The link to the talk is at the end of this page,
together with a link listing those who registered and those who sent
If you intend to print this talk, please do so in Landscape rather than Portrait format.
It is best viewed on something like a laptop or an iPad rather than on a mobile phone.
Sue and John Dimmock did a great job helping to admit those in the virtual 'waiting room' so we could greet them and they could chat with others.
Our Guest of Honour was Dr Carin Taylor, Executive Headteacher of The Staploe Education Trust, who has not missed any of our 16 Reunions since she began as Principal of Soham Village College in 2006.
John Dimmock SG59 [JD] opened the proceedings at 14:30 by welcoming us and Dr Taylor.
Mrs Carol Morton whose late husband Michael Morton SG'54' was a considerable character on and off the sports field during his time at SGS again joined us.
Peter Scott (Maths 60-72) who lives within sight of Beechurst was with us again.
John O'Toole (English 63-66) had hoped to be with us again from Australia but something came up almost at the last minute. He sent his best wishes. He later said he'd enjoyed watching the recording (which was available until 6 October). He would be "delighted to hear from anyone who might remember the wet-behind-the-ears English teacher who at SGS learned so much from his first three years of teaching". By the way his preferred nickname has matured from JROT to JohnO ...
Among those registering were Grammarians in the USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Germany. Particularly welcome were the seven first-timers (in this century!).
JD handed over to Frank Haslam SG'59' [FH] who talked through the way this Reunion was going to run, bearing in mind that for some this was their first experience of Zoom and doing things like Chat, Mute and Unmute.
He warned that shortly he'd do some screenshots of the gallery of participants' photos "while you're all still here and awake, and not looking too grumpy". He thanked everybody for their support - "our website is knocking on 110,000 visits, which for a small school like ours ain't bad". And he reminded everyone to pass on news of any Grammarians (it's all too often that somebody has died) particularly if it's anyone we are not already in touch with, or have lost contact with.
It was important to get new-found SGs to look at our webite and make use of the Search page - and would everyone let us know if their contact details change!
Among the apologies received was 1939 entrant Peter Nicholls, in Burwell, who was celebrating his 93rd birthday about now. Frank said he would pass on our best wishes.
When we are in Beechurst Hall, Frank goes round taking photos. This year here are his two screenshots of the mosaic of participant images of the kind familiar to Zoom users and those who have seen its use on TV. Some people appear in both screenshots:
iPad is Peter Scott SG59
Richard's iPhone is Richard Wright SG48
JD welcomed Sara Coutts who popped in to say hello (she's next to Dr Carin Taylor in the screenshot above). For ten years until 2019 she led the team doing the catering at our Reunions. She has moved on to horticulture. John said "We wanted to say a big, big thank you to you for all the time you put in and all the effort you gave in feeding us hungry Grammarians."
JD: Thank you Ralph. You know, we sat next to each other for quite a while when we first joined SGS, didn't we?
You were Dunham RNR?
Ralph: Dunham RNR and not Dunham PV [FH: Paul Dunham SG59 went on to be one of the Governors at the Village College.]
JD: One of the pleasures that I have is inviting our next speaker, Dr. Taylor, Carin to us. She's now going to give us an update on Soham Village College.
All of our external meetings have been done through social media through either Zoom, or Microsoft Teams more usually. And we have had internal meetings with people in the next office. We've been using this sort of media so it has become very much part of our lives.
I suspect it's something that will stay now part of school life, that Parents' Evenings probably will continue remotely into the future because it is actually quite a lot more convenient for parents and families. They haven't got to travel out and they can just have their three minutes with teachers - and it runs a little bit better to time than a lot of Parents' Evenings do when people are scurrying around the rather large school site.
I remember last year talking to you and sort of being almost a bit overwhelmed when I looked back on what the previous year had held. This year similarly hasn't been straightforward since we last met. As you know, we were closed for two and a half months at the start of this calendar year. We came back to school straight after Christmas and immediately we were closed. I think we sort of opened and then we were closed before the end of the first day.
There has been a lot of logistics around mass testing of students, risk assessments and sort of managing all sorts of anxieties among our staff and our wider community, parents and young people as well. But we have been very fortunate. I'm delighted to say that the amount of disruption that we've experienced in Soham has really been very small. We had a tricky end to the academic year in July, when I think, out of a total of 1400 children, we had about 300 left on site at the end of term, as people sort of rolled in to different phases of isolation and a few actually tested positive for COVID.
But apart from that bit of disruption, we've actually managed a huge amount of learning, much of it in person, lots of curriculum development, lots of good activities that support wellbeing and mental health, and all the kinds of things that a really good school education still provides for its young people.
So, I can report to you no exam results, of course, for the second year running. We're not really talking about how great we are at getting children through examinations, though a lot of them have worked very hard and have achieved a great deal. But I can tell you that we've got a lot of young people who've had about as good a deal as they could have done over the last two years. And we're very proud of what we've managed to achieve for those young people and for our wider community.
The only sort of metric that I can report to you this afternoon is that Soham Village College remains a school of first choice for large number of parents. And we have an admission number of 270. This year, we've somehow managed to admit 295. I don't remember how large your groups were when you were at school but I suspect you weren't looking at maybe 300 in each year group! [FH: SGS had a two-form entry usually of just over 30 per form]
At the moment, we do feel like a very big and busy school, but it's just an absolute pleasure to have a full school. And for the sounds of children and young people in our corridors and our playgrounds again, it's just wonderful because that's what we're there for, and it's not really a school without children in it. Although it is very busy, we've had glorious September sunshine, and we actually managed an in-person open evening last week, lots and lots of families coming in to have a look around. And it did feel like business as usual, which I'm sure is welcome for everybody.
And so that's all I was going to say this afternoon, except I very much hope that I'll be with you in person and in Beechurst Hall next year, and I do wish you all a really lovely afternoon of catching up with each other, and wider news of Soham Grammar School.
Thank you very much, Frank and John.
THE ROLL CALLJohn Dimmock then got us ready to take part in our Zoom version of the traditional Roll Call, calling us up by name in alphabetical order to state: our years at SGS, where we lived then, where we lived now and to recount any brief anecdote of our time at SGS, preferably not the same as the one provided last year.
