Girls Blazer Badge Boys Blazer Badge

Upwardly Mobile in Striped Cap

Disjointed vignettes of life at LCGSB

Lawrence Garner (46 - 53)

"Good afternoon, madam, which school?"

MY Mother and I stood in the school uniforms department of Horne Bros, one of Brighton's more expensive gents' outfitters. The need to pay bus fares from Ringmer in addition to the inflated price of a uniform was adding insult to injury, but there was no alternative; I had to have the gear, and it could only be obtained in this small room redolent of brand new serge and decorated with plaques bearing the badges of the schools which Horne Bros had the honour to supply. In this impressive display of heraldry Lewes County Grammar School rubbed shoulders with the likes of Hurstpierpoint, Ardingly and other establishments which, in Sussex at least, glittered with scholastic glamour.

For me it was the first sharp indication that I was taking a giant leap. I was solemnly assisted into a navy-blue blazer with a gold badge representing the barbican of Lewes Castle ("He'll grow into it, madam"). A navy blue cap with light blue rings was set on my head ("Should come well down over the forehead, madam"). A tie in the same colours was wrapped in tissue paper. It was just as well I made the most of all this attention because I could never afford to shop at Horne Bros afterwards.

Compared with some of the flamboyant outfits on show the uniform was a discreet affair, but the combination of Oxford and Cambridge blues was, I suppose, a sufficient statement of the school's ambitions. I was too young at the time to appreciate the significance of the colours, but the weight of all that blue serge certainly brought on a grave sense of responsibility that grew even heavier when I overheard the price.

Not that my parents ever complained in my hearing about the cost of the grammar school place, although they could ill afford it on a farm worker's wage. I think they were quietly proud of me and did all they could to boost my confidence. It needed some boosting too, because I had no idea of what was in store for me. Nowadays there is a whole apparatus of school-parent communication, with a prospectus, an evening for 'new' parents and familiarisation visits for pupils. In 1946 you just stepped into the unknown.

First Step on the Ladder

It would be much more interesting if I could follow the example of so many others and depict my grammar school years as a miserable conflict between working class solidarity and artificial bourgeois values. Presenting myself as a proletarian hero gallantly resisting all attempts to turn me into a middle-class conformist would produce a rattling good yarn. But it wasn't Iike that - and I doubt whether it was like that for many writers of autobiography who choose to dramatise their school years, giving themselves a precocious awareness and creating with hindsight a neat pattern of cause and effect. Personally I just let the current carry me along.

Nevertheless it has to be said that LCGS was the sort of place that would later come in for some severe roughing-up from Angry Young Men. The headmaster, Neville Bradshaw, was an Oxford man who ran his empire on public school lines. The prefects were an elite band who wore a different uniform and had their own room. Team games were of central importance - rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer, with cross-country running and athletics playing a supporting role. Academic success was highly prized, with the ancient universities viewed as the norm and newer institutions grudgingly accepted as better than nothing.

Yet that superficial picture is misleading. It was not a class-conscious school; working-class pupils were certainly in a minority, but we were seldom made conscious of our social origins. The unforgivable sin was failing to achieve your potential, and the efforts of the staff were applied unrelentingly to making sure that if you had a brain you used it. In the process some of the teachers adopted methods that would be considered beyond the pale today. Sarcasm and other forms of mild humiliation were common enough, but they seldom involved malice. Rather they were used like a jockey's whip to bring out extra reserves of effort just when it was needed. Anyway, the sociology of education was the last thing on my mind as I set out for school on the first day of the autumn term in 1946.

Arrival at Lewes County Grammar School

In my impeccable uniform, with a pristine satchel containing my pencil box and ruler, I felt as conspicuous and self-conscious as a policeman out on the beat for the first time. I had literally no inkling of what was ahead of me, and what I felt was fear - fear of missing the bus, fear of finding myself without some essential item of equipment, fear of not being able to find my way around the school, even an irrational fear of not being able to find the school at all, although I knew the way perfectly well.

