(Note: This post was updated on 27/2/19 to take account of comments below)
I attended this school from 1959 to 1964. In my first year, Miss Killeen taught us geography. She was a short elderly lady and I remember her giving me my first house point because I was the only one in the class who knew how many acres there are in a square mile! Mr Ellis taught us history in my 1st year and after he spoke for 15 or 20 minutes, he would write notes up on the blackboard for us to copy, but leave gaps in the text for us to fill in. This would reveal whether we paid attention to what he had said. Very shrewd! And we can’t forget dear Mr Drage who mass produced his own ‘music points’. In WW2, he suffered as a POW in a Japanese prison camp. My form teacher for the first 2 years was Eric Huggett. He was of the ‘old school’ and tried to instil some old fashioned values into us. He was well known for his involvement with scouting and amateur dramatics, but was also a keen chess player. He bought numerous chess sets at his own expense and started up a lunch time chess club. Mr Huggett did not always conform to the status quo (which I admired him for) and on one hot summers day when the Head (John Goldwin) and the Deputy (Monica Garton) were both away, we took our chairs out into the playground where we formed a circle and he continued the lesson in the sunshine. It was rather nice really. He disliked his lessons being disturbed and he entrusted one boy in our class with an ‘Interruption Book’ which was secreted in his desk. After each offender left the room, his name and time of the disruption were duly logged into the book.
I remember Mr Dennis Hewitt with affection as he was my Sunday school teacher at South Green Chapel in the 1950’s and by coincidence he was my R.E. ‘O’ level teacher at the School in 1963/64. Reverend Holley came along on a few occasions to preach at assemblies, in his words: “to give us all some religion”! In 1972 he conducted my wedding service in his church at Gt. Burstead. My R.E. teacher in 1962 was young, quietly spoken lady, Mrs Margaret Bell. A few years afterwards, she left and moved to Cardiff, where she tragically died in a car crash.
In the early 60’s there was quite an influx of new teachers. Four of them taught me and they lived near each other on the South Green council estate. In Langham Crescent there was Mrs ‘Zilla’ Westwood, my form teacher in 1961/62 (who taught maths and was married to a Curate), Mr Jim Ince who taught metalwork, Mrs Elspeth Lawson who taught geography and in Maple Mead lived Mrs Betty Simpson who taught English. In the main building (now block A), Mrs Simpson’s classroom doubled up as the library. In those days it just consisted of half a dozen book cases along one wall. One bookcase contained a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica and a few pages in it beginning with ‘S’ were well thumbed! Len Rosslyn and his wife joined in 1960. He taught me physics and she taught biology but only stayed a short time because she became pregnant. After the birth, she brought the baby back into school for the girls to ‘coo’ over.
When I started at the school in 1959, the new hall was under construction. It was interesting to watch, but the disruption and noise was not very conducive to our concentration in nearby classrooms. The cooks did a brilliant job pushing the heated food trolleys across a building site from the new kitchen block and then negotiate a steep ramp into Block A and along the corridor into the dining hall. The food was still warm and edible when it reached our plates.
For a couple years Mr Stan Elias taught me Technical Drawing in the new 2 storey art & craft block (now demolished). We used 3H pencils on cartridge paper pinned to old fashioned drawing boards with Tee squares. A far cry from the hi-tech AutoCAD technology of today. Stan later married Nora Beddingfield the cookery teacher. A new photographic darkroom was built between the 2 science classrooms in Block A and rumour has it that a couple of pupils used it for improper purposes during one lunch time! The so called ‘Cinderella’ subjects were not taken too seriously in my final year. During these periods, I together with a few others would surreptitiously disappear into an empty room somewhere so that we could immerse ourselves in some intense revision for our GCE ‘O’ levels. Once, Len Rosslyn (on his regular patrols) caught us but he didn’t take any action.
Although she is not mentioned in Sylvia Kent’s excellent book about Billericay School, probably the most internationally famous luminary from the school was Irene Wooldridge. As a teenager, she was a talented singer and in the year below me. Irene lived in Bellevue Road and is now is very famous in Germany where she lives using the stage name of Ireen Sheer. She sang in the Eurovision song contest in 1974 & 1978 and can be seen on YouTube singing many of her songs. Irene does appear however in the school photo on p.73 in Sylvia’s book. (top photo, very top row). I am in the same the same photo too, but not in the picture – if you know what I mean.
