Peter Chambers (SH 44-48)
has sent in some reminiscences of his time at the school:

“Seeing your address stirred-up memories of the occasional egg-raids on Abbey Farm surrounds and of being menaced by the farm dogs while so doing! We were all very hungry in those post-war days and the school nourishment was extremely meagre: porridge, horse and whale meat! During my visit in 1994, I found the whole system had changed very much for the better. There were carpets on the floor, functioning central heating everywhere, cosy and luxurious studies; no more compulsory runs to High Walton or Sea Mills within strict time limits and in all weathers, the murky old swimming-pool (where we had to swim nude, for some outrageous reason) had been spruced up, a huge new administrative building was on the old tennis court, another palace of education in place of the first world war ex-army huts, which had been set up as freezing, draughty, temporary classrooms, and last but by no means least, girls to break up the severity of the school atmosphere. Yes, one would cheerfully board at St Bees today and for twice the four years which I suffered there!
The hard and harsh life of St Bees in my time did set one up for life ahead. I remember that basic training in the army at Catterick seemed a heavenly transition in comparison – plentiful food, one could smoke, have girlfriends at weekends, ride motorbikes, go to pubs and even to cinemas, if one had any money left from the 24/- weekly pay! But don’t misunderstand me, somehow I quite enjoyed the challenge and ordeal at St Bees.
Although it is now 65 years ago, I vividly remember the following dramatic incident that took place on School House towards the end of one summer term. The school examinations were beginning and I was particularly dreading the mathematics paper a couple of days ahead. I was rather ashamed of my inability to grasp even the simplest of problems, especially in algebra! A further thing to dread was the publication on the notice board outside ‘Big School’ of the results of all the exams for everybody to see and gloat over. I was, in short, quite desperate to avoid sitting those particular examinations. But how could I possibly get out of them? The most obvious way would have been simply to report sick in the hope of convincing matron that I was unwell enough to be consigned to the sick-room. But she was wise to the ways of malingering boys with her years of experience, so it was quite a challenge, to say the least. However, such was my desperation that I decided to give it a try.
I duly found my way to matron’s room, looking as ill as I could, and told her of my feverish symptoms. She sceptically thrust the usual glass thermometer under my tongue just as the telephone in the next room started ringing. She immediately left to answer it, leaving me with the thermometer in my mouth. I looked around hurriedly, hoping to find some way of getting myself a temperature. In front of me was matron’s freshly poured cup of tea just inviting me to plunge the thermometer into it. This I did, and the thermometer broke at once, depositing its mercury and powdered glass into the bottom of the cup! I was so lucky that there was no milk or sugar in the tea, as I could immediately scoop out the offending deposits with the teaspoon. Matron returned to find me looking decidedly upset and flustered. I apologised to her for having broken the thermometer in my teeth! She took it all surprisingly well, replaced the thermometer and took the reading. It was very high, obviously brought about by all the excitement and frustration! Anyway, I had achieved my object. And it wasn’t only the maths exam I avoided, but also the chemistry and physics ones as well!

Many years later, to my great relief, I read somewhere that matron had survived any latent deposits in the cup and had lived to the ripe old age of 92.”

The St. Beghian Society, St. Bees School, St. Bees, Cumbria, CA27 0DS

tel: 01946 828093