Part of the trouble was the length of the journey. It was a walk of about a mile from the house to the bus stop. The bus took fifteen minutes to get to Lewes, and there was then another lengthy walk down Station Street, past the station and along Mountfield Road. I felt a long way from home, and there was plenty of time for worrying.

For some reason I had pictured myself arriving at the school in isolation. Far from it. I was immediately caught up in a tidal wave of children that simply carried me along. They poured from buses, they erupted from the station, they streamed along the road on bicycles. At that time the boys' grammar school and the mixed secondary modern school stood side by side at the foot of Mountfield Road, the combined destination of about a thousand pupils, Another four hundred or so would be taking a different route to the girls' grammar school in Southover. No-one in those days was dropped off from a parent's car. It should have been a recipe for disaster, with Mountfield Road a daily battleground between rival factions, but I don't recall anything of the kind. Incredible though it may seem today, the two schools pointedly ignored each other, and the twice-daily procession was trouble-free. We grammar school boys were part of the scenery and certainly not targeted as enemies. In fact, when I got to know some of the secondary modern pupils I discovered that we were objects of pity rather than resentment. They took the sensible view that nobody in his right mind could envy those carrying the twin burdens of a school cap and a heavy load of learning.

There must have been some kind of organised reception arrangements because I eventually found myself standing in a large hall, painted in regulation dark green and cream. It was not a cosy place. The bare walls were embellished only by black and white photos of Swiss mountains and a light oak board headed PRO PATRIA and carrying a list of names. With hindsight I can see a poignant connection between the two, because the photographs were souvenirs of Alpine camps in the 1930s and the board commemorated pupils who had died in the war and may well have enjoyd those camps. It was a long list.


I was far more interested in the formidable ranks of masters seated at the front, and in the sole occupant of the platform. He was a man of a kind I had not encountered before. In my limited experience men fell into two groups - those who wore working clothes and those who wore suits. The headmaster came somewhere between the two. No-one ever accused Neville Bradshaw of being a snappy dresser; a sagging blue suit, a rather frayed shirt and a badly-knotted tie were overlaid with the tattered remains of an academic gown, and only a man with total confidence in himself and his school could have got away with looking like that.

We sang a hymn and said the Lord's Prayer, and I got ready to chant the multiplication tables in accordance with the protocol of Ringmer School. But not this time. Form lists were read out, and I discovered that I was in form 2A along with twenty-nine others from Jerome Abbo to Rodney Wilkinson, all of us apparently identified as the scholastic cream of the class of '46. Since streaming was rigid I was destined to spend a lot of time in their company, and one consequence was that I hardly ever spoke again to Michael Ellis, my primary school friend, who was out of sight in 2b.

The rest of that first day passed in a haze of admin chores - season tickets, lockers, health certificates, dinner money, textbooks, exercise books and sotto voce altercations between masters on the subject of misplaced boys or double-booked rooms. There were, however, some vivid and never-to-be-repeated impressions.

Books, for example. It is generally accepted that modern textbooks are far more attractive than they used to be. But children today, coming to their secondary school for the first time, simply move from one set of colourful books to another. They miss one of the old rites of passage - the issue of proper books in grey, brown and green covers, octavo size and an inch thick. Nothing could convince us more powerfully that we were on a pretty serious path of learning than those monochrome volumes with curt titles like Geometry or Elementary Algebra. The fact that most of us hadn't a clue about what they contained made no difference. And does anyone ever forget the renewed sense of purpose that comes with a shiny, virgin exercise book? (Actually they weren't all that shiny because they were still being produced from wartime paper, which meant that each page contained hard brown nobbles that could ruin a finely-wrought diagram).

