Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    


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Daphne Blampied's School Memories

Daphne was at school for most of the 1930's leaving in 1937.  She took an active part in the more intellectual part of school life.  She was a member of the school orchestra, and was editor of the school magazine for about 5 years - which means she was probably the youngest we ever had, and undoubtedly the longest serving and she became Head Girl before she left. 

Although not a sportswoman she made a point of signing off her editorials with either "Good Hunting" or "Tally Ho".   She has left the following account of her memories of the school, so Tally Ho, Daphne!

When I first went to WCS the school consisted only of a square of single story buildings set in what looked like a lot of playing fields.  There were only two rules: no running up and down the grass banks (because they planted with daffodil bulbs), and no running in the corridors (because the doors opened outwards and you get a bonk on the nose).  very sensible and we all saw the point.

There were few punishments; detention, for which the member of staff who awarded it frequently forgot and failed to turn up, and the dreaded Black Book, used only in the case of heinous offences.  It was rumoured that if you were Black Booked three times you would be expelled, but in the seven years and one term I never heard of an expulsion.  Was there really a Black Book?  It seems odd that it's mere threat was enough to curb the burly six-footers in the Fifth and Sixth Forms!

At first the girls wore gym slips with square-necked white blouses.  These had to finish four inches above the knee and we knelt while this requirement was solemnly measured by the suppliers of the uniforms.  Then came the enlightened day when we were allowed to do P. T. in our navy knickers, with white blouses.  Sensation!  How enlightened can you get?  Eventually we progressed to grey flannel shorts of the Stanley Matthews' variety, and blue tops which came down to our knees after the first washing.

The girls' uniform was in time modified to a navy pinafore dress with a U-shaped front, and pale blue blouses with, mercifully, a collar with which a tie could be worn.  The summer uniform was a dress in a peculiar shade of khaki with a choice of coloured collars and so many pleats it took half an hour to iron.  We wore hats - navy velour in winter, with little navy caps for the juniors, and straw in summer.

The more fashion-conscious of us used to put various tucks and pleats into the velour to make them more attractive.  The boys were less regimented and, as far as I remember, they wore grey shorts or flannels and navy blazers, and caps.

What amazes me now is the amount of time and energy the staff were prepared to put into after-school activities.  There was always something going on apart from sport.  There were three debating societies, a branch of the League of Nations Union, a National Savings Group, an Orchestral Society, a Dramatic Society, a Chess Club, a Ballroom Dancing Club, a Christian Union, a Historical Society, two Choirs, a Pottery Club, a Puppet Club - the list is almost endless.  Why the teachers, who had been coping with us all day, should have been willing to spend their precious free time after school in supervising these activities is a mystery.  There was one exception, who invariably swept out to his car at nine minutes past four each afternoon.  Mr. Jenkins wasn't having any!

Weekend camps
Staff were continually giving of their time, even weekends were given up to take parties to camp, first at Merry Hollow, Titsey and then in 1934 to Princes Risborough.  The journey to Merry Hollow was quite difficult; walk to Willesden Green Station, tube to Oxford Circus and a Green Line from there, in which someone was usually sick.  Then up through the churchyard, over the hill and down the valley to the hut.  Light the fire, sausages for supper and pitch the ridge tents on a sort of terrace a little way up the hill.

The Little Hut (earth closet) was situated quite a little way up the hill behind the hut - a steep scramble, particularly in wet weather on a slippery chalk slope, which could present difficulties if the matter was urgent.  It was at Titsey, when I was about twelve that I learned for the first time that Andrews Liver Salts was not just a pleasant fizzy drink, but had other properties.

It was all wonderful.  We brought in wood for the fire, fetched the milk from the farm, carried water on a yoke, made a disgusting concoction of mashed potato and corned beef called "squidge", roamed the fields and woods, climbed the quarry and sang round the fire.

When we lost the site in 1933 we were desolated; but after much searching by Mr. Wallis and others of the staff we found a good one at Risborough.  For some reason the name "Merry Hollow" was not transferred to the new site, as it seemed to belong specifically to Titsey.  The locals used to call us "Happy Valley", but to us it was just "camp".

