Bob Main 1958-62

1) Reading through your web site certainly stirred up a lot of emotions for me and I was surprised how many memories started to come back; little things like the cocoa urn and those dreaded current affairs sessions and the ten mile radius for cycling. Mosey was a fan of Burt Lancaster so many of the films we had had to have Burt in them. I have read all the articles by the other boys - now old men like me - and find them very interesting.
"What happened to Bob Wellings?" I thought he was one of the best teachers that we had.

2) I had a good friend, Charles Fenn, who was with me at Kings and at Hill Place School, Stow-on-the-Wold; I see you have a Clive Fenn; is that correct?. Charlie Fenn and I were good friends and we kept in touch after school until the time he was married. [Does anyone know what happened to Charles Fenn? Ed.]

3) I remember Chris Tomkinson who I often met at Tewkesbury (when I was a Police Constable) where he managed that branch of Mead and Tomkinson, the motor cycle dealers. I was on duty one night and noticed Chris's house appeared to have a good chimney fire going. I woke him up and also called out the fire brigade. We had the fire out before the firemen turned up.

4) I also went to John Stanley's home a couple of time where we went shooting. John's Father was known as Urban Stanley and I still remember him saying "Hop in the motor, Boy". Penrice or John Allen mentions Peter Brown and his timber business near Stroud. Some years later I restored a 1927 Aveling and Porter traction engine and Peter transported it for me a couple of times.

5) I read the article by Clive Perkins and I remember his .410 under the floor boards. Many of his antics were similar to those that I got up to. I remember collecting pheasants' eggs and taking them to my home in Charlton Kings to be hatched out by some broody hens my mother had there. Clive mentions Ian Nialls 'Poachers Handbook'. I still have, and treasure, "The New Poachers Handbook" that my Father gave me for a birthday present. This was better reading than some of the school books we had. However I have just reread my school copy of "The White Company" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Peter Thomas was an excellent English teacher and we read this book for the GCE English Literature exam. Peter was very good and made Shakespeare and Chaucer come alive for me. The school plays were really good.

6) Some boys mentioned Peter's cars and I recall the Lagonda and also a very nice XK140. A few of us had the trick of lifting the rear wheels of the ground when he was driving off but he caught us out one day when he was in a Land Rover and he put it into four wheel drive. I am not sure how we managed to lift the back of these vehicle but we did! Someone out there must have egged me on but two or three of us were in serious trouble (rightly so) for putting sugar in the petrol tanks of one of his cars. The cane again!

7) The school buildings and the surrounding countryside are magnificent, and this greatly offset the harshness of the time spent inside. The village of Sherborne is quite unique with its strip farming land in front of the cottages and houses and the locals added to experiences of my time there. I remember buying a flagon of cider from Harry Taylor at the Post Office. I thought he was a bit mean because he took my money and waited till I had climbed back over the wall before he made a telephone call and I was intercepted by one of the masters. JHM gave me the cane; again! I used to keep the Bulmers cider flagons down some rabbit holes.

8) One of Foxy Saunders relatives from Sherborne village married Peter who joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary about the same time as I. We all became very good friends and we served together at Tewkesbury. We still keep in regular contact. Foxy caught me taking trout from Sherborne Brook and I nearly ended up in Northleach Magistrates Court.

9) I can also relate to one particular article - as I also had my first furtive grope with a female under some bushes down the gardens. That memory has stayed with me and did not need to be awoken by your web site!! This girl, [Name withheld. Ed] I think must have been a willing teacher for a few of us; and I sincerely thank her for that first wonderful moment!

10) I remember spending some good time with Bill or Brian Hall! (I think) in the stable block. He was the estate mechanic and he showed me how to repair the old ride-on lawn mowers, the Allen Scythe and the David Brown tractor. I learned a lot of useful things from him, which I put to good use in later life. A lot of what he taught me was of a great deal more use than some of the things that JHM endeavoured to instil in me at my Father's expense. 11) I was one of the boys who used to fly control-line aeroplanes on the front field. I used to make, and sell, fuel tanks for these from old baked bean tins. Baked beans and Branston Pickle were the staples secreted away to keep us going. My interest in aeroplanes continued and just last years I finished building my second full size aircraft, a Vans RV 7. I obtained my Private Pilots licence about eight years ago.

12) Of course we all went to the Top Cafe with its juke box and bacon and egg meals. How would we have survived without it? I also recall the double-decker bus somewhere along the top road, the A40. I remember Sybil from the School kitchen. She used to carry out some extracurricular activities from the Top Cafe which took her across the road to the old aircraft buildings! Do you remember Vera from the Kitchen?

19) I spent hours making mushroom compost from the chickens and operating that old Howard Gem Rotary hoe; the exhaust used to glow red hot in the dark; and we did all this work to put money in Moseys pocket at my parents expense. The shop he had in Cheltenham I think was called 'Berrys' or something like that. Mike Abbott wrote about the skating rink and this reminded me of the forced labour gangs that went in that old green Morris Commercial van to Elmstone Harwick to cut up old RAF sheds for the steel pipes for the rink. One of my duties was mowing the lawns with the Dennis and Atco ride on mowers. I used to turn the exhaust pipe up on the Atco and it would point into Moseys study on the second floor. A few well timed shots of oil from an oil can into the air filter, would send a stream of blue smoke into his room through the open window.

