Andy Beckett recalls 1968-71

Michael, I recently happened upon the SOP website, and was amused to find that (purely for alphabetical reasons) I head up the list of those with 9 'O' level passes in 1969.

I've never understood how I managed to pass them all, and have to confess that most of the grades don't bear close scrutiny. (I failed to pull off a repeat performance two years later when I scraped two passes at 'A' level). On the left hand side of the same document I spotted my brother Nick who is five years my junior, and therefore joined that year.

Before I came across the 'O' level page, I had been trying to come up with as many names of my contemporaries as I could from the recesses of memory. The list reminded me of a few others, but I struggled vainly to put faces to a lot of the names.

I joined Price's in the 4th year (4a) in 1967 when my family moved from Gloucestershire. Chris Ryan joined at the same time, his family having just returned from Singapore. Both he & I 'commuted' by rail, he from Netley, I from Swanwick. Our fathers were both from the Army, so we naturally formed a friendship. Chris left after 'O' levels, along with Dave Jarman, to enter Welbeck, and they both went on to join the Royal Corp of Signals to the best of my recollection.

Names that I managed to recall independently were the "genius set" - Gover, 'Sandy' Shore, Peter Wood, 'Muscles' (Lamport I think), Martin Newbury, all of whom impressed me no end by being able to conduct games of chess without the aid of a board. Wheeler, who was just good at everything! John Fay, who lived next door to the school playing field. The explosive master Gilmour, who's experiments with weed killer nearly cost him an eye. 'Horse' Stribley who bought 'Fred' Barker's Red Isetta bubblecar, and tried to run it on coal gas (the permanent attachment to the chem. lab by rubber hose being a bit of a drawback).

There was quite a contingent of three wheelers in the sixth form of 70/71. Stribley's Isetta, John Cope's Berkeley Sports, a pale blue Heinkel (was it Warwick's?), and my own red Trojan - later sold for ten quid for spares.

I could hardly mention Stribley without his arch nemesis, Holt, who's greatest pleasure was to try and entice Stribley on a lunchtime trip out to some remote pub or other and then endeavour to maroon him there by clearing off in the only available transport. He was often aided by a certain Berry (I think he arrived in the L 6th), who played Mutley to his Dick Darstedly.

I also recall the famous Stribley/Holt scrap in the Library, which knocked all the books of the shelves backing on to the entry corridor.

Others who come to mind are Phil Hannam, who risked life and limb in my bubble car on occasions, and who had ambitions to fly, along with Steve Ward & Ian Virgo. I don't know whether they achieved this.

I am probably best remembered by my contemporaries as having joined the God Squad sometime in the 5th year, and being a royal pain in the anatomy th ereafter. I got my just deserts in the 6th when Eric Poyner gave me the responsibility of the lesson reading rota for assembly. As at least 30% of those nominated failed to put in an appearance, I ended up reading the lesson every other day.

My brother tells me that I was known as 'fringe' by his classmates, as I had a long fringe which I was forever pushing out of my eyes whilst reading the lesson.

On the subject of staff, I remember several with great affection, particularly the good humoured Mr. Stevens (Gremmie - from Gremlin I think), my 4th yr form master and 5th yr chemistry teacher, who accepted the annual April 1st 'birthday' present of a toothless comb with remarkably good grace.

One episode I remember was when he ignited rather too much magnesium and aluminium powder in a folded piece of asbestos paper and disappeared completely in an acrid cloud, eventually emerging covered in grey ash.

Mathematics was and still is one of my better subjects thanks largely to the efforts of Messrs. Owens ('Porky') and Barker ('Fred' of the red bubblecar)who both strove to extract my best.

From my report dated February '68, it would seem that my English made rather a shaky start at Price's. Until the arrival of Mr. Jones ('Merve') my English master was a certain 'Trunk' - I don't remember his real name which may be just as well.

