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The Main School Buildings - 1965
If, having read this, you think I have forgotten anything, then please mail me. I wouldn't mind hearing from anyone else who was there at around this time.
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I was at this all-boys school from 1965 to 1969, first as a dayboy then as a boarder.
Introduction and General Information.
The headmaster during my time was Lowther Grendon Tippet, whose study was full of old Zulu memorabilia (swords, shields etc) helped by his wife (?) (who drove an old white Porsche ), a Matron, a Sister, a junior nurse and about 20 staff as I recall.
On joining the school you were assigned a number (I was 61) and a Clan (North, South, East or West) which engendered a "work for your team" spirit - all sorts of items went towards the Clan Cup (sports, academic success etc).
Dayboy times were from 8.45 in the morning until 6.30pm in the evening, when our parents could pick us up. My first form teacher was Col Morris, but when Mrs. Kelsey saw my handwriting she was appalled... I started at a late age (I was just under 10) and I came straight from a primary school where we had written with biros...she had to teach me to write all over again with pen and ink.
I remember the strange uniform - herring bone tweed jacket and shorts (even in Winter) with the pockets sewn up so you were unable to put your hands in them, a grey flannel shirt, blue, yellow and brown (?) stripey tie, grey socks with garters and black shoes. Once you were in the top-form, you could wear long trousers on Sundays and on Speech day. Two pairs of shoes - one for outside and one for inside. The whole uniform specification was very rigid, even down to specifying two wooden hairbrushes. When I started to board ("All boys will board from the age of 10 onwards") we discovered that all the clothes which had been ordered from Rowes of Bond Street (the school outfitters) were miles too big. I remember feeling v strange once my parents had left me at school. It was as bad for them, too, I think. Strange bed, strange pyjamas (far too big) and dressing gown (also too big) , both the old fashioned sort with a cord. My flannel smelt of toothpaste and the toothpaste smelt equally of flannel.
Library showing the Uniform.
And it was the first time I had come across a wooden pen with a metal nib, blotting paper and an inkwell in the desk.
The School Week.
We used to get up in the morning (7.10 and 7.20) after some early riser had woken before us and rung the handbell round all of the dormitories. Then we all trooped downstairs and washed and dressed. Generally we had about 25 mins before breakfast so we would read the paper or catch up on revision. I also remember the old ceramic gas fires, where the master pulled on a small chain and then used a match to light the gas, which spent the rest of the time making pinging noises as the lesson progressed. We were weighed and measured at the start and end of each term and these values appeared faithfully in each term's report. Anyone remember the barber who used to come in every 3 or 4 weeks and cut our hair in the dorm where the new boys slept?
On Monday mornings after breakfast, there was the "kick off" for the week in Big School, where all the masters sat on the stage and the headmaster gave out praise (Merit Marks - see Recreation later), and called out the names of those for punishment who would be summoned to his study later in the day.
The teachers I remember? Tippett, obviously, Michael Jonas (Latin) , Mr Coombe(Maths), Edgington, Plowden(Geog) who wore a hearing aid and took shooting (I wonder if one occurred because of the other because we never wore any kind of ear protection), Mrs. Kelsey(who was retired but taught the youngest) , Colonel Morris who took Latin and always used to hit us on our backsides if we got anything wrong ("bam,bas,bat is a was or a were with a sting on the end") . J M Gwynne Jones (Scripture), Miss Bradshaw (Science), Mr. Beazley (odd job man), Mr Price (Music), Mr Owen (History and pipe smoker, even during class - he used to give out humbugs if we did well with our evening prep).He also made us write out incorrect spellings 3 times. If you made a mistake, then you had to do the same 6 times - Once, I managed a record 9 times and a slap !
The bells for lessons were automatically controlled by a big old brass clock in the main hallway with a mercury switch and solenoid, which would be worth money as an antique now. Lessons (40 mins each with 5 min break between) went from 9.00 to mid morning (3 lessons) when there was a break (1/3 pint bottles of milk, oranges, vitamins, cod liver oil tablets) then back for 2 more lessons before lunch. Afternoon/evening lessons, depending on the season, consisted of another 3 lessons.
