Mr Tomlinson has his first full year at the school, the school faces closure, World War II takes its effect and the school officially becomes a state grammar school ...
( Remember to check the top of the home-page to see if there have been any recent additions to this section.)
The 1940's were a time of great change and upheaval at Sexey's and Mr Tomlinson held the reins for the whole decade and beyond.
Paddy Martin joined Sexey's in 1940. Here are Paddy's memories -
'I was so surprised to see not only a photograph of my old school and to read everyone's history at Sexey's. In the forties I enjoyed my time as a boarder. I was not at all academic and still need 10 fingers to add up my accounts??.'
'Mr Tomlinson despaired of my mathmatical abilities. When I visited him and Mrs T in the 50's I think he was surprised I had achieved my dream of becoming a Nurse and Health visitor.'
'I do remember Peggy Osmond Jeanne Blackmore and so many others - John and Jean Darch and Rosemary Riley. I have snap shots of the Tennis team playing in their whites at a club somewhere on the road to Wedmore.'
'The boarders were allowed to walk to Wedmore on Saturday afternoons where we spent our money and sweet coupons in Mrs Bown's sweet shop.'
'I have lived in the States for so many years but look back fondly on my days at Sexey's. I do remember we ate fairly well considering it was war time. I did not care for the Rabbit stew, which was fed to us regularly or the Marrow and ginger jam on our slice of bread at teatime but we were so lucky to have so much fruit from the farm.'
'The boarders used to help pick the Blackberries which grew along the side of the playing field and the orchard. I had some boy friends in my seven years at Sexey's. Billy Martin was one and he and I kept in touch after I left school.'
'I am still interested in sports, I play a lot of Table Tennis and do remember those Saturdays when we played Hockey or Tennis against Wells Blue or Weston Super Mare - we were always so competitive. If any one remembers me I shall like to hear from you.'
'Folks in the USA think you must have had a deprived childhood to have been sent away to school, how wrong they are. I enjoyed it and it was a good foundation for the rest of my life.' Paddy Hudgell Martin (Many thanks for those memories, Paddy - MJ)
In the January of 1940 Mervyn Payne joined the school as a boarder. Mervyn had previously attended Stogursey Primary School near Bridgwater until his early teens, which is the primary school that I'd (MJ) attended some 20 years later. As it was, Mervyn and I could both remember many of the same families and amazingly he had vague memories of my great grandfather, Edward 'Ned' Chidgey, who worked on various farms in the area driving a threshing machine. I never got to meet Ned but Mervyn tells me he was a hard man in hard times.
Mervyn can remember starting Sexey's in Miss Padfield's class (Erica) and that she smoked a lot even then. He also recalls that they used to try to keep her chatting for as long as possible so that the lesson time went by. He can remember that Erica used to hang her school gown behind a door in the room and that some of the naughtier boys used to rip it occasionally.
He can bring to mind a number of his classmates. These were Jimmy Hillier, Eric Banwell, Thelma Duckett, Joyce Hancock, Bill Luff, Wesley Beale, Betty Morgan, Muriel Cox, Ron Coombes, Marjorie Jupe, David Parker, Isobel Radford, Rosemary Riley, John Tripp, Donald Tripp, Pam Steer and Anthony 'Plum' Rawlings.
On occasions when Mr Tomlinson was taking the class and had to be called away, Gerald Dean would stand on a chair and change the class clock in the hope they were sent out to lunch earlier - on one occasion Mr T quickly re-entered the classroom and knocked Gerald flying off the chair he was standing on! Gerald explained that he had adjusted it because it had stopped but undoubtedly Mr T knew what he was up to!
Mervyn recalls that on one occasion he had a big run in with Mr Tomlinson who had caught him with his girl friend, Pat Downs, behind a locked door (the 6th form room next to the scullery). This led to a threat of expulsion but luckily nothing more than a threat!
He also remembers that Mrs Amesbury and her daughter used to clean the school at the end of each day and that on one occasion he found that the top of the school piano was very dusty so he decided to write 'Please clean me' in the dust. Mr T got to hear about it and he got a right telling off.
With regards to the boarding, Mervyn can remember that Miss Bird was the full time matron. He can also remember that at that time only the large dormitory was used by the boys, there being eleven of them. Amazingly he can remember the sleeping positions of all of them! Enter the dorm room at the 'stone steps end' and on your left the very first bed was occupied by Reg Williams followed by Gabriel Hardwich, Peter Evans, Rex Payne (Mervyn's brother), John Rawlings and finally Mervyn himself. Entering the dorm through the same door but looking to the right was the bed of Clifford Carter followed by Dennis Hitchins, John Robinson, Jack Smith and Peter Calahan.
Mervyn remembers that it was very important to have your school trousers properly pressed and that the boarder boys used to put them between two bits of cardboard and place them underneath the bed matress - you had to look smart for the weekly church service!
Midnight feasts in the girls' hostel were fairly common as were midnight walks on the moors and in Blackford.
He can also bring to mind that the dormitory windows were fitted with large wooden frames and covered with black paper which acted as blackouts during wartime. He also tells me that when the boarders had an air raid practice they had to shelter underneath the stone steps which led up to the dormitory. He can recall that on one occasion during a Geography lesson with Mr Brookes they heard the distinctive varying drone of German bombers fly close to the school (after dropping bombs on Filton, he thinks) but they weren't allowed out to look.
Mervyn was a member of the school cadets and recalls a Summer camp at Pontins, Brean Down under canvas as well as a camp at Priddy on the Mendips where the cadets used to use a rifle range.
He remembers that Les Pavey, who had a carpentry business in Wedmore, taught Woodwork at the school and that he was the uncle of classmate, Gerald Dean. Mervyn is sure that he along with Jim Hillier coined the nickname 'Uncle Les' because of this, one which lasted right the way through to the end of his career in the mid 1960's!
(Mervyn, many thanks for allowing me to come to your home to meet you and your wife, Mary. Not only was it interesting to hear about your time at Sexey's, it was also fascinating to hear your memories of Stogursey school and our joint aquaintances as well! - MJ) [Sadly, just 2 weeks later on November 3rd, 2010 Mervyn passed away.]
In 1940 Ian Burrough joined the school as a pupil (leaving in 1945) and has sent in a few of his memories - 'I can't add very much about the war years at Sexey's, I was in the army cadet force and remember the camps. I remember the land mine and I cycled over to Notting Hill to view the huge crater it had made. I do remember disarming the incendiary bombs for Mr Evans and for some of his fellow ARP Wardens as well as for the local wardens at Mark. (This sounds a very dangerous thing to do for one so young ! - MJ)
I have remembered two more names from the time I was at the school, Rodney Pollock from Brent Knoll and Freddy Coombes from Chilton Polden. I used to see Mr Tomlinson after he had retired, he used to come into the pet shop and poodle parlour that we had in Weston. We were there for thirty years before going to France..... ' (Many thanks for your recollections, Ian - MJ)
In September of 1940 Jeanne Blackmore joined the school as a boarder. She can bring to mind a number of classmates, these were Peggy Osmond, Pat Downs, Gloria Branch, Christine House, Bernice Cousins, Margaret Wall, Kathleen Hillier, Josephine Vowles, Colin Hares, Chris ? and Alan Banwell. Jeanne remembers her class as being 'quite a small one' and that the form room was Class 4 at the back of the school (and so it was for 1st formers in 1964, Jeanne - MJ)
Jeanne recalls that when she first arrived at Sexey's there were three resident female staff in the hostel, these being Miss Thrower, Miss Collins and Miss Bird the matron. When Miss Bird left, Mrs Tomlinson took over her duties and it wasn't long before Miss Thrower moved over to the main school. When Miss Barnes arrived she became the sole adult in the hostel.
Jeanne remembers that, despite it being wartime, the boarders were generally well fed - 'this had a lot to do with all the hard work Mr Tomlinson used to put in on the vegetable and fruit plots.He grew potatoes, we always had plenty of vegetables and greens'. According to Jeanne, breakfast often consisted of porridge followed by a 'cooked breakfast' and at 4pm there was bread and jam for the boarders and at 7pm supper was served - before supper the boarders had to do 2 hours 'prep. (This sounds very similar to the regime in the 1960's - MJ).
At the time, as well as there being full time boarders there were a number of 'weekly boarders' who returned home at weekends (There weren't any of these from 1964 onwards - MJ) Jeanne recalls that Gloria Branch and sister, Valerie, Sonia Branch, Sheila Sawtell and Charmaine Cross fell into this category.
With regards to the accommodation inside the hostel, Jeanne can bring to mind that the staff room was on the ground floor along with a common room, bath and toilets and a pupil dormitory which held three girls. Upstairs were a number of small dormitories, the 'long' dorm which held five pupils, the 'pink dorm' which held two, the 'blue dorm' which held another two and a further dormitory for two pupils. When Miss Thrower left a further three bed dorm was created and it was there that Jeanne slept along with Peggy Osmond and (she thinks) Pat Downs.
Jeanne remembers that the hostel's common room was used for music lessons by a visiting music teacher, Mr Brookes. Pupils could then go on and take their music exams in an establishment in Wells. Here is Jeanne's piano exam certificate from 1945.
She recalls that some of the more competent pupils would play the piano in assembly and choose the hymn - Gloria Branch and Wesley Beale were amongst that chosen few. Jeanne remembers that Wesley always used to choose 'Eternal Father Strong to Save' (which is known as the 'Navy Hymn' in America) due to the fact that his father was serving in the Navy at the time.
Jeanne tells me she used to enjoy her boarding days and cannot remember any bullying going on. She remembers plenty of midnight feasts although food was hard to get hold of because of wartime rationing. She says that 'Hale's Granny's Cakes' were very popular (a fruit cake with a 'home-made' look made locally in Hale's Clevedon factory) and at one particular feast someone brought a tin of sardines which they had to eat with their fingers!
During her time at Sexey's various wartime precautions were made to the accommodation. In a ground floor section, deemed to be the safest part of the hostel, a number of mattresses were put down on the floor on a nightly basis. In the event of a night time air raid the girls would go and sit/sleep on the mattresses. Jeanne remembers clearly the time when a land mine was dropped close to Blackford village. The explosion shook the hostel so much that many of the blackout roller blinds dropped down. She also remembers that a tea tray besides someone's bed was flipped upside down like a pancake!
Jeanne recalls the time when Scarlet Fever hit the school. She says that Mr Tomlinson caught it and that the whole school had to be 'swabbed' to identify the carriers. This resulted in Mr Tomlinson and a number of the pupils going to the isolation hospital at Shute Shelve (near Cross on the way to Bristol).
Jeanne can bring to mind the many organised walks that the boarders took after they'd had their Sunday lunch. These were often led by Mr and Mrs Wright. She remembers a walk to Mudgeley Hill, just the other side of Wedmore, with the aim of collecting Water Boatmen for the school's aquarium. They would also go on circular walks around the Stoughton and Stone Allerton areas.
On Saturdays the boarders could ask permission to pop to the shop in Blackford. Jean recalls that taking the short cut across the fields meant that they were sometimes chased by a flock of angry geese!
Jean remembers that Mr Fear used to be the cleaner for the hostel and that Mrs Duckett used to be the dressmaker for the boarder girls.
Amazingly, the girls had to go down to the village for hair washing, this was done in a room above the Post Office. There was a rota on a Saturday morning when the allotted girls would walk down to the village in small groups.
Jeanne's schooling at Sexey's came to an end in 1945. After leaving she began a domestic course at St Audries School in Somerset. (Jeanne , thank you so much for inviting me into your home so I could hear your personal memories from the war years - they were really fascinating - MJ)
Des Russett joined the school as a pupil in 1941 and he can remember that a Royal Naval biplane (a Swordfish?) landed in the school field not far from the science lab - he wasn't totally sure why the landing was made. but he tells me (Martyn James) that by the time the Royal Navy Air squadron came to pick it up, the pupils had ruined the plane's outer covering and it was in a terrible state! (Jocelyn Lukins ('41-'46) remembers the biplane saga somewhat differently. She is sure the 'plane was actually a mock up and not a real plane at all - she says that the fuselage was made from wood covered with paper and that it was brought to the school by road for some reason).
