Harrow County Memories
by Phillip Alexander Arnold (1940-47)
My school career was undistinguished to the extreme. I remember that HCS was the premier grammar school in the district and had the distinction of its pupils sitting School Certificate one year earlier than other schools. This was beneficial to me since having started in 1940 I was evacuated to Wendover in Bucks and effectively lost a year of my schooling. I was thereafter always one year older than my classmates and took School Certificate at the same age as pupils at other schools but a year later than my fellow Gaytonians.
Randall Williams I remember as a rather pedantic man probably more suited for the ministry than a headmaster. My one vivid memory of him is of an incident which I think illustrated his pedantry. Although I eventually cycled to school from my home in North Harrow, in my earlier years at school, I travelled by the 183 bus. It was my misfortune to be pestered by a conductor who insisted on reciting nursery rhymes to me whenever he was the conductor on the bus I was using. Eventually, tiring of his childishness, I told him to take a running jump. Alas Randall Williams was also a regular passenger.
Shortly after this contretemps, the whole school was summoned into the hall and Randall Williams began to work out who had disgraced the school by speaking so rudely to the conductor. A simple process of elimination. Who came to school by bus? Who travelled by 183? And so on. Eventually, of course, there was just me and I was forced to apologised the next time I met the conductor. I supposed the whole operation served some purpose.
As they say, it all comes flooding back to me 60 years ago, I remember the masters. Art master, Georgie Neal with half moon glasses, Killer King, Whiffy King, Biology master, Eggy Webb so-called after his initials 'E.G.', would stand on his head in class if asked, Cob Webb, mechanical drawing at the art school with a large cyst on his forehead, Beaky Fooks with his great shining dome, Reg Attridge the German master, Spadger Heys, the Physics master this was a cruel nickname, he walked with a stick -, George Thorn, Dr 'Sorbo' Hartland, languages, nicknamed after his rotund figure, senior master 'Creeper' Davies, he wore thick soled shoes, Sammy Watson, round face, round glasses, and others of whom I have particular memories, Swanny Amos, Parky Parkinson, Jack Hackman, Jerry Cast, Twinkle Bradley, George Armstrong, Charles Crinson, a geography master, and Dickie Dyer. There were others but although I recognise their names, I have no memory of them.
Swanny Amos was the PT master and I thought at the time rather a sadist. I suspect he had had a military career in the past. He used to supervise the end of breaks in the playground when we used to line up in lines according to classes. If anyone talked, he was not concerned with the culprit, he waded into the general area and hit all those around about the head with his hand. He was also in charge of games and accepted no excuses for late attendance or absence from practices. If you didnt attend however good the reason, you were out of the team.
Parky was a delightful Yorkshire man with a deep rich voice. His method of teaching was to copy his notes onto the blackboard in a wonderful characteristic script. Year after year he did this and I suspect the notes changed very little over the years. I seem to recall he went to school with or knew JB Priestley since he spoke of him occasionally and I remember him describing how in his childhood he had to walk an inordinate number of miles to school every morning and the same distance back at night. His claim to fame so far as we schoolboys were concerned, was that he had two good looking daughters who went to the Girls County.
Jack Hackman was our form master, at least in the sixth form. He liked to be thought of as one of the boys ie one of us. His subjects were Economics and British Constitution. He lived at Berrylands and was an Independent local councillor. He invited the form across one evening to his house and I can remember travelling out to Berrylands by train from Waterloo. Being wartime we had a number of women teachers and I recall the sensation when he married one of them, Miss Gower of a similar age to himself. There was some talk of an indiscretion in the book room but this was probably just schoolboy gossip.
Jerry Cast was a character. He would send boys on messages to other masters during lesson time and would always insist on the boy commencing his message with Mr Cast sends his complements. Then a question What are you to say? And probably on the return of the boy, What did you say?. What liars we were! In those days there were a lot of tramps around who used their own written sign language. He was pleased to see a sign outside his house until he found out it meant, No good here. He loved telling this story.
I never had any contact with Dr Twinkle Bradley. His nickname came from the rhyme, Twinkle, twinkle Dr Bradley, Why do you shout at us so madly, Because we do our homework badly, Twinkle , twinkle Dr Bradley. He was keen on rowing and use to take boys rowing on the Thames.
George Armstrong was a sad case. He was reported to be a Cambridge rowing blue. He left to join up but returned I suspect because he was medically unfit. He taught Geography but was totally unable to control a class. He was ragged mercilessly. A typical example was that there was a masters chair which had lost all its glue and if moved would come apart. The class would substitute this for his own chair with the result that it disintegrated leaving him just with the top in his hand.
One embarrassing occasion I remember when the class was in its usual uproar. The door burst open and Charles Crinson stormed in. He was one of those masters who never had any problem with controlling a class. No-one would dare to try anything on him. There was instant silence. In front of George Armstrong who he completely ignored he indicated that if there was an other squeak the offender would feel his wrath. Looking back now, I am sure that George Armstrong was in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Schoolboys are so cruel.
Dickie Dyer was I think a clergyman of some sort who was recruited by Randall Williams to fill a vacancy on his staff. He was deputed to explain to us the intricacies of the birds and bees. It was an absolute hoot. Could you explain that again, sir?. The only thing I can remember is that we were advised not to think about girls in the bath!
Cyril Atkins was the school secretary and had a withered arm. I thought him a little severe but schoolboys can be troublesome. He lived in a small office at the top of the stairs as you came through the front door. The other side I think was the staff common room. One remembers funny things. I won a prize for my Higher Schools result which I only became aware of when I had left. He promised to let me have a plate for the book I had purchased with the money but it never came
Only my years in the sixth form were spent in peace time. In the later years with doodle bugs, the siren only meant taking shelter under our desks and then only until the explosion. Wartime at school became growing up and progressing through the school until one was called up. Too often the six former passed from prefect to a name on the memorial roll.
The coming of peace lead to a new headmaster although there was a temporary head, Crowle Ellis if I remember correctly. He was liked. Simpson, the new head, on the other hand, was I recall disliked by school and masters alike. The fact that he had played Cricket! for Scotland just about summed it up. He had no sense of humour and was ribbed by his pupils usual to his ignorance. At the back of my mind I seem to recollect he discontinued the house concerts. Each house presented a short sketch or series of sketches, I think, at Christmas. Naturally they were used to present a humorous commentary on school affairs. Such light hearted skits would be an anathema to such a humourless person.
The school was keen on sport. We played rugby so that raised our profile in comparison with other schools which played soccer. With the half completed extension unfinished, almost no sport apart from athletics was played on the school field. Rugby I remember was played on an uphill pitch at Peterborough Road. The pitch below ours was used by the Girls County for Lacrosse there. There was a first fifteen, a second and a number of junior sides. Besides Tottenham County and Tottenham Grammar, home and away we had single matches against
Harrow School and Merchant Taylors which we dutifully lost. After the match with Harrow we were squired by Harrow boys to eat beans on toast in their Tuck Shop.
I dont think we were so good at cricket. We once were all out for two runs both extras, when playing Bishopholt. We had standards to achieve for athletics. I remember the hardest one for me was the 440 yards - 70 sec! There was a cock house cup contested by the four houses, Northwick to which I belonged, Kenton, Weldon and Preston.
In later years when I had left school, I learnt there was a little known honour for HCS. About that time there was a soap on the radio called Mrs Dales Diary, the diary of a GP. In the background notes about the soap, it was explained that Dr and Mrs Dales son had attended HCS!