OLD DARTECHS’ AND WILMINGTONIANS’ ASSOCIATION
NEWSLETTER No. 9 WINTER 1998/99
ROGER BROWN (1956-61)
Dear Mr. Wells,
I was reminded by your latest newsletter of my promise to myself last year that I would provide a modest donation to help you continue to keep us old boys in touch with the latest news - even on the occasions when you do not have any!
A cheque, with thanks to the association, is enclosed.
I have read with interest some of the old boys’ letters full of detailed recollections of long past events. My own sadly (?) have faded with time or at least become hopelessly distorted by subsequent events. I do have, however, one abiding memory of Dartford Tech which sums up very neatly my relationship with our then French teacher Margaret “Maggie” Mountjoy.
It was in the early ’60s and my first meeting with Maggie after having passed my French “O” level. I proudly stood before her. She looked at me and then up at the sky in anguish and declared “now I KNOW there is no justice in this world”.
Fortunately she spoke in English in order that I would understand.
TERRY (Roscoe) ROOKE - (1961-66)
Firstly to let you know of my new address, secondly how much I enjoyed the dinner in March. I only met four ex-pupils I knew, but well worth the 150 mile round trip.
During the evening I saw a photograph taken approx. ‘63, I believe this was either the whole second year or East House, and I wonder if its possible to have a copy, please find enclosed cheque.
I well remember the 5 years spent at Wilmington Hall, ‘61-’66, some very happy, but also some very miserable memories. I had attended a very small village Primary School, so it was a great shock to see the size of Form 1B - I believe our Form Master was Mr. Burnett - the Art Master - but I could be wrong!
After the first year I found my way to 2C, 3C, 4C and lastly 5C, leaving Easter ‘66 with nil qualifications - if you exclude the Cycling Proficiency Badge I gained in order to be allowed to ride a cycle to school.
I remember cycling to Lowfield Street just to have Mr. Gregory throw pieces of wood at me under the guise of woodwork lessons. Watching in awe at Mr. Hughes as he removed Phosphorous from the safety of a watery jar as it smouldered threateningly. Mr. Clare with his tape recorder housed in its wooden case in Room II.
History in Room I with Mr. Hollingsworth - dangerously close to Chas. Wall’s Office - “What have you done to be sent from the Classroom”? I spent hours standing in corridors waiting to be called back into the Classroom - the rest of the time I spent looking out of classroom windows.
I remember a pleasant Friday evening spent in detention with among others, C. Hill Esq., under the supervision of Mr. Parker. Saturday morning detentions didn’t appeal to me and I steered clear of them.
During a bad winter, ‘63 I think, the school closed for a week due to the lack of fuel for the school boiler.
Lining up for lunch at the old canteen by the bike sheds. When it got to noisy the 1st year were always told to stop talking. A Prefect would bang the table with a spoon before issuing the order to be quiet.
On returning to the school a couple of years ago it was sad to see the Old Hall no longer existed. The ‘New Block’, as it was, looked as though it had been run down and the grounds didn’t look so well cared for - perhaps it was my imagination.
In ‘83 I met another ‘Old Boy’ in Wandsworth Prison, his name was Hill, the brother of the boy I had been in detention with 20 years earlier! We were both working there on ‘detached duty’ not sharing a cell.
I read with great interest and nostalgia each Newsletter on it’s arrival, I’m yet to see a letter sent in by anyone who passed the last 4 years of their schooling in the ‘C’ Grade - although there have been some contributions from ‘A’ grade pupils from ‘61 - ‘66.
To end I would admit I am still in possession of my School Bible, Blazer Badge and the ruler, box, card box and the tea tray made in Woodwork classes - many thanks to Mr. Gregory and Mr. Gough.
Best Wishes T.J. Rooke, P.S. for some reason everyone called me “Roscoe”.
DOWN ON THE FARM (Part Two)
Good egg, bad egg.
The affectionate if slightly irreverent memories of an old Ag student
As I was writing the first piece about the trials and tribulations of life on an agricultural course more and more memories flooded back to me and I thought you might like to share in a few more secrets of the Wilmington farming world.
One has to say that the attitude of some of the masters to the boys on the Ag course was, shall we say, less than tolerant. They may have had a point of course. They probably didn’t like the smells of the country being brought into their classroom, it’s just as well we didn’t have any cows, the pigs smelled bad enough. Also lateness could be a bit of a problem, especially after the lunch break during which some boys may have had farm duties to perform. Naturally no one took advantage of these occasions which delayed their return to non agricultural life!
