Archbishop Tenisons Grammar School

I attended this school from 1963-68. Can't say I enjoyed it much and left with very few qualifications. In fact I disliked it so much that I started playing truant while in the first year. I used to forge my mother's signature on a note and always had the suspicion that Mr Laidlaw-Brown (not Mr Laidlaw nor Mr Brown, Mr Laidlaw-Brown) knew what I was doing. Mind you, I'd also occasionally forge her signature in my report book. Damned grammar school, we used to get a report every term!

I suppose I ought to introduce Mr Laidlaw-Brown. My first experience of him was on the first day. Us poor first years were the only pupils in school and on arrival we were all sent to the dining hall. At one end was a raised platform, which we subsequently learnt was where the teachers ate their school dinners. So there we were 90 kids not knowing what the f*ck was going on when this shortish elderly (to me as an 11 year old) chap with grey hair and wearing a gown stood on the platform and told us that he would call out our names followed by a letter and we were to congregate in the area designated for that letter. At the time that meant nothing to me but it was the stream into which we were put, based on our 111-plus result. Now, the thing that I'm sure everybody noticed about this man was that he didn't so much talk as sing. It is impossible in print to convey how he spoke but I'll try. Take the phrase "Good morning class" The "Good morning" bit would be said with a rising lilt followed by the word "class" in a lower voice. So when he finally got to the Ws it was "Webley - A". And I joined the other 29 kids standing in the A section.

As it turned out Mr Laidlaw-Brown was our form tutor in the first year. He could be a bit of a tyrant and had very high standards; so I was a frequent disappontment to him. However, I do owe him a huge debt of gratitude that I never did convey to him. One day I produced an essay that was full of the most ignorant racist rubbish that you could imagine. No idea what the essay was supposed to be about but I had repeated many of the facts about the coloureds that I had learnt from my father. How they would live 10 to a broom-cupboard. How they would rent a room and as one got up to go to work another would be coming back from work and get into the recently vacated bed. What's more they would buy a pair of shoes and, like the bed, the shoes would be shared. Thus the shoes would wear out very quickly and they would take them back and get another pair for free. And all this from a man who was not averse to buying things that "fell off the back of a lorry" and once advised me to get my name on the housing list so that I would get a council flat before the scroungers did. Completely oblivious that I could afford to rent privately and that if I got a flat (I was to lie to the council saying that Sarah and I were living with my parents) I would potentially be depriving a person with real need. Anyway, when Mr Laidlaw-Brown read my essay he took me to one side and asked me to question a lot of what I had written. Which I did and I'm sure that his intervention, without preaching, saved me from being a small-minded bigot.

Because Mr L-B never said anything I became even more brazen in the second year. Unfortunately I overdid it and my end of term report was full of teachers referring to my absences. The result was a talking to by the headmaster. So I was a good boy in the third year. In the fourth year a golden opportunity presented itself. My parents went through what was euphemistically referred to as "a bad patch". So one day I was taken out of class and out of school by my form tutor as my mother had "left" my father. I think she returned that same day but thereafter if I needed a day off to mooch around London (sometimes I'd hang around amusement arcades and others museums and art galleries) all I had to do the next day was to say there had been trouble at home and my form tutor would be embarrassed and say "OK". Fantastic!

Oops, I disgressed a little. The school was fairly small with about 450 - 500 kids. There were 90 in each year group split into 3 forms or streams. These were imaginatively called A, B & C. The most able (surprisingly including me) were the A stream and the least able were the C stream. And all based on the results of the 11-plus! In the 2nd year, in an attempt to be more politically correct, they renamed the B & C streams Latin & Non-latin. The non-latin stream doing woodwork instead. Needless to say this only lasted for one year. Best bit of Tenison's was that it was opposite The Oval (see pic) so we got to see a little cricket from the art room, so guess who took art for O-level despite having no talent whatsoever, as confirmed by appalling fail of O-level. Another good bit was that our playing fields were at Motspur Park. So, once a week we were shepherded up to Vauxhall station for a train ride. The changing rooms were quite neat, they had those huge baths with showers overhead. Almost like going in a swimming pool. Except we were likely to be covered in mud! When I joined my current company back in 2001 one of our clients had their offices right by Motspur Park railway station. So I had a quick look at the school grounds. The sign there has worn only slightly better than me, as you can see from this pic. Back in the 60s the school still had pretensions, so we had to doff our caps to teachers (some of whom still wore gowns when teaching) if we met them in the street and being seen without a cap going to/from school was a punishable offense. They were also strong on school uniform. In fact I was once sent home to change my shirt and socks!

