Soham Grammarians - Memories of 1958-60
John Woodward SG58

In September 1958 I found myself in 1T (Taylor), sitting in alphabetical order, in the front window seat of the parquet floored class room immediately to the right of the main front door. During that term the school drive was being resurfaced and I had a grand stand view of the work as it progressed. And I regret to say that I spent rather more time following the work outside than I did following the lessons.

Meanwhile, within the class room, the foundation blocks of French (Mr Slim Summerfield - “I'll hang you up by your thumbs”) and Latin (Mr Sid Saunders) grammar were being carefully laid and the mysteries of algebra (Mr Dick Housden) explained. RAT Taylor was our Form master (“My word, it's fact! Don't sit there like your grandsire cast in alabaster!”) - a most capital fellow who taught us English, History and Geography.

I tried to concentrate as hard as I could and hoped that all the knowledge would soak into my brain by some kind of obscure osmotic process, except that we had not yet reached osmosis in biology (Mr Froggy Watts). Alas, it did not. Everything was very clear at the time of instruction but it seemed to have floated away by the time it was required for tests and exams! Never mind, everything finally turned out for the best.

In September 1959, the class moved on to the end of the upstairs passageway and turn left 90 degrees. This term we were known as 2F (Frampton – Mr Basil Frampton - another excellent teacher). Here I sat at the back of the class, still in alphabetical order, and before every new lesson I would go to the end of the short passageway where I would peer around the corner to announce when the next Master hove into view from the staff room, so that order could be restored prior to his arrival. This was fine, until Mr Slug Riley caught us all out by arriving via the fire escape from the court yard below!
With great regret, I left SGS in July 1960 when my parents moved to Hertfordshire. I continued my studies at St Albans Grammar School for Boys - a school double the size of SGS, with a balcony in the school hall. An enormous shock to my system! But that is another story.

Mr Rex Waller, who taught Latin, left SGS at the same time, for Somerset it was said, and I never expected to see him again.

However, I was wrong. When I first met my wife in 1970 her Uncle John, John Hayward, was Vicar at St Mary's, Bruton, Somerset. In conversation he mentioned to me that Rex was deputy head at Sexey's School and was his churchwarden - amongst so many other things in the Parish.

John Hayward receives a mention in Tim Waller's address at his father's memorial service at Bruton on 6 December 2008 (see Rex's page) in the “Alphabeticus Regis” under “O for Operettas” when Rex cast him, the Vicar, as murderous Bill Sykes!

My wife and her parents had met Rex and Joan often over the years but I did not meet up with him until 1990, shortly after his retirement, as I was working abroad for 9 months of every year and was not often able to attend family gatherings. From then on, we met up regularly together for lunch until his death in 2008 and with Joan, until her death in November 2015. Rex and Joan were a wonderful couple and I only wish that I had been a better pupil of his. “This young man takes life too easily. Far too satisfied with too little effort” was his verdict in one of my reports and of course he was right.

As a footnote, had Rex been able to attend the Grammarians' Dinner in 2008, we had planned that I would drive up from Devon to Bruton, collect him and drive on to Soham together. Unfortunately, a few weeks earlier Joan was admitted to hospital so Rex had to call it off. And within a few weeks Rex himself was dead.

I left my copy of the school photograph of May 1960 in the SGS staff room, with a request that all the staff might leave their autographs upon it. And they all did - except one! (No names, no pack drill). I had the greatest respect for all the staff (apart, perhaps, that one) at Soham GS and look back on my two years there with the happiest of memories.

You will find me in the 1960 School Photo directly behind Mr Frampton and Mr Hammond and between Rodney Day and Lester Newell.

[1958 was one of the School List 'black hole' years in the later 1950s] The listing of the 1958 entry which I found on this website was based on when they had reached the 4th Form, by which time there had been several changes, including my departure in 1960. The lists I made some time ago of my class mates of 1T in 1958 and 2F in 1959 have now been added to the 1958 entry page.

I gained the impression that Cambridge boys at SGS were considered a group apart. We were not of the Fens but hailed from the city - as it became in 1951.

However, as far as I was concerned I had long standing family connections with Soham – more than most of my contemporaries. For reasons of my own I kept these to myself.

My grandfather, a dairy farmer at Whittlesey, was the son of a Soham girl, Isabel Hart. Isabel's parents (my great great grandparents) were William and Ann Hart. William was a stationer, printer and bookseller in the town. I believe he was also Deputy Bailiff, Broker and Soham Parish Clerk and published/printed the Soham Parish Magazine. I believe that there is still a brass plaque in his memory in St Andrew's parish church.

At the time of her marriage, Isabel was a 25 year old school teacher at Coates (near Whittlesey) which is where she met my great grandfather. They were married on 21 December 1885, I assume at St Andrew's, Soham. Their first child, Dorothy Isabel Setchfield, (my great aunt Dorothy - I remember her well) was christened at St Andrew's on 29 July 1888.

Of further interest, Grammarian Charles F W Morbey was also christened at St Andrew's two months later, on 20 September 1888 and was killed in WW1 on 9 August 1917.

I believe that he was Mrs Ford's brother. Having looked through this website, I believe that their mother was Annie Jugg of an “old Soham farming family”, who had married Charles Morbey. Charles had started out as a jockey and later became a successful businessman and racehorse trainer - owner of Red Eyes, the joint winner of the 1893 Cesarewitch.

We have a family link with the Jugg family: precisely what this is I have long forgotten but my grand-father had a cousin, Julia Jugg, who died at March, Cambridgeshire in the 1930s?  When he took me to the SGS Summer Fair in 1958 (do you remember that? What a successful day! With the Darby's fairground organ churning out the tunes in the playground!) he told me of visiting Beechurst to see Jockey Morbey as a boy. So might Julia Jugg have been one of Annie Jugg's sisters?

Whilst I was delighted to have attended SGS, my move to the very much larger St Albans GS meant that the options available for O Levels were much greater. At St Albans there was no Latin but there was both Physics and Chemistry. This posed something of a work up as both these subjects had been studied for 2 years by the time I turned up in the 3rd year. Mr Parrot's General Science (he was furious if anyone called it 'Genski', I recall) had not prepared me for what was to come!

However, I would not recommend moving a child from one school to another at that age. Apart from the slightly different syllabii (both schools sat the Cambridge Board exams, but not the same requirements), all the school teams had been selected well before that stage. Most of the boys had been playing sports against each other at primary school (as was the case with me at Cambridge where two of the lads in 1T I knew from other city primary school cricket teams). I could have been another Don Bradman, but would have not had a look in, hitting a ball around in a game at the far end of the playing field!

Soham was by far the friendlier school. The staff had more time for us and the boys were not, in general, nasty to one another. By contrast, the north London types I found at St Albans were an altogether more ruthless lot!

However, I managed to achieve a creditable set of O Level grades in everything, except French (which had been my best subject until then!) and immediately after the 5th form I was able to go to sea. Later, I found myself working in Francophone west Africa and then in Marseille for 25 years where happily my French language ability returned and improved, such that I seemed to get by.

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last updated 25 Oct 20