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Page updated April 2018
David St John's Memories
ITCHEN GRAMMAR SCHOOL
The Class of 1960- 'En Avant' (Forward)
Facsimile school badge- kindly sent by fellow classmate- Ken 'Titch' Walkling
Itchen College 2006 - former Itchen Grammar School
There were temporary hut/classrooms on the right in the early 60s- now car-parking space. New extensions on the left - added much later and these replaced the former wooden huts that housed the science labs etc plus the old sport hall close to the rear school entrance. We also had our daily milk rations that were a healthy addition but later 'snatched' by Thatcher in the Seventies! The old woodwork classrooms were on the far right close to Middle Road entrance and I recall the usual hustle/bustle as we traipsed from room to room on lesson changeovers- we had to keep fairly quiet in line with the strict discipline which wasn't a bad thing when one compares modern education and standards.
Main Entrance- Headmaster's study(+cane!) on the left
If you have been reading through this website, full of my personal memories of growing up in Southampton - especially the musical/comedy side then you may wonder about my school days. Many of us do have fond recollections of those formative years but often have blurred reminisces with the passage of time. Some kept diaries whilst others moved on through life and probably lost touch with old school-pals as we leave for whatever life has chosen for us. This new page (from June 2013) might hopefully jog some more memories of those who were lucky to have attended Itchen Grammar School following the 11 Plus exam, a controversial way of selecting children of mixed intellect to move onto secondary education. This 'test' was phased out as some thought it caused divisions, merely based on that particular day's attention span plus 'swotting up' before the dreaded challenge, but one could argue that the ensuing years of whatever exams were taken are not far removed? However, at that time it was hoped that the brightest students would stay on for 6th Form followed by University and then into whatever occupation or lifestyle they would choose or change track with life's crossroads - some of us stuck at it, whilst others 'dropped out' - like me at age of 15. Family background and financial restraints meant that many bright students would not have the chance to pursue higher education with a likely well paid career in front of them or even reach the top of any profession as many former Grammar School children did attain. Also, many of the girls might have looked forward to 'settling down' and raising a family as was expected of them before the times of equal opportunity etc - how things change. The current Itchen College is one of the most successful in the country with excellent results and you can take a look at:
I only have vague memories of my years at Itchen Grammar from the intake of 1960 till 1964 as 'pop' music had taken over my life thanks to the Beatles, Stones and many more great groups that were ensuring that the Swinging Sixties were paving the way for the best decade ever. Music, fashion, the arts mixed with a growing prosperity, pride in Great Britain and optimism all helped to define this amazing period. Many teenagers left school at 15 to start earning some money- maybe £10-15 per week at that time and full employment- you could leave one job in the morning and land another in the afternoon by popping down to the local Labour Exchange or Ministry Of Labour as it was then called. Those who chose to stay were naturally envious of the 'frivolous' types who did leave school and earn some money plus spending it on enjoying themselves at dance halls, record shops, clothes shops and whatever they fancied. I am happy to say that I have kept in touch with a few 'Old Issonians' as we are labelled, plus hooking up with a few more familiar names and faces in recent years - especially at a great 30th anniversary in 1990, and I share a few photos from that day. Reunited with school-pals and teachers plus the much respected headteacher Charles 'Sid' Thompson who instilled fear amongst us when knuckling down for studies but turned up in a brightly coloured 'Hawaiian' style shirt and casual trousers! The former sports teacher - Dennis Huxtable was also in attendance and became a later principal at the new College. He recalled me as we did have a few 'clashes' due to my being useless at sport plus my detentions as I refused to wear a girls' bathing cap in the dreaded outdoor swimming pool at the bottom of the field! This because of my long hair at the time (nothing changed ever since) and my mates were really envious that I escaped this ordeal. Maybe the first ever swimming pool at any Southampton school but it was akin to child abuse due to being unheated with loads of algae and green slime all around! Maybe OK on a (rare) hot summer day but absolute torture for anyone to plunge into the freezing water. The pool was next to overhanging trees, so one can only imagine to toxicity of the the water- even bacteria were afraid and kept out!
I much preferred the Tennis Courts at the other end of the field, out of sight of the main school buildings surrounded by greenery so providing a nice setting for the usual flirting etc. The transition from grammar school (founded 1906) to college status took place in 1967 as the 11 Plus was phased out amongst other reforms which are still hotly debated to this day.