Chickens played a big part in your life as an agricultural student. We had, I think, two deep litter sheds and possibly some free range birds. Let me explain the deep litter system as I recall it. The floor of a large shed with an open wire front is covered in straw about two feet deep. Across the rear part of the shed are perches for the birds to roost on. There are also laying boxes for the birds to lay their eggs in, but chickens are known to be particularly stupid and no matter how many times you tell them there are always those who will lay their eggs just anywhere. Perhaps I’m being unfair to our feathered friends. Maybe they just get caught short and don’t have time to get to the laying box, or maybe there’s a queue, or maybe they’re just stupid. Either way you have to search for eggs around the floor in two feet of straw with wary chickens clucking and squawking at your presence but at least showing no signs of any aggressive maternal instinct. Moving around in two feet of straw is a tiring exercise similar to deep snow except there is the added problem of trying not to step on anything unsociable or breakable. Having found the eggs, or at least a reasonable percentage of them, they have to be taken to the store and cleaned and then candelled. Candling is an exercise designed to search out those eggs which are unpalatable because they have a quantity of blood floating around in the albumen, or white part, of the egg. Not a pretty sight especially if it turns up in your three minute soft boiled to perfection breakfast.
Candling is to hold an egg in front of a strong light, presumably it was once a candle, so that any blood will show as a shadow, since it is darker than the usual contents. This is a simple method and it works most of the time, but it has two drawbacks. The first is that the thickness and colour of the shells varies and it can sometimes make it difficult to see through the egg and the second is that it was left to us boys to make the final decision on whether there was blood or not. The eggs were sold through the school and any complaints from parents landed squarely on the shoulders of Mr Hughes. The worst situation is when an egg is almost completely full of blood, it looks dark when candled but so does an egg with a thick shell, ergo, once in a while someone got a very unpleasant surprise. Unfortunately once in a while Mr Hughes was on the receiving end of some vociferate complaints from some extremely unhappy and shocked recipients.
The chickens were not kept just for the eggs but also for Christmas as I mentioned in the previous article. This necessitated renewal of stock every year and the cheapest way to achieve this is to grow your own. We therefore kept a couple of cockerels to service the flock but where there are two only one can be king and the other one has to play second fiddle. At this time the cockerels not only fight each other but are likely to have a go at anything else that moves if they think it might be a rival. This includes people. On one occasion a classmate was attacked when a bird attacked him and flew straight at his face. It necessitated him going to hospital for treatment to the severe scratching to his face and neck and left him with purple lines zig zagging along the path of each scratch. He came back to class looking like a prototype for some macabre horror film. The rest of us were all grateful that we hadn’t been the victim.
When the cockerels stopped fighting each other and attacking us and remembered what they were there for the hens began laying eggs which were fertile and these had to be gathered and placed in an incubator. This would lead in time to us having several hundred chicks which would form the basis of the next laying flock. There is of course a problem, as there always is in life and farming in particular. About half the birds will he boy birds and boy birds don’t lay eggs, this is done by the girl birds, and since the boy birds are not going to get a free meal ticket guess what is going to happen to them? You’ve got it, we are going to eat them. They were turned into capons, birds who, by injecting a pellet under the skin in their necks which would suppress their sexuality, would grow quickly and tastily into Sundays dinner.
Our homework was much the same as everybody else except that subjects like engineering drawing were not in our curriculum. From the purely agricultural aspect I cannot remember what we were given for homework except that it definitely didn’t include listening to The Archers. Perhaps it should have done.
DAVE DIBELL (1953-56 Ag. Form)
Dear Mr. Wells
Browsing through the issue 8 of Dartech and Wilmingtonian with the same lack of interest I had for school books, I noticed an article that prompted me to do something totally out of character, that is, write to you about my days at D.T.S.
Far from schooldays being the happiest of ones life, for me they were not and my day at D.T.S. definitely the worst. The snobbishness and bullying that I encountered there I had not met before, or thankfully since and for those of us on the receiving end it was a case of get tough with the bullies or let them continue trampling all over you. I chose the former with such success that after I had tipped Cheeseman’s desk on top of him for hitting me round the ear with his ruler, Mr. Clare - ‘Jake’ - remarked that he had never seen such a change come over a boy in such a short space of time!
