Soham Grammarians - Summer 1957 Clerihews

[A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The lines are comically irregular in length, and the rhymes, often contrived, are structured AABB. ]

from the Summer 1957 Soham Grammarian

Mr Armitage
Is a great sage
And thinks it a flaw
To force a draw
Amos, son of Beeri
Is always very cheery
When he can get Fred
To play for the Head
What an assembly
There'll be at Wembley
When Isleham Lionel
Ref's the Cup Final
Mr Ford
Might be a Tory Lord
If he hadn't taught Science
To Soham's bright clients
PJA, They say
Throws lots
Of pots
(But not, we hope, at Mrs A)
Mr Housden
Though seldom roused in
Temper, gave VT angry stares
When told they could deal with
awkward "squares"
Mr Joiner
Said, "I'll loyn'er"
When an Ely High miss
Asked, "What's a stage kiss?"
SRS of Ely
We do think really
Such a Biblical scholar
Should wear a dog-collar
Mr Kitchen
Is always itchin'
To teach the mystery
Of History
Mr Lawrance
He's minus
A Sinus
Mr Jones
Whose verse no one condones
To his critics will always declare
"Yes, but I do like to get as many words in the last line as I possibly dare"
Mr Waller
Is sure to holler
If England's battin'
When he's teaching Latin
Mr Summerfield
Has revealed
He has a crush on
Learning Russion
Mr Tabraham
Like Abraham
We were supposin'
Would be one of the Chosen
Mr Thomas
Go not from us
For what new man
Could stick us as you can?
Mr Taylor
That wicket debailer
Sends the Head in fits
When he muffs his 'it's
(Punctuation is the clue
To this subtle clerihew).
Mr Watts
Can cope with lots
Of weeds - we doubt
If he's ever fagged out
Mr Parrott
Tough as old carrott
Every game's on his list -
Is he what they call a poly-gamist?
Mr Riley,
Of whom we think highly,
Said, "Now I know what they mean,"
When he heard himself on the recording machine
Miss Lowe
We'd like to know
What you do
To produce your stew
Mr Hobbs,
If given jobs,
Makes strong retorts,
M'ole sports!
Mr Phelps,
If he helps,
There's a vital factor:
He must bring his tractor

18 Dec 10 David Hobbs 49 writes: Clerihews in The Soham Grammarian Summer 1957

I edited the Summer 1957 issue of the school magazine and I think the idea of writing a short verse about each member of staff was mine, possibly inspired by a clerihew in circulation at the time:

In the 1956 Olympic Games
My great uncle James
Was hit in the whiskus
By a discus

I was in the Third Year Sixth and had just obtained a place to do mathematics at university. In order to keep me occupied, the Headmaster, Mr Armitage, had suggested that I should edit the magazine. This was unusual since the editor was normally chosen from English students.

Mr Joiner, Head of the English Department, was responsible for the production of the magazine and he went along with the suggestion of writing clerihews to brighten up the staid pages of the magazine. He contributed several verses himself.

Looking back after more than fifty years, the clerihews would not win any prizes, and some of the references are obscure, relating to trivia long forgotten. Here are explanations, as far as I can recall them:-

Armitage: I think this was referring to Mr Armitage’s view, expressed at a school assembly, that games such as football and cricket should be played to be won rather than be allowed to subside into a draw.

Amos: This was the nickname of Mr Atkinson, music teacher, who presumably was happy when Fred (Monk?) played the piano for the morning assembly (held at that time in the former conservatory). The word Amos was used presumably because of the difficulty of finding a word to rhyme with Atkinson. Why Beeri? As far as I can see from a quick check of the Old Testament, Hosea was a son of Beeri, but not Amos and I don’t recall any jokes about Mr Atkinson’s liking for beer.

Lionel: This refers to Lionel Fleet, an old boy of the school, bred and born in Isleham. After doing a degree at Cambridge he had returned to the school to teach physics. He was an active football referee and officiated at quite high levels.

Ford: Mr Ford, Deputy Head and chemistry teacher, had married a daughter of the owner of Beechurst. We assumed that he had married into the aristocracy and that his politics would be Conservative. (At the 2009 reunion his daughter, Ann Jarman, gave a fascinating account of her father mentioning that, although he was classless in his outlook, he was a Tory at heart and had been chairman of the local Conservative club.)

PJA: This was Mr Askem, art teacher.

Housden: Mr Housden taught mathematics. He was an old boy of the school, coming from Burwell. I cannot recall the reference to awkward squares. V T was perhaps the technical fifth form or did T stand for Tabraham?

Joiner: Mr Joiner, Head of the English Department, contributed this (rather daring) clerihew himself. In the summer term 1957 he was the producer (with assistance from Miss Barr, the County Drama Adviser) of The Taming of the Shrew for which girls from Ely High School were imported.

SRS: This was Mr Saunders, from Ely, who taught mainly RE.

Kitchen: Mr Kitchen was Head of History and was an inspiring enthusiast for his subject.

Lawrance: Mr Lawrance, Head of Mathematics, had been in hospital that term for a sinus operation. It might have been the rhyming of minus and sinus (like whiskus and discus) that gave rise to the idea of writing the set of clerihews.

Jones: Mr Jones taught English and presumably wrote verse. This clerihew was probably written by Mr Joiner who would have known that his colleague wrote poems as described.

Waller: Mr Waller, Latin teacher, was a keen follower of cricket.

Summerfield: Mr Summerfield, French and German (?) teacher, was presumably extending the languages that he spoke. He had possibly learned Russian during National Service?

Tabraham: Mr Tabraham taught woodwork and metalwork (as they were then known) and technical drawing. I am not sure what is being referred to here - perhaps he had been a candidate in a local election or had applied for another job. He later became Deputy Head.

Thomas: Mr Thomas was Head of Geography. He was well-known for encouraging stragglers on cross countries with a stick cut from the hedge on the Wicken Road, having ridden there on his bicycle.

Taylor: Mr Taylor, a former cricket player for Cambridgeshire, was in charge of games. He presumably confused its and it’s, possibly when writing school reports. This clerihew was probably contributed by Mr Joiner.

Watts: Mr Watts taught biology and was a great smoker.

Parrott: Mr Parrott taught science and mathematics. He was a large man with a weather-beaten complexion and presumably was an all-round games player. (A Joiner contribution, I think).

Riley: Mr Riley, Head of French, was another large man with a voice and (reputably) temper to match. He succeeded Mr Ford as Deputy Head.

Lowe: Miss Lowe was the ‘housekeeper’. Her main responsibility was supervising the production of school dinners. The stew, which seemed to be served once a week, was considered to be particularly revolting.

Hobbs: Mr Hobbs (Fred) was the caretaker. He did not welcome the extra requests that the Headmaster and staff put upon him. He referred to pupils as m’ole sports.

Phelps: Mr Phelps (George) was the groundsman. He travelled around the field on his tractor, even for short distances.

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page created 22 Nov 10: updated 19 Dec 10