Des can remember a number of classmates, including Verity Wickham, Paddy Hudgell, Peggy Osmond, Jean Blackmore, Rosemary Riley, Doreen Pople, Christine House, Elizabeth Tarsey, Jean and John Darch, Christopher Court, Robin Bird and Andrew Butcher. Apparently, many of these were boarders. Des says that some had come from the East of the country to avoid the bombing. (Does anyone know the whereabouts of any of these ex pupils?- MJ)
Des's son, Vince followed in his father's footsteps and joined the school the same year as myself, in 1964. Vince eventually went on to Oxford University.
In 1941 Michael Hodge joined the school -
My name is Michael Hodge (contact me on email@example.com)
'Recently my good friend Andy Hedges of Umberleigh, Devon and I were talking and it emerged that we both had connections with Sexey's School, Blackford. He very kindly sent me information gleaned from the internet and I wondered whether the following thoughts may be of interest to former student colleagues.''
'I attended Sexey's between 1941 and 1944. My father and mother moved the family from Bristol to Rackley Farm, Compton Bishop, near Axbridge in late 1940. attended the local village school, but failed the scholarship exam. My father decided to send me to Sexey's School, together with my sister Anne. I well remember travelling over to Blackford by bus for the interview with Mr. Tomlinson and recall that he had a daughter, Helen. My cousin David Stokes also attended and my life-long friend Keith Gibbs from Bristol, who lived with his parents at Stoughton or thereabouts.'
'To get to school was quite an effort. First we cycled to Cross, where our cycles were left at Stitch's Farm. Then Mrs Wall from Mark (where her family had a garage) would pick us up by car from Cross Corner and take us to Blackford. Also in the car was another friend from Bristol, Derek Sylvester who lived with his family at Dunnett Farm, Compton Bishop.'
'Most of the teacher's names from the internet are familiar, but there was also Miss Brook, Mr. Pavey and Mrs Wright. The latter was Mr. Wright's wife - they lived in the big house just past the crossroads on the Wedmore road. Mr. Pavey taught woodwork, but he gave me the impression that he thought country boys were rather more shrewd than their town counterparts! I was in Black House.'
'As for pupils, I remember several of those mentioned. Des Russett, Wendy Wickham, Paddy Hudgell (I thought Paddy was very pretty!!) and Leonard 'tacky" Weare. There was also "Goat" Simms (good at cricket), "Shaver" Jones from Cheddar, Sam Petheram, "Digger" Burrough, Avril Sully and her brother, the Boyce brothers from Hove College, John Gibbs from Clewer and Rowland Ham who lived at Upper Weare. Rowland was a good friend and when I expressed an interest in keeping fowls, his mother (a farmer) let me have two. One of the fowls rejoiced in the name "Mrs Webber".'
'The school outfitters were Owen & Stribbling of Wedmore. Clothes rationing was of course in operation at this time and I think that the school uniform rules were consequently relaxed somewhat. Initially, we took sandwiches for lunch, but then Miss Merriman introduced us to school lunches. I don't think that I was too keen on those and remember having pea pods!'
' I joined the army cadets, but due to my age, I couldn't have a uniform. We went to Dunster Camp, I think in 1944. The buildings are still there, in the form of holiday chalets. The broken window episode is clear in my mind. There was a building known as "The Armoury", used for the storage of cadet force impedimenta. It had a panelled door with nine glass panels at the top. The three boys had catapults and smashed all the windows. I clearly recall Mr. Tomlinson on the warpath, white faced with anger, the next day when he did the rounds to successfully identify the culprits.'
'Garden plots were available for students and I and my cousin, David Stokes, each had one. I had a two wheeled trailer attached to my cycle and in the summer holiday we cycled over to school to bring home our produce. There was a baker at Wedmore called Puddy and we saw his van in Blackford on the way home. We bought half a loaf as we were hungry - some may recall that bread rationing did not come in until after the war!'
'We returned to Bristol in 1944 and I completed my education at Bristol Grammar School in 1947. Most of my working life has been with Commercial Union Assurance (now Aviva). After commencing at Bristol office I had offices in Weston-Super-Mare, Bridgwater and Taunton. In addition to administration, I had a territory to look after. My company had special terms for various teaching associations and it was this arrangement which brought me into contact with Mr. Tomlinson's successor, Mr. Ravenscroft. He was very courteous and we had a most interesting meeting. I think it was in either 1972 or 3 that I met Miss Merriman and Mrs Irons, through business, and they then lived in Burnham-on-Sea (Mrs. Irons told me she had been widowed in World War 1). Business also caused me to meet Digger Burrough's parents in later years. I think that their address was Perry Farm, Mark.'
'Memories can play funny tricks, and I apologise to those concerned for any misinformation!' (Many thanks , Michael for those memories from the '40's - it's always interesting to hear the ways in which the war impinged on school life and the general 'goings on' at the time - MJ)
In 1941 Jocelyn Lukins joined the school - part of her letter talks about the music tuition that went on at the school at that time -
'The piano was then taught by a visiting Music teacher, a Mr Brooks who came from Wells perhaps for only one day a week. His pupils were taken out of their classes for their lesson. His star pupils took it in turn to play the hymns at morning assembly for a week. (Mervyn Barton thought it was a staff member) I was never good enough to play in assembly but Mr Brooks said I had a fine appreciation and used to play for me! He was a small man with white hair and seemed very old but was very kind in that remark about my skill.'
'It was wartime and many of the teachers had returned from retirement or were just out of college. We did learn and sing popular ballads with Miss Thrower but Erica Padfield also gave Music Appreciation classes using Gramophone records. A typical one was Bizet's L'Arlesienne Suite. I seem to be the only one in the class who remembers these sessions and in fact was interested in them.I bought the records and built on them and when I came to London I became a 'Groupie' for some of the London orchestras and at a musical party met up with Keith Puddy who was Sexey's most brilliant musical scholar. As he was younger than me and in fact I last remembered him as a little boy with golden curls in his pushchair being taken out by my friend and classmate Ruth Stickland (for I left the district when I left school) I talked to him at the party but didn't recognise him. Next day he came to my place of work in a smart, red sports car and reintroduced himself, his curls had completely gone.We kept in touch after that.' (Keith's sister, Hazel Hudson, has recently (Dec. 2010) sent in some additiomal information about Keith -
("Keith was in those years (1946-51). He stayed on to take music O level Keith was the first state school pupil in Somerset to take music. He went to the Royal Academy of Music after 2 years in RAF, and first job was principal clarinet of the Halle Orchestra. He has just retired as Professor of Clarinet at the Academy, although still doing the odd day. He has had a fantastic career travelling all over the world." - many thanks, Hazel - MJ)
'Very many of us local girls went to London and further afield when we left school whereas the boys, many of them evacuees, stayed at home. Ruth Stickland became a nurse and went to Australia, June Teek became a nurse and worked in Norway and Canada, Margaret Hole studied in London and went home to be a teacher, Janet Bown studied in London for a Civil Service career. I left and became a photographer and have been in London since 1951. The second world war and particularly the influx of the evacuees in our school seemed to make us more enterprising in wanting to see the world beyond the village. Mr Tomlinson was remarkable in that he took a great interest in us all individually and our future careers as has been mentioned before and gave us marvellous letters of recommendation if we asked for them.'
'Our school song in my day was the Harrow school song, 'Forty years On', we sang it on the first and last days of term and on the last time of all it was very emotional.'
'Forty years after my class had left school I searched out my classmates and as Mervyn Barton mentioned we met up and Miss Barnes presided. She was only 21 when she first taught us and i think that was possibly the reason her control over us all was never very good - being so young, we didn't give her a chance. We had a wonderful reunion and met up on four further occasions until our 60th anniversary of leaving school. On the first and last occasion a local baker made us spectacular cakes emblazoned with the Hugh Sexey's coat of arms and we have kept in touch and renewed all those important friendships. When we have met up we have only ever talked about the good old schooldays, the years in between are never of interest. They were very good days.' (Thank you very much for your memories, Jocelyn - it's good to hear you've had such enjoyable reunions! - MJ)
In 1942, Mervyn Barton joined the school along with his sister, Vera. Like many others both he and Vera had been evacuated to the area, from London, in 1939. Mervyn continues the article in his own words -
'The curriculum at the village school at Bagley was rather basic, and it was decided by our parents after discussions with the headmaster, that my sister and I should have the opportunity to go to the local Grammar School. It was therefore essential that I would have to sit an entrance exam for the school, and that my father would pay for my sister, as he could not afford to pay for both of us.'
'I sat this exam in the headmaster's house at Bagley, over a few days, and fortunately passed, and so we both started at the Hugh Sexeys Grammar School in the village of Blackford, on 22nd September 1942, aged respectively 13 and 11 years.'
'Blackford was a village about four and a half miles from Theale, and our only means of transport was to cycle, as bus services were virtually non existent. My sister Vera acquired a bicycle, and I had my brother's sports bike, so we proceeded to cycle to school in all weathers, rain, shine, frost and snow.'
'There were not many times when we were unable to get to school - it was expected that we would attend.. Life was hard then compared with children of today being taken a few hundred yards to school in motorcars!'
'Sexeys School was a farm school, with a working farm attached, designed to help train the sons of the local farmers for the future, and as such was quite unique in the area. It was also a boarding school, and took pupils from as far away as Bristol, some 20 miles away.'
'The current headmaster was a Mr Henry Tomlinson (mathematics), and there were specialist teachers for History (Margaret Barnes), Geography (Mrs Irons), English (Erica Padfield), General Science (Mr Wright & Mr Bush), Religious Education & Art (Miss Thrower), Languages (French - Mr Evans) Woodwork (Mr Pavey), Cooking (Miss Merriman) and many of the teachers shared Sport (Cricket, Football, Tennis, Hockey and simple Athletics).'
'We all had our own form rooms and desks, and generally the teachers came to us, but we moved around if a specialist room was required for a particular subject, e.g. Science.'
'The science block had many bee hives around it, but one special hive, with glass sides, was inside the building on a bench with its' entrance attached to a window. We could therefore see all the activities going on inside, the honeycomb being made, the queen laying her eggs, and the workers feeding the bee larva etc. I found it really fascinating and some of us pupils spent considerable time studying what went on. As you can imagine science was a favourite subject of mine.'
'There was great rivalry between the two school houses, Amber and Black, particularly at sport. I was in the Amber house, and we were invariably beaten at football, but held our own at cricket. The same could be said for the traditional matches played against The Blue School from Wells (6 miles away).'
'The school ran an Army Cadet Corps, and I eventually joined this, and we met on Friday afternoons, once a fortnight and sometimes weekends. We were trained by an "old sweat" regular Sergeant Major and promoted NCOs within the Corps. We learnt to shoot army issue Lee Enfield rifles and the Bren light machine gun, learnt field craft and camouflage, and went to annual summer camps with the regular army.'
'I was very proud to eventually obtain a Certificate "A" award in general infantry training. Apparently, Cadet Corps attached to Grammar schools were started during the 1914/18 war, and encouraged to continue thereafter. Anyhow it stood me in good stead when I later joined the part time Territorial Army and eventually my 2 years National Service in the British army, which all young men had to do at that time.'
'I vividly remember one Friday afternoon when we were having a field craft exercise, and I was crawling along on my stomach between the science laboratory and a hedge surrounding the playing fields, and ended up adjacent to several beehives, I was quite fascinated watching the bees coming in and out of the hives, when suddenly the soldier bees guarding one of the hive entrances started a very high pitched buzzing, and in a few seconds hundreds of bees started pouring out within a couple of feet from my head. I thought "sod this for a game of soldiers!" and beat a hasty retreat as fast as my legs would carry me - the bees had swarmed as they sometimes do in the summer months.'
'Mr Tomlinson had to get his bee keeping equipment and go and find the swarm up in one of the playing field trees. Needless to say the field craft exercise was cancelled as I was not the only one to run for it that day. Some brave soldiers we turned out to be!'
'As so many men had been called up to fight for king and country, the school had no caretaker in 1944, so us boys were delegated to stoke and keep running the heating boiler during the winter months. It was very old and finally expired that year, and a new boiler was installed in January 1945. I remember helping the headmaster Mr Tomlinson to stoke the new boiler and we had a rota system for the boys to clear away the ashes and bring in the coal.'
'As far as my schooling went, in 1945 at the end of the war, my sister Vera went home to London with my mother, but it was decided that I should continue to attend Sexeys' School to obtain my Oxford School Certificate, which meant staying on for a further 12 months.'
'It was arranged that I could stay on at the farm to finish my education before returning home. In fact the farmer, Burnett Champeney, wanted to adopt me as his son, to carry on the farm later on, but both I and my family were not keen on that, so my father agreed a financial arrangement.'
