Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    


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School Camp Memories

I was at the School from 1932 to 1937 and naturally have read with great interest the accounts of Daphne Blampied on the weekend and summer camps.

I spent one happy weekend at Princes Risborough with Mr. Butler, the physics master and Miss Ingham, the biology mistress.  I remember horse flies that caused painful bites and I well remember "Bill" Butler showing me a dead one and demonstrating how the jaws acted like scissors.  The cost for the weekend was 5 shillings including the rail fare.

I went to three of the summer camps - Bognor in 1933, Newquay in 1934 and Conway in 1936.  Daphne thought the cost was 5, but my memory (admitted fallible) was that the cost for the fortnight was 2 10/- and for 5 it was possible to have a month in Germany with your German correspondent on a reciprocal hospitality basis.

I well remember the early morning swims with "Drych" (Dry Charlie Forbes) when we were at Conway.  It was at a place called Conwy Morfa or Conway Marsh and picking my way through spiky grass that grew through the sand.  Conway was the year of the tragic death of John Marks when he fell and was drowned under Llanberis Falls in spite of the heroic efforts of "Drych" to rescue him.

It was an unusual day in that we had two excursions instead of one - I went to the summit of Snowdon while others went to Betws-y-Coed.  After coming down from Snowdon my party caught the train back to Conway while the others went by coach and home by another route.  I arrived back at Conway with my group at about 4pm or so and we loafed around reading and talking until the other group returned and we found out about the tragedy.  Mr. Wallis told us all to write letters to our parents so that they would get our letters next morning before they got the newspapers, which would report the death of John.  He then took all our letters and posted them as he went to catch the last train to London so that he could see John's parents.

Daphne also mentioned the last night song "1999".  It was indeed incredible the amount of gossip and clandestine events that the fourth formers packed into that song.

I shall never forget the Newquay camp.  Things were hard for our parents and more than half the pupils had the 4 guineas a term fee waived.  My father, a musician, had been run over and out of work for two years and was getting on his feet again.

It was a bit of a struggle but my parents managed to afford my fortnight in Newquay.  My mother had put a whole 1 note in a purse with some coins with strict instructions not to lose it.  As the train raced through Cornwall Mr. Wallis said that we should soon be arriving at Par where we would change for the Newquay train and there would be time to buy some refreshments.  I got out the purse to see what change I had but unfortunately was standing by the open window.  The wind rushing through the opening blew the precious 1 note out of the window and I do not think I have ever been so shocked in my life!

That event formed a verse of the "1999" at the last night concert.  It was "Young Summers and his grandson will go flying kites with banknotes tied on for a tail".  In the event I have had two grand daughters and neither has had any interest in kites!

Mr. Wallis was like a father to us and the first day of camp he opened a bank so that we could deposit most of our money with him for safety and then draw out what we needed each day.

After breakfast we would pack up our blankets on the palliases and then at 10am would come Mr. Wallis' deep voice" the bank is open".  At 9pm we would all assemble in the hall and Mr. Wallis would read us one of H. G. Wells' short stories like "Epiornis Island" or "The Land of the Blind".  Then after telling us the programme for the next day we would all go bed.

Marvellous, Happy Days!

Jack Summers
(1932-37)