A team led by Mr. Forbes dealt with the transfer of the hut and the Little Hut - levelled the site, built the brick fireplace (which smoked horribly until the chimney was lengthened) and lived in small tents and cooked, after a fashion, on open fires until we had a hut again.

Again the journey was not an easy one: walk to Willesden Junction, trolleybus to North Acton and a two mile walk from Princes Risborough station to the site.  Part of it was up a steep hill and, carrying rucksacks, we used to stop at the point where the Icknield Way crossed the road, to get our breath back.

Fortnight Summer Camps
There was no camp in 1932, the rumour being that a "Terrible Event" had occurred in the previous year - a female pupil had been caught sitting on the lap of a male member of the staff in the train - but this was never substantiated.

The accommodation was less than luxurious; a school was booked in some seaside town and we slept on the floor of the classrooms on palliases filled with straw.  We swam at 7am, before breakfast, guarded by Mr. Forbes, who used to swim up and down about 20 yards from the shore, keeping a wary eye on us.

At Conway  in 1936, in particular, this early morning jaunt involved a two mile walk to the beach, a dip in the water which, because of the overshadowing cliffs, was always freezing, and two miles back, to slabs of bread and margarine and enamel jugs of welcome scalding tea.  We must have been fit or foolish.

In 1933 we went to Bognor, staying in a junior school in Lyon Street where the desks were so small we couldn't sit in them for the evening "assembly" during which Mr. Wallis read a story or we sang.  There was always a visit to a local place of interest, in this case, Arundel Castle.

1934 was Newquay.  We travelled on the Cornish Riviera Express and Mr. Wallis came round at one point to tell us that our speed would be 100mph on the next stretch of line.  The beach with its rolling breakers was wonderful.  It was said that one of the Cornish pasties supplied for lunch, and thrown out of the window, stunned a platelayer, but we never got a complaint.  On the last night there was a dress concert, including the song "1999", composed and performed by the staff and including rude references to activities that we didn't think they knew about.  This became a regular feature in the following years, as did "The King of Caractacus", led on this occasion by Alderman Hicks-Bolton and his harem.

Sandown 1935 and Mr. Wallis acquired a movie camera with which he used to take indiscrete shots.

1936 saw us in Conway and 1937 in Lowestoft, with visits to Sandringham, Somerleyton and the Broads, also Norwich Cathedral (four visits? - they must have put the price up!).  There was a tennis tournament, the finalists being Dickie Gant, Eileen Carpenter, Audrey Wheeler and Doug Banfield.

By 1938 I had left school, but sought permission to go for the last time, which was granted.  We stayed in the unaccustomed luxury of a secondary school (with showers!), visited Corfe and the Tilly Whim caves, and made friends with a neighbouring Scout Camp.  We saw the Agglestone, said to have been flung by the Devil from the Isle of Wight to try to destroy Corfe caste, fortunately it missed.

They were the good days, and again I wonder why the staff were willing to spend their time with 100 or so lively kids.  Perhaps they enjoyed it?  They couldn't have!  But we did!

The School Orchestra became in the end quite a large one of some 50 players.  Mr. Todd, its conductor, was a fine musician (LRAM, ARCO) and a brilliant pianist, with a pleasing tenor voice.  He and Mr. Wallis, another excellent voice, used to sing "Tenor and Baritone" as a duet, while the Head sometimes gave us "Trade Winds" or "Linden Lea".

Gradually the noises made by the orchestra became less distressed and we got to the point where our rendering of the "Doge's March" no longer caused fingers to be placed in ears.

We were allowed to play at school plays and sometimes to accompany the hymns at morning assembly.  Mr. Wallis gamely tried to fill a gap in the woodwind by learning the oboe, but the sounds he made were so excruciating that he was gently dissuaded by Mr. Todd and given a double bass, which was far more suitable to his stature.

We were due for a concert on the night in December 1936 when Edward VIII abdicated and we played "God Save the King" without knowing if we really had a King or not.

Well it was all a long time ago.  Possibly not everyone enjoyed his or her schooldays as much as I did; but the eager coming together of more than 200 former pupils and staff, all anxious to reminisce and renew old acquaintances must speak for the quality and value of WCGS.  Long live the Old Uffingtonians and the memory of our school.

Daphne Blampied (1930-37)