New Term Same Old Masters

January 1962 and I am back for my second term at the Masonic Junior School. JSton as we called it (I don’t know! Stop asking irritating questions). My attempt to run away had ended in ignominious failure and my rebellious refusal to return after Christmas had been skilfully bought off by my mother. The bitter pill had to be swallowed. I was there for life, which was pretty much how a nine stretch looked at age ten. A pill all the bitterer because my younger brother still lazed in the comforts of home – but that’s another story altogether.

When you are a child you accept the world around you without question. The adults who populate your world, for instance, are as you take all adults to be. It is only as you grow up that you start to realise that your world was not necessarily the same as that of others. For us boys, I am sure, the masters who dominated our daily reality we took as representative of all adults: their behaviour and attitudes those of adults everywhere.

As we grow up we reassess and what a strange bunch they now appear in retrospect: Bertie Breckons, with his range of Bertie tortures as I described in an earlier post, Kingie, a dark character, who always made boys drop their underwear before beating them and took a grim delight in the terror he inspired, the Rev Stowe who told me on a Sunday Walk that he stripped his wife naked every night and inspected her to ensure cleanliness (still surprised I don’t go to church?), Jay, an English teacher who even ten year old boys realised was drunk most of the time, Girp (sorry no idea either) Haig who had a metal leg and horrible facial deformities due to First World War injuries, a hopelessly ineffectual teacher whom we treated shamefully badly, Fergus Ferguson, a strangely hairless teacher of Geography, whom we were all convinced had lost his testicles in an accident which accounted for his acerbic temper. Of the rest, half-remembered as they are, only one,  Bruno Junior (there was an older Mr Brown laying claim to Bruno Senior), stands out as a warm and fully paid up member of the human race. He taught English and took real pleasure in the essays we wrote and brought enthusiasm and humour to the subject.

The world was very different then and children weren’t listened too as they might be now. In addition, as unpopular governments all over the Middle East are finding out, it is much more difficult to keep control in a world of cell phones and the Internet. All our letters were checked and we were not able to talk to our mothers for six weeks at a time.

Boarding schools of the time must have provided a tempting home for the inadequate unmarried male. We weren’t paying customers either, as in regular public schools. Potentially a toxic mix and perhaps I should count myself lucky that no serious abuse came my way or any of my peers.

I am almost tempted to say “Boarding school? Never did me any harm!”


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17 Responses to New Term Same Old Masters

  1. Lord Robert. says:

    Life instructor’s come in many shades of gray.It’s what makes ones journey on mother earth that much more palatable. I remember a Mr. Hutchenson used my head to open the swinging door’s on my way to the principal’s office.Today he would get a ten year stretch for that act of cruelty.With that said I believe our paths might be predetermined for us.It’s all what you do with the experience that makes you whole.
    Really enjoy your writings ole friend.Hope your well.
    Peace and light.

  2. Steve Boorman says:

    Found this blog via link on friendsreunited… I was at Jston from 1966 …Kipling House (C) Alf (Martin) Reid was Housemaster …a survivor of the Japanese but fundamentally a good man. Most of the names above ring many bells with me, especially Bertie Breckons, who I first mistook for a gardener !! His limp always gave him a humerous “Boom..Squeak” noise which always warned small boys of his imminent arrival….but beware of the Bertie Punch a particularly viscious form of punishment delivered to the small of the back with a raised knuckle.Dickie Hamlin was another master of torture …but as you say..”Never did me any harm !!!”