1990 Reunion- the class of 1960
Pete Huntley-Ken Derham- Betty Walters,-Ken Walkling- Brett Edmonds-Jenny Emmas- Paddy Farrell-Ann Shergold-David-Paul Bosbury- Alan Bennett-Jim Sawyer-Pat Woods-Barry Fox-John Willis-Jenny Gardiner
David-Ken Derham-Pete Huntley-Ann Shergold-?- Jenny Gardiner
David- Ken Derham-Jennifer Emmas ('Emmy')
My thanks to Ken Walkling whose camera captured the above 'Old' Issonians!
Itchen Grammar- School Hall
Turning the clock back even more, I have a few old photos as well as some others kindly sent by fellow Issonians and hope that a few more will find this webpage and send their own memories or better still - any images. Raised in Woolston, my first school was just a few minutes walk from our home in Manor Road- my grandparents' large house next to the railway bridge over the local branch line from Southampton to Portsmouth and beyond. I gather I was maybe 5 or 6 when starting out at Ludlow Infants School in Ludlow Road and the area had many temporary 'prefab' homes that had been built after the Luftwaffe had relentlessly bombed the area with its proximity to the docks and nearby Spitfire factory on the banks of the River Itchen. These were on Radstock Road, Manor Road and Mortimer Road and were very comfortable warm homes that were later demolished in readiness for new housing stock, but there are a few of these 'prefabs' scattered around the UK with nostalgic websites dedicated to their memory! My memories of Infants School are naturally very misty but I really enjoyed learning and boosted by my father's influence as I could read and write basic stuff from my first day, plus trips to the nearby Woolston Library where I would spend many hours with my nose in books- mostly non-fiction in between the usual kids' favourites such as Billy Bunter, Just William, Worzel Gummidge and classics of Treasure Island etc. Sadly, I have no reports or other school memorabilia from all of my school years apart from the odd few images below. This photograph was taken in 1970 and shows my 1960 MK 2 Jaguar 3.4 in British Racing Green colour- cost me £125 but I soon got rid of it as the gearbox started to play up so a very expensive repair. If only I still had this vehicle- manual/overdrive with sunroof and a beauty- can you imagine its current worth........
Ludlow Infants School 1970- Ludlow Road side. Other low level classrooms were behind on the Bishops Road side
I then progressed to the adjacent Ludlow Junior School, which was segregated in those years which suited us 'nippers' as we didn't want to mix with 'those horrible girls'............that changed in a few years! This rare school photograph was probably around the age of 7/8 - sat on a chair with the fence that separated the lower and upper Junior Schools- beautiful old red brick buildings - 'real schools' unlike many modern learning establishments.
1958 (?) Class photo- you can probably spot me!
Flanked by the dreaded headmaster Mr Quinn on the left and class teacher Mr Learmouth on the right- both very handy when wielding the cane across trembling outstretched fingers! Usually for minor indiscretions such as talking in assembly etc. Strangely enough, I can still recall many of the names and even put them top faces in this photograph- probably due to the daily register and repetition- just like timetables which many of us can still manage! A few were good pals and these are what I can recall for now:
Bessant, O'Hara,Moody,Collier,Tritten,Cox,Ryan,Mainwaring,Morris,'Goofy' Hewlings,Brennan, White for now............
February 2015- a message from Ron Crates. He has jogged my memory over more of the teachers' names.
