Monthly Archives: September 2017

And here is the News (2)……

I told you last time about my first book, “500 Happy Returns: Nottingham High School’s Birthday“.

I’m sure you will have heard about my second book, “Nottingham High School : an Anecdotal History”.

Nearly thirty years in the writing, I was quite happy with it and it seems to be selling quite well. I would just love to know where all the people who bought it lived. My first sales ever were two books in Tennessee. What a long, long way from Nottingham!

I still get a kick from all those old photographs. The staff in 1880 or thereabouts:

And then in 1901:

The man at the right hand end of the back row won a Victoria Cross in World War I. Theodore Hardy. Always late for his lessons though, apparently. But he never got told off, probably because he was a Reverend.

And here’s “Nipper” Ryles, with that blank expression on his face which all teachers have from time to time:

I started my next venture about 18 months ago. It was inspired by a fellow teacher and friend of mine, Simon Williams, who had researched the stories of the young men from the High School who were killed in the First World War. He suggested I took a look at the Second World War dead and that is what I’ve been doing.
I was sadly surprised how the numbers went up as I began my researches. It started with 82 on the official list but I have pushed it up to at least 106 with probably more to come.
I’m writing about every single one of them and I have researched both in the School Archives and on the Internet where some absolute treasure houses are to be found.

U-boat of the Day (bottom left)

Everything possible about the Royal Navy and who fired at my Dad’s plane?

Now I have started to write them all up and I’ve got 50 odd of them done. Most run to 4,000-5,000 words because a lot of explanation has to be given. It’ s no use just writing, “He was killed in his Whitley during Operation Husky” and leaving it at that. And I’ve also talked about where they lived, with most of the houses still there and occupied by people who know nothing of their history, nothing of the man who was killed by the Bismarck:

I have been amazed at where all these casualties occurred. Arnhem, The Battle of Britain, Burma, Canada, Dunkirk, India, Iran, Jerusalem, Milford Haven, Sicily, Singapore, Tobruk, Yugoslavia. Killed on a Death March.  Killed in a Spitfire, killed in a Lancaster, a Whitley, a Gloster Gladiator. A man who was in the SAS and whose death was so mysterious even they don’t know how he died. And all those who were killed in training. The man in Canada who flew off and was never seen again . The ones who died of pneumonia. The officer cadet who died of hypothermia. But they all started out as schoolboys:

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The Great Army of the Dead, who all did what they were asked to :

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It’s rather difficult to say that people will enjoy such a book, but it will certainly remind them of who preserved our freedom at the cost of their own life. I suppose what I am trying to do is what Robert Wace, a Norman cleric, said in the Roman de Rou in 1170:

All things decline
Everything falters, dies and ends
Towers cave in, walls collapse
Roses wither, horses stumble
Cloth grows old, men expire
Iron rusts and timber rots away
Nothing made by hand will last
I understand the truth
That all must die, both clerk and lay
And the fame of men now dead
Will quickly be forgotten
Unless the clerk takes up his pen
And brings their deeds to life again


Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

Hells Angels, High School Chapter 4

Recently, I came across the electronic version of the Nottingham School Register which had been painstakingly transferred to an Excel Spreadsheet. They go back as far as the very first boy in what must have been a new School Register in 1858. Here is one of the few illustrations we have…

At midsummer 1858, therefore, Arthur Law Gratton joined the School, which was then, of course, in Stoney Street in the Hockley area. Arthur lived at 13 Northampton Terrace, Portland Road. Ironically, Portland Road is within a two minute walk of the School’s present site on Arboretum Street. I cannot find a Northampton Terrace, so presumably this has been renamed or demolished. In those days, it was very frequent practice to write Northampton Terrace as Northampton-terrace or Portland Road as Portland-road. This persisted until at least the 1920s, but I’m going to give it a go in this post. Hope I don’t miss any!

Arthur’s father was deceased and his mother was now a widow named Eleonora Gratton. Arthur was 15 years 5 months old and he left at Michaelmas of 1860.  Michaelmas is on September 29th. The register states in the Remarks column, “Behaved well. Drowned while bathing June 1861”. Ironically, the summer of 1861 had “above-average rainfall, but not excessively so” although in Ireland the “summer was dramatically wet.”

Henry Wheeldon came to the Free School on January 26th 1859.  He was 12 years old and his father said that he lived at Mr Peter Elliott’s (sic) at 29 Bromley-place. During the 1st half of 1860 (sic) he was dismissed for “not living in the town after repeated warnings as to the rule.” This is initialled by W.B. who was the Reverend W. Butler the Headmaster. Here is the Rev himself:

The Remarks Column is fascinating. We see that one pair of individuals were the victims of a paperwork foul up as they were “Entered by mistake twice”. Some boys were “elected” into the School but “declined” their place. Others moved house between being accepted and the first day of a new term, “left town before coming in”. As well as the clever boys who were educated for free, some less intelligent but more affluent boys paid to sit in with the classes. Thomas Hodson Sissling, the 14 year old son of Wright Calecraft Sissling, an Innkeeper on London-road “Remained six months as a private pupil”. Gordon Clarke, the son of John Clarke, a “General Dealer” in Rick-street (between Huntingdon-street and Glasshouse-street) remained for three months. Glasshouse-street was very beautiful even in late Victorian times. Don’t miss the cat and notice that it’s the day for the dustbin men to call:

More silliness next time…




Filed under History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

And here is the news (1)……

I thought just for once I would keep you in the loop about what I am doing at the moment. As some of you will know, I am trying to become an author. I used to be a French teacher at Nottingham High School and on their 500th anniversary in 2013, I masterminded a book about the occasion. Helped enormously by lots and lots of other people, I managed to persuade both boys and staff, if they so wished, to write 100 words describing just one minute in their day. These were all put together to produce an account from 12.23 am to 23.57 pm….