'Looking back, I must say that I really enjoyed my time at Sexeys' School. It was very well run and gave me an excellent education for the years ahead. I went around with a group of 2 boys and three girls and we played sport, went on cycle rides to Wells and Cheddar, took an occasional bus ride to Weston-Super-Mare and did many things together, and ended up good friends. Sex did not seem to enter into it in those days - I suppose there wasn't the emphasis on it as there is now!'
'I remember the time when we were taking our School Certificate exams in June and July 1946. It was very warm and sunny and in between exams we either sat around on the lawn in front of the school revising the next subject, or just laying on the grass, or the energetic amongst us played tennis. Altogether it was a very pleasant time.'
'Having taken the final term exams, we had no tuition classes as such, so helped the staff doing many tasks in preparation for the summer holidays. My friend John Herniman and myself were asked to preliminary mark some of the lower forms internal exam papers in Science, a job we thoroughly enjoyed, and we were quite amused at some of the answers given by the younger pupils.'
'I was subsequently very pleased to learn that I had obtained "distinctions" in Mathematics and Science, "credits" in Geography, English and History, and a pass in Religious Education.'
'At the end of a final term, it was the custom of the headmaster to interview each one of us to find out what we wanted to do as a career and to see if he could help us in any way to get started.'
'I wanted to be a Motor Engineer, and Mr Tomlinson felt that I had more ability than to become just a mechanic in a garage. He ran a Morris Eight car and applied for an interview for me to obtain an apprenticeship at the Morris Motor Works at Cowley Oxford.'
'I was granted an interview with the Managing Director a Mr Smith (I found out later that he was known as "Hitler" Smith and a stern disciplinarian). I must have impressed him with my answers to his questions because I subsequently started a five year apprenticeship in September 1946.'
'Apart from two years National Service in the army in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from 1951 to 1953, I worked for Morris Motors, Austin -Rover, British Leyland, and finally the Rover Group. Over 43 years I was employed in Production Planning, in Experimental Department testing prototype cars, Inspection Department, and finally as a Quality Engineer, and left the Company to retirement in 1990.'
'In 1986, one of our schoolmates from our class, (Jocelyn Lukins) managed to trace all but three of the members of our 1946 class, and arranged a 40th reunion at The George Hotel in the village of Wedmore, which was a great success. Here's a picture from the day.
Back L-R Derek Goldie, Joyce Goldie, Roy Nicholl, Pat Hitchcock, Richard Hitchcock, Michael Nash, Roger Coomber.
Middle L-R Doreen Weare, Leonard Weare, William Martin, Doreen Nicholl, John Creber, Enid Creber.
Front L-R Mervyn Barton, Margaret Barnes, John Herniman, Janet Coomber, Mary Nash, June Teek, Margaret Duckett, Jocelyn Lukins, Ruth Moore.
(The 1946 picture of this group can be found in the General Images Photo-Gallery - MJ)
'There was hardly anyone I did not recognise after an absence of 40 years, remarkable! and I was able to renew my acquaintance with two of my old school chums, Billy Martin and John Herniman.'
A special cake was made to commemorate their forty year reunion.
'Since then we have had a 45th, and a 50th anniversary and with numbers now dwindling, a 60th in 2006. So some of us are still managing to keep in touch with each other.'
'The main school building adjacent to the main road has changed very little since it was built in 1899, and every time I manage to see it, many vivid memories of my wartime school days keep flooding back.'
'In 1999 the school held a Centenary Service in Wells Cathedral on Friday 24th September, and a packed congregation of hundreds sang "Jerusalem" (which I had first learned at Bagley village school in 1941). Accompanied by the great cathedral organ, it was a very moving experience!'
'The school opened on the Saturday 25th for past pupils to take part in a celebration which my wife Diane and I enjoyed very much. It was then that I learned that the eldest Champeney daughter Mary was now living at Pillham Farm, and so we were able to visit her during that weekend. We still keep in touch now if only by greeting cards.'
'The Supermarine "Spitfire" fighter aircraft is the recognised symbol of the battle of attrition between the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe, which occurred during the late summer of 1940, and known as "The Battle of Britain". Fortunately the Luftwaffe found that it could not dominate the skies over Britain, and as a result Adolf Hitler cancelled his planned invasion of our country.'
'This aircraft was often seen in the skies above the farm during those war years. Some of them are still flying today, and the unmistakable sound of that Rolls-Royce Merlin engine coupled with a sight of those elliptical shaped wings brings me out in goose bumps even after all this time!'
'Looking back over what happened to me from the age of 10, during my teens, and my final formative years, I consider that I was extremely lucky to have experienced such a varied and interesting life. Many London evacuees were not so fortunate as me!'
'Having to cope with being sent away from loving parents and a home, living and learning about working on a farm for 6 years, and subsequently becoming an engineer has given me a certain self reliance, and has been instrumental in forming the person that I am today.'
'I have certainly enjoyed exploring the depths of my memory of the war years of 1939 to 1946 and am very pleased to have been able, with the help of my computer, to put my thoughts on to paper.'
Mervyn Barton, November 2007.
(Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to put this article together, Mervyn, it's been a really interesting read. Hopefully, I will be able to solve the annoying problem with the pictures you sent in and show those as well. Mervyn's class must surely be one of the oldest classes that meet on a regular basis - if you know differently, please get in touch. - MJ)
Pat Langford also joined the school in 1942 as an evacuee. Pat has kindly sent in her memories -
'John Grant contacted me through Friends Reunited and introduced me to this site. I'm so glad he did, I had no idea of its existence and it led to a very enjoyable trip down memory lane. I have so enjoyed reading recollections so far, bringing to mind names I had long forgotten, I decided to add my four penn'orth, and maybe encourage contemporaries to do likewise. My memory of events however could possibly be called into question; it was, after all, a long time ago!'
'I was an evacuee from London living in Brent Knoll and joined the school in 1942 as a result of sitting the 13 plus examination, a facility for those of us who failed the then "scholarship" or 11 plus. My understanding at the time was that the school was founded by Sir Hugh Sexey for "the Sons and Daughters of Gentlemen Farmers", and the original concept was that, apart from the three R's, boys would learn the basics of farming whilst the girls would study cookery and needlework and presumably, how to become good farmer's wives (or even farmers good wives!). Not entirely correct as I soon discovered but still as sexist in many ways as were others at the time - girls learning Domestic Science and the boys doing wood or metal work and even able to join an Officer Cadet Corps. I remember the plane in the field, I thought that that too was placed exclusively for boys for their playing soldiers activities!'
'I remember clearly feeling overawed at my first Assembly. There on the platform stood Mr Tomlinson and his staff wearing their academic gowns, a scene that until then I had only read about in schoolgirl novels. I believe at that, and all other beginning of term Assemblies, we sang "Awake My Soul", accompanied on the piano no doubt by the music teacher. Even the girls' uniform impressed me, I hadn't worn one before and the black gymslip, white blouse, striped tie, black stockings and black blazer struck me as very "jolly hockey sticks"! I loved the hat, particularly the summer version but then, I was easily impressed in those days! Having said that, to see the entire school so smartly turned out signalled serious intent, unlike Brent Knoll village school that was far more laid back. I have since wondered why the double-headed eagle was chosen as the school logo, it is not a British or C of E symbol. Did it form part of the Blackford Coat of Arms or that of a local dignitary?'
'We all carried the obligatory satchel - flight bags and designer backpacks had yet to be introduced but I seem to remember a drawstring gym bag for plimsolls etc. Unlike today, when I believe pupils have to carry not only their coat but also equipment around all day, we had cloakrooms and even our desks were considered secure enough, so we had no need to carry everything back and forth each day.'
' I used to catch the school bus outside the Fox and Goose pub on the main Weston Road, and which then took a circuitous route picking up children from the surrounding area. There was invariably some horseplay on the bus but that is the norm for a group of youngsters when not under the control of parents or teachers! At least we didn't write, or indeed scratch, offensive graffiti. We did manage to shatter a window on one occasion, as the bus rounded a corner, some of us weren't seated and . .…..whoops! Nobody was injured fortunately and that evening there was a temporary repair in the form of a piece of boarding which had a knot-hole, the outside light forming a halo around it - very tempting for a finger and . ….whoops!'
'My favourite subjects were English and History so I remember Miss Padfield and Miss Barnes. I believe it was Miss Padfield who one day took exception to the length of skirt worn by one of the girls - a very pretty redhead called Janice. She indicated the hem with her pen and asked in an imperious manner why the girl was wearing a frill to school!'
'I enjoyed French and quite liked Geography but although we had been taught arithmetic at primary stage, Maths was a whole new ball game which left me bemused - likewise science, another subject at which I did not shine. I can remember the litmus paper test, the distillation of water and the Davey Miners Lamp, but that was the interesting stuff, the rest caused my eyes to glaze over. Some of both must have sunk in though (subliminal?) for during my civil service career I was posted to a Scientific Establishment that undertook quality assurance for the MOD. Part of my job was to produce progress bar charts and at least I understood some of the terminology! It was during one science lesson that the board rubber was thrown at me for talking; it didn't hit me but landed on the desk. Usually, I would have been guilty but on that occasion I wasn't, so greatly miffed, I threw it back! Apparently there was later another master at the school with the same predilection. These days of course, we'd have been onto Childline pronto - or even got our mum to come and sort him out!'
'I have often wondered how Miss Merriman was able to effectively teach Domestic Science. Note the dreaded "S" word, but in this instance, confined to practical matters, i.e., the use of salt and bicarbonate of soda in cooking, and other chemicals used in cleaning products. Food was rationed, as were fabrics so much of the teaching had to be theory rather than practise. What little cooking we did, we had to bring the ingredients from home if they could be spared.'
'I remember one time making pancake - eggs were somewhat easier to come by - and the following week we were berated for waste when Miss Merriman was apparently able to make a batch of meringues from the amount of white left in the shells. Funnily enough, I don't remember seeing or tasting the meringues!'
'As far as sewing lessons went, they comprised darning, patching, turning up hems and general repair or alteration - everyone was exhorted to "Make Do and Mend". Those skills however came in very handy later on with a growing family. We made few items from scratch and for those, we had to provide the material out of our precious clothing coupon allowance (66 per year, enough for one complete outfit including underwear). They also took several weeks to make by hand - I don't recall a sewing machine - thus taking up many lessons.'
'The school was of course allocated some food allowance to cater not only for the boarders, but also lunch for day pupils - basic but filling. We ate at long tables seating eight (or ten?) and I believe the meat, fish, whatever, was served but we helped ourselves to vegetables - on occasions, boiled peapods! The head of the table though was responsible for dividing and serving the pudding. Imagine seven - or nine - pairs of eyes making sure that portions were all exactly the same. We helped ourselves to custard from large white jugs and that too was closely monitored. A particular favourite of mine was "boiled babies", a long plain suet pudding!'
'Not all food was rationed; vegetables and soft fruit were plentiful especially in the countryside since most men grew their own anyway and didn't need to be told to "Dig for Victory". I can remember some pupils bringing in pallets of strawberries suspended on poles across the handlebars of their bikes and no doubt for sale.'
'In Brent Knoll as elsewhere, people also raised chickens and many women already made jam from soft fruit and chutney from tomatoes - also home grown, and seldom had "shop-bought" cakes and the like anyway. There was even the occasional rabbit caught so apart from butchers' meat, food rationing didn't affect us as much as those living in towns and cities. Most of the men were farm labourers and poorly paid so making do on very little came naturally to their wives anyway. '
'The classmates I particularly remember were Pat Hill, who lived in Burnham, Evelyn Tucker who I think came from Wedmore, and Janice Willis who lived in East Brent and may have also been an evacuee but living with relatives. I also remember a Jean Edwards, from Burnham or Berrow, but whether she was a pupil or a friend of Pat's, I'm not now sure. Of the boys in the class I can only remember the name of John Oram but having three brothers, I tended to disregard boys - then! Evelyn wore her hair in two long plaits and I'm sure she wasn't the first nor would be the last, to have then tied to her chair by the person sitting behind - usually a boy. It didn't appear to faze her, it had probably happened throughout her school life.'
' I sometimes met up with Pat during the school holidays but we each had local friends so not often. We also kept in contact for a while after I left school, but then we lost track. Where are they now I wonder? I must also have had friends among the boarders for I was invited to a midnight feast they had organised, to take place just before he end of summer term.'