He added that one participant wouldn't be able to give all those things, Carol Morton, whom he welcomed on her second Zoom visit. Carol is the widow of Michael Morton SG54.
Brevity totally eluded us. It took twice as long as last year. But it was also fun. The transcript has been edited to make for better reading:
JD: I know I said alphabetical order, but it might give you some idea if I start us off. John Dimmock, started in 1959, left in 65. I lived in Ely then. Now I live in the marvellous city of Burwell. No anecdotes, but it's really, really nice to see so many 59ers on board. It is really good indeed, to see them getting behind the franchise and supporting it. It's so lovely to see you. There's also a 58er who I'm friendly with, Mr Steve Herod. Lovely to see you Steve, haven't changed a bit - I recognise you, anyway. So moving on ...
David Anderson SG59: Good to see everybody, including Frank Haslam, John Dimmock, Ralph Dunham, Geoff Fernie, and Stuart Porter. So good to see you all. I joined Soham Grammar School in 1959. At the time, I was living in Wilburton. And I now live in a very cold, rainy North Norfolk, in Aylsham.
Anecdote - I'm not quite sure which one to come up with, really, but here we go. It was in the Fifth Form, I think they call it now Year 11. And it was an art trip, going back to when Peter Askem was teaching Art. Pete Askem organised an art trip to Italy, which took in Florence, Rome and Pisa, it was a very, very exciting trip.
But also on board our coach heading off to Dover was a group of Ely High School girls.
Now you can imagine, in fact, coming from an all boys school, this was even more exciting. And the excitement got more and more as we drove towards the Port of Dover. And I won't go any further than that, but it was extremely good and very rewarding, the whole thing, whether it be with the artwork and also the companionship that we found with the Ely High School for Girls.
Rod Armitage SG'55': My starting date was 1959 [joined late, so a nominal 55er]. I spent, I think it was three years, ended up with much better qualifications than I had during my previous education at King's Ely, where I was amongst a number of people who scored absolutely zero O Levels - actually I think I did get one.
But I don't really have any particular anecdotes except that I do remember the the burial of Mr. Taylor's cricket bats very well and his cricket equipment, which is one of the notorious sequences of my three years, although I wasn't directly involved in that.
I qualified, for my sins, as a Barrister. And although I spent most of my working life on the in-house basis, I still continue as a consultant on various lines of clients. I suppose the only commentary I would say is that the deeper you get into the Law, the more complex it appears to be, but at least it keeps the brain ticking over.
Don Boud SG45: I came to SGS in 1945 and I left in 1950, with what we used to call the School Certificate. The first class that I had was in the Turret. It was a little bit difficult there because we had a an old teacher who had been allocated because of the war. He was a little a little bit fearful. He was known to come down and bang your head on the wall. The lady next door was the Secretary of the school and she could hear our heads being banged on the wall. So it was a little bit difficult. He lived in Ely. I lived in Burwell while I was there. I now live in Cambridge. And I don't think I should know anybody in this meeting, because most of my class friends have never turned out. I've never seen them at a dinner at all. So I'm afraid I must just excuse that I don't know you, but I'm very pleased to be here.
Chris Bull SG'53': Hello, everybody. My name is Chris Bull. When I entered in 1954 it was as a result of passing the 13 plus from Needhams back in Ely. When I left Soham we moved to Cambridge. And that's where I am now..
Bill Chilcott SG50 (from New York State, USA): Originally from Newmarket, currently living about 20 miles up the Hudson River from New York City in the town that used to be called Sing Sing, until the residents realised that wasn't a good mailing address [it's now Ossining]. I was hoping to see Donald Monk. [Donald said Hi]
Donald might remember a time when we were making explosives in the Chemistry Lab, a very unstable chemical called I think Nitrogen Triodide. I had it explode in one of Bert Lawrance's classes - Bert was not the person you wanted that to happen with. He ruled his classes with a rod of iron, and I thought I was in real trouble. I was just looking at this little bit of explosive when it went off and got a terrific bang. And I thought, well, I'm in for real trouble now. But he just passed it off and went on teaching.
But I wanted to mention Geoff Gammon. Does anybody remember Geoff Gammon the footballer?
One of us had to give a report on Monday morning, and I got stuck with explaining how we've managed to lose 5-3 away to Thetford GS.
When I looked at the records I now realise why - Geoff Gammon didn't score.
Now Geoff had a record that puts Harry Kane in the shade. In 13 games, he scored 23 goals. Six hat-tricks, really seven, because in one of the games, he scored six goals. So an incredible record, and I mention it because I hope he checks in to the website from time to time and perhaps catches this. Last I heard he was in America [Ohio], working as a chemical engineer. So it'd be good to hear how he is.
Kenneth/Sam Clift SG50: Hello, everybody, I'm Kenneth Clift, probably better known as 'Sam' Clift as a nickname, nom de plume - I know my German ...
I'm a pre-war model, manufactured 1938. And it was in the year of the Skylon and Dome of Discovery at the Festival of Britain I first trudged up the drive to Soham Grammar School, in my brand new red and black cap, to meet for the first time those giants of education: Slug, Punch, Taffy, Sach, Chaz, Fufferding Webb, Pusey and Uncle Ted and his entourage.
[pages on those 'giants of education' can be found via the In Memoriam page or Staff left before 1972 pages]
It was seventy years ago this September that I first tasted a school dinner in that warm old dining room. I hate jam roly-poly.
Having secured a sound Grammar School education and being brought up in Littleport during the Second World War, knowing only the hard, physical world of the farmer, I decided that I needed to earn money without having to work for it. As far as I was concerned, there was only one thing that fit that bill. And that was to become a Bill.
I joined the police force and managed to complete my 30 years of service. Only getting shot at once, threatened with a firearm once, stabbed once and I think I was assaulted nine times. I didn't rape or murder anybody. But there were occasions when I thought that summary punishment could have been doled out, though I refrained from that. On retirement in 1991 I became the first Streetworks Coordinator for Cambridgeshire County Council, retiring in 2002. I'm still doing a bit of voluntary work with the oldies of whom I am now reluctantly one. So there you are - my grumpy own best selling story of my life.
