by Jeremy Taylor (1972-78)
Founders’ Day afternoon 2014 found me, quite by chance, giving an impromptu tour of School to the Head Boy of 1981, Will Chapman and his two young sons. After hearing about his “shock” at the demise of the cricket pavilion and the absence of any “boarders”, an idle moment set me thinking about some of the changes to School since my own schooldays at Skipton started, more than forty years ago!
Day one was a daunting event: no ‘induction day’ then! Smartly attired in new uniform (complete with cap), I boarded Shutt Bros ‘bus, only to find out that the new boys were the only ones wearing caps as ‘nobody wears them any more’. Caps spent the first term in blazer pockets, growing (like the heavy, hairy wool blazer) increasingly threadbare until they were ‘officially’ abolished! We were then marshalled into forms in the Quad by the sergeant-major-like Wally Evans, a man who I am sure struck fear into many of the masters, never mind timid first-formers. The lower school forms were divided alphabetically then, so ‘1c’ was ‘Robinson to Wilberg’, not streamed and with boys from all six houses under the watch of Philip Osborne.
We soon got to grips with the rules, conventions and eccentricities of the place. Masters (and throughout my time, the staff was all-male, other than Mrs. Noble who taught Biology for one year in the Second Form) were addressed as ‘Sir’ (so that hasn’t changed) but boys were always known by their surnames. Indeed, one scarcely knew the Christian names of many boys, let alone used them, until the Sixth Form. Homework was always called ‘prep’, its existence being recorded in a small, green ‘prep note-book’; indeed use of the word ‘homework’ was regarded as a solecism, a word used in lesser schools! Detentions were freely given out by both Masters and Monitors; after school for an hour on Wednesday or Friday and for the hard cases for two hours on Saturday morning! A summons to ‘wait outside my office after Assembly’ by Headmaster John Woolmore, usually meant an appointment with his cane.
With over 800 boys in School today, the place can feel very overcrowded; perhaps it was always so, as 40 years ago a raft of obscure rules and areas out-of-bounds forbade the then 500 pupils from large parts of the estate. The outside stairs down the side of the APL/Geography Room were for Fourth Formers and above; groups of seemingly beefy Monitors at the end of the Science Corridor and by the games noticeboard kept the school free of the lower forms at lunchtime. ‘The Top’ was the sacred cricket field, so definitely no soccer or ‘takedown’ up there; all of School House beyond the Library was the preserve of the 60 or so boarders; thou shalt not set foot on the lawn in front of School House, or on the terrace and certainly never outside the Headmaster’s House or on School House drive!
As for the masters themselves, the boys of today would be amused by the cast of characters and eccentrics who populated the place! ‘Cassie’ Edwards (at E.G.S. since the 1930s) and ‘Adge’ Douglas in Geography, ‘Dickie’ Dulling (with his individual gait and mannerisms) in German and French, or ‘Jimmy’ Hartley teaching French. He wore his academic gown to keep warm and rumour had it that if he was late for a lesson after lunch it was because he was listening to ‘The Archers’ in the staffroom! Vernon Rooke, (Chemistry and used motor cars) and of course ‘Wally’ Evans. ‘Delme’ Thomas, feet up on the desk, fag in mouth and Wilbur Paley added life to the English department which was headed up by the incomparable ‘Boggy’ Morton, whose sayings have stayed in the minds of many old boys!
About Jeremy Taylor
After leaving EGS, Jeremy got an agriculture degree from Newcastle University and is now a partner in the family farming business in Broughton near Skipton. Jeremy is a current member of the school’s board of governors and his son Ryk is now an Old Boy after being at Ermysted’s 2007-2014.