The problems of being a new boy

My thanks go to Ray Haines for providing the following recollections of his days at Dr. Morgan’s. Ray was at the school from 1953 to 1960 before attending St. Luke’s and following a career in education. Ray remembers the day Jack Lawrence, complete with camel coat and beret, was ringing the bell in the playground area to stop boys throwing snow balls. The response was immediate, as it always was with Jack. The boys instantly turned their attention to him and he beat a rapid retreat under a shower of carefully aimed frozen missiles.

On a future occasion, it was Jack’s turn to launch missiles. Ray remembers how Jack, in a fit of rage, shouted so loud at Wes Thomas that his teeth shot across the classroom. No one dared to laugh!

In his first year, Ray was tied to one of the bendy trees down by the ditch. The bigger boys bent the tree over, tied Ray to it and then let go! Later on, Ray was on

the other end of such treatment as he and his group tied up a lad in the cricket nets in the back of the pavilion. And that apparently was where the police discovered the boy that evening.

He has fond memories of the staff; the ever friendly Sam Napper who rang the bell between lessons (until someone stole Napper’s clapper); Bonzo who oft times failed to appear for afternoon registration (allegedly delayed at the West India); Mal Davis – ‘the best teacher I ever had’.

He also remembers various bullies and one he named I recognised as still operating when I joined the school. It was my first day and as I walked through the boys’ entrance, I was picked up by the ears by this particular 6th former who, suspending me before him, declared “Welcome to Dr. Morgan’s, young Evans”. The bastard! I’m pleased to say it got better after that.

River Wye Canoeing

Adding to my reminiscences in the last newsletter, another personal memory from my school days, this time canoeing down the River Wye with Bernard Storer and Mal Davies in control, it was my turn the share the only double seater canoe with Mal. As we approached a rapid in the river, we both realised we would hit the rocks immediately before us unless one of us got out to lighten the load and allow the canoe to sit higher in the water.

Now Mal Davies, being the full grown adult, leaped out and stood shin deep in the centre of the river, whilst I, in the now lighter canoe, shot the rapid down into safer water. The trouble was I needed to go back up the river, paddling back up over the rapid, to recover my abandoned PE master. The first two attempts proved fruitless as the power of the water snatched me first to the left and then to the right in my vain attempts to pick up Mal on my way past. You could see the irritation on his face as this useless English boy shot past him, his only consolation being that he

was standing on Welsh soil. Well third time lucky and we were re-united. However, the next edition of the Morganian contained an article on that particular trip including Mal’s version of that episode. Teachers, like parents, can also be very embarrassing. Discussing this recently with Mal, I reminded him of the incident with Dick Sperring where Dick was caught with one foot in his canoe and the other on the bank whilst the two drifted slowly and irreversibly away from each other.

Dick finished in the drink. And then Mal said “Did you know when he went in, he had a packet of 20 cigarettes in his pocket!” We had always prided ourselves in never letting the masters know we took cigarettes on the trip and now their forty year old secret is out. I remember a few years ago discussing the same topic with Bernard Storer, our former biology master. I told him about the smoking club around the back of the pavilion, believing I was revealing a long kept secret. He then told me the names of the members of the club!

An extract from Sydney Jarman’s History of Bridgwater, 1889

Dr. John Morgan’s School. This school was founded by Dr. Morgan in 1723 and endowed with two farms, at Hoccombe, containing together 97a. 3r. 35p. Other charities were afterwards applied to the endowment, including Constance Harvey’s £20; Christiana Shercombe’s £10; William Blake’s £100; Sir John Bawden’s £40; and Francis Safford’s £40. The school is still in existence, and is an educational establishment of which the town can be proud.

Sport’s Day shooting incident

Just before our last dinner, we sat in the bar at the Albion Club planning the evening. Satisfied we had covered everything we could think of, the conversation turned to schooldays. Mal Davis, our PE master, reflected on certain pupils and the humorous tales around them.

One incident involved a sports day when Jack Lawrence was out on the field starting the races and Mal was in the gym organising the next group of boys to be paraded out.

Jack used a starting pistol on such occasions to add an air of credibility. Mal, in the gym, could hear the occasional crack of the pistol as race after race commenced.

Then tragedy struck. A pupil sprinted from the field into the gym and, gasping for breath and panic stricken, shouted at Mal “Sir, sir. Mr. Lawrence has shot Sidafin”. Poor Sidafin had fallen over on the starting line just as Jack fired the pistol.

The boy who always forgot his kit

Then there was Bottomley, in the same year as myself. It is an understatement to describe him as a character and sadly his life ended tragically some years ago. But many of us smile as we reflect back on the years we shared. Again it was Mal Davies who remembered such an incident.

Bottomley always brought a brief case to school, unlike the other boys with satchels and the like. He somehow avoided PE more than most, usually due to an insufficiency of kit.

Week after week, it was “Please sir, I’ve forgotten my shorts.” or his T-shirt, or his daps, or anything that got him out of PE. Then came the week when with a beaming smile Bottomley declared “Sir, I’ve remembered all my kit” as he held his brief case proudly before him to show Mal where the required kit was safely stored.

“Well done Bottomley” praised Mal Davies. “Go and get changed then”.
“Can’t sir.” came the reply “I forgot the key!”