I could actually reel off the entire 1A class plus a few others, but that would be incredibly boring. Instead here are just a few names where I can add some info, no matter how little.

    Charlie Alder
    Born 1951/52, lived between Stockwell and Kennington Oval. He called his parents by their forenames which was unusual in those days. Now, since I originally wrote that last sentence I have swapped a couple of emails with Charlie and he doesn't remember doing that. So as he ought to know I'll assume that I am wrong. I know I ought to just remove that sentence but I can't be bothered!
    I remember going to Charlie's house just after my 15th birthday (or was it my 14th?). I felt really cool as I was wearing a cravat (actually I looked very trendy, so there!) and carrying my new(second-hand) guitar. It was an Arbiter solid electric with 4 pickups, I went for that rather than a Strat copy (at least I hope it was a copy) as I figured that 4 pickups were better than 3 (see there's that "quantity over quality" mentality again). The action was so high that my fingers got vertigo, but it was a real guitar and it was mine. Up until then I had had to make do with a plastic 4-string guitar that had been a birthday/Xmas present probably in 1963/64. It had originally had a picture of Elvis on the head but I had changed that to a picture of The Beatles. One really neat thing about this toy guitar was that you could attach a plastic "gizmo" to the neck and by pressing one of the labelled buttons it would hold down the relevant strings to play a chord.

    Back to the Arbiter - each pickup had its own individual rocker switch which gave a surprisingly good range of sound. I suspect that one of the pickups might have been wired out of phase as it significantly changed the sound when switched on. My brother lent the guitar to a friend of his back in the 70s and that's the last I saw of it.(Thanks George! - Oh yeah, thanks also for breaking my 12 string acoustic and not returning my Vox AC30 or effects pedals. Bitter? Me??? I won't mention my really nice semi-acoustic (see pic) which George also lost/broke as he did finally replace it with a Les Paul copy - not as good but at least it was a replacement)

    Oops! Went off the topic of Charlie, but I think I had more or less finished. Oh no, must recount the time when Charlie was sitting at the front of the German class and was told by "Pappy" the teacher (memory suggests that he bore a passing resemblance to "Chalkie" in the Giles' cartoons) to sit at the back. As he stomped to the rear of the room he was loudly using a certain Anglo-Saxon expletive (so was keeping to the spirit of the subject). "Pappy" being either deaf or not wanting to cause a scene lifted his head and enquired "Did someone say something?" I mean I'm sure most of the school heard Charlie, possibly most of Kennington!

    And another "And finally ..."
    Charlie and I were in the same O-level music class. And it was during a music lesson that Charlie did something that lasted to this day. He gave me a tattoo! OK not a real one but he did jab my arm with a pencil and the lead broke the skin. The pencil left a mark that is still there. I did accuse Charlie in one of my emails but he claimed not to remember. But then,he would say that wouldn't he.

