Don Fox's Recollections

It all started with an NUT outing to Cambridge on which are respective spouses, who taught together at a school in Carlton, had persuaded us to go. This was the redoubtable Dudley Doy. Within a short time I found myself invited to play in the Dudley Doy X1 against the School and managed to resist the worst that Johnny Bell could hurl at me Whether this was some sort of recommendation I never discovered but as I was just emerging from a PGCE course and the school needed someone to help on the language side and try to establish Latin in the curriculum I found myself joining the staff of SMGS in Sept 1948.

I was allocated form 1 and a form room, which was virtually a corridor between the heads study and the round steps. In those days it was comparatively rare to have Southwell boys in the form. Apart from the boarders who might hail from as far a field as Malaya, dayboys travelled mainly from Mansfield and Newark but the odd one might come from Plessey or Stapleford and in one conspicuous case from Worksop (Trevor Sokell). So to have two Southwell boys in one year was quite unusual as I well remember that because of their closeness alphabetically they sat together up at the back of the form. I refer to Messrs. Stocks and Tame.

From those early days I remember the stir caused when the Provost Heywood, on his way to celebrate early morning communion, was surprised to see a pair of rugby shorts hanging from above the pinnacles above the south transepts of the Minster. There were dark murmurings about expulsion but obviously good sense ultimately prevailed and nothing happened. Tuesday afternoons were games days and in the winter it was customary to change into rugby gear before registration. I remember one young man (C J N Wright) who ultimately became more famous than most of us and whose forte was most definitely not rugby. He usually elected to play wing three-quarter and when the ball came near him his first instinct was to scream and pass it into touch. On one particularly chilly winters afternoon he emerged into the form room looking exactly like the ‘Michelin Man’. On being asked to remove his pullover he peeled off no fewer than five!

As Mr Rushby Smith was particularly interested in dramatics the school play tended to become one of the major items in the school calendar. Particularly was this the case in the Millennium Celebrations of 1956 when the school was actively involved in the Pageant which was written by JKBB. Timetables tended to go out of the window but amazingly exam results did not seem to suffer. Venues for the normal school plays were a bit of a problem varying from the old school hall to the old Trebeck Hall and ending up at the Edward Cludd stage where Bottom, wearing his donkeys dead, distinguished himself and alarmed the company by walking off the stage. Fortunately it was a rehearsal. The Dramatic Society did in fact nurtured a character who went on to ply his trade by becoming one of the main announcers on BBC Radio 3.

Then in 1950 or thereabouts I found myself abandoning my 98 c.c. two-stroke James motorcycle and moving with my wife and baby daughter Hilary, into West Lodge to supervise the welfare of twelve boarders. There were three sixth formers and nine fifth formers all of whom had been well drilled by SWP. The hose had been minimally adapted and the washing and showering facilities were in what was formally the outhouse. On a frosty winter's evening it was impossible to see across the washroom for steam! Boarders always had an enamel mug by their bedside so that if they needed they could have a drink of water on awakening at night. I well remember Christopher Gray drawing my attention to his mug, which he kept, on the windowsill, which overlooked Westgate and which had been frozen solid for the previous 2 weeks. As the common room also looked out over Westgate there was rarely a shortage of young ladies who saw the possibilities in the situation and indeed at least one enduring union originated in that way. It might also be pertinent to remember that one of West Lodge ‘Prefects’ (Phil Brett) became possibly the only old boy ever to merit a full-page obituary in the Times.

Back on the school front we always seemed to be raising money for the ‘New School’ and things had got as far as having the site examined by archaeologists because it had been know that there was a Roman villa somewhere in the area. During the excavations human remains were found which were thought to date from the Civil War. From that time on, until higher authority intervened, the two Minster Choir book boys, sixth formers in those days, were inseparable from a pair of human femurs, which they brandished as a sort of badge of office.
A speech day about that time raised a smile when a local dignitary made a speech after presenting the prizes, in which he praised the school on the general excellence of the public exam results but said that the only thing that puzzled him was how come that in a school in such close proximity tom the Minster the RE results were not up to the same standards. The head in the meantime was adopting an expression of uninvolved innocence.

In the summer term the cricketers always used to look forward to the Dudley Doy match and Dudley used to select an X1 from amongst his friends and colleagues some or who were competent cricketers and some whose flannels only came out once a season. It usually resulted in a balanced match but the highlight was an Old Boy, ‘Tubby’ Howard, a Master Baker from west Bridgeford, who always brought with him a tray of the most delicious strawberry and cream cakes. After Dudley died the fixture was continued under the aegis of John Merry weather, another great cricketing character who never wore socks inside his cricket boots and had the most extensive repertoire of bawdy songs.
As with all good things this era eventually came to an end and the whole school was mobilised in a human chain to carry all the movable content of the old school down to the new building. All, that is, except the Barrow Exhibitioners Board, and used to hang in the hall and was deemed to be no longer relevant. This I transmuted into a cricket scoreboard which, as far as I am aware, served the new building for the length of its life.

Don Fox joined School as a teacher in 1948 and left in 1984; he is 88 years old and still lives in Southwell with his wife.