Academic studies included Latin (from the age of 9 with Kennedy's Latin Primer), French, English (the Dragon Book of Verse), History, Mathematics, Geography, Science (in the "brand new" science building) and Scripture. We always stayed in the same classroom and the masters came to us - and we always had to stand up when they entered and left the classroom. If you needed stationery of any kind (always new nibs, mine never lasted more than a day !) then you had to fill out a cheque from your own cheque book and present it to the master in charge of stationery supplies.
After dinner was prep (evening work) which usually consisted of two sessions - this started around 7.00 and ended at 8.30, then it was bedtime.
This consisted of another wash (or a bath - two per week) then Matron asking if you had been to the toilet (3 no's and you got a dose of oil!). Foot inspections were held twice per term. And who could forget the ancient 1940's UV machine in the shoe locker room which we all had to stand around in the Winter for our radiation top-up! It had two 9 inch UV lamps held within a large metal frame which you could raise and lower from the ceiling. The smell of ionised air has stayed with me to this day. We stood around in underpants, wearing goggles and started with 1 minute facing it, then turned round and another minute on the back. By the end of the Michaelmas term we were up to 5 minutes each side! Under this section of the floor were the boot rooms which, if I close my eyes, I can still recall the odour today!! Head examinations were once per 2 weeks. I remember that evening Prayers were said in each dormitory by the headmaster and Matron, followed by lights-out. Anyone caught messing around after this usually received a severe telling off, or 4 whacks with the hairbrush.
All boarders slept in the school buildings where the dorms held anything from 2 to 12 boys and bedclothes consisted of 2 sheets and a counterpain. No duvets! Winter heating was provided by a solitary 2 inch pipe running round the edge of the room. All boys had to make their beds in the morning and they all had to look as precise as the photo below, hospital corners included otherwise you had to remake it. Though there was also a house opposite the main school entrance, whose name I forget ("Gringers"?) , where one or two of the single masters lived. Towards my last term a few of the boys also ended up here as the school was so full.
We had our hands checked by a prefect before every meal - any dirt or ink and you would have to go back and wash them again - it took some boys 3 or 4 goes to get into the dining room. Meals were always prepared by Mrs. Ryan & Mrs. Darke, there must have been other members of cooking staff because the kitchens were huge, but I never remember seeing them.
Breakfast would be tea (no coffee at St P) and either porridge or kedgeree, bread, butter and usually boiled eggs.
Lunch consisted of a main course and a hot pudding. The main course would be stew, or curry and always fish on Fridays. Desserts were always hot - jam roly-poly, spotted disk, and the best thing they ever cooked - chocolate crumble!
I remember we had no pepper on the tables, just a glass salt cellar and a small spoon. The staff used to eat with us. If you didnt finish your meal, you were told to sit there until you had eaten it, even if it meant being late for a lesson or games, which put you further into trouble. As a prefect, you sometimes sat on TopTable with the Headmaster and the other fortunate staff who didnt have to sit at the same tables as the revolting pupils. However this had its drawbacks in that you had to cut bread from a fresh loaf for the masters. They were looking for Victorian slices, I always produced door-stops! After lunch, the younger pupils (children really, they were only about 8 yrs old) went off for a sleep, while the rest of us read in the library (full of books and stuffed birds in glass cases which the headmaster and his forefathers had shot), or outdoors in Summer if we were lucky.
Afternoon tea was optional and consisted of large mugs of milky tea served in pale blue metal cups and bread spread thickly with Marmite from huge jars. At todays prices we must have gone through at least £5 worth each per week. In Summer, we were free after tea: In Winter we had to go back in for the final 2 lessons. There were no lessons on Saturday afternoons.
Dinner (ham salad or something similar in Summer, Winter menus escape me for the timebeing!) started around 6.30pm and that's when the Dayboys could go home..