  3. David Craggs says:

    Dear Chris,
    This is so interesting and well done.
    Reading your description of these misfits reminds me of how deeply dysfunctional they all were. The only explanation, not excuse, has to be that they had been subject to similar abuse during their youth.
    I can remember only one teacher from JSton with any affection, Tony Hilton the music teacher, who used to allow Steve Crapper, myself and others to play our LPs in his study. In return, we used to wash his car. A rather nice cream MG as I recall.
    The ‘Ston Massive’ reprobates were no improvement.
    One particularly perverted individual was Warwick Housemaster, one Colonel Alistair McGregor Kaye He delighted in beating naked bottoms with his army swagger stick. This particular buffoon used to dress weekly in his officer’s uniform and play army games. He reputedly had an estate in Scotland to which he supposedly retreated during holidays. He was generally regarded as a man of means as he possessed two Bentleys: a coupe for winter and a convertible for summer. Rumours also abounded about a distinguished war record.
    Personally, I used to doubt all of this and always regarded him as something of a Walter Mitty character. He only assaulted me once when, aged thirteen, when I was caught experimenting with Players No.6.
    As I grew older, we steered clear of each other. I think he regarded me as trouble and I did all I could to amplify his fears. Other unfortunates were not so lucky.
    Some years later ( probably about 1973), fate took a hand and I bumped into him in Gateshead of all places.
    He recognised me immediately and reacted in a very awkward fashion. He was out of his environment and clearly felt ill at ease. I merely wished him well and went on my way. Happily he meant nothing to me.

    • admin says:

      Hi David

      Thanks for your kind words. I am really glad that reading the blog has some meaning for you.

      You drew the short straw with Warwick. Warwick and Burwood houses seemed the most regressive, run by unreconstructed loons, as you say. How the blimpish Colonel Kaye held that job down I do not know.

      Nick Oliver was my best friend in the last year at school two and I remember the names of the other three you mention although I cannot place their faces. One day I will have a stab at the senior school but currently am concentrating on my blog about life in Turkey, where we live.

      Feel free to send me an email on

      Take care

  4. Chris Simon says:

    Congratulations on your Masonic blog. I so hope you do a Senior School one. More importantly, write a screenplay and I will make the movie. I reckon it should be a little like If, but with ghosts, animation and some unique twists.

    The art teacher, Tony Ben Renoir was inspirational and gave me my ambition to attend Harrow Art School. He painted a Peter Gabriel Genesis portrait for me from a photo I gave him of my hero. He also ran Film Making Hobbyist Groups and based a short adventure war film on one of my submitted screenplays. He allowed me generous marks for my somewhat long and racy essays, in the occasional English classes he gave. Another English tutoring inspiration was a crazily enthusiastic Mr McArthur who taught me to dissect Keats poems, which I still do today. There was the cool Music Piano Playing teacher at Jston who inspired me to learn trumpet, with old visiting trumpet tutor, Mr Upton, teaching me jazz by numbers when I could not master reading music. The flash metalwork teacher, Mr Walker, actually had little time or patience for me, until one final term before senior school, when I copied a Russian almost Pop Art metalwork minimalist frame for a glass top coffee table that he scored as excellent work. I kept that table into my first marriage.

    Of course, there were some psychological scars from Bertie Breckons and Colonel Kaye and I think you sometimes return to the past, a tad depressively – which is really how I found your excellent writings. But a lot of comedic memories too, like David Craggs being able to put a whole side plate in his mouth and my leading a revolt on the school hairdresser and climbing over the gates at night to go to the pub. Plus, a lot of hope, like the maids, who gave me a relative longing and healthy interest in the female species.

    I was in Kipling and Warwick houses, with my year older brother, Phil Simon. I kept up for awhile, with guys like John Shirley, Dick Borseberry, Phil Wheating, John Carpenter, Ian Noble and even the school bully, Richard Jennings.

    • Chrid says:

      Hi Chris. I am finally writing the novel and am 20000 words in. Much of that is set in the Masonic School. Plan to finish in 18 months

  5. Steve Blinkhorn says:

    Chris & David, you both have stirred some memories of the mid 60’s era. My first Housemaster in Burwood was a very nasty man by the name of Ken Clark aka Melly. He had it in for me constantly and I was pleased when he left. His successor was a chap called Tony Parker aka Mini-Man. Tony P wandered around the place with a handkerchief dangling from his jacket cuff. I was in Jeff Walker’s (Flash Harry) Class and he always seemed a decent chap.

