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Tall Tales and Short Tales

Yarns Spun By OLs

A Theatrical Career Cut Short

Eddy Wood

IN 1952 I was involved in a minor capacity in the production of the School play which that year was to be "The Marvellous History of St Bernard". This was a miracle play with more than the usual requirement for "effects", including the inevitable flash followed by a cloud of white smoke. I decided that the rather subdued effect obtained by the use of the proprietary powder supplied needing beefing up a bit. Tony Shrapnel and I set up some experiments with the addition to the basic mixture of magnesium powder. This needed, of course, to be ignited remotely by an electrical fuse, but I decided that time was too short to allow us to do this every time, and tried with a match.

After the smoke had cleared I watched with fascinated horror as the burned skin of my hand peeled back. We rushed from the Prep Room (between the Chemistry and Physics labs), through a hushed class of budding chemists (they had heard the explosion) to Mr Hall, who directed us to the Mr Fixit of those days -- Mr Parkinson. He was caretaker, and his wife was head cook. They and the rest of the kitchen staff were having their dinner. He was marvellous, and the dressing he applied (later commented upon favourably by the staff at Victoria Hospital) were accompanied by reassuring words in his inimitable Yorkshire accent. Meanwhile, all of the other staff looked on in varying degrees of revulsion -- except for Mrs Parkinson, a lady of considerable girth, who continued her eating with unabated enthusiasm.

Later on, Mr Hoggins was to shake his head in disbelief and disappointment and mutter something about it being just as well that I was not going on to read Chemistry. The show went on successfully, the powers that be having decided, upon reflection, that the original flash powder would do very well thank you very much.

Judging from the number of similar mishaps of this type that are documented on this website I realise I was just another victim of inexperience and lack of caution. From that point on my enthusiasm for both chemistry and dramatics distinctly cooled.

Keith Eastman At Lewes Priory Cricket Club

A Birthday Tribute from John Hayward on Keith's 80th Birthday, July 2002

T HE phone rang at my home in Lewes on the morning of August 15th, 1956. My mother answered and called out "John, it's Mr Eastman for you!". Keith asked me to play cricket, my first game for Lewes Priory C.C., that afternoon. I was extremely nervous - I was just 16 !

We were playing Taunton and I went in to bat to join Keith with the score tottering at 70 for 7! I remember thinking "I must not get out". Keith's strict discipline at school was renowned and I was petrified of upsetting "Sir" ! Fortunately I scrambled 11 runs out of a partnership of 61 in 40 minutes while Keith went on to score a magnificent 102 out of 138 all out. His straight driving that afternoon was devastating. Our umpire, Charlie Hunt and I had to to jump for our lives at the non-striker's end on at least three occasions. We won the game by just 22 runs.

I have now been associated with Priory C.C. for some 46 years serving as captain and also President in 1995. Thanks to Keith's phone call back in 1956 I was able to form lifetime friendships with many people including Stan Hughes, Peter and John Laker, Ron Cosham and Albert Knight. Keith will understand if I say that it was "most interesting" to captain Priory with the late Harry Pett in the side !! What a character - another maths teacher !!

The Cane


W E WERE two thirteen-year-old culprits, sent to Mr Bradshaw by Mr Herbert to be dealt with for having skipped detention the previous evening. In he came, wearing those gigantic wellington boots, fresh from feeding his pigs (I never did know where he kept them - the pigs, I mean). We waited in frozen silence whilst he went into the little ante room to his office and changed into his headmaster kit.

"Why are you boys here?"
"Please, Sir, Mr Herbert sent us for not turning up for detention yesterday!"
"And why was that?"
My confederate: "Well, Sir, I was going to the cinema yesterday, and I was so excited thinking about it that I forgot all about the detention!"

Now we had each intended to offer a similar excuse, and I do not know what sudden surge of insanity caused me to look that dreadful face in the eye and say: "I thought Mr Herbert would forget about it, Sir!"

Bradshaw remained impassive: "Well, I'm going to give you each a choice. Two strokes of the cane or two evenings in detention. Which is it to be?"
My confederate opted for the detention, but in a second bout of out-of-character recklessness I heard myself muttering, "The cane please, Sir!"

For the first time that morning, the headmaster smiled (which was not at all encouraging)! Dismissing my friend, he made me wait whilst he brought out that fearsome, long and slightly curved 'cane' (I think it was really a stout piece of willow).
Face the door; bend forward; hands on knees: Thwack! Thwack!
"All right -----, you can go"
"Thank you, Sir"

I turned to go, and was half way thought the door when, horror of horrors, Mr Bradshaw called me back! He approached me and stretched out his hand. Shaking mine, he said just two words, "good man."

