EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS RECEIVED
From B. A. Wright (1948-1953) (R.A.F.- National Service)
"I would like to express simply and sincerely my gratitude for all that the School has given me, or rather for what the School has enabled me to give myself. To discover oneself is the most difficult of all human tasks, perhaps the most essential; to perfectly fulfil oneself is to extend one's horizon of living indefinitely. . . . I have managed to gain an entrance to Christ Church, Oxford."
From H. Ball (1943-1950)
""Once again, on behalf of the Old Boys of the School who are now at the London School of Economics, it is with very great pleasure that I send to the Staff and boys of the School our greetings and hopes not only for a memorable Jubilee Year, but also for the very best of successes both in academic work and outside activity in the years to come."
We wish to acknowledge greetings from:
Brinley Davies (1947-1954), who describes the life of a National Serviceman in the R.A.F., before he proceeds to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.
R. A. Mansfield (1945-1952) at Downing College, Cambridge, who voices the opinion that the School is successfully overcoming one of the "chief difficulties of a day Grammar School - the creation of an atmosphere which will give its members a sense of 'belonging', a feeling of respect and duty".
LET US PAUSE AWHILE ...
IMPRESSIONS are personal things; I put mine here in the hope that many will have shared a great many of them, and that others will give time for a little thought on them. In many respects they are vague; impressions may be very clear, but nearly always their edges are a little blurred.
Of all the memories and impressions I have of my days at school, I like to cherish most the thought that I belong to the Old School. I mean that to be interpreted literally, for my memories of the School are set in the Old Building next door to the Town Hall.
My last years at school coincided with the School's last years in the Old Building and I have always been grateful for this, for I do not think that I personally would have had the courage to face a change in atmosphere. I think the strongest accent should be put on that last word, atmosphere. I am certain that the School did not change; you do not change masters and pupils merely by placing them in a new building, but I am glad that I did not have to experience breaking with the Old Building and entering a new one. Of course, this impression is exaggerated, but then impressions, I think, are necessarily exaggerations.
I like to think of the Masters who taught me there. They were of the "Old Brigade". And I'm wrong in this impression, for there are masters who are teaching at the New School whom I knew, and still know, not merely as teachers, but as personal friends. I know, however, that they will think kindly when I talk of the "Old Brigade". I keep as treasured items the memories I have of listening to Mr. Lock, of being firmly guided by Mr. Pain, and of the fiery French instruction of Mr. Haslam. These are my personal memories of the "Old Brigade": others will have different ones, but I know there are many who share my memories.
My impression of my final year at school is of a constant flurry of activity. I remember the enormous freedom I had in the Third Year Sixth - 31 "free" periods - and of not having a moment to spare. Only towards the end of the Summer Term did the pace slacken; a fragment of lazy summer followed, and before the August sun had finished warming the beaches, I found myself "square-bashing".
I will always remember how easy it was to make friends with Harrow and the Angel, the Elephant & Castle and Eton. I can recall with pleasure the making of many friendships; not passing ones, for I still know many with whom I pent my first army days, and I knew them as true friends. I shall always be grateful to the army for enabling me to see a part I the world I might never have seen; for giving me experiences more quickly than I might otherwise have gathered. Out of Kenya have come impressions of human pain, of disastrous misunderstandings, of inexplicable hatreds and enduring courage. But at the same time I saw the proverbial beauty of tropical skies and waving palms on the coast; I saw Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Kenya at much too close quarters; I visited the Arab retreat of Zanzibar. From all these places I brought a host of experience, and impressions back with me, and in all these places I found many friends.
From the warmth of the Tropics to the wrong end of an English summer, and Oxford. The perfect confusion of the first few weeks, the fact that I never seem to see these friends I have, and the work that just manages to get done - somehow; those are my lighter impressions of Oxford. Perhaps it is unfair to look for any more, for perhaps they have not yet had time to form. I do remember, however, the difficulty of re-adapting myself to work; having moved hurriedly from place to place in the preceding two years, I found no difficulty in settling in and adapting myself to my surroundings, with the exception of that one rather important item.
Part impression, part fact, that is what makes me believe that behind the facade of Ivory Towers and dreaming intellectualism there is in Oxford an invaluable contribution to the world. Call it the "Oxford way of Life", or what you will; I cannot say exactly what it is. It is a thing to be found, but it is something that does net come in exchange for nothing. The nature or size of your contribution does not matter; what is important is that you should make some sort of contribution.
I seem to have wandered away from my impressions, but I offer no excuse. The memories that I have recalled are necessarily incomplete for they represent only three outstanding features of my life. I think their nature is in keeping with a book of this description; I hope that they have given thought for a little pleasant reflection, for then, I am glad to say, they will be the same as my memories - above all, happy ones.
M. RIDGWAY (1945-1952),
Magdalen College, Oxford.
As write this and look back over the last seven years, I realize that I have come to know the school rather well. Those seven years represent nearly a half of my life and a seventh of the life, of the school, quite a large part of each.
During this seven-year period of residence, I have seen many boys complete their education and leave the senior part of the school, boys who have gone on into the job of their choice or else used the school as one of their greatest stepping-stones on the way to University.
The one thing I really can thank the school for is for enabling me to gain entrance to one of the most famous of our universities. Several years ago, while still in the junior school, the idea of attending one of our universities held no appeal for me at all. The prospect of spending three long years in obtaining a degree did not attract me when it was compared with the alternative of leaving school at an early age to earn myself a living.
At the time, when it was suggested that I should attempt an entrance examination I didn't think I could get one. I didn't realize that it would not be my efforts alone that would gain me such a position. Behind my work lay the influence of the name of the East Ham Grammar School in the educational world. Its name is held in the highest esteem because of the results of former currants and the work of the staff.
