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Recollections from 1947-54
|My first vivid memory
of WCGS is my first day waiting in the Hall to be assigned to my class and
having to choose which foreign language to attempt first! Little did
I know that my choice of German would lead in time to an ‘O’ level, and
‘A’ level and ultimately to a degree coupled with geography. I must
have been well taught as although I rarely speak German the language seems
to return quite quickly when the need arises.
I was in form 1b with Mr ‘Dickie’ Wheeler as my form master; he was also
my first Maths teacher.
I became a member of the Britons House and in my early days at WCGS my
House Captain was, I think, Bert Cleaver who very actively encouraged my
athletics career which lasted until I had an untimely accident with a five
barred gate on a cross country run whilst at Keele.
1948 was of course Olympic year with the games staged at Wembley; John
Mark from Cambridge University carried the Olympic torch into the stadium
to light the Olympic flame. If memory serves some one from the School
either handed the torch to John Marks, or handed the torch to the athlete
who passed the torch to John Marks! Olympic athletes used WCGS and at the
end of the summer term we covered our blackboard with greetings to them –
but better still the summer holiday was extended by a week.
My first School trip, and incidentally my first holiday overseas took
place during the Easter holiday 1950.
My memories are somewhat hazy – I can’t remember the Staff who led the
party but I re-call very clearly that after travelling through the night
by train enjoying a fantastic breakfast of real coffee, hot rolls with
butter and black cherry jam in the station buffet at Basel! We stayed at
the Hotel Rigi in a small town called Brunnen on Lake Lucerne. This was my
introduction to alpine scenery and an interest in glaciation
My principle memory is of trying to speak German to members of the hotel
staff – and realizing that I had a long way to go before I might consider
myself a real linguist! And that learning vocabulary really was essential.
Easter 1951 and I was fortunate enough to join another School party – this
time to Konigswinter near Bonn and led by ‘Molly’ Marston, her sister Mrs
King and Mr Wheeler but only after we had a lecture from the Head
concerning our behaviour abroad and reminding us that we were
representatives of the School and our country!
Again we travelled overnight by train and dawn found us eating breakfast
in Cologne before the remainder of the journey in a local train with very
hard wooden seats. The hotel was close to the foot of the Drachenfels.
There was a road from the village to the top of the Drachenfels – a bit of
a climb but from the top there were amazing views over the Rhein and the
surrounding countryside so the climb was well worth it. Often after dinner
three or four of us would climb up the side of the Drachenfels and then
race down the road to the hotel – we called it ‘training’. Mr Wheeler took
a very different view!
We visited the local village of Konigswinter and I found that faltering
German with plenty of grammatical mistakes seemed to be no real barrier to
making yourself understood in shops, cafes and restaurants. Still plenty
of room for improvement though! We went to Bonn, the then seat of
Government: little did I know then how many times as a student I would
return to Bonn, and of course there was the almost obligatory steamer trip
on the Rhein.
Is this when I became a bit of a Germanist?
Miss Marston continued to be my German teacher until I left the School in
1954 and I kept in touch with her and her sister until they died.
1952 – We moved from Kenton to Willesden Green so I swooped a long walk,
two trains and a long walk for just one long walk to get to School and
following the move from Kenton I was late to School for the first time.
1952 was also the year of my ‘O’ levels and the decision to stay on at
School. I wanted to study German, French, English and perhaps Latin to
become a ‘real’ linguist – it was made very clear that my English was just
not good enough! So I kept on the German and added Geography, History and
Economics and two years later went off to the University College of North
Staffordshire (now Keele University) to read Geography and German – the
first student to choose this combination.
In 1953 we celebrated the Queen’s Coronation and the ascent of Everest and
enjoyed a School trip to Dymchurch in Kent. The holiday site/complex was
fairly close to the beach with a very large open space suitable for games
and other activities. On reflection perhaps the site had been some
military camp or installation as the dormitories (one for the girls,
another for the boys) were like long single storey huts. Another hut was
used as a dining room/ refectory and a fourth hut was given over as a
communal recreational area used mainly for meetings and evening
We visited Dungeness and explored this strange stony geological phenomenon
treating the outing, I hope, as geography fieldwork. A trip to Dover and
its castle comes to mind, as does falling off someone’s cycle.
