Miscellany


Updated August '18

 

This section comprises:

anecdotes of our school days,
message threads from a defunct social site for former-DGS pupils,
web-based pupil-profiles.

 


Anecdotes


Memories of Blackwell 1950-1952

At lunch break, we used to trade comics.  There were Western and Superman comics at that time.  The latter was worth 2 Westerns.  At recess we also played marbles.

I believe it was Miss White {Mrs Whyte - CP} who taught us French.  Her blackboard writing was difficult to understand and I thought the letter Q was some strange French letter.  Unfortunately, she lost the notebooks of several members of my class including mine.  She told us to copy all the missing notes from a friend.  Of course, I wasn’t able to do that because nobody would lend me their notes as they needed them for homework.  Learning French without notes meant I was never successful at learning that language.

In those years, the male students were referred to by their surnames.  Names I recall are Webb, Donaldson and Everett.

We were having lunch in the dining room when we heard the announcement, “The King is dead.  Long live the Queen.”

David Soward ('50-'55)



I can't remember anything about Blackwell except climbing the big Elm trees on the road to the station on the way home after school.  I lived in South Harrow, which involved 2 bus rides each way.

Jenny Kent ('51-'57)



Harrow & Wealdstone

One thing stands out clearly and that was the day of the Wealdstone Rail Disaster {8:19 am on 8 October 1952 - CP}.  We were in a music class with Mr Lewis, who I hated with a passion because though he also taught Latin, which I loved, he had recently severely embarrassed me in a music class by making me publicly sing a scale, solo.  I couldn't do it then and I couldn't do it now.  Anyway, on this day, another teacher came in the room looking for one particular pupil, who had not been seen.  There was a suspicion that he/she might have been caught up in the disaster - and that was the first our class had heard of it as we had all arrived at school before it happened.

Jenny Kent ('51-'57)

I, and about another 100 students, formed the first ever year of the School.  It started for the first two years at Blackwell Secondary Modern School at Headstone Lane in Harrow.

The reference to the Harrow & Wealdstone rail crash is an interesting one since I had an argument with another 1950's student who said that we were still travelling from Edgware to Headstone Lane when the crash occurred.  The year of the crash was the same year that we changed from Headstone Lane to the Shaldon Road site.  We left Blackwell in July and started at Shaldon Road in August.  I believe the rail crash was in the November of that same year.  One more year at Headstone Lane and I could have been standing on the platform at Harrow & Wealdstone station at about the time in the morning when the accident occurred.  Just fate I suppose.

John Dent ('50-'57)


I cycled past Harrow & Wealdstone station on the way to school when the crash occurred.  That day, for the sake of perverse curiosity, I took the bus over the bridge, sitting on the top deck.  The police were not allowing people to walk over the bridge.

The platform was covered in bodies covered in brown sacking.  Something I will never forget.  More importantly in a way, as it influenced my whole life, was the effect of the newspaper reporting.

As I assembled my own newspapers for my two routes {Tony was a paper-boy - CP}, the differences in the deaths reported over that week, by the various papers were very evident to me.  We actually displayed the reported deaths on a summary sheet, on the pavement in front of the store, by newspaper, for almost the whole 10-11 days it took to clear the wreckage.  I do not remember the actual numbers except The Times “8 People reported Dead” and the Daily Mirror – “Thousands Dead”, but The Guardian was always the closest and gradually the other newspaper's numbers converged on the Guardian's numbers.

After that tragedy I became pretty skeptical of newspapers in general - and I still am!

Tony Tyler ('50-'57)



The Founder

I was kind of nerdy back in those days, although we all got a bit toughened as we and the girls wore uniforms that made us stand-out in the playgrounds and easy to pick-on by the, somewhat tougher, Blackwell crowd.  Mind you, we had a couple of our own bullies as well.

I was the founder of the Old Downer Grammarians, running around on my bicycle getting people to sign up for positions in the society.  I couldn’t join myself as I was still in the 6th form at that time.

