Memories of school days

A PUPIL pulling a knife from his pocket and scratching a dividing line down the middle of his school desk, is a scene which would be viewed with total amazement today.

A PUPIL pulling a knife from his pocket and scratching a dividing line down the middle of his school desk, is a scene which would be viewed with total amazement today.

This was the experience of one Ipswich boy Ray Harvey, the day he started at Westbourne School for Boys, Ipswich in 1953. His new neighbour sounded a fearful character.

Earlier, on his first day at the school, he had met the boy who started an unprovoked fight in the playground with him.

Ray, of Westholme Road, Ipswich, said: “My first day at Westbourne School, Ipswich, in 1953, started with me having a fight in the playground with a boy I had never met before! Cries of 'fight' rang out and quickly a crowd gathered. A master soon broke us up. Much to my surprise I was not only in the same class as the boy, but sharing a desk!

“While writing my elbow would sometimes stray onto his side of the desk. This made him very angry. He measured across the desk, took out a penknife from his pocket and scratched a line down the middle of the desk saying 'This is my half and that is your half, keep over your side'. After a while we ended up the best of friends.”

Jack Jay of Arundel Way, Ipswich, started at Northgate School, Ipswich in 1932.

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Life there was a little more polite. Boys were expected to raise their caps if they saw a master in the street and they were not then allowed to enter the school by the main gate.

Jack referred to a previous Kindred Spirits column and said: “Rod Cross's memories of the first day at Northgate Grammar School for Boys so closely echoed my own experiences in 1932. The only difference was there was no 'grammar' in the title then. I too sampled the doughnuts from the tuck shop situated near 'Golden' Keeley's handicraft centre. Instead of the square shaped currant pastries known as 'flats', which Rod enjoyed as a choice when the doughnuts ran out we had 'iced fingers', and we only paid one penny each then.

“I cycled to and from school each day from Dover Road, and unless there was about a foot of snow always went home for dinner. 'Teddy Hotham, a maths master, who lived in Bloomfield Street, walked to school every day. If you were rash enough to cycle past him without 'doffing' your cap he soon found you out in school and gave a few stern words.

“Rod Cross recalled going through the school gates. I presume he means the large double gates in front of the schools main doors. In my time there we were never allowed to use those. Rules said we must use the small gate where the path led to the cycle racks.

“I doubt few of the masters from my time were 'still in harness' when Rod was there around 1960. Although his reference to the master known as 'Tango' can only mean Mr Fensom, who was my last form master. While I was stationed at RAF Martlesham in 1941 I was cycling home to Dover Road, I was near the Kesgrave Bell public house when an RAF officer walking his dog called out to me. “Wondering what I had done wrong I cycled back to the officer. It was 'Tango'. We tied his dog to my cycle and adjourned to the 'Bell'. We both had a very late tea that night. I am not sure the RAF would have approved of a Flight Lietenant and a Leading Air Craftsman steadily drinking together all evening, but we certainly enjoyed it!

“As in Rod's time at Northgate we had nick names for all the masters. There was 'Alfie' Morris (head), 'Bill' Stanger (deputy head), 'Ginger' Lord, 'Johnny' Cousins, 'Pimple' Scopes, 'Daddy' Graham, 'Tango' Fensom, 'Kron' (Dr) Kilby, 'Gus' Clarke, 'Daisy' Day, 'Old Lich' Lichfield, 'Teddy' Hotham, Iky' Lewis, 'Turkey' Benner, and 'Willy Henry' Court. I do not remember nick names for other members of staff, Mr Harvey, Mr Davies, Mr Keeley, Mr Bishop, Mr Cusworth, Rev Yates, Urquart Cawley, Mr Neatby, Mr Gladding, Mr Kerr or Miss Webb the school secretary.

“I think we had more homework then. Well I would, wouldn't I? Also Saturday mornings was a normal school morning, 8.45-12.00. We were expected to attend a specified number of school sports matches each term to offer vocal support. A prefect noted our names. A failure to attend the required number of matches resulted in detention and extra home work.

“My only venture into the thespian arts was to take part in a French farce “Les Jumeaux Pois” directed with great hilarity and enthusiasm by Willy' Court. The cast was four boys from my class. As part of the props I had a beautiful top hat, loaned by Dr Kilby, who told me to take great care of it as he had worn it at his wedding! The whole thing was played out in poor French to the school in the afternoon and adults in the evening-never again!

“In full 'Grumpy Old Man” mode I am convinced that we were better brought up and had a broader education than most youngsters these days. Though I do not expect anyone not of my generation will agree.”


Do you have any amusing school memories to share? Write to me at Kindred Spirits.

I have received a request from a former Ipswich man looking for history of his old home in Ipswich.

Robert Elvin who now lives in New Zealand said: “My early years were spent at the Malt House public house at the corner of New Street and Long Street, close to where the Suffolk College is now. Because of bomb damage to the Malt House we had to leave. In about 1940 we moved to the Rose and Crown public house at the junction of Norwich Road and Bramford Road. Both Public Houses were tied to the Cobbold Brewery.

“A recent photo of the Rose and Crown, sent to me by an old school chum, prompted a family discussion as to the history of that pub. I recall "mucking out" the stables at the rear and the granite mounting stones. The stable floor was cobble stones, the walls of stones and plaster.

“Some of the upper windows on the front of the main building were bricked over, which I think was to avoid the window tax. I think an earlier tax was the hearth tax, but the window tax was more easy to assess by walking around the outside of the building and counting the windows. Do any readers of Kindred Spirits know the history of the Rose & Crown? I think it was originally one of the coaching inns on the outskirts of Ipswich.”


Can you help Robert? Write to Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail me at

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