What made WHS Special?   -   Chris Snuggs (Berners/Halls 58-65)

PREAMBLE: I am minded (and it is easy to forget) that our individual memories of WHS are but a snapshop of the 40 years of its existence. There were numerous constants, but also critical variables. The latter included changes of boys, staff, budgets, political climate and so on - which were not negligible. So the remarks below are made from my own perspective of my time from 1958 to 1965.

  • GENERAL: The most remarkable aspect of WHS for me was that whatever skills and/or interests a boy had there was for most boys the encouragement and opportunity to pursue and develop them: so we had the the phenomenal sport of course (including sailing - what luck for city boys), the huge artistic activity and all those clubs and societies - plus the holiday trips : there was pretty much something for everyone to get stuck into - and with enthusiasm and practice excel at - as many did, and many at more than one skill. That the potential of the premises and boarding situation was exploited to the full is a huge tribute to the management and staff of the school, who gave every encouragement and much of their time to creating such a dynamic and thriving environment. Not to be forgotten in this are the governors of the school, who chose the four exceptional Headmasters and gave them every support. And then of course by luck but more by judgement WHS enjoyed the services of many very diverse but exceptionally skilled and dedicated members of staff - and the longevity of a good number of these contributed enormously to the continuity. This is a word that rolls easily off the tongue, but in essence it allowed incoming staff to work with long-established teachers to build on what had gone before - which was invariably excellent.

  • On a personal note ( and an example of the above) , I (sort of) played the clarinet in a group and participated in concerts - and played in the school orchestra - though I wasn't what one would all "a musician". But I clearly remember thinking when I left WHS: "Well, I don't suppose I will ever play in a group in front of public again." - and so it turned out to be. But at least I did it a FEW times in my life. And many other boys performed on a stage for the only time in their life - thanks to WHS. I have to thank (as many others do) Barry Salmon for encouraging a non-musician the way he did!

  • THE HEADMASTERS: Regarding Heads, the choice of Mr Smitherman and Leslie Johnstone was inspired. They got the school off to a flying start, so much so that within ten years it already had an impressive reputation both in Suffolk and at County Hall, where Mrs Chaplin and her colleagues must have been delighted with the progress and development.

  • THE PREMISES: Any boarding school has a natural practical advantage providing the above. The huge range of activities we did are simply not possible in a day school. And the premises were beautiful. One is inspired by beautiful surroundings - else why would Kings build themselves magnificent palaces? It was yet again an inspired choice of location by the County Hall founders.

  • THE STAFF: The above are the principal reasons why I feel that WHS was exceptional, but when all's said and done, the staff are the most important pillar of a school's success. I refer above to "skilled and dedicated members of staff". To be fair, most teachers in most schools are both, but I think we were exceptionally fortunate. One example was of course Derek Thornbery and his Orwell House Orchestra. I believe that at that time every boy in his house played some kind of instrument, and the orchestra put on annual concerts! Others almost too many to mention (but you know them well) were equally devoted to creating the environment we knew.

  • QUALITY: At WHS one was exposed to quality in so many areas: the setting, the buildings, the teachers, the arts (operas, plays, concerts), the sport, for me the woodwork. One you KNOW what real quality can be achieved by grit, hard work, TEAMwork and LEADERSHIP that memory stays with you and gives you the lust for more. One was I think determined after WHS not to put up with the second-rate.