My first school was at Lemsford, right next door to St Johns church, where my parents got married. Back then everything had to be in walking distance for most people and my school was no exception. My Mother and Grandmother must have walked miles taking me to and from that school from Brocket park.
We revisited the area fairly recently when my parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. They managed to get special permission to walk around Brocket Park and I was amazed how familiar some of it seemed to be after so many years.
What I remembered most about the cottage was that it had an opening round window half way up the stairs and the back garden was surrounded by fields which lead onto the bluebell wood. The farmer used to have cattle, sheep or horses on that field………Part of golf course now.
There is a story of there being a young horse out there called ‘Chelsea’, not sure if male or female, but was the offspring of ‘Poem’. The horses were rounded up and stabled every day, but Chelsea was not known for being very co-operative at this time of day! However, I had some sort of friendship with this animal and it was not unknown for one of the adults to find me at the back fence feeding Chelsea with half my little arm in the horses mouth! I could call Chelsea even when out of sight and it would run to the fence to see me. This relationship between horse and child was used on several occasions when it came to stabling time and Chelsea would not be caught!
The school is still there, though I remember nothing about it at all. Apart from doing a drawing which was put on the wall! Great event that. I seem to recall that it was a drawing we were all encouraged to do from the hymn ‘All things bright and beautiful’.
I guess after quite a short time there, my Father was then sent to HMS Sultan in Gosport to take up a role as pattern maker. We moved down there and lived in married quarters in St Nicholas avenue which I have fairly good memories of. I then went to continue my basic education at Bridgemary primary school, which I do not have much memory of.
It was while we lived here that my only sibling, Michael was born on 7th July 1961. My Mum was miffed because his arrival interfered with her watching of the Wimbledon tennis and I was very disappointed as I wanted a sister, who according to my plan would have been called ‘Rosie’. Probably just as well it was a boy I guess. He was born at home and a few days later I went over the handlebars of my small tricycle and the resulting lump on my head was tended to by the visiting midwife.
On our return from Malta my parents bought a Bedford Dormobile camper van with their savings. This was used for a holiday to Devon and Cornwall which the Grandparents accompanied us on. I guess space would have been at a premium with 4 adults, one small boy and a baby, but a good time was had with many happy memories talked about for years afterwards.
I will need to do some family research for total accuracy here, but if my memory serves me (that would make a pleasant change!) we didnt spend longer than a year here before moving again to Plymouth for my Father to take a new role teaching new Naval engineering officers at Manadon college, Crownhill. It was in this area where the bulk of my education was endured. I say endured as although I cannot say it was a particularly unpleasant part of my life, I was hopeless at school. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself now.
For whatever reason, we moved into a large residential caravan on Glenholt caravan park near Roborough. I used to get a bus to school which was Chaucer Way primary, Crownhill. I started off in the infants section for a year or two before moving to the primary section of the school next door. This seemed like a huge step up for me. I was never very acedemic at the time and at one stage I was ‘re-streamed’, being put back a class. This was mainly due to my lack of maths ability, resulting from my unwillingness to learn the times tables. This attitude to maths continued until I managed to get to Collingwood for my electrical training. English was always my only strong point throughout my school years. As you may…..or may not ……see here, I still enjoy writing.
One teacher in particular remains in my memory from this school; Mr Anderson. He was renowned for telling quite harrowing tales, remember we were only about 9 years old at this time, about his time as a second world war POW. I just recently found out that a book exists which he c0-wrote called ‘Guest of Nippon’. Not read it yet but he was a cracking story teller so I am sure it will be a great account of his life during the war.
My best friend at this school was David Haughey (probably not spelled correctly) We used to get up to all sorts of mischief together. He unforgettably knocked himself unconscious during a gym lesson once. Great street cred after that!
There were a lot of the wartime pre-fabs in that area which were largely being demolished at the time. They were a great source of all sorts of goodies, such as baby mice and slow worms. We also found a couple of wooden cot ends. The ply wood once removed made fantastic frisbees. How on earth we never hurt anyone on the school field with these potentially lethal weapons I will never know.