JD: Thank you very much. I believe I should have called you Sam? SC: I don't care as long as you don't call me late for dinner.
Martyn Davies SG66: I was at Soham Grammar School from 1966 to 71 and went on to that place in Ely. I was always a rugger bugger. I wasn't infatuated by football. And so when there was intelligence that there was a Welsh biology teacher coming, I thought great, there's going to be somebody else that might get some leverage to reintroducing rugby to this benighted place.
Well, Mr Duffett turned up. He wasn't interested in rugby. And he was a Bible-puncher. His USP was he if you read him one verse of the Bible, he would identify the book that it came from. To his credit, his was the only lesson I used to skip when he was teaching scripture.
Anyway, on the Biology front, he took us on a trip to to Blakeney Point or somewhere in Norfolk. We had to do a quadrat survey which involves you throwing a piece of wire over your shoulder so you don't just try and capture something interesting, you're going to do it randomly. So we got behind this shingle bank, and threw our quadrat things over the bank, then had to go and retrieve them and see what was there. You mark off what boring piece of vegetation you've managed to find. It was normally always the same piece of vegetation or shingle.
So we all go hareing over the bank. What do we find? A couple of Army blokes there with their earphones on and minesweepers. Nice one. None of us managed to get blown up. Which was probably just as well. I don't suppose the school was insured for us being blown up by mines.
I'm still a practising solicitor, and for my barrister friend who was working in-house [Rod Armitage], you might be interested to know I tried to get a Statutory Declaration sworn yesterday. I'm in Chancery Lane. Could I find a solicitor? I even went to the Law Society. Not one to be found.
Richard Dean SG56: The other Dean of Ely, 1956. I live in Ely now, except it's literally two doors down the road from where I was, via a number of years teaching in the Black Country. I can still speak the language quite fluently. And although long since retired from teaching, I'm also fluent in algebra. Lovely to have one of my ex-teachers with us as well as my best man Bill.
Alan Dench SG67: Yes, good day everyone, lovely to see you all again. I feel like a real youngster seeing as the previous person came here in 1956, the year I was born. I joined SGS in 1967 and then moved on to Ely Sixth Form College with Mr Armitage in 1972. I was living in Cambridge then, now I'm living in St Ives. In between I had my own global tour of the world working in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. So I'll be very interested in what our speaker has to say of his joys of the pharmaceutical industry. No particular anecdotes, otherwise I've got some lovely memories of that seven years with Soham and Ely. It's lovely to see to other 67s here, Kenn Hunter and Ed Reed.
Christopher Dubas SG65: I joined SGS in 1965. At the time I was Pearce. I changed my name to Dubas, but that's another story. Since then, I've been roaming the planet, finding my bearings. I just recently landed a lovely job, my swan-song in teaching, because I'm coming up to 68. I shouldn't even be working. But with the Coronavirus, what have you, I've been trying to get back to where I usually live, in the Philippines. I have a wife and kids there. I haven't seen them for a couple of years. When I get back there, basically all I do is ride big bikes and take care of the family. I have a boat, we go fishing and we have a fish farm. So that's what's waiting for me there.
I still have a house in Cambridge, and I'm almost never there. But it seems the value of the property is going up nicely, thank you. The last thing is that out of the blue, I was offered this wonderful job at a University in Saudi Arabia. There were thousands of people applying for a place here as students, and only the top 200 students prevailed. So it means these are incredibly motivated students. And the icing on the cake is I get to teach girls, they're all 18, it's mixed classes. They are absolutely wonderful. This is the only institution in Saudi Arabia that has a mixed class where we have male teachers and female teachers so it is absolutely wonderful. I'm not overly worked. The temperature outside right now is a lovely 34 degrees. It goes down to about 19 degrees by about one o'clock in the morning. So it's perfect for sleeping. There's no humidity whatsoever.
I've got one little story. I used to live in Witchford. I regularly used to miss the bus. Travelled to Ely, trains, buses and then travelled on to Soham. I lived quite a way from the bus stop. I was always late and two or three times a week I used to miss the bus. But I got to know the traffic. They got to know me. My favourite ride was a Wolsey 610, quite a large vehicle, that was lovely. And occasionally this lovely gentleman in a Bentley. They used to drop me off at the end of the road going to Ely where I would pick up another ride. A lovely lady called Mrs Yardy in a Triumph Herald. So I got to know these people quite well and they got to know me. I used to run to the bus stop every morning because I was always late. I won the Victor Ludorum the last three years I was at school. I was fairly good at running, I always won the cross-country and the distance events. That's how I got my training, running for the bus every morning. I say, Mr Clift, you look absolutely great for your tender years. Really I'm very impressed. I put you 20 years younger.
RNR Dunham SG59: Ralph Dunham. I was at Soham from 59 to 66. I now live in a beautiful town, Bridgnorth. in Shropshire, which is where the Severn Valley Railway started in preservation. My passion has always been railways. I've worked in Manchester, Birmingham, Worcestershire, New Zealand and so on.
Funny event - I don't know if anybody else can verify this actually happened. I was in the lowest set for Maths in the Fifth Form. It was a Friday, when we were doing maths in the old Chemistry Lab above the Woodwork room. The gas jets were still live. Tabby was the teacher down below. I was above him with other people from the Fifth Form who weren't very bright at doing Maths.
Friday is significant because on a Friday, we would have Scouts or Civil Defence or the Army Cadet Force. One of the lads with us was Johnathan [Ginger] Washtell. Those of you who knew Jonathan will recall that he was not always the best behaved of lads. But quite a charismatic character when it came to doing all sorts of odd things. So on that Friday, we're having a Maths lesson. One of the gas jets was turned on. I think it was Johnathan, who'd got a lighter or a match and put it on the gas jet. So we had a flame of gas, straight across the desks. That took us a bit by surprise.
The teacher, probably newly qualified, realised that dealing with fire going horizontally across the classroom was a little bit above and beyond his capabilities. He went and got Punch Lawrance. Now I'm sure we all remember Punch Lawrance. I have to be honest with you, he put the fear of God into me, and perhaps many others as well. But he was very good at his job. I'll never forget, he came into that classroom, got us all to stand, lined us up and admonished us. I'll never forget his words to the guys who were in the Queen's uniform - I, Jonathan and a few others. "Boys! Oh! You're in the Queen's uniform!"