I appear to be one of the very small number of old ‘Ag’ boys who actually pursued a career in farming, having run my own, albeit small, poultry farm for sixteen years, and even during the twenty two years I worked for a large Insurance Company I still managed to keep my hand in on a local farm a couple of days a week. Since taking early retirement three years ago my interests have broadened to take in forestry and wildlife conservation.
The article that sparked off these pages of scribble was by Roger Hodge who cannot remember who was in his class all those years ago. The only thing I learnt in my D.T.S. days that appears to have stuck, apart from Mr. Hughes “Jack-a-Bowlegs” in his best Derbyshire accent instilling in to us that “osmosis is the passing of a weak solution through a semi-permeable membrane into a strong solution” is the class register. Every time it was read out it signified one less day to go.
This then was the Register:- BROADRIBB, CHEESEMAN, CLARK J, CLARKE D, COLE, DIBOLL, FLETCHER, FOSTER, GRIMSELL (left 1954), HODGE, JACKSON, KILLICK, MORGAN, PHILLIPS, TERRELL, TREMAIN, WHITELAND, WOLEK, WOOD & WOODS.
Co-incidentally I have also been reading through, with much interest, the AA Book of the British Countryside, which lists alphabetically a wide range of subjects to do with agricultural, wildlife and rural issues. On page 239 I came across this - “Hodge. A corruption of Roger. Hodge was a colloquial name for a rustic years ago. To a Townsman it conjured up the image of a broad-shouldered, sun-burnt yokel in a smock, slow in movement, speech and wits.” Here I must put things into perspective and be fair to Roger. His marks and examination results were always at or near the top of the class, while mine, reliably, were at the bottom propping up everyone else. The one exception was when I inexplicably came top in a metalwork exam. The exception that proves the rule?
Whatever bad spelling mistakes, had punctuation and mis-use of words, coupled with the atrocious handwriting you find in this letter should be attributed to poor Mr. ‘Charlie’ Harris, the unfortunate English teacher who managed to get just one and a half - well nearly - essays out of me during the whole three years sentence I served at Wilmington Hall.
Yours sincerely(?) Dave Dibell.
OLD DARTECH’S AND WILMINGTONIAN’S ASSOCIATION
SIXTH ANNUAL DINNER/
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
on SATURDAY, 13th MARCH, 1999
Guest of Honour: Mr. WALLY JAMES
TICKETS AVAILABLE FROM Mr. John Daley @ £14.00 each
Information taken from a Letter sent to Parents detailing the first School trip abroad to Switzerland in 1959. (Information supplied by Michael Ashpool - 1956-62)
KENT EDUCATION COMMITTEE
DARTFORD TECHNICAL SCHOOL FOR BOYS
The time is now approaching for our Swiss holiday and so that you may make necessary preparations we have set out below as much information as we have available at present.
Our two centres are Seewen in the Lucerne district and Aeschi in the Bernese Oberland, both quiet villages within easy reach of towns. The addresses of the hotels will he sent to you as soon as we have them from the Travel Agency.
Costs. Your boy will have told you that the cost of hotel and travel was £23.17.6d under 16 and £24.15.0d over (London back to London) but there will be a slight reduction in this as we shall be travelling from Dartford to Folkestone and back by coach, so that the cost will be £23.15.4d for under 16 and £24.12. 10d for over and this will cover insurance in addition to travel and hotel. In addition about £2 will be required for excursions (but see note at the end of this letter). From the £30 suggested as a maximum this leaves between £4.5.0d and £3.7.0d, depending on age, as pocket money - a more than ample sum for normal requirements and indeed £2 would be sufficient. If however you wish your boy to purchase expensive presents you should increase his pocket money accordingly.
Customs. All goods entering this country are liable to customs or excise duties and while sometimes small items are admitted freely, such things as watches, cameras and musical boxes are almost invariably charged for. It is also advisable to carry a receipt for a camera of foreign manufacture if purchased in this country. If you wish your son to purchase a watch or musical box please ensure he has enough in English currency to pay the duty, which may be up to 50%, on returning.
Clothing We shall he away from home for 12 days so make allowances for shirts, under-clothing, socks and night clothes accordingly.
