Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    


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Schooldays 1952-58 by Michael Smith

"And did those feet in ancient time" - thank you, Wayne Flintham for arousing such warm and wonderful memories by reminding me of that hymn.  It still moves me whenever I hear it and I am sure the roots of this are from my time at WCGS.  This has inspired me to put on paper some of my memories of that time, so here goes.

I was born and bred in Furness Road and therefore lucky enough to have two schools within easy walking distance, Furness Road primary school and, of course, Willesden County Grammar School, aka "The County".

I have indelible memories of my first day at the County.

My first form mistress was Miss Carr and I have always had a great deal of respect for this very good and dedicated teacher but our relationship had a rather uneasy start.  I had a brother who preceded me at the County by 2 years but was not a natural academic and was not exactly a model pupil (to be fair, he was in the wrong school for his interests and aptitudes).  Miss Carr was, for a while, his form teacher.  On my first day we were all sitting awaiting the arrival of our first teacher with the usual first day nerves when in walked Miss Carr.  We all stood up.  "Be seated" was the command and we all sat down again.  Miss Carr then said, "Who is Smith's brother?".  I put my hand up.  "Stand up" she said.  She looked at me with a withering look and said "I have had a lot of trouble from your brother, I will have no trouble from you.  Do you understand?".  I went extremely red, gave a rather meek "Yes Miss" in reply and sat down.  For a while I was clearly "on probation" but, in fairness, I think she soon realised that she had a different pupil than my brother and after that we got on fairly well.

If anyone remembers my brother, his name was Derek Smith and attended from 1950-55.  Unfortunately Derek developed multiple sclerosis in his late teens and sadly died in 1975 at the age of 36.

Like Wayne, I too recall the smells from the laboratories and have similar, but different, memories regarding Miss Halliday.  I was never taught by her but do remember that you knew when she was approaching because her exotic perfume preceded her!  Another member of staff that heralded their approach, but this time by loudness of voice, was Herr Konigsberg.  If I remember correctly his favourite threat was "I'll push you through the wall, boy!".  And this at 20 decibels.  I think some actions and attitudes we endured would not be allowed today but I suspect that we had more respect for our teachers.

One of my most enduring and pleasant memories is of the end of term shows put on by the staff.  (And the disappointment of being banned from attending because of some misdemeanour?)  I recall that one year the staff did "1066 and All That" with "Big Bill" Beaumont (he of the loud waistcoats) as a magnificent Henry the VIII and Harry Crampton as "Blondie" (Debbie Harry, eat your heart out) the minstrel who played Danny Boy on the trombone.  Bill Beaumont was an exceptional maths teacher who made maths fun and therefore you listened and learned.

On the subject of Harry Crampton, another exceptional teacher, the story was that he had at one time played with the Dorsey Brothers.  I think this was probably schoolboy over-imagination because I have read several books on big bands and, in particular, the Dorseys and have never seen mention of Harry C.  But, you never know.

I was never any good at sport or games but did my bit as instructed for the sake of the school.  I wonder what the reaction of Dr. Roberts would have been to the current PC attitude to things competitive, i.e. "We don't play football or cricket at our school because someone would have to lose".  Life is a competition whether we like it or not and where better to learn to compete than at a good school surrounded by your peers suffering exactly the same pressures?  There is no shame in coming second, third or even seventeenth as long as you did your best.  I don't think I was scarred for life by often being the latter (but please don't ask my wife her opinion on this!).  Incidentally, I married Jill Gulson in 1966 who is also ex WCGS and we have lived in Northamptonshire for the last 34 years.

I seem to remember that Dr. Roberts was not very tall or large of frame and did not believe in corporal punishment.  But I can still remember the trepidation one felt when summoned to his presence for breaching some rule or other.  If you were sent to see "The Doc" you usually deserved what you got!  I only once was entered in the Black Book and cannot now remember what I did.  Is this so as to blot out the memory of some horrendous or dastardly deed or early senility setting in?  (Once again, please don't ask my wife).

For some time after leaving school I kept in regular touch with five of my classmates, mainly by enjoying a beer or two on Friday nights, but I'm only in regular contact with one of them now, Geoff Attewill, and that is now down to swapping Christmas cards and meeting on very special occasions.

I too am pleased that I received a broad based and well rounded education at a good school surrounded mainly by good and dedicated teachers and fellow pupils.  Obviously there were the usual proportions of bad apples (teachers and pupils alike) but we survived intact.

Because of friends and family moving away or, in some cases, passing away, I do not have the need to visit old stamping grounds of my youth.  But I still have very many happy memories of the area, the school and friends, and I am sure that these will stay with me for as long as my memory stays sound.  Finally, may I share my other enduring musical memory, the end of term hymn, "Saviour Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise".  Another tune always guaranteed to raise goose bumps. 

Thank you everyone.

Mike Smith

Forms 1G to 5G