I'd be delighted to hear anybody else's version that story.
Peter Evison SG'67': I was in the 67 intake, forgotten by Alan Dench, though I didn't appear until 1968, from Norwich with my brother who was two years ahead of me (John Joe Evison). I lived in Ely. I now live in Brighton. I left at the end of the fifth year, at the end of SGS. I went into the Merchant Navy and after a few years, I did an engineering degree. I worked in the Railway industry. And now I'm back on the screwdrivers, I work on Brighton Pier. I'll spare you any anecdotes. I was a bit of an idiot at school.
Patrick Faircliffe SG48: My period at Soham Grammar School was 1948 to 53, I lived at Burwell, my parents were farmers. I now live in Norfolk, have done for the last 50 years. Anecdotes - a memory test from Frank, when he said please try not to repeat what you said last year. Well, when you get to my age, that's quite a request. So rather than run the risk of repetition I've decided just to provide one concerning my brother James who was four years my senior at Soham, and one of the original weekly boarders at Mr. Armitage's house [The Moat].
One evening, there was a group of them outside, knocking around with a cricket ball, which eventually went through the sitting room window with a loud bang and a lot of exploding glass. Out came a very irate Mrs Armitage.
"Who's responsible for that?"
A very timid and red-faced Mr Armitage had to hold his hand up "I'm very sorry, my dear, it was me".
A quick hello to Ian Hobbs, Peter Jeffery and Donald Boud who I do know quite well, he probably didn't pick my name up. He knew my brother James who is physically well, but in a Barchester Care Home at Bottisham with dementia.
Geoff Fernie SG59: How great it is to see David Anderson after such a long time. And Stuart Porter and Ralph Dunham, and Michael Yeomans, although I'm a 59er - you are? [MY: A 60er, a year behind].
GF: I'm looking forward to your talk a lot. I lived in Ely, from the age of six months over what used to be the Trustee Savings Bank on the High Street. Now, if you go to Prezzo's and go upstairs, you eat in our living room. It was a timber framed house, it's quite interesting. They have taken the padding from between the timbers. My Mum and Dad's bedroom is down a little bit, but you can eat in that as well. And in the far corner of the upstairs at Prezzo's there's a little door. You're not supposed to go up there, but if you sneak up though this little door, you go up a stairway into the attic, and that's where my sister and I had our bedroom.
Then I moved to Downham Road, right opposite the new High School as it was then. My sister Judie became the Head Girl at the High School. You might be interested to know that Judie - many of you may have known her - she lives in Maui, in Hawaii. She's 71. She's a champion windsurfer. She still windsurfs in the most extraordinary conditions. She's only four miles from Jaws [Peʻahi is a place on the north shore of the island of Maui in the U.S. state of Hawaii. It has given its name to a big wave surfing break, also known as Jaws], so she's windsurfing in heavy waves as well. She paints and [as I told you in my talk in 2017] she wrote a book about her history in cardiology and cardiac surgery. She was the first woman in Maui to windsurf on hydrofoils. She's much more athletic than I am.
Phil Green SG68: I've been looking at the list and unless somebody corrects me, I think I'm the youngest here this afternoon. The names I remember, or the names I'm looking for, don't appear to be with us this afternoon which is sad. I'm a 68er. I do remember the 67s from the year earlier. And of course Peter Scott, nice to see you, my Maths teacher at the time. I actually live only a few metres away from the College. I have been living in Soham for 43 years now. I married an Ely girl and moved to Soham and haven't moved away from it.
Hearing some of you talk already, the memories coming back are vivid. One of our our walking routes this last year has been through the Village College. My wife has got so fed up with me saying "Oh look, there's the Art Room." "There's the Biology Lab" "There's the Chemistry Lab - used to have some fun up there." Which takes me back to Mr Duffet and to Llewellyn Jones and one or two of the other teachers that you've mentioned.
Alan Mason [Lab Technician 66-72] who sadly passed on recently lived just a few streets away from me here in Soham. Last year I did get to speak to him and we exchanged some fond memories, but it's sad that he has gone.
I wonder how many of you can picture yourself in Beechurst Hall where you've all met over several years? I hope to be there with you there another year. There's a little room at the back of the hall. When I joined in 1968 it became a bit of a music room. And the one thing that I didn't get much out of the Grammar School was music. I was a musician but with Don Riley, bless him, who did the music teaching, it all ended up just listening to a classical record. So when I had the opportunity to learn a brass instrument with Fred Talbot, that's where I used to end up, in the little room behind the stage. Well, the music developed when everything changed and we moved to Ely College.
I'm now proud to have been the Bandmaster of the City of Ely Military Band since 2005.
Frank Haslam SG'59': Thank you again, to everybody who's here. I came to Soham Grammar School in December 1960 in the Second Form, into Gordon Hemmings' Form 2H so I'm a nominal 59er. I left in 1966 to go to University College London and in my second year in a Hall of Residence, Mike Yeomans was in the room almost opposite. Small world.
A number of you have mentioned Ely High School. Don't forget you can from our website link to the EHS website, which I also edit. They've got lots of school photos, just like we have. I've been told people spend time looking at those ...
One other thing, go on our Scrapbook page for the link to the aerial view of the Village College. Go into that and then click on Beechurst. It takes you inside Beechurst and you can wander up and down the corridors and go into the Hall and look behind the stage. It's as if you're walking around the school. It's well worth doing.
Steve Herod SG'57': I didn't join until 59, coming from another school. I lived in Histon at the time, home of Chivers Jams, which sadly has declined, like mostly everything else. I now live in sunny Northumberland, up the North Tyne valley. So if anybody wants to tour around some of the Roman sites along Hadrian's Wall, I'm your man. Do it free of charge.
My little anecdote is having been challenged by Geography teacher in our little class - Jack Speed, if you remember him. I had a portable tape recorder. He said it would be impossible to record the lesson without him knowing. Which we then promptly organised and spent the next lesson listening to the last lesson, because he didn't believe we'd recorded it all. I can't remember who else was in the class but it was a bit of fun. I've still got the tape at home here if anybody wanted it.