The timetable dictated to us had novelty value too, because primary school lessons had simply proceeded in a sort of free flow, apparently dictated by the mood of the teacher. The word 'Latin' produced a mild frisson, although not on my part. As an avid reader of public school fiction I was well aware that Latin featured prominently in every schoolboy's life, and not in a nice way. I knew that you had to construe it, whatever that might mean. But my reading had not prepared me for Physics and Biology. As far as I had been able to gather from Three Cheers for the Upper Fourth! the only science was Chemistry, done in something called the stinks lab. And where was Euclid, the bane of Jenkins Minor's life? A further revelation was the fact that we would be moving from room to room for our lessons, an operation which would, it was emphasised, require superhuman feats of organisation on our part.

At one point during the day we were taken on a cursory tour of the school, which turned out to be surprisingly compact for a building holding five hundred pupils. The architect had opted for a design based on cloisters and quadrangles. Two lawns about the size of the number sixteen court at Wimbledon were surrounded by a rectangular perimeter of single-storey rooms. Dividing the lawns was a two-storey block containing laboratories and the gymnasium. Access to the rooms was by way of roofed corridors open to the air, The effect was roughly that of a sanatorium for victims of tuberculosis, but the design had much to recommend it. You could hardly get lost because the ground plan was visible from wherever you stood in the corridors, and you stepped into fresh air every time you left a room, but it could be hellishly draughty in the winter. The classroom windows commanded what an estate agent would call "extensive views over open countryside", although the flat land that stretched away beyond the playing fields consisted of little more than the bleak, badly drained marshland of the Ouse valley, and we were not to know that its attractions would quickly evaporate when we took our first cross-country run across its bogs and ditches.

School Dinners

Another memorable feature of that day was our first school dinner. Hot meals at 6d a time had been introduced at Ringmer school shortly before I left, but there they arrived in hayboxes and we sat at our desks to eat them. I confidently expected a higher standard of cuisine in an establishment that had its own kitchen. The dining hall stood back-to-back with the assembly hall, divided from it by a sliding screen, and the floorspace was uncomfortably crammed with trestle tables and chairs. There was an air of improvisation about the whole business, matched by the surly and impatient service from the kitchen. "You're lucky to get anything at all" was the unspoken message from the tiny hatch where we collected our food, and the workhouse atmosphere was reinforced by the unsmiling face of Mrs Parkinson the cook. The rumour was that her qualifications were minimal, and that she had wangled the job by virtue of being the wife of 'Parky' the caretaker, an equally ungenerous personality whom we were prepared to tolerate on the grounds that being married to Mrs Parkinson was more than enough for any man to have to put up with.

The standard of the food would simply not be accepted nowadays. Cold spam, lumpy mashed potato and over-boiled cabbage followed by semolina was pretty typical, but we ate it stoically and even went up for more since we were wartime children brought up on short rations and trained to accept without complaint whatever was available. Like our elders we had been subdued by the war, with its myriad regulations and the catchphrase that dismissed all complaints - "Don't you know there's a war on?" When I come to think of it I suppose we are the last generation to conform to rules from force of habit, half-resigned to accepting poor quality as one of the facts of life. People of my age still find it difficult to complain in public.

The House System

In the afternoon we were allocated to Houses and initiated into the system that provided the basis for competition within the school. Which House you joined depended in theory on where you lived. Boys from the town had Lewes House to themselves, those from the coast were allocated to a House called Seahaven, while Uckfield House contained residents of that town and its environs. The rest (from an ill-defined area usually referred to as 'around Chailey way') were swept up into a hotch-potch of a House called Martlets after the birds on the Sussex crest. Ringmer, hitherto off the school's radar, had no place in this scheme of things, so after some discussion I was sent to join Uckfield on the grounds that I was at least on the bus route. Mr Tayler, the gentlemanly Head of Classics, was our housemaster. He was far too diffident to indulge in rousing appeals to the House spirit, but he nevertheless made it quietly clear that if Uckfield did not emerge as the champion House he would want to know why.