I also founded the 6th form society and the opera club.  We used to go to Sadlers Wells downtown about once a month, and I still love opera.  We even have an opera group here in Las Vegas.

{After Downer} I went to Leeds University (Physics) with Brian Caudle (Electrical Engineering), but remained friends with the Downer Group.

Despite what everyone might believe, behind the scenes we have a lot of cultural activities here in Vegas.  But it only includes the residents as visitors do not have an opportunity to get to buy tickets for our Philharmonic, Ballet or Opera group performances, these days held at the Smiths Center.

I am 75 now, own and running a Web-based Supply Chain Business, www.ef3systems.com out of Las Vegas NV and still enjoying life.  In fact I am getting married on the 19th of this month (April, 2014).

Anton Tyler ('50-57)



The Fabulous 'Williams' Boys

This was how we were introduced to the three Williams in '69 (not long before 'Crippen' retired):

Williams - the Boot
Williams - the Book
Williams - the Bunsen Burner

Tim Cole ('68-'73)



Visits to the Granada to see the London Symphony Orchestra

I went to at least one of these so they were not a new product of the '60s.  I can't remember any other occasions of getting off the school premises in school time except for the dreaded games afternoons at Carreras, cross country running around Chandos Recreation Ground down the road or trying to be taught to swim in the freezing waters of the Kingsbury open air swimming pool.  50 degrees F was deemed to be warm enough to go in!

John Brown ('54-'59)

It appears, from a Chandos Girls School Magazine, dated 1948, that Harrow schools were attending orchestral concerts at the Granada in the '40s. - CP



Cycle Rule

We had to have our bicycles registered.  There was a strict rule that pupils could not come by bike if they lived within one mile as the crow flies.  I still remember that my number was 43 and this had to be painted at the bottom of the rear mudguard.

Cycle proficiency tests were conducted in the Bridgewater Gardens entrance to the school.

John Brown ('54-'59)



Javelins

Towards the end of my time at Downer, some 6th formers started bringing cars which were always parked in the Bridgewater Gardens entrance.  Even now I can remember a Jowett Javelin registered ONO 222.  I don’t know who owned it (but it wasn’t a staff member) and for many years afterwards, it and a number of Javelins in various states of disrepair could be seen in the front garden of a property between Canons Park Station and the entrance to Canons Park itself.

John Brown


The Jowett Javelin referred to by John was probably the property of Ivor New.  We used it for pub visits in the lunch hour – it did the ton down George V Avenue!

Geoff Ridgway (1955-'63)



Downer Calling

There was one occasion in my day when the BBC came to the school one evening.  Some parents were invited to be in the audience (but no pupils as far as I know).  And Richard Dimbleby was presenting.  Whether it was an item for Panorama, or whatever, but I cannot remember what it was all about but I assume it was something about education.

John Brown



Chess

I, and my friend, Dave Rumens, played for the school at chess - I do not recall the school ever losing, with Dave on board 1 and me on board 2 - not really surprising as Dave is an International Chess Master and has played for England - I only got to the Middlesex team!

Brian Tysoe ('51-'58)



Flying Bérets

The least liked item of the girls' uniform was the maroon béret with its stiff, blue, upright badge on the front.  The solution to rid ourselves of this awful accessory forever came to us on our way home: it was to fling them, frisby-like, from the parapet of the bridge over the Bakerloo line onto the track below.

However, we had not bargained for the conscientiousness of a railway worker who spotted them on the track, collected them all up and delivered them back to the safe care of the school.

The following morning we had to suffer the ignominy of being publicly named (sewn into the brim) and then ordered to collect them.

L-A M ('60-'67)



The Storks and the Bees

Sex education involved the story of a pair of storks and a picture of a pregnant woman who later appeared in her garden to hang out nappies on the line… pregnancy and childbirth explained circa '65.

Nicole Westcott



Gore

I remember Pat Wilkinson, same year ('65 entry) - different class, slicing off part of her thigh at an ice rink.