He was quite badly victimised by certain boys, and responded on occasions by a virtual withdrawal, he would remain at his desk and stare at the far wall for an entire lesson. From the best of my recollection, 'Trunk' remained with us long enough to nominate Kipling's 'Kim' as our 'O' level examination book. When 'Merve' succeeded him I happened to be off sick for two or three weeks. When I returned, having ploughed my way through 'Kim', it was to find that he had taken a class vote, and the text had changed to 'Cider with Rosie'.

At the parent's evening preceding the dreaded 'O' levels 'Merve' candidly advised my Mother that I would fail English Language if I didn't attend to my punctuation. As it turned out 'Eng. Lang.' was my sole grade 1 pass!

My brother cursed me for this, as whenever he failed to perform to Mr. Jones satisfaction, he was told he'd never do as well as his brother if he didn't "buck his ideas up".

Others have recalled the mysterious Mr. O'neil. My recollection is that his mottled and apparently insensitive hands were rumoured to be due to an episode on the wartime Arctic convoys which he often referred to.

I remember him saying that he once awoke and thought he was paralysed down one side, only to find that the duffel coat in which he had been sleeping was stuck to the steel bulkhead by frozen condensation.

'Penguin' as he was generally known, was relatively easy to divert by the introduction of certain subjects, the war being one, and the electric chair another. He could talk quite graphically on the inhuman nature of this particular form of capital punishment.

CCF 'memoirs': I was in the Army section of the CCF, and attained the dizzying rank of Corporal, whilst my friend and contemporary Chris Ryan made Sergeant.

I recall a summer camp, probably 1968, at the Junior Leaders Regiment in Taunton. We travelled there (or nearly there) by truck with Mr. Nash, who contrived to drop us off somewhere short of the destination, and we ended up arriving on foot having marched for what seemed like miles wearing groundsheet capes, carrying rifles, in persistent rain.

One of the 'high' points of the stay at Taunton was the exercise which degenerated to a cowboy & indians style shootout across a field (blank ammo), with cries of "you're dead" - "no I'm not" etc. We spent the night in a copse trying to sleep, wrapped up shivering in our groundsheet capes (no tents).

It started to rain in the early hours, and someone who had elected to sleep prone on his groundsheet ended up with a puddle in the small of his back. Who he I wonder? (It is just possible that the march in the rain was to the exercise site rather than the camp, my memory is 50/50 on that).

Other remembrances of the camp were getting to live fire the Bren gun and SLR on the ranges, driving SWB Land Rovers around the parade ground, and the squad having to carry a telegraph pole to and from the assault course, for no particular reason. The years have kindly erased any memory of the assault course itself, but I am sure I did very badly, as I was a bit of a blob!

Another feature of the CCF was the special sections that were forever being set up, only to fizzle out a short while later. One was the "Modern Weapons Section" in which we became highly proficient in stripping and reassembling the SLR, mainly because the other modern weapons we were promised never materialised.

Then there was the Artillery section which had a single visit to Larkhill where we took turns to fire a 25 pounder at derelict vehicles the other side of a valley. The rumour was that we were then going to get a decommissioned 25 pounder at Price's for gun drills and displays, but that also never turned up.

The one relatively useful section was the 'First Aid' section, taught by an officer from the Medical Corps. One participant actually suffered some sort of fainting fit during the lecture on mouth to mouth resuscitation, so we had an impromptu live demonstration on the handling of the unconscious. There is no intentional hyperbole in the above, but mistakes there may well be, memories being what they are. I bow in all cases to those with superior powers of recall.

I left Price's in 1971, grew my hair, and went to Portsmouth Poly to study engineering. I returned on one occasion to collect some work for Nick who was laid up with an ingrown toenail.

I made the obligatory call on Eric, who's immortal utterance was 'ah yes, I remember the face, but the name escapes me'

I know that there is a panoramic school photo circa 1970 at my Mother's house. If I can lay my hands on it, I will scan it and mail it to you.


Andy Beckett