Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe
Old School Photos of the 1960s
LINKS AND SEARCH FACILITY
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The inspiration for this website was the one set up by Tony Hare for the 1956 people: School Photo of 1956 - to Tony Hare goes the credit for dreaming up the idea of a website devoted to old school photos. Tony's site features a lot of other fascinating material devoted to the RGS in the late 1940s and 1950s (scans of old grey books, Gilbert & Sullivan opera programmes, etc). Back in 2003 I sent Tony an email saying how good I thought his site was - he sent one back saying "Why don't you do one for your era?". So I did.
Other websites with RGS High Wycombe content
- RGS Old Boys' Website
- Official School website
- 'Memories: RGS Wycombe' - a Flickr group where you can share images from your time at the school
- Old Wycombiensians' Facebook Group
- RGS on Wikipedia
- Notable Alumni (Wikipedia)
- See the site of Uplyme on Google Maps - the shed that housed 2E in the late 1950s is still there in 2008!
There is a book called 'Images of England, Royal Grammar School High Wycombe' by John I Mitchell (school archivist and ex-master), available from the School Shop at £11.99. It's basically a picture book which helps flesh out the history of the school. Check it out here.
Buy an old school tie! GA Wood Menswear, 5 Church Square, High Wycombe HP11 2BN, tel 01494 529693, or from the school online shop (there is a large range of RGS requisites available here, including cufflinks, rugby shirts and cups with the school logo on).
Links to books and articles with content about the RGS
- philosopher and writer Sir Roger Scruton (RGS 1954-62) on the RGS (from his book 'England: An Elegy') - read a section here (p28: "... in the 'quad', as our playground was pretentiously called" - but there was no 'quad' until after Scruton's time and never a 'playground' as such anyway - comments?)
- more Scruton: from his autobiography 'Gentle Regrets: Thoughts from a Life' - read here (p28 reference to masters as 'beaks' - this Etonian term not known to me at RGS - any other OW remember it?) - one striking passage: "Returning to RGS to present prizes 35 years after my expulsion (an understandable response by Mr Tucker who, showing a distinguished guest around the school one Saturday morning, entered the hall to discover the stage on fire, a half-naked girl attempting to extinguish the flames, and that appalling boy Scruton standing listlessly in the wings reciting Samuel Beckett)...". This must have happened during the academic year 1961/62 - any eye-witnesses?
- John Comer (RGS 1954-61) very kindly sent me a copy of his book The Old Time. It is an autobiography of his youth, encompassing his post-war upbringing in West Wycombe through to the summer of 1961 when he left the RGS for university. It is sensitively written and captures the essential 'otherness' of the 1950s and early 1960s from a distance. In the mid-1950s he moved out of the area for two years and attended a different school, enabling him to draw a fascinating comparison between life at another 1950s grammar school in Canterbury and the 'Ancien Régime' of Tucker/Morgan at the RGS to which he returned for a further four years in 1957. The aforementioned masters and one or two others are vividly portrayed in the book as are several of John's school friends. As well as depicting our old school at some length, the book evokes High Wycombe at the time, particularly the West Wycombe area where John grew up and received his primary schooling. I found it a delightful, nostalgic read and devoured the book in one sitting. It is replete with drama, subtle observation and humour, and I'm sure other OWs will enjoy it. Some will find themselves mentioned in its pages (in some cases, names have been changed to protect the innocent - and guilty). The Old Time by John Comer is available via Amazon, priced £6.99 plus postage. If you buy it via this link, I believe I am right in saying that the RGS will receive a small amount of commission. Also, read what John Comer has to say about his book at the publisher's website. Later: there is now a website dedicated to the book, where you can read some passages from it and see photos of various people who appear in it. Visit 'The Old Time' website.
- Ian Whitwham (RGS 1956-62) writes a humorous column on Sec-ed.co.uk in which he occasionally touches on his old RGS background and also the Guardian. Here's a funereal article he wrote for The Guardian (26 April 2008). And a more cheerful one on choosing schools for children. And another - 'Dreaming Aspires'. You can now buy a book of Ian's teaching reminiscences called At the Chalkface - Great Moment in Education. Ian tells me there are a couple of references to RGS on pages on 122 and 131".
- Roland Denning (RGS 1963-69) and I were in the same class for three years while at the school. He has just written to me about his new book called The Beach Beneath the Pavement. Roland's personal website calls it 'a satirical novel of conspiracy and paranoia in London’s dark corners'. In fairness, Roland does not claim there are any RGS mentions in the book. His website has more about his career as a cameraman and film producer, and about the genesis of his novel. Roland spotted my mention of him on this page and suggested I make up for being too mean to pay 3d to watch his film 'The Patter of Tiny Feet' by buying his book. I may well do that. Here's an Amazon link.
- rock star Ian Dury (RGS 1954-59) and his time at the RGS, as told in the book 'Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll: The Life of Ian Dury' by Richard Balls - read some of it here (but since when was ERT called 'Bertie'?? Evidently a mix-up with his wife, who was).
