Soham Grammarians - Memories of some Wartime Staff

David Nash 1941/2-45: 5 Sep 2005: I do have clear memories of Mr Stanley Stubbs who was my headmaster during the war years. I recall him punishing the whole of our class who had to stay late writing an essay on "Manners Maketh Man" while he himself sat at the front glowering at us.

With the help of Cecil Crouch he brought Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and and a cellist called Florence Hooton to play for us. One of the items was for a lady singer whose name eludes me but her item didn't - it was the amazingly inappropriate Mamie's little baby loves shortnin' bread. Apparently Britten must have been pleased with the visit because he asked the school art master to produce a cover for his soon to be published Ceremony of Carols but no one came up to the required level.

Later I wondered if Stubbs' daughter was in fact Una Stubbs of TV fame. Stubbs left at the same time as I did, going to the Perse School, Cecil Crouch going with him.

Other teachers I remember particularly were:

"JOP" the woodwork master who made us make miniature furniture for his daughter's dolls house and whose flies were undone on the day of her birth when he came in late.

George Hunt who took us for gardening and science and always managed to avoid teaching the reproductive system by dwelling a little too long on the other systems; he also told us that it was impossible to photograph a mirror image or a rainbow because they weren't really there - splendidly direct misinformation. I quibbled over this and he threatened me with a caning.

Mr Laurie who taught us geometry and used the stick excessively, especially if a pencil wasn't sharpened enough; he sometimes brought in a baby pig to school which he left in his car while he taught.

Mr Johnston (Bish) who was very jolly and much respected and wrote poetry of some real quality and encouraged creative writing with generous As.

One could go on. Despite the restrictions during the war, the School did very well by its pupils and I can thank the school for introducing me to the joys of music and literature and strong interest in science - that would be Rev Hurdle, Vicar Boughey's sidekick.

Lastly, I shall never forget the bravery of the ammunition train crew who gave their lives for Soham - I recall the gasworks exploding and my father being hurled from his bed. If that one wagon could cause such devastation, what would the whole train have done? I wouldn't be here now writing this.

I was at the school whilst my father taught at the Shade School under Mr Lovering, a man for whom he had an intense dislike.

Vincent Martin 39: 29 Dec 2007: I remember Britten visiting the school and I'm pretty sure he came with Peter Pears who sang while he accompanied him on the piano. He also played the violin and to amuse (or get our attention) he used it to make a realistic sound of an air raid siren - a sound which everyone was only too familiar! Apart from that I have no memory as to what was played or sung....

Later Mr Crouch (Music and Art master) said Benjamin Britain had suggested we might like to design the cover sheet for his forthcoming work A Ceremony of Carols as an Art project. Some of us took up this challenge but were told later that "some of entries were highly commended, but were not to the standard required".

I see that the "work was first sung by the Morriston Boys' Choir conducted by Britten at the Wigmore Hall in London in December, 1943" - so we really were a privileged lot of schoolboys to be visited by the man himself whilst he was still working on this great work.

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last update 31 Dec 2007