There were no facilities for making your own tea or coffee. If you were thirsty between meals you had to drink water and if you were hungry, well tough! In fact we only had two different things to drink, tea in the mornings and at teatime, or water. There was a tuck shop, a cupboard located under the stairs on the way up to chapel, open twice per week I think - only for 1/2 hour after lunch - where we were allowed to spend 1s 8d per week (about 7p by today's standards) which would buy you a Mars bar (a rare treat) and a couple of packets of Refreshers. No fizzy drinks were allowed and it was also forbidden for parents to send you in with any food. A couple of us got round that by having false bottoms in the tuck boxes (which were supposed to be used for books) and then levering up the floorboards in the dorms and hiding crisps and sweets. All went well until I was ill once and the floorboards were nailed down while I was in the sanitorium (which was fitted with "Vita glass" - what was that?).
On the walls of the dining room were details of the 1st teams from previous years... I suppose my name must be up there somewhere.
The Dining Room - "Big School" end
As with other boarding schools, in Winter we did games after lunch (rugby, hockey or soccer for the little ones) followed by another 2 lessons. In Summer this was reversed. Games in Winter were often accompanied by the awful smell from the nearby Brillo factory. I remember the first time I had to wear garters to hold up my socks and shorts (nothing allowed underneath) which were held up with a sash, which was incredibly difficult to untie in wet weather! For Summer cricket, we had to wear white including white canvas cricket shoes with metal spikes.
There was also 0.22 indoor shooting, held in the range to the right of the school buildings adjacent to the hockey/cricket pitch. These were Martini action rifles, and we shot 5 bull inner and 10 bull outer targets, plus the occasional bit of Snap-shooting at speed. It held me in good stead...I am still able to enter the Chas R E Bell competition each year at Bisley if I so wish. My St P's 99/100 target is proudly hanging in my garden shed - and Tippet gave me a Mars bar for achieving that score !
The grounds were huge. As you came down the drive from Gringer Hill, there were 2 hockey pitches/cricket pitches to the left adjacent to the drive and on the right there were another 3 full size rugby pitches, 2 cricket nets, boys gardens and a lone football pitch at the far end near Cordwallis Road. This was all surrounded by woodland in which we used to play during Summer weekends. I think there were 3 full time ground staff and I remember the sound and smell of ancient Atcos mowing the cricket wickets in the Summer. At the back of Private Side were gardens with a croquet lawn (where Speech Day was always held) and a solitary tennis court.
1968 All-conquering Rugby 2nd XV
Back Row ...................................Newton....................?????........................????....................Dale Lee..................????....................????
Middle Row....................................?????.................Swann?............Col. Morris..........Kennett............Mr. Coombe.........Johnson............?????
Front Row...................................................................?????.............................??????....................................??????..................................Boxer Singh
(Mail me if you know any of these!)
Cricket field in front of the school buildings
Once you were 11 yrs old you could take up shooting with 0.22 small-bore rifles at the indoor range. This was good fun - the school did well in competitions and sometimes this meant you had to leave a lesson early to go and shoot a card !
Gym consisted of jumping over ancient wooden horses and some calisthenics. This was always taken by Mr Coombe. Funny how you never learned their Christian names and to this day I would probably still call him "sir". The gym was wooden and fell down soon after I left, I think. In the Summer there was a gymnastic display put on for the parents - we went through gallons of shoe whitener as the headmaster insisted everything was pristine for this show.
The "tubs" bring back less welcome memories - leg baths full of cold water (at the far end of this photo) , which were all we we had to wash in after playing rugby or hockey (no football at St. Piran's) - and we had to use large wooden scrubbing brushes to clean ourselves. The rule was Silence in the Changing Rooms at all times. I also remember the toilet paper which was similarly uncomfortable - hard, non-absorbant and had "MOD Property" or something similar stamped over it!!
Private Side Gardens
Oh, and who could forget the indoor, unheated swimming pool that was freezing cold, whatever the weather outside. 2ft 6 to 5ft 6 with a diving board.
Speech Day was always the same - same speeches, generally the same boys winning each year. The parents made an effort, my Mum usually bought a new hat ! Mr Tippett's speech which always mentioned that "every boy should be able to read and understand the Daily Telegraph by the age of 11" - indeed that was our only contact with the outside world, so we had to read it! No radios allowed, no TV (except when the first men landed on the moon and the occasional cricket or rugby match).
Weekends and Recreation.