' It didn't occur to me to turn it down. At the time, I was billeted with a Miss Fry who lived in a large house, set back a little from the road, next door to the Red Cow. On the appointed night I left my bike handy, went to my room as usual and read, by the light of a torch, until the rest of the household had gone to bed.'
' Once the house was completely quiet, I made my way down the front stairs, they were carpeted - staff and children usually used the back stairs that were not, and that creaked - climbed out of the washroom window, carried my bike down the gravelled drive - less noise - and set off, cycling up to the main road then taking the lane at the side of the Fox and Goose.'
'The lane had a ditch either side, few houses on the way but I don't recall feeling the least bit apprehensive, people didn't then. Fortunately there was a moon and it was by no means cold. The church clock in Blackford struck twelve as I passed before meeting up with the group at the school - boys and girls - who were in on the caper.'
'The "Feast" took place in the field behind the school and consisted of lemonade, crisps possibly, anything that could be scrounged from home/kitchen, and the odd bar of chocolate, but it was the event that mattered, doing something not allowed always gives a buzz! It was all quite innocent, we enjoyed the whispering and giggling for about an hour then went our various ways - some further than others! Without the excitement and anticipation, the ride home seemed much longer.'(Pat, those of us who are locals know the route you would have taken and we are amazed that you undertook to cycle those dark, quiet lanes at that time of night! MJ)
'I excelled at nothing, enjoyed most lessons and was quite good at some - games coming into that category. I was quite a robust hockey player, held my own on the tennis court and was not a bad sprinter. I don't remember which House I belonged to - it wouldn't have mattered for I won no accolades, I was never competitive enough although many years later, my husband and I frequently won the Mums and Dads race at his Firm's annual Gala Day. I was chuffed rather than triumphant! '
'There was no pool back then of course - how I would have enjoyed that, and I would have loved to take part in amateur dramatics - especially performing G & S! I must have really enjoyed my time at Sexeys because what little I do remember is all positive. I was very very fortunate in many ways; I did not experience the horrors that some evacuees endured, I received a more than decent education and became, I think, a well-rounded and reasonably intelligent individual. I despair sometimes when I read reports of some of today's schooling; was teaching in our day exceptional or was it the accepted norm?'
'The war ended in 1945 and I left the school at the end of summer term and before taking the Oxford School Certificate. I was reluctant, at sixteen, to start as a new girl at a sixth form in London so shortly after, found a job requiring no academic qualifications, continuing my education at evening classes some years later.'
'So, what of today? Still nothing earth-shattering, nearing eighty I am trying not to become a boring and grumpy old woman. My interests are many and varied; I keep fairly active and try to keep abreast of current affairs - mindful of blood-pressure! I still attend evening classes, belong to a choir, became a "silver surfer" in my seventies - nothing too high tech., enough to enjoy many hours searching - especially Genealogy, and keep contact with family in USA and Australia by email. I have also had a couple of articles published in a magazine. Ok, so it's not all down to Sexeys, but some of it must be - discipline, the learning ethos, and an enquiring mind.' (Pat, thank you so much for sending in your memories. It's particularly interesting to hear what went on during the war years - MJ)
Memories of Dr. Connie Garrett, Class of 1943 to 1948
'In 1941 my family moved from the Wirral, Cheshire to Somerset when my father was drafted to the Royal Ordinance Factory at Puriton. We lived at Stawell near Bridgwater for nine months before moving to Woolavington in the summer of 1942. As the whole family had moved, my brother Rob and I were classed as 'unofficial evacuees', and I was somewhat put out at not being invited to a party for evacuees in the village as we were 'unofficial! Rob passed the 'scholarship' and entered Sexey's in September 1942. I went to school in Cossington until September 1943 when I followed Robert into Sexey's, where I joined the 'Class of 1943 to 1948'.
'Rob and I would walk the half mile down Woolavington Hill to catch the bus to Watchfield where we were picked up by the school brake. Coming home the school brake dropped us off at Watchfield and we then walked to Bason Bridge to get the service bus home.'
'In class I used to sit next to a girl who was always 'doodling' and drawing horses. I had forgotten her name, but having seen a list of everyone in the 'Class of 1943 to 1948, I think it may have been Anne Hodge. (NB. John Grant has traced and communicated with Anne who could not recall Connie, but confirmed that she had been a frequent 'doodler', particularly of animals, including horses. She had subsequently attended the West of England College of Art).'
' I remember going on a class outing to Wookey Hole, where in those days we entered by a very narrow, somewhat overgrown, pathway. Rob and I had school dinners - the only thing that I remember was the pastry on tarts was so hard that putting a knife or spoon into it would sometimes make it shoot off the plate and land on the table opposite.'
'I was happy at Sexey's and was sorry to leave when my father was posted back to Lever Brothers at Port Sunlight in the spring of 1944. My parents considered leaving us at Sexey's as boarders, but there was only room for me and not for Rob, so we moved to Liverpool.'
'Rob went to the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys and I went to the Liverpool Institute High School for Girls. After about five years, the family moved back to The Wirral, where I entered the Sixth Form of Birkenhead County Secondary School for Girls. I went on to London University where I graduated with a B.Sc. in Horticulture and a M.Sc. in Microbiology and my career was in Plant Bacteriology at East Malling Research Station in Kent. I gained a Ph.D from Imperial College in 1978 for my work on the disease 'Crown Gall'. Rob attained the Higher School Certificate and went on to Liverpool University and graduated in Physics. He worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough for most of his career, but was later seconded to the Ministry of Defence in London. He died in 2007.'
'In 2012 John Grant traced me living in 'The Garden of England' and in July 2013 I made a nostalgic return visit to Somerset to attend the Annual Old Sexonians Reunion Lunch at the Brent House Restaurant. Prior to the lunch I went to Sexey's and was shown round the school - much altered from when I was there.' (many thanks for sharing your memories with us, Connie - MJ)
In 1943, Colin Fudge joined the school. Colin has recently sent in his memories of the place - (there are some text problems with Colin's article)
'When reading the Cheddar Gazette on line the other week I noticed the
paragraph informing their readers of the Oldsexonian lunch on July 6
and of the Oldsexonian web site. Coincidentally I touch down at
Heathrow at that hour from my home in Victoria, B.C. so cannot make the
journey in time but delighted to have seen the web site.'
'I attended Sexeys in 1943 to 1946. Although I had rather a tumultuous time through
family disruptions I do have fond memories of my time there and only
much later in life realised what a great basic education I received
'I passed the eleven plus exam and had the choice of "Blue
School" or Sexeys, I chose the latter because the bus pick up was
closer to my home than the railway station for the train journey to
Blue School. How was that for a carefully thought out decision?'
'Through circumstances there wasn't any parental guidence. Even the
first day, or was it the second, I was hit in the eye by a fir cone
thrown by an unidentified boy during the lunch break. I remember being
grilled by teachers to reveal the culprit but I honestly didn't know
who threw it. I was patted on the back by older boys for being a good
'I do remember the aircraft in the field getting damaged, I could
never understand why it wasn't roped off to avoid that happening.'
'The teachers mentioned are mostly fondly remembered. I'm afraid Mr Evans
and his french lessons especially the grammar were not appreciated by
me and I really struggled in his classes. I remembered him much later
when in my career as a Graphic designer I designed hundreds of food
labels for a large supermarket. You may or may not know that Canadian
law requires labels to be in both our official languages, English and
French, I think some of his teachings finally came to the surface. Why
does the french language take up so much more space than english?
'As for "Paddy" her enthusiasm for literature did rub off on me, I love
reading but unfortunately her teaching of grammar did not. I was
terrible at it then as I am now. I would be lost without spellcheck.'
'Of the two science teachers mentioned, I cannot remember which I had
first, whoever it was he turned me on to science in general. I would
spend lunch hours looking for insects and worms over the road at the
farm to feed the frogs in the science lab. When that teacher was
replaced the following year I'm afraid I felt I did not get the same
encouragement and my interest waned.'
'My favourite teacher without a doubt was "Ironsides" (Mrs. Irons). I know some of my classmates feared her and her discipline but I thrived on her enthusiasm for her subject. I know that drawing maps and diagrams for her class helped me in my career. I still loved drawing maps for the countless brochures I produced. I thought I was the only one who had that same opinion about Miss Barnes.'
'I too had a dislike for history at that time. If only the
information available now appearing on television was available then!
However, I do recollect Miss Barnes getting so mad at the class
collectively that she marched out threatening to fetch Mr Tomlinson
which she was apt to do but never actually followed through. This time
she did with disastrous results.'
'Some of the boys piled books and a blackboard eraser on the partially open door and Mr Tomlinson came striding in, gown flowing out behind him and the whole load fell on him! '
'The whole class laughed including Miss Barnes, well it was funny,
the perfect prank! He punished the whole class by telling everyone to
stay behind after school but of course if you were bussed in you could
not keep the bus waiting and were allowed to go home at the normal
'Miss Thrower took art class but I do not remember her actually
teaching, just letting us draw.'
'Music consisted of singing, which I could not, songs of which the boys put in our own words, not always politically correct.'While on the subject of music I do remember all(?) the classes being summoned to the assembly hall to watch a film of a
Dame Myra Hess piano recital. To bring culture to the unwashed so to
speak. Dame Myra was a very flamboyant player and her flouncing was
interpreted as rather comedic by the students and drew gales of
laughter much to the disgust of Mr Tommlinson and staff who promptly
interrupted the film and sent us back to our classrooms.'
'I do appreciate classical music now but not through that little exposure.
Miss Merriman was not one of my teachers but we all did refer to her as
"Merrylegs" from the lit, book "Black Beauty".'
'The other major assembly memory is when three boys were caned in front of the school for
breaking a window and a framed picture. I cannot remember who they
were, but one, when the cane broke over his back yelled out "You
bugger!" it caused more than a ripple of sniggering.'
'The Easter break in 1946 saw me getting the lowest term marks I had ever received and coupled with an unhappy home life decided that I needed a
complete change so ran away thus finishing my career at Sexeys. It wasn't quite as
dramatic as it sounds. My mother had previously moved to Portsmouth
after my parents had split up and I went there for an Easter holiday
and never returned to Cheddar or Sexeys. I am probably one of the last
people to have left school when I just turned fourteen.'
'The mention of chocolate spread reminded me of the awful dry fish paste
sandwiches I had to endure. I never envied the hot meals though from
what I heard. Of course I did read of Isabel Hole a couple of times on
the web site, she was in my class and I admit I did admire her from
afar. I do remember several names and I do wonder occasionally what
happened to them.'
'When I first met my wife over twenty years ago she
asked me where I went to school (I have lost my english accent), when I
told her "Sexeys" she said "No, really where did you go?" Later that
year while visiting the old homestead in Cheddar I drove her by the
sign outside the school to prove my answer. Only then did she believe
me.' (It was great reading the web site, Thank you, Colin Fudge.) Thank you very much, Colin for those distant and often funny memories. (Apologies to everyone for the way Colin's article 'reads'- I just can't get the text to do what I want ! - MJ)
Born in London in 1932, Joe Phillips also joined Sexey's in 1943 when he was evacuated to nearby Stone Allerton. As a pupil he passed the School Certificate exam and then went on to the VI form and was successful in the inaugural year of the 'A' Level exams in 1951 passing Pure and Applied Maths and Physics. In later years Joe moved to the United States and was involved in the aerospace industry.
Sadly, Joe died in 2009 and because of his fond memories of the Allerton area his family donated a bench in his memory which is now sited at the windmill. On Monday, June 22nd2009 three generations of his extended family from both sides of the Atlantic met at the Allerton windmill with some of the Allerton residents who were children at the time of Joe's wartime evacuation. These were Joy Morse, Averil Williams, Ruby Ham, Alan Ham and Josephine Millard. The gathering went on to enjoy tea and cakes in the Old Schoolroom - a very special day was had by one and all. (Thanks to John Grant for making this article possible - MJ)
David Bloodworth and Bobby Croombs both started at Sexey's as boarders in the early 1940s. David's parents were farmers at Ham Green, Bristol and Bobby was an evacuee from London and the son of a successful speedway rider. They became friends and in 1942 Bobby was invited to spend the whole of the summer holidays on the farm with the Bloodworth family and was invited back to spend another six weeks on the farm the following year. David eventually joined the 'Class of 1944 to 1949 and left after passing the School Certificate Examination in the summer of 1947. Bobby left Sexey's early to study at Mayfield College in Sussex. They subsequently followed very different career paths.
