C. J. Lord (G 53-57) writes:

“Reading Alec Bingham’s reminiscences about discipline on Grindal 1949-51 refreshed some of my own memories of St Bees in the 1950s.

Although “on” Foundation, Grindal or School House, most of us started boarding at Eaglesfield or Meadow House. In my case it was Meadow House. This was about a mile up the south side of the valley. We had plenty of exercise built into the daily routine, even before the compulsory games or runs: there was a short morning run before breakfast; we cycled down for morning lessons, followed by lunch at whichever was our main house; up to Meadow House to change into games’ kit or CCF uniform; down for games or the weekly square bashing and up again afterwards; back down again for afternoon lessons three days per week; and back up for supper, prep and bed.

My first term at Grindal I was the bell fag. My duties included being up before anyone else in order to stand at the bottom of the main stairs and vigorously ring first bell at 7:15 am. This was followed at 7:25 with second bell, at which all members of the lower orders had to leave their beds. At 7:35 I had to run round the dormitories shouting “Ten minutes to go”. This was the signal for the senior boys to get up so that everyone would be in time for the morning run at 7:45.
Woebetide me if I failed to observe absolutely precise times for this daily ritual!

Mr Lever was the housemaster at Meadow; Mr Parkinson was at Grindal. Both taught French and German. Other teachers I remember were Nick Carter, Physics; Mr Wood, Chemistry; Major Crowther, Latin; Mr Aston, Maths; Mr Cawthorne, Geography; Bill Henderson, History. The Headmaster was J C Wykes. I can echo John West’s comments: my French lay dormant from passing ‘O’ level in 1957 until my work took me to France in 1976, when much of it came back, prompted surprisingly by a good sample of the local wine. Apart from Mr Dearle’s motorbike - a BSA 500cc Shooting Star, I think - Canon Last had a TR2 and Mr Lever a Jaguar Mk VII saloon, both quite exotic for the 1950s.

During the summer term we were allowed to roam the countryside on our bicycles. There were two “threequarter days” which were weekdays when normal activities were suspended from after breakfast until supper.

Sundays were also free but not until the end of morning chapel. I think the only rules were that we had to go in pairs and register with whom we were paired. Cycling to Keswick via Buttermere, Crummock and the Honister Pass was nothing extraordinary; returning via Cockermouth required stamina as tiredness was often aggravated by a strong headwind on the exposed stretch of road between Cockermouth and Whitehaven.

There were about 250 boys at the school. Scholars started in form IVa, the rest of us in IIIa or IIIb. The IVth and Vth had a, b and c streams. Remove existed only in the Christmas term for those who had failed to achieve the requisite ‘O’ levels in the summer. This was helpful to me as I had failed Maths in the summer. Five ‘O’ levels including Maths and English then opened doors to many careers which these days demand degrees. Thanks to Mr Lyle’s excellent tuition I passed in December and was able to leave school with six including the vital two.

In October 1956 the whole school went to the new nuclear power station at Calder Hall to see it officially opened by HM The Queen. One year later there was the fire, which caused much consternation. Milk from local cows was banned for human consumption owing to fears that the grass which the cows ate had been contaminated with radioactive particles. The abundant low cost electricity which had been promised never materialised!

After a few years working for a bank, I served articles and qualified as a chartered accountant. Moving into general management in my early thirties, over the next 24 years I managed four different manufacturing enterprises, with responsibility for up to 500 people. I was lucky to have worked with many good people from whom I learned much, but there was never any doubt that St Bees provided an enviable foundation for a career in industry.  There is much that is great about St Bees; not least the nostalgia which it evokes amongst its former pupils. It is always interesting to read about one's contemporaries and always pleasing to see that the school is continuing to thrive.

By the way, Bombardier Billy Morse must have been promoted since Alec Bingham left; he was a sergeant major when I was there!”



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