Jack Lawrence

More tales of Jack Lawrence come from Ray Haines who remember Jack’s most embarrassing moments. Jack used to sit at one of those masters’ desks which had a high seat attached to it. On this occasion he needed to stand to emphasis his superiority as his let loose with a string of invectives aimed at Wes Thomas. Unfortunately also aimed at Wes were Jack’s teeth which shot across the desk following rapidly in the wake of Jack’s verbal torrent.

Equally embarrassing for Jack was the day when snow lay heavily on the playground. Jack stepped out from the school building by the side door, immediately under the bell which rang to indicate a return to studies.

Snowballs filled the air as excited boys enjoyed the moment. As the bell rang, Jack stood there in his camel hair coat and black beret and bellowed “There will be no more snowballing” with which a torrent of an estimated 5,000 snowballs all descended on the deputy head.

Inter-house Cricket Matches

Barry Morgan will regret the confession he recently made to me when he reads this. He’d left his membership form behind at the dinner and had to call me to get a new one. He confessed to having had one drink too many and thus explained leaving the form behind. It may also explain his behaviour towards Pete Bevan.

The story goes back twenty five years to an inter-house cricket match. Cromwell were favourites to win, with eight of the school team in their side, but Hopton were to be no push overs. (Personally I can’t understand why Fairfax aren’t involved in this story). Barry Morgan had taken six wickets, with Dave Crosier mopping up the other four. Cromwell had scored 20 runs.

With Hopton in to bat and down to the final wicket, the score stood at 19. Pete Bevan, as a lower order batsman, was facing the bowling. Catching an outside edge, the ball went through slips for four runs. Barry Morgan was so excited he wanted to kiss Pete Bevan, but that wasn’t the way boys behaved at Dr. Morgan’s.

And so on the night of our last dinner, a well lubricated and uninhibited Barry Morgan fulfilled his 25 year long ambition much to the surprise of Pete Bevan. I hasten to add, the now Reverend Peter Bevan was innocent in this affair with insufficient time to take evasive action and deserves all our sympathy! Your committee is now considering a detention period for Barry Morgan in order to permit him time to reflect.

As a Fairfax lad, I think he deserves everything he gets! When Roger Richards read the story of Jack Lawrence in our Christmas newsletter and the alleged ‘shooting’, it reminded him of a near miss with a javelin. Ian Mitchell was throwing the javelin and achieving distances well beyond the usual standard for the school.

What he failed to realise was that just beyond the horizon, where the ground level dipped away, was Mike Stanton, one of our masters. The realisation of his presence came only when Mr. Stanton popped up like a rabbit from over the brow declaring “We lose a lot of PE masters like that!”. The javelin had missed him by just two feet.

The Swimming Pool

Thanks to Mal Davies for a reminder of this story. Many of you will remember the building of the swimming pool and the installation of the big green filtration tank. I well remember how it was filled with large pebbles and then smaller material. The pebbles were dropped in through the top of the tank. When the tank was empty, this meant they hit the metal base of the tank with a deafening, resounding crash. Now to ensure these pebbles were evenly spread across the base of the tank, small boys (child labour) were put inside the tank to distribute them.

I was one of those small boys who were inside when the first deafening load was dropped in. As Mal related his story, I reminded him that I was one of his victims of that terrifying experience – like being buried alive!

A broad smile lifted across the full width of his face as he remembered, exploding into laughter as the full memory of the incident was recalled.

It was some years later that Charlie Keys, our headmaster, wandered out to the pool, stood on the bank and stared into the water contemplating how much actual teaching time should go into swimming.

I’m sure you all remember how he used to float around the school, drifting into classrooms only to drift out again shortly after. On this occasion, he drifted into a classroom, observed the assembled pupils and instructed them all to stand. “Do this!” he commanded as with his outstretched arms he formed circular motions with his hands.

Like a game of ‘Simon Says’, the boys obediently followed his actions. A class full of hands gyrated on the ends of outstretched arms. He studied their performance with great deliberation and then declared “There you are. Since the human body cannot help but float, you can now all swim.” and then once more drifted away.

Response to press articles

After our recent article in the Bridgwater Times, I received a number of phone calls from new contacts. The first two, to my amazement, were from old boys who joined the school in 1931, Peter Barton and Ron Bryant. That the first two contacts should be from the upper end of our age range took me by surprise but equally I was delighted in knowing that through that press article we were reaching old boys who previously had no awareness of our existence.

The next surprise came when they told me how they used to pay for the privilege of attending. Peter, who still possesses a rugby team photo from 1934, could remember taking his envelop once a term and handing it to Mr. Gillard, the head – and despite paying for the privilege, he still got the occasional caning.

Then Ronald Bryant gave me a similar story, where his uncle gave him the £4 per term. It seems half the boys attending were on scholarships and the other half were fee paying. This was confirmed with the next phone call from William Davis.

William first attended the school in 1926 when it was in Mount Street and he remembers how ‘Trout” Trenchard had introduced the new game of rugby. Previously it was an all football school! Trout, in teaching the boys, used to play himself until he was caught at the bottom of the scrum on one occasion. William also remembers the old cannon which took pride of place mounted on a plinth standing at the front of the school.