Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fantasy Mariner Display - Charles Joyce

We've had quite a few very creative exhibits by Charles Joyce who has recreated aspects of school
'Captain' Charles Joyce shipshape for inspection! 
life using the facilities of Warwick University where he teaches engineering. They are listed in the index under his name and include reproductions of  a 60's style woodwork room and much more. They are always fun, creative and informative and add another dimension to this blog. This is his latest which takes up the theme of comfy chairs, as you may have found int he school staff room etc. He's portrayed this with a fantasy mariner theme!

Over to Charles....
" The scientific approach to the relaxometer chair "
The infamous  staffroom easy chair is brought under the spotlight , the chair is placed on machine pad and will perform a gentle rocking and swaying sensation to simulate life on the ocean waves!

This Nautical motion will appeal to any ex-naval staff member, Mr. Harper comes to mind, with his tales on the high seas. The apparatus in question can give a sensation to those not accustomed  to a nautical  attire,
Sick bags can be provided on request, a ration of rum may help to settle one's stomach.

The theme is " The common room easy chair ", comfortable seating was a rarity at Cleobury, only staff members had the privilege of this luxury, being mainly confined to the staffroom , staff accommodation rooms or flats on the end of dormitory blocks.

The new building which has been now demolished ( that sounds odd ) had a pupil common room study area,
this room was furnished with luxury easy chairs and small low level tables just right for putting one's feet up after a day's schooling. I must admit I frequented this room on a number of occasions, and being caught with one's feet up, Mr Thorne would appear without warning, on the way to his office, likewise with Mr Place's aboard.

I recall on one occasion we all nodded off, and nearly missed mealtime! For what its worth.

The chairs are of a wooden construction, probably beech, being a keen woodworker, the beech is easy to identify; the cushions are foam and PVC covering. The staffroom chairs were probably velvet or fabric.
I have a perfect example of this item of furniture in one of our rooms at Warwick Uni.

Let us cast our minds back to those days at Cleobury when most seating was basic. In the latter years of the school , plastic molded seating was introduced in rest areas. The chair in question has a distinctive place in my memory , especially a whole collection in the inner sanctum of the school staffroom , and the echoes of 'who's been sitting in my place'.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The School Christmas Tree and Wyre Forest

Stan Webb
Stan Webb (The Bursar's son) posed this question on the Facebook page.

"Unsure if this subject has already been covered, but I can recall in the 50s and 60s seeing either Gordon Plaice, Alan Thorn or Wally Clarke disappearing into Wyre Forest every December with a group of 20 or 30 boys with the sole intention of returning to the school with a Christmas tree for the Dining Hall, ("National Lampoon Christmas Vacation" style!) They always returned with a huge magnificent specimen which would very quickly be decorated and left in the corner of the Dining Hall. My question is this! Was this a legitimate purchase or did it amount to a form of petty theft!!? Or is my memory playing tricks with me, and this didn't actually happen!?"

Trev Teasdel "Wyre Forest is owned by the Forestry commission and this post i found on the web seems to answer the legal point (unless it was different in the 60's).

Ken Hammond  "The 'school' had Forestry Commission permission for us to do this. The same went for the collection of fallen trees and the felling of one tree for centre pole for the bonfire."

Stan Webb "Thinking back, the snapshot in my memory must have been in 1963- the year of non-stop snow,- as I can remember seeing all the boys and staff in their wellingtons and scarves etc, as the weather was really bad as the tree was hauled along into the school."

Michael Billings "When I was at Cleobury we did go into the forest every year for the Christmas tree
and the pole for the bonfire and collected any fallen branches also for the bonfire. On one of these sorties I tore my inner cartilage on my right knee and had to go to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to have a knee op. When i returned to school i had to go to Kidderminster Hospital twice a week for physio. I was collected from the school by ambulance and also returned by ambulance. End of 1956 this would have been."

Brian Slater  "Ken yes I remember the adventure of going into forest for centre pole for nov 5th. Also how heavy a 30 ft long tree trunk was to get back to the top field."

Brian Slater "I went several times. In those days you would just have a word with someone local and it would happen. Now everyone would need hi viz, hardhats, and enough paperwork to have a bonfire of your own. H & S, risk assessment, safety case. We have gone mad. No one was ever hurt during these exercises. Rant over."

Michael Billings We went out over the back of the Art Class Room, The top dorm building, across fields and over a stile or two. It was while dragging a large tree branch over a stile that I tore my cartilage.

