Downer’s Staff

Updated May ‘24


Name Role(s) & photo Report
Miss W M Allen   Started in ’51, left in ’57 for Rye Grammar School.  On Compotus committee - ’56 Compotus
Mr J S Barker Started in ‘57, left in ‘58 - ’61 Compotus
Mr Barker Music and RI … the RI teacher who ran off with the VIth form girl.

It was rumoured that ‘Clara’ found them ‘at it’ behind the piano in the music room.  The pupil, whose name I forget, came into the VI form from Rosary Priory.  Before he had the affair with her [it was alleged that:] he had an affair with Miss Rocha {sic} and that was why she left and went to Heriots Wood.  You will see him in Sports Day ‘61 photo (by Jeff Lewis), wearing glasses and standing behind Mr Knight. - Val Crooke (from ‘DGSEUK' on ‘groups.MSN')

We saw ‘the dragon’ catch him from our position at the art room window where we blokes were cheering him on!  He wasn't actually ‘at it’ but it was an ‘intense snog’ as we used to call it.  She chased them round the piano for a bit then they fled, to our cheers.

I remember him coming out with the following lament:
‘I wish you'd spell Sadducee right - it makes me sad you see'.  - J.P. ('57-'62)

He seemed a most unattractive man - a bit like Renee from ‘Allo Allo' - but then I could never work these things out anyway.  Seems to me that in those days girls liked silver hair, and now I've got it, they like men their own age! - Robert Head (from 'DGSEUK' on 'groups.MSN')
Mr C W Basham English Started in ‘55, left in ‘58 for Head of English Department at Ellis School, Nottingham.

A wonderful English teacher - Mr Basham - who really fostered a love of books and reading, although it was years later before I finally gotround to reading some of his recommendations. - Jenny Armour (née Kent)

The first time the register was taken by Mr Basham in our first class of the first year, he called out the surnames in alphabetical order (our class was O to Y).  When he got to the Ss, he said 'Scott?' and Scott said 'Yes Sir', then he said 'Shaw?' and Scott said 'Yes Sir'.

I think this practice of a class roll call is now pretty anachronistic. - J.P. ('57-'62)
Peter A Biggar Metalwork ‘54,'62, ‘69, ‘73 Transferred from Chandos Secondary Modern in 1953 - ‘61 Compotus.

Despite (perhaps because of… ) considering safety as paramount, he appears to have been somewhat despised - particularly by (self-acclaimed) low achievers in his ‘subject’.  At the start of every single Metalwork lesson with Mr Biggar, he made all of us stand in a line and recite the following "mantra":
"We come down here to learn about the tools, materials and processes associated with metalwork and to try to become a craftsmen"
I won't forget that as long as I live! - Steve Bowler (‘65-‘72)

I only did metalwork because I didn't like any of the alternatives - I thought Mr Biggar was a great teacher, he even helped me rebuild a motorbike engine. - Colin Tigg

Beware - the tale that follows is not for the squeamish:
One of my class-mates was particularly short so when, during metalwork, he needed to use the pillar drill he had to stand on a box to reach the ‘star-wheel’ properly.  One day, whilst drilling, he fell off the box but as he fell he grabbed at the ‘wheel’ managing to pull the revolving drill-bit downward, somehow piercing his upper lip.  Although the pupil was severely limited in his ability to shriek, the associated commotion attracted Mr Biggar’s attention and he rushed to assist.  Following brief hospitalization, the pupil sported a swollen upper lip for three weeks. - Colin Tigg (‘65)

Deceased - Jeff Lewis

A comprehensive review of Mr Biggar’s attributes - salvaged from the ‘DGSEUK’ web site.
Mrs A Bosley Girls games Started in ‘58, left in ‘59
Mr Robert E Brett ‘Bertie' Maths ‘62 Started 1955 - ‘61 Compotus. Left in ‘63 - ‘63 Compotus
Played "Pooh-Bah" very well in The Mikado, about 1963.  Favourite punishment: "Come here boy, and bring a twelve inch steel ruler with you" - the flat across your fingers, or the edge across your buttocks. Ouch! - Phil Rattenbury

That sod Brett once whacked me with the wooden board compasses used for drawing circles on the blackboard with a piece of chalk--that hurt... - Andrew Forester

Bert [that swine of a math teacher Brett] had a Lambretta painted in cream and brown [named "Bert’s Banana Split"]. - Andrew Forester
Mrs J Burbidge Needlework Started in ‘59 - ‘60 Compotus
Mr N Bygrave appointed in ‘55, left in ‘57 to be Head of English at Rotheram County School (Luton)
Miss Sheila M Caldwell ‘Minnie’/‘Clara’ English/Dep. Head ‘54, ‘62, ‘69, ‘73
Started 1950 - '61 Compotus

When, in 1963, class ‘3D' realised that their regular teacher would not be arriving for class as usual, they thought they would prepare a special welcome for the stand-in - whoever that would be.  This was to comprise the classic ‘inverted waste-paper bin perched on the door’ trick.  When the replacement eventually entered, the whole class were stunned into silence, as much by the faultless, 'Tom and Jerry’-style execution of the 'drop' as by the identity of the recipient: a certain Miss Caldwell.  This jolly jape earned a "Class detention!" - Colin Tigg (‘65)

…she sent me home with a note for my parents because I had got my ears pierced and it would be a bad influence on the other girls!! She also made me wear plimsoles all day when I dared to wear a pair of winklepickers to school. - Hazel Smith (‘65)

Wrote to her after last re-union.  She wrote back explaining about her school in Kensington.  I went to visit, but was confused as they were teaching sanscrit and stuff to junior school girls, nevertheless a lovely school.  She was playing a more diplomatic role, travelling backwards and forwards to South Africa as her colleagues had just opened a new school just outside Cape Town, I think.  She remembers Pauline Nicholas, Diane Higgins, Sharon Clarke, Linda Hill, (Both of them).  She was in contact with Miss Hurst and Miss Bewley - Linda Christmas ('68)

Remember being caught by Miss Bewley with fag in hand in loos by library and marched to Miss Caldwell’s office to put out offending object in an ashtray.  However, Miss 'C' showed me amazing respect and really helped me and decided I should not be expelled after a career of being labelled 'recalcitrant’, despite other teachers recommending this course of action.

Miss 'C’ also helped to save me from myself and an 'in need of care and protection’ order, a euphemism for 'girls borstal’.  I had got picked up in the Alphabet Club, Gerrard Street, Soho, on 'blues', aged 15, in 1969, while celebrating for 16th birthday in a few days time.  Police came to my home and school. - Nicole Westcott ('70)

In summer we were allowed to spend lunch breaks on the school field and there was a brief spate of "bundling" where small groups of boys would gang up on individuals and pinch their bags, sandwiches or shoes for no particular reason.  This ended with me, Peter Lewis and one or two others (maybe Addy again) being in Clara’s office, unable to keep a straight face while she said accusingly:  "so you were the boys responsible for the bundling during which Kepka's pants were removed".  Lewis thought he would add to the hilarity by passing wind audibly, more than once, and after the third time she bellowed "Lewis! Have you no control over yourself!" which of course did nothing to get us into line. - Tim Cole ('67-'73)

One day after assembly she dismissed all of the boys to have a chat with us girls.  She told us that the wearing of patent shoes was forbidden as they could possibly reflect our knickers!  Considering they were maroon I found this highly unlikely.....   She sure was an odd one.  Funnily enough we had to have our name tags sewn into them.  Can't imaging a situation where one might lose their knickers, and if so, would you really want them back?!  You couldn't make it up! - Jeanette Pfaff ('72-'77)

Clara's later years - anecdotes from 'DGSEUK'.

She attended the 2013 DGS Reunion.

In January 1975 Miss Caldwell accepted the headship of a private, independent school: St James Girls School, Kensington.  All the school management committee were members of the 'SES', an international spiritual cult.  One ex-pupil’s experiences of the alleged "mind control" cult are catalogued in her recent book.

The St James Group was latterly involved in a 'corporal punishment' debacle.  The "Criticisms" in the subsequent Inquiry Report were damning.

Miss Caldwell retired from her headship in 1995.
Mr D J Carpenter French ‘54 Started in ‘51, left in ‘57
Donald Carpenter went as a missionary to the Kikuyu. -  Jenny Kent.
Miss P Chandlerleft in ‘59
Douglas ‘Nobby' S Clarke RI, Duke of Edin. '60-DofE, '62 Started 1954 - ‘61 Compotus

Douglas [Nobby] Clarke [if I remember what he told me correctly] went to Lascelles, then as head of Blackwell which was a real "challenge" that he sorted-out and from there on to the "old" Harrow Weald County and set it up as a "new" Sixth Form college and made it a great success.  He is now retired, living in Devon.  I've had a couple of long telephone conversations with him and he is still the delightful chap he always was.  Somebody told me that he is not in great health but of course that old Spitfire pilot, stiff-upper-lip mentioned nothing about such things...  Andy Forester (55-62)

Nobby Clarke was respected by everyone - the only teacher I ever met who could quieten a classroom merely by walking into it.  He had (still has I expect) a good sense of humour too: We had set up a pile of books on top of the door for his bald pate one April 1st - but instead of Nobby, Miss Caldwell received the lot!  Nobby arrived after she had gone and said "I thought you might have something up your sleeves for me .... so I let her go first!" - John Best

Died Oct 2003 - Jeff Lewis
Mrs W Crewetemporary appointee autumn ‘57
Mr Colin S Crouch English ‘60 Compotus

Snowdonia ‘61

ex-RAF and used to fly Meteors or Vampires.  I remember this because he and Nobby Clarke, who had flown Spitfires, had a debate for the aero club on the merits of piston engines vs. jets. - Andrew Forester
Mr G A Davies Geography
Careers Master
I was told I was a failure by Mr G.A. Davies, the geography teacher who was also careers master.  But that swine told almost everybody they were failures.  He told me I'd be lucky to spend my life mixing cement on a building site...  How the school could put a prat like him in charge of advising young people is astounding.  Given his initials he was known as "Geography Arseholes" Davies.

