William Buckland 1947-1954
MY TIME AT CHIPPING CAMPDEN GRAMMAR SCHOOL 1947 – 1954
W. E. D. BUCKLAND
My primary education was at St Catherine’s School, not that the family were Catholic but rather that this school was nearer to Park Road than the St. James’ establishment at the other end of the High Street. All the pupils from our school passed the “scholarship”. The wisdom of the time was that this 100% pass rate was as much a desire to escape the nuns as it was to the good education that they provided.
Two aspects of my educational history to this point caused minor problems in my transition to secondary education. My Sister had taught me to read sometime before the age of three by the look and say method. Thus I had avoided ever learning the ABC which is something of a handicap when using material arranged alphabetically. The other problem was that Sister Ignatious had insisted on printing whilst the teachers at my new school wanted cursive script. Having no other option I just joined up my printed letters resulting in a childish hand but legible which characterises my hand writing to this day.
My Sister Roseanne is some four years older than me and so had preceded me to the Grammar School where she was a leading light in Hicks and a recipient of the Sir Thomas Davies’ Cup for Loyalty and Public Spirit and the Old Scholars’ War Memorial Prize. I naturally wanted to follow in these distinguished footsteps when the sheep were separated from the goats.
There was no sorting hat at Campden, rather the senior boys at the time looked us over as though we were stock at a cattle market before making their selection. It would be interesting to discover the geographical distribution of the student make-up at that time but my impression was that during my time the majority came from the Moreton area. Certainly the house selection in 1947 was ruled by a Moreton Mafia and we from Campden were left sucking the hind tit as being unknowns to the hierarchy. So at the tail end of the process I was selected to be in Townsend.
Unfortunately my first year’s reports, and the book that we got in year two, were lost in a baggage mishap at Heathrow. As I remember it Mrs Heatherly was our form mistress in the A stream, and having found out that the exams at the end of term were what counted, my first end of year report read something like:
Number in class 34
Position during term 32
Position in exams 4
Comment. Enjoys life too much during term.
I know we lost Tony Hedges and Jim Collett demoted to the B stream and that in short order Jim’s family left the district and Tony went off to join the Post Office. Them aside, it is amazing how many names that I have forgotten from that class. All I can recall now are:
Patricia Butt, Eileen Bennett, June Turvey, ? Windward, Barbara Baker, Shirley Pullen, Miggs Wyatt, ? Charles the daughter of the PO shop steward who lived down Berrington Road, Elizabeth Hirst, ? Booker
David Tarplett, Kenny Hopla, Denzil Harris, Bernard Harris, ? Price (from Moreton’s Fish and chip shop), Julian Tolkein (nephew of the famous man), ? Painting, John Payne, ? Knight
In those days the school’s intake was mainly from Gloucestershire, although we did take kids from Shipston and Ilmington, so that we had kids from Willersey but none from Broadway. Tolks came from Bretforton, grandfathered in as he had been a paying pupil before Rab Butler’s education act came into force in 1947.
For Eng. Lit. we did the prologue to the Canterbury Tales and Henry the Fifth. I can still quote the opening to the tales, “When that April ….” and remember the class going to see a performance of Henry V at Stratford. There is a line in the play when the night before the battle a French scout reports “these English are sadly out of beef”. As we had meat rationing still we were prepared to laugh but, to our great disappointment, the line was left out by accident or design.
My other recollection of O levels was the French oral. After a while the examiner, a nice (to me then) old lady, told me that “oui” and “non” answers would not get me a pass. I managed to say, in French, that in that case she should ask better questions. I think when she laughed I knew I was through but I got another giggle when explaining that my bicycle was “deuxieme main” and not new. One day I must find out how one says second hand in French!
After a year in the sixth form I added to my O level score by taking chemistry, physics and additional mathematics which were merely a way of keeping our examination hand in for the greater hurdle of the coming A levels. The chemistry and physics were relatively easy for me with pure mathematics as the big obstacle. The instructions for the maths paper said that full marks could be obtained on say five questions but I answered what I could on every one of them which was enough to get me a pass. Ironically I then went to work at a place where science PhD’s were ten a penny. When I explained my difficulties with calculus and statistics they gave me two books, Calculus Made Easy by Sylvanus Thomson and Facts From Figures by M J Moroney, which solved my problems at first sight. A pity I did not have them two years earlier.
My other memory of A levels concerns the physics practical. When the experiments were dished out I finished up with a piano wire, weights and some tuning forks in order to determine the relationship between tension, length of wire and frequency of vibration or some such. Mr Winward knew that with my tin ear I would not be able to compare the notes from the tuning forks and the wire and swopped me with someone else, probably Barbara Baker.
