Soham Grammarians - 1972 Memories

SELECTED DIARY ENTRIES OF A 5TH FORMER IN THE RUN-UP TO THE END OF THE LAST SCHOOL TERM AT SOHAM GRAMMAR SCHOOL IN 1972 (with apologies to surviving staff mentioned for use of their nicknames!)

Wed 10 May – as O level preparation, travelled by mini-bus to see Julius Caesar at Theatre Royal, Stratford-on Avon, trip organised by the colourful and fiery Don Riley. I remember his short temper flaring in negotiating busy traffic in an unfamiliar vehicle!
Don ran the school choir for many years and it once appeared on Anglia TV. We travelled far and wide, including a weekend in Sheringham, Cromer (slept on Church Hall  floor on the Friday night! ) and Walsingham. The choir’s last event before disbanding was at a church in Chippenham when we sang an emotional The day thou gavest as a finale. 

We also sang at popular Maths teacher Christopher Batman Wain’s wedding in Chrishall.

Wed 24 May – German O level Oral exam.  German had been taught by the Headmaster’s wife May Fanny Armitage, the wonderfully charismatic Lady of the Moat House, who delighted in engaging  the class at length  in her Scots lilt with tales of her family holidays abroad, often involving the unexpected mishap, which made Spricht mal Deutsch much  more fun!. Her unforgettable catchword for keeping order: Steady!!Mon 5 June – Main O levels began.
Tues 6 June –English Language exam.   

Fri 9 June – French 1 and Geography 1 exams. The culmination of Lionel Dalai Hart’s tutoring us in French. Many a lesson when chairs would be cast across the classroom in anger at poor marks. He was an obsessive with league tables, with essay books strewn back to pupils in order of position in class marking. The top five in French were usually Gregson, Glover, Hill, Hardiment and me. Woe betide any who slipped below their average slot!  I had earlier been taught by Mr Rees when back in 1A, and was told by 1 Alpha how lucky we were to avoid the wrath of Slug Riley’s class.  

Mon 12 June – English Literature and French 2 exams
Wed 14 June – Maths 1 exam.

Thur 15 June – Chemistry theory exam. Back in 1A our first encounter with the bunsen burner had been overseen by Chas Ford who frequently left his 'dribble' mark on our books.    

Fri 16 June – History and German exam. John Turge Abbott, History teacher, had also been my form tutor and I was pleased that he was to transfer to Ely when I studied History A level. He later went on to excel as Chairman of East Cambs District Council.

Mon 19 June – Maths 2 exam
Tues 20 June – Geography 2 and German 2 exam. John Humphrey exuded Oxfordian authority in Geography but I could never remember all the correct crops and products generated in those  Canadian provinces!

Wed 21 June – Chemistry theory – Gareth Basil Wood forecast I would fail. I managed a grade 5 pass!
Tues 27 June – Additional Maths exam – last one – thank goodness!

Thur 6 July – returned to school after post exam break and handed  in old books! Scored for tennis tournament.

Fri 7 July - received 6th form timetable for Ely 6th Form College. First of many choir rehearsals for Final Commemoration Service.

Mon 10 July – started 6th form timetable – still at Soham!

Tues 11 to Fri 14 – choir practices every day!

Tues 18 July – Speech Day! A formal occasion with Ted leading. He was of course legendary and we revered him. My favourite memory of him remains his grand entrances into the hall at school assembly, when piano maestro Alan Steele was deputed to select an appropriately orchestral warm-up fanfare style symphony on the sound system, and kept us guessing each time as to whether the climax would arrive just as Ted burst triumphantly through the doors and approached the stage in regal fashion.

Wed 19 July – saw dress rehearsal of HMS Pinafore

Thur 20 July – choir practice – and watched cricket match (beware the strains of rebuke “Sonny!” from  the tractor-loving Charlie [George?] Phelps with his famous shed, towards any boy who strayed into an out of bounds area )

Fri 21 July – another choir rehearsal – then saw performance of HMS Pinafore in evening

Mon 24 July – you guessed it – another choir practice!

Tue 25 July – choir rehearsal number 9 Wed 26 July – watched Old Boys’ cricket match

Thur 27 July – …and again – the last rehearsal, followed by watching staff cricket match. Almost the last lunch in the famous canteen where RAT and Dalai would preside, those sturdy metallic food  “troughs” and the formidable “Mona” the dinner lady who would keep all aware of their clearing up duties regardless of whether staff or pupil, and exert power through wielding her famous trolley at great  speed!

Fri 28 July – THE LAST DAY OF SOHAM GRAMMAR SCHOOL.  I’ll never forget the formidable procession  through the streets of Soham  to St Andrew’s Church for the Commemoration Service. Solemn-faced Headmaster Ted Armitage  was flanked by Deputy Tabby Tabraham  and Head of Lower School  RAT Taylor.”My word” indeed – what a formidable last stand! Much emotion  as we sang our hearts out with Peter Scott on organ to remember a wonderful school and end of  life as we knew it! 

Ed Kisby 67-72

This is also covered in the report of the 2012 Reunion talk 40 Years On

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page created 11 Oct 12: updated 24 Oct 19