I think he eventually got a headship at a Sec. Mod. where he doubtless ruined many lives and aspirations--total opposite of Doug Clarke!

There was one funny story about him.  Two years ahead of us was a class of villains and he walked down the passage between the desks, swinging a geography textbook, and dishing out cauliflower ears as he went declaiming in his lugubrious Welsh voice "I'm a gla-cier, caaarvvvving my way down th' valleeee".  Can you imagine a teacher getting away with belting a child on the side of the head with a heavy book these days? - Andrew Forester (‘55-‘62)
Mr J M Davies Geography ‘54, ‘61, ‘62 Started in ‘52 - ‘61 Compotus
left ‘64 - ‘64 Compotus
Peter Davies Woodwork ‘61 ‘62 ‘69 ‘73 Started ‘55 - ‘61 Compotus

Sorry guys but... Mr Davies' car was a Lotus Elan, not an Elite.  I think it was a Mk 1 version and it was 'all yellow'. Mr Davies was generally less well known to the girlies because we had to take needlework and cookery whether we liked it or not.  I really would have liked to have done woodwork but even this was considered too risque in a co-ed school in the sixties.  In the 6th form, when I was working on the set for The Mikado, Mr Davies taught me how to use an electric jig-saw to cut the flats, a skill for which I have always been truly grateful.  I used to occasionally get a lift in the Elan if I was walking to school along Camrose Avenue and he was passing. - Sue Howe ('73)

I'm pleased that Peter Davies graduated to an Elite or Elan [both vehicles I would love to own although anything that can self-destruct on UK roads would hardly be suitable to negotiating the country roads in a Canadian winter...] because long before that [I am 55-62 vintage] he had an "Ashley".  What is an "Ashley?" I hear you ask... This was the time that building 'specials' was at it's height. You got an Austin-7 or Ford Prefect/Popular with the 1172 cc side-valve [flathead] motor, and ripped the body off, tuned the engine [skimmed a few thou' off the head, polished the ports, replaced the downdraft Zenith or Solex carb with a side-draught SU or--if you were really going for records, two of them, and bolted on a free-flow exhaust] then you added a sleek [sort-of sleek, compared to a Ford Popular...] glassfibre body--in Davies' case, an Ashley--and then you pretended you were driving an Aston Martin.  Easy to take the piss--these specials and 750 racing were the origin of Lotus and other specialty companies.  But trying to extract high performance from an Austin-7 or Ford flathead motor sound ludicrous now ... - Andrew Forester

I remember the woodwork teacher putting in my report 'his lack of ability is only matched by his lack of effort' classic teacher sarcasm! Interestingly, in my later life I qualified as a carpenter and joiner! - Lionel Canter (1960-65)
Mr E L Dean Languages ‘62 ‘69 Started ‘57 - ‘61 Compotus Previously at Trinity Grammar, Wood Green.  Died '89 - Y Emel Rochat.

"Nos ponemos en camino"
I am a student of the Spanish language.  Whilst browsing through the book-shelves of various charity shops for different Spanish material, I came across a Spanish school text book with the above name.  The author of this book, first published in 1956, is E L Dean, who was head of Modern Languages at Downer Grammar School.  I have found this book interesting and of value during my studies. - Lee Allen, Carshalton, Surrey
Miss E J Dixon Languages joined in ‘54, left in ‘56

Our Spanish teacher - Miss Dixon, became a missionary and I stumbled on a church while on holiday somewhere in UK and saw a photo display about the mission that congregation was supporting and there she was. - Jenny Kent
Mr M M Evans Music ‘54 started ‘51, left in ‘57 to become Head of Classics at Tregaron County School.

Assistant Producer of Pirates of Penzance in ‘56.

Both a classical music and a jazz enthusiast, he influenced ‘Long’ John Baldry - BBC4’s ‘LJB - In the Shadow of the Blues
Daphne M Forrest (Mrs Lock) Biology and RI ‘54 started in ‘50, left in ‘57
- Christine Baskerville (now living in NZ) (‘50)
Mrs V M FoxEnglish started ‘57, left in ‘59 for Bishopshalt Grammar
Miss Goldsack - June Pursey
John Joseph Gorsuch 'Jimmy’ Biology ‘61 ‘62 Started ‘55 - ‘61 Compotus. Left in ‘63 - ‘63 Compotus

I remember ‘O' level Biology classes in the 'new' science block.  Raymond Coffer & co always sat at the back of this glass classroom generally making trouble.  Mr Gorsuch was usually a good shot when he threw the board rubber at Coffer only this time the target ducked… there was a horrible sound of breaking glass followed by a deathly hush.  The lesson finished in silence.  At break time Mr Gorsuch was seen with a bucket picking glass out of the newly landscaped garden behind the lab. - Susan Horrobin
Miss (Dr) Alison E Grant History/Geography ‘54, ‘62 - ‘61 Compotus

Alison Grant was history teacher for about 15 years at Downer, then had an exemplary career teaching history in the West Country and researching and writing books about maritime history.  I read an obituary recently on the Internet - apparently she died around 2008. - Jennifer Kent (Armour)
Donald Henry Grattan Maths ‘54
b: 1926
Educated at Harrow County School.

After failing totally to teach me any maths at all, went on to dizzy heights in TV education and earned a CBE.  He must be almost 90 by now. - Jenny Kent

Left in ‘56 to become BBC Schools’ Television producer - ‘56 Compotus.
Eventually became Assistant Head of BBC Schools Television.

"If part of your childhood in the 1970s involved turning on the television to find long-haired Open University academics in outsized glasses trying to unpack an arcane subject, you have Donald Grattan to thank.

"Sporting his own slightly eccentric asymmetrical wave of hair, the BBC executive and former teacher persuaded his sceptical bosses to back the project and helped to broker an agreement with the government to broadcast lectures from the Open University. … "  - October 8 2019, 12:01am, The Times

He loved playing croquet. - BBC
Mrs M Rosemary Hannon (Miss R Goldthorpe)Mathsmoved to Hampshire in ‘59 - ‘59 Compotus
Miss J M Harding   Produced and conducted Pirates of Penzance ‘56
Miss Monica Hirst French and Spanish ‘62 ‘69 Started in ‘54 - ‘61 Compotus.
Lives in Pinner (2005)
Miss Hurst (French) was one I respected greatly.  She was really excellent.  Well, I can still remember quite a bit of French.  I hear that the language being pushed now (2022) is Mandarin Chinese.  {After DGS, I met a Chinese woman and emigrated to Hong Kong, performing piano and song recitals and teaching privately.}  No, I know very few words.  It is so totally different from the Latin languages. - Peter Gill
Pearl Holden ‘54 ... I persuaded him (‘Long’ John Baldry) to come to the school reunion that year and the highlight for him was meeting our teacher from 1957, Pearl Holden.  She remembered us both and as she wanted to see John in concert, he arranged for tickets for she and I.  {or "her and me"… - Pay attention, girl at the back! - Col}  John told the audience she was there and told them he had always thought her the prettiest girl in the school when he was there.  I'm sure Pearl was thrilled. - Jennifer Goodall (Tribute to LJB on FR, ‘Famous Pupils' July 2005)
Miss J D Hopwood left in ‘58, married and became Head of Art at Haywards Heath Grammar - ‘58 Compotus
Mr K G Howkins RI, Games started ‘57 - ‘57 Compotus
Miss P Hurley left in ‘58 for Kent College, Tunbridge Wells
Mr Eric S Janes Geography started in ‘57 - ‘58 Compotus

I would however like to mention Mr Janes, the Geography Master, who brought his dance band (well I think there were 4 or 5 of them) to play for our dances.  Great stuff!! - Val Crooke ‘56-‘61
Miss M L Jones Biology ‘62 ‘69 started in ‘57 - ‘57 Compotus

I've been wondering for some time what happened to Miss Jones who taught biology and A-Level zoology. I meant to ask Jimmy Gorsuch at the 8th June re-union but forgot as there was so much going on. Miss Jones was a superb teacher and gave "my lot" a thorough grounding in zoology in the VI-form. I was able to answer embryology questions in my degree finals using my A-level notes with minimal revision! Quite a few of my year took zoology A-Level and went on to bio-medical studies at university ['think the class logged two medics, a dentist, a vet, two PhDs and several bachelor degrees in biology--at least] and I for one regret that I never ever thanked her.  So--does anybody know when Miss Jones left Downer and what happened to her? - Andrew Forester

