The Gym - Chris Snuggs (Berners/Halls 58 to 64)

I contemplated the scene below rather sadly in the summer of 2012, a view never possible when we were at WHS - because of course, the old gym has gone - replaced by a car park! One can't argue that its replacement is magnificent; when considered with the unfeeling eye of logic, our beloved gym was a pretty poor venue for a school of such sporting prowess. AND YET, for decades we did P.E. there, and never felt disadvantaged. It was rather small, and for badminton in particular far too low. WHS was pretty good at badminton, but we could never play the game properly. No high shots to the back of the court being possible, we became particularly adept at drop-shots instead.

I had all my P.E. classes with Taffy. He could be (or more fairly, give the impression of being) rather fierce, with a withering look - and equally withering turn of phrase. He didn't say a huge amount, but what he said was always pertinent and piercing. Despite Taffy - or rather of course BECAUSE of Taffy - I remember enjoying P.E. very much. We did a large variety of things: vaults, running, tumbling, handsprings, press-ups, pull-ups and so on. I never mastered any proper gymnastics, being especially averse to being upside down at any point - even simple handstands were pretty much beyond me. Still, we always got lots of exercise one way or the other - which was the whole point.

And we frequently played boxball, where we passed a rugby ball about and tried to hit the side of a vaulting horse. If I recall rightly, we weren't allowed to run more than a step, so fast, flat passes were essential - which of course was excellent practice for Church Field .....

At the end of term and on a few other special occasions, we also played "Pirates". All the apparatus was set up all over the gym and you had to chase people around trying to catch them. For the life of me I can't remember what one did with them if ever one managed to catch them! But it was generally mayhem and a considerable hoot. I can't remember if WE helped Taffy set it all up, but my impression is that he must have done it before we arrived, as it was pretty complicated and would have wasted a fair bit of time during the lesson.

No, the gym was in modern (and certainly IHS) terms a bit naff, but we didn't see it that way at the time, and I for one hugely enjoyed P.E. Thank you, Taffy ...

Bill Kitchen: I have to say that my view of Taffy in P.E.was different. Yes, we did enjoy Pirates at end of terms. However, he “segregated” our class into 4 ‘ability‘ teams. (team 1 the superhero athletes down to the ‘desperate dregs’ in 4). He constantly praised the able pupils of 1, while frequently publicly ridiculingthe weaker and more reticent pupils. Most of us hated P.E. sessions with him, many feigning illness or injury. 15 years ago I met up with classmate Steve Dodgson (who was captain of team 1) who told me he was physically sick most days prior to these P.E. lessons as he knew that he’d be required to demonstrate new vaults, manoeuvres and techniques.

While Taffy was away for a term or so on a Maths refresher course, Doc T. took over. He totally transformed our class, inspiring even the most reluctant and nervous pupils to perform at a level that they had never imagined possible. Basic box vaulting became elevated to “Flying Angels”, which entailed a fast run-up, springboard hit then (without touching the top of the transverse box) leaping arms spread wide (swallow dive /Chris Ashton try-scoring style) into the waiting outstretched hands of - initially Doc himself - then two trained fellow-pupils and finally just the one catcher. By the end of Doc’s time the whole class was able to be a passable vaulter and catcher. It was so invigorating and uplifting.

Needless to say, Taffy immediately abandoned such a successful approach once he returned, and absenteeism returned big-time.