For fifty-five years I have never told a soul of this incident. But I never forgot those words, and I have never forgotten that dark, fearsome man who so succinctly awoke in me that day the self-confidence which has served me so well throughout the lifetime which followed.

The One Way System

Martin Ternouth (58-65)

S HORTLY after the arrival of John Fanner in 1960 it was discovered that the urban blight of overcrowded traffic had reached the school. Plans were announced - Mr Page was their principal advocate, I seem to remember - for a one-way system to operate in the lower (south) cloisters and the middle passage linking to the dining room. Big white arrows were painted on the floor and boys had to obey them on penalty of detention - even when running messages during lessons when the corridors were completely deserted.

I had the job of poster-maker to the Science Club and the Chess Club (as Nick Russell remembers in a later Barbican). Putting the posters and notices up after lunch required a complete circuit of the school to cover a distance of six feet !

As far as I am aware the system was never formally abandoned, it merely fell into disuse through masters being too embarrassed to enforce it. That was probably the last manifestation of old-style command and control. Some years after LCGS had become The Priory I had cause to visit one Saturday afternoon and saw a notice saying: "Sixth Formers are requested not to smoke in the corridors".

["Requested" ! And only "not ... in the corridors"! NRB would have had a fit! ]

Mr Auld's Come-uppance Comes Down

John Cooper (49-56)

I HAVE never forgotten the occasion when Mr Auld, attempting to teach French to a very unco-operative class, was writing on the roller wallboard. As he pushed the board up, the entire board and its frame came away from the wall, leaving him -- a man of no great stature -- trying to hold it up. The class was highly amused at his predicament and conspicuously failed to rush to his immediate assistance.

He, cross, and no doubt in a state of panic, responded with a French proverb which he then hurriedly translated as " When people laugh like that, they are laughing at a fool ! " Perhaps not quite what he intended to say, but the class did enjoy his faux-pas.

One Eyed Man in the Kingdom of the Blind -- A Tale of Triumph over Adversity

Peter Blundell (61-67)

U CKFIELD were playing Martlets in the House Cricket matches in 1966 or thereabouts. The incident took place whilst Martlets were batting, chasing a modest total for victory. Will Bartholomew was batting, and whilst he was not in the technical league of Mike Atherton - he was a big hitter. Will was without doubt the strongest guy in the school, as he proved by winning the shot-putt and discus by the proverbial mile each year. I seem to recall that he later became the UK Junior shot-putt champion as well - to say nothing of being able to clean and jerk the better part of 300 pounds when no Masters were around to prevent it. A big man indeed!

The fielder in question was Peter ("Nobby") Clark who was fielding at mid-off - and what made this story so remarkable was that Nobby had lost the sight in one eye a couple of years before. The actual incident was acclaimed by Keith Herbert as the "Sporting achievement of the Summer" at our Uckfield House meeting at the end of the season. Here's how he put it :--

"We were playing on the big main square and Will Bartholomew was facing. He received a good length delivery -- took a massive swing of the bat and made good contact. The ball disappeared upwards into the heavens over long on and was assumed to be a certain six.

Then, as if by magic, Nobby Clark appeared at full tilt having run around 40 yards from his mid-off position. Just as the ball was about to cross the boundary, Nobby leapt in the air and with the fingertips of one hand (and sight of his one eye !) took the most unbelievable catch I have ever seen in all my cricketing days."

Keith Herbert then looked thoughtful and said "I can't remember who the bowler was though." Well, Keith, I can remember very clearly -- it was me ! I was completely dumb-founded by Nobby's feat, which brought me an unexpected wicket, and I could not help but talk about it for weeks afterwards. Well done Nobby !

So says Freddie Cosstick (30 - 37) . . .

W HEN NRB was building the chapel, after a rugby match when Ted Wynter and I played together for Oxford University RFC v. Newport (he kept a framed copy of the match programme on his study wall), Dai Jones is reputed to have said: "When Bradshaw has finished that bloody chapel there will be a stained glass window at the east end - Christ in the middle, Ted Wynter on one side and Fred Cosstick on the other !"

On Other Duties


I T WAS a Saturday afternoon in the Spring of 1947. I was wandering up the lane to the village shop on some errand when I saw this distant figure coming down the hill with a walking stick, a characteristic limp and a rolling gait. Surely that cannot be ...? What on earth is he doing here? As the figure drew ever closer I realised that it was indeed Mr Larwill, my woodwork master rapidly approaching. There was nowhere to hide.

"Hello there" said he "is your father in ?" "Yes Sir" I replied, as my heart sank. Oh God, what on earth have I done to warrant Mr Larwill calling on my father at home, 14 miles from Lewes, on a Saturday afternoon. My mind raced over all mis-deeds and could think of nothing that would have warranted such a visit. Was my woodwork that bad?