It was a fairly typical school at that time I guess. Large mixed classes but seperate playgrounds. The girls spending their time skipping, playing 2 (or 3) ball against a wall and other girlie things. Sometimes encroaching on the boys area for a ‘kiss chase’; and we ran away! How times change.
Third of a pint of milk issued at morning break, which I loved. Biscuits used to be sold by the teacher as well. Plain rich teas and if you were well off, Jaffa cakes.
The boys break times were very seasonal. Conkers, marbles (alleys), yoyos being some that I recall. Footballs were greatly in evidence of course, which I actually used to avoid. I never enjoyed or had any interest in football. This continues to this day. I was the one who ALWAYS ‘forgot’ his boots when it was football. The teacher finally getting fed up and forcing me to play as I was. I just asked where I should stand……and thats all I did. If the ball came anywhere near me, I just sidestepped it. I used to say that my best position for football was ‘Left OUT’.
Sports never featured largely in my life or interest, that is until I discovered dinghy sailing at my secondary school. Much more on that to come of course.
I had my first attempt at being musical during this time, being encouraged to take up the recorder. I had only ever heard of a TAPE recorder so had no idea what the instrument even was. My parents duly bought the correct instrument, I seem to recall my Mum making me a nice case for it. I was bought the first two books and went to the lessons. I was horrified to find that I was the ONLY boy amongst about a dozen girls. This was definitely most UN cool (I know. No such term back then, but thats what it was anyway). Needless to say, I was never going far with that class.
The area we lived in was a fantastic place for children to grow up. Glenholt caravan park was surrounded by thick woods which lead down to the River Plym, then onto forestry and then the wide open expanse of Dartmoor. One huge playground really.
After living in the caravan for 2 or 3 years my parents managed to buy us a fantastic bungalow just up the road from the caravan park so we still had all that countryside nearby. This was also around the time I was due to go to secondary school. I guess you couldn’t allow children of today the freedom that we had then. My parents knew that after breakfast, the next they would see of me would be lunch, unless I took it with me, in which case it would be home in time for the evening meal. Usually tired, filthy, wet and VERY hungry. I was lucky that my Mum was and still is a fantastic cook! Despite being in many trying situations over the years, both equipment wise and financially I’m sure she has never failed to turn out good tasty wholesome meals for us all. My pals at this time were Nigel Arthur and Derek Havery the son of the then Plymouth Fire Chief. Wish I knew what became of them?
We would spend hours down the woods, falling in the river, climbing trees, gathering whatever was in season at the time; Sweet chestnuts and conkers, hazelnuts, blackberries, sloes. It really was natures store room down there. Not to mention an abundance of slow worms, newts, rabbits and sticklebacks.
When we first started walking in the area, the tracks were still down on the disused part of the Great Western Railway. I have been back since and it is now a fantastic cycle track running through some stunning countryside. Plymbridge area is particularly lovely. Cann quarry has also been preserved and it is quite interesting to see some of the ruins that my friends and I wondered about all nicely labelled up now so we can see what their function was. Health and safety has also stepped in and it makes me wonder about some of the risky things we used to do before there was signage and fencing!
In due course the ’11 plus’ exams had to be taken. This was a source of some dread for me with my lack of maths skills. There was basically 3 levels of pass at the time. Grammer school, for the really bright kids (Not me); Secondary modern for the much less bright kids and a middle of the road level of technical secondary school. With some amazement, I just scraped into the middle option and was duly enroled at Widey Technical Secondary School, also at Crownhill.
During the summer holidays between schools I needed an operation since it had been discovered that I had a Cyst on the back of my right knee. I had this operation in the Royal Naval hospital which was actually a huge adventure since I was in a ward full of matelots who spoiled me rotten!
I can recall longing to wear my new school uniform and I was allowed to put it on when I left hospital to go home. (Photo of the event somewhere which I will add when I find it.) The uniform was a red, blue and black striped blazer, tie and cap. Short trousers and long socks completed the outfit. I felt really smart and grown up.