Nicole Westcott



Punishment

The 1966 winter term saw the start of a bold experiment - the upper 6th was relatively small (only 11 girls and about 45 boys), and there had been an unfortunate prefect v. non-prefect discrimination issue the previous year so the whole year-group were made school prefects.  Duties were therefore spread wide and thin.

The only effective punishment that could be meted-out by a prefect was the copying of a 'preface'.

E B



A Suitable Career

I think the main topic of conversation from the ladies of our age, who were present at the 2013 reunion, was the serious lack of encouragement and guidance for careers given to the female students when we attended DGS.

In a conversation with the present headmistress, I expressed my pleasure on hearing that now girls are encouraged to seek further education.  I can remember being regularly called into the office of Mr Woosley.  He always did this to inform me that my type did not attend university.  I was too shy and angry to ask him what he meant and really wish now that I had done so.  When I stepped off the podium after being presented with my degree, I looked up and shook it at him saying "See, my type do go to University and they do extremely well".  Yes, I was very bitter about my last years at DGS.  I was determined to get my degree although I had to wait for many years to do so.  I have never regretted all the work it took.

I am a member of the Canadian Federation of University Women and our mandate is for the education of women.  You can probably understand why I feel strongly about the education of women and also their status in our society.

Pam Soward née Martin ('52-'59)

Career advice for girls in the late ’60s was provided by our form mistress, Monica Hirst - but it was rather limited.  According to Miss Hirst there was really only one suitable career choice for girls: teaching.  ‘Banking’ was a barely tolerable alternative.  When I volunteered that I intended working for London Weekend Television, the withering look I received would have been a more appropriate response to: "I intend working in a brothel".

Sheila Jennings

I'm not surprised most girls became teachers.  Downer, remnant of past and tentatively, but boldly for the time, tried to give pupils choice when times were changing; we had the pill but little real choice in what to do with our lives…  6th form students could learn to drive, play golf, learn japanese, russian etc. so advanced in many ways.

Nicole Westcott



Liberation Day

One's last-ever school day presented an opportunity to symbolically purge the pent-up frustration of the whole, diabolical educational experience by 'burning-bridges' both metaphorically and…

I remember a class-mate dancing round a small fire of his uniform on the grass, outside Miss Caldwell's office in 1970.  (He was weird and frightened females from the younger years… he used to get his 'bits' out in class - but we got used to him.)

Nicole Westcott


A burning armchair was sent tumbling down the stairway from the Prefects Room.

Anne Greeno re: '67



Dereliction of Duty

Because cigarette smoking by pupils was obviously forbidden, it needed to be held en-masse and somewhere discreet - the rear of Room 9 - and organised with near-military precision.  Two pupils were posted on ‘guard duty’ at either end of the playground to provide advance warning of the threat of discovery.  On one occasion ‘Plug’ Morris was one of the two ‘look-outs’, but he had been distracted and hadn't noticed the appearance of Mike Beaman until he was well into the playground.  To compound the matter, Mr Beaman noticed that as soon as ‘Plug’ had spotted him he immediately belted-off.  By the time ‘Plug’ was able to yell "Beaman!" as a warning to the band of miscreants, Beaman, cheeks puffed-out, was only a few paces from intercepting him.

The whole cohort, McGuffie, Peter Stolle, Keith Lovegrove, Talut Abassi, Geoff Birchall, Dickie Batchelor, Alan Purveur and ‘Plug’ Morris were duly dragged to Head Woosley to be awarded six swipes each.

Alan Purveur



The Band Master

I used to play trumpet and trombone in the brass band.  On ‘band days’ I would cycle to school with an instrument on my back.

Although Mr Wilson, a very nice man, was Music Master, band practice was taken by Martin Smith’s, "Smuts" (left in 1965), dad - who also played tuba for the Salvation Army.

Occasionally one would encounter Martin and his dad playing their instruments in Queensbury High Street.  Intriguingly neither of them appeared to be embarrassed at being spotted.

