Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lobster

Share your memories and stories from your days at school, and find out the truth behind the rumours....Remember the teachers and pupils, tell us who you remember and why...

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loumaulecole
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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by loumaulecole » Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:29 am

David Rawlins mentions that Kirby was doing some sort of research. This may well have been his investigations into developing a coating for army boots that would repel mud thus preventing them getting heavier and heavier as the wearer walked over the fields. I was a member of the trials that he conducted circa 1944. The trials showed that the coating we were testing had no effect. So back to square one then!

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by geoffreycannon » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:55 pm

This is Geoffrey Cannon, now resident in Brazil
Peele A 1951-1958, and this contribution is about Uncle.

The title of this sequence of items I guess is from somebody who remembers 'Bill' Kirby from after he retired (or was 'retired'). He influenced me at a time when he was extremely vigorous. My sense, is that for whole generations of 'bolshies' at CH he redefined sanity. If we think about the nature of CH, starting with the dress, he was more normal than we were, and certainly more than many of the 'respectable' teachers, some of whom were seriously screwed-up. The staff then who remain influential with me, were the free spirits: above all Michael Cherniavsky, and seven who did not formally teach me, or only briefly: Gordon van Praagh, Nell Todd, Edward Malins, Derrick Macnutt, David Jesson-Dibley, David Herbert - and Uncle.

I've read the thread and here are three recollections not mentioned so far.

First, Uncle's space was a home, for him and also for those of us who got the point. He let me breed Peacocks in the cages in his room, and to come and go whenever I wanted, as a result of which I learned that the caterpillars have a voracious appetite for nettles. Hundreds emerged from their chrysalids - all dwarfs. But they did fly. I think it was Uncle who kept the records of the entomological society. These recorded that in the first years after the school moved to Horsham, white-letter hairstreaks were found breeding in a wych-elm in the woods behind the shooting-range. So I went, and there they were, half a century later - and half a century ago. Being in Uncle's world was being within a special society with its secrets.

Second, recollections so far make only slight reference to his being in charge of the Corps Signals. Not sure 'in charge' is quite the right term, because the Signals was made up from riff-raff, bolshies, odd-balls. conchies, and other assorted undesirables. The never stated deal was astounding. On the one hand, we were free to turn up to parades in sh1t order, and this was never challenged. On the other hand, we focused on telephone and wireless telegraphy and morse and other codes, very seriously. He also masterminded Corp camps enlivened by great stews and a sense of disciplined freedom. Some of us (a story not yet published) realised that our skills and position could be used not just to mimic mass killing, but also, by destroying our own lines of communication, to mess up the minds and morale of officer cadets, especially on rainy annual let's pretend to be massacring the wogs in Egypt and Malaya days. Which we did. Uncle had nothing to do with this sabotage, but he must have known.

Third, he had a water-cooled motorcycle with aluminium wings, which he rode through the Lamb-side cloisters, past the library, to his room/ space/ home. Very cool. When I first saw 'Kelly's Heroes' with Donald Sutherland as 'Oddball", I thought of Uncle.

I agree with one contributor who says that genius of anything like the type that Uncle had, is now very hard to find. Yes, it is likely that he was protected by Hamilton Fyfe, and by Oswald Flecker, who was also a strange genius. Yes, I agree with the gist of what another contributor indicates, which is that the 'purges' of Clarence Seaman perhaps had a necessary aspect, but also destroyed a vital spirit. It was the masters with their own boundaries who, like painters and poets, gave CH what I think was the country's top ranking in Oxford and Cambridge scholarships in the year I left. Most of those responsible for that astounding achievement were by then already gone, or were soon to leave.

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by geoffreycannon » Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:00 pm

Bah! I see that my contribution puts me down as a second former. Does this refer to boys who were slung out after being in the Prep School? First parting button Grecian, per-lease! History, exhibition to Balliol College. Further to the remark about CH academic prowess, when I went up there was somebody from CH in every single Oxford college, and Balliol included Jasper Griffin, in my year Anthony Arblaster and Clive Jordan, the next year Alan Ryan, and the year after that Stuart Holland. Go google!

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by anniexf » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:38 pm

geoffreycannon wrote:Bah! I see that my contribution puts me down as a second former. Does this refer to boys who were slung out after being in the Prep School? First parting button Grecian, per-lease! History, exhibition to Balliol College. Further to the remark about CH academic prowess, when I went up there was somebody from CH in every single Oxford college, and Balliol included Jasper Griffin, in my year Anthony Arblaster and Clive Jordan, the next year Alan Ryan, and the year after that Stuart Holland. Go google!
The "2nd. Form" is an eccentricity peculiar to this website. It merely denotes the number of posts you have made -the more you make, the higher up the school you get. It may be a long time before you make it to Button Grecian again ...

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by huntertitus » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:44 pm

Wonderful to hear about the man in his prime. I started this thread about my memory of him because I was interested to learn more.

I noticed that the year you left CH was the year I was born!

Thank you for making the man I found fascinating come alive.

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by J.R. » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:22 pm

It's strange re-reading through this thread that after so many years, (around half a century), there are probably only two teachers who remain so vividly in my mind as they were back then.

'Uncle' being one, and the wonderful Nell Todd being the other.
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by pierre » Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:27 pm

Nell Todd is my most vivid memory. Art classes to the sound of Chickens clucking in the pen under the model theatre and the sight of dead pheasants strung up in the pottery room . Also her famous speech day hats constructed from papier mache, one of which melted in the rain!

Bill Kirby who was retired during my time 61-69 allowed me to keep hamsters in the old furnace room along side his lab at the back of the science block.
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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by sejintenej » Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:15 pm

pierre wrote:Nell Todd is my most vivid memory. Art classes to the sound of Chickens clucking in the pen under the model theatre and the sight of dead pheasants strung up in the pottery room . Also her famous speech day hats constructed from papier mache, one of which melted in the rain!