Sadly, Miss Jones died in the mid-1970s.  She developed cancer of the tongue which proved fatal. - Stuart Aitken
Mr J B Jones Modern Languages ‘54 joined in ‘53, left Christmas ‘55 - ‘56 Compotus
Mr H S Jones Languages joined ‘56, left in ‘58 to become Senior German Master at Chiswick Grammar - ‘58 Compotus
Mr D J Kibblethwaite ‘Kipperfeet' Science started in ‘52, left in ‘56 to be Head at Acton County Grammar
Gerry H Knight Maths/Dep. Head ‘54, ‘61, ‘62, ‘73

started in ‘50

There was a bomb scare around 1972/1973 and we had to evacuate to the playing field.  The task was carried out successfully, the police checked the building to find that Mr Knight had been forgotten in his room and the evacuation had been sooo quiet he hadn't realised that something was going on. - Bob Ford (from 'DGSEUK')

Mr Knight aka 'Gerry Hippo' was not disturbed because he was enjoying a well-deserved after-lunch nap in his room (the swamp). - David Harrison (from ‘DGSEUK')

I have always wanted to personally strangle Terry Crossley for making the hoax bomb scare call, in which Mr Knight remained in his office, I just remember standing ouyside freezing! - Sharon Baker (Goodall) (from ‘DGSEUK')

A puzzling character - he is the only person I've ever known to wear his tie (kipper shaped in those glory days) outside his figure-hugging v-necked pullover.  We could then inspect the array of gravy and custard stains as he wandered between the desks inspecting our equations and theorems with his world-weary demeanour.  But when the music started, a twinkle-toed Gerry emerged, an elegant, tuxedo-clad ballroom dancer.  I saw him once at a PTA organised dance, held in the school hall and it was not so much 'Gerry Hippo' but 'Gerry Gazelle'. - David Harrison (from 'DGSEUK')

Deceased - Jeff Lewis
Mrs Knight Girls sport
A Lambert (Mrs Campbell) Domestic Science left in ‘59
Mrs J Lawrence Head of Modern Languages started in ‘53, left in ‘57
Mary Lawson Chemistry Started ‘57 - ‘58 Compotus

In about spring 1959, I was frisked by Mary Lawson for a pudding she thought I hadn't eaten.  We had spent lunchtime in the gym, basketball training, and were ravenous.  As was the practice, the canteen ladies gave out what pudding was left over as seconds, sometimes thirds and that day fourths.  Spotted Dick and custard was on the menu.  Unfortunately the custard ran out, making the pudding inedible.  Lawson, who was on dinner duty that day, ordered me to finish it all.  I couldn’t/wouldn’t.  She had me - pudding plate in hand - follow her to the science block and stand outside her classroom.  By chance, a couple of 3rd formers came down the stairs and stopped to ask what was going on?  They quickly scooped the pudding into their blazer pockets.  A few minutes later Lawson emerged and saw me holding an empty plate.  “What have you done? What have you done?” she asked furiously.  I just said “It’s gone”.  She made me turn out my pockets.  Nothing!  Her fury increased to tantrum level two, it was at that moment she decided to frisk me in a very unlady like way.  It was like an episode with Just William’s, ‘Violet Elizabeth Bott’, except it was me who should have been doing the thcweaming.  I was too embarrassed to report her.

Could be that you will get a response from the two lads that removed the evidence, never got a chance to thank them.  Lawson (if she is still alive) may tell you what she was expecting to find! - John Evans ('57-'62)
Sid C Legg Physics left in '59 for Rhodesia.

Sid Legg[e] the monosyllabic physics master had a beautiful, metallic pale blue, Douglas motorcycle with a horizontally opposed engine.  I have no idea if these bikes were any good but I thought it was a fantastic thing at the time... - Andrew Forester
Oliver John Lippitt Art ‘54, ‘61, ‘62, ‘69, ‘73
Started '51 - ‘61 Compotus

I have been trying to remember his name for years.  So, thank you for this website.  As I remember, he almost never taught me anything about art.  He used to spend his class time doing his own work; I remember him doing a portrait of a girl from life.  I came top of the class every term, except once.  Once, he started the class by telling us, in his usual loud voice, that marriage does not last.  His favourite artist was Cezanne and he tried to emulate his style in his own work.  Once revealed he could earn more over the summer holidays painting portraits than he could the rest of the year as a teacher.  - Peter Gill, '67

He drove an old Volvo. - Richard Bradford (‘74)

Mr Lippett (Art) had a fabulous collection of ties.  These, it was rumoured, were made from the hems of former Sixth Form girl's skirts. - Sue Woolf (from 'DGSEUK')
Died in 2000 - Jeff Lewis.

I remember Mr Lippitt, the art teacher, very well.  I enjoyed and did well in art.  For the O level exam we had to design some curtains to be printed for a puppet theatre.  I have always remembered his instructions about using the sharp tools for cutting lino - hold the lino still with your left hand, and keep it well behind the cutting tool, otherwise you risk gouging out flesh not lino.  There was one student who did not do this, and had to wrap his injured hand in a handkerchief during the exam, but inevitably smeared the lino with blood.  Many years later, when I ran print-making workshops, I would tell this story to the students, to re-inforce how to use the tools. - Anne Taylor 1961-'69
Mr Francis Bernard Lock Woodwork and TD ‘54 - ‘60 Compotus

Coffee in the VI-form common room brings back a few memories...  I used to drink my coffee black and out of a pint beer tankard - this led to an hilarious incident when Baldilocks wandered in, took one look and concluded I was drinking brown ale.  I did nothing to disabuse him of this erroneous notion and might even have encouraged him to think so.  You will remember that ill-tempered sod used to go from zero to pop an aneurysm faster than a Ferrari Testarossa without any additional encouragement.  He set a new personal best that day - only to slink off once he'd sniffed the drink. - Andy Forester (from ‘DGSEUK')
Mrs R Lock
Mr R J McGillivray Boys sport ‘54 started ‘51, left in ‘58

…the worst was getting one swipe of McGillivray's size 13 or 14 plimpsoll.  I have never experienced pain of this nature since…   A great fellow but rather reserved.  He'd flown Fairey Swordfish off carriers in the war and I was never sure if his pockmarked face was actually scarring from a crash/fire.  He asked us to call him "Mr. Mac" as he said we would never be able to spell or say his name correctly.  He was a first rate rugby forward playing No.8 for Wasps second team.  The only reason he was not in the firsts was that Wasps also had Ted Woodward the England cap. - Andrew Forester, 'Detentions and Punishments', 'DGSEUK'
Mr Mays Physics  ‘54  
Mrs J New Music left in ‘58
M J W Oliver Mathematics started in '56 - '56 Compotus, left in '59 for St Olaves.

Mr Oliver won a Jaguar car in a competition by Clark's shoes.  He soon sold it as it was a bit pretentious for a maths teacher.
He caught me drawing caricatures of him during a lesson, but instead of giving me the customary lines, I had to draw Pythagoras's theorem 50 times. - Alan Shillito
Mr Herbert Keen Olphin (‘Bert') Headmaster
Head of the combined Blackwell/Downer for its two years.

Mr Olphin was a Classics major, a very formal man with impeccable manners which he imposed on the pupils.  One of his rules was that all boys had to wear their jackets in the presence of a lady teacher.  - Sue Baker (Blackwell staff, 1968)

The following anecdotes are purloined from the, ‘BlackwellSecondarySchool' web-site on Yahoo Groups (now inactive):
… HK Olphin, the Mr. Chips manque, who seemed in denial that he was running a sec.mod and strutted about in his academic gown like the headmaster of, at the very least, Eton.
Barry Lynch, Skibbereen, Co. Cork. (Blackwell ‘59-‘65)

We called him "Batman" - because when he walked down the corridor his gown flowed behind him like Batman's cape. - Tom Rothwell

Ted Sutton, Julian Howell Jones and the rest of the class who "failed" into Blackwell in 1956, it would be great to hear from you.  In fact it was the best failure of my life as Blackwell under the ever-optimistic and energetic Mr Olphin and his staff worked to re-build shattered ego's and convince us we really could succeed.  Thanks to Blackwell I went on to A levels and then to a university degree.  I now own a financial consulting company with offices across Canada.

I know I am not unique in this but to this day my blood boils when I remember the effects of the eleven plus on those of us who didn't pass.

