Testing Times

Billericay Secondary School School 1964/70
By Keith Clempson

A select few playing at a concert at Billericay Secondary School. I'm with the trombone.
Keith Clempson

I doubt there’s enough time at the moment to share all my memories about Billericay Secondary School as it was known by before becoming Billericay Comprehensive School in about 1968, but I shall try to share some.
My first year would have been 1964, Form 1B Mr Nobby Butler. The school was a mix of very bad and very good. In hindsight it’s obvious that the academic side only liked you if you made them look good. There was no understanding of the pupil.

Chopper Jones and the religious Hewitt were shocking and ruined any academic abilities I had which however blossomed with Mrs Garton in English. PE was always fun with Ron England and Mr Corlett. I remember scoring a goal from the half way line against Corlett ! In the early years Martin Canter was amazing and the confidence I lost thro’ Jones and Hewitt was replaced by Canter. He was a drama teacher and had me take pupils of my choice out of the class to devise a play in ten minutes and then come back in and perform it. Sadly Martin left after a couple of years and it was never quite the same again.

I did have my moments tho’ playing for the school football team each year despite being short sighted. When I got contact lenses aged 16-17 I scored a hat trick against the staff and got to the final of the cricket single wicket competition. We never did play that final as I believe because I’d been crap at cricket by not seeing a smaller ball in years previous, no one wanted me to win it and be embarrassed by it. I remember beating the two best cricketers in the early rounds and loosing a ball with a six I hit!

Teachers I admired who had time for pupils as human beings were Robin Corbin (Art), Martin Canter (Drama), Monica Garton (English), Mr Robinson (Art ), Taffy Elias (Technical Drawing) and Mrs Down (needlecraft I think) she always called me “young man” in the nicest possible way !! Mrs. Down got me to compere the school fashion show; imagine me and about 50 girls !
I remember having to meet her behind the stage to have the script altered because of last minute changes. It was one big changing room and did I get an eyefull! Mrs Down told the girls to not worry about me as she was sure I’d seen it all before, well I may have done but not 50 at once !!! I still have a grainy Billericay Recorder press photo cutting of us all on stage somewhere .
Robin Corbin and Susan Shane (Art) were amazing. I loved photography at the time (and yes the school darkroom was also an education room !) and Robin asked me to design the new school darkroom for the new buildings going up for the Comprehensive era. So if that darkroom still stands…thank you 😂👍

I was even allowed to make a stop motion film using the school 16mm cine camera which was under lock and key in Mr Lingard’s headmasters study, and I had to ask him for it every time.

Sadly, because of politics and the two aforementioned confidence destroyers, I had to leave in the lower 6th as they along with Mrs Simpson didn’t believe I would ever pass Maths and English “O” level. I took them privately and passed both first time the year after. The maths exam was taken at the school after I’d left. I remember it well. I was queuing up with other exam entrants and Chopper was handing out exam numbers. When he came to me he looked surprised and said “What are you doing here Clempson?” “Taking the exam sir” I replied. He chuckled and muttered “no chance” . Pleased to say I did pass and I always wanted to put my pass slip right under his nose !!

Other teachers I remember are Mr Drage who allowed me to play trombone in the school orchestra, Mrs Kefford (girls PE), Mr Ince (Metalwork), Sexy Jones (geography) what did go on in his cupboard ?! Jock Spurr (Rural Science) what did go on with the girl volunteers after school in the barn?! Peter Clyne (English I think) another great guy who left too early and was a Labour candidate for Southend I believe.

Many more stories from these days I can recount but maybe for another time.

To finish with here’s a list of those pupils I remember

Derek Wragg ( still in regular contact )David Langtree
Stephen SchwartzKeith Hugget
Barry CooperMichael Chapman
Michael PriorLinda Garrett
Colin WalkerLinda Childs (her dad was caretaker I think)
Joseph FarringtonPeter French
 Kevin StanburyWendy Ferdinando,
Richard KeelingSusan Ferdinando,
Denise RichardsDavid Needham
Philip CallowBernard Cooper
John SladeLyn Buck
Sharon RickenberghLyn Jones
Gillian SimsRichard Lyon
Stephen BullmanDavid Robinson (son of the other teacher Mr Robinson)

That’s all f’now folks !!

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  • I went to Billericay School from 1965 to 70 (maiden name Robertson). I recognise some of the faces and a couple of names but didn’t know them personally. Is one of the girls there Marion Butcher (5th from left with bass)??

    By Susan Birt (26/11/2021)
  • On the right is Susanne Martin who played flute, now Susanne Pipe, she became a Primary Teacher and eventually Head Teacher at Robert Drake Primary in Benfleet, and Great Berry Primary in Langdon Hills. We currently live in Peasenhall in Suffolk, and sometimes in New Zealand.

    By Arthur Robin Pipe (26/11/2021)
  • I think I recognise Lynne Jones last right with the violin. And maybe Janet Verbeck 3rd from left at the back. Lynne had a remarkable skill apart from violin playing. She could touch the end of her nose with her tongue. She also sang in the Billericay Youth Opera Company in which I also sang.
    The lad with the tuba might be John Lodge. It looks like him and I know John played it so on the balance of probabilities it is him. I think I have spotted another one. Would that be Stephen Ward standing next to Janet right at the back? And the oboist at far left wouldn’t be Collin Bellet would it? I think I had already gone to Fryerns when this photo was taken otherwise I might have been in it. I played double bass and clarinet around this time 1965-1966.

    By Steven Copper (26/11/2021)
  • I remember some of those mentioned especially Bernard Cooper he used to work in the green grocers on a Saturday morning.