Dennis Elmer If I remember correctly this was legal as we also made a similar trip to build the annual bonfire for November the fifth. The fifth form was responsible for the centre pole and the rest of the school for the rest. The guy that had pride of place on top was the winner of a competition held for that purpose I think. Can anyone confirm this after all it was nigh on fifty years ago in my case."

Steve Webb The route you took Micheal is very familiar to Rosemary and I as we, for many years, we would walk that way to get to "Break Neck Bank" about a mile from the school inside the forest. This was a steep bank furnished with a zig-zag path taking you to the top-- very steep and very dangerous, (hence its name I guess!) At its base was a testing station for the Elan Valley water pipeline which passed through the school grounds. The station was locked of course, and was surrounded by a black metal fence with sharp upward facing spikes which were ready to greet you should you fall down the bank!

Black dot indicates the art room - rather than the long way round the road, you could access Wyre Forest across the fields at the back of the art room.

Sarah Williams Steve and Rose told me that those railings were known as the Dragon's Teeth.

Michael Breslin We would have at least one biology class at Breakneck Bank where we would catch Crayfish and water boatmen for study. Neil Cummings was the teacher. Great laugh and a nice escape for an hour during school time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Leaving the Gates (Leaving School)

Leaving the Gates
(A call for submissions!)

Sarah Williams suggested this as a possible title for thoughts, memories, creative writing after I posted a
comment on Facebook. If anyone wants to rise to the challenge of submitting a piece of writing exploring your thoughts on leaving the school for the last time, please send them in here or via the Facebook page. I will add any contributions to this page, so get thinking / writing.

To whet your appetite I will add my flippant comment that started it all and a song lyric which I began writing on the coach in 1967 as it began to pull out of the school drive in my final year at the school.

My flippant comment was made as Rick Gillespie pulled into the school drive on 10th August 2013 for the latest school reunion - 

"Just remembered - having escaped the school when i left in 1967 and never having returned - my shocked comment to Rick as we pulled into the school drive was "Uh, you never said you were bringing me back here!!" Trev Teasdel

Sarah Williams commented " Sarah Williams I didn't realise you'd never been back Trev. What were your first, unfiltered, feelings? I've been a few times since 1967 but still get emotionally ambushed by odd new memories."

Trev Teasdel  "It's a long trek from the North east and I don't have a car, so never went back but i think we were quite relieved to get there on time as we took a wrong turning through Far Forest and ended up at 6 Ashes instead of Cherry Orchard. But entering the gates is pretty quick so a crowd of thoughts sprung to mind - mixed emotions, excitement, curiosity, memories but there wasn't much chance to think really as we had to find out where the reception was and then to circulate and socialise so there was little opportunity for introspection. As we approached the gates i thought of the last time i was there, in the coach leaving for the last time (or so i thought!). As the coach left the gates I began to jot down lines for the embryo of a song lyric in a sort of S & G mode "It's a long Hitch Hike home' (albeit we went by coach! I may have been thinking about the initiative test when we left the school with a ruck sack on our backs and hitch hiked off somewhere). It might be on the blog - about being 'off to seek my fortune but not in pence and pounds' using imagery of climbing up the glen and slipping down the embankment metaphorically and climbing back up - a metaphor for life. I was thinking it was pretty accurate and it was probably one of my first lyrics finished off later. I was also thinking that I felt i didn't count for much at school but now things were a bit different. All the times you left the gates come to mind - down to the village / cross country / visiting day etc. All those kinds of thoughts and emotions as you momentarily speed through the gates and then concentrate on practical matters! Oh, and thinking of the above quip to make Rick laugh after all his driving! But you need a bit of solitude to really reflect and correlate past and present memories and emotions."

Sarah Williams "Leaving the Gates - a title waiting for a story - or a song."

Trev Teasdel "Found lyric i began writing as we pulled out of the school gates for the last time - the 1st verse & some of the lines about the glens and valleys were jotted down as we made our way to Cherry Orchard. I wrote it up in Feb 1969 in a S & G ballad style Actually the window sill image in the 1st verse was prompted by Sarah or Rose's window sill as we got on the coach in the drive and i looked out of the window as i jotted down notes!"

by Trev Teasdel

Well now, at last, the term has ended
And we’re ready to return.
I say goodbye to all my friends
For I have many things to learn,
And ambitions to fulfil
And I whisper to my friend
Whose mind is still on the window sill.

Chorus -
It’s long hitch hike home
So I give my hair a comb
Put my rucksack on my back
And proceed down the track.