Present day Ludlow Junior School (courtesy school website)
This super wide angle photograph shows the two main school buildings with the former Girls on the left and Boys on the right- you can see where the old class photograph was taken in front of the Headmaster's office partly hidden by the bright tree. This middle area was formerly an old wooden wall/huts that kept us apart and the lower Junior School was on the left but out of this shot, with the Infants School next door- the whole school straddling Ludlow and Bishops Road with a hand sweet shop on the far corner of Peveril Road/Bishops Road. They were very happy days and I did fairly well at most subjects whilst reading a lot at home so guess this is why so much trivia seems to have to have stayed in a few brain cells across the decades but cannot remember major chunks of those years. I actually enjoyed exams- maybe a form of 'self-testing' and the need to impress my parents so I had no fears when the all important 11 Plus exam reared its head in 1960 and was lucky enough to pass with a high mark, which surprised many of the teachers as I was rather 'frivolous' at that time. In 1958, at the age of ten I was already starting out as a young rock n roll singer at local Southampton dance halls and you can read more on my Biography page. I left the Ludlow schools and enjoyed the summer of 1960 before getting kitted out with a new uniform and other needs in readiness for the big step up to Itchen Grammar School, whose school motto was 'En avant' - French for 'forward'. The unofficial motto was 'Come in Itchen - go out Scratchen!' My enjoyment of exams was to surface much later in 1982 when I embarked on a new path by applying for TV quiz shows as I realised that I still retained a wealth of trivia plus instant recall that forms the basis of most shows. This without any 'studying' or revision as many keen quizzers seem to spend many waking hours with noses stuck in books of lists etc and it seem that I remember snippets of many articles that I have read over the years or often remember bits from watching a few TV quiz shows. Many familiar trivia questions appear on a variety of shows but a lot of luck comes into play plus the 'pressure' of the TV studio (although it rarely phases me) This culminated in my gaining a Guinness World Record in 2014, as 'Britain's Most Prolific TV Quiz Show Contestant' with 34 appearances across thirty odd years. In addition, the national press coverage, along with taking part in an ITV documentary, inspired me to write my first book - see:
Again, I cannot recall much about my four years at Itchen Grammar but really enjoyed it plus the bonus of being a mixed school so surrounded by girls at last! I cannot remember any major 'bullying' as such apart from a few usual antics from the older pupils. The school had very strict rules and I did get summoned to the Head's study for a few telling offs plus the cane if deemed necessary. My attitudes were changing during my early teens and I was rather opinionated so often got into trouble for daring to raise my hand and 'suggest' that perhaps some parts of the lessons could be changed? Despite a love of most subjects and boosted by my own 'self teaching' through reading what I wanted to read, I felt 'forced' to learn what I thought irrelevant! Music lessons (Miss Pringle?) were quite boring, although I had already been singing at local dance halls and clubs for a couple of years and the new wave of Sixties pop music were really taking hold on many a teenage lifestyle. Geography was and still is a major interest but I didn't enjoy those lessons and recall the much feared Miss McAlpine ("Haggie/The Hag") who took some of these lessons. My friends recall that I often sneaked into a small rowing boat that, for some obscure reason, was placed in the classroom on the upper floor - I just lay down and snoozed until the teacher's back was turned so that I could jump back into my chair. Other lessons often saw chalk being thrown at me or other pupils who dared to talk amongst themselves or annoy someone in front by flicking paper around- sometimes followed by a well aimed wooden blackboard duster that bounced off many a head! Can you imagine these 'punishments' happening these days? Strict discipline never did us any harm and most look back at our school years with fond memories plus realising that it was a better system.
I did fairly well at most subjects and my favourites were English (Language) and French which I took to with a passion. I had always loved languages and found French to be a very attractive, beautiful sound as well as being interested in French history from previous years of reading library books. The 1066 Norman invasion was a major turning point for our country and not forgetting a few centuries of wars across the Channel plus the fascinating Revolution etc, also Southampton played an important part in the Middle Ages with superb fortifications against the many invaders who tried to over-run our lands but in vain. Perhaps a natural 'ear' for music helps in languages so maybe explains this factor of picking up other tongues- I managed much more in later years when on overseas travels in entertainment from 1973 on. Another major factor was having a brilliant teacher in the shape of Jo ('Connie') Condon who later married another Itchen teacher- Mr Dunford. Miss Condon took a shine to me as I was very keen as well as having a good accent for my French lessons so my 'rebellious' side never came into play. I later took my 'O' level French a year early and got good marks- I still have that paper plus it was great to meet up with 'Connie' at the 1990 reunion. She had hoped that my love of French might lead to higher education then maybe teaching but it was not for me, as my life was changing into the direction of the 'Beat Boom' My skills also came into play in the summer breaks when hordes of attractive French students came over to Southampton and I was able to drop in a few lines to impress the girls as part of the 'chat up' process. I also admit to carrying a packet of French Gitanes cigarettes (blue cartons) but only pretended to 'smoke' them without inhaling! Cool eh? However, these French fillies had too many of their teachers or lads in tow so it never amounted to anything but all part of the fun as the hormones kicked in. I tried a year of Spanish but didn't take to it, despite the French language skills being helpful as a Latin based language- even Italian is reasonably easy to understand (my next language to improve) I am still in touch with Jo Dunford and she loved these old photos that I recently posted to her. She still lives in the area, and I had the pleasure of visiting her on a recent visit, so shared more great memories.