And that was that. It was 3.50pm and time to go home, which I did in a state of cheerful excitement. What my parents made of my confused account of the day I don't know, but I felt relieved and confident. Cold reality was to break in on day two.

New Subjects and New Teachers

A blow-by-blow account of my unspectacular academic progress would be far too tedious, and I shall simply say that it involved long stretches of humdrummery, an occasional modest triumph and a great many embarrassments. We duly embarked on Latin, working from a textbook called Latin for Today (its title invariably amended to 'Eating for Today') which turned out to be an everyday story of Roman folk. Our French book was on much the same lines, featuring coloured pictures of men in berets and striped sweaters and buxom women carrying long loaves and wearing odd hats. Geometry, it turned out, was about 'theorems' and required us to prove laboriously propositions that any fool could see were true just by looking at the diagrams. Algebra was arithmetic made twice as difficult by perversely substituting letters for numbers. Whether we took to all this with enthusiasm or incomprehension depended largely on the teacher.

It has become fashionable in memoirs to classify teachers as charismatic figures, lovable eccentrics, small-minded sadists or dim incompetents, but at LCGS few masters could be so easily pigeonholed. The majority were capable men with enthusiasm for their subjects and reasonably content, I believe, with their lot. After all, grammar-school teachers, however poorly paid, enjoyed considerable status in those days. They were the intellectual leaders of the community, and many of them had formidable minds and wide-ranging interests that blossomed in an academic hothouse. Unlike so many of today's state school teachers they did not feel self-conscious about demonstrating a love of learning. But that did not necessarily make them easy to live with.

Donald Auld, for example, taught French with a combination of consuming passion and frustration with our inability to grasp the language instantly and enthusiastically. A small, sandy-haired man, he confronted the world with a sardonic half-smile and a corrosive line in sarcasm. He would frequently shame working-class boys with his savage caricature of squalid life on the council estates (he had, or pretended to have, a particular contempt for the Landport estate where I would later find myself living). On the other hand he could not tolerate middle class pretensions. I remember the announcement of a new school captain (who had better remain nameless) driving him into a frenzy of invective. "Oh yes, an excellent choice. Such a nice boy. Plays tennis, I believe, and knows how to pass cucumber sandwiches round to the ladies. I suppose the fact that he's a complete moron is irrelevant."

Auld believed in living dangerously and he would never have got away with it in these politically-correct days, when teachers have to tread very carefully indeed. He sounds appalling, but in retrospect I can see that he always played fair. He had no inhibitions about insulting his classes, yet he never sheltered behind his authority when things went too far. And occasionally they did. He was a deeply religious man, and I recall one diatribe against frivolous activity on Good Friday. "And I suppose the lower animals from the Landport estate will be marking this holy day by flocking to a football match?" This was too much for one of our number. "It's all right for you. You get three bloody weeks holiday at Easter. Other people just get a couple of days!" We froze in our seats. Swearing at a master was an expulsion matter. Auld put his head on one side thoughtfully. "You have a point there," he replied mildly. "but just remember, if I didn't get three weeks neither would you". The response was irrelevant, but entirely disarming. I never saw Auld lose his temper or give out a punishment. That would have been childish, and in his lessons you had the rare sense of being treated as an equal. A mistake in translation might provoke sarcasm; it might equally be greeted by a courteous assumption that the error could not possibly have resulted from abysmal ignorance but from a temporary lapse of memory. He would refer to major writers and philosophers as though they were part of our shared intellectual experience, and saw nothing incongruous in inviting second-formers to consider the claims of Existentialism or the shortcomings of Plato's theory of Forms.

We never quite fathomed Donald Auld. As we entered his classroom we were pretty sure that we were going to be embarrassed, but there was always the possibility of entertainment, of some magnificent indiscretion that would go well over the top. He was the most subversive man in the school - and we learned French very efficiently.

