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Memories of entering Reigate Grammar!

Thousands of students have passed through the doors of Reigate Grammar over the years. Buildings have been added, teaching styles reformed and exam systems updated over the years. However, some things connect past pupils across the ages: the values and ethos, sense of community and the quality of education. Here we share three recollections from former pupils:

 

My first day at school: 15 September 1953

“I passed the Surrey exam and, at the age of 10, I arrived at the Reigate Grammar School along with nearly 120 other boys. We took our seats in the Art room, the large classroom in the main corridor. We all had our caps with us and were all wearing short trousers – the usual dress for the first two years.

The Second Master, Mr Raw, called out the names of those who would be in which form – this was the first year of a four-form entry. We were put into sets (as the school saw us). He called out 1A, then 1B, then 1C… was I going to be in 1D? But the last names called out were to be in a form with a new name: 1X. I was a little embarrassed when he spoke to me and he recalled that he had taught my father some thirty years earlier.

We went to our classroom. This was the Geography room, half of a one-storey building set up outside the rest of the main block. Forms kept to one classroom but as the room was used for Geography it was our group that had to move and we were often a travelling form for our first year. We were seated in alphabetical order and I can still remember all twenty-seven names, as I was the last and had to be listening and ready to answer the roll call (Richard English can also remember and he was much further up the list!).

We went across the road for lunch in the large house, Annandale, and then settled into what would be seven periods a day of a fixed weekly timetable and went home at ten to four. The start of eight happy years.”

Ian Whiteman (RGS 1953-61)

 

The French teacher is English and I am in trouble!

“My first day was a shock. Not only did the teachers refer to us by surname only, so did the other boys! By the end of the morning the trauma of this new alien environment was taking its toll and I felt physically nauseous. In retrospect I was blessed with excellent teachers. Aubs for Latin (he remained my Latin teacher for five solid years, and no doubt this contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the subject), Cedric Harrald for French – his methods may have been unusual at times, but again I enjoyed the subject greatly. Cedric’s first lesson, however, is permanently imprinted in my mind.

Reigate Grammar School had a significant intake from St. Mary’s Preparatory School, and those boys, along with others I suspect, had a head start, certainly in French. Mr. Harrald breezed in. Presumably to determine who in the class had already learnt some French, he proceeded to ask various questions in French, such as ‘Comment appellez vous?’. As it got closer to my turn, I whispered to the boy I was placed next to, ‘What is he going on about?’. Not quietly enough! Mr. Harrald, ears as keen as his mind, spoke the first words of the lesson in English, to me. Up until then I was convinced he was French and never conducted his lessons in any other language! My worries were both allayed and enhanced – he is English – and I am in trouble!

On that first day, by the end of the third period I was a mental wreck and told the master taking the fourth period that I felt sick. I collected up my things, went down to the secretary’s office (probably in the capable hands of the late Miss Sandall), where I was given an aspirin (the 1960s cure for all ills) and told to sit outside in the Headmaster’s garden. After a minute or so, the aspirin and my stomach parted company.

Later, Bob Harden took me home in his car to my mum, much to her surprise. The next day I was back in school and, probably a little wiser to the ways of the Grammar School, I got on with my new routine, realising that the school was not going to change the way it operated just for me, and it was down to me to make adjustments.

I really value the education I received at RGS. Much of what I have come to enjoy and appreciate over the years I can trace back to the excellent teachers, not only what they taught as part of the curriculum, but the values they promoted in us, and the respect they gave to us, which perhaps we should have reciprocated more at the time!”

Peter Burgess (1967-74)

 

RGS in the 1980s, with rules to be challenged!

“It was daunting and exciting to join Reigate Grammar – with so many rules and regulations. I liked getting to know my way around; the chaos of the tuck shop off the small corridor from the hall; the confusion of the six-day timetable.

Having lessons with masters we called ‘Sir’ who wore black gowns; dusty classrooms and teachers with bad breath! Learning Latin with Aubs; getting the nickname ‘smiler’ from Mr Sims; the furious temper of Miss Benson, the French teacher. ‘Dickie’ Burrows incandescent rage at someone forgetting their Latin Books. Mr Marsh and the old Friends Meeting House. Mr Bruce the English teacher who always wore a bow tie, and had the unfortunate nickname ‘Ripper’ due to a vague resemblance to Peter Sutcliffe – the best teacher I had.

Making friends; fear of Prefects; fancying girls in the Sixth Form! Walking through the town to the old playing fields, playing rugby and athletics in summer. CCF drills and parades in the playground. Reading in Church assemblies, house meetings. Snowball fights in winter. My mates, the groups we formed, who was ‘cool’ or ‘hard’ being intimidated by the Fifth Formers. The ‘bad lads’ queue up the staircase to get special reports signed.

It was all a game that could be played with rules to break, authority to push against, reputations to make, and so much simpler than the real life outside, or so it seems looking back.

Being a Reigatian is being lucky enough to have had the experience of the school – its buildings, staff, location, traditions, ethos, and the others you share your time with. Whether we enjoy the experience or not, it is the fortunate few who get the opportunity to find out.”

Nick Phillips (RGS 1979-85)

 

What RGS did for me

“I passed the 11 plus examination in 1950 and my parents and I were delighted that I was offered a place at Reigate Grammar School. There followed seven years of well-balanced secondary education. The then Headmaster Mr TWH Holland (Clogs) strictly looked after our moral direction often with corporal punishment for those who transgressed.