It is perhaps the staff that jumps into my mind when I think of the school. To me, the name does not conjure up visions of the school buildings because this to me seems entirely irrelevant; even the boys do not appear so important to their fellow pupils as do the staff. Only the boys with whom I made the closest contact will remain in memory ; the rest become a vague mass of black jackets and dirty black shoes. This impression of the staff is, perhaps denied to boys who leave in the 5th year. Once you enter the Sixth Form the staff loses that stern aspect some of them appear to have when you are in the Junior School. Once in the Sixth, however, you realize that they haven't bothered to get their qualifications for nothing. They really begin to impart their knowledge to their pupils and it is up to the boys to make the best use of it they can. It is now that the staff appear more human than mechanical.
Most of all I shall count it a privilege to have been School Captain during the school's Jubilee celebrations. My colleagues and myself have had the experience of attending many functions which we would not otherwise haw had the opportunity of attending.
The school has played, and surely will go on playing, a prominent part in the social and educational life of East Ham, and in such a position there is no reason why, in the following years there should not be great strides in the achievements the school can add to its credit.
G. A. KENDREW
(School Capt., 1954-55).
STOP-PRESS AND AFTERTHOUGHTS
"On Margate sands I can connect
Nothing with nothing."
-T. S. Eliot
IN September, 1943, the Boys' Grammar School returned from what I have always understood to be a rather colourful exile in Swindon, to the scarcely war-chipped and still wonderfully pretentious building behind the Town Hall The same year I became a member of the School; one can't really say that either event caused the other.
I remained in E.H.G.S. for B. for six and a half years, or a little more, leaving in spring, 1950, in a fit of horror at the prospect of a Greek Farce being produced by members of the Sixth Form. In looking back on one's past, the years at school always tend to form an epoch of their own, but when, as is the case with anyone at school between 1943 and 1950, that epoch corresponds with a fairly distinct phase in the world outside - thinking of the "post-war" which I suppose ran roughly from 1945-1950 or '51 - it is a little difficult to pick out the characteristics of one's own development from those of the period at large, and have something left. So difficult, indeed, that I haven't bothered to complete the process before writing this article. But if you read it you can see that I am trying.
Of my own more inspired moments at the, School, I should scarcely omit with any justice the time when the Arts Sixth - in those days a select quartet - went around chalking what someone had told them was the longest word in the English language on any and every deserted blackboard (ceilings would do at a pinch); the time when Elson introduced that splendid, even if original, line into the performance of Shakespeare's "King Lear", "I'm poor mad Tom from the winkle barge", and the time when I drew coals of fire on my head by causing to be read in Morning Assembly a translation of a Chinese poem containing the line, "I think of (unpronounceable name) in bed with warm bedsocks". CULTURE?!" someone says, with half, dozen more assorted punctuation marks, which as you see I haven't put in, even for the sake of making this article longer. Why, yes, culture, for these were the day, of the Debden Renaissance, when everyone was frantically forming groups to do things, whether it was to put on a play, shoot lots and lots of arrows at a round thing called a target, or only to announce to a supposedly interested audience that they were keeping a salt-water shrimp alive in fresh water, of all things. Culture? We were so cultured that even the plaster casts of Greek sculpture in the lesser Art Room weren't good enough for us, and we added to them in pencil.
But then perhaps I'm doing what said I wouldn't, and identifying the feelings of a whole year with that I felt I felt, or would have liked to have felt, or felt I ought to have felt, myself. Am I? It most be admitted that all these were Upper Schoolish kinds of events that I have recalled, and while they may have been results of that enlightened era of which our present school building is a legacy, they may equally be the effects of that (possibly equally fabulous) time of one's life, at sixteen and later, when a certain wakening up is supposed to occur. For, you see, I can't clearly remember anything outside my own activities pointing to a "new era" (if I'm going to continue to hold that there was one) while I was in the Second or the Third or the Fourth Forms, apart from going to a concert with the rest of my form in the third year, where there was a female who knitted and played the harp. I don't mean she did both at the same time; she'd knit a bit, and then look round at the rest of the orchestra to make sure it was still there, then get ready to play her bar, then play her bar, then sit back, then go on knitting; I never did discover whether it was plain or purl. But I'm letting myself run away with my subject.
It may be that this illusion of what someone is going to call an intellectual period during these years is due to the fact that we were then so much nearer the Reference Library, where one could always find someone who signed themselves "Lenin" in the visitor's book, or who made a point of reading nothing but the "Encyclopaedia of Christian Antiquities", and many a school wit has earned his earliest successful sally in most unchristian dispute, with the librarian. Or again, it may be due to our all being at that period of our lives when we were trying to fulfil some sort of aim, for one's life falls into three periods: that when we experience things, all sorts of things, without trying to direct our experience; that when we decide what we want ideally to do with our lives and try to do it; and that when we accept the compromise between this aim and what our experience in stage one has limited us to being able to do. (Someone will say that such a compromise is this article, and it is quite true that I probably ought to have waited another eighteen months before writing it, but then Liberal weeklies and Jubilees wait for no man).
Well, I see I have almost got to the end of my article - yes, I know, and your tether, Editor, as well - without having produced any satisfactory sort of definition of the characteristics of my own time at the Grammar School. Strange how these things happen, isn't it? Or don't happen.
Anyhow, as I said before, I left school in 1950, and everyone moved, two years later, into the new building. Once again, I'd better say I don't necessarily connect these two events.
K. H. J. G. (1943-195O).
(K. H. J. Gardiner has completed his degree course at the London School of Oriental and African Languages. He will be remembered by many as a regular contributor, of originality, to The Esthameian - Ed.)