I’m off to seek my fortune
But not in pence and pounds
I’m off to seek my fortune
But not in jewels and crowns
I’m off to seek the truth
I’ve been looking for, for years
I’m off to seek a sun,
In a crowded mass of tears.


I’ve travelled through the glens
And made many friends
But as I try to wend my way
Up the embankment’s slimy clay
I sometimes slip and fall
Like a silver waterfall
But eventually I’ll climb
And overcome the slime.


I’ve travelled many miles
Through many empty valleys
And I’ve had my fair share
Of the darkness of the alleys
I’ve come across folk
Searching for their yoke
They sound their motto wide
“Seek and thou shalt find”


Everybody’s searching
For what? – They do not know
Gazing from their windows
They bow their heads low.
People trying to reach
With hands that can not feel
People trying to speak
To images unreal….

It still rings true for me even though I was only 16 when i began writing it. The imagery was derived from the school and its surroundings and the line "I'm off to seek my fortune, but not in pence and pounds" has been sustained - I've never been materialistic - true wealth is inside. Perhaps it was the times - the 60's and also perhaps the teaching of  the Rev DA Williams (Jake) - Cat Steven's song "Mathew and Son" was a meditation in my last year at the school. What were your aims / expectations when you left the school?

"Everybody's searching - For what? - they do not know!

Did we know what 'it was all about" back then? Are we any wiser now? Does anybody really know? What have we learned about life?

There are lot of faiths and ideologies and home grown wisdom but do we really know what it's all about and how?

Science offers a lot but only manages to push the concept of God back to the Big Bang.

Did you achieve your goals? Did you have any? Did you think about the future when you left? Did you miss the school life and why? Are you disillusioned about the society we were educated to join / contribute towards or did / does it work for you and why? What did you find useful from your education at the school that helped you in your career / life?

Questions, Questions Questions to get you thinking.

Although those at the school same time as me, knew me as an Elvis fan - my tastes were a lot wider too but after leaving the poetic / philosophical lyrics of Paul Simon were the main musical interest for a few years and i wrote my first lyrics in the 4th year 1966, usually in the prep room after i finished the homework early. It was seeing the lyrics to Wild Thing juxtaposed to Paul Simon's Dangling Conversation that started me writing. That was the inspiration behind that lyric.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Old Photos from Pioneer Centre Archives

During the reunion August 2013, we had a look through the archive photos held by the Pioneer centre which go back to the 40's. I managed to photocopy some of the press cuttings that we haven't got on here (they are now on of course) and Ralph Alhous kindly re-photographed some of the photos which I thought we hadn't got. Some we had got but Ralph's versions are a bit clearer and there are some that are new to us from the 1950's.

Headmaster Mr Morris left of  the Lord Mayor and Directory of Coventry Education Dept Mr Chinn left of Mr Morris.

In this photo "This is from mid 60's.Gary Coulter in trunks in middle. - Chris Appleby)
"Tony Kemp in the back row and Bryce ((click) on the right end." Lauri Lindsay
"Clicker Boyce on far right he came in 64/5" Raymond Bothwell
"Look's like steve pearce front centre." Mick (Dragan( Gajic.

This was on before but a clearer version.

Taken by the Coventry Evening Telegraph c 1966 in the New Library - Frank Dutton standing up reading.
I sat some exams at those tables and was a librarian for Mr Williams (Jake).

Possibly in the 70's as the wash basins weren't boxed in in the 60's.

At the back Tony Baker who tells us " Batsmans Bride was I think 1957 or 58. More likely 57. The fourth year lads were the batsmen and first years the brides. Cannot remember story details but it was a short playlet. On the same bill was another playlet called Dumb Boy put on by the 3rd year. Both were produced by Wally Clarke." So the actually title was 'Batsman's Bride' not Batman's Bride as it says on the photo and which explains the cricketers in the photo. It was (according to Amazon) The Batsman's Bride. An operetta in one act. Libretto by Donald Hughes.

I wonder if this was based on Old King Cole nursery rhyme or something different?

Not sure if this above 1950's production would be deemed politically correct these days!
Tony Baker tells us " Definitely not 1955. I think 1958. It was taken at the old Coventry drill hall. I am on it with the rest of the 5th year. I have a copy . As you say the political correct brigade would have a fit today. We did not think anything wrong back then. A classical example of evil being in the eye of the beholder. The occasion was a concert by all Coventry schools. This was our contribution. We sang about Darius the Mede." Darius the Mede is mentioned in the Book of Daniel and Flavius Josephus etc Read more about it on