Links to sites relating to well-known OWs and ex-masters (n.b. inevitably links go out of date quite quickly as other websites shuffle material around and disappear from view - the following are up to date as at November 2015)
- Famous musician and recording star Howard Jones was at the RGS (from 1969) - check out his website and Wikipedia entry.
- Peter Colley (1960-67) was an outstanding sportsman while he was at the RGS and he has since gone on to a highly successful career in Canada and USA as a dramatist and screenwriter. His website gives some interesting background about his days at the RGS.
- another professional rock and blues musician from the school is Steve Darrington (RGS 1960-67). Check out his website - http://www.stevedarrington.com/ - where he recounts his remarkable career as a harmonica and keyboards player which has include musical collaborations with Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Lonnie Donegan, Don Everly and others (he was a member of a High Wycombe-based band called Brewers Droop which also counted Mark Knopfler amongst its members). You'll find some of his RGS contemporaries mentioned in dispatches there amongst his musical buddies. Here's a video of Steve playing at a concert at Wembley in 1981 - superb stuff!
- One of the RGS's most famous old boys was Richard Hickox who sadly died on 23 November 2008 aged 60. Links: his Wikipedia entry • Guardian obituary • tribute by actress Fiona Shaw • Times obituary.
- Ron Laskey (F44 in the 1962 photo, D47 in the 1960 photo and C44 in the 1958 junior photo) is now a distinguished biology professor at Cambridge and also something of a folk singer (having recorded two albums called Songs for Cynical Scientists and More Songs for Cynical Scientists). He likes to entertain his students with a song at the last lecture of term. Enjoy one of his performances here.
- Ever wondered what the school's name is in Russian? It appears to be Хай Уиком Королевская школа грамматики - click on the link if you don't believe me. It will take you to Prince Oleg Volkonsky's memoirs of his time at the school in the 1950s. And it is in Russian. Best of luck... if you would prefer something in English about OV Volkonsky, try here, here or here.
- website of Paul Adrian Rooke, who was a music master at the RGS between 1967 and 1971. Quite entertaining.
- Derek Watmough was another RGS music teacher who taught at the school from 1960 to 1965. I remember him taking choir practice - an excellent teacher and a very good-humoured fellow. Glad to say he is still with us as of 2009 and found the following website which gives some information about his career before and since.
- Richard Duffield taught maths at the RGS from 1963 to 1966. I've tracked him down online and found he is now a volunteer for the Dorset Wildlife Trust on Brownsea Island in Dorset - link here.
- Christopher J Date (RGS 1951-59) is an acknowledged pioneer, specialist and author on relational database systems. There is some interesting background data on him at Wikipedia and also in this oral history interview conducted in California in 2007, and in which he mentions his schooldays at the RGS. He appears in the 1958 Senior School photo at E38, and in the 1958 Junior School photo (as a prefect) at B11.
- John Owen ('Jo') Smith (RGS 1953-61) has his own very interesting website. He is a writer, playwright, poet and publisher.
- Professor Martin Myant (RGS 1961-67) is an interesting OW. After a career as a professor specialising in Czech and Slovak economic history at the University of the West of Scotland, he now works for the European Trade Union Institute as a researcher. In 1964 he won the British Under-14 Chess Championship. Another OW to have pulled off such a feat was Alan Ludgate (RGS 1956-62; also an academic) who won the 1966 British Under-21 Championship and also represented ireland several times in World Chess Olympiads. (P.S. As a professional chess writer myself for many years, I have grown heartily sick of reading media puns such as 'Czech Mate', but in Martin's case it is difficult to resist a ghastly pun, given his career migration from 'check mate' to 'Czech matters'... sorry!)
- Andrew Dixon (RGS 1958-64) was a leading light of the G&S operas during his time at the RGS and now he is a leading lighting director (apologies for that unconvincing pun). Andrew remembers his time at the RGS fondly and managed to put his experience with the RGS stage lighting team (under 'Alpha' Leggatt) to excellent use in his career at the BBC and now as a freelance lighting designer and director. His website (http://www.adlight.co.uk/) makes interesting reading.
- France Ellul (RGS 1962-69) has an interesting website here - http://www.france-ellul.com/ - where he talks about his career as a story-teller and harpist.
- Michael Vaughan-Rees (RGS 1949-57) is a writer and former lecturer on modern languages. He has a very interesting blog here.
- Michael Cole (RGS 1961-68) starred alongside Paul Roberts in a number of RGS Gilbert & Sullivan productions in the early 1960s and went on to a career in music as a bassoonist with the Philharmonia Orchestra. He even played the concertina and harmonica in the famous cult movie The Wicker Man!
- Chris Rollason (RGS 1965-71) works at the European Parliament, Luxembourg. He is a translator (from French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian) and text editor. Numerous scholarly publications and lectures. Personal website.
More general links relating to the High Wycombe Area
- Buckinghamshire County Council's wonderful archive of old Wycombe photos - some of the school, and it is also possible to look up names of people
- High Wycombe in general... there are some nice photos of the town on the Francis Frith website, together with some reminiscences by townsfolk (including some OWs).