    • Peter Ibbett says:

      Hi Steve
      I had forgotten we called Jeff Walker flash harry, was it because of his red sports car or his girlfriend Linda? They are still together after all these years. I hope to see you next year in Liverpool I believe.

      Best wishes

      Peter Ibbett OMA Arhivist

  6. Robert Palmer says:

    My experience of the maters at The Royal Masonic School, Bushey (1957 to 1962) was in the main positive. I received a lot of encouragement from in particular DD Kennedy and PR Castle. Also I was fortunate to have Brian Bignell for physics, Tom Clinton for chemistry and Ken Clarke for biology in my sixth form which enabled me to get into medical school. Unlike the above post Ken Clarke I remember with affection. I suppose everyone is different. My positive impressions I regret to say did not extend to the headmaster, but there you are. Robert Palmer Derby House.

  7. Max Kite says:

    Just came across this blog. I was in Newton and Devonshire. The true sadists were Saki Wills and the Gym master – name escapes me…. ‘Goodie’? Bisto was a perv. The ‘ahem’ single men were Michael Hilton (music), George Burley, Dickie ‘The Penguin’, Dickie Bird. The moderates were Gardiner (10ft tall), Bruno, Dickie Hamlyn (sublimely racist). In retry, I hated every second.

  8. Max Kite says:

    To David Craggs. I remember Colonel Kaye having two Daimlers – cream open tops that he drove at top speed over the speed bumps on the inner road. Others:. Percy Thompson (known as ‘boo hoo’), Arthur Andrews (Garth), Bill Glover (known as ‘Hitler’ amongst his colleagues. Tom Clanger was good. Fat Sam (Steve Samuels) was a terrible teacher and was why my whole 6th Form class failed Maths with Physics A level. Bill the bullet Wilson couldn’t give a toss. Ian somebody (Higgins?) was housemaster of Derby and a terrible history teacher. The Rev. with the hairy cheeks was clinically insane…. “I’ve the names of the boys concerned”. Had a dog called Brutus. I saw him REALLY lose it once with a boy called Davies. He beat the cr@p out of him. Oh, on that subject, Bisto used to slap us round the ears (between talking about masturbation whilst we were naked in the bath) which is probably why I suffer from tinnitus nowadays. Oh, and there was this wierd chap called Gerald Blood if I remember correctly who was something in the masons but used to hang about in Newton of an evening. I guess that nowadays they would just join the BBC.

  9. Max Kite says:

    On the subject of the likes of Bisto, it was amazing how some masters suddenly appeared when we were getting changed for bed. Bisto was the main offender and he had a habit of looking under the covers to see if we had erections. I was never physically touched by any master, I guess that they were too scared. There was one geography master – l think he was probably a temp – who was absolutely brilliant. Hilarious! Learnt a shedload of geography that year! But what about Mullins? And Viv Robinson?

  10. Max Kite says:

    Last one:. Eggy Easthampton, the woodwork master. Beat me in woodwork class with a bit of 2×1. Also, one day a pupil (no names, no packdrill) put his brush back bristles down and Eggy made us all go to his house (Garrick?) and stand with our noses against the wall for 8 hours but we never told him it was Ferguson Junior (whoops – packdrill now!). I was enormously enjoying his obituary when I read that he was the man who forged the passports in The Great Escape, played by Donald Pleasance. In spite of the pain of standing 8 hours we never bubbled Ferguson.

  11. Keith Kerslake says:

    Eggo Eastman was the craft teacher who forged escapers’ documents, Bryce Goode was the psycho PE master and Brian Stowe was wont to make inappropriate comments about his sex life from time to time. At Ston Rev Jenkins was the ex-military chaplain with a taste for mountaineering, and Ian Higgins was indeed the housemaster of Derby.

    Ben Renoir’s real surname was actually Renoir (much to everybody’s surprise) his father being Louis Renoir, who was a film director. His mother was Kathleen Renoir, who wrote numerous detective novels under the pen name Moray Dalton.

    Graham Garton is approaching the age of ninety and still teaching piano.

    I am now seventy but still entertaining (?) on the cruise liners.

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