Bill Kirby who was retired during my time 61-69 allowed me to keep hamsters in the old furnace room along side his lab at the back of the science block.
For all the messages of praise for Nell Todd, I simply cannot agree.
Most teachers at least tried to teach us something, be it latin, woodwork or even geography. We might not have appreciated the subject, we might have been bored stiff or plainly disgusted about learning poetry about rape but at least an attempt was made at teaching us something. To this day the idea of giving a boy some water, a brush, paints and paper and telling him to paint "something" (i.e. not a pot of flowers, a tree but simply something) leaves me cold; IMHO that was not teaching. There was no review, no suggestion, no display and discussion of classical work, absolutely nothing and thus I consider every second spent in that building a total waste of time.
Now, in the twilight of my life I see scenes which I can photograph and wish I could put on paper. This very morning I woke in Provence (passing through) and out of the window the rising sun bathed everything in an incredible golden light which a trained painter could perhaps have put on paper. I see the work of Belgian and Dutch masters and wish I could be half as good. I can't even mix paints to get the colours I want. Nell; you wasted my time.

Kirby? What a character. I might not have learned too much science from him but he was a real life character who demonstrated 'life' as we seldom see it nowadays.

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by pierre » Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:03 pm

Agreed: I learnt nothing from Nell , Art wise, but the uncontrolled chaos of the lessons made a great break from the tedium of other school work. Most art lessons descended into pitched battles with the other class over the screen divider.
Having just spent three weeks enjoying glorious sunsets at Chichester Harbour, I too wish I could translate those into a painting as photography somehow never does the scenes justice. But the skill of Art and drawing always eluded me, but boy did I enjoy those madcap art lessons all the same and my happy memories of Nell will always remain. My recollections of other teaching staff remain hazy in comparison. Bill Kirby was another unconventional individual who always welcomed one into his little world at the rear of the science block although his terrier needed to be treated with caution. I seem to recall its name was Boodle?
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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by J.R. » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:32 pm

pierre wrote:Agreed: I learnt nothing from Nell , Art wise, but the uncontrolled chaos of the lessons made a great break from the tedium of other school work. Most art lessons descended into pitched battles with the other class over the screen divider.
Having just spent three weeks enjoying glorious sunsets at Chichester Harbour, I too wish I could translate those into a painting as photography somehow never does the scenes justice. But the skill of Art and drawing always eluded me, but boy did I enjoy those madcap art lessons all the same and my happy memories of Nell will always remain. My recollections of other teaching staff remain hazy in comparison. Bill Kirby was another unconventional individual who always welcomed one into his little world at the rear of the science block although his terrier needed to be treated with caution. I seem to recall its name was Boodle ?

Correct, Pierre - A sort of Jack Russell. Yes, he was temperamental/fractious, but we always got on like a house on fire. If 'Uncle' and I went off into the depths of Sussex to collect a rogue swarm of bees, Boodle would sit on my lap in the front of the old motor Uncle used, looking out through the windscreen.

I can't paint/draw to save my life, but the Art School was a peaceful oasis in a hectic world during free periods. I may not have learnt how to paint, (I honestly believe it's in-born, not something you can 'learn'.) However, I DID learn to appreciate good paintings.

I still hate 'modern-art' with a passion to this day !
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by pierre » Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:18 pm

I remember those beehives well if only for the number of times I was stung, But Bill's mead was memorable! He was always very welcoming and many happy hours were spent whilst maintaining the livestock.

One other odd memory was borrowing his two wheeled radio trolley (it only had two wheels at the centre, so had to be constantly balanced) to deliver cakes to the cricket pavilion. Somehow not all of them arrived! If you knew what you were doing, there were several tricks to obtaining food perks like this at the Dining Hall such as being on the bread cutting and toasting detail. The bread room was located next to the biscuit room!
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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by postwarblue » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:55 pm

There must have been a succession of these revolting dogs. The one on task when I arrived was called Hibbing Ino idea why). There were then four pups called after the Halogens of which only Chlorine was retained. There must be something odd about a man so institutionalised he could never leave his old school (except when there was a war on).
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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by postwarblue » Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:59 pm

Oh and Nell Todd. She took over from an oddity called Kipper Kent who painted his ankles with blue powder paint so as to save socks. I had (have) no artistic talent whatever. Latterly I used to go to Vol Art on Sunday afternoons to avoid having to spend the time out of doors. However once when I was daubing away Nell asked me if I had ever seen a tree and kicked me out to go up to the quarter mile and draw one.

I imagine HLOF let the Art School run itself as he would have seen it as a displacement activity and not a real academic subject.
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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by DavidRawlins » Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:32 am

postwarblue wrote:There must have been a succession of these revolting dogs. The one on task when I arrived was called Hibbing Ino idea why). There were then four pups called after the Halogens of which only Chlorine was retained. There must be something odd about a man so institutionalised he could never leave his old school (except when there was a war on).
He studied medicine at Cambridge on a scholarship which expired at the end of the pre-clinical course.He could not afford to do the clinical course, probably at one of the London teaching hospitals.
The Headmster, presumably Hamilton Fyfe invited him back to CH as a teacher.
One wonders what kind of doctor he would have made. Probably involved in research.
Col A 1946-1953

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Re: Strange old man dressed in WW1 army gear / dog named lob

Post by bluegrunt » Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:48 pm

postwarblue wrote:She took over from an oddity called Kipper Kent who painted his ankles with blue powder paint so as to save socks.
This is just simply brilliant. Were there other teachers like this??
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