Tony is a familiar face in School as a former student and now active member of the Old Wulfrunians Association. He has generously donated historical documents to the School’s archive and is supporting Zoe Rowley and our students with the School’s archive project.
What was school life like back then?
Very different to now. I started in September 1954 and the Second World War had only ended 9 years earlier. Money was tight, but because we all wore the same uniform you didn’t know whose parents were better off than others. Not that that was important and anyone who tried to show off was soon put in their place.
It was boys only and only male teachers, who wore gowns most, if not all, the time when teaching. The facilities were, in some respects, a bit basic, but we knew no different and we were just happy to be there.
We all wore school caps, except, I think, the 6th formers and you were in big, big trouble if a master spotted you not wearing it while you were in uniform.
Where the Derry building is now there was a fives court, bicycle sheds and another football/cricket pitch between it and Junior school. At break etc. we could play on any of the pitches except Moreton’s Piece, which was only for senior matches. Again, if you went on The Piece without permission you were in trouble.
What was your favourite area of the school?
Moreton’s Piece. I played for all the school football teams, including the 1st XI in my last year. I loved the sports, although I did enjoy most of the subjects we were taught.
Did you have any idea what career you would pursue when at the school?
Only when I was in the Fifth year. My father was an accountant and, having looked at other professions, I realised that I quite fancied having the same career.
What areas of the school were you best at, for example DT or Science?
My favourite subjects were history, geography and English. I also enjoyed the art and took that, with architecture, as one of my “O” levels.
What were the teacher’s attitudes towards you like?
Most were very friendly and helpful, especially if you did your best and respected them. This was especially so in the Fifth year, at the end of which we took our “O” levels. Once you reached Third year, ie aged 14-15, they treated us like young men, not children.
How has the WGS environment and in particular the ‘community’ changed since you were here?
It has changed tremendously. In my day there were only masters and a very small admin staff. We still had the Combined Cadet Force and so we played soldiers every Thursday afternoon. However, that made us grow up inasmuch as we had to put up with being laughed at and taunted by other kids as we walked through town in our army uniform, with heavy boots crashing on the pavement.
There were lots of after-school clubs such as chess, badminton, boxing, fives, and a literary and debating society, read the Wulfrunian magazines of the time and that tells you what went on.
We had a House system into which all boys went and this meant great rivalry in the sporting activities. Great fun.
Obviously, since independence and the advent of co-education, both, in my view, eminently sensible and also helping to secure the School’s future, the operation of the school has changed completely. It also must have altered the attitude of both boys and girls towards each other and helped in their development and social skills.
What sports did you participate in at WGS and how are they different today?
Football, cricket, badminton, athletics, boxing and fives. I hated cross country.
We practiced on the pitches, but had PT, as a lesson, in the small gym. The sports hall and the tarmac area outside it are light years ahead of what we had. I believe most of these are still played, although there is also now rugby and hockey and no boxing.
Did your education at WGS help you in later life?
Yes, immensely. For example, geography have me an interest in travel and this was helped because I went on three Easter school trips on the continent. French gave me basics which I then developed even more by going all over Europe on holidays. Finally, it helped me to get my last job, as Financial Controller of a French- owned company, which meant I often went to head office in Paris.
History started a life-long interest in twentieth Century events. One of my greatest interests is the Great War and I have been visiting the Western Front annually for over 25 years.
Who was the Head Teacher when you came to WGS, and do you have any memories of them?
Warren Derry was Headmaster and one the best, in the opinion of many, the School ever had.
He was stern, but fair; had a great presence and had a wonderful sense of humour. Even now, Old Boys are fond of recounting stories of him and things he said and did. These are known affectionately as “Derryisms”. I know most of them!
He retired after 2 years of my school career and was succeeded by Ernest Taylor. I and many of my contemporaries were not over- enthusiastic about him, but he served the School well.
Why are you passionate about keeping our archive alive?
The School has existed for over 500 years and despite various books and documents relating to the early days, not a great deal of detail is known. However, especially since the move to Compton Road in 1875, there is a mountain of information available. This comprises documents, minute books, photographs and magazines, etc. all of which provides a wealth of interest and often amusement.
I have derived great pleasure from referring to this over a many years and now that there is an ideal opportunity to put all this into a properly referenced archive, it should be done, as I am sure that others will get a similar amount of enjoyment from reading the history of a School we are all proud to have attended and which, in many ways, shaped our futures.
I just feel this may be the last opportunity to involve those of us in the autumn of our lives in ensuring that as much information as possible is obtained for future reference. A chance too good to let slip.
Did you ever misbehave when you were at school?
Me? Never! Well, on occasion, but never anything too drastic and I never came anywhere near being caned. Boys will be boys and that means things happen. But the masters were pretty tolerant and so lines or detentions were the usual punishments.