Robert Peeling - 6263 to 6869 - Orwell House
sent in May, 2018

I was at WHS in Orwell House from
Sept 62 to July 69. Doc Thornbery
was Housemaster throughout, and
Annette St John Clarke was Matron.

In the earlier years "Bogie Ben" Turner (Woodwork) was Assistant Housemaster, replaced later by Peter Skailes.

My Story
I was always considered a bit of a waster by Doc, as I was neither athletic nor musical, but I was happy with my own interests and agenda, which landed me in trouble more than a few times. Ben Turner's favourite tool of discipline was a thin cane he called "Mr Whippy", Mr Cromarty (Latin) favoured the slipper, Mr Shakeshaft (French) liked to throw the blackboard rubber - many a time in summer it would fly out of the window to land near the statue of Diana, behind the main building. And of course I visited George "The Bume" Bailey for six of the best (placing a shoe on another boy's shoulder for the school photograph, as I remember). The only punishment I received which I really valued was when Doc caught me coming back from a crafty smoke, hauled me into his study, found I had a few cigarettes left so made me "smoke" them, gradually getting me to inhale properly. I was beginning to feel quite unwell, when he pulled out a cigar, lit it and asked me to take a drag. That cured me of any desire to take up smoking for real, and I am grateful for that.

I passed only five 'O' levels, and The Bume was not best pleased when I elected to go into the sixth form for 'A' level studies. I chose Maths and Physics, and Bailey thought he had me stymied by saying I had to study three subjects. What to do? I had failed Biology (grade 9, having fainted when cutting up a frog from a jar of formaldehyde!), and had never studied Chemistry, having been coerced into studying German in year 3 (luckily a pass at 'O' level), and continuing with Latin - "you have to have Latin to get into Oxbridge" according to The Bume. He knew full well that I had no interest in University, being more of a practical sort of chap. This was anathema to him.

So, discussions ensued with Mr Thomas ("HCAT") the Chemistry master, who also ran the Sixth Form Car Club - now we were talking! So Geoff Boyd (62-69 Halls) and I sat in on 'A' level Chemistry classes, but spent the time cleaning various car parts (carburettors, etc) as well as bringing dead batteries back to life with fresh acid - so there was some genuine chemistry at work. We also concocted a petrol/paraffin blend to run the old Commer Cob around the school perimeter road, belching out white smoke. A precursor to "dieselgate"?

My interest in cars was far more important to me than studying, but two years in the sixth form formed the basis of my life after school. I did go to Oxford - actually the Eastern suburb of Cowley - to the Morris/BMC/BL factory to do a Technician Apprenticeship.

I noticed the link to "Joe" Briggs' photographs - this must be after my time, as I don't remember the Morris 8 2-door saloon in the photos. In 1968 I took my Morris 8 4-door saloon to WH, with a letter from my father (a "nuisance" on the PTA), saying that the car was for the benefit of the sixth form car club for as long as I was a pupil. A few of my contemporaries also took cars to school, but we had an arrangement with a local farmer to keep them in a barn somewhere between the main complex and Corners.

My Morris 8 was often used on a Sunday night after "assembly" (prayers, hymns and such) to drive to the pub in Harkstead for a beer or two. The landlord used to let us in the Smoke Room, and would advise us if any school staff arrived! I recall draught mild being 9d for a half pint!

The group for these sorties included myself (driver, obviously), Geoff Boyd, Giles Marshall, Kev Lee, John Burd, Graham Broadbent and others I now forget. Word got out, and we were summoned to The Bume. He had heard about the Morris 8 trips and the other cars. He had sought Mr Thomas' advice as to how to immobilise the cars, and was told that to confiscate the rotor arms would do the job. As if we wouldn't have spare rotor arms!