Friday, 26 October 2007

Get comments by e-mail

Thanks to a new Blogger feature, you can now ask for all further comments in a particular thread to be e-mailed to you automatically. On the comments page, just check the box "Email follow-up comments to ..."

This works only if you have a Google account. Well, a Google account is free and easy to get, if you want one.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Mr Knight

Mr Knight was known as Cells, I never knew why; Julian thinks it was short for Muscles.

He taught us Latin in the 6th form. He was a calm man who seemed neither old nor young, and managed to keep order without throwing his weight around.

Probably in our last year, Grant Needham collected money to buy him a birthday present, and presented him with a tie and some pipe tobacco. He seemed rather pleased; it was an uncommon thing for schoolboys to do and only Grant Needham would have thought of it.

Stephen Fry thinks he looked like Dr Crippen but seems to have liked and respected him, adding that he fought in Africa and Italy in the Second World War.

Major Dobson

Stephen Fry mentions Major Dobson as a good teacher, and adds that he was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk, then escaped, and fought in Italy throughout the Second World War. I'm not sure whether he was at the school in my time; I don't think so.

Mr Kemp

Middleton Kemp was a somewhat elderly man whom I saw around the school and at Beech House, where he lived; but I don't think he ever taught me.

Stephen Fry thinks he looked and talked like C. Aubrey Smith in The Four Feathers.

Here he is walking down the drive:

Mr Kemp walking down the drive


Emile Farhi and Stephen Fry both remember having elocution lessons at Stouts Hill. Evidently these lessons were an optional extra and my parents never requested them.

Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice

Jonathan Marler remembers:

Every morning was started with chapel in the gym/theatre. The choir sat on the stage and every service started with the singing of the Venite.

We would all go to the village church for the annual carol service. In my first year, I was called upon to sing the opening verse of Once in Royal David’s City, which was a great honour.

Funny, I don't remember the annual carol service in the village church myself. Apparently my memory is at fault again.

I do remember arriving at the school at the age of 9 and finding myself in chapel with a hymn book in my hands and no idea what I was supposed to do. My family wasn't religious and it was my first encounter with any kind of religion.

Stephen Fry seems to remember with horror the new tune for the hymn 'O Jesus I have promised' that was introduced partway through my time at the school. I remember that tune because I rather liked it (and its cheerful piano accompaniment), and I could still sing it from memory, if required. I'm afraid I don't remember the old tune.

All creatures great and small

Julian remembers...

The boxer dog which bounced across the wide open spaces and the jackdaws in the turrets, blue dragonflies over the lake and cages of exotic birds in an alcove outside Mr Angus's study.

Yes, now you mention it, I remember the aviary in the garden area. I think one or more of the Angus daughters (Paddy?) looked after it.

Stephen Fry remembers ponies and horses, two parrots and a mynah bird in cages near the headmaster's study, and dogs — including Boston terriers, a boxer called Brutus, and another dog called Caesar.

Mr Birchall

Mr Birchall taught English in the 6th form. He seemed rather elderly to me at the time.

He evidently liked me, as he lent me books from time to time, ones I wouldn't have thought of reading on my own initiative. I think he lent me, among others, A high wind in Jamaica (Richard Hughes, 1929) and perhaps also Alan Moorehead's African trilogy (non-fiction, about the Second World War in North Africa).

I'm embarrassed that I seem to remember nothing else about him now. It must be rather discouraging for schoolmasters that most of their pupils, even their favourites, leave school and are never heard from again.

Jonathan Marler adds:

I did not care for cricket and was allowed to play tennis with Mr Angus and Mr Birchall instead. Mr Birchall also coached running. He never raised his voice or sent anyone for the cane, but commanded total respect by the weight of his personality and intellect.

Stephen Fry thinks Mr Birchall looked like Roland Young.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The cellars

The cellars were accessed by a door on the ground floor, between the sixth-form room and the headmaster's study. Through the door were stairs down to a series of small, dungeon-like rooms, dark and dirty and barely lit (by a few naked bulbs, I think); if you persevered, you came through at last to the exit, emerging up some stairs into the open air just under the library windows.

The cellars were used to store boxes belonging to the boys. I don't remember what they were supposed to contain, nor what they actually contained; but each boy had a locked box sitting down there, like a smallish trunk. I suppose that's why we were allowed to go down there; otherwise, the cellars would probably have been kept locked.