Amongst the many he remembered was Bobby Croombs. He was unsure how Bobby surname was spelt, but recalled that his father had competed in the World Speedway Championships and had represented Great Britain on the speedway track. A Google search confirmed that Tommy Croombs had ridden for West Ham Hammers and Wimbledon in the 1940s and 1950s and that 'Croombs' was the correct spelling of the family name.
UK birth records revealed that Robert T Croombs was born in June 1931 in Surrey.
He served for three years in the RAF before moving to Australia for three years where he followed his father onto the speedway tracks. He ran his own Engineering Company for 50 years, but continued riding for Poole Pirates on a part-time basis on his return to the UK. Over the years Bobby travelled quite a bit and spent ten years of his retirement in Spain before returning to Dorset, where both of his children had settled. I traced Bobby's former address in Ferndown, Dorset before eventually tracking Bobby down in Poole with the help of a friend of his late wife and Bobby's son. Bobby's over-riding memory of his school days were the long summer holidays he spent on the Bloodworth Farm where he enjoyed helping on the farm, in the dairy and on the threshing machine for which he was paid the princely sum of ten shillings a week. It was wartime, of course, and he particularly enjoyed "the eating"!
Bobby has sent me a photo that he has treasured for 69 years of himself and other helpers on the threshing machine which was taken by a Bristol Evening World photographer in support of a feature in that paper about the importance of West Country farms to the war effort.
On the thresher (L-R):
June Lonsdale (Land Army) ~ Pat (Land Army) ~ Peter Bloodworth (David's brother) ~ Peter's schoolmate and Bobby Croombs.
Farm worker ~ Ivy (Land Army) and Tom Waterman
(Tom's son Leslie subsequently married Ivy and his son Sidney subsequently married Pat.)
In August 2011, almost 70 years after they had first met, David and Bobby enjoyed a nostalgic telephone conversation about their memories of Sexey's, their summers togethers at the Bloodworth farm and how life had treated them both since their early meeting..
John Grant, August 2011. (Many thanks to David and Bobby and to John Grant for facilitating this article. - MJ)
In October, 1945 Isabel Rendell joined the school as a teacher and began by teaching English and Mathematics, in addition she would later go on to teach RE. Sadly, in the May of 2012 Isabel passed away having reached the grand age of 105. The following article is the website's obituary to a very special teacher - (This article has been moved to the 'History of the School' section.
In 1946, Norman Anderson joined the school and he has sent in his memories -
MEMORIES OF SEXEYS SCHOOL - 1946 to 1950
By Norman Anderson
"I may have already put some of this material on the Friends Reunited site.
Those in my year whose names I remember include:-
'Janet Woolley, who lived near the railway station in Cheddar, and always told new teachers how to spell her name by saying 'Double U, double O, double L, E, Y.' We went to Cheddar Primary School together, under Mr Tyson, and then went on to Sexeys. I think she later married a farmer up on the Mendips.'
'Marnie Temple, who I think came from Burnham way, and was very popular, especially with the boys.'
'Margaret Goldsworthy(?) who lived at Burrington and had thick wavy golden hair. She may have gone on to work with children in Bristol.'
'Loretta Gilbert, who often sang solos at our school concerts, plays and musicals. I can still hear her singing 'Cherry ripe; cherry ripe; ripe; ripe I cry.…' I think she came from Burnham way, and may have been a boarder.'
'Jennifer Long, who I think came from Highbridge, and was girls' prefect in our year.'
'Eleanor Brent, a year below me, was my girl friend for a time. I don't recall us ever seeing each other than on the school bus and at school. I think she came from a village towards Bristol, with another girl who was always playing gooseberry. When we had finished our friendship, I still sat with her on the bus to prevent a lad from Banwell from befriending her. I was a real dog in the manger, I'm afraid.'
'I also remember some lads!'
'Keith Puddy, who played the clarinet, and went on to a very successful classical musical career, which still continues today. I met him again briefly after a concert in Whitstable in 1984, but he couldn't remember me.'
'Billy Crook, who lived under Crook's Peak, near Banwell. I never found out if he was related to the owners of the peak.'
'Brian Braddock, who lived at Axbridge and who got to know the headmaster very well.'
'Robin Reeves, who lived in Cheddar. I think he was the year below me.'
Brian Burbridge, who lived at Lower Weare. His dad owned a café and some lakes alongside the A38. I used to cycle over from Cheddar to spend parts of Saturday with him, and we would go swimming in the lakes, which were not as developed then as they have been since.'
'Then there was a lad called Tim, tall and thin, who was brilliant at maths and Latin, so we boys tried to sit in a line behind him in class to catch a sight of his answers to the difficult questions, which we would pass back along the line.'
'There was also a pupil from a farm just outside Cheddar who I think was called Dennis. I think he was head boy, or head prefect for our year, in 1950/51.'
'I remember other fellow pupils, but cannot recall their names. Does anyone remember me?' (Please leave a message in the site's Guest Book if you have any memories of Norman - MJ)
'Of the two school 'breaks', one came from Burnham through Highbridge and Mark to Blackford. The other came via Banwell, Winscombe, Axbridge, Cheddar, and Wedmore to Blackford. Sometimes I missed the bus and would go home to fetch ,my bike and cycle the six miles to school and back.'
'If I missed the bus home at 4.00 o'clock, because of staying for rehearsals or something, I would walk home. There were no street lights for most of the way, and sometimes it was pitch black darkness with few cars to help show the lie of the road.'
'Mr Tomlinson, the head master, was a kindly man, and quite ancient in my view - although I gather he continued teaching for many years after I left in 1950, so he couldn't have been so old. Once, when he filled in for Miss Barnes, the history teacher, at a lesson, he tried to tell us about the Suspension Act. Unfortunately his sock suspender had come undone, and rattled along the floor as he moved about the room, which caused great hilarity amongst his pupils and lost our attention to the lesson.
'I also remember him telling us that he had once read through the whole Bible, and recommended us to do the same. At the end of the fourth year he introduced us to calculus and was brilliant. I found it fascinating, and have always wished, because of that, that I had continued with my maths education.'
'Mr Joe Swallow started as science teacher about 1947 or 48. He was a good and genuine man and I think we all liked and respected him. Amongst other things, he introduced lessons on human reproduction to our mixed classes, which was a first in those days. He did very well. I remember him telling the girls that carrying a baby was quite ok, they didn't have to see it as a sort of illness. 'My wife,' he said, 'jumped over a five bar gate the day before our son was born.' '
'It was several years later that I realised that was probably the reason the lad was born then! They called their son 'Robin', and somebody quipped 'Robin Swallow! What a lark.''
'Mrs Bertha Irons, the geography teacher, has been well remembered by many of us. She was true to her name, and a real firm teacher, allowing no nonsense. She lived in Burnham with the Domestic Science teacher, I think. They came by car together each day. Her teaching was very thorough; the day before school exams she would prepare us by taking us over the material that we would have questions on the following day.'
'I can still remember her impassioned lessons on the North American lakes and the Tennessee Valley Authority project in the States. Because my dad had a magic lantern which I used, I got to operating the Aldis Projector when she had filmstrips to illustrate her lessons.'
'Miss Erica Padfield was also well liked, but quite strict in a different way from Mrs Irons. She taught us English language and literature. I still remember reading Great Expectations at lunchtime in the school field, in preparation for the afternoon lessons, and I still remember parts of many Shakespeare speeches which she taught us. 'Once more into the breach, dear friends., once more.''
'On one occasion before she arrived for the lesson all the lads in the class crowded in to the book cupboard, with the plan to burst forth when she asked the girls 'Where are the boys?' But she didn't ask! Just got straight on with the lesson, so we had no cue to present ourselves. We stayed in the cupboard for the whole lesson. At the end she asked Jennifer Long, as prefect, to instruct us to go to see her in the staff room at lunch time; which made it a disciplinary matter, but I don't think she punished us; she just had her fun at our expense. Paddy was always well dressed, and the boys enjoyed commenting on her good looks.''I think our first music, art and RE teacher was called Miss Thrower. The R E book was dry as dust, I guess, and I remember nothing of what we learnt there. I was the son of a Baptist minister, so got my R E elsewhere. I was not into art, and she didn't help me there.'
'For singing we used one of the National Song books which had been published before the war. The songs included 'My Bonny lies over the ocean'; 'The Red River Valley'; 'Clementine'; 'Golden Slumbers'; 'Where have ye been all the day, Billy Boy?' ; 'Widdicombe Fair' and many others of similar vintage. I sang them later to my young children to get them to sleep, and they remember them still! This was before the days of Rock and Roll and other sorts of pop music, but even so I guess we could have had something more suitable to our day.'
'Miss Thrower retired and Mr Alan Tonkin came in her place, which resulted in some changes, not least the introduction of Gilbert and Sullivan, and 'The Pirates of Penzance.' Mr Swallow excelled himself by successfully singing the Major Generals song with no mistakes, for which we all cheered. I enjoyed being a pirate and catching one of the Major Generals daughters each week of the rehearsals! What was her name?'
'Unfortunately, my family moved to Sussex in January 1951, before the show was put on in February, so I never took part in the actual performances, and she had to make do with another pirate. Mr Tonkin was quite disgusted with me for having enlisted in the cast and then moving away before the show - but I didn't know about the move until the last moment. His left eye had a cast, which made it difficult for us to know which of us he was addressing at times.'
'Mr Les Pavey, the woodwork master was very popular. We would pass him in the school bus between Wedmore, where he lived, and Blackford. He would be on his bicycle, and we would give him a cheer as we went by. I remember the workshop very well, and the lessons he gave us on how to use the various tools, and how to cut wood. 'Always cut on the waste side of the line.' was his oft-repeated instruction. 'You can always take some more off, but you can't but it back.''
'Once he asked Billy Crook how long a piece of wood was, and Billy said 'Four inches, and half an inch, and a quarter of an inch, and an eighth.' We all laughed, but Mr Pavey gently smiled and said to him 'You mean four and seven eighths inches.''
'Mr Evans was our French teacher at first. I think he was French himself, or was that someone else? He would threaten miscreants that he would 'ac-com-panier' them to the headmaster if they continued to misbehave.'
'Mr Potter, the French teacher who arrived about 1947, was a real enigma. His lessons were a mixture of entertainment with French songs and straight teaching, and we could never be sure when to be cheeky and when to respect his changing mood. He played the violin, and we parodied a popular song by singing,
'Put another button in,
In old Potter's treacle tin.
When he plays his violin,
It's murder; murder; murder!'
'On one occasion a lady supply teacher, back from the war and apparently rather lost for a career, sent a note into him from the adjoining class room, whilst we were supposed to be learning verbs. Immediately he changed mood and got us to sing two or three French songs. He tore the note up and threw it in the waste bin. After the lesson we retrieved it and found it read, 'I'm bored with my kids; how about some entertainment from your lot.''
'Mr Potter travelled on the school bus with us. It was very crowded with three in each pair of seats and the rest of us standing. We used to scramble over each other to get on and of the bus. This meant each stop was prolonged as those at the back struggled forward to the door. Mr Potter decided we should all sit on the bus in the order that we would get off. The last at the back and the first - the Wedmore pupils - at the front. This separated friends and courting couples, so we didn't approve.'
'We decided to protest to the headmaster; but nobody was brave enough to be spokesman, so I typed a letter on my dad's typewriter and we all signed it as a round robin. We also protested that Mr Potter was inclined to call us by very rude names in the process of shepherding us on the bus.'
'The note was dropped on the headmaster's doormat next morning, and that dinnertime the whole coach load were instructed to meet the head in the school hall. He dealt very fairly with the issue, and we had no more shepherding or name calling after that.'
'I remember Miss Barnes the history teacher, but cannot recall any of her lessons! There was also a maths and science master who also took us for football. I forget his name. When he once insisted that 'a foul inside the penalty area is a penalty', Keith Puddy retorted 'No it isn't, it's a chicken.' That shows the level of humour we survived on most of the time. That teacher would often throw the blackboard rubber at any pupil who was not paying attention to his lesson, and the wall of the room had several chalky dents as a result. (I notice John Grant names him in his notes - but it is a name I don't recall.)'
'I have my own memories of the school premises, as most of us do, so I won't bore you with a general description, other than to remember the small room on the north side of the quadrangle which was used when the school dentist came. He had a treadle driven drill, with no use of anaesthetics for drilling when you needed a filling. Visits to that room could be quite an uncomfortable, but the dentist's nurse always seemed rather nice!'