What a great school and environment Blackwell was.  I shall always be greatful {sic} for the rescue!
Tim Egan

Tim you are right Mr Olphin was an inspiring head and very many of us owe so much to him, I know I do.  Without his encouragement, I would never had such a great career in education and sport.
Ken Charles (Blackwell staff)

… a day when the class was playing up and Olphin walked in.  He slammed the cane he was carrying on a desk overiding the teacher.  He spotted that Mike (Michael Donnelly) was chewing a sweet and told him to spit it into a waste bin.  Mike however faked it.  He kicked the bin pretending the noise was the sweet going in.  Olphin didn't twigg this but the class did.  Arthur Biggs was also caught chewing and told to spit it in the bin.  He did the same and kicked it only this time Olphin saw this and was enraged.  Mike couldn't stop laughing.  Olphin hit him with the cane which only made him laugh more.  It finished with Mike being hauled out of the room still laughing and being caned all the way down the corridor to his office.
J Harniman
Mr R P St. J Partridge French and Spanish Started '56, left '61 - ‘61 Compotus
Mrs P A Rangely French temporary appointee in ‘57

Mrs. Rangely taught us back in about 1956.  She was a good looking woman and on one occasion, immediately after she had left our classroom, I decided to give her a good loud wolf-whistle (I was 12 years old and the juices were flowing freely and I was anxious to taste the fruit - but had to wait for a long time (as the sexual revolution still hadn't arrived.  - You know what they say about men....... we have more "start" buttons than a jumbo jet.  Mrs. R was just one button of many.  With regards to the Sexual Revolution, I seemed to have been inadvertantly left out of that event.)  Surprise!  She returned to the room and demanded to know who had whistled.  I owned up and sheepishly tried to convince her that it was the lid of my desk that needed oiling and had made the offending noise.
Detention again!

Mrs. Rangely frequently made the whole class stay behind for group punishment (it's forbidden by the Geneva Convention isn't it?) so we were handed out paper to be used for writing out French verbs on, and the person who handed out the paper (Paul Blakely) would whisper that it was "Rangely paper".  I'm afraid that we made her life hell and I feel rather ashamed about how she would walk out of the classroom with tears in our eyes.  Please forgive me Mrs. Rangely. - Robin Bather (‘55 - ‘59 ) Santiago, Tianguistenco (from 'DGSEUK')
Miss Y Emel Rochat French Miss Y Emel Rochat taught French at Trinity Grammar, Wood Green, from ‘50 (Trinity OSA) and joined Downer, under Mr Dean (also previously at Trinity) in ‘57.  She left in ‘59 for the post of Head of Modern Languages at Heriots Wood.

Miss Rochat was guest-of-honour at Trinity County Grammar School’s mid-October 2006 re-union.
Mr T R Sanderson Languages Replaced J B Jones - ‘56 Compotus.

Left in ‘57 for Brookfield County School, Kirkby, Liverpool.
Miss M I Sandford Needlework joined in ‘52, left in ‘56; designed costumes for school productions.
Peter J M Shepherd Applied maths ‘54, ‘62, ‘69 Started in ‘52 - ‘61 Compotus

Mr Shepherd absolutely despaired of me and I remember with crystal-clear accuracy the following monologue (delivered with me standing to attention in front of the class):
Shepherd: "Best, I have two jobs.  One here and one at the Technical College.  Those people at the Technical College have to study in the evenings at their own expense in their own time, because they’ve not been able to come to a good school like this one.  And do you know why they can’t come here Best?  Because they are kept out - BY IDIOTS LIKE YOU!”.

The last four words were delivered at about 100 decibels, and I have to say that, at the time, he did have a point!  - John Best, '65

One of my favorite teachers, however, I wish he had read the syllabus he was supposed to teach.  Two of us entered for the "Special Paper" in applied Maths.  That year the symbol for natural log changed from Loge to Ln.  Nobody told us.  There was no way we could make the required proofs work out.  He could have pointed it out on the day of the exam - but didn't.  We both got merits but could easily have got distinctions with the correct information. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw Died in 2003.

I always liked Mr. Sheppard.  He promoted me to an advanced class he had formed.  He never smiled - perhaps because he was very short and fat and wanted to maintain his formal image. - Peter John Gill, '67

Several fond tributes to Mr Shepherd were posted on the message board of the 'DGSEUK' site.
Miss J Stainthorpe Geography started in ‘53, left in ‘58 to be lecturer in Geography at the City of Leeds Training College.
Miss D Strathers Needlework, Art Started ‘57, left in '58 for Kingsbury Grammar.
Mr Alan Stuart Geography Started ‘58, left '61 - ‘61 Compotus
Snowdonia ‘61
Mrs Pearl E St Ville History ‘54, ‘62 Started in ‘53 - ‘61 Compotus
Miss G Smurthwaite Languages - ‘60 Compotus
Alan J Tayler English ‘54, ‘69, ‘62 started in ‘51 - '61 Compotus
Moved to a comprehensive in Bristol in '67.
Deceased - Jeff Lewis
Nancy Whyte French Conducted school trip to France in ‘54.  The group stayed at Taverny in Seine et Oise, NW of Paris.

I actually stayed in the exchange school, as my pen friend Claude Bouniol was the Principal's son, while the balance of the 20? Students were with other families through the village

While we were there, a general strike broke-out which included little incidents like burning the mail in the square while we stood around watching and drinking Limonade au Citron, being in a Café in the Isle de la City when the Gendarmerie came in and shot holes through the ceiling, and eventually, one of the teachers, I think Miss Caldwell, the English teacher, hired a vegetable truck to drive us back to Boulogne for the return ferry.  We rode in the open back where the vegetables would normally be carried. - Anton Tyler
Miss M J WhitcombeDomestic ScienceStarted in ‘56 - ‘57 Compotus
Welsh; co-ordinated wardrobe for Mikado ‘60
F G Williams
Chemistry ‘62 ‘69

Started ‘54 - ‘61 Compotus
Left in ‘69 - Ray Richiardi

It was a bloody cruel name to give a really decent person.  The odd thing was that he came to Downer from Wembley County where he was also known as "Crippen".  How did that awful nickname follow him from one school to another? - Andrew Forester

Someone mentioned his nickname of "Crippen".  This was because he resembled the early 20th century murderer of the same name.  As a brand new face to his class in 1960, I was told he was "Crippen" and had no clue he was actually Mr Williams .... "What's your name boy?" he barked " John Best, Mr Crippen" I replied! ..... it rather went downhill after that!! - John Best ('65)

As a 'first year' arriving for my first chemistry lesson I remember asking an older pupil leaving the previous lesson, the name of the teacher to check I was in the correct queue.  I was told it was 'Crippen', and used this name when responding to a question - only to receive my first ever detention for rudeness.  Not the best start in my first week. - Nicole Westcott (‘70)

Jill Bottomley was a popular, jolly, pupil, not in any way subversive or disobedient.  One day "Crippen" spied what he thought was make-up on her (which was forbidden).  He told her to stand up in front of the class and attempted to humiliate her in front of her peers - naturally causing her some distress.  The whole class was left feeling rather uncomfortable by this incident - respect for authority diminished. - E4B (‘67)

When Crippen left he made a speech at assembly.  He told a joke about three boys waiting outside the headmaster's office and being called in one by one.  First one: "Why have you been sent here boy?"  "I was caught throwing peanuts in the school pond sir." "Very well, bend over." Three strokes of the cane.  Second boy: "Why have you been sent here boy?" "I was caught throwing peanuts in the school pond sir." "Very well, bend over." Three strokes of the cane.  Third boy: "I suppose you've been caught throwing peanuts in the school pond as well have you?" "No sir ... ... I'm Peanuts."
If only I had remembered the useful stuff instead of all the nonsense. - Tim Cole

Deceased - Jeff Lewis.

Numerous, fondly remembered anecdotes of Mr Wiliiams appeared on the ‘DGSEUK' site.
Mr L Williams Chemistry b: 1928

Started at DGS in '53, left in '57 for West Derby Secondary Technical School, Liverpool where he was Head of Chemistry
Peter Williams Woodwork With Biggar and Mr. Locke [‘Baldilocks'] going ballistic every few minutes it was a good thing we had Peter Williams in the woodwork/tech.drawing crew as a touch of sanity... - Andy Forester (on ‘DGSEUK')
David Woosley Head Teacher ‘54, ‘62, ‘69

Lived in Pinner.

My school report lists 13 detentions in one term--can anybody beat that?

Unfortunately, Woosley did not list the number of canings on our report cards but I had quite a few over the years.  We used to line-up outside his study after assembly and--if you were not first in line--would listen to the "swish" and then "thwack" to figure out if he was dishing-out 3, 4 or rarely 6 swipes for the offence.  Sometimes you could get caught-out: your buddies might get 4 each and so you would go in, bend over and brace yourself for 4 of the best only to find a 5th and 6th landing on your rump [this would happen if it had been decided you were the ring-leader or somehow more culpable of the crime than the rest of the crew!]
Woosley was not so much "bad" as a creature of his time.  He could be quite human and visited us on our Duke of Edin. trek and was very informal.  He suspended me and Mick Patterson for smoking but later admonished me for the nicotine all over my fingers, lit a cigarette, and showed me how to hold it properly - saying he smoked but could I see any nicotine on his fingers?  Of course, I knew all this and we deliberately let the smoke go up our fingers precisely to get them yellow--a mark of sophistication and manhood! - Andrew Forester

I remember Mr. Woosley - but not too fondly.  He often treated me to the cane!  Once I went prepared with an exercise book stuffed down my trousers as well as other items like a plastic protractor, real Billy Bunter stuff!  I am sure he realised but was perhaps worried about being accused of 'interfering' with me and carried on with the punishment which needless to say didn't hurt.  At our last end of term assembly we were ready to disrupt proceedings bigtime and he must of got wind of it and threw us off the premises before we could let loose!
Our form was the worst of the year and we were moved from the top floor to the ground floor, opposite Woosley's office so he could keep an eye on us!
After leaving school we found his phone number and used to ring him up at 2.00 am in the morning, he was livid! - Lionel Canter ('60-'65)

Woosley always wore a well pressed suit.  His eyes drew your attention by being very slanting down towards the outer sides of his face. One day, he took our mathematics class - I think the usual teacher was ill or something.  I was bowled over.  He made everything seem so simple and easy to understand.  It was revelation for me, as he only did the headmaster's job.  It seemed a waste of his talent.  I never heard of him using the cane; it was a deterrant, being hung up on the wall of his room.  I always felt that he was being sarcastic when he asked me if I was feeling better after bout of a cold and handing in my mother's letter, explaining my absence.  Another time, our class was making terrific noise.  As he entered the door, he stopped and just leant on the door frame.  Everyone went quiet and he spoke softly giving his orders.  It was amazing; the control he had. - Peter Gill, '67

Mr Woosley contributed to BBC2's 'The Other Route: Engineering' broadcast 7/6/66.