School uniforms will be worn for travelling and in addition the following should be brought 1 pair stout shoes; 1 pair plimsolls and/or light sandals for indoor wear; Bathing costume; Casual clothes including spare flannels and/or shorts; Raincoat (a plastic one is most suitable); Sweater; Soap and towels.
The Journey We shall he leaving the School at about 11.30a.m. on Monday, 18th July and our first meal will be breakfast next morning at Basel. Therefore sufficient packed food and drink should be taken to provide for lunch and tea/supper on the 18th.
Travel and hotel money should be paid in by the middle of this month and excursion and pocket money by 1st July so that foreign currency may be obtained,
Finally as this is the first time that a party has travelled abroad from our School please impress upon your boy that we shall expect the best possible conduct at all times, for any lack of thought will reflect strongly on the boy himself and on the School and may jeopardise such school journeys for future years
Note on Excursions: The £2 allocated will cover the following type of excursion:
1. From Seewen: Visit to Lucerne. Ascent of the Rigiby mountain railway, Visit to Brunnen and Fluelen.
2. From Aeschi. Visit to Thun. Visit to Interlaken. Ascent of the Schynigge Platte or Brienzer Rothorn. However for a further £1.10s.0d to £2 (under 16) and £2.10.0d to £3 (over 16) it will be possible, provided 15 boys wish to go, to undertake two longer ones:
1. From Seewen. To Lugano, in Italian Switzerland via the St. Gotthard route.
2. From Aeschi. To Montreux via the Bernese Oberland Railway: a most magnificent ride.
If you wish your boy to go on either or both of these excursions would you please indicate below
I wish my son to go on the excursion to 1. Montreux 2. Lugano (Cross out what does not apply)
Letter from ANTHONY MARTIN (1983-89)
Dear Mr Wells, I am writing to thank yourself and your committee for the splendid evening last Saturday at the Reunion Dinner at the school. Regrettably we had to leave earlier than I would have liked as my girlfriend had just done twelve hours of nights all week and was exhausted.
Despite the fact that I was the youngest member there both my girlfriend and I were made to feel very welcome and it was most enjoyable to hear stories from years gone by, although it is somewhat disappointing that teachers’ nicknames and such were not as original as I thought during my time there!!
I believe that organisations such as O.D.W.A. do tend to have an image as appealing to mainly older people and if it would be of any help in maybe attracting a younger element I would he pleased to offer myself for your committee. I realise that I should have done this at the AGM but I was not in the room at the time of nominations. I don’t know whether I can be co-opted at such a stage but would be interested if it was possible. I look forward to hearing from you.
(Anthony has since been “co-opted onto the Committee)
Letter from R. (Rob) RICHARDSON (1 962-67)
Dear Mr. Daley,
Thanks to you and the people involved in producing the newsletter which I recently received. My application for two tickets for the annual dinner is enclosed together with a small contribution to funds. Thanks also to those who organised last years’ event which we enjoyed, though it would have been nice to be able to wander around the school and visit the scene of crimes some thirty years on - perhaps this could be arranged for this year.
Memory is one of the few things that seem to improve with age and many anecdotes come flooding back. Sadly I don’t have time to write them down but here are a few one liners that may jog some memories:
Who invented stick cricket.
Why did prefects stay inside when it snowed.
Who put the chewing gum on Mr. Hollingsworths chair.
Are there still six bottles of chemicals on the benches in the chemistry labs.
Cycling ‘proficiency’ tests.
The glory bumps.
For some reason I expect to get this letter back corrected in red and the dreaded 3/10 - see me! I look forward to seeing you again on 7th March.
Letter received from RICHARD OGILVY (1962-66)
Thank you for sending me the aerial photograph of the Dartford Technical High School for Boys, - as it was in my days from 1962 - 1966. I’m glad to see it is now Wilmington Grammar School for Boys and I must admit that even after 33 years it does give me a great sense of pride to tell my children (and others!) that I did go to a Grammar school after all. It’s also much simpler than having to explain ‘Dad, what was the difference between a Grammar School and a Technical School”. As I ended my education with a PhD in Geophysics, I really can’t see that there was any real difference.