It was agreed that a few of us were allowed to return to Willesden to take
part in an athletics meeting, probably in Alperton or maybe Highgate: I
can’t remember if we were representing our School or Willesden Schools but
following many individual successes we returned to Dymchurch quite late in
the evening in a somewhat rowdy manner to be greeted by our School Staff
with heartfelt congratulations on our successes and a rebuke for being so
We were not the only visitors to Dymchurch – there was a group of German
students from Dortmund in the Ruhr area. We were encouraged to mingle and
get to know these students, who were perhaps a couple of years older than
us. Many of the evening activities were joint events with the German
students, who by and large spoke English very well – so it was down to
those of us who could speak, or who would try to speak German. I kept in
touch with one of the students from Dortmund for some years but we never
met again – I guess that by now she is white haired Grandma!
My last School trip was in the last week of the summer term 1954: Roger
Bannister had run the mile inside four minutes in May and I had completed
my ‘A’ level exams and hopefully University was not too far away. We
travelled by coach to North Wales and stayed in a Youth Hostel but I
cannot remember the location! Nor the Staff who came with us! But where
ever you looked there were mountains so every day was a little like a
geography field trip, but no notes to be written up at the end of the day!
I remember very clearly our ascent of Snowden and the magnificent views
that opened up as we climbed up the mountain – views from the summit were
breathtaking. Recollections of other outings are somewhat vague but I
remember most clearly when I managed to cut the bottom of my right foot
very badly (paddling in a rocky pool with every one else as we were all
suffering with sore feet!) and finding myself in the care of an English
doctor in Llanrwst who stitched the wound and bound the foot – so that was
the end of my walking and exploring North Wales as I was able only to
hobble about using a stick I had found on Snowdon! I still have that
Fortunately, I think, quite close to the Hostel where we were staying
there was a bus stop so whilst every one else was out and about and being
very active I was permitted to get the bus and go off on my own! If memory
serves I went off to Llandudno and Rhyl – at least somewhere on the North
Wales coast, and better than being stuck alone in the Hostel.
Back home in Willesden and the last few days at ‘the County’ and the
of hobbling up the steps and onto the stage at the last School Assembly of
term to receive my School Colours from ‘the Doc’ ……. For athletics and
cross country running!!!!
A COUPLE OF TALES FROM THE PREFECTS’ ROOM
I was made/appointed/selected to be a Prefect taking up my tasks from the
beginning of the autumn term 1952. Apart from a badge Prefects had to wear
the standard School blazer but with a narrow gold cord sewn around the
edge of the collar and the rest of the blazer!
Miss Jarvie was the Senior Mistress and for a time there was a running
battle between her and the Prefects – she did approve of the curtain,
which hung at the door of the Prefects’ Room, as she could not see what
was going on in the Prefects’ Room! As though anything would be going on!
Pressure was brought to bear and eventually the Prefects opted for a quiet
life and capitulated removing the curtain but not before we had pushed a
large cupboard which housed some of our lockers across the doorway so that
from the corridor only the back of the cupboard could be seen – and it a
cupboard well over six feet (two meters in modern day speak)!! Given time
I think the cupboard was moved back and the curtain replaced!
The Staff come to tea
Probably at the end of the summer term 1953 the Prefects invited the Staff
to tea in the Prefects’ Room! The girls and many Mums made cakes etc and
there was a massive clearing up operation so that the room was neat and
tidy; pictures were straightened on the walls except for one, on the back
of which were various depictions from the ‘Goon Show’ and of course it was
this picture that was not straightened nor turned to hide the ‘Goon Show’.
No comment was made until the Staff were leaving and the ‘error’ pointed
out – fortunately many of the younger Staff were as keen on the ’Goon
Show’ as the rest of the School. Either the ‘Doc’ didn’t notice or took it
all in good part.
The ‘Doc’ was very democratic in the selection of Prefects. The Staff
presented a list of nominees to the Head, who then passed it to the
Prefects for comment. Any one who did not measure up the standards the
Prefects had set themselves was rejected and our decision was never