Mr Woosley's retirement article in Compotus '70.

Deceased - Jeff Lewis
Mr Archer Caretaker Played a lot of badminton with him, particularly after I left school. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Mrs C Barker (Miss C Allen) English '62 Started '61 - '62 Compotus.
Married Mr John V Barker.
John V Barker Latin and Philosophy '62 '69 '73 - '61 Compotus
More of a refined uncle than a teacher.

I went on a school trip in the fifth form I think, to Italy, and Mr Barker was one of the teachers in charge.  I'm sure we visited Florence and Rome, Herculaneum and Capri.  I, with one other pupil, went on to study Ancient Greek in the sixth form, taught by Mr Barker.

I agree with one of the former pupils about the lack of encouragement to go to university, but I do remember Mr Barker was the exception - he suggested I should apply to university to study Anthropology, but I didn't know what Anthropology was and was too shy to ask.  I did a BEd in Art and English at Padgate College, Warrington instead.  Then many years later I got an A level in Archaeology and took a degree at Cambridge University in Archaeology & Anthropology, and remembered Mr Barker's suggestion. Full circle. - Anne Taylor 1961-'69
Melvyn 'Mike' Barnett Chemistry '61 '62 '69 - '61 Compotus
Lives in Kingsbury (2002) - Ray Richiardi

On being discovered most of the way up the end wall of the outside of Room 4 by Mike Barnett, I argued that the school rules stated that one should not climb onto the roofs and made no mention of walls.  Off to Mr. Woosley though for a caning.  Not my first.  My first was for flicking a lolly stick at a prefect when I was 11. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Mr Mike W Beaman Languages Started in '62 - '63 Compotus

One teacher that did give me encouragement was M (Mike?) Beaman - who I worshipped.  He was the French teacher, not PE - but still turned up on every cold Saturday morning to watch us play rugby (something I bloody well was good at!) at the Carreras playing fields.  I can remember no other teacher ever doing that.  He was a great bloke was Beaman - he was younger and understood kids like me who were essentially rather out of our depth at a grammar school.  He quietened me down by hooting with laughter at my jokes instead of shouting at me and he often used to throw me out of the class - but with a grin, and he always came to get me back within 10 minutes with a private aside “that was very funny, but do try and keep it down a bit!”.  So of course, I did.  Simple. - John Best ('60-'65)

He taught French I believe.  He had awful B.O. and couldn't maintain discipline to save his life.  We gave him hell... poor guy. - Lionel Canter He was my Class Tutor 1B /2B taught me French and then Spanish, I was not a very well-behaved pupil and was always showing off and wanted "the last word" (remark in my report) however he was very fair and never gave up with me.  I am now trilingual and so grateful that he was such a patient man with us all.  I am often asked where I learnt my language skills (I am really very good) and I proudly inform "at grammar school" - well that's where it all started thanks to Mr. Beaman. - Pauline Nicholas

A genuine Gent ... He always turned up on his days off on Saturday mornings to Carreeras (?) to cheer us on in the Rugby 15, which showed a special sort of dedication since he wasn't part of the PE empire. - John Best
Miss Dora E Bewley (Mrs Tayler) Languages '69 Started '59 - '60 Compotus
Started '64 - '64 Compotus

Married Alan J Tayler. - Lesley M ('60 - '67)

- P.I.
Ms Jean Bingham English ‘62 Started ‘59 - ‘60 & ‘61 Compotus

Miss Bingham wore so much make-up that we referred to her as "the make-up factory". - E4B

Miss Bingham achieved nationwide fame overnight - and particularly at school - when she appeared on the popular ITV quiz programme "Take Your Pick" hosted by Michael Miles.  She won the top prize - a set of decorating materials.  It was a well kept secret.  I, together with many others, was astonished when she suddenly appeared on the screen one Friday evening in 1959 and naturally it was the main topic of conversation the following Monday! - Paul Kennett ('59)
Mr R J Black Applied Mathematics ‘69 Totally non-descript except for the unusual way he held the chalk with his little finger sticking out, and therefore, revealed that he was in fact one of... "The Invaders". - David Harrison (from 'DGSEUK')

One of our girls asked him to come over as she didn't know what to do - she said it in a little girlie way.  When he leaned across the desk she started fluttering her eyelids and just pouring out this sexual energy (you had to be there to get what I mean) - she was basically taking the p***.  He lost it... went very red.  He knew what was going on, poor bloke... it was excellent!!

I got sent down from the top maths set because I could never be bothered and he got me right back up again next term. - Carole Harvey
Mr D Blair Started and left '62 - '62 Compotus
Neil Bowman Music He is a private instrumental & singing teacher across North London.  Conducts The North London Chorus (in 2003) - Jean Joyce ('72-'77)
June Brock (Mrs Sturt) Geography '69 Died in June '09 - P.I.
Miss M C Brown Started '62, left '63 - '63 Compotus
Miss Burton (Mrs Haines) Domestic Science '69
Gerald Copp Physics Started in '64, left in '66 - Gerald Copp.
Attended 2013 Reunion.
Geoff W Cornes PE '61 '62 Started '59 - '61 Compotus
Left '64 - '64 Compotus

PE Teacher, had a mutual dislike, made me play scrum half (I was 4'6 and 6 stone weakling then.  He played football for Chesham - Raymond Clark ('63)
Mr Cotton Geography, Liberal studies ’69 …teaching us nothing and using teaching time to reminisce about his wartime experiences, notably earthquakes and his dog sliding across the floor. - Nicole Westcott

Mr Cotton also taught "O" level Economics.  As I recall we read the book, while he regaled us with stories of his share and currency dealings - (he was stockpiling old half crowns for their silver content - which actually was quite a shrewd move).  A character who, I very much doubt, would survive a current Ofsted Inspection. - Peter Edward ('62-'69)
Mrs Davis English ’69
T J Ericson Physics Started ’59, left in ’61 - ’61 Compotus
Miss Fenwick Languages ’69 Miss Fenwick (possibly) was an older spinster who took great delight in explaining the sexual double meanings in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  I believe sexual repression wasn't only rampant amongst the children at school! - Bob Long (from 'DGSEUK' on 'groups.MSN')
Miss Ferner English ’69 my form teacher for two years and a wonderful woman - Paul Hooper.

Has anyone any recent information about this admired teacher?
Miss Silvia Fletcher (Mrs Munro) History ’69 - P.I.
Miss French Latin She gave me an 'A' because of my illustrations even though my exam result was 6%.  She also hit me and when I raised my hand to retaliate - but stopped - we had an understanding. - Nicole Westcott
Miss Frost Maths Miss Frost, maths (’66-’68), had a kit car (a Ginetta - wasn't it? - Col) and she lost a load of our work books when they fell through a hole in the bottom of the boot. - Lennie Bradshaw
Mrs M T Gathercole Cookery ’62 ’69 Started '59
Derek Glover Economics ’61 ’62 - '61 Compotus
Mr M G Goulder Maths Started in ’59 - ’60 Compotus
Left in ’61 - ’61 Compotus
Miss Jenny M Hawkins Languages ’62 - ’61 Compotus
Married J J Gorsuch in ’63
Miss B Hay   Started and left ’64 - ’64 Compotus

When I was taught by her in 1964, a double physics lesson turned into a double dictation lesson without any time to discuss any of the finer points of physics.  We ended up with writer’s cramp only to be told that "we should expect nothing more since she was taught in the same way".  I felt that I would have learnt more by reading text books!!

The only redeeming feature was that she appeared to be terrified that she would miss her lunch and if she was teaching the lesson preceeding the lunch break, the lesson would end at around 12.20 and we assumed that this was to enable her to be at the head of the queue for lunch !! - Peter Farres (from 'DGSEUK')

She left to be an Engineer at Haden-Carrier Ltd (1968), a lecturer in Environmental Science and Technology at the S Bank Polytechnic (1969-73) and a senior lecturer in Civil Engineering at Lanchester Polytechnic, Coventry. - The World Who's Who of Women 1980
W Malcolm Herbert ‘62 Started in ‘61 - ‘62 Compotus
- ‘64 Compotus
W. Gerard ‘Gerry'/‘Willy' Howells Physics ‘62 ‘69

Started in ‘56 - '61 Compotus

A dubious choice as a careers advisor.  At a careers lecture in the lecture theatre I expressed a desire to become a pilot.  In front of the whole year he retorted "What you?  You're joking aren't you?  Forget it boy.  You wouldn't even be good enough to be a carpenter - dustman or street-sweeper is more like it".  I was totally humiliated.  Well, I just retired from 45 years earning my living flying aeroplanes, 36 of them as an airline pilot.  Not a day went past that I didn't hope that ‘Willy' Howells would turn up as a passenger.  I now teach people to fly the Boeing Company’s products as an aviation training consultant.  On that day in 1965 Ron Busby was sitting behind me, clapped me on the shoulder and said "Go for it Bestie - don't take any notice.  You can do it!" I never forgot that, and 40 years later I had the pleasure of meeting Ron again and thanked him .... of course he couldn't remember a word of it!  To the modern world it's astonishing how some teachers treated kids then.