A notable part of Auld's legacy was the twinning of Lewes with Blois, possibly the first example of what has become a common arrangement. It arose from a longstanding relationship between LCGS and a high school in Blois - something we became very conscious of each year when the school was invaded by a strangely-dressed crowd enveloped in a fog of Gauloises.

There was never much entertainment in classes conducted by Kenneth Eastman, a mathematician so tightly self-contained that the weakest joke was out of the question, let alone a major lapse in taste. He arrived at the beginning of our third year as one of a batch of post-war teachers replacing some very superannuated specimens drafted in for the duration. After the anarchy of maths lessons with an elderly and forgetful veteran it was a nasty shock to be confronted with this fair-haired, fresh-faced young man whose features seemed to be set in concrete, and who walked at the stolid and slightly menacing pace of an old-fashioned beat constable. He was a reputable club cricketer, and although I never saw him play I have no doubt that he analysed each ball with calm and infallible accuracy and dispatched it with exquisite precision. Eastman had none of the extravagant invective of Donald Auld. He never wasted a word but could shrivel you just as effectively. He had a way of asking a question and, on getting the wrong answer, going on to something else without comment, as though your ignorance was only to be expected and a matter of supreme indifference to him. It was a humiliating technique and one which I suffered frequently. Having said that I ought to point out that after days of terror in class and nights of weeping over incomprehensible homework I obtained an improbable O Level in Maths.

I suppose the lesson of that is that fear can be a great motivator. Fortunately there were other masters who managed to get excellent results in more humane ways. Latin, for example, was never going to have great popular appeal, but it was taught in the most civilised fashion by Hugh Tayler. Dignified, courteous, wryly humorous and universally respected, he was the epitome of the sympathetic public school master as depicted in that favourite fiction of mine. He was a fine teacher and rugby coach, although no-one could have been less like the super-keen sports master. After the death of my father when I was in my second year he would occasionally stop me in the corridor and ask how I was getting on. At that time I could not understand why I should be singled out, but much later, in the course of a sixth-form tutoring session, he revealed diffidently that my father had been an NCO in the Home Guard company he had commanded. The classics teacher and the farm worker had apparently struck up an unlikely friendship, and it was typical of him that he should have felt obliged to keep a discreet eye on my progress.

Foundations of English

My decision to become an English teacher was undoubtedly influenced by two men who still seem to me to represent the best kind of schoolmaster. Colin Silk was a lean, wiry, restless man, passionately devoted to drama. His teaching style was appropriately theatrical, alternating between quiet intensity and sudden rhetorical outbursts. It was as though he had cast himself in the role of a teacher and was determined to develop the part with each succeeding day, polishing the script and perfecting the gestures. On a good day he could produce a virtuoso performance with long passages of perfectly-phrased monologue broken by Pinteresque pauses calculated to restore wandering attention, and even the complexities of English grammar acquired a simmering undercurrent of excitement when he expounded them. In matters of style in speech or writing he was inexorable, insisting on accuracy and precision. Not surprisingly, lessons with Colin Silk could be a draining experience, but each one made an impact. His lifestyle would hardly raise an eyebrow now, but in the 1940s it was something of a legend in the town. In summer he would walk the streets in shorts and little else. His children were reputed to play in the garden with no clothes on. He may well have been a vegetarian and a Socialist after the style of George Bernard Shaw. But this eccentric home life did not carry over into school, and there was never the remotest possibility of his becoming a figure of fun, Naturally he was a mainstay of the Lewes Little Theatre as an actor and producer. He did much to lift that theatre well beyond the standards of the average amateur dramatic society, and the same was true of his school productions, which had a professionalism rarely achieved elsewhere in those days.

The head of the English department was Bill Euston, an equally fine teacher but a very different personality. Bluff, cheerful and bustling, he was famous for his baby Austin car and his elderly suitcase, both of which always seemed to be on the point of disintegration. Bill had an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject, but was also an expert on horticulture, the internal combustion engine and much else. Consequently his exposition of Iiterature was likely to involve unexpected digressions into obscure byways of human knowledge, a habit which I have no doubt was carefully calculated to arouse our curiosity and expand our mental horizons. He could demystify literature and link it with every other subject on the curriculum, making the study of poetry seem a natural and entirely relevant activity. Bill's outgoing personality, easy authority, wide interests and love of teaching would have made him an outstanding headmaster, but he was content, it seems, to remain at Lewes until his retirement, cultivating his garden, tinkering with his car and generally enjoying life.

During my seven years at LCGS I was to encounter many more teachers who remain in sharp focus in my memory. HS Duffin, a 60-a-day man, who would light up the moment the bell went for the end of our science lesson (double periods were tough for him).....Dai Jones, the archetypal boyo from the Valleys, rugby-mad and an unlikely Latin teacher....the wildly anarchic Peter Gem, whose casual approach to the teaching of history both infuriated and charmed us....Mrs Archard, an excellent teacher of German, for a time the only woman on the staff and the owner of a whole wardrobe of tight sweaters that made her an instant sex symbol.....Stanley Godman, a cultured man with much to impart, but a hopeless disciplinarian.....George Austin, the gentle music master who confronted determined philistinism with dazzling performances of Beethoven piano sonatas.....the shoulder-shrugging Dick Page, who was rumoured to have had a distinguished career in special forces, and who once gave us a useful demonstration of how to place plastic explosive on a railway line......for good or ill they all made a powerful impression and were an ideal introduction to the complexities of adulthood.

Camping at Stratford

It was the mercurial Colin Silk who decided to organise a school camp at Stratford-upon-Avon in the summer of 1947. Fanatical Shakespearian though he was, I am sure there were times when he regretted the decision because the staffwork must have been appalling. Acquiring a site, assembling a dozen bell tents and what appeared to be a complete army field kitchen, organising a truck to transport all that equipment, making rail travel arrangements, assembling food stocks and purchasing blocks of tickets for the theatre were just the preliminaries. The day-to-day administration once we got there must have been a considerable burden, in spite of the support of his long-suffering wife and other members of staff.

I thoroughly enjoyed that fortnight. The journey was an adventure in itself, involving a train to Victoria, a trip on the Underground to Paddington and then the incomparable Great Western Railway. For engine-spotters Paddington was a glimpse of paradise, with its exotic array of steam-hauled expresses, one of which eventually deposited us at an isolated junction called Honeybourne. From here there was a less glamorous diesel railcar to Stratford.

The campsite was a riverside field at Tiddington, about two miles out of the town, and we arrived to find the tents up and the kitchen installed in a barn. From then on our time was spent in exploring the town, buying awful souvenirs, swimming in the river and going to the theatre. (The great thing about Colin Silk was that he didn't bother about health and safety issues, so we were largely left to our own devices.) I think I saw four plays, including the famous Hamlet with Robert Helpmann. For one who had had hardly ventured outside East Sussex that camp was a revelation.

Knights at the Opera

Talking of theatrical performances, I think it was in 1950 that the Glyndebourne Opera appealed to the school to provide a number of extras for a production of Verdi's Macbeth. We played Macduff's army, and were led into battle by the tenor James Johnstone, a name I was already familiar with from some old records of Messiah. Given the very long Glyndebourne dinner break and the fact that we only came on at the end of the opera it was a long evening, not improved by the fact that we were consigned to the cavernous area below the stage. Anyway, our big moment came when we erupted on to the stage, routed Macbeth's troops and surrounded the dying tyrant as the curtain slowly fell. We were even on the telly. (A fashion note for social historians: it was at Glyndebourne that I saw my first pair of blue jeans, worn by the assistant director and the subject of much envious comment.)