I continued on my errand, full of apprehension, to the shop and then retraced my steps wondering what trouble I had to face when I arrived home. When I entered the house there was Mr Larwill, being served tea and cake and Mom and Dad looking a little serious. "I thought I must be on the right track when I saw you walking up the hill" said he. It turned out that he had walked about two miles from the nearest railway station trying to find our rather out-of-the-way cottage.

As it turned out the explanation was more bizarre than I had imagined. My father had asked Lewes Building Society (a small local society, long since taken over) for a substantial loan to modernise our cottage which at that time was rather primitive. Mr Larwill was, apparently, on the board of directors and made it his business to look into applications, do surveys, meet borrowers and make decisions on loans. He seemed pleased with what he saw and left an hour or so later to walk two miles back to the station. We had no car to take him back or telephone to summon a taxi.

After he had gone, my father told me that Mr Larwill had asked him to instruct me not to mention at school anything about his visit - and I never did - but he used to give me a sly grin when passing in the corridor. Nice chap, Fred. One of the best.

"Glamour Pants" --- James Essex (38 - 42)

I THINK it was in 1941 that LCGS got its first female teacher. Her name was Elaine Spencer, she had just come down from Oxford and she was very attractive. This latter quality had a profound effect on the badly behaved of Form 4A, who always insisted on occupying the back row of desks in our classroom so that we could fool around. With the arrival of Miss Spencer, however, the same boys wanted to sit in the front row, thereby to view the object of our attention displaying her splendid legs as she sat perched on one of the high stools which accompanied the former masters' desks.

One day, she got up to write something on the board and stretching high was rewarding us with a fleeting glimpse of her shapely calves, when calamity struck! Her french knickers fell down! Totally disregarding the gasp of amazement from the class, she stooped down, grabbed them from the floor and stuffing the bundle of pink froth deftly into her handbag said: "Now then where was I . . .

After class, an "inquest" was held into the incident and it was unanimously agreed that no one was to make jokes about it or say anything to embarrass the young good-looking teacher. However, at Ken Perkins' suggestion, we decided to call Elaine Spencer "Glamour Pants" from that day forward. Sadly, I later learned that she had gone, after the war, to the Middle East to marry a British army officer but had died of a tropical disease.

Sussex Yokels and the Sussex Dialect --- Alf Rogers (39-46)

T HAT Sussex dialect was always something that titillated the imagination. On first arriving in Sussex I can remember my father taking me walking and getting as far as Burwash (Burrish). There, outside the "Bear" were a number of locals in round frocks, with their trousers gartered and all wearing Hailsham hats. And we could not understand a word that they were saying!

So, it is not surprising that dear old Claude Auld, our French master, was willing to comment somewhat acerbically on our accents, when the need arose.

There was a young chap in my class who came from "Roipe" (under the Downs you will recall). One day, when Claude had been called to the telephone, he felt the need to excuse himself and so left the room. By the time he returned, Claude was back and in full flight, spittle flying in all directions, so our friend tried to sneak in without disturbing him. When he was spotted, Claude wished to know, " And where do you think you're going . . . ? " ----- Our friend : " I bain't gooin' nowhere, zur, oi be cumin baack ! "

"The Two Worst Boys in the School . . . . " --- James Essex (38-42)

My special pal at LCGS was John Amos - who died tragically in Western Australia in 1968. John was not a "bad" boy but full of mischief and never able to pass up an opportunity for practical joking. He had a strange habit: whenever he successfully played a prank on somone he'd express his satisfaction by muttering "Pert, pert, ..." under his breath. He led me into numerous scrapes, most of which earned both of us whackings from the Old Man plus a reputation as being ".....the two worst boys in the school." One of the funniest stunts he pulled, occured in the summer of 1940. Our bikes used to be stacked with the front wheels alternatively up and down, in a rack overlooked by the toilet block near Gluey Larwill's handicraft room.

On the day in question, John repeatedly excused himself from classes complaining of an "upset stomach." At ten to four when the final bell went he said:"Come with me if you want to see something funny." He led the way into the toilet, entered a stall and climbed up on the seat so's he could see through the window overlooking the yard where the bikes stood. The Lewes boys were coming out and collecting their bikes for the journey home. John watched them intently.

Suddenly, he cried out excitedly as two lads called Moore and Short reached up, grabbing their bikes by the handlebars and pulling them down to the ground - then it happened! Both bikes suddenly disintegrated and fell to bits as heaps of metal, their wheels spining across the yard in opposite directions. Shaking with silent mirth, John looked at me and murmured: "Pert pert, Jim ...!"

He had of course spent his time absent from the classroom unscrewing and unbolting every moving part of those two bikes then balancing them carefully in the rack so that they looked perfectly normal.