    By Robert Shovlar (29/09/2021)
  • In 1973 I was very happy to be welcome in Mr and Mrs Nutt’s house !!!
    I started speaking English at this time thanks to Mr Barry Nutt who was a wonderful man !!!
    Now I am 68 years old, I spent my whole career in Air France as a purser .
    Congratulations to his three children Angela, Christina and Martin. [Address supplied]

    By R Bodet (07/02/2021)
  • I was at the school for 4 years 1966-1969 inc. I remember Bernie Cooper (worked in a fruit and veg shop on Saturdays) I also remember Coln Walker we both played for Billericay’s under 18s football team I was the goalkeeper. I was in Foxcroft children’s home in the High Street. I was playing rugby when he had his arm broken, I remember Mike England, Len Rosslyn also Herbert Theodore Rowley. I remember being thrown in the outside swimming pool.

    By Robert Shovlar (01/01/2021)
  • Really good to read Testing Times Keith. I think you were a year above me but I remember many of the names of pupils you mention. David Langtree was a fast runner and really good football player. I think his parents went to South Africa and we missed his sporting abilities.
    I remember all the teachers you mention and one of my favourites was Mr Walkie (English). When we were in the 4th or 5th year, a group of us lads went to Jock Spurr’s house (he lived on one of the floors in that big old house next to the school) every Thursday evening to watch Top of the Pops on his colour telly – he loved Pans People!!! Wouldn’t be able to do that nowadays. I couldn’t stand Chopper Jones. He never liked me and sent me out of his O level maths group for not doing my homework. Other teachers were Mr Musk (Geology), Mr Skinner (French) and Barry Nutt (French). Barry was a great laugh but a good French teacher. Miss Alford took us for English and Mr Hayes (Maths). I left in 1970 after taking O levels (didn’t get many) and went to work at Lloyd’s of London. Worked in the Lloyd’s market for 29 years and then left due to redundancy in 1999 and became a Royal Mail postman for 11 years. Now happily retired.

    By Graham Podd (11/12/2020)
  • Where to start? The stinky old lockers that immediately confronted one when entering the boys changing room? Standing in the corridor awaiting being called into the Head Masters Office? A pick up game of football in the playground using a tennis ball?
    Things I remember in no particular order.
    Lenny Roslyn buying those small plastic balls with holes in them out of his own pocket so we could continue to play football in the play ground. Because tennis balls had been banned. A stand up deed from a controversial guy.
    Mr Lacys woodwork class. Four periods of messing about with wood while eating clove balls.
    Catching worms and throwing them to the chickens through the chain link fence.
    Mistletoe at Christmas. You had to sneak into the girls playground though. Although some of them sneaked into the boys playground.
    Mr Heyes fixation with yachting.
    A girl, who’s name I can’t recall, fainting in biology class when the teacher dissected eyeballs. I got the eyes from the butchers shop in the high street.
    Someone tying a kipper over the stage where the teachers sat for assemble. They had to ignore it for the whole time. Don’t know who did it but very well done!
    Ripping up of blazers on the last day of school.
    Young Farmers club. With Isley. We got to pluck chickens. Cool.
    Ron England breaking Jimmy Evans arm in rugby. The drama! I got to carry the stretcher.
    Seeing Sexy Jones kiss the head girl while peeping through the crack of his classroom door.
    Driving a car to school and parking in the teachers lot.
    Well that’s enough for now.

    By Bernie Cooper (10/12/2020)
  • Bernie (aka Bernard) Cooper here.
    In the third year I came first in the math class of Mr Wright. Unfortunately he left at the end of the year. The fourth year bought Chopper. It didn’t take long at all for me to fall foul of him and was summarily ejected from his O level class to Mr Hewitts CSE class. There went my math.
    English was somewhat more successful under Mr Walkey.
    I also did well in Mr Musks Geology class.
    That’s it for now as it’s half time in a Tottenham game. Yes I’m still a Spurs supporter even though I live thousands of miles away.

    By Bernie Cooper (10/12/2020)
  • Lovely to hear everyones news. I was in the same class as Lynne Jones and have fond memories of her and Janet Verbecke, also in the photo. Seems many of us ended up in education. I qualified as a nursery nurse before becoming an Early Years Professional and Ofsted Inspector. I remember Robin Corbin with admiration.

    By Jacqueline Oldman nee Brassett (04/12/2020)
  • Wow after all these years! I ended up playing far too much Sport at Billericay and, like you Keith, got on the wrong side of Chopper Jones. I ended up training as a P E Teacher at Dudley College in the West Midlands and spent the next 5 years teaching at Coseley School, just down the road. I then moved on to Further Education at Telford College in 1979, initially teaching Sport and eventually ended up as Assistant Principal. Shortly after qualifying I married Lynne Jones who is the one on the end holding the violin. I remember many of the names mentioned, John Slade, Michael Chapman Barry Cooper, Richard Keeling, Stephen Schwartz who were all great friends! I retired in 2012 and still live in Shropshire. I have many happy memories of Billericay.

    By Colin Walker (26/11/2020)
  • “Mutual Admiration”
    Having just read “Testing Times” I would like to say how personable I found Keith Clempson as a pupil/student. An independent, free thinking and well mannered young man. For myself I left Billericay to become Head of Art & Design at Chalvedon and then moved to Itchen Sixth Form College in Southampton, where after heading the Art & Design Department I became a Divisional Director running a third of the College, retiring in 2002. Billericay was a great start!

    By Mr Robin Corbin (08/11/2020)

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