'I also remember the boys' toilets on the quadrangle side of the west corridor, with its stone sinks and long slate-and-gully urinal.'
'The science and domestic science rooms were in a separate temporary building on the southeast corner of the school site. Beyond were the hockey field and cricket pitches where we spent our lunch hours, especially in the warmer months. Girls and boys could mingle there, but at other times the boys stayed in their own play area to the west of the main school, and the girls, presumably, used an area to the east.'
'The school was heated in part with radiators, I think, but we also had tortoise stoves which had to be kept alight during the day, and inevitably they became subject to pranks. A shovel full of water on the hot coke just before a lesson would produce a strong ugly smell, which could result in the teacher returning to the staff room instead of taking the lesson - but not often.'
'That is just about all I can recall now, but hope it adds a little to the usefulness of this web site. If anyone wants to contact me or correct my memories, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. '(Thank you very much for your memories, Norman. I'm sure they will bring Sexey's 'of old' flooding back for a lot of people. I'd also like to thank John Grant for tracking you down! - MJ)
In 1947 Ray Vincent joined the school as a pupil. Here are Ray's memories in his own words -
'I started at Sexey's in 1947 at the same time as twins Angela and Janet Vowles, who lived just down the road from the school. I am now 75 and my memory is not what it was.'
'Mrs Irons seemed to be fascinated with North America and Canada and the Great Lakes and made her lessons so interesting. I remember much of what she taught about that continent now. For homework one day we were told to draw, from memory, a map of Canada and the Lakes. I spent the whole evening working on mine and put the finishing touches while having breakfast whereupon my mother upset a jug of milk right across the map. Fortunately Mrs Irons was most undertanding.'
'Gillie Potter was certainly an odd bod and had us marching round the playing field following the French Flag and singing the french National Anthem. We couldn't go back into school until we were word perfect. I still remember every word of it.'
'Miss Rendell was my favourite teacher. She took us to the Theatre Royal, Old Vic, in Bristol to see Treasure Island and to Stratford for Macbeth at the Shakespeare Memorial theatre. In the coach returning home I sat in the back seat with three girls who proceeded to show me the things they had shoplifted from Woolworths in Stratford.'
'The cane was only used once during my time at school. A lad travelling on the brake was sitting behind a girl who was wearing a scarf thrown back over her shoulders. The lad pulled on it until she found it difficult to breath... That morning all the school were summoned to the hall and the lad was draped over a table while Mr Tomlinson administered six of the best.'
'I liked morning Assembly when the teachers lined up facing us while waiting for Mr Tomlinson. He always arrived with his prayer book in his hand and gown flowing behind him, then a hymn and prayer and notices. On the first day of term we sang "Lord Behold us with Blessing" and the last day with "Lord Dismiss us with Thy Blessing'', those who here shall meet no more". With some of the girls out came the hankies.'
'I wasn't doing too well at school except for History, Geography and English and decided to leave at 16. On my last day in Mr Tomlison's office he told me I had wasted five years and would never make anything of myself.'
'I did my training as a nurse, became doubly qualified and was a Charge Nurse at 24. I studied Epilepsy for seven years, and then eventually owned my own Residential Care Home until I retired. I moved to Gibraltar and I am now back in the U.K. and living in Cornwall.'
(At a later date, Ray was able to add some additional memories - MJ) -
'If we were in school uniform we had to doff our caps when we passed a teacher outside school.'
'In my first year we put on a play called "The Stolen Prince" I was a Chinese boy called Long Fo and Angela Vowles was Wing Lee. Miss Rendell showed us how to make pigtails from black stockings. I am not sure why a Chinese boy would have pigtails down to his waist.'
'I thiink the play was a bit of a disaster. In an early scene someone would have come on stage with a baby but the doll couldn't be found. There was a long silence among the actors while there was a lot of noise backstage with everyone looking for it. It was found, to the relief of everyone, including the audience.'
'It is my regret that I never visited the school again but I was living in East Anglia. Miss Rendell and I corresponded for a couple of years after I left school.'
'I was a member of The Old Sexonians Association for many years and received the annual magazine. When I moved to Gibraltar I sent all my copies back to the school but never received an acknowledgement. I wonder if they are stored away somewhere.' (Many thanks for those memories, Ray. Chances are that your magazines form part of the Sexey's archives and were used by me to help create the site! - MJ)
Jill Martin (now Sprague) has sent in a few of her recollections of her time at Sexey's. She attended as a pupil from 1947 to 1952. Other members of Jill's family attended Sexey's, Alfred John Webber (Jack) in the 1920's and her niece and nephew Christine and David Brock in the 1960's.
'Mrs Irons was a wonderful teacher - she fascinated me with her tales of travel to the Caribbean on a banana boat and delving into her cupboard for artefacts to pass around and wonder at. She was firmly corseted from armpit to below hips and bumping into her was quite painful!'
'Miss Padfield reminded me of a bright- eyed Blackbird. She would sit on a front desk, gather her gown around her and read poetry to us whilst puffing on a cigarette.'
'Now, Mr Potter was God's gift to the fun loving amongst us. On Bastille day he had us form a column and march around the hockey pitch singing the Marsellaise whilst he strode in front of us waving a rubber dagger - pale faces gazed at us from the staff room window.''
'Is Janet Richards out there somewhere? We played truant and went to Bath races to lust after our idol - Lester Piggott.'
'Does anyone remember the article in 'Titbits' in the 1950's about a co-ed school called Sexey's near the village of Wedmore - I expect the Head had Apoplexy!'
'I enjoyed my time at Sexey's to the detriment of my education - the staff did their best but I was always going to be a low flyer.' ( Thanks for your recollections,Jill. I would love to see the Titbits aricle! - MJ)
In 1947. the first 'Old Sexonian' reunion was held since the start of the war. This was at the Beach Hotel, Weston super Mare and attracted 160 'Old Sexonians' including Mr Abram and Mr Tomlinson. The relatively large numbers were partly due to the fact that the closure of the school had been announced and the ex-pupils wanted to show a united front.
Here's how the gathering appeared on the front page of the 'Mendip Gazette' of Friday, February 21st, 1947.
The beginning of the newspaper article read - 'Sexey's School, Blackford is to be closed in 1956.' The article then went on to say - 'Expressions of regret at this decision and hopes of its reversal formed the key-note of the speeches made during the evening.'
Here's the same group from a different angle (supplied by Mel Smith).
Mr Tomlinson was pleasantly surprised and somewhat moved at the excellent turnout - 'When I see so many of you here and remember the tricks you played and your eagerness to get away from school, I look with wonder and amazement at the touching attention paid to the old school.' (Needless to say, the school didn't close in 1956! - MJ. You might like this bit of 'pub quiz' info - In 1947 the 100th member of staff joined Sexey's exactly 50 years after it started! She was Ella Kerr who took charge of teaching French for a term.)
By the time John Grant joined the school, in 1949, things had calmed a little and with the war over, life in the country as a whole was becoming more stable.
John can be contacted at email@example.com - ( As at August 2009, he has finished establishing the names of Head Boys and Head Girls since 1945. The full results of John's hard work can be seen in the 'History of the School' section - MJ)
John has written a very long account of his memories ( so long, that I've had to edit it, in places!) and I thank him for going to all that trouble. He seems to have an excellent memory, as he can remember every single one of his classmates from 1949!
Needless to say, some of John's memories will have come from the early 1950's. Here is John's account, in his own words -
(He begins with a list of his classmates ) -- 'Boys:- Brian 'Lou' Lewis (boarder), Francis 'Fay' Heywood (boarder), John 'Wobbly' Wilson (boarder), Donald 'Phoebe' White (boarder),Geoffrey 'Scruff' Ives (boarder), Michael 'Micky' Ralph (boarder), Brian 'Brean' Down, Anthony 'Tony' Hull, Francis Hobbs, Edward 'Ebbie' Clack and Leslie 'Les' Puddy, who joined after one year.
Girls:- Grace Kerton, Doreen Thompson, Angela Pavey, Marilyn Carter, Pamela Redman, Hazel Puddy, Daphne Sugg, Ann Callow, Mary 'Minnie' Hardwidge, Grace Vincent, Mary Grimstead, Eileen 'Topsy' Chick and Kitty Wilcox. The following girls joined after one or two years - Gloria Bennett, Grace Callow, Sally Nicholls and Mary Shepherd.
("I have been advised that Joyce Tripp was also with our intake for the first year. Try as I may, I just cannot recall you Joyce, albeit your name sounds very familiar. Sincere apologies Joyce." JKG).
'My name is John Grant . I attended Sexey's from 1949 to 1954. In 1993 I retired from the Metropolitan Police in the rank of Superintendent after 33 years service .... these are my memories of Sexey's.'
' I was born in Cheddar in 1938 and I attended Draycott Primary School and in 1949 passed the '11 plus' along with 'Ebbie' Clack, 'Topsy' Chick and Mary Grimstead ... we four all became part of the September 1949 intake at Sexey's Grammar School in Blackford.'
Members of Staff :- Harry Tomlinson, (Headmaster).
'He was affectionately known to all of us as 'Father'. A genial, imposing and fair man who led by impeccable example. Occasionally 'Father' would walk in on a maths lesson and inspire everyone with his vitality and enthusiasm.
'I remember him interrupting a maths lesson being given by Peter Lee, one day in my 3rd? year and taking over completely. I don't really know whether Pete was expecting him to come in, or whether he was taken by surprise as he seemed to be in awe of 'Father', as indeed we all were.'
'He (MrT) explained Pythagoras in a vibrant, exciting way and became really animated with infectious enthusiasm, waving of arms, and lots of chalk dust! I, and I suspect all the class, were carried along with him so much that I have never forgotten it, (or Pythagoras).'
'He rarely missed morning assembly and was a coherent and interesting speaker. I shall always be grateful to him that, on the day King George VI died in 1952, he called a special assembly to enable us all to listen to a BBC news bulletin about this historic event and explained to us that HRH Princess Elizabeth would succeed her father. Harry Tomlinson was highly respected by everyone.'
Erica Padfield, ( English and Latin)
'Erica always struck me as being both literary and academic, but with a largely practical outlook on life. She could be airy-fairy sometimes but was a clear speaker and easy to understand. Her dress and appearance were always very conservative. I liked and respected her. I remember her, in assembly, I think, commending a girl who was a couple of years ahead of our class (Judy Thorne) for having achieved 100% in a Latin exam and recall being moved by both the achievement and the manner of the commendation.'
'Joe' or 'Uncle Joe' Swallow, (Deputy Head and Science)
'Joe' Swallow was always smartly dressed and had an impressive bearing. He effortlessly maintained discipline with an authoratitive voice, bluntness and the occasional withering stare through rimmed spectacles. I once carelessly omitted to write my name on a test paper and it was returned to me with the name 'BF Grant' endorsed in the appropriate place. I recall saying very little and learning a lot!
Very occasionally he made slightly suggestive comments which prompted subsequent discussion amongst the boys, but few of us fully understood. I remember him referring to 'knowing how to keep a girl warm on a cold night' which in early adolescence was quite intriguing, but none of us dared to ask exactly what he meant.
Joe cycled to and from school from his home in Wedmore most days, a house on the left of the Wedmore Road as you enter the village from Blackford. The house was called 'Grantchester' and I couldn't help wondering if he had named it after me and pondering who 'Chester' was?
Joe's first name was probably Joseph, but I prefer to believe that he was probably nicknamed 'Joe' due to his passing resemblance to Stalin or his acclaimed portrayal on stage of Sir Joseph Porter KCB in a school production of 'HMS Pinafore'. Either way he was a good 'Joe' and I liked him.
Miss Rendell, ( English and Religious Instruction)
'Miss Rendell was quietly spoken and affable. On more than one occasion she lectured the class on personal hygiene, advised us how frequently she took a bath and suggested we should all do the same! I supect that might have been prompted by the unpleasant odour of one or more of the class!Miss Rendell lived in a large house on the Wedmore side of the school football ground and I think she walked to and from school every day.'
'Bertha' Irons, (Geography and Maths)
'Bertha was a good Geography teacher and I liked her enthusiasm for the subject. She never seemed to stop talking, was sometimes quite loud and had no problems maintaining discipline. However, I enjoyed Geography, but sometimes struggled to keep up with her when she took us for Maths, particularly logarithms.'
