No. 188

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  Autumn 2015


Bill Affleck (SH 45-51) writes:

“I enjoyed Robert Bodenham’s reminders of the 1940s. I came to St Bees in 1945 and there was, of course, a lot of continuity from the war years. His mention of the staff members particularly stirred memories. What an influence these men (and women) had on the future direction of our lives. Of the masters Robert remembers many still appear on the 1948 school photo. P.G. Gow was acting Headmaster in 1945; the replacement for Mr Boulter as Head having failed to show up. I was never taught by him but as Headmaster he wasn’t very impressive. In no particular order I remember ‘Monk’ Matthews, who assessed my musical capabilities in short order with the equivalent of ‘don’t call us we’ll call you’. Years later in a House music competition I was invited to open my mouth in time with the music but not to let any sound come out. (Yes, he was ‘Monk’ to us, not ‘Monkey’ as in Robert’s account). He ran an Austin 7 which, on one occasion, was lifted and placed across School House lane; it must have taken a seventeen point turn to extricate it! He shared Barony House with ‘Doc’ Learoy, from whom I (briefly) learned some colourful history, and Miss Widdas, who taught art; a lovely person. T.A. Brown was firmly established as Housemaster of Foundation North. Foundation South was under Dr Ehrenberg, who would leave St Bees, change his name to Elton and, as a Professor in, I think, Birkbeck College, forge a distinguished academic career. TAB was responsible for an ‘entertainment’ at the end of the Christmas terms with some wicked lyrics; one I remember went ‘Mr Lever has the biggest teeth you ever saw. He uses them to strip the Bren machine guns in the Corps. The Major won’t demob him so he keeps on saying Lor’. Peter Lever taught French and yes, he had impressive teeth and yes he did say ‘Lor’. Mary (Snippets) Brown taught us history for School Certificate, made it live and left me with a lifelong interest in history. Mention Bismark to me to this day and she and her cyclostyled notes and snippets come back to mind. ‘The Nardle’ Thompson taught us English. He had the upstairs room adjacent to Staff Room and his hall-mark trick was to throw a confiscated comb from his desk through a fairly narrow top light in the window at the other end of the room; I can’t remember him ever missing. Why ‘The Nardle’? I’ve no idea. Below was Mr Aston’s room and mathematics. Robert remembers him as a ‘quiet sort of man’ but my memory is of a sleeping volcano in whose class you dared not be stupid. The warning sign of an eruption was ‘we’ll do it in buns’. He was a first class teacher and, thanks to him, I’ve never had problems with integrals, differential equations and the like. Martin P.L. Wall, not long out of the Royal Air Force, taught physics; enthusiastic but, frankly, not very effective. Cyril W. Wood, who taught chemistry and was a very different proposition and it’s certainly thanks to him that my career at university and afterwards went in the direction it did. In hindsight his teaching methods weren’t all that inspiring. He’d teach for about half the lesson then retire to his desk where he would mark scripts for the exam boards while dictating notes - but, hey, it worked. Others? There was, of course, Henry (The Drizzle) Reekie, who was Headmaster during most of my time at St Bees. I like him a lot and treasure a memory of him hailing me with the words ‘you’re looking strangely respectable’; no comment on the context or accuracy of this accusation! ‘Dickey’ Dearle steered me to my only School Certificate Distinction - in Latin - and lifelong interest in the theatre. Mr Gee, Housemaster of Grindal, memorable for chiding someone swearing at one of the fire-stop doors in Grindal with ‘it shuts asbestos it can’. He taught in the back part of Big School and had a spy hole in the partition behind his desk so he could keep an eye on whatever was going on in the other half. Then there was The Rev Sampson, vicar of St Bees, who Robert (like me) recalls as reputedly conducting a service in his rugger boots; you’ve heard it twice now - it must be true. And Paul Williams, an inspiration in literature and drama…… We owe so much to these people; our memories of them are not always respectful but, truly, we’re grateful.”



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