JLW's 1963 Interview about his Life

The following is an article which appeared in the Summer 1963 edition of the Esthameian. It was headed 'Profile' and was hoped that it would be the first in a series in which the editors took a new look at an old face. The magazine was lent by Barry Bryant in October 2002


Were you happy as a child? Yes, very. My relationships with my parents were very good.

What was the family background? We came originally from yeoman stock, who had had a very successful haulage business in Yorkshire. My father, a very skilled craftsman, was Clerk to the Works.

What school did you go to? Manchester Grammar School.

Did you enjoy the activities there? Oh! yes, very much: cricket, football, and music especially - and I was school organist. I was always interested in music-as you'll know from hymn practices-and used to accompany my father's singing on the piano. I even thought of becoming a professional pianist or conductor.

What were your first ambitions? I wanted to go to the university to study Classics. I always wanted to do it, even without really understanding what it was all about.

What university did you go to? Well, this is rather difficult. I was unable to take up an exhibition at Peterhouse, Cambridge, because my father died. So the school governors arranged for me to teach part-time at one of their preparatory schools, while I studied for my external London degree, which I got in Classics in 1928. After obtaining my degree, I taught Classics at Kilburn Grammar School, Middlesex - that's in London.

How long were you there? Until 1936, when I became Senior Classics master at Selhurst Grammar School, Croydon, and stayed there until 1944 - and that's it.

Where did the army fit in? When I was at Selhurst, I was in charge of the Air Training Corps and J.T.C., working closely with the Home Guard.

We know you're married, of course. How many children? Three sons and a daughter.

Are you a grandfather yet? Yes, I have four grandchildren.

Are you an early riser? I get up about 7.15 or 7.30.

Do you like boiled eggs for breakfast? I never have eggs for breakfast - and if I do, they're always fried!

Do you keep late nights? I don't go to bed until I've finished my work.

How do you like to relax? In an open cricket shirt, old flannels or shorts and sandals. In any spare time, I like reading serious modern novels, though I'm eclectic in taste; or listening to music especially the modernists, such as Bartok and Schoenberg. When questioned about the theatre and cinema, he replied: I like to keep informed about what is going on in these fields.

Do you have a television? No. But I have a record-player, and borrow many records from our excellent library in East Ham.

He likes to spend his holidays abroad, to meet people of other nations. He likes to be able to speak to them in their own languages; accordingly, he worked on modern Greek for his last holiday, is studying Spanish for his next and is already conversant with French, German and Italian.

He thought his dreams were sometimes significant, and confessed he has nightmares.

Never gambles: life is too full to feel the need for artificial excitement - anyway the bookmaker always wins.

A diocesan lay-reader, he says his Christianity is unorthodox. Likes to give sermons on topics of immediate interest: I like to talk.

Do you have any fears about retirement? No, I think I shall have too much to do.

Who made the greatest impression on your life? The High Master of Manchester Grammar School, Mr. J. L. Paton.

We are all familiar with the formidable range of 'Gould and Whiteley' Latin texts. They started when Dr. Whiteley met Mr. Gould at Kilburn, and followed a chance suggestion. Since then have come a Latin course, sets of famous authors and poets, and some are still to come.

What do you think of sex education in schools? Facts are not very important-they should be learned from parents by the age of eleven. The good influence of happily married parents and contact with mature, responsible adults, encourage the development of right attitudes.

What would you think of a Sixth Form amalgamation of boys and girls' school? It would be exciting. Combined lessons would certainly be a good idea.

How do you feel when you make a blunder? I accept it - normally laughing it off. A sense of humour is essential. It is a tremendous release - perhaps sometimes a nervous reaction.

Asked what he thought the qualities of headmasters should be, he replied that they should be intellectually distinguished, or the boys will not respect them: must be very interested in education, have drive and faith in the job. Must be well-balanced and preferably married with children. Since coming to East Ham, he has seen the Sixth Form grow from a handful in 1944 to nearly 200 boys.

Are you satisfied with your work at East Ham? Yes and No.

Finally, when asked if he had any regrets, he said: Yes, though I had two brothers, I never had a sister. I would have liked to have had sisters.

Robin Sharp (S) '65-'72 sent the following in July 2003.

As I was browsing in a secondhand bookshop last week, I came across a book listing old boys who attended Manchester Grammar School and knowing that Joe Whiteley was an Old Mancunian, I found this entry which I copied and is here reproduced, for interest:

 Biographical List of Old Mancunians, 1914-65  pub Manchester, 1978

Manchester Grammar School

Joseph Lacy Whiteley, 1920-25
Born 11 March 1907

Prefect; cricket; London University: BA Hons (2nd Class), Classics 1928; MA 1932; PhD 1940. Assistant Master, Sale High School 1925; Kilburn Grammar School, 1930; Senior Classics Master, Selhurst Grammar School, Croydon 1936; Headmaster East Ham Grammar School for Boys, 1944-. Co-author of 'A New
Latin Course' and of many Latin texts in the Modern School Classics Series.

26 Malvern Drive, Woodford Green, Essex