I have been asked by the webmaster for memories of RGS, in under (xy)
words as a punishment for information passed to his wife Rosie that he
was an under-age drinker at school. (see photographic evidence under
“the roof expedition”).
The physical aspects, life and routine at RGS are documented comprehensively
and extensively elsewhere on this brilliant web site so I am confining my
note to why I owe such an enormous debt of gratitude to the lessons learned
at school for practical and actual use in later life. But it must be said
that the academic lessons, for example three years Latin, calculus, and a
discussion about the square root of minus one, must also have had some
application to somebody somewhere.
I was one of the last boarders at school. There were about a dozen of us
in 1951, traveling on Monday mornings, stopping at various landladies in
town, and travelling home on Friday evenings. Originally the school took
in proper boarders stopping in the school itself.
The teaching staff was very HEALTH AND SAFTY conscious in those days
(the early 1950s) and we were allowed to leave the chemistry lab. when
there was an escape of chlorine gas from the fume cupboard. Also
“Bo” Beasley, the physics master, dealt swiftly with the problem of an
electric fuse constantly blowing. He inserted a 4” nail as a replacement
fuse, which did solve the problem. It enabled him to continue his lesson,
the one where he lined up 12 boys holding hands, the two end ones holding
wires connected to a coil, and he then demonstrated the principle of the
generation of electricity by passing a magnet through the coil. There were
no fatalities so not a problem, we were all able to continue handling and
playing with the mercury that was freely available.
Bo was not the best teacher in the world but was predictable. It was well
known that for the mock GCE exams the exam paper he would set would be the
previous year’s actual GCE exam paper. OFSTED would be proud of the success
rate. He once tore up an exam paper he had set for a lower form and placed
it in the wastepaper basket. This was duly recovered by the enterprising
sixth form, stuck together, and RECYCLED to members of the lower form
before the exam.
Whatsoevertheless Bo’s real talent was the ability to be able to predict
the questions that the GCE exam board would be setting in the current years
GCE examination. This saved a lot of us, including those of us who never
really fathomed out theories about water being displaced, enabling us to
get GCE passes in physics, and to also use this technique later in life to
pass examinations to obtain professional qualifications.
Classes were broken up into groups to carry out experiments in the physics
lab. I was in the webmaster’s team. An early experiment was to determine
the mechanical equivalent of heat. We performed our task with due diligence
and came to the conclusion that the answer was 744, which, as the true
answer is 4.2, we quickly arrived at a second more considered approach. From
thereon when performing an experiment we looked up the answer and worked
back to what our measurements/readings should have been. This saved a lot
of time and messing about, it is the normal one adopted in later life, and
it also had the advantage of giving the team time to plan the then important
things such as the manufacture of nitrogen iodide, the best time fuse to
attach to fireworks in the roof over the headmaster’s bedroom and the
bugging of the teachers’ common room. No RISK ASSESSMENTS required.
The next phase in my professional development occurred after taking GCEs
in the sixth form when John Charles Havelock Gover, the headmaster, was our
mathematics’ teacher. As “relaxation” after the exams he sent out teams
into town to survey how many vehicles out of the total had the same number
at the start and end on their registration plates. At that time the school
was on the main A1 great north road so there was plenty of traffic. Out
went the teams, very keen, with their pens and paper at the ready. The
webmaster’s team had a more mature approach. We went straight to Howards
café in the centre of town (sadly no longer there) and had a pleasant
morning drinking coffee. We made up our results and yes, you have guessed
correctly, when the headmaster worked out the theoretical answer we were
correct to one place of decimals and the others were miles out. I have
found this sophisticated technical approach very adaptable for use in
the work environment.
Members of “the team” may have selective memory on the next item. The
second year sixth form were suddenly given the privilege of being allowed
to walk on the lawn at the front of school for the first time in the
400 year history of the school. There was a large bush/tree on the lawn.
The team spent every break walking round this tree in the same circle with
the specified intention of wearing a path out on the lawn. I cannot now
think of the higher Milligan logic of doing this but, having spent a
substantial proportion of my working life with a local authority, I would
not rule anything out.
Along with many others I am sad that in the interests of PROGRESS the
school has been closed and is not being used.
My final memory is on progress. Edward “Tedda” Brown came to school one
morning (1950s) complaining that he had been kept awake all night by
constant and repeated clicking noises from the cottage next door. The
cottages had just had electricity connected and, with the novelty value,
the neighbours had just spent all night switching the lights on and off.
2 September 2011