1963 was a milestone in my life, as a new group had suddenly burst on the scene in the shape of the Beatles, whose first 1962 single of 'Love Me Do' was heard on the radio and often under the bedclothes with a new fangled Dansette transistor radio! Radio Luxembourg was THE pop music station but prone to poor reception as it beamed chart sounds across Europe, taking our minds off the awful winter of '63- one of the coldest on record. Some areas of the UK had snow from Christmas till Easter and I do remember struggling to school on my racing bike (Raleigh Blue Streak!) or catching the bus if needed. News came through that the Beatles were added to a forthcoming Roy Orbison Tour at the Gaumont (Mayflower) Theatre in May of 1963 so when the tickets were announced, Ken Derham and I braved the elements by joining the overnight queue bedded down by the side of the building! We took turns as well as our parents coming over with food and drink to sustain our shared places. It was great fun and the atmosphere was really good as we were all excited with 'Beatlemania' taking its hold over the country before hitting the world stage. We grabbed our tickets- priced 10/6 - 52 ½ pence in 'new' money and then waited patiently until the big day when the stars hit Southampton - you can read about this on my other webpages. Our seats were only a few rows back from the stage and, like many a young teenage lad around the nation, I was inspired to be in my own pop group which fell into place over 63/64 but 'distracting' me from my studies. I was in the 'A' stream for a short while, but my mind was elsewhere in the classroom with 'daydreams' or doodling away on my exercise books- song lyrics etc. I often came in late after a previous night's show or rehearsal or even dozed off during many a lesson. At the end of the 1964 term, my parents had a letter to the effect that they felt it wasn't worth me staying on for 6th Form and whatever Higher Education took my fancy so it was time for me to fly the nest with mixed feelings as I had enjoyed my time at this superb school.
I would miss my old schoolmates but have kept in touch with a few ever since as well as hooking up with others in recent years so I'll mention a few now. Ken Derham stayed on and eventually went to University with a career in book publishing for the Russian market. Firm based in London with Ken living in Brentford Essex for many years until recently retiring to East Anglia. We got on so well at school and were/are big Cliff Richard fans amongst other pop stars of the time plus we had so many laughs along the way- still in regular contact.
Ken and David- London Zoo school outing maybe 1962? Around 13/14 yrs old?
Alan Bence was another great mate- a very talented musician whose piano playing from an early age later developed into a career in the music business when he moved to London and Home Counties. He wrote musical arrangements and acted as M.D. for many well known star names, so we had that close link as well. Many a time after school or at weekends would see me at his house in Deacon Road by Itchen Grammar School as we played duets on his grand piano plus me on his small drum kit. We took part in an International Schools Concert at Southampton Guildhall in 1961 as I accompanied his piano piece on the drums and I still have the programme! Kids from all over Europe took part and it was quite memorable, but even better a few years later when some of my pop groups trod the same boards as well as later shows by the Stones, Who, Jimi Hendrix,The Nice, Move, Jethro Tull and many more- see my other webpages. I last saw Alan in 1972/73 when visiting him at his Surrey home along with his (then) wife Sally- another Itchen pupil, and he wrote me out some musical arrangements ('dots') as my new solos shows required them for the backing musicians that were in various clubs etc. I still have them but not used for many years, as I later taught myself to write/transpose from sheet music so that I could have the exact copies for my entertainment needs. Sadly, he passed away in the 1990s with a sudden rare blood condition and I regret not meeting up with him again- we often say this when losing good friends or drifting away.
David and Alan Bence 1961?
Teacher Mrs ('Winnie') Warner- 1961?
Itchen Girls - summer uniforms!
Back row- on right- last 2 are Betty Richmond Jenny Gardiner. Other names- Frances Townsend, Suzanne ? possibly Croft, Jenny Swann
May 2016: Ken Walkling has sent these names, so maybe getting close to identifying who is who!
Bottom left Frances Townshend (note the
Middle left still unknown
Top left Betty Walters
Middle Suzanne Brown(e?)
Above Suzanne still unknown
Over Suzannes left shoulder Janet Richmond
Top right Jenny Gardiner
Bottom right we think is Eileen Guppy. We? Been chatting to Maggie Noble on FB. She is not sure, but she has passed it on to Eileen herself, and she is pretty sure it is herself
Jenny Gardiner- Pat Woods- Dianne Pope. St Trinians or what?