...he was always known as ‘Willy’ to us.  I never ever heard him referred to as ‘Gerry'.  I assumed that Willy was his first name at the time, but now one wonders that, as he was known for being breathtakingly rude, dismissive - and suggestive - to the girls (and he really was), I wondered if they had named him that as a fitting description.  He was one of the most discouraging teachers I’ve ever met, the absolute opposite of ’Nobby’ Clarke.  Nicole Westcott and Leslie Parratt are not exaggerating in their comments on this site. - John Best (’60-’65)

I distinctly remember he pronounced 'vacuum' in three sylables - as vac cu um. - Carole Harvey

Apparently he hailed from Port Talbot.  Was once heard to say "Don't you ‘look you' me, look you, boyo" - Phil Rattenbury

his detentions consisted of sticking stamps on envelopes. - Andre Ingram (‘68-‘75) (from 'DGSEUK')

The world's worst physics teacher, managed to get me through A level without a mention of 'Electrostatics' which severely limited my choice at exam time.  Still, I carried on with physics for another ..... still going. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw

I was the only girl in our year group who opted for physics and chemistry at yr 3, rather than biology.  (Clive Tucker opted for biology but changed to Ph & Ch because of peer presure.)  Mr Howells, from Wales, took the piss out of me and made sexual comments whenever they could be fitted into our lessons - and further, he tolerated outrageous behaviour towards me from the 20 boys in our group of 21. - Nicole Westcott

A thoroughly vile man who offered little or no education, intimidated many, was rude, spent most of the lessons running the Teachers' Travel Service (for profit).  I did (and do, even now he's dead) hate him. - Leslie Parratt (’68)

Died in 2002 - Don Geraldos (’64-’66)
Mr J A HoyleEnglish Started in ’62, left in '63 - ’63 Compotus

1961 was our first year - and his.  I recall one English lesson in the school hall.  He asked us to simulate offices or something for a role-play, using chairs (there were many at the back of the hall for teachers and sixth-formers to use during Assembly).  It rapidly got out of hand when we piled all the chairs into a huge pyramid, despite his protestations.  Naturally Mr Woosley walked in just as we had finished.  Called Mr Hoyle outside for a 'quiet word' ... - David Silver ('61)

He was a "new from college" teacher and we used to give him hell.  I seem to remember a "sit-in" on the stairs leading to a class at the top of one of the towers so that he couldn't get into the room. - Michael Wilson
Mr Hussein Geography - a nice little man.  He had small features.  His most memorable characteristic was the light brown rings around his dark brown irises. - John Clayton (’69)
Miss Pauline E Ibbotson English ’69, ’73

Wendy Plastock and I used to remark on her latest outfit worn under her teacher's gown - always very fashionable.  She gave Wendy a lovely pink jumper that we had both admired.  She was a great English teacher and the first to introduce us to the theatre in her spare time.  Still see her when I visit England, she lives in Pinner.  Wendy lives in Charlton (South London) - Pauline Nicholas ('68)

Enjoyed an evening out with her at a concert at Swiss Cottage where I was the only pupil who turned up.  Brahms or Bach? double violin concerto I think.  Was never my teacher but I wish she had been. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw

Miss Ibbotson was the teacher I remember with particular fondness.  She seemed very kind.  One tiny little incident has stayed with me all these years.  I did really well in one exam, and I remember I was outside, probably during the lunch break, and she saw me and came up close to me and with a big smile on her face she whispered to me 'You came top in English!'  Maybe she wasn't supposed to tell me in that way, but maybe she just wanted to see me happy and give me good news.  A tiny thing, but I've never forgotten. - Alun Rhys Griffiths '69-'76
She took a group of us to the Central School of Speech and Drama to see Tessa Peake-Jones (played 'Del Boy’s' girl friend) in 'Arsenic and Old Lace' - so she's partly responsible for me getting into this silly, insecure business!  My mother won't thank her. - Pauline King (’79) Attended 2013 Reunion.
Mr Irwin Mathematics ’69 Anyone remember Mr Irving maths teacher - very tall - Janet Saville once called him a beanpole! - Margaret Bell (’72)

Demonstrated violent tendencies - Bob Ford

He used to bring his guitar in on the last day of term and sing to us, one of his other hidden talents was drawing circles, Sue Gibbs and I could never work out how he could draw them so quickly and get the ends to meet. - Lee Fosbury

I found out from a mate that Irwin had been previously sacked from a school in Harrow Weald for … yes, you've guessed it: violence towards pupils.  What a surprise! - Peter Mayes (from 'DGSEUK')
Mr P J Jones PE - Sport - '64 Compotus

Does anyone remember Jones, the ex-army short P.E. teacher?
I once recieved a full in-the-face punch from that poor specimen of a man - I have often thought that I would like to meet him again! - 'Micky'

I was playing with medicine balls in the storage cupboard.]  Mr Jones got me into a corner and landed a barrage of punches to my body.  Nowadays he would be prosecuted. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Miss Anne Kendall (Mrs Thurtle) Geography (and RE) '69 Miss kendall was discussing cows and milk yield, what came next was sublime: a boy called perry raised his hand and with a straight face asked the heavilly-breasted (stop it) miss kendall how much milk she produced in a year!!! - Pete Mayes (from 'DGSEUK on 'groups.MSN')

I worked in a greengrocer's next to Queensbury station after school in about 1970.  The lovely Miss Kendall and her "friend" Mr Thurtle (otherwise known as the 'hairy monster') used to come in and do their shopping on the way home and I can assure you, I always gave Miss Kendall big portions! - Brian Catt ('63-'65)(from 'DGSEUK')

Married Mr Thurtle after romance kindled following a day trip to France - Pennie Lauezzari (from 'DGSEUK')

Miss Kendall, who later married Mr Thirtle, described my views in RE as unorthodox. - Nicole Westcott

living in Cambridgeshire, daughter is a GP - Tony White

Attended 2013 Reunion.

One can empathise with the emotions expressed by the literarily accomplished Karl Wiggins (’67-’74).  He details his pubescent, erotic fantasies about Miss Kendall's delights at: ''.  Treat yourself to some of Karl's other entertaining musings while you're on the site.
Steve Lawson Maths - Jeannine Poree
Miss Nada Meeze History, English, Games '62 Started ’59 - ’60 Compotus

Nina Meeze was very nice to me, although she rather blotted her copy-book when she volunteered to classify and value my collection of Roman coins - a family heirloom - and promptly lost them!  Never saw ‘em again.

The name “Nina" is no more than an assumption, Col.  49 years ago someone in the class said “I think her name is Nina” and it’s stuck with me since.  I only knew her as “Yes Miss!”.  As an aside, I wonder why, in those days, a teacher’s first name was as secret as what underwear they wore?  If you know her as “Nada," then that’ll be more accurate than my faulty memory for sure.  Please do include my comments - but I would add that I completely forgave her because she was one of the best teachers I have ever met and she gave me a life-long interest in history.  She was also a very nice person and was completely mortified and hugely embarrassed when she lost my coins. - John Best, ’65

A really wonderful person.  Learnt a lot of history in particular.  Went off to the Bar I think, a real loss to the teaching profession. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw

I can't remember what she taught but when we started mucking about in class the catch phrase was "Now then wonehh!" (1A being the class) - Carol Carr (’65)
Miss J Meggitt Maths - ’64 Compotus

"petite" - Barry Gowan

Andrew Davey built a radio-controlled radio.  We hid it on top of a light and then turned it on and off remotely.  Miss Meggitt immediately picked me out as the culprit, what insight.  We tried it in the library but didn't get much reaction.

Miss Meggitt was a first class maths teacher, at least for people like me who could do it all.