FH: Jack Speed was just mentioned. I spoke to him a couple of days ago. His son was visiting this weekend and there was a possibility Jack might join us. He wanted his best wishes to be sent to everybody.
Ian Hobbs SG48: I was 48 to 55. [FH: last year Ian told us he was originally from Soham, travelled a long way to Isleham and then to Whitby and then back to Soham] I was a director of an agricultural company for several years and then retired and then went into property development for further few years. I then spent 12 years which you'll never believe - I led a church in Whitby for 12 years. Now those who know me will probably think that's impossible but that is the case.
A little anecdote - on a Wednesday afternoon when we played sport - my time was taken up with that rather than lessons - the football first team used to play the second team. RAT always used to play centre-half for the second team so was against the first team centre-forward. I had a reputation of not being the easiest person to get on with in that sense. And I remember the ball was dropping in between me and him and I was coming down all 'hair and teeth' as I usually did. And as I got almost to him, he stepped to one side and said "After you sir." I've never forgotten that.
Kenn Hunter SG67: I was at the Grammar School 67 to 72 along with Ed Reed and Alan Dench who are with us just now. l lived in Burwell, and am now in Bramham just near Wetherby. Dave Christie is a name from the past. I was in the Tennis Club in Burwell and he told me the story of the cricket box being buried, quite a topic last year. As far as I'm aware RAT made them polish it so it was gleaming and then all was forgiven?
FH: David Christie SG54 lives not far from me.
Peter Jeffery, 49er: Living in Newmarket then. Now I'm living in South Norfolk near Wymonndham. I think I hold a distinction which none of you can match. I was married to one of the Deputy-Head-to-be [Tabby]'s daughters.
Ranjit Kurrie SG61: Joined in 61, lived in Cambridge then, I live in Cambridge now. I was in the Scouts and the ACF. All I remember about the ACF was how uncomfortable the uniform was and shooting in the rifle range, which was great fun. I left and went back the following year and joined the class below. Apart from that, I haven't really had any great success. I do know Trevor Smith we've kept in touch so hello to him.
Terry Mackender SG59 was present for a while but we couldn't see or hear him.
Andrew Nunn SG55: I came in 1955. Looking around, I can't see any other 55ers. I came from Burwell. I was at SGS until 1960 when the family moved so I wasn't able to do my A Levels at Soham. When I left University I spent the last 50-55 years in medical research. I'm not full time at the moment. I've had the opportunity to live in Africa, in Uganda doing medical research at one stage.
Anecdotes? I couldn't think of any before joining in today but it's amazing how the memory starts to work and now I've got difficulty choosing one. I wonder whether anybody else had this experience. Edward Armitage in about 1958, when many boys were still wearing shorts, held a special Strawberry Tea and a cricket match for those still wearing shorts in 3L. There there were very few of us but it seemed he wanted us to continue. Not many of us survive but I was one of the few.
Donald Monk SG50: 1950 to 57, born in Ely and still living in Ely. It was so good to see Bill Chilcott [SG50] with us. Owen Barber [SG50] unfortunately can't be with us because he's got other things on. I spent 38 years with Pye and Philips in private mobile radio design. My anecdote is remembering one of the clubs that was running in the school. Satch Foster and Mr Webb were quite involved with the Photographic Club. I think we had a dark room at the end of what was the French room on the limb that went out to one side. [2H when I joined in 1969? - FH]
Barry Parr SG62: Good afternoon everyone, pleased to be here. Many people will have known me as Alec in my Soham days but Barry is how most people now would know me by. I was a 62 entry coming from Little Downham. For many years I've lived in Haddenham. Today I'm in Surrey. And on Monday I hope I will be in Spain, I'm in the process of moving to Spain, assuming I can get road fuel and there are no protesters stuck to the motorway.
My little anecdote relates to probably my first or second year and to the dining room already mentioned by Sam Clift. You remember the very long dining room and that the tables were arranged in rows in according to House? I was in Cromwell House and sitting on the end was the teacher responsible for the House. It was Tabby in those days.
One of my compatriots, Nigel Stringer, was eating his meal. We had roast potatoes that day. Roast potatoes were always a bit overcooked and very hard. Nigel was battling to find his way into a particular potato. So he held his knife up vertically and banged it on the top to try and make an entry into the potato. At which point half of the potato, like a missile, was projected in the air. It went four or five yards [feet?] along the table and landed full square in the gravy of Tabby's dinner.
All the gravy splashed over Tabby's white shirt and red tie. You remember his bald head? That as well. I just got a wonderful fond memory of watching him wipe this with a handkerchief and going very red in the face, doing his best to hold in his temper as Nigel Stringer got admonished.
A fond memory of those times. I'm pleased to see Trevor here from Thailand.
Stuart Porter SG59 (from the USA): It's nice to see everybody. I tried to join in last year but forgot about the time difference. I dialled in at 2.30pm and it was 7.30pm in the evening in England ....
I'm a 59er, I was living in Littleport at the time, I now live in the United States, just outside Philadelphia. I spent pretty much all of my working life in the global pharmaceutical industry. I was thinking about anecdotes, and I had one in mind. And then when I heard about the bizarre happenings that occurred, it seemed there was something wrong with Maths classes. Somebody said there was an explosion in one Maths class and a jet of flames in another.
I recall an incident in the Physics Lab. We had a Van de Graaff generator, which generates static electricity and some soul had decided to take that into the room where the musical instruments were stored. They connected it up and started it off and the all of the instruments were glowing blue. Mr Riley came to the room and suspected something was going on. He took his gown and with it got hold of the doorknob. And as he opened the door a spark shot across from the doorknob to the frame. And there was one unfortunate individual, who I think was Geoff Fernie, with his hair standing on end. Soham Grammar School had its sense of humour.
I just want to say one more thing, to Martyn Davies. You obviously joined some Grammar School far too late. If had you joined two or three decades earlier you would have had your way and learned that at that time rugby was the sport. I think it was Mr Armitage. When he came he realised that the results achieved in rugby were so appalling that he changed it to football.