In our later years our future direction was steered by Mr SVJ Edwards, who was Head of Chemistry, and importantly our Careers Master who pointed me towards my higher education path. (It should be noted here that Mr Edwards died some years later rather tragically but I together with hundreds of others, attended his memorial service held at St Mary’s. The Church was filled to absolute capacity with many having to stand outside. A testament to all those he had helped.) He directed me towards a four-year course in Metallurgy which I completed in 1961.

This led me to a fruitful and varied career starting in welding technology and taking me initially to manufacture and construction of major plant and equipment. Following this my Metallurgy took me into the marketing of a primary metal in a worldwide arena and then into mining ventures development. This led ultimately into the wider field of new business ventures. which included the then new and exciting field of genetic engineering and microbiology. I hasten to add that I never aspired to be a microbiologist but enjoyed the business development aspect.

My career included world wide travel and we had two extended periods working and living in the United States firstly in New York and secondly near Allentown, PA. Having given up the day job, in retirement we set up our own small antiques business buying and selling 18th and 19th century silver and glass. We finally gave this up and fully retired about five years ago.

At various stages I have referred to ‘we’. If I had not attended Reigate I would never have met Margaret (Maggie) one of the colourful and rebellious students at Reigate School of Arts and Crafts. Maggie wore jeans and colourful shirts in contrast to our navy blazers and school caps. Margaret has been my lifelong wife, partner and best friend for fifty eight years.

Thank you RGS for initially starting me on this exciting and most interesting life. and now giving me the opportunity to write this down.”

Roger Tharby (RGS 1950-1957)

 

Great language teachers let to a stimulating career

“Whilst at RGS I achieved eight O levels and two A levels (Spanish and French). I also played tennis for the school and was a member of the CCF and later transferred to the RAF cadets.  I remember playing rugby and cross country runs and shooting at the rifle range in the roof. Languages were always my favourite subject and if I remember correctly (well it was over 60 years ago!) my Spanish teacher was Reg Gutteridge. I was taught Latin by Dick Burrows, who I think also taught Biology, and somehow I managed to get Latin O level but I always struggled. In the Sixth Form we studied a year of Russian and to my surprise I can still remember a few phrases!

I always knew that I wanted a career in exports where I could use languages. So, after RGS, I studied for an HND in Business Studies combined with languages at the City of Westminster College in London and at the same time gained an Associate of the Institute of Linguists in Spanish and at evening class at Whitechapel College, took and passed the Institiute of Export Examinations. As part of my HND course, I worked in Madrid for an international company as a commercial translator which gave me valuable experience. In 1969, at evening classes I gained a Diploma in Marketing.

My first job was as an assistant to the Managing Director of an International import/export company in Wallington, Surrey. In July 1968 I received a call from Cassell, Collier Macmillan Publishers to be interviewed for the job of Area Sales Manager for their export division and I started working for them, in London, from August 1968 until 1971. This involved frequent sales trips to Europe. From September 1971 until October 1985 I worked for 14 years as International Sales Manager for the BBC in London. This was one of my most exciting jobs. It was in a department of External Services called English by Radio and Television. It produced radio and TV programmes, videos, films, books and CDs/cassettes for teaching English to Foreign students. I worked with British Council, Embassies, TV Stations overseas, publishers and distributors of educational materials and was constantly travelling to Europe, Central and South America, The Gulf and the Middle East, Asia and the Far East – in all around 75 countries over my time at the BBC. A great, stimulating place to work.

In October 1985 I worked as Sales and International Marketing Director for Harper Collins Publishers until March 1995 when I was faced with redundancy. I went on to work for an International School in Uckfield, where my responsibility was to promote the school overseas by setting up educational exhibitions in different countries, often working with the British Council and Educational Organisations.

My last 10 years before retirement were spent as Sales and Marketing Manager for Naxos (HQ in Hong Kong) who produced and distributed Classical Music CDs and audio books and again, this involved considerable UK and overseas travel. I finally retired about eight years ago. My wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in September last year in Armenia and Georgia. The travelling bug is still with us and always will be I think!

I certainly look back on my time at RGS with pleasure. I am in touch with a couple of RGS students who were in my form and one lives just three miles away and I see him and his wife regularly. I have been back to RGS several times for reunions.”

David Neary (RGS 1956 to 1964)

 

Additional memories of happy school days

“RGS gave me a fantastic foundation in life, with fond and grateful memories of Chris Mason, George Paxton, Keith Louis, John Passant, Ken Farries and Cedric Harrald especially. Without their inspirational and outstanding teaching, their warm support and their constant belief in me, l wouldn’t have become a Prefect or House Captain (Kinnersley), l wouldn’t have gone to Cambridge (Christs College) and l wouldn’t have become a Teacher/Head of Year (33 years at a school in Farnham, Surrey). I am now very happily retired in Sussex! RGS gave me some of the best years of my life.”
Nic Goode (RGS 1964-1972)

“I spent most of my career in Minnesota, teaching French as a Professor. I have specialised in Medieval Studies, and published six books in the field. In mid-career, I went to Law School, passed the bar, and was a lawyer for 30 years, while continuing to teach French. My career at RGS was enormous fun: I played for the first XV, led the orchestra, and waged a constant battle with the headmaster about my general untidiness, especially my messy hair. I recall with nostalgia the wise and brilliant masters who formed me: Mr. Hart, Mr. Bedward. Two years in the Royal Air Force (1956-58) was less fun, but at least they taught me Russian! My contemporaries included Graham Wood, Peter Turner, Tony Pretlove and John Laycock. My best to all present students and to alumni.”
Ron Akehurst (RGS 1949-1956) 

We are eager to capture as many memories as possible. If you would like to share your recollections of your time at Reigate Grammar School, please email us at foundation@reigategrammar.org.

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