon realized what I had already suspected from my clarinet-playing - I was simply no good at sight-reading. With a clarinet you can bluff it a bit, as you only have one note to play at a time. The piano, however, was a more formidable opponent, and I could never read as fast as my eyes and brain wanted to move. In the end, I had to learn by heart almost everything but the easiest pieces. What was disappointing was that I could - with some persistence - play some pretty decent stuff, but never from the music, only from memory. I think you either have the sight-reading knack or you haven’t, and I didn’t.
I actually memorised and played at one stage the entire first two movements of “The Moonlight Sonata” (If you know the piece you will realize why I didn’t manage the last movement!) I also memorised some stuff by Rachmaninov (that piece when some bloke is supposed to be trying to get out of a coffin), plus some familiar pieces such as “Fur Elise” and so on, but I never became what one might call a pianist, which is something I deeply regret. I would love to have been the one playing the piano in a pub sing-song, like the wonderful Sam in “Casablanca”. Perhaps I secretly thought that might be a good way to pull a bird, so to speak. Anyway, it was not to be, but I did in later life acquire a Yamaha electric organ. Those are great, because they do half the work for you ...
But the six months or so I did with Mrs Agate I will never forget. That was in those practice rooms underneath the music room - just near the sick bay. That was a lovely building, with many memories of Merlin Channon and Barry Salmon, two people who did such wonderful things with music at school.
The Traveling Scholarships - Chris Snuggs - Berners/Halls '58 to '64
(* indicates some photos available on clicking - not mine!)
The ILEA ran a scheme called “Traveling Scholarships”, but I can find no reference to this using Google, including searching the ILEA archives. It is also something that seems to have lived under the radar in “Janus”. If anyone can add more information that would be great.
It was, however, pretty awesome for those involved, and that included me. Basically, a very small number of boys sponsored by their school were awarded a grant and organizational help to embark on a three-month stay in France. I say France, but it may have included Germany, too as far as WHS was concerned, since we could obviously study German there; I am not sure on this point.
The details of how all this came about are lost in the mists of time and memory, but I am assuming that Stretch must have put my name forward. I had had him for French in classes 1B and 2B, and in the third year I was promoted to 3A, which was also taught by him, as were the rest of my French classes at WHS - six years in all. I don’t remember him discussing it with me or how it came to be notified to me - nothing! But I do remember the stay itself.
CALAIS: The remarkable and clever thing was that boys involved stayed in four different places in France for three weeks each, starting with a three-week stay in Calais to follow classes in French and French culture to prepare us for the following nine weeks. Calais does not sound particularly exotic, but is in fact a town steeped in history and of course close contact with England. I remember staying in a student hostel somewhere, in a dorm much like those at WHS. That summer the weather was good, and I remember many of us spending more than one night on the beach. There were other nationalities there, too, and I met an American girl called Letha Rood. Never forgot her name, and I never saw or heard from her after the three weeks was up, but she was really very sweet.
*CHAMBON-SUR-CISSE: After that, we set off on our own to different destinations in France. I must have been only 17 at the time and this was my first trip abroad, so it was a big adventure. My second stay was in a hamlet outside a small village called Chambon-sur-Cisse near Blois. I was one of about 12 kids in a holiday hostel. It was very rural, and some way from the village of Chambon itself, which I don’t remember visiting much. The hostel wardens set us to work cutting a ledge on a hillside on which to put up a very large tent. I seem to remember this taking us a couple of weeks of hard work in the mornings. In the afternoons, they took us out and about in the area, including visits to several chateaux, walks along the Loire and so on. It was very exciting. I don’t remember much, but for some reason I do remember someone introducing me to the music of Adamo, which was new to me at the time. Then there was this girl I bumped into by chance who was staying not with the rest of us in the hostel itself but privately with a family called Froger about 200 yards away; funny how I remember the name. Mme Froger was the sister of the Chief Warden of the hostel where I was staying and it turns out that they had had a furious row which had turned into a long-lasting feud. I used to sneak off to see this young lady, who told me that the warden would be very cross if he found out I was visiting his feuding sister. All very cloak-and-dagger stuff, but quite excitingly melodramatic.
*CHAMPLITTE: Well, three weeks passed by pretty quickly - we being so busy morning afternoon and evening - and in my case at night on several occasions - and then we were suddenly all saying goodbye and off on our travels again. My next stop was a tiny village called Champlitte, near Gray in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Eastern France. This was in the middle of nowhere, and my only memory is of cows being driven along the unmetalled roadlet that went past by bedroom window - the flies were everywhere. It is weird, but my mind is a complete blank. What on earth did the three of us there DO? I don’t remember the family taking us anywhere; I don’t remember working in the fields; I don’t remember ANYTHING!