FH: Could I just add Stuart, the story about the Van de Graaff generator is on the website. I think it was Abbott, one of those six formers who who either brought one in or had purloined from a laboratory. Slug Riley was very prescient when opening the door.
GF: It was Abbott. He did several famous experiments. He used to live near the bottom of Cambridge Road in Ely. One night he inflated some gas balloons and launched a raft loaded with some explosive that was to climb up into the air and drift across to the Cathedral. Instead it got caught around the chimney pot on his house and did some damage.
[FH: My mistake, it wasn't Abbott, it was Aspin - the story was among the 2020 Reunion Anecdotes]
Eric Pearson SG60 (in Canada): Good morning to everybody. And I'll be the first to say it in Inuktitut - Ullaakut [pronounced Ull-law-koot] - which means Good Morning.
I joined in 1960, moved from Littleport in 1963 to Cambridge in that dreadful winter we had. I left in 1967 and did one year of VSO as a teacher in Labrador, fell in love with the climate, fell in love with the people and moved back in 1969.
I've been here ever since, not in Labrador, but moving around the country. Anybody who remembers their Geography will will remember the Hudson's Bay Company. I ended up with them for 20 years. Moved to northern Quebec for the rest of the time starting in 1988. I run my own business up here now. Very lucky to have seen Michael Yeomans who popped up here three years ago. I was also fortunate to hear from Norman Talbot last night. It's really good to be reacquainted with people when you're so far away and it's been 50 years in the making. Just glad to be here in this Reunion. Last year, I tried but we had a blizzard [which knocked out the internet]. So this year is much better, only about zero degrees.
Ed Reed SG67: I'm really pleased to be here this year. Last year I spent about a week in hospital with COVID. I'm pleased to say that I pretty much made a full recovery.
I was at the Grammar School from 67 to 72. Originally from Fordham, but I now live in Gloucester. A true Dr. Foster day here in Gloucester started down with rain, no sunshine at all.
I was one of the Scouts, not a very good one. I remember raising quite a lot of money over a year or two, as many of you will as well, for our Swimming Pool which was built next door to the Cricket Pavilion. Sometimes, on a warm Summer's Friday evening, when it was Scouts, we were allowed to go swimming in the pool.
One Friday we saw a solitary figure in the pool doing widths in the shallow end. It was the PE teacher, Barry Bartholomew. He'd got a book on on the side of the pool, which was something like How to teach yourself to swim in 10 easy lessons. Next to the book were his false teeth. And of course somebody progressed to run off with those false teeth. I'm pleased to say that I met him a few years ago when he came to one of our Reunions. Whoever it was was kind enough to return the false teeth to him.
One of the other things I've often mused about over the years at the Grammar School was the Cadet Force because most of us cadets fired on the shooting range I think I certainly did. I just wonder sort of these days How many schools there are with a fully stocked arsenal and copious supplies of ammunition.
FH: I live opposite one, St John's School, Leatherhead, a public school with a Combined Cadet Force.
Bob Robinson SG58: I came to Soham in 1958. I went to uni in Manchester and spent my life being an architect. No particular story. Good to see everybody.
David Scott SG66: I joined the alpha class of 66. Those of you who are good at Maths will know that I was there at the end of Soham Grammar School when we moved across to Ely. I'm particularly pleased to see my old Maths teacher, my namesake Peter Scott, here today. I lived in Ely then. I've been in banking, so I've moved around a fair bit. I worked in the North West for a while. I now live in Billericay in Essex.
I've got lots of sporting memories, particularly with Steve Yeomans, who's here. We spent many happy hours on the football field. And although Martyn Davies said he preferred rugby, he still played a mean game of football because he terrorised most people. When he was charging, you know, he still thought he was playing rugby, but he was playing football. So he did very well for my house, Ridley.
I don't think we've had a reminiscence about the Choir. Phil Green mentioned that Don Riley [English & Music 66-72] perhaps wasn't into musical instruments, but he was very much into the Choir. I have the distinction that - I think it was in either 68 or 69 - I appeared on Anglia Television with the choir. That was in the days before Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor. We appeared on the Easter Epilogue, which if you can recall, was the programme just before the screen went blank. There wasn't any recording equipment then or ITV Hub. So it was a very good excuse to stay up late.
Peter Scott, Maths 1960-72: It's good to see so many familiar faces that I haven't seen for a long time. You see far more of them with this arrangement than when sat at a long table for the Dinner. I taught Maths from 60 to 72, Cadet Force on Fridays, and in later years, some Computing coming in.
The computing stood me in good stead actually, because after 33 years teaching, I spent the remaining 17 years managing computers, initially for a bit at Shire Hall and then at the College in Ely. So I retired after 50 years with Cambridge Education, actually on my 75th birthday - some time ago now.
I'm living within sight of Beechurst, which I can see out of the living room window now - still, as I was then, at 22 Sand Street. Not much by way of anecdotes, though of course there are thousands. I do remember a visit from a police inspector trying to persuade me that I needed a Firearms Licence for the rifles and Bren guns in the Armoury. I managed to persuade him otherwise.
Peter Scott SG59: Peter Scott 59 to 64. I lived in Wilburton then and I live up near Lincoln now. We've been up here for the last 48 years.
The dining room does seem to have featured this afternoon. For the sweet, Mrs Jarrett used to give us a bowl of fresh fruit on occasion.
The bowl went around the table. Albert Punch Lawrance was head of our table at the time, and it ended up with an apple and a pear. So Albert offered the two fruits to Butcher who was from Littleport and said "Ah, Butcher, what would you like, the apple or the pear?".
"I think I'll have the pear, sir" said Butcher.
"No you won't, I want that, you have the apple!" said Albert, and that's how it panned out.
Made me laugh, but I was easily amused then. Still am I suppose.
Bob Sculthorpe SG63: I lived in Mepal in 1963 when I joined the Grammar School, one of the first to pass the 11 plus for many years from this little hamlet. I still live in Mepal, primarily, I suppose, because my father was a farmer, and it was comfortable.
I thank Soham Grammar School for having a very smelly chemistry lab, because Mr Wood walked in and said, "Anyone interested in accountancy, go and see the Careers Master." Off I went and I had a career in accountancy. I've retired now, although I have a son who runs our construction business. We've got plant hire. Sounds awfully grand, but it keeps the wolf from the door.