- 'Wye is for Wycombe' is a family history website with a difference, by Sally Scagell (see also here). You start with an outline map of High Wycombe and have to locate the blue and purple dots and click on them to read biographies of notable Wycombe characters. One of them is RP (Roland Peace, known as 'Roly') Clarke (1901-1979) who was for many years chairman of the governors of the RGS (from 1956 to at least 1970 that I know about). He was born into a Wycombe legal family and was twice Mayor (in the 1930s and 1950s). I imagine he must have attended the school though I've not seen it recorded anywhere. He always made entertaining speeches on Speech Day. To save you time looking for the relevant dot on the map, here is Roly Clarke's page. And here's a photo of him wearing his mayoral robes in 1936/7 (from Bucks CC's excellent photographic archive, mentioned above.
Here's another photo of Roly Clarke receiving the Freedom of the Borough in 1959. He is second from the left. Also in the photo is Percy Charles Raffety (1878-1964) who was Roly Clarke's immediate predecessor as chairman of the RGS governors (from 1947 to 1956). I'm not absolutely certain but I think Mr Raffety is on the extreme left of the photo. In the middle of the picture is the 1959 High Wycombe mayor, Leslie Brain, who happened to be my family's next-door neighbour in the 1960s! And here's a portrait of PC Raffety in the early 1930s.
More School History Links and Information
Hospital of St John the Baptist (in Easton Street, High Wycombe - the buildings of this 12th century ecclesiastical foundation were taken over by the school in the mid-16th century) | Bucks County Council page on the hospital
The Early History and Antiquities of Wycombe by John Parker (himself an OW), published by Butler & Son, 1878. This book is available to browse online and contains various references to the RGS, including a list of headmasters and some notable OWs.
History and Antiquities of the county of Buckingham by George Lipscomb - in four volumes, readable and searchable online. Vol. 3, page 648 has a plan of the Hospital of St John The Baptist.
There is a very good section on the RGS in a book called The Victoria History of the County of Buckingham by William Page, which can be read online here (I've set the link to point to the first page on the RGS).
Old Wycombiensians - a list of notable OWs on Wikipedia.
ER Tucker (1902-1964) - Wikipedia biography of the RGS headmaster (1933-64)
List of RGS Headmasters
(from the Parker book mentioned above, plus school website and the CoE Clergy Database)
(More comprehensive information about headmasters and masters available here)
The Reverend [forename?] Wrothe, (appointed) 1548.
William Wilkinson, M.A. [no dates given - no names for other masters of this era]
Gerard Dobson, B.A. (Oxford, 1611, ord. 1613), late Vicar of Wycombe, 1629, resigned 1646. Appointed 1614?
Henry Wyat, M.A., afterwards Rector of Bradenham, 1646, resigned 1661.
Philip Humphrey, 17th July, 1661.
William Lardner,* M.A. (Oxford, Corpus Christi), Rector of Bradenham (1662), 1671. (Rejected in 1660, afterwards conformed, took the Presentation in 1662 - acc. A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools in England by Nicholas Carlisle)
* Mr. Philip Humphrey, the late Master, having died very poor, his successor (Mr. Lardner) was bound, on his election by the Common Council, to pay to his Widow Katherine, ten pounds, in the course of the next two years, "provided she does not turne Quaker in the mean time, or otherwise become a Sectary, and not observe and obey the Liturgy of the Church of England."
Joseph Howe, 1673/1686, died 1701.
Joseph Loveday, B.A. (Oxford, Gloucester Hall, matric. 1698, BA 1702) (born c.1679), rector of Taplow (1723-42) and Hedsor (1715-42). 1701, resigned 1707.
Samuel Guise, B.A. (Oxford, Gloucester Hall, ord. 1702), vicar of Wycombe (1711-53). Appointed 1707, died 1753.
Thomas Heather, Jun. (M.A., Oxford, University College, matric. 1709/10, BA 1713, MA 1716). Born c.1694. Appointed 1754, resigned 1762.
Rev. William Edwards, rector of Tenby, 1762, suspended 1771
Alban Thomas, vicar of Hurley, 1771, died 1789.
Daniel James, clerk, 1789, died 1793.
Mr. William Sproston (1764?-1841), 1793, died 1841.
Rev. Joshua Finlinson (1807-1876), 1841, resigned 1842.
Edmund Fox (1801-1859), appt 1843, resigned 1852 [school history refers to him erroneously as Edwin Fox - info]
Rev. James Poulter, M.A. (1803-1885) appt.1852, resigned 1879
George Joseph Peachell (1842-1905), 1879-1905
George Wright Arnison (1875-1965), 1905-1933
Edmund Ronald Tucker (1902-1964), 1933-1964 | wiki | obit | obit | biographical details
Samuel Morgan (1906 - 1991), 1964-65 | obit |
Malcolm Pascoe Smith (1914-1998), 1965-1974
Rowland P Brown (1933 - 2010), 1975-1993 | obit | obit | obit |
David Levin, 1993-1999
Timothy Dingle, 1999-2006
Roy M Page, 2006 - summer 2015
Philip Wayne, from autumn 2015 (currently head of Chesham Grammar School, educ. University of Manchester, Royal Northern College of Music)
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