Chris Thrift



The Decency Test

In 1967 Miss Caldwell, official upholder of morality standards, subjected the girls to an impromptu decency test.  They were lined-up and told to kneel down.  Miss Caldwell would then, with a vertical ruler, measure the height of their skirt hems above the ground.  Any hem that was greater than 4 inches off the ground was deemed to have failed.  In our class every single hem failed the test. 

Sheila Jennings

Standards continued to 'deteriorate'… as can be seen in this photo from the 1969 production of 'The Pajama Game'.



Red Ken

Photography was a fairly popular hobby - especially for boys - during Downer's early years.  In fact the school designated the store-cupboard of Drawing Office 2 as a makeshift darkroom in which members of its Photography Club could develop and print photographs.

One late-afternoon in about 1965, Ken, a keen photographer, was using the darkroom.  He had locked the door - as was normal practice - to avoid any other club members from attempting to enter and unwittingly allowing-in a burst of daylight.  Outside the room, a number of interlopers, keen on spoiling Ken's fun, were knocking on the door pretending to be a teacher intent on gaining access.  Ken was naturally wise to this little ruse and, in exasperation, scribbled a cursory note telling them, in effect, to go away - only his language was decidedly more colourful than that.  However, immediately prior to Ken deciding to dispatch his missive under the storeroom door, the Gym master (whose name I can’t remember - but he replaced Cornes), another keen photographer, had appeared on the scene to use the facility.  So when he knocked on the door, Ken delivered his note straight into the hands of the somewhat bemused master - who, fortunately, fairly rapidly deduced its intended recipients and the context.  After having digested the text, the master then offered the note to the assembled group of sheepish pupils to peruse.

When poor Ken eventually unlocked the door and emerged to see the master holding the note, unmitigated embarrassment was immediately visible on his flushed face.

E B



The Unofficial Notice Board

There was never a significant graffiti problem at the school, however there was just a single desk - in Miss St Ville's Geography room (17) - which attracted a number of biro-inscribed messages.  On entering the room, the ritual for some pupils was to check the desk for any new ‘notices’.

E B ('67)



Carreras

The Carreras Sports Ground (evoking memories of the green, double-decker, country bus) was originally used by employees of the Carreras Tobacco Co.  Their London factory, built in 1926, was in Mornington Crescent.  The company logo was ‘The Black Cat’.

Chris Thrift



RnB - the Downer influence

From http://www.asphostingservices.com/gbserver …

1259. Blues and Britain
I was 4 years behind LJB in High School and admired the iconoclastic way he dealt with the powers that ruled over us all.  He was a hero -- a foot taller than any of the other protein-starved, food-rationed English midgets of my generation and quite prepared to crap on anything that smacked of authority.  Wasn't a bad school -- just too British and 1950s to accommodate a talent like that!  Followed the Blues and LJB's career and even followed him to Toronto where I have lived for the past 28 years [I think that means he followed me -- but we won't be picky...].

Andrew [Andy] Forester 4/29/2002 8:21:00 PM

A Memorial Service for John Baldry, to which Downer pupils who knew him were invited, was held at St Lawrence's Church, Whitchurch Lane on July 22, 2007 (see: http://www.johnbaldry.com/index1.asp).



Where are they now?

Ever wondered where those old pals who were enticed to foreign shores live now (2005)? pie chart



Fighters at 3 o'clock

(Reproduced from the, now defunct, 'DGSEUK' web site:)
Classrooms on the east side of the classroom block looked towards Hendon.  Back in the '50s the RAF was still using the field for training.  I don't know how many times I watched an old Avro Anson appear above the houses, flying left to right.  Then it would continue southward and disappear (the bloody classroom wall got in the way).  A few minutes later though, by looking back to the left one would see the plane making its approach. Then it would disappear behind the houses and reappear a few seconds later heading south.

Jeff Stilton, 1953-58

Jeff: I used to watch the Ansons, also Chipmunks and those DH Rapide biplanes flying out of Hendon, over the school roof and off into the distance.  In my 2nd year - 1956, the year of the Suez Crisis - one girl in our form threw a fit when one of those Ansons with the noisy radial engines came low over the school - she was shouting that the Egyptians were invading or going to bomb us.  I kid you not [name witheld to protect the guilty!].

