Harrow County School for Boys

Reminiscences of Neil Forbes 1971-76

My recollections, frozen in time, for the five (yes five) years I was there leave me knowing everything (and nothing!) about HCS.  What happened before '71 or after '76 almost inconsequential to my memories and these random ramblings.

The school I joined in '71 was the county's grammar school.  Mortar boards, capes, strange customs and rules that had to be obeyed, but one never really knew why.  By '76 it was a comprehensive.  Entry to the VI form was closed.  Somewhere in the middle was the end of an era.

I'm vaguely aware of:

* the disappointment of my parents when, after some sort of campaigning the area's politics moved to the right but the school was still going to "go comprehensive";
* some form of school inspection happening which meant that we had to do more practical and less pure academic subjects;
* the rise of political parties of the extreme right wing, and the resulting debates in class.  Many boys patently being influenced by the extreme racist views of their parents.

Others may be able to add some "flesh" to these bare bones of memories.

More meaningful to me, at the time, were the day to day minutia that some how get etched indelibly in to the brain.  That said, please feel free to contribute to or correct any of them:

* Those confusing room numbers.  I guess a never explained re-build, lost (to me) in history was responsible for rooms on the ground floor being "missing" and out of numerical order. Just the odd one mind, enough to confuse new boys and visitors, but not enough to alarm the unwary least they not be lost too, and therefore late for;

* the scary teachers - who were, in retrospect, the most respected.
HARRY MEES - I used to sit at the front of the class for fear of making a humiliating mistake in history.  And he wouldn't let us take notes!
BERNIE MARCHANT - Who I spoke to once only (to chose my O level options);
JAGO - who stormed in to a room and slammed the door as usual to attract attention.   On this occasion the putty in some of the windows failed to hold them in.  I wish I'd thought of that!

*  the waterbombing of a passing member of the public.  Of course we all knew who'd done it; of course we all knew that, despite the general stern lecture and threats of mass detentions, we were not supposed to "grass".  All except one who, I guess to enhance his abhorrent reputation, seized the day and did just that!  We were right.  At "home time" the "snitch" was seen running away at speed, closely followed by the aledged culprit, both to the undisguised  laughter of a number of masters watching from the main door steps;

* The disappearing lockers.  Lockers arrived for all.  I guess as a means to stop petty thefts - pity was that any given locker itself could be "disappeared", sometimes for weeks on end until it "miraculously" turned up again -great scam for homework not handed in on time, or to miss PE;

* Did the army cadets really shoot at a civilian hovercraft?  I've no idea.   I wasn't there - were you?  It did make the national TV news!

* The French exchange visits.  Who would have the logistical capabilities, talent, and, let's face it, sheer bottle, to guide hoards of 13+ year olds over the channel?  Depositing some in Paris and some much further south.  All to stay with families for three weeks without any escape. Who other than Major Hughie Skillen.  The more I think about it, the scarier it sounds here in 2002, some 30 years later.  Times have changed.  Two memories emerge from the mist.  Did they find the lad who got lost in the transfer between stations in Paris?  Was it you?  Exchange control was in place, and we were all being searched at Dover.  A big queue was forming.  Major S announced to Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, "We haven't got time for this!" and "marched" us all around the queue and on to the boat.  Something about rules, fools and wise men comes to mind;

* The one way system and resulting carnage - As Harrow was being re-designed the school became an island surrounded by lanes of fast moving traffic for several years.  There were casualties as boys rushed to catch buses.  I believe that there was also a fatality but not from HCS so I don't know too much about it.  Gayton Road has now returned to normality but the area still appears to be changing constantly - well from return visit to return visit anyway;

* Sock inspection - the school still had a uniform in the 1970's of blazer, shirt, tie and trousers, but did we really need to have grey sock inspection at morning registration?  Every morning for weeks on end?;

* During the 1970's the school tuck shop grew beyond all recognition.  So big, in fact, that it sold pots, pans, household goods and even accepted orders for cars! From little acorns grew the concept of the "Bengy Spoon".  Bengy - named after the tuck shop's driving force.  Spoon, well that's what they were.  Little plastic spoons made for disposable catering.  But they could be used for flicking clay slip at the art room ceiling, or small pieces of chewed up paper soacked in what ever you liked.  The projectile nearly always moved with great speed, sticking itself on it's target, "never" to be removed;

* Bullies never really caused me a problem but Col. Venn's advice (very non-PC now) always impressed me.  If you're being bullied don't tell a teacher.  Hit the bully hard.  You may get hit hard back but you won't be bullied by them ever again.  I've used this advice twice - it works;

* Mr Gupta (Physics) had a bad habit of tweaking boys' ears hard when they weren't paying attentiion.  He was "cured" after one lad fitted a false ear which ripped off in the master's hand to his cries of terror;

and finally two quotes of the early 1970's which, whilst you guess you had to be there, just have to be recorded:
*  "You boy, you in the green blazer"
*  "If you're going to guff, guff in the fume cupboard".

Neil Forbes,  2002


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