Roger Bootle beat me at Arithmetic once - I was really annoyed with myself. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw

Miss Meggitt totally lost cred. with us forever when she pretended to have made a mistake deliberately.  Dear me, never forgot it! - Geoff Henley ’63-’70
Ray V Miller ’62 Started in ’61 - ’62 Compotus.  Left in ’63 - ’63 Compotus
Mr Moore Maths was a bit of a letch and frequently took to throwing board rubbers at pupils. - Nicole Westcott
Mr Morris Music I remember Mr Morris teaching music ... I think he was a pilot during the war. [?]  RAF anyway.  He taught us an obviously cleaned~up version of at least one forces song. - Sheila Jennings (’69)
Clive Munro Music ’69 Married Miss Fletcher (History?) in 1967. - Richard Bradford

A nice man but I never learnt anything about music from him, music lessons were a complete waste of time for me.  Whereas at Stag Lane I learnt a lot of music that I still remember, both theory and appreciation.  Took a few weeks to work out that Dymoke and Bradshaw were one and the same. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Miss Murphy Biology ’69 Along with Miss Jones, Miss Murphy taught me most of the biology I know.  Both really managed to get the best out of me in spite of my poor English and the fact that exams were very essay-based.  I thoroughly enjoyed biology and would have loved to take it further if it had not been so information-based and required piles of writing. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Miss Celia W Nightingale
Mr L E PalmerStarted in '62, left in '63 - '63 Compotus
Miss Margaret J Pearce (Mrs Moore) PE '62 - '61 Compotus
- '64 Compotus
- P.I.
Betty Pettifer
Justin Portillo French and Spanish ’69 - P.I.
Radcliffe 'Lurch' Lab technician ... do you also recall the day he got carted-off feet-first to the local hospital after being nearly fatally poisoned by chlorine gas after some clown left the taps open (deliberately as the inquest concluded after the event) on the Kipps Apparatus?  What nobody realised was that poor old Ratcliffe had defective olefactory organs and therefore, could not smell the gas.  He was found semicomatose in the nick of time apparently.  Anyway, I forget the name of the miscreant who was responsible but as I understood it, he came perilously close to being sacked. - James Mason

Almost right--but it was hydrogen sulphide [used for precipitating Gp. III metals I think... ] not chlorine.  This stuff is more toxic than cyanide and it laid old Ratcliffe out and it was just chance that two teachers [Williams and Barnett I seem to remember] walked into the science block, smelled the gas, and got the unconscious man to safety.  The culprit who left the Kipps apparatus running is well-known but I shall not mention his name here... The issue was treated seriously but no disciplinary measures were taken as it was hoped that everybody had learned a lesson in lab' safety. - Andrew Forester
Mr Alan Reeve Maths ‘61 ‘62 ‘69 Started in ‘59 - ‘60 and ‘61 Compotus

Mr Reeve was a brilliant teacher.  He had that rare "mix" of being a good teacher, discipline with the students and... a sense of humour!  He inspired me to go down the Maths and Science "route" (although I was always pretty good in that area anyway!) which culminated in a degree in Applied Physics from UCL.  I loved attending his lessons.  Unlike some other subjects' lessons, I always came away feeling satisfied that I had understood everything and this was essentially because of Mr Reeve's excellent teaching! - Steve Bowler ('65-'72)
Miss Valerie K Robertson Maths ‘62 Left in ‘63 - '‘63 Compotus
Miss Valerie K Robinson Maths '62 left in '63 - '63 Compotus I remember letting off smoke bombs in Miss Robinsons' maths class.  She sent me to the head - I never went and she never checked! - Lionel Canter ('60-'65) Quite tall and slim with frizzy hair and Dame Edna glasses.  I remember what a bright shade of pink she used to go when we were disruptive in class!! Lots of missiles used to fly around the room when she turned to write on the board.  Once a banana skin stuck to the wall above her head and stayed there all lesson, fascinating!!! - Carol Carr ('62)
Mr A M Schwartz (Geography) Started and left '64 - '64 Compotus

I think I have the right man.  He came from Canada and taught geography for a short while.  Terry Diggins, right at the front of the class as usual, made some wise-crack remark.  Mr Schwartz, landed a double slap to his face, first the backhand then the front.  Very loud and painful.  It worked but I never had any respect for him (Mr. Schwartz) after that. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Reg Sheppard History ’69 'Reggie' was a quietly-spoken teacher who used to always sit on the desk - normally on his hands. he always walked in a very slow and 'deliberate' manner, very upright and wore the same corduroy jacket - yes with elbow patches. Spin bowling specialist so was good with us cricket lads. One on the many targets for Roger Bootle's exceptionally funny impressions, which never ceased to have us in stitches in the sixth form - several of the teachers thoroughly enjoyed his caricatures as well when we were on the L6th geography field trip in North Wales. - Robert H A Brimacombe ('70)

Lives in Devon (2013) - PI
Kit Singleton a "student" teacher -- son of the well-known cricket commentator Jack [?] Singleton. Singleton was immensely tall and brought his fiance, who was barely five foot and extremely cute, to the school dance at which point all the lads tried putting the moves on her.  Must have been hilarious for Singleton and his lady... - Andrew Forester
Miss C C Snow - ’64 Compotus
Mrs B Spencer PE ’69 Started in ’59 - '61 Compotus
Miss Stuart/Stewart Maths, History Miss Stewart, known as 'Thighs' would sit on the desk at the front of the room facing the class so giving tantilising glimpses up her short skirt.  She also wore black boots in winter (steady).  The best bit was watching as she got off the desk at the end of the lesson to see if you got a glimpse of any underwear. - Terry Stern (from 'DGSEUK')

the boys used to actually fight to sit at the front so they could cop an eye-full! - Lee Fosbury (from ‘DGSEUK')
Mr A Sturt Geography Started in ’62 - ’63 Compotus

A really good geography teacher… and then they put in Mr. Cotton as Head of the department. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Mrs J Thompson Language assistant, Spanish ’62 - ’60 Compotus
Miss P A Thornton   Started in ’62 - ’63 Compotus
left ’64 - ’64 Compotus
Jane Threlfall   - P.I.

I had Mrs. Threlfall (in my dreams!) for English in the sixth form. I believe she was married to David Threlfall the actor, but I could be wrong. She had long dark brown hair, wore leather mini skirts and fishnet stockings (until Clara apparently had words with her). - Bob Long (from 'DGSEUK')
Bill Thurtle History Married Miss Kendall, a Geography teacher, in about 1971 - Richard Bradford.

I thought he was an exceptional history teacher - although he never stopped moving.  - Peter Edward. ('67-74)
Died aged 44. - Carol Rogers

Also see the hyperlink for 'Miss Kendall'.
Mrs M Wainwright Applied maths Started in ’62 - ’63 Compotus
Left in about ’67
Mrs S C Webster Started in '62 - '63 Compotus
Left in ’64 - ’64 Compotus
David Whittington ’69, ’73 He assumed the mantle of Compotus editor from Mr Tayler in 1967

Living in Barcelona (2013) - P.I.

Mr Whittington taught me at Downer Grammar, up to and including O level.  I left Downer in 1973.

I spent most of my school life in the hallway, sent out of classes - I was a terrible talker.  My reports always said either “Tessa distracts herself” or “Tessa distracts others” because I was so, so utterly bored.  But never in English.  I didn’t miss an English class and I think that says it all.

I didn’t really know about literature, or plays, until Mr Whittington opened my eyes to this world.  We used to have to read out loud in class - sometimes chapters of books, sometimes we took parts in plays - and then we’d discuss what we’d read as a group activity, where we all combined our thoughts.  I found it amazing.  I was an only child, so I didn’t have any of this at home.  To hear other kids discussing a subject we’d just read about was fantastic.  Enlightening.

But it was when we read plays out loud that I started thinking, “Oh my God.  This is amazing.  You can explore what a character is feeling and it echoes with you, the reader.  The actor.”  It opened that whole area of drama for me, an area I had no idea about, really.

Mr Whittington was so enriched and so passionate in the way he talked about the subject.  He made you think about elements of the text that weren’t obvious; a theme or a viewpoint.  He suddenly put an idea out to the class and you’d be stopped in your tracks and think, “Wow.  I never thought of that.”  He made it invigorating, you know?  It was the only class I actually looked forward to.  All the others just felt like an exercise in ticking boxes - a means to get a grant to get to drama school.

He made his classes come to life.  He loved his subject and he wanted us to be as passionate about literature, plays, authors and playwrights as he was.  And it sure worked on me.  To this day I still think about things we discussed and debates we had.  I think that’s pretty incredible, to be honest - years later to still reference discussions in school.

Without wanting to state the bleedin' obvious, I think the reading of the plays out loud contributed to my ability to act, without a shadow of a doubt.  In a room hearing other people do the same, it was emboldening.  Hard for some of the kids, I don’t doubt that, but for me it was perfect.  Hey, I was struggling in every other class, so this was the one for me, right?  The perfect prompt to explore an area of education I loved.  I was aware of feeling that it was working, too.  I think that’s rare in school life - that conscious ability to spot that a class is having a profound effect.  You’re going through so many other things as a teenager, but I remember the part his classes made on my overall plan to get into drama.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Mr Whittington in the press. I acknowledged his role in my career in an interview some time ago.  I described him as “an elderly man with a dark-reddish beard”.  Someone sent him the interview and he took the time to write to me.  “Thank you for your kind words,”  he wrote.  “I was actually only in my mid-thirties when I taught you, but I guess when you’re 16, you think everyone is ancient!”

Ah, the innocence of youth. - Tessa Peake-Jones (from a magazine article)
Merlin Williams English ’61 ’62 ’69 Merlin set us for homework the task of compiling a crossword.  I was poor at English but very good at maths, puzzles and logic.  I could use a dictionary.  I spent ages compiling what I thought was a really good crossword.  When Merlin handed them back he picked out the good ones first to show us all what he thought of them.  Mine got handed back with the rest.  When I asked him what he thought of mine he said, "yours was obviously cribbed from a newspaper".  A compliment I suppose, but I didn't think so at the time.  I think he really didn't understand my capabilities.  Still, I got a C at English, better than I hoped.