Stuart Nunn and Brian Simmons were two naughty boys from the year ahead of me. We used to have the tennis courts, as I'm sure we all remember, out on the Lawn. They decided one evening to play tennis dressed as penguins. Their shorts were at quarter mast. And there were one or two ladies there who complained that that this was not appropriate behaviour for the Grammar School boys.
Eric Pearson referred to 1963 being a very, very cold winter. We were coming home one evening on a 116 Eastern Counties omnibus, through the old road at Stuntney, where it lived up to its name near the church. Peter Bean from Wentworth and I were talking to the driver and we probably distracted him. As he braked for the corner, a bit like an ocean liner the bus just kept going just before it hit the verge or the bank on the other side. Fortunately, no damage was done to anyone.
But it certainly was a very cold winter. Some people may remember Greens of Soham. I was accountant for there for many years. I remember my old boss Andrew Green telling me that in 1963 they were shooting pheasant. They put them in the outhouse on Boxing Day. They unfroze on Good Friday.
My brother David [SG65] has just come back from Cornwall and Devon otherwise he'd be here. I don't know if anyone ever watches Master Chef, but he was on Series 13, episodes 3 and 4. He did pretty well with Greg Wallace and John Torode. Silly boy, he's an extraordinarily good cook, but when they said would you like to make something out of chocolate or something from the East, rather than picking Lowestoft he went much further and messed up. But there we go.
Peter Smith SG59: I joined Soham Grammar School in 1959 and I left in December 1964. I was an Ely boy at the time, but I left Ely about 50 years ago and went to Cambridge, Reading and Birmingham. I'm now living in Hereford, which is beautiful, love it here.
I thought I'd used up my anecdotes last year. But someone mentioned an apple, and suddenly I remembered the kitchen. The canteen at Soham needed apples. So Charlie Ford rounded up a few people who had nothing else to do. I was one of them. He asked us if we could go into the orchard, about half a dozen of us, and pick apples for the canteen. Then he left us to it. Which means for every apple we put in the basket, we ate one. By the time Charlie came back, not only were our baskets groaning with apples, so were our poor old bellies. We couldn't even look at an apple.
Charlie Ford looked at our bounty and said "Well done, chaps. As a reward you can have an apple."
Trevor Smith SG62 (in Thailand): Hello, good afternoon or good morning, everyone. Trevor Smith from Soham Grammar. 1962. Six years there, on and off. I was one of the Cambridge train boys. So I spent the best part of four years travelling by train with Eric Pearson. I was very happy to see he could join us this year, lovely guy. I was in the same year as Barry who spoke earlier. In Form 5 Remove I met Ranjit Kurrie, and as he said, we've remained friends throughout the years.
I ended up with six O Levels, with which I went off to run my own retail business for 12 years. I sold that business and bought a round-the-world air ticket, which brought me to Thailand and plunged me into the world of English as a Foreign Language [EFL] teaching. So I was quite happy to be an EFL teacher for the best part of 30 years. My anecdote is not really directly to do with the school. As we speak, my first book is in the process of being published. And so I'm afraid all SGS cats will be out of the bag because this book is about my life.
Norman Talbot SG60: Hello in particular to Michael, Eric, David and to Peter Scott who knew my parents in Wilburton very well. I was brought up there and I joined Soham Grammar School in 1960. I now live in South Birmingham.
I'll add a little story to a number we've already heard about that dining room. I'm reminded of it when I see the Harry Potter films. It's Hogwarts, but without the gloss and the glamour of the decor, and in particular, not the special food that they always seem to eat! I'll always remember the urgency with which you had to empty the main dish [container], because someone was allocated to rush to the servery with the empty dish to claim any extras that might be available.
Simon Thornhill SG65: I was at Soham Grammar School between 1965 and 1972, which makes me the year group that saw the Grammar School right through to the end. I always remember the Farewell Service at the Parish Church in Soham very well.
Mr & Mrs Armitage ran the Boarding House as most of you probably knew. I was a boarder there all my school life, even though I was from Cambridge. My father thought it would do me good. I had a very nice time there at Soham. One of my best mates was Vincent, Vince Gudgeon, who was supposed to be here today. And as we've heard he has just got COVID but I did see him about three or four weeks ago so I'm pretty sure it wasn't me who gave it to him.
I had a nickname at school. My story is RAT gave it to me. Those who knew me at school would probably know I was called Xerxes. I do remember very well the moment I got that nickname. RAT was teaching us about the Persian Empire. He was amused by this name and obviously I was quite amused by it as well. He said, "Thornhill" - I'm not getting the accent very well - "What a name - Xerxes Thornhill." Everyone laughed and that was my name throughout the rest of my time.
[FH - I'm told RAT bestowed the name Xerxes on at least one other over the years.]
I was also in the Scouts and Venture Scouts. Unfortunately, I lost one of Dalai [Hart]'s Scout tents. He loaned one to me when I very bravely - and most amazingly, my parents allowed me to do this - decided at the age of 16 to go off to Mount Etna entirely on my own, to watch the volcano erupting. I had some vague notion that I'd just walk up the mountain side, pitch my tent and watch the volcano. So naive, and it seems ridiculous now. Everything got stolen and all I had left was six pence in old money. It was quite a procedure to get home. I lost Dalai's Scout tent, but I think he forgave me in the end. I live in Edgware now. I did live in Cambridge, as I said earlier, and was an engineer with Eastern Electricity for 46 years after I left Soham and got my degree.
Piet Walton-Knight SG52: I was at Soham Grammar School from 1952 to 59. I was raised in Witcham and currently live in South Derbyshire. My career started with Rolls Royce through what's now the University of the South Bank and then the University of Aston. I spent my career developing and applying high performance materials primarily for aerospace.
Looking back at the school there is a particular incident that is curious. The current 'woke' society would consider it horrendous. But in the early 50s, things were different. It was then hilarious.
Sid Saunders had been our Form Master for our first year and it was the last day of the Summer Term, and things were getting relaxed. Sid had maintained discipline through the year with the aid of a large gym shoe that he called his slipper. He checked his record, and noticed that there was just one boy who throughout the year hadn't seen the benefit of his discipline.
