The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (2)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the second section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict:

Nobody was ever allowed to speak to or approach girls from the Girls’ High School. For this transgression, boys were punished by being confined to their own school. Attitudes at this time were very Victorian.

Dr Turpin, the Headmaster, was always a popular figure. On one occasion, Roy was grounded for three months for putting chewing gum on the seats of other boys. Perhaps fortunately for him, he was caught when just about to put it on Jumbo Ryles’ seat. Mr Ryles came in, and Henderson thought that he would be expelled for this offence.

There were two Ball brothers in the school at the time. They were both in trouble most of the time. The more famous brother, Albert, was “a real card”. This is a photo taken during the time of the Great War. It shows Albert, apparently still wearing his brightly coloured slippers, his brother Cyril and an unknown officer of the Royal Flying Corps:

Albert25 bro, unklnow

At this time, music was not in the curriculum. There were just “a few ridiculous songs” for the prize giving ceremony. The Third Form music master was a Mr Dunhill, who had one eye which was straight, but the other looked outwards at an angle, rather like half past ten on a clock. Boys always used to make fun of him. Whenever he shouted “Stand up you! ! ! ” and looked at a certain naughty boy, four others would get up elsewhere in the room. “NO! NO! NOT YOU!! …YOU! ! ” The first four would then sit down, and another four completely unrelated boys would stand up elsewhere in the room.

Albert Ball specialised in misbehaviour during these singing classes. He and his brother would invariably “kick up a terrible row”, and would then be sent out of the room. This is Albert in 1911:

Albert 1911 trent

According to one Old Boy from just a few years later, however, Albert Ball’s actual expulsion came from an incident which took place at morning prayers. Ball took in with him a huge bag full of boiled sweets, which, at one point, was allowed to burst, and hundreds of sweets were all dropped onto the floor. The whole school assembly then became one seething mass of boys, all scrabbling about on the floor, “heads down and bottoms up, completely out of control ”, trying to pick up as many sweets as they possibly could.

Albert Ball’s father was a City Alderman, but at the same time, he too was “a real character”. He took Roy trout fishing on several occasions around this period, but always used worms, never flies. This is Albert with his father, Sir Albert and his mother, Harriet Mary:

Albert22 family

Roy’s brother was also in the school around this time. He seemed always to be in scrapes when Roy was a prefect. Eventually he left Nottingham, and went to Millhill School. Roy himself enjoyed the High School, although he was never very good in the classroom. By his own admission, he was very poor academically, and was totally hopeless at exams.

Roy was a best friend of Arthur Willoughby Barton, who was later to become the Headmaster of the City of London School. The pair of them always collaborated closely in Chemistry lessons with Dr Turpin. Henderson did the weighing and all the practical activities, while Arthur did all of the calculations. In lessons they always got full marks, but in examinations, Roy usually scored very low marks indeed. Arthur, of course, still got his ten out of ten. Here is the official paining of “Fuzzy” Barton as the Headmaster of the City of London School:

(c) City of London Corporation; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The high point of Roy’s rather modest academic career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize, the Duke of Portland’s prize for an English essay. It was on “Militarism”, and Roy only won because the rest of the Sixth Form deliberately boycotted the competition, with the attitude of “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…..let him have it.”

The Duke of Portland, in his capacity as the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, was to unveil the school war memorial in 1922:

1900_Duke_of_Portland,_by_sssssssss

Roy sang a specially composed song, accompanied by a piano placed “at the top end, just inside the school”. A wonderful draught of wind blew outwards from the school throughout the very impressive and solemn ceremony. It carried his voice beautifully, but also gave him lumbago. Here is the school war memorial:

notting_high_school_war_memorial xxxxx

Here is a photograph of the dedication ceremony. One of the people is surely Roy Henderson. but I do not really know which one:

war meoorial ceremnoy

During the first year of the Great War, many of the Sixth Form members of the Officer Training Corps had gone to a special summer camp, working on a farm on the south side of Nottingham. It was hard, unpaid work, harvesting potatoes and hoeing turnips. The following year, Roy arranged his own summer camp, at a farm near Grantham. Six boys, all members of his father’s church, went with him. They were all Prefects, and comprised three pairs of friends, Harold Connop and Francis Bird, Thomas Wright and Lancelot Foster, and John Boyd and Roy Henderson. Unfortunately, as they waited for the train, the tent, which was supposed to arrive, did not turn up, so four of the boys went on to Grantham, while two had to stay behind in Nottingham. The farmer, unhappy with having to pick them up twice at Grantham, greeted the final two at the station with the words:

“What? What? My boy, I am not a little annoyed! ”

Here is Grantham relative to Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

granthsm

The boys were asked to load hay from a stack to the farm cart. They started piling it on enthusiastically, but they proved to be too quick for the man on the cart, a Mr Wright. The latter soon told them that half a load was enough, and then geed up the horse. When the cart set off, though, half the stack came with it, and the whole lot collapsed. Everyone found it immensely amusing, and they laughed about it for a long time afterwards. Other work for the boys included shaking the clover out of the cut wheat. At the end of the week, they enjoyed an amazing celebratory meal at the farmhouse. There was roast beef and duck, and by the end of the pudding, everybody was absolutely filled, collapsing with the weight of the food consumed. The farmer then sent for Henderson, obviously about to give him something as payment for the six boys’ work during the week.

When he returned they all quizzed him…“How much??? How much??? ” He replied “A pound.” There was a disappointed silence, which was broken only by Henderson’s single word “EACH!!” Everybody collapsed with excitement. They were totally flabbergasted, as, at the time, a pound was an absolute fortune. The boys were later invited to the farmhouse for dinner at Christmas. Under each of their plates, they found a ten shilling note as a gift from the generous farmer. In addition, the boys all went to the school’s army camp, but was a much more formal, military occasion.

This article will be continued in the near future.

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11 Comments

Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, The High School

11 responses to “The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (2)

  1. Good story. You capture perfectly the camaraderie of the boys.

  2. Wishing you were my history teacher, John …..

    • To be honest, I think it’s the fact that I am not a history teacher that helps me to be just plain nosey to find out how people used to live. And there are some real gems out there in old books and archives!

  3. It’s good to know that even in the days of strict head teachers and tough school rules, young men were able to enjoy themselves with frivolous activities and chewing gum. A lovely episode in school life.

  4. it’s fascinating to read – great history! I love your response to AmyRose about being nosy. That’s the hounding and prodding a journalist does. Not the media socialites that dispel teleprompter nightly videos, but real journalists tell stories so we want to listen, and you did. Keep it up, it’s absolutely striking us perfectly. (ok, on the light side, forgive my adverb overuse, lol. sometimes I go heavy on exclamation points, too.) cheers!

    • Thanks a lot for your kind words, Roxie. You are absolutely right. People want the tiny details of history that are human and therefore interesting, and if they take a bit of digging, so much the better. Personally I feel that adverbs are a very underused part of speech, so keep using them…and you can never have too many exclamation marks!!!!!

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