Miss Merriman, (Domestic Science)
'She seemed a very pleasant lady, but I had very little to do with her.'
Alan Tonkin, (Art, Music and Sport)
'His art and music classes were always enjoyable, but never seemed to be frequent enough to achieve very much. He occasionally deputised as our leader at football and frequently beseeched me to take shorter steps rather than loping strides.'
Miss Barnes, (History and Sport)
'I didn't dislike Miss Barnes, but disliked History, which I found boring. In consequence, I and others tended to be disruptive In Miss Barnes' classes and she sometimes struggled to control her temper and maintain discipline with some of the boys in the class.'
'Practical jokes and schoolboy pranks were rife and I was sent to stand in the corridor on several occasions. When really cross, she would slam down her book on a window sill.'
'One summers day, when standing in the corridor, trying to look penitent, I noticed that the window next to Miss Barnes was open and, almost on cue, I saw the book slam down on the sill beside it. I reacted spontaneously and made for the small garden, outside the classroom, hoping that I wouldn't bump into 'Father'. I could see she was ranting away and wagging a finger at someone and that her back was towards the window. I carefully repositioned the book outside the window, just out of her reach, before quickly returning to my penance in the corridor. Even the goody-goodies in the class enjoyed this prank and the laugh that followed.'
'This seems to be a belated opportunity for me to apologise unreservedly to Miss Barnes for my behaviour on this and many other occasions.'
'Gillie' Potter, (French)
'Nicknamed after the popular radio and music hall comedian. He was laid back, amusing and I liked him, partly because he liked me and partly because I enjoyed learning French and found that it came to me quite easily.'
'The classroom regularly used for French, was in the centre of the building and had two doors. I and others regularly left both doors slightly ajar and balanced a book above the centre of each and waited for 'Gillie's' grand entrance- he almost always wore his flowing, black academic gown. He would often enter..., reach up to grab the book without pausing and then continue to the other door to remove the second book without saying a word. I think he enjoyed this prank and would have been disappointed if we had tired of it.'
'His principle teaching aid was a black, rubber dagger, about ten inches long. To emphasise whatever he was saying he had perfected theatrical waves of the dagger and would occasionally aim and throw the dagger at someone, to get attention. This would always raise a chuckle or two, but it never seemed quite so funny when the point of this dagger was hurtling towards you at speed, before harmlessly bouncing off your head. Nobody died or got injured and I scraped an 'O' level in French.'
'Gillie' left suddenly with no explanation.' (I wonder if it had anything to do with his dagger throwing exploits ?!? - MJ)
Mr Packer, (French)
'Mr Packer was 'Gillie's' replacement in our third or fourth year and was a very different character He spoke quietly and concisely and dressed very conservatively. He was a pleasant, likeable man who travelled on the school brake with us from Cocklake. I think most of the class liked him.'
Peter Lee, (Maths and Sport)
''Pete' commenced his teaching career at Sexey's in September 1949 on the same day that my intake joined. He was our first Form Master and helped me and many others to find our feet in the big, new school.'
'Pete was an athletic, Yorkshireman with a powerful voice. I thought he was a very good Maths teacher and I know that his enthusiasm for sport extended to playing centre- half for Wedmore FC for many years and for the village cricket team.'
'He married Isabel Hole, who I think, was in the sixth form when I started at Sexey's. I loved football and cricket but despite Pete's best efforts, I rarely approached mediocre. In one annual, school report, against the heading 'Cricket', he accurately, perceptively and concisely wrote 'frightened of the ball'.'
Les Pavey, (Woodwork)
'Les was very much a craftsman rather than an academic. A rustic, amiable and quietly spoken character, who guided some of the boys in our class to the successful completion of carpentry projects. I, however, achieved very little and was not bursting with pride with most of the patched up efforts that I took home.'
'Nonetheless, he taught me quite a lot and my acquired, basic DIY skills greatly improved with maturity, experience and the motivation of having to make or repair things for myself, that I couldn't afford to buy or pay someone else to do for me. In hindsight, I am greatly indebted to him.'
Miss Odell, ( School Secretary)
'Miss Odell was a friendly, caring soul and a lovely lady. Waiting to see 'Father' (twice, I think) didn't seem quite such an ordeal when she was in the office, outside his study.'
'Bunty', Amesbury (Gardener/Groundsman)
''Bunty' became friendly towards me when he discovered that my father was the landlord of the 'Railway Inn' at Draycott. I enjoyed the banter and leg-pulling between us.'
'I travelled to school by the 8.10 train from Draycott to Cheddar and then by school brake.Albeit, my home was immediately opposite the station and Platform 1 was about 25 yards from my front door. I frequently arrived on the platform as the train was pulling in.'
'Cutting it fine became the norm, as I had perfected getting up as late as I dared, washing , dressing and finishing my breakfast whilst watching the train's approach through a side window.'
'In 5 years I never once missed the train, but frequently arrived with a carriage door wide open and one of the porters (Bob Hill or 'Squeaker' Williams) screaming at me to get a move on.'
''Ebbie' Clack always travelled to Cheddar by bus and would then walk down to the station to meet my train. We would then walk to the bus shelter, outside 'Lane's the Ironmonger', to play football with a tennis ball whilst waiting for the school brake.'
'In the afternoon the school brake dropped us at Cheddar and we caught the 5pm service back to Draycott and Rodney Stoke respectively. Looking back now, nine hours away from home every day seems a very long school day, but it didn't seem long then.'
'Not many days passed before the boys in my class were all introduced to the school's traditional initiation ceremonies. I've no doubt that the staff were aware of the initiations, but closed a blind eye, as it was very unlikely that anyone would be injured or traumatised by what took place and it was arguably, character building.'
'Ours consisted of a ducking in the water tank on the perimeter of the playing field area and being 'boxed' in the cricket pavilion. Being 'boxed' meant getting in to or being forcibly put into one of the large boxes used for the storage of cricket equipment. The seat cover was then closed and the new boy had to suffer in silence whilst much older boys behaved like hooligans, creating as much noise as they could by striking the box with their feet, hockey sticks, cricket bats etc. for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a couple of minutes.'
' I and most of my classmates just went with the flow and it didn't particularly bother me, but it must have been quite an ordeal for those who resisted and forced into the box. The initiation would have been very cruel for anyone who suffered from claustrophobia.'
Chocolate Spread Sandwiches!
'My mother thought that 8 am until lunch was a long time for a growing lad to survive without victuals and always provided me with a morning snack. This usually consisted of my favourite - Fry's Chocolate Spread sandwiches!'
'Very quickly these became the target of the six boarders in our class ( boarders were always hungry!! - MJ) , who all pleaded that they were underfed by the school. One or more of these hungry gannets would want me as their best mate at about the same time every morning and I found myself trying to share against impossible odds.'
'The situation improved when I pleaded poverty on behalf of all the boarders and conned my mother into providing larger snacks. She very generously started packing ten or twelve chocolate spread sandwiches every day and this continued throughout my five years at school, but it was never enough. I don't ever remember finding a variation to chocolate spread in my sandwiches and wonder how many of us became hooked on this addictive flavour.'
'I enjoyed all sports but excelled at nothing. I was quite a good runner and managed second or third place in several events on Sports days, but none of us could hold a candle to the late, great George Ham. He was a phenomenal athlete and would succeed with relative ease at all distances against his peers and boys several years older.'
In distance races, he had a turn of speed which nobody could live with and it was inspiring to watch. George joined Sexey's a year after me and became a good friend. His older sister, Gwen, had been in the fifth or sixth form when I was in Year 1.'
'George was killed in a road traffic accident whilst cycling near his home, in Weare, about two years after I first met him and the whole school was shaken by the loss of someone so young. His funeral was a very sad and moving experience. I still think about him from time to time.'
'Sexey's School was divided into two 'houses'- Black and Amber, the school colours.' (and I'd always thought the 'houses' had been Blake and Somerville from the very start. - MJ)
'There appeared to be a considerable imbalance, as most of the boys with sporting talent, were in 'Amber' , whilst I and most of the other plodders, found ourselves in 'Black', with little or no chance of glory.'
'For this or some other reason, the school changed to 'Blake' and 'Somerville' Houses. I recall there being lengthy deliberations as to what the new Houses should be called and someone came up with the suggestion ( I wonder who? - MJ), that naming the houses in honour of two Royal Navy admirals with Somerset or local connections, would be appropriate.'
'We were all reshuffled and I became a founder member of 'Somerville' House.'
'Football, on Wednesday afternoons, was played in a ground about 200 yards from the school, on the right hand side of the road to Wedmore. Team selection was a soul destroying and depressing ritual, which I hated. Two of the most talented boys would be nominated by Pete Lee, to captain each side, usually the same two, and they would choose who they wanted in their side by alternately nominating boys, one by one, to leave the pack and stand alongside them.'
'When the pack dwindled down to single figures, those remaining knew that they were currently the most useless footballers at the school and so did everyone else.'
'It was cruel and humiliating and it motivated me into playing well enough to avoid being relegated to the bottom of the heap the following week, perhaps that was Pete's strategy. Picking a team to represent the school was easy, as the two captains tended to do it for him.'
'One day we were all surprised to find that Pete had acquired the coaching skills of one Tommy Burden, a professional footballer, who had played for Leeds United before joining Bristol City.'
'I only recall him visiting once,but it was a memorable experience. For about two hours we were happily engaged in a variety of coaching exercises that were appropriate, interesting and hard work. I enjoyed it very much and learned a few things.'
'For the last 15 minutes or so, Tommy joined us in an open game. The atmosphere became electric and tensions were heightened, when Colin Banwell went in hard on our new mentor, with a defensive tackle that Norman Hunter would have been proud of and came out with the ball!'
'Pete feared for Tommy's well-being after a further tackle and Colin was admonished, but he persisted with several more hard but fair tackles and the final whistle prevented the matter getting out of hand.'
'I still wonder whether Colin was the reason we never saw Tommy again. As a life-long Rovers supporter, I fondly remember what Colin achieved that day, against the best that City could provide.' (As those of you who have used the 'link' will have discovered, Tommy Burden sadly died at his home in Taunton, in 2001.- MJ)
School Football XI
'My performances were only average and well short of School XI standard, but I must have improved with maturity as one day I was selected. This was a huge surprise to me and I was proud and delighted.'
'My big moment was away to Elmhurst school on a Saturday morning. The team played quite well and I was pleased with my early performance. At half time the score was 1 - 1, which is probably the best half-time score the school had achieved for years. We lost the game 7 - 1, I was never selected again ...'
Blake v Somerville
'Football, however, did give me one lasting memory. A game that I will never forget. It was the annual game between Blake and Somerville. I was at right-half for Somerville, but there were only two of the School XI in the Somerville team.'
'Logic suggested that we had very little chance against a team which boasted no less than nine of the School XI, including the multi talented Brian Lewis and Colin Banwell.'
'Somerville's captain was Ronald Hellier, who was desperate to win in his final year. He set about convincing me and others that we could. He communicated throughout the game, shouting and cajoling us to compete and raise our performance. He was 'Captain Fantastic' and he inspired me to play out of my skin that day. I cannot remember the score, but we achieved a famous victory.'
'The end of the game was quite emotional and I was one of the Somerville team that were overwhelmed by what we had achieved. Nine games out of ten, Blake would have wiped the floor with us because they had so much talent, but in THIS one game Ron Hillier had inspired and led Somerville to a performance that I will always remember. Thanks, Ron! ' ( Can anyone remember the score in that exciting match? - MJ)
'My classmate, Brian Lewis, was also an outstanding cricketer. He was the best batsman and bowler at the school by a country mile. 'Lou' bowled so fast that I just could not see the ball. Facing him with inadequate protection was near suicidal, as you had little chance of survival if you couldn't spot hte ball hurtling towards you. To me he was 'Whispering Death' long before Michael Holding acquired the tag.'
'By regularly conniving to be on Lou's side, as often as I could, I managed to avoid serious injury. I would have preferred to have been introduced to tennis, but this was for girls only and all the boys had to run the gauntlet on the cricket square. I guess we all survived.'
Gilbert and Sullivan
'I knew nothing of light opera before attending Sexey's and am now very grateful that Gilbert and Sullivan were an on-going part of my life.'