Andy Forester



Geoff Ridgway, OBE

It's rather gratifying when the achievements of a 'family member' are recognised nationally.

Geoff receiving his award in New Year 2009.



The School Choir

Choirmaster, Barry Clark, has uploaded a number of renditions from the choir of 1972 to YouTube.



Message-threads salvaged from 'DGSEUK'

The 'DownerGrammarSchoolEdgwareUK' (DGSEUK) private web site, inaugurated by ex-pupils in June 2000, attracted over 700 past-pupils, most of whom joined in late 2000 and 2001.  Over 220 different message-threads were initiated on the site's forum, totalling over 1600 individual messages.

A selection of a few of the more interesting or entertaining threads, salvaged from the site before its demise in 2009 when the host service, MSN Groups, terminated, can be accessed from the list below:

The origins of DGS
DGS's first few years
When Downer went Comprehensive

1952 year-group names correspondence (with contributions from 1950 starters)
1953 year-group names correspondence
1957 year-group names correspondence
1961 year-group names correspondence
1968 year-group names correspondence
1969 Lower School photo - discussion

Biggar - the Bugger?
'FG' was 'Crippen'
Nobby Clarke - RIP
'Clara's later years
Peter Shepherd - RIP

Teachers cars
Travel to and from school
Karl is an author
Punishments
First Day
School Dinners
Lads on Lasses
What is ‘Education’?
Names for Strangers
‘Big Brother’
Shirley's got a new name
Colin -
the weird kid
Local music venues
Snaps of the school 2000
Pupils exiled Down under



Pupil-profiles once found† on the web ( - but not necessarily there now)

Name Time at Downer Comment Site URL
David Sear 1953-58   www.ancient-times.com/newsletters/n14/n14.html
David Dawkins 1954-59 Bucks
DoB: 21/9/42
http://www.around.co.uk
J Rickie Haughton 1955-61 Healer, dog trainer, web-master and more focus4thefuture.com/
Robert Adams 1956-62 deceased 2005 www.jesus.cam.ac.uk/alumni/publications/
Robin Kiel   Arts www.kielfoundation.org.uk/robinkiel.html
Chris Thrift 1960-67 Property www.linkedin.com/pub/5/a07/30b
Martin Straus 1965-67 attended 6th form only… now ‘Waste-meister’ microsoft.ecademy.com/account.php?id=43638
Steve Roberts 1961-69   uk.msnusers.com/Essroberts/resume.msnw
Alan Gamble 1962-69 "Alan Gamble", ‘Edgware’  
Carole Carre 1963-68 Carole Smith www.carolesmith.me.uk
Dave Wills 1964-70   chiron-life.com
Elissa Milsome 1965-70 Elissa, whose illustrations adorn ’68 and ’69 Compoti, left for Harrow Art School www.caricatureportraits.co.uk
Richard 'Rick' Butterworth 1965-70 Marketing www.linkedin.com/pub/3/ba3/448
Barbara Hartley 1968-70 (now 'Barbara Sargent')
Accountancy
www.donau-uni.ac.at/de/studium/regularmba/06188/index.php
Dale Langley 1967-74 Employment Law www.dalelangley.co.uk/team.php
Clive Kahn 1968-75 Finance Director www.travelex.com
Lee (Fosbury) Cross 1969-74 IT Service Management www.linkedin.com/in/leecross
Steve Bassett 1969-74 Creative Development Executive www.linkedin.com/pub/3/ab0/926
Jacqui Budd 1969-74 Leisure, Merit Travel www.linkedin.com/pub/5/894/326
Martin R Thomas 1971-76 Public sector IT (Decision Focus) Twickenham www.linkedin.com/pub/6/b8/505
Kevin Saunders 1972-77 Spiritualist www.isleofavalonfoundation.com/

† - using a Google search on the precise phrase “Downer Grammar” i.e. including the quotation marks.