The first sporting occasion was the school cross country run which took us to Mickleton Hills Farm, then along to Pauls Pike and down the Aston Road back to school. In effect it was more of a road race than cross country but I was determined to do well and had run the course a couple of times accompanied by my sister. At the start of the race the admired runners seemed to be those from Blockley and Moreton which narked Tony Hedges and I so much that we came down Aston Road with no one else in sight. I lost my shoe at one point and Tony waited for me to pick it up. However, when he started to run out of puff just before the finish he insisted that I should run on. So I managed to win my first cross country but Tony and I should have gone up the school drive together in joint first place.
The next year, having moved up to the intermediates, I managed a creditable fourth or fifth place and I seem to remember that one of the Keen twins was ahead of me. The year after when I might have been expected to do well I footled around with some of my friends and came in at the back of the pack. This infuriated Mr Tilbrook who made me run the whole course again and checked to see that I did.
There is a gap in my memory until my first year in the sixth form during which period I might have done well or ill but when I was seventeen the course was changed and we left the school, crossed the Coneygree, went round in a big loop before returning up the Coneygree and back to the school. Not having trained I went off at a fair pace and was in the lead for a fair while until we came to an uphill wet ploughed field. I went from feeling good and in front to feeling dead and lying third. I managed to hang on to this position and made it up the drive and give Mr Fowells my name before rushing off to lose the contents of my stomach.
The next year I was determined to do better and I managed to do a little training and left the field behind. As I crossed the wall at the top of the Coneygree Ben Benfield, the school groundsman, pointed out that no one else had even reached that field and I went on to win in record time. As in the first year I managed to lose one of my shoes and ther is a photo of me running up the school drive with it in my hand watched by an enthusiastic supporter. I was too one paced to be much good at the shorter distances where the best I could manage was second place. In my first year Mayo and I represented the school in a quarter mile race at some inter schools meet but that was the sole episode of that nature I can recall.
Although I played football and cricket for the school I much preferred playing for Campden Colts and Campden second elevens where I felt more at home. At cricket the school had two fearsome fast bowlers in David Tarplett and ? Mayo. The former played for Gloucestershire Gypsies, a county nursery squad, and was offered a contract by the County when he left school. I remember the Gypsies matches, as by taking part, David had to give up on a school trip to see HMS Victory and gave his place to me. I suppose I did well enough at football to be awarded my colours which in those days was a blazer badge with the colours reversed.
One result of people not staying at school any longer than they had to was that there was a shortage of players for house matches and often it was a case of if you are big enough you are in. An example of this was Tolks who was not a sporting type by any means but was picked to play in goal for Hicks. The first shot that came his way could have been caught easily had not the goalies jersey he had been given been so small so that he could not raise his arms above shoulder height. With great presence of mind he headed the ball over the bar!
My contribution was in a house cricket match on an improvised pitch when a ball hit something on the pitch and reared up to hit me on the chin not only almost knocking me out but also necessitating two stitches. The next day was the annual match between Campden and the school. When I came in to bat the Campden captain, ? Hayden, stopped their fast bowler, Gordon Keitley, in the middle of his run up to come and look at my chin. They agreed there was room on the right side for more stitches and play resumed. I am told I made an adequate forward defensive stroke with my eyes tight shut.
After my first year I managed to get on the prize list most years. One time I was in the front row of those seated on chairs, the younger sprogs having to sit on the grass. The guest of honour, surrounded by begowned staff, got up to make a speech. “I shall not keep you long” he said to which I whispered in an aside ”Thank god”. Whereupon the speaker gestured in my direction saying “There is a young man here who is in favour of that”. After all this time the memory is a little dim but I have always claimed that it was Tolk’s uncle.
The prizes were always books from Morrisses. Latterly I was into scientific tomes but in the early years I was grateful to Mrs Heatherly who insisted on my taking a Van Loon history one time and Saki’s short stories on another. Van Loon showed me that history could be fun and I have had a lifetime’s enjoyment from the master of the short story.
In the early days the only “shows” on speech day were by the girls with nothing from the boys. Jones changed this with many rumblings from the testosterone laden. Where the trial scene came in this I cannot remember.
We had three Christmas socials for junior, inters and seniors. I remember that the decorations were homemade and utilised what was available in the school. I think it was Mr Howells who constructed the hemisphere of mirrors by pushing broken bits of mirror into papier mache but this was before my time. Suspended from a long piece of piano wire which was then well twisted it would rotate for an exceedingly long time.
The lights aimed at these rotating mirrors were signalling lamps from the ATC the colours being made by filters supplied by the science lab. I think that I enjoyed these occasions but remember as a Senior on the Purity Patrol thinking that the crop of eleven year olds knew a lot more about the facts of life than I had at their age.