There were 5 lessons on Saturday morning, one of which was singing practice for the service on Sunday and the whole school had to attend unless you were lucky enough to be selected to go around every classroom refilling the inkwells. After lunch there was always sport, either a home or away match. If you weren't in a team and there was a home match, your parents could visit.
Chapel on Sundays was prefaced by boys ringing handbells down the main staircase (you held one bell while learning, then two when you were more proficient). . Then we all trooped up to the chapel for a service taken by Mr Tippett with Mr Price on the organ. Sunday afternoons were generally free, but some weekends there were films shown on the Bell & Howell 8mm projector, or someone came in to give a talk. Rainy Sunday afternoons were taken up with the model club (building plastic aircraft) or playing table tennis in the gym. If it was fine, we would be allowed out to walk around the grounds, read, fly model planes etc. One room had a full size snooker table which was well used. I remember, one Sunday Autumn afternoon, being volunteered to cut logs with what seemed like a 2-man 4-foot logging saw for a couple of hours - which ended up on the Private Side fire, I am sure !Other former pupils have emailed me with some other memories - notably Fly Fishing training on the Tippet's lawn.
We were allowed home for 2 Sundays each term, plus half-term. Visits from parents were strictly controlled - they could only visit 3 times per term on Saturday afternoons when we sat in the car after games..usually drinking very sweet cocoa and eating cakes! We used to write letters home twice per week, one of which was compulsory on Sundays. They used to be read and censored by the headmaster. It was a dreadful thing to be at school with no stamps, I can tell you. It meant you had no means of contacting the outside world at all. If you wrote home more often than twice per week, the chances were that it wouldnt be posted. Telephoning home was not permitted.
About the only way to get out (other than half-term and the two weekends allowed home) was to take Dancing lessons on Thursday afternoons. This involved getting into a coach and being driven to Doris Urquart's dancing school where we were paired up with a similar number of girls from another local school and taught to waltz, cha-cha-cha and quickstep. I have forgotten all of this since.
Punishments & Rewards
I remember being sent often to the bench by the staircase having committed some minor misdemeanour (running in the corridor for example). You were told to sit here for 10 or 20 minutes. Another master always came past (if you were unlucky it was the Head) and asked you what you had done. Otherwise it was the hairbrush (before bedtime) which I received twice - once for being caught outside after dark and once for playing outside in the fog in winter. There was also a cane, but it was used very rarely.
For poor academic work, one was given a Satis Card which had to be signed by every master after every lesson. Three non-Satis marks meant you were beaten with the hairbrush.
I remember once when someone bent a spoon in the dining room. This was a really serious crime - no-one owned up so we were all forced to stay in on a Saturday afternoon, dayboys included, and learn the Beatitudes and part of the the Catechism by heart. Every boy had to recite it to a master and you couldn't leave until you had succeeded. If you managed to learn all of this before 4.00pm, they gave us poems to learn to take us through to 6.00pm. Dayboy parents were not too amused at this incident as it meant their own Saturday was messed up and they only saw their children for the Sunday.
Senior boys were appointed as Prefects or Deputy Prefects - this meant you could wear long trousers at weekends, and were responsible for administering minor punishments (such as the bench). The headmaster pinned a heavy metal badge to your blazer whilst announcing loudly : "Do your duty without fear or favour".
Whilst at St. P they introduced Merit Marks. You were awarded one merit mark per week for general behaviour and you could pick up extra ones for being a good citizen. They could also be taken away if you werent! If you earned 21 points during the term, there was a Merit Mark outing at the end of term. I dont remember many of these - but I do remember going to see the musical version of Oliver! in London. It was memorable because the coach broke down near Regent Street and we had to walk to Leicester Square from there. That must have been a nightmare for the staff, trying to keep 30 adventurous boys in tow in London.
I passed CE and went on to Shrewsbury School which seemed rule-free after St Pirans. As a teenager I remember reading Down with Skool by Ronald Searle and thinking how true it all was!
Now, of course, everything is much more civilised - to see the changes check out the official St Pirans Web Site
Also see the link between St Pirans and these people: Jack the Ripper and Aubrey Faulkner (cricketer)
Last revised: May 22, 2013
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