It has been a great pleasure to read the OD&WA Newsletters and to remember my teachers from that time. The letter from “Jesse” James (December issue) was particularly poignant as sadly many of them have now passed on. At the Reunion in 1997, I was very pleased to see that the school is now doing so well under grant-maintained status; setting and achieving high academic standards as well as imparting values of self-confidence, dynamism, self-discipline, healthy competition and leadership. I was prompted to write after reading “Jesse’s” letter but other tasks always took priority. Having read the letter from Keith Nisbet, I felt an even greater sense of obligation. Keith was a year ahead of me at school, so I didn’t know him well (except as a Prefect!) but he is absolutely right to pay his respects to the excellent teachers we both had. We owe them a great debt for a good start in life and possibly much more in terms of the values and perspectives that we now hold. Who could forget “Percy” Black, (Physics) and “Potty” Pearce (English), who sadly died in service or shortly afterwards. Thanks to “Percy” I went on to study Physics at Leicester University and thanks to Mr Pearce I am reasonably literate, with a strong belief in correct spelling, grammar and style. Why don’t they make them like that any more? It would be remiss of me not to express my appreciation for the forts of Mr. James, Mrs Mountjoy, Mr Lewis, “Sam” Austen, “Chester” (a first rate maths teacher), “Ben” Cartwright and many others who helped me to good (or good enough) grades at “O” and “A” level. As a transferee from the Downs Secondary Modern, I remember having to study and get “O" level French and Chemistry in 2 years as these were essential prerequisites for university entrance. In those days, only about 3 universities would take students without a foreign language “O” level pass. In those days, the university picked you - not the other way around.
After Leicester University, I went on to Birmingham University to do an M.Sc in Applied Geophysics, and after some years working in Australia, (looking for new metalliferous orebodies and potential mines - I found a few), I returned to the UK to collect a PhD from Leicester University. After 6 years in Australia, I lost touch with many old school and university- friends. I did meet Richard Quick, an old classmate, at the reunion in 1997 and it was good to talk over old times and to hear what had became of friends from the class of ’66. It’s strange how names and faces from 30 odd years ago resist erasure from the memory banks when I can barely remember what I did last week. Names like “Sarki” Rayburn, Jessop, Bailey (great athlete), “Gambo”, Keith Richards, John Gilbert, Eames, Wiltshire, Service and Rozier spring to mind.
I am happily married with two sons, aged 26 and 18, and a daughter aged 12. Although Peter, my eldest son, followed in his father’s footsteps and studied Computational Physics at York University, he soon realised how little valued such graduates are in industry and government and after a year, he joined Price Waterhouse to become a Chartered Accountant. In a few years he will he earning more than me! I am now working at the British Geological Survey in Nottingham so I can’t get down to Dartford very often - though my mother is still living there. At the reunion dinner, I was pleased to meet ‘Jesse” James, Mr Hollingsworth (hardly changed) and the wonderful Mrs Mountjoy who we all feared and admired at the same time. I recall young Jessop entering our French lesson one day, with an urgent message from the Headmaster. “Say it in French, Jessop or don’t say it at all - this is a French class’. Jessop promptly turned around and left. He was reprimanded later. Note the strict use of surnames only. Well, I better sign off. I wish the school every success in the future. It will always have my support, and may it long remain a Grammar school. My best regards.
Letter received from SIMON WILLIS (1985-90)
Dear Mr. Wells
Thank you for the recent letters you sent with regard to the Old Dartechs and Wilmingtonians Association. As you can probably appreciate, at this time of the year with the season just around the corner I am very busy, so I am unable to attend the Reunion Dinner on 7th March. Many thanks for making me aware of the Association
Yours sincerely. (Simon is currently playing Cricket for Kent)
Have you written an article for your Newsletter yet.
Articles are URGENTLY required to enable me to publish another Newsletter. I only have a couple of pieces for the next edition.
Please write to me D.R. Wells, 3 Millbro, Victoria Hill Road, Hextable, Swanley, Kent BR8 7LF or at our email address
(I would still like to hear more about “Percy” and the coalmine)
We have been advised that Mr. Robinson, a former Member of Staff has passed away.
Charles William (Bill) Pestell (1958-63), son of the late David (Don) Pestell, Metalwork Master for many years, passed away at 7.00p.m. on 5th November, 1998. Bill had for some time been involved with arranging firework displays, and having always enjoyed a good joke would have appreciated the date of passing. His funeral was on Friday, 13th November.
PLEASE REMEMBER THE A.G.M. AND DINNER
SATURDAY, 13TH MARCH, 1999
Guest of Honour: WALLY JAMES