Soham Grammarians - Norman Long remembers

17 Mar 2010: Norman Long (1956-61) writes: This is Norman Long logging in after 49 years absence. No sick note sorry! I entered during 1956 aged ten as my birthday is in October. I lived in Ely and travelled on the 106 bus from Market Street with Martyn Strevens, Geoff Matthews and others. It was only in recent years that I discovered the website and now that I have retired I have time to indulge in this nostalgia trip. Here are a few of my memories for your amusement, most of them pleasant ...

Having to write out psalms as punishments from prefects, until the Bishop of Ely put a stop to it saying "it should be a pleasure to write a psalm, not a punishment!" P.T. as it was called then in the quad, with Mr Thomas, stepping heels and toes while he was encouraging us with his whipping stick.

Mr Stalker playing classical music, leaning back in his chair closing his eyes and seemingly drifting away while we all did nothing. During the bus trip to school, I recall Mr Bozeat and Mr Hart racing past the bus on their Triumph Tina scooters from Ely. The school trips I remember are of two weeks in Snowdonia under canvas, also to West Runton near Cromer the following year, both scout trips. There was also an interesting visit to Vauxhall Motors at Luton one year.

Mr Parrott lectured us on the evils of smoking, and of speeding in cars. He was obviously not a well man and I preferred his maths tuition to Mr Lawrance who absolutely terrified me as a second year student. I distinctly recall him entering the classroom and throwing the maths best books along the aisle between the desks, because our work was not up to standard. I just kept my head down and was very relieved when Mr Parrott took us on in 3T!

Mr Saunders' weapon of choice was an old gym shoe; thankfully I never felt it, but I don't think he was vicious with it.

However Mr Armitage was a different matter, as I found out after being reported for throwing tomatoes out of the bus window on the way home. They were splitting and leaking over my books, so I thought it would be fun to jettison them, Barway bus shelter became my target of choice, and the next day, after 4 very speedily delivered strokes of the cane across my derriere, I composed myself and left Mr A's study, hoping the experience would never be repeated.

Then there was the wonderful aroma of Mr Riley's pipe tobacco during scout training on Fridays. I believe he smoked Ogden's Four Square.

The teacher that I will never forget was Mr Tabraham. He threatened to send me from the dining hall for not holding my dinner knife correctly. After weeks of woodwork, and ending up with an oak bookcase with two left hand ends, he helped me to correct the job, and did the glue work for me. My mother still treasures that bookcase to this day! He was very late for one lesson, and some of us were up to mischief, throwing darts around. Just as my dart left my hand, he swept into the classroom, and my dart thudded into one of the wooden geometrical solids on top of the cupboard above his head. He cooly remarked "Good shot Long", then proceeded with the lesson. I was expecting to be sent to the head master for my misbehaviour and I was sure that I would be caned again, but at the end of the lessson Mr T just gathered his books, swept towards the door and fixed me with his sternest stare.

My final memory is of Mr Askem. As a junior he caught me drawing a nude female form, and advised on it's faults! He was the man who encouraged me to use an Osmiroid italic fountain pen, which almost immediately improved my handwriting, and that style is still with me to this day. When I was on report he would check my report card for 1s (= deterioration) usually given for poor maths, and balance it up with double 3s (= improvement). I was allowed to learn to use the Andana printing press, which I enjoyed and after leaving SGS joined the Cambridge Daily News in the advertisement department.

I was rubbish at football, not much better at cricket, spending most games afternoons playing for the remainders, and during my last year or two spent games periods in Pete's art room doing homework or revision. On my last afternoon, as I left school for the final time, I caught sight of Mr Tabraham, my form-master. With a lump in my throat I held out my hand, said "thank you sir", shook his hand, upon which he replied "Good luck Long". I turned to walk down the drive and catch my bus home.

I am one of those who left school with virtually no qualifications. I've always just scraped through, but I consider myself very fortunate to have had the benefit of a Grammar School education. The only prize I ever won was for the Scripture speaking contest which astonished and pleased Mr Frampton. Taking part in Pirates of Penzance, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and the Bartered Bride was also a very happy memory.

As Mr Armitage once said "Manners Maketh Man .... and if you leave this school with nothing but good manners we will feel that we have done our job".

Best wishes to everyone that remembers me.

Norman has also added some images to our School Productions collection - see via History > History2 > Productions:
- Amahl 1961
- Bartered Bride 1959, and two more press reviews of it
- he also adds some names to a Pirates 1957 photo, a press review for the 1958 Gondoliers
page last updated 23 Mar 2010