In 1960, the school arranged an outing to Clacton. It cost 12/- (60p) and we could pay by 12 instalments at 1/- (5p) per week. Buses were laid on to take us to Southend, where we alighted and walked (with some groans) the full length of the 1.3 mile long pier to embark the paddle steamer, The Medway Queen. It was very crowded and during the trip, John Goldwin had to use the tannoy to instruct children to disperse as the boat was listing too much to the port side! After disembarking at Clacton Pier, we spent an hour or two amusing ourselves in a park (and probably annoying the locals too) and then travelled back to Billericay Station via Shenfield in a specially chartered train. In assembly, the following morning, John Goldwin admonished us for our behaviour. He said we were supposed to enjoy the Essex coastline from the boat but some of us “spent too much time down below filling ourselves up”. I can admit to staying on deck at all times…..
During the 1960’s, the school had its own in-house newspaper called The Millside Recorder which only appeared about twice a year. My first foray into amateur journalism occurred when it printed a short article I had written on the subject of the School Camera Club, of which I was a member.
The above photo shows the class in my final year. I am standing on the right hand side next to our form teacher Norman ‘Nobby’ Butler. I can remember names of most of the boys in the photo and some of the girls.
Mr Butler taught general science and he lived in Hunter Avenue, Shenfield. He always cycled to school in the rain, wind, snow, fog – you name it, even though he owned a car. When I occasionally cycled to my second job in Shenfield after leaving school, we would sometimes pass en route and wave to each other. During WW2, Norman was the navigator in a Lancaster bomber. On one sortie, the plane was hit and he parachuted out landing smack in the middle of the German factory his plane was trying to bomb!
John Goldwin was appointed Head Teacher in 1955 and became Head of the Lower School under Mr Lingard when it became comprehensive in 1968. He was a religious man and he drove to school each day in an Austin A35 van from his home in Alexander Lane, Shenfield. I personally owe him a great debt of gratitude as he found me my first job with John Strong, an architect and Rotary Club friend of his who had an office in the High Street. He was devastated when his daughter, Gillian committed suicide in 1974. John Kilgour Goldwin was a caring and honourable man. He died in 1976.
I was interested to read your comments Graham. If you remember, I sat next to you in Eric Huggett’s class (2B1) in 1960/1. You were a fan of Tottenham Totspur, or “Sparkling Spurs” as you once said! Noel Hunter sat nearby and he was a Man Utd supporter. He lived 2 doors away from me in Hickstars Lane and we often kicked a ball about in the Recreation Ground at South Green (see article entitled: South Green Memories). After 2B1, and having agreed to stay on into the 5th year, we were split into 3F & 3E and I think the chaps who wanted to leave after the 4th year were put into 3T. Regarding the 5th year class photos, I think you have confused 5E which you were in and 5F which I was in. For some unexplained reason. Messrs Lindsell & Steel appear in both 5E & 5F photos.
In my final year I drew a plan of the school, had it framed and presented it to John Goldwyn, the Head a few days before I left. He was so impressed with it, that he drove me with it to show an architect friend of his in the High Street and that is how I got my first job. The drawing was rubbish by today’s standards, but it hung on the wall outside the Head’s room for sometime. Two other achievements I can boast about are that I never had the cane and I never had to read in the hall. Being a shy young lad, that prospect just filled me with dread.
A few comments about those I recognise in my 5F and your 5E photos:
You mention Jeremy Purkiss. Nice lad. David Cottee sat at the front of Mr Huggett’s class in 2B1 and he kept the ‘Interruption Book’ in his draw. David Clewlow was a quiet polite lad and a brilliant chess player, Andrew Darroch excelled at Maths and went to Chelmsford College to study Structural Engineering. Stephen Reed had a photographic business in Billericay and Chris Bennett was the son of the vicar at Downham. In 1964 Chris, Andrew and I left school with the highest number of ‘0’ levels, i.e. 5 out of 6, which was the maximum number we could sit. I re-sat English and passed it the following November. Several lads lived on the Sunnymede estate, who were ex Walthamstow boys. e.g messrs Lindsell, Babb, Pettit, who I think he was afflicted with polio, Perrin and Stowe. Maurice Perrin was quite arty and I think he became a police motorcyclist at Southend. Michael (Mich) Stowe and I were friends for many years after. He attended my wedding and I attended his. Russell Mirty had snow white hair and was a good sportsman. He went to work at Fords. I have been in touch with Margaret Gentry (now Margaret Mead) who has had an interesting and successful life and also Margaret Cheyney (now Margaret Rochester) who lives in a remote part of Scotland. She and her husband have another home in Sri Lanka.