I am always in touch with Ken 'Titch' Walkling whose later career covered his love of chemistry and he taught/lectured at universities plus research etc. Ken was also a major force in setting up an 'Old Issonians' group back in the 1990s but it didn't really take off as it was based on names, addresses and phone numbers that often changed but a few meetings/ reunions did take place. Maybe, in these day of social networking and websites, perhaps someone may take up the cudgel and arrange it? I'm too busy, but maybe this new webpage might lead to something- who knows? Jenny Gardiner ended up in the fashion trade and based in West London for many years- we are in regular touch as well so often have nice chats about the fun days and trying to remember more names, faces etc. Bronwen Page is another contact from those days- she kindly sent some of these photos and has been in Buxton for a long while- she came along to one of my shows a couple of years ago and still recognisable like so many of us schoolkids! Pete Huntley is another contact and another of my best pals was Bob May- a brilliant highly educated lad who went into University and ended up with a distinguished teaching career in Southampton. He was headteacher of a great city primary school in a deprived mixed race community area but with excellent results. His elder brother (Philip?) was a former head boy at Itchen and I also believe that he went into teaching. Bob and I were very different characters but we got on so well- with a shared sense of humour that provided many laughs through those formative years. On lunchtimes, we would often pop up to his auntie's house at the back of the old Excel Bowling Alley in Bitterne where we would buy a portion of chips, some of which were then placed inside our packed school sandwiches and even jam ones provided a great taste- go on- try it!!!
When a few of us managed to get back in contact, we did reminisce about those pals who were no longer around and the most recent sad loss was Lois Dowle in 2012 and it really makes one think about life and where it would take us when leaving school and into the great wide world. I hope you have enjoyed this insight and I hope to add more information, stories, photos as and when 'new' people find this webpage, then maybe contact me? These are a few names that were listed on a 1990 Old Issonians list and may jog a few of YOUR memories, along with those named above:
Jerry Agnew,Daryl McDermott,Mike Bianchi,Chris Dyer,Brett Edmonds,Barry Fox,Alasdair & Ann (Diaper?),Vaughan McDermott,Jim Sawyer,Serena Cox,Eddie Richard,Ralph Easson,Bob Templeton,Brian Burtsell,Sue Foley,Christine Cutbush,Hazel Diaper,Alison Hounsome,Rosalyn Hounsome,Paul Bosbury,Katrina Morse,Yvonne Cork,Frances Townsend.
I noted a Carol Day (formerly Brown) on the Friends Reunited webpages and I have 'borrowed' another great photo of a 1964 class of girls but cannot recall them. If you can help then please get in touch and some names were added to this great shot so I have copied them as well
Back row: Roz Smith- Margaret Wilcox-Carol Brown- Kay Stratton -Barbara 'Snuff' Angell,-Chris Marsh,Barbara Harvey
Front row: Sally Kilford-Caroline Ship-Linda 'Meece' Macey-Sally Patey- ? -Sally McKay.
July 2015- Lo and behold - a great e-mail popped up, and another former Itchen girl stumbled across this page, as well as seeing the above photo. It was taken on her old Box Brownie, and this is the message:
I called Kit (Chris Marsh) and we had a nice chat, as she filled in a few gaps with these names etc. Once again, I am always pleased to hear from anyone who finds this Itchen Grammar webpage, as well as having more photos and memories from these amazing school years. Kit went onto teaching and has kept in touch with a few old pals, so maybe more surprises will no doubt surface. She mentioned that headmaster 'Sid' Thompson was previously in charge of Ilfracombe Grammar, and she also prompted me with a link, that tells a lot more! There is a book, written by Diana Vennis and tells of her husband's lifetime in teaching, with references to Itchen Grammar School. I'm not sure if this link works - I had a problem when checking it from this very webpage. Let me know?
THESE COMMENTS FROM FORMER PUPILS- THEIR WORDS!
One person on Facebook recalls 'Sid' Thompson as a 'Darth Vader' walking round with his black flowing robes and instilling fear (and respect) with all pupils!
I also recall the letters after his name on many plaques- M.A. Cantab (Master of Arts/Cambridge University)
Please check back from time to time as new info/pics etc will surely result from this webpage!
P.S. Unusually - I used to enjoy exams (!) and absorbing trivia from a young age. Some of it stuck, and possibly explains why I achieved a Guinness World Record in 2014. If you don't know-then check back to my Home Page and Blogs 2014/2015.
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