'My first introduction to them, was a school production of 'The Pirates of Penzance' and I was hooked by the wonderful words and music. I was then privileged to be in the school's two subsequent productions. I became a member of the crew in 'HMS Pinafore' and a member of the jury in 'Trial by Jury'. Peter Lee and Joe Swallow appeared in both shows, which were produced by Alan Tonkin.'
'I was cast as Ralph in 'Pinafore'. Pete Lee and others unmercifully teased me, that on stage, I would be required to kiss the Captain's daughter, who was to be played by a very attractive girl with auburn hair, called Shirley Jacobs, who I did not know and was several years older.'
'However, my aspirations were short lived and I was dropped for some reason that I never fully understood. Although it was explained to me that because of travelling difficulties I was unable to fulfil the rehearsal commitment.'
'Whether I just wasn't good enough or the diva flexed her muscles and wanted a different suitor, I'll never know. Roy Mapstone was my replacement. He sang beautifully, made the part his own and I never got to kiss the lovely Shirley.'
All the Girls I Never Loved
'Not only did I not kiss Shirley Jacobs, I don't remember kissing any one else either, I think I would have remembered. I recall falling in love with Shirley Whitehead in the very first week of my first term. Shirley was four years older than me and was one of the two senior, girl monitors on my allocated dining table. She was a bubbly, vivacious girl and immediately caught my attention - it was love at first sight! '
'I discovered years later that age difference isn't too important in matters of the heart, but for an 11 year old boy in 1949, it was like looking up a mountain.'
'Fifty eight years on, fifteen year old girls looking down the same mountain would still probably not even notice an 11 year old, new boy and would most probably dismiss any suggestion of affection with laughter. With zero chatting up skills and this mountain between us, I never did convey my feelings to Shirley and she left school at the end of my first year.'
'I was also thwarted in my ham-fisted attempt to woo Ann Redman, who was one of the new intake a year after I joined the school. I did try, but my bold attempt to coin a fond nickname and win her interest, failed miserably. Calling her 'Chubby' was probably a tactical blunder as she strongly resented the implication conveyed by my unfortunate choice of nickname. She spurned my advances and angrily put me down.'
'Undaunted, I turned my attention to a girl who joined ouur class in my 2nd or 3rd year. Mary Shepherd was a slim, pretty girl and I really liked her. In most lessons I sat at the desk behind her and soon fell in love. By mid-term we were practically engaged, except that she knew nothing of my future intentions!'
'In my last year I became friendly with a girl with lovely dark hair and the most beautiful eyes, her name was Christine Lane. I sat next to her on a couple of lengthy, coach outings and was patiently and coolly just getting to know her better when she suddenly did not return to school.'
'Discreet enquiries established she was very ill. I deeply regret and am still ashamed that I never found the time to find out how she was and how she coped with her illness.' ( Can anyone add any more information about Christine? - MJ) - see below!
(It's always nice when questions posed on the site can be answered by other 'old sexonians'. Colin Mitchell has sent in a little more information about Christine Lane - MJ.) Colin says -
'Christine was in my class, starting at the school in September 1950. She had polio around 1953 and spent about a year away from school. She returned with a badly affected leg, about a year later. She must have been keeping up with her school work somehow because she came back in to our year and eventually in 1957, went to Reading University. I believe she did something like Microbiology at Uni. I remember dancing with her at a Reading University dance in early 1958 (I went to Bristol Uni) when I was at Reading for a weekend during term time.' (Many thanks, Colin - MJ)
John Grant's article continues -
''O' levels in French, Maths and Geography were my only academic achievements after five years at Sexey's and I know that I underachieved. Being raised in a village pub gave me many early experiences of a wide variety of people and events and I was probably more streetwise than most others of my age, but a pub is not an ideal environment in which to do homework, read or study.'
'I don't recall being in trouble in school about my homework, which is probably because I was usually able to borrow one of the girls' books and cobble together some sort of cribbed effort, whilst waiting for the school brake.'
'I've always maintained that Sexey's gave me a good, basic education and my lack of academic achievement at school was never a problem to me. Subsequently, I am very grateful I was educated at Sexey's, which I'm quite sure assisted me greatly to achieve my goal.'
'These are some of my personal memories of school days over 50 years ago. I have been surprised that I can still remember the names and faces of all my classmates and the names and faces of over 80 other pupils who were already at Sexey's when I joined or started after me. I hope I have not offended or embarrassed any of them.'
'Sincere, best wishes to all surviving Old Sexonians, particularly anyone that remembers me.'
( Many, many thanks, John for this memorable and detailed account of your school days. I hope it inspires others to send in their memories, even if its just a sentence or two. John's contribution sums up what this website is all about - really brilliantly! - MJ)
Colin Banwell attended Sexey's around the same time as John Grant and here are his memories, in his own words -
'My name is Colin Banwell and I attended Sexeys from 1946 until 1954. It is now 2008 and I am in my 72nd year with memory diminishing as is to be
expected as the years pass by!
Reading John Grant's article on the website brought back many happy memories of that period of my life - thank you for that John. Rather than repeat many of the things John has said, I thought I would make a response to some of his comments and add a few photographs of the events and people concerned.'
Starting with staff:
'Like John I held the greatest respect for Mr Tomlinson and was continuously grateful for his tolerance of my regular wayward behaviour! It probably helped that his daughter was a budding young tennis player and that I used regularly to provide a playing partner for her on the grass court in front of the school!'
'Mr T. didn't teach me mathematics until I was in the 6th Form, where I was a rather poor student in comparison to Brian Lewis, who had been promoted from the 4th Year to the 6th as a rather clever mathematician. As we were the only two taking mathematics I had daily reminders of my limitations! In the event, I left school to join the RAF at the end of Lower Sixth.'
'Erica Padfield, with her sister, took a great interest in amateur dramatics in Wedmore and so I had contact with her outside of school. During the summer months, especially if there were Cricket Test Matches, she was easily diverted from both English and Latin Lessons to spend time on another of her great joys.'
'Her most remembered advice to me, after seeing me out walking with my then girlfriend, was to always make sure that I walked on the outside of the girl so that she was protected from the traffic (mostly horse and cart!) - to this day I am unable to be walking with any woman without manoeuvring myself into the outside position!'
'Mrs Irons was really my most favoured teacher and caused me later to continue studying Geography as a trainee teacher - albeit I finished up as a mathematics educator. Everyone will remember how strict she was and how she demanded a 100% effort at all times.'
'What was quite unique in those days was to have a geography teacher who had actually travelled and was consumed by her own subject. I believe she had lost her husband in the war.'
'Alan Tonkin was the inspiration behind the school's successful performances of Gilbert & Sullivan Opera - he could manage to encourage and cajole us all to a really quite high standard for such a small school (about 120 pupils at that time with approximately equal numbers of boys and girls). I enjoyed being in HMS Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance and Trial by Jury and offer a few photographs of these events.' (These photos will appear in the '1950's' section of the website - MJ)
'Miss Barnes (Barney) was a bit special and, having taught for many years myself, I feel rather guilty about the bad time I gave her! She did have difficulty in controlling a class and had especial difficulty with Pete Duckett and I, even though she had us sitting at a front desk alongside her. Alas, it didn't work, so she would exclude one or other of us during each History lesson to give her some peace!'
'The trick then was to stand outside of her door without being spotted by Mr T. I did have the pleasure of meeting her much later in my life when we were both working on some research on the use of resources in teaching - a small world.'
'Mr Potter - now here I differ from the views expressed by John Grant. For me the rubber dagger was a fiendish instrument which was frequently used on the back of my head as he dictated the French verbs to me ad nauseum. I seem to remember that there was an accepted rule that, if you gained less than a certain percentage in the final Year 3 examination, you would not be expected to continue French for the next two years.'
'In my case, having received less than the prescribed percentage, Mr Potter informed me that he didn't like me so would make me continue with French. It was only the offer of 5 gallons of cider, which I brought to school on the bar of my bicycle, which helped him change his mind and to release me from his bizarre behaviour for the rest of my school days. It wasn't his rubber dagger that had him removed!'
'I was initially taught mathematics by a character called Ferguson-Brown and I have only two memories of him. On the first day at school he told us we could sit by whomever we wished and, at 10 years of age, I chose to sit by Angela Waterson, who became my most valued friend throughout the next five years.'
'I met Pat James (now Pat Waterson as she married Angela's brother) at the centenary celebrations in 1999 and we exchanged numbers. She later contacted me to say that Angela had died of cancer. The second memory of 'Fergy' was his accuracy with a board rubber - he could pin-point anyone at the back of a room if attention was required!'
'Then Peter Lee arrived all fresh from University and managed to get my interest in mathematics rekindled. He also became a friend after marrying the 'girl across the road' (Isabel Hole) and it was a great sadness when a man with such involvement in sport was struck down with Parkinson's Disease and later died.'
'Miss Rendell was the most wonderful person with a caring, quiet disposition. I remember her most for two events: As I was entering the examination room for my RE 'O' Level she knew I was nervous and probably hadn't done the revision I should have done and quite gently said - "you have been here for five years with me Colin, so you must have remembered something!" '
'Much later on, at the Centenary celebrations at the school in 1999, I walked into school with my sister (at this time I am 63) and she immediately says "Hello Colin, how are you?" After reminiscing for about 20 minutes this lady in her mid-90s said "I must go, as I look after my sister and she will be worrying." (her sister was over 100!) With that she goes out to her car and drives to Wells to continue with her 'carer's' work!'
'Lastly, Mr Swallow, my Science teacher. What can I say, other than I learned what not to be like when I became a teacher - sarcasm was a weapon frequently used but he did demand high standards. Just before 'O' Levels he told each of the class what he thought they would achieve.'
'When he came to Bob Luxmore and I he thought we had no hope! Maybe he was cleverer than I thought as we both did well and many others in the class did not. In any event, I could not resist calling at his house, on the morning I received my result, to wave the paper in front of him.'
'Sport was my great love at school and, being such a small school, it was possible to play in the school teams at Cricket and Football, as well as take part in the annual school sport's day. It was quite normal for me to play football for the school on a Saturday morning and to play for the Wedmore 1st XI in the same afternoon.'
'During the summer months I would take what opportunities I could, via Mr T's. daughter, to play tennis on the school grass court (usually only girls allowed by Barney!) and to play on the then wonderful grass courts in Wedmore.'
'It was a poignant moment when I read John Grant's reference to George Ham, as I was with him on the day of his death. It was a Sunday and we had ridden our bikes (we had the same model of bike) to Minehead and back to see my sister. It was after he left us that he was confronted by a lorry on the wrong side of the road and was killed.'
'Up until that time I had won the Sport's Day mile race for the two previous years and, although a couple of years older than George, was expected to lose to this younger, rising star.'
'In the event, it was decided to run the race in front of his parents who presented me with the new George Ham Cup - a replica of which has pride of place on my dining room dresser to this day.
'It was really quite strange to see my name in John Grant's piece, referring to me as the 'Norman Hunter' of my day! My abiding memory of football at Sexey's is when Jimmy Phillips and I went off to trials for the Area Team. Jimmy was a very skilled footballer and, I believe, later played for Portsmouth at some level. On this occasion I was selected to play for the Area Team and Jimmy was not!'( John Grant has recently (2011) made contact with Brian 'Jimmy' Phillips and has kindly sent me this ammendment to Colin's memories - MJ) 'Jimmy has pointed out that although he was selected for the Area Team Trial he was subsequently advised that he was 'too old', so was unable to take part. Ironically, he had been the youngest in every class year at school, but his birthday was just one day before the cut of date for eligibility. (What a disappointment that must have been!) A year later he did have a trial for Plymouth Argyle, but did not impress enough to become a professional.'
'Unlike John, I seem unable to remember the names of a large number of boys and girls from that period but a few have stuck in my mind for various reasons and I would love to make contact with them if they are still around - Email firstname.lastname@example.org . Brian Lewis invited me to his home for my first ever stay away from home; Bob Luxmore was a good friend and a boarder at the school; Roger Norris lived at Mark and is remembered as a genuinely nice guy.'
'Timothy George was a weekly boarder and would pass my door in Sand on a Monday morning on his motorcycle, stopping a little way down the road so that I could have a go at riding it without my father knowing! There will be others who come into my head from time to time but as I write this they have taken leave of my brain cells.'
'My very best wishes to all Old Sexonians - Colin Banwell.' (Thanks very much for all your time and trouble, Colin - MJ)
If you have any memories/anecdotes/pictures from this era, whether they're 1st, 2nd or 3rd hand, please send them in to