    Don't remember much about Jeff, not even his surname - sorry. Charlie did tell me the surname in one of his emails but I had a disk crash and being a professional I didn't have a back-up so lost loads of emails, including Charlie's. I'm not even sure that Jeff was at the same school as me but I assume he ws the same age so was born in 1951/52. I seem to recall that Jeff played the sax. So why do I mention Jeff I hear you ask. A couple of reasons but mainly because he and Charlie were with me when I did something for the first time. I believe it was also their first time. And what was it? See here for details.
    Keith Newbery
    Probably my best friend when I was 11/12 but as we moved through the school we grew apart. Keith lived at Clapham South so we used to meet up at weekends, or was it just after school? Who can remember! But hang around together we did and might, just might, have done things that we shouldn't. But if we did, it's for me to know and for you to imagine. Needlesss to say, whatever you imagine is likely to be far worse than anything we actually did.
    Keith and I have met several times in the last few years but then he went to work in Saudi Arabia for a short while, which became a long while, and our emails became less frequent to the point where they have stopped.
    Steve Mitchell
    Steve and I weren't really friends but neither were we enemies. Have met Steve once a few years ago. It turned out that Steve and Keith Newbery had been best friends at primary school. So when Keith and I turned up to meet Steve I was not ready for Steve's reaction. It was something like "F*ck me! Wally Newbery!!!"
    Jim Oxley
    Jim and I were friends around the 5th year. He had moved to Clapham and I used to hang around at his house. Was there once and there were a couple of girls, one of whom was cross with Jim. So in her anger she screwed up the picture sleeve of the still very new Strawberry Fields Forever. The problem was it was mine. I ironed it out and used clear sticky-backed plastic but It was never the same as you might be able to tell here or here. I don't think that I have forgiven her to this day and it still upsets me when I see the state of the cover. OK so I could have bouht a new copy of the single but in 1967 I COULDN'T AFFORD TO!. Also the state of the cover wasn't of the utmost importance in those days. And now, I can't be bothered.
    Talking of SFF, I had placed an order at the local record shop, as I did for all Beatles singles, and was on my way to school one day when the owner came out and called me. Although the official release date was still a day or two away he had my copy of SFF. So I took it into school and we played it on the record player in the music room at break.
    Alan and Keith Richardson
    The (non-identical) Richardson twins. Good friends, especially Keith. Always had a secret anger at Alan as, like me, he wore glasses but unlike me he didn't need them from the 2nd year on - BASTARD!!!
    Peter(?) Garood
    Easily the cleverest boy in our year,. In fact I believe he was actually a year younger than the rest of us. I once scored 98% in a music test and guess who beat me ...
    Alan Smith
    Had the honour of being the first boy in our class to get the cane. About 30 seconds before me. Strangely enough we were friends despite the fact that when Mr Laidlaw-Brown (our form teacher) pointed out that some exercise books were missing from the stationery cupboard he blamed Keith Newbery.
    And why did he do that? Because, as he announced to the teacher and the whole class, "Newbery and Webley boast about stealing from Woolworth's". What a lie! We never boasted.
    ? Leger
    Why I don't know but he and I really didn't like each other.
    Len Lewis
    Len left school at the earliest possible moment. I think he was going to be a gas fitter or something but (and again thanks to me losing emails I have lost Len's so am unable to tell you exactly what happened) did something else and is now (semi-)retired and has a house abroad and a race horse (or a part share). Well done Len - I'm envious!
    Peter Evans
    Peter and I were friends, never best-buddies, but friends. However, the reason for his inclusion here (apart from me bumping into him at Hyde Park during one free festival or another) was that he provided much unintentional humour to us in the first year. Mr Laidlaw-Brown always liked to humiliate those of us who didn't acheive the required standard. He would call us to the front of the class, often as a prelude to a caning. But the manner in which he called us is what really provided us with a giggle. He would say/sing "Evans P on the floor". I mean, what is an 11/12 year old to do except giggle. That is until the inevitable "Webley K on the floor". Peter now lives in New Zealand.
    Charlie Holding
    A year older than me. Charlie and his twin brother re-did the 5th year so he was in 5A at the same time as me. So, why is he mentioned? Because he was sitting behind me in some lesson or other. I think we had a temporary teacher so we all had to say our names. Due to my daydreaming, when it was my turn to give my name, instead of "Keith Webley" I said "Charlie Holding". Despite an immediate correction the damage was done.

    Alan Pleasants
    Alan and I have recently swapped emails and plan to meet very soon.

Other places you can visit, assuming you can stand the excitement: