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Tales from the Staff Room

John Davey

John Davey - photo by Peter Davies

IN 1957, I had left LCGS to take an Honours course in Chemistry at Kings College London. During my final year in London, contemplating a year's teacher training at Exeter, I was unexpectedly asked by NRB to attend an interview at LCGS for a vacancy in the Chemistry Department.

I can't remember whether there were any other candidates (probably not) - but I was duly appointed to the staff at LCGS on 1st April 1960 even though I had not had any teacher training. When Harry Pett learned that I was returning as a teacher so soon after leaving as a pupil, he pointed out the date and politely enquired if this was some sort of practical joke.

Imagine my apprehension as I cautiously approached the Staff Room door on my first day at work! Men who had taught me almost all I knew and who were known to me by such names as Killer, Spider, Piggy, Pinhead, Charlie, Spud, Sniffer, and Yer Man were about to become my colleagues - and I would have to learn new names for them like Dai (Jones), John (Webb), Harry (Hoggins), Keith (Eastman), Ken (Gourlay), Hugh (Tayler), Jim (Nicholl) and Dick (Page). I was about to join the ranks of such giants of the teaching profession as occupied the LCGS Staff Room.

New 'boys' in the staff room went through a pretty searching test of character before they were deemed to be 'accepted'. The test went like this - on the first morning of a newcomer's attendance he would be offered a cup of coffee by Hugh Tayler, or one of the other elders of the Common Room. While the unfortunate man was being engaged in conversation, Dick Page would creep up behind him with the large revolver he had purloined from his wartime service (and which he used as a starting pistol on School Sports Day) and - without warning he would fire off a blank in close proximity to the newcomer's rear end !

If the man passed out with shock - he was deemed to be a dead loss. If he dropped his coffee cup in alarm - he would need a lot of training to become a full member of the Common Room. But if he managed not even to spill a drop of his coffee and - better - to continue his conversation without so much as a pause, then cheers rang round the room and he was immediately 'one of us' ! Thankfully there isn't anyone left who can remember how I coped with my own trial-by-pistol-shot.

Spud Tayler's Bell

Spud Tayler Oh, yes, the story of Spud's Bell. So lively and noisy were the conversations in the Staff Room during the morning Break that it was not unusual for the school bell to be completely missed with the result that Harry Hoggins, who was deputy head, had frequently to chastise us about being late for our lessons. Hugh Tayler, in a rash moment, volunteered to act as timekeeper and to provide us with an audible warning that the end of Break was approaching. This suggestion was met with scorn and derision, but Hugh was determined - in the interests of punctuality - to be conscientious in his new self- appointed position.

So it happened - towards the end of Break on the Monday morning - that we watched as Hugh gingerly climbed onto a chair, then to a table, with a large handbell in his hand. With dignified mien and without a word, he solemnly raised the bell above his head.

With a vigorous gesture he brought the bell down . . . and to his utter astonishment the bell remained completely silent ! He nearly fell off the table laughing when he realised that someone had 'nobbled' his bell by sticking the clapper fast with a huge quantity of the newly discovered Sellotape! He sheepishly returned to ground level - and we all trooped off to our lessons convulsed with laughter ! Oh happy days !

I don't think Hugh ever discovered who had silenced his bell - and I'm not telling !

More tales from the Staff Room will no doubt come back to me soon.