He was also a good fencer and a moderate badminton player. - Tony Dymoke-Bradshaw
Living in Falmouth (2013) - PI
Andy Williams PE '69 Gorgeous gym teacher with lovely welsh accent - Pauline Nicholas (’68)

When you were cheeky - or whatever - he would grab hold of a handful of fat from your waistline and march you around the gym at top speed - bloody-hell that hurt!! - Phil Boulter ('68-'73)
Norman F Wilson Music ’62 Music teacher, well not really any teaching done. Used to play pieces and we would sit totally disinterested.  His punishment was to make you write 10 pages or so on a topic e.g. boredom, we knew lots about that.  I remember a piece of wood with a rusty nail on the end which he would threaten you with. - Claire Rockall (’63)

His nickname was 'Count Basie'.  When singing Cherry Ripe it was inevitably bowdlerized into Cherry Rape with a resounding crescendo on the refrain "Rape I cry!" I recall him losing his temper on one occasion to the extent where he leapt up from the piano shouting that we were all in detention and then much to our amusement slamming down the lid of the piano and failing to remove his thumbs in the process. - James Mason

I love classical music now and get a chuckle whenever I hear Schubert's "Trout" quintet or "The Erl King" and remember how we used to sabotage it.  Hymn practice especially--people singing "Glorious things of thee are spoken..." with others howling out "Deutschland uber alles..." or the rugby team "Life presents a dismal prospect from conception to the tomb..." and Wilson trying to figure out what was going on.  What assholes we were... - Andy Forester

Also see: N F Wilson at Colfe.
Mrs M J Wood   left in ’63 - ’63 Compotus
Les B Wright RI '69 Previously at Chandos.

I recall Mr Wright 'Holy Joe' who taught RI and he had a blue volkswagen caravanette which presumably he drove all over the place on his errands of good deeds. - Pennie Lauezzari

… had pendulous bits hanging below table tops as he sat on desks when teaching - gravity changed his appearance. - Nicole Westcott
H John Becker Head Teacher, English, Music '73

Lived in Stanmore (2004).

Died in November 2014. - P.I.
Mrs Bo(u)lton Maths She was the best Maths teacher ever. - Jeanette Pfaff (1972-77)
Sue Brinn PE - Tony White
Barry Clark   - Catherine Cook and P. Ibbotson

Barry has uploaded a number of renditions from the school choir in July '72 to YouTube
Mike "Bubbles" Frith Maths '73 Mr Frith sparked an outbreak of "ERF" being carved into many a desk. - Christine (from 'DGSEUK' on 'groups.MSN')

Having a speech defect is bad enough, but when teaching maths.... we had 'twiganomatwy', 'twiangles' and by 'Mr fwiff'. - Bob Ford (from 'DGSEUK')
Penny Graham French - Jeannine Poree
Miss Harris Geography '73
Pam Hewett PE - Jeannine Poree
Mr Hurst Physics Didn't he have the nickname 'Godfrey' (after the Dad's Army character)? - Richard Bradford
Debbie John Biology Attended June 2002 reunion.
Clair Keyes French I was hopelessly in love with her!  Does anyone know what happened to her. - Leslie Parratt ('68)

I remember her saying that the French couldn't pronounce her name and called her "Miss Kiss", which she thought was very amusing. - Lennie D-B (from 'DGSEUK' on 'groups.MSN')
Miss Kriteman Geography a particularly loud teacher, she had a stunning and seriously subsidised wardrobe for a secondary school teacher in the Seventies. - Sue Woolf (from 'DGSEUK')

replaced Mr Cotton’s ex-RAF style with her leather dresses. - Richard Bradford
Steve Lawson Maths - Jeannine Poree
Mr Martyn Morris Physics ’69 Mr Martin Morris was a real physics teacher, he inspired us and led quite a few of us on to careers in science, engineering and the early days of computers.

Martin Morris drove a mini cooper, had the front seat taken out so his poor old alsatian could travel in with him. I think he was a student teacher when he first taught us in 1968. - Andre Ingram ('68-'74) (from 'DGSEUK')

He and one of the Science technicians commuted on motorbikes, although on some days Mr Morris brought his (German Shepherd?) dog by car, which sat outside on the grass.

He married one Miss Dobbs on 14 April 1973, and had some unexpected guests at the Cherith Gospel Hall service in High Wycombe (train to Amersham, then a bus). Lower Sixth Formers were Tony and Ian Reeves, Ian Hay and his (then) 1st-year girlfriend Jean Joyce, Murli Sanghri, and myself.  Other teachers present included Miss John and Mr Richiardi. - Richard Bradford (’73)

"I was at Downer 1967 to 69 teaching maths, physics and chemistry then left to be head of science at Stokenchurch (Bucks). "Went to football match at Wembly stadium and at half time in the gents found myself next to Gerry Knight who asked if I had applied for Gerry Howell's job.  I hadn't but went home and applied.  Was head of Physics 1971 to 73.  Taught in Chichester, deputy head in Patchway and then Head at BRGS in Lancs.  Given OBE in 1997 for services to education but not sure why !!! : Now retired to Torbay." - Martyn Morris
Leon Parker Science Technician "I was a pupil at Downer Grammar School from 1962 to 1969 before I was employed as a chemistry technician in January 1970 (to '72).  Mr Radcliffe was my Senior Science Technician.  When Mr Williams left, Michael Barnett became head of Chemistry.  I still keep in touch with Mike and his wife." - Leon Parker
Ray Richiardi Chemistry Replaced 'Crippen' when he retired to Australia in 1970.  Attended June 2002 reunion.  Mr Richiardi was a private Chemistry tutor in 2002.
Mr Risdon French - Diane Burstein
Mrs Sengupta Languages '73
… a supply teacher from New Zealand called Mrs Gupta.  Not only did she have the misfortune of taking an unruly class that she could not control, but too got ribbed for her accent.  In addition she was expecting a baby and was emotionally highly strung which was particularly tough for her, and an an opportunity for the whole class to make her lessons with us something of a disaster.  One of the things that became a regular feature of her lessons was to remove the ink tube from ball-point pens and to use the tube as a paper-ball shooter when she was writing on the board.  The target was usually movable, preferably her back or her dinky ankle boots.

In one lesson she turned around just as I had aimed and fired.  She went beserk and inevitably put me in detention.  I still feel collectively culpable for the hard time we gave her.  However, I can never forgive her for a false accusation of spitting - which would have been pretty disgusting. - Sue Woolf ('DGSEUK')

… someone 'stealing' her master classroom key, and then we (I honestly cannot remember who took it) would lock ourselves in the loos outside room 13 ( I think) for a crafty fag!! - Catherine Cook ('DGSEUK')

In the first Spanish lesson she gave us she greeted us in Spanish and pronounced all the 'Z's as "th" - we all thought she had some dire speech impediment and sniggered behind our books, cruel as schoolkids are.  Then we found that was how you were supposed to speak and had the embarrassment of having to copy her. - Sharon Hope

During her time at Downer we as a form managed to get her dissolved into tears at least once, and whilst in room 11, during one lesson, Renata Beal hid in the cupboard at the back.  There was much whispering around the class and whilst I think Renata wasn't discovered, the teacher was certainly suspicious that something was going on. - Bob Ford (from 'DGSEUK')

… she [Renata] obviously didn't want to do the lesson so she climbed into one of the cupboards at the side of the classroom and stayed there all lesson after shutting the doors behind her. - Steve Drinkwater (from 'DGSEUK')
Miss Silverthorne Maths? Dodgy teeth - drove a Triumph Herald - Catherine Cook
Gill Smith   - Catherine Cook
Reg. Stepher History  ’69  
Mrs Trackman French The most awful French teacher…   used to have nightmares about her. - Jeanette Pfaff
Harry White Brass Instruments Deceased (November 2004)
Alan Vickers PE - Jeannine Poree
Jenny Webb History - Jeannine Poree

Jenny Webb used to follow the same journey home as a bunch of us on the Met. Line from Wembley Park towards West Harrow/Rayners Lane.  One evening Debbie Brockwitz, Pam Wragg, Paul Isaacs and I all ran to get in a 'smoking' carriage with fags in hand passing her on the platform.  She gave a wry smile and wagged a finger at us as the train departed with us pathetically trying to hide the offending fags. - Tim Cole
Whitmarsh French  

Key to photographs:
’54 - 1954 Upper School - from John Kirby
’61 - 1961, Sports Day photographs (about 60 frames) - from Andrew Forester on ‘DGSEUK' on the 'goups.MSN’ service
’62 - April 1962, Lower School - from Greg Heath; Upper School - from Jeff Lewis
’69 - 1969, Lower School - from Steve Drinkwater; Upper School - from Lennie Bradshaw
’73 - 1973, Upper School - from Sandy Stodell (Adams)

Reference Sources: - unfortunately the 'groups.MSN' service ceased in spring 2009. - terminated 2013-ish.
… and face-to-face (or keyboard-to-keyboard) reminiscing with individuals.