20) Miss Gibson was nice and I wonder if she is still alive, however she was partly to blame for getting me the cane yet again. We were in the upstairs washrooms and I was bending over one of the sinks washing my face when, in fun, she dribbled some cold water on my back. It was a shock, and thinking it was another boy I scooped up a handful of water and threw it into my tormentors face only to realise my appalling error. To make matters worse I called her a "trollop"; which she definitely was not. This was a new word we had come across in one of Mr Thomas lessons. It had a nice sound to it but I did not know what it meant; I soon found out!

21) In my opinion Mosey was a bully and a tyrant and this culture spread down from him through some of the teachers and prefects, but not all of them. Someone wrote about Byatt, who was a bully, and so was the head boy at the time I was there. Was it Mr Walters who had all the cats in his flat in the Stable Block. He had two daughters and I think one of them suffered from epileptic fits and the theory was that cuddling a cat would help. Penrice mentions Mr Wynne. I thought he was a good teacher, but a bit sneaky and I do recall we called him Silage. His wife was beautiful and so were his two daughters; it must have been hard for them living at the school.

22) If I am correct I seem to recall that Mr Airey had a north county accent, and I think we gave him a fair bit of stick about this. We called him “ prob-a-lob” because that is what it sounded like when he said ‘probably’. It came out like “Ah! Prob-a-lob”. I remember his wife and I am sorry to hear that she died recently. I am also sorry to hear that Margaret Gibson is unwell; I would still like to say “Sorry” to her, once more, for my rudeness.

23) Peter Thomas’s Shakespearian productions were good, but not without some tantrums and pressure on us, the players. One year I was on the lighting crew, and the curtains were stuck closed for the start of a scene. All was in total darkness and Mr Thomas went out to fix them. He was the audience side of the curtains bending down with his backside to the audience and someone , no, not me , put on full spot lights. He was not amused, but I am sure it was just accidental.

24) You have some pictures of those magnificent copper beeches in the park. We have magnificent trees here in Australia but I think those spectacular copper beeches take some beating. The pictures of the old boiler reminded me of the times we crept down there to warm up tins of baked beans to supplement our diet along with the Branston Pickle, and some of the corn cobs we pinched from Bill Limbrick’s farm. Sorry Bill!

25) The building is also quite magnificent but no one mentions the roof and the secret passages. I forget who showed me but somehow we got right up in the roof and went along the cat walks that were up there; quite scary as it was huge and easy to get lost or fall. There was a small secret cupboard as well somewhere near where we cued up in the dining room. [I think you mean the Salt Safe. Ed]

26) Michael Evans was a friend of mine at the school. His father was a vicar at Pebworth (I think). Michael had a maiden aunt who lived in Charlton Kings, just down the road from my home. Michael may have had his car licence but I certainly did not. It may have been during the holidays or an ‘exeat’ but we met up at his aunts and went for a drive in her old black Ford Popular with that awful transverse springing. We went up to Cleeve Hill and I persuaded Michael to let me have a drive. It was down a narrow steep lane and I was unexperienced and unable to cope with the slack in the steering. We descended the hill in an ever increasing and frantic series of zig-zags before the wheels finally hit the steep side grass bank and over we rolled. We were unable to right it but I went to a neighbouring farm where I knew the son, Chris Barratt, and with his help we got it back on its wheels. There was not too much damage, but there were tufts of grass sticking out between the wheel rims and the tyres. Of course we were scared to death but I bullied Michael into driving it home. We got it into the garage and, like a coward, I scarpered. I lived in fear for some weeks, both from my Father and from the school. No one ever found out. Michael told me later that his lovely old maiden Aunt calmly said “Oh it needed a respray anyway” God Bless her!

27) Cycling around the Cotswold was wonderful, but I caused some strife going along ‘the bottom road’ to the Barringtons. The old bakers' vans in those days had racks in the back in which the large wooden trays, loaded with fresh bread, simply slid in. The bread was unwrapped and unsecured then of course. It may well have been my fault but going round a sharp corner the bakers van and I were on a collision course. He slammed on the brakes and I swerved around the side of the van. I recall a look of horror on the driver's face as the loaves of bread shot forward and cascaded around his head and into the front seats. I kept going as fast as I could. The road was too narrow for him to turn around and anyway he would have had to spend some time sorting out the bread, now both ‘stirred and shaken’. Perhaps he was on the wrong side of the road as well, because nothing ever came of it.

28) The Sick Bay. I suffered badly from asthma and was always getting bronchitis (particularly during the holidays). However I had reported sick and spent a couple of days in the sick bay slowly getting worse.

I felt really crook* during the night. I knocked on the matron’s door; her room was just next to the sick bay. She put a mattress on the floor beside her bed and she then went back to bed and fast asleep, while I was just getting worse, cold and uncomfortable on the floor alongside her bed. I obviously had a serious infection. It all ended up with an urgent ambulance ride, with bells and lights, to Cheltenham General Hospital where I was in trouble with pneumonia and pleurisy. After a couple of weeks or so I was back in school recovering in the sick bay.

When they thought I was well enough I was made to cycle on my own to the Doctor at Bourton-on-the--Water for breathing exercises. By the time I had got there I had had enough damned exercise cycling up Clapton Hill, past Bourton-on-the-Hill and finally down that steep hill in to Bourton itself. I then had to make the return journey across those hills without some Dr or nurse telling me how to breathe. I see in one of the early prospectuses (or should that be ‘prospectii’) that it says the school is only four miles and easy walking distance to Bourton. It certainly did not feel like that to me.

*Apologies for the Australianisms. Crook = feeling unwell. Strife= trouble.

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