A few comments about our teachers:
In 2014, I tracked down and interviewed Len Rosslyn and Stan Elias. Both must be about 90 years of age. Len lives in Kent and is suffering from dementia and kept recalling his experiences in a Japanese POW camp in WW2. He was very pleased to see me and wanted to apologise for being so strict at school, but I think he was a bit of a softy underneath!
Stan Elias lives near me at Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood. A good humoured man with a strong welsh accent. When he was married to his 1st wife he lived opposite me in Chantry Way. I was amazed at how much he remembered and he told me some amusing stories about other members of staff.
‘Chopper’ Jones taught maths. A good teacher and his classes achieved impressive ‘0’ level results Eric Huggett was our form teacher for the first 2 years in 1959/60/61, which were 1B1 & 2B1. He had a fascination with letters, words and alphabets and together with his chess playing, I thought he might have been involved in cryptography during WW2, but apparently he was incarcerated in a salt mine which caused the twitch he had in one eye. Mr Drage was the only music teacher I remember. He was kind and generous man and he suffers horrors in a Japanese POW camp. Nobby Butler was my form teacher in 5F. An innocuous and friendly man who kept his bike in the science prep room. Yes he did parachute out of a Lancaster which qualified him to belong to ‘The Caterpillar Club’. (look on Google) You mention Mr Legg. During a lesson we had once entitled ‘woodwork theory’, he was teaching us about trees and seasoning timber, when a clown put his hand up and asked “Please sir, do they season lolly sticks?” We all smiled with amusement,.
There were 2 Mr Robinsons. Bill Robinson taught woodwork and had endless patience showing us to how use sharp tools properly. A thorough gentleman and he helped build the school swimming pool. Eric Robinson taught art.
Betty Simpson was our ‘0’ level English teacher. She was Scottish, had red hair. A dedicated teacher who gave up her free time after school to give us extra tuition. I had great respect for her. We received a good grounding in grammar, sentence construction, letter and essay writing etc. How many kids get that these days? It was Mr Thomas who taught us French in 1B1 and drove the Morris Bulldog. For some reason we had to bring small mirrors to French lessons in that year presumably to watch ourselves getting our tongues round some difficult French words. However most of us used them to shine reflections around the room!
Basil Parfitt taught us French in the 2nd year. He was quite authoritarian and he rode to school on a motorbike and side car. I attended the after school French Club where we could watch grainy B & W films of French high speed trains. During lunch times we were allowed to play boules on the grass in the quadrangle. Sadly, there is not much grass left now as it is mostly built over. At Easter Mr Parfitt left and went to a school in Rayleigh. ‘Zillah’ Westwood taught us maths in the 3rd year. She was young and strict. She was married to a curate who later became a prison chaplain in South London.
Lastly, Monica Garton was deputy head, a well travelled and clever lady. She gave me a lift once when she saw me waiting at a bus stop and in our final year of Metalwork, when we could make whatever we liked, I knocked up a brass bangle and sold it to her for 3/6d! One day she had a row with the new Head Mr Lingard and she went home in tears. Next morning her husband arrived at school, in an intoxicated state and brandishing a knife to seek revenge. However, he was intercepted by Chopper Jones and Len Roslyn. You couldn’t make it up!
Sports Days were a bit of a farce because, unlike in the Junior School when winners were awarded prizes, here they were just given house points. Consequently, that didn’t prove to be much of an incentive, especially when sports days were held on Saturdays and clashed with the part time jobs that many pupils had. In the practice sessions, Len Rosslyn suspected that some pupils were running slow deliberately so they didn’t qualify!
By prior appointment, I visited the school some time ago, as an ‘old boy’ and was shown around the original quadrangle building by a member of the office staff. When I recalled some of the classrooms I once occupied, she would open the door and introduce me to the teacher and children inside. I even pointed out where I used to sit and the pupil at that desk was asked to lift the lid and see if I had scratched my initials on the underside! A wonderful day with bags of nostalgia.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. I look forward to some of the classmates of that era adding their recollections and memoirs. By the way, this is me climbing on the 02 dome roof at Greenwich – just one of the things you have to do before reaching 70!