Now being slippered was somewhat of a status symbol by then, and this poor lad hardly felt he was one of the group, with no idea what he had been missing. Amid cries of "Whack him!" the lad was marched to the front, rear end tightened, where with due ceremony, Sid administered the baptism to great cheering and clapping. Now the lad, no names, no pack drill, had just become one of us.
JD: I think like most people who remember Sid can remember the slipper. It doesn't go away, does it?,
Denis Wilkins SG53: I was 1953. Good to see Mad Bull Chris here. I was one of the bus boys. I lived in Fen Ditton in Cambridge. I always felt a bit resentful, you know, that we could never join in any of these after-school activities, but there we are. I remember a very cold Winter when 'Misery', the bus driver, insisted we all got out to try and dig the bus out from that bridge at Fordham.
I went on to to Liverpool, where the coppers were big carried a big stick, and usually had an Alsatian. The criminals were pretty frightened. I was lucky enough to be there during the emergence of the Beatles so that was a good time. Went on and had a career in medicine. I ended up in Cornwall, just on the other side of the Tamar.
The slipper story just sparked something. You know, I can remember being caned and I can remember Mr Armitage saying "Do you want it on the hand or the backside?" I can't remember what it was for. So it sort of probably defeated its object a bit, I think. But very happy days.
John Woodward [SG58] who was Cambridge boy lives down in this part of the world and I saw him last Friday. We have a Devon and Cornwall Polar Society meeting which he organises to celebrate the anniversary of Shackleton's last expedition, which left from Plymouth. I see John regularly. I don't know about Alan Hill [SG53]. Chris Bent [SG53] sadly lost his lovely wife Valerie this this year.
David Woodroffe SG60: Soham Grammar 1960. Living then in Stretham, now in Luton ... there is life in Luton, believe me.
I'm here today because being a 60er Mike Yeomans was a good friend of mine when we were at school. He and Eric Pearson between them are responsible for my enduring love of classical music. Eric would put on a record while we gathered for Assembly. I always asked Eric afterwards what was it he was playing because it had sounded interesting. Mike Yeomans ran the Record Library and I helped him with that. And so that got me involved with music. And these days in Luton, I'm a regular attender at the Luton Music Club. So Mike Yeomans did have an effect on music, even though he chose Pharma.
Ivor Wright SG43: I am the senior member here by a long way. I was at Soham Grammar School from 1943 to 1948. I lived in Haddenham then and I still live here. I've had a life in the building industry apart from three years at London Polytechnic and two years of National Service. I remember the names of all the people in my class. My daughter sitting by me, arranged all this, has heard that many times. I remember the 'Big Five' schoolteachers, Bish Johnson, Charlie Ford, Slug Riley, Taffy Thomas, and George Hunt. They were the main ones at the school at the time I was there. Then we did begin to have a load of newer people who came along.
I've attended Soham Grammar School OB Dinners since I left school, only missing the last four or five years for various reasons. I've enjoyed it every time. I'm glad it's still going strong under the auspices of Frank and John. Thanks to my daughter and my son-in-law for fixing it all up for me today.
I enjoyed all my time at school and I've enjoyed all my life ever since. I've been very fortunate and reached the age of 89 years. With Alan Bethell who died some time ago I arranged the Old Boys' Dinners for some time when they reached a very low ebb with only about 30 attenders. Then Roger Lane took over and it built up from there. And now Frank has got it on the computer and everything. So I wish you all the best of luck for the future. Thank you.
Roger Wright SG48: 48 to 52. Got my tie on. I enjoyed Soham immensely. It was a great asset, going to the school. It opened doors quite a lot. I joined the Police Force. It was on record - Soham Grammar School - there were a lot of Soham Grammar School when I joined at Huntingdon and then we became Cambridgeshire. It was a good career.
Michael Yeomans SG60 (in New Jersey, USA and this year's speaker): I joined Soham Grammar School in 1960. I'm very happy to see David Woodroffe and Norman and Eric Pearson. Peter Scott, of course, was teaching.
I'll not say much as I'm going to be talking to you again in a few minutes. But the story about the end of Summer term did did trigger one memory in my mind.
Every year, some of the boys would compete to see who could do the most outlandish prank at the end of the Summer term. The thing that sticks in my mind most, being of a chemical disposition, was that one year, somebody - I think I know who it was, but I'm not telling - borrowed a jar of potassium permanganate from the Chemistry Lab, and poured it into the main water tank of the school. So all the taps and all the toilets were flushing purple for the rest of the day. I don't know if anybody else remembers this.
[Barry Parr - "I got the cane for it."] Oh, you did? Okay, well, I'm glad that you you owned up to it, Barry, because I sometimes wondered if I just dreamt this story. I thought it was a brilliant stunt.
Steve Yeomans SG65: I'm the younger brother. I was 1965 so I was one of the last people through. I currently live in wild West Wales on a smallholding near Aberystwyth so quite a long way from home which was Ely.
I decided to pick up on Simon Thornhill's story because although I have mixed memories of Soham, the last day was the Service in the church, the the actual day the school closed. We sang the Hallelujah Chorus in the church. We walked down the church path, shaking hands with all the teachers - then across the road and straight in the pub. That's my fond memory.
Christopher Dubas/Pearce: I used to sit in front of Steve. You used to help me with my non-existent French. You probably don't remember how I was terrible at French. And who was our teacher used to scare the life out of me? [chorus of Dalai Hart] Those eyes. He just looked at me and I almost peed my pants, you know, but he was obviously a good bloke.
Alan Barber 1959
John Delanoy 1942
Wayne Fisk 1958
John Fordham 1947
John Gentle 1959
Des Gutteridge 1934
Doug Heaps 1931
Leon Kitchen (History 1951-57)
Charlie Maschke 1967
Alan Mason (Lab Tech 1966-72)
Geoff Newell 1951
Dannie Nicholas 1959
Graham Place 1969
Norman South 1946
Reg Stokes 1953
Fred Thurling 1948
Ray Thurston 1939
Barry Woodroffe 1950
Terence Wright 1937