Soham Grammarians - Dr JL Grassi D Phil (Oxon), BA (Oxon) History 1957-60

John Grassi writes (2002)

I am a graduate of Oriel College, Oxford and D.Phil.Oxon. I came to SGS in September 1957 from Ashford GS, Middlesex. I was head of history (with R.A. (Peter) Taylor as assistant) and school librarian.

In December 1960 I left to go to St.Mary's College, Twickenham, as Lecturer in History.

In September 1966 I went to Trinity and All Saints College (TASC), Leeds as Principal Lecturer and Head of History.

I am a medieval historian, now long retired but am still actively researching and publishing on eleventh century English history:

J.L. Grassi, The lands and revenues of Edward the Confessor, EHR cxvii (2002).
J.L. Grassi, The Vita Ędwardi Regis: the hagiographer as insider, Anglo-Norman Studies, xxvi (2003).

from the 1960 School photo

Soham Grammarian Spring 1958

The beginning of the School Year saw the advent of two new members of the staff. They are Mr Grassi, Mr Kitchen's successor in History, and Mr Stalker, who has replaced Mr Atkinson as Music Master.

Soham Grammarian Summer 1958

Mr Grassi has organized a record library - a welcome innovation for the less wealthy of the musically minded.

Soham Grammarian Summer 1959


Interest in the school library has reached a new peak during the past year. The number of books that have been taken out each week has greatly increased and it is gratifying to note that there has been an advance in the number of books read by the First Form; indeed, they now read as many books as some of the Forms higher up in the school. One feels though, that if the Third Form were allowed to read the collection of Sixth Form books the weekly totals would go up to an even higher level.

There are now well over 3,000 volumes in the Library. Since Mr. Grassi's appointment as Master in Charge of the Library two years ago, over 1,000 new books have been purchased. The new books range in subject matter from Political Science to Humour. The efficiency of the Library has been maintained in spite of the steady influx of new books. For this, thanks are due to a willing band of Library Clerks who regularly give up their dinner hour for work in the library.

The fine system has once again achieved amazing results, and the money obtained has been put to good use in the purchase of new books. The Library Committee have been aided in the choice of these books by the helpful suggestions of many members.

We hope that the selection of some of these popular volumes will lead to more interest being taken in the Library's affairs. To keep each Form in the School in touch with the new books purchased a regular edition of the "Library News" has been printed and a copy circulated around the Forms.

And so we look forward to some happy reading and much more of it, especially by the middle school, and remember it was Voltaire who once said "All the known world, excepting only savage nations, is governed by books."
J.M.E.F., VT.


One cannot help feeling that the word "Discussion" is somewhat misused when applied to our fortnightly meetings. Indeed a casual passer-by might stop and then hurridly continue on tip-toe thinking incorrectly that he had invaded the privacy of a Quaker Meeting. Mr. Grassi tries hard to produce topics to tempt the agile minds of our members, but they, alas, are not easily tempted.

To say that we do not have our moments would be untrue but not libellous. A discussion on the "Modern Youth" brought shouts of protest from our resident modern youths i.e. Mr. Brickwood and Mr. Naylor.

The subject "Hanging" tempted the most reserved to speak, but I am not sure whether the shouts of "lynch him", from the back, were aimed at the latest murderer, the proposer of the subject or parling [sic] offenders.

Next term let us have some new blood (hot preferred) and please, please let us have some bona fide discussion
K.T.W., VI Sc.

Soham Grammarian Spring 1960

The sincere congratulations of the School are extended to Mr Grassi, who has been awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy at Oxford University.

Soham Grammarian Summer 1960


FRIDAY (3.5 p.m.) - having at last found a suitable form-room the dozen members of the exclusive discussion group, squatted in a semi-circle and awaited the philosopher. As usual he arrived five minutes late and used his opening gambit of
"Sorry I'm late, but I forgot which day it was.... Any suggestions ... ?"

This term discussions ranged from South Africa's apartheid policy to Naylor's theory for the problem of the over-seventies (that they should never reach 71). However, all discussions seemed to terminate in a violent argument over the benefits or otherwise of a Communist state between Dr. G. and Comrade G.
M.J.S., VI Arts.

Soham Grammarian Spring 1961

GS Davis presented Dr Grassi on the occasion of his leaving, with a fine leather brief-case on behalf of the school, for his services to both the school and the library.


It was with sincere regret that we bade farewell to Dr. Grassi at the end of last term. This seems a fitting place to express our appreciation of his paternal guidance of the Library Staff during his three years as Librarian. In that time we have seen the introduction of the Fines system, our Thursday evening sessions, the change to the present issue system, the very successful Christmas Library Quiz and, most important of all, the promise of extended premises in the near future.

Dr. Grassi saw to it that all available funds were used before his departure, and so few new titles of note have been added this term. But a flood of new books is intended for the new financial year.

G.S.D., VI Arts.

John Grassi:
- was in the Chorus of Gondoliers in the 1958 production of The Gondoliers
- played the Landlord in the 1959 production of The Bartered Bride
was involved in school trips e.g. London June 1960

He rowed at #2 in Oriel College Boat Club Men's 1st VIII, Summer Eights 1950.

21 July 2006: David Clayton: I would also like to acknowledge Mr Grassi, who revealed the relevance of history to me.

If you can add memories of Dr Grassi or provide other photos of him, please contact the editor.
page last updated 5 Jan 11