*AIX-EN-PROVENCE: So, it was a blessing when I finally left for my last port of call, which was Aix-en-Provence. This was a very different kettle of fish. Aix is delightful; lots of pretty little squares with fountains; very animated with many students and tourists. But most of all, I was on my own with a super family who took me all over Provence: Aigues-Mortes, Les Saintes-Maries de la Mer, Mont Ventoux, Arles, Avignon, Nimes and once to Marseilles. It was such an adventure, and SOOOO kind of them.
Evenings were lovely, too. That was the first time I really experienced French cuisine, and was initially stunned when Madame kept bringing in each dish separately from the kitchen (as they do - or at least used to - in France), me being used to having everything heaped on a single plate in one go as we do. One evening I remember watching with them one evening an old film: “The Ghost Goes West”, which I had seen in England. Funny the things that stick in the mind.
It was a long train ride back to England. How did I manage such a long journey throughout France for three months all on my own? Money, luggage and multiple train tickets to look after ...... it all seemed kind of natural at the time, but I am quite impressed that I survived it all without needing Mummy! I suppose it was the equivalent of today's backpacking in a gap-year, but for the time it was pretty adventurous.
This was an awesome highlight of my WHS career, and I owed a huge debt of gratitude to Stretch and whoever it was in County Hall who came up with and got financing for this scholarship scheme; I guess we will never know. I can’t find any reference to it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the amazing Irene Chaplin had something to do with it.
Sick Bay - Chris Snuggs - Berners/Halls '58 to '64
Sometime in my second year I got a whitlow. Putting it like that does of course suggest that it wasn't my fault. It's a bit like when the British Museum director was doing the rounds just after closing-time and he heard a smashing sound as he approached the Ming- Dynasty Chinese room, where he finds the cleaner with her dusting stick and a Ming vase smashed on the floor and she says: "A vase just fell off its pedestal." That was bad enough, but she then added: "Don't worry; it was only an old one."
Well, the time for macho rejection of pain was over and I showed it to Shakey, who told me to repair to sick bay at once. At the time, Matron was Mrs Williams. She was a lovely lady, not in the earliest bloom of youth, but very attractive and kind. She took one look at my finger and I thought I heard a sharp intake of breath. In truth, it was by now a pretty horrible sight. "That is not at all good," she said - or words to that effect - I won't pretend to remember in detail. But I DO remember that she called the doctor at once and he injected penicillin directly into the upper part of my finger.
What is remarkable - and stunned me at the time - was that within hours the pain had diminished and within two days all signs of the infection had completely gone. That was a huge learning experience for me about the absolute magic of antibiotics. I realized that without that injection I would certainly have had the finger amputated, which was what would have happened less than a century previously. And it brought home to me how lucky we were to have such medicines.
I never forgot this lesson, and in later years was often angry at the casual way antibiotics were used (and still are, though perhaps less so) in inappropriate situations (including overuse in farming), which of couse diminishes their effectiveness. A world without effecive antibiotics would be one where amputation and death from sepsis would be VERY common.
Sick Bay? I could say that we were lucky to have the onsite facility staffed with nurses. However, calling it "lucky" is perhaps incorrect. There was no LUCK involved; it was obviously required by the regulations, and in that sense luck did not come into it. On the other hand, years later I spent six months as Deputy-Head of a school near Libreville in Gabon. My boss there was the 5th most important politician in the country as she was proud to inform us, but I also got to know a very poor African family who lived in a hut near my school. The latter did NOT have easy and cheap access to either a doctor OR medicines, and since then I have always felt that we were indeed lucky to have had the care we had at school - and indeed elsewhere in the developed world.
At WHS we often went to sick bay for one thing or another, apart from illness. I remember being weighed and having general check-ups from time to time. I think they also took a quick look at our teeth, but I can't remember. And I once spent a few nights in sick bay as a patient. That could have been during one of the flu epidemics of that era. All the details are a bit vague, but I do remember the charming ladies who ran it all, especially the lovely Sister Williams. She left at the end of my second year, and there was a rumour that she had a liaison with Mr Smitherman, who left at the same time. She was replaced by Sister Hamon, I think.
I was very grateful that we had a sick bay, and always appreciated the care we got there. Thank you ladies ......
From "The Stoic", the Stowe School Magazine of April 1965
I have nothing but good memories of the house in those days. Taffy we know as being a bit severe - or perhaps stern is better - but his bark and look were worse than his bite, and I never remember a bad atmosphere in Halls from 60 to 64.
Happy Days indeed
I Googled "Coronation Day Queen Elizabeth II Woolverstone" hoping to get some photos of the day as mentioned by Ron Gould in relation to the marquee by the old Nissen huts where Orwell House now stands.
I had no luck with the photos, but I did find THIS VIDEO about her drive-past the school, which I remember well. We were marched up to line along the peninsular road. I was standing right by Holbrook Lodge; it was the nearest I have ever come to the Queen as she glided by in her Rolls about 6 feet away!
That was Friday July 21, 1961 - I have NO IDEA whether we missed any lessons that day!