Carry on Cadets

I am not sure what persuaded me and a select group of friends to join the cadets. My friend Trevor Beeforth later blamed me for the whole unfortunate enterprise, but he changed his tune when he was unexpectedly promoted to lance corporal.

Anyway, for a year or so we paraded every Wednesday afternoon in scratchy uniforms, learning to strip a bren gun, identify the parts of a Lee-Enfield rifle (it was several years before I got round to firing one) and a good many other military skills, including the tricky about-turn on the march. Our commanding officer was Captain Davies, a small Welshman who normally functioned as our Geography master, and I think I disappointed him by my undistinguished performance in just about everything.

Likely Lads

The mention of Trevor Beeforth (and the fact that he may well read these reminiscences) reminds me that I ought to acknowledge a friendship that began when we were both innocent new boys.

Together with an amiable lad named Brian Honess and the quietly earnest Jim Best we formed what was probably an insufferable quartet of would-be intellectuals, although on looking back I cannot see much else that we had in common, except perhaps a marked sense of the ridiculous and a determination to survive the system with our individuality intact.

I don't want to give the impression that we were rebels against rigid conventions, but there were certain things that demanded at least token opposition. Organised physical exercise, for example, was something of a fetish, and I suspect that we had an agreement never to show any ability in that direction.

Second Wind

I broke ranks only once. Each year in the spring term the whole school was required to take part in a cross-country run across the adjacent swamp. In our junior and intermediate years we were content to jog gently at the rear of the pack, engaged in polite discussion. It must have been in the fifth year that I had a rush of blood to the head and decided to go for glory, breaking away soon after the start amid a chorus of disapproval from my friends. I lunged on, passing one startled laggard after another and leaping streams with wild abandon. If you are expecting me to say that I breasted the tape first amid astonished acclamation I shall have to disappoint you. I came twenty-fifth, but it was an awesome (and unrepeated) achievement.

Coming twenty-fifth, alas, was no way to be honoured on Speech Day, which was unashamedly an occasion for the elite. It followed the usual course - an introduction by the Chairman of the Governors, a report on the year by the headmaster in his other suit and the presentation of prizes by a distinguished guest who was expected to say something stirring. After two or three years we could have written their speeches for them. "I was never any good at school (pause for laughter) but although I never won any prizes I learned things that are perhaps more important....honour....loyalty....teamwork....You boys have opportunities unknown to previous generations....make sure you use them to the full..." Then it was time to sing the school song, which was, I suppose, par for the course as school songs go. It sketched the history and topography of Lewes and was sung to a tune not unlike La Marseillaise in tempo but lacking in Gallic je ne sais quoi.


On one occasion a number of us assembled in a hall on the Nevill estate to record the song, an ambitious undertaking in those days when the process involved pressing a wax disc. It was a hot day, and nothing seemed to go right. We all got increasingly irritable, but eventually something emerged. Thanks to dead acoustics and a slightly offkey trumpet obbligato it was not a wild success, but a lot of parents bought copies to swell the Chapel Fund. [Surprisingly, that recording can still be heard on our website sixty years later.]

Considering that the Chapel Fund loomed over us during my entire time at the school I should have mentioned it before now. At the end of the war Neville Bradshaw had resolved that we should have a chapel to commemorate former pupils who had died on active service. For a state school it was an extraordinarily ambitious idea, and NRB was unflagging in the pursuit of his aims, notching up some big fund-raising efforts. One of his triumphs was a school fete (1948 I think) when huge crowds flocked in to see it opened by the comedian Tommy Handley, the outstanding show business personality at the time. The chapel was eventually built, some time after my departure.

A Fine School - A Fine Education - All Things Considered

These disjointed vignettes haven't really done justice to LCGS. I can conclude my own story very quickly. I took O Levels in the year they were introduced, went on to A Levels and (thanks to some wise direction) secured an Exhibition at Southampton University. I was fortunate to attend a fine school that provided a superb all-round education to boys like myself who, in these days, would be called 'disadvantaged'.