From the beginning…

“I’m at my desk having a coffee and waiting for the arrival of unwell, injured or just Friday tired boys. I never know what real or imagined symptoms will come in but I am prepared – a headache, a grazed knee or a sore throat or it could be one of the more ‘interesting’ ones –a tick attached to a scalp from an adventurous trip to the Cheviots which needs removing, a glass pipette that has gone straight through a finger or just someone that needs a chat and encouragement– coffee drunk, ready to go!”

to late morning…

“I have double maths and I myself think I am doing very well that day.  Firstly, I finish off a piece of work from the day before called C2 temperature. Then I move on to Junior Maths. I finish that pretty quickly and what I have to do is use a ruler and write out the number of centimetres in our books for sections A B and C. Finally I move on to exercise eleven point two. I only do two questions on that because it is a bit more complicated. “

to very late morning…

“I am practicing my handwriting. It is getting much better! We write with capital letters and full stops.”

the best bit of the day…

“12 noon.  It’s Friday.  Fish and Chip day!!  Probably the most popular day in the School dining hall!!

After lunch, a brisk stroll around the Arboretum with a colleague, admiring the sunny spring-like day and the hundreds of spring flowers starting to push their way through for another cycle of life.
Who’d have thought that less than a week ago the Arboretum (and a lot of the entire country) was smothered in 4 inches of snow?”

An exciting afternoon

“2.20  We are told that a visitor is coming into school. We find out that this person is a Para Olympian who swam for the Australian team in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic games.

Elizabeth Wright shows us the medals; they looked amazing. I have the pleasure of asking questions about how she began swimming and about her disability. This is an amazing insight to a Olympian lifestyle.”

Boys just think about food…

“I am having my dinner and I am having chicken nuggets. They are my favourite!”

Some think deep thoughts…

“As I gaze up and stare in awe at the School building, my mind drifts back through the years to ponder over what the first lesson will have been like 500 years ago.   A few children with some desks in their local church learn about their world whilst a gentle snow flurry comes down outside.  Nevertheless, the school looks grand; as its size and majestic architecture dwarf the people who inhabit it.  Each brick, each tile and each window are testament to a different age and the people of it.”

Some perhaps not quite as deep..

“I am eating my sausages with chips and I’m getting very full.”

The book was used to raise money for charity and it did quite well. It’s still there on Amazon but I don’t know if it still sells. The cover was a photograph taken by a young man called Rishabh Motiwale:

As you know, my second venture was “Nottingham High School : an Anecdotal History”. Details about that, and my plans for the future in the next blog post.
















Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 3

One fascinating thing which I found recently were all those old books which have been transcribed onto DVDs. They are sold on ebay in their hundreds. Some are not necessarily what I would want to read “Masonic Library, 430 Freemasons Books”, “Ukulele & Banjo, 29 Rare Vintage Books” and “Taxidermy, Vintage books on DVD – Stuffing and Mounting Animals, Birds, Insects and Fish”
I was happy to buy though, “76 Books, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Mickleover, Headon, History Genealogy DVD”. It contains a lot about the history of Nottingham although the rest was not of much interest to me. That DVD, and another very similar one about Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, have provided me with a lot of information about the past. Above all, they have allowed me access to a number of different directories of Nottingham. So far I have, for example, the Pigot’s Directory for Nottingham for 1828 and 1841, the White’s Directory for 1832, 1864 and 1885, the MacDonald’s Directory for 1931, Slater’s for 1847, Wright’s for 1879 and Kelly’s for 1881, 1891, 1904 and 1928:

They are interesting in that they all tend to contain slightly different things, but basically they list all of the tradespeople in Nottingham, all of the business premises in the city, and the names of the occupants of all the different houses in all the streets of Nottingham.

So you might find a list of the city’s streets in alphabetical order, or all the people similarly listed, while other directories will provide the names of all the engineers, all the grocers. all the bicycle repairers and so on. It means that if you know Uncle George was a restaurant owner, you can often find out both where his business was and where he lived. And that may point you to the right place in a census. Very useful if you’re trying to trace your ancestors.
The directories also enable you to trace some of the changes in the use of individual buildings, buildings that you may walk past every day but don’t know the history of. One example would be the two premises on Derby Road, up near Canning Circus. One is called “Quality 4 Students” with the slogan “Top 365 Student Homes” :

Next door, painted all white, there is what is now the “Park Hair Salon”. Here’s a view from further back:

In 1928, the Park Hair Salon used to be the Headquarters of the Robin Hood Rifles, a local infantry regiment:

They used to have some wild, wild parties:

After that the building was derelict for a while and then it became “Butcher Brothers, House Furnishers”.

By 1928, both buildings had become the shop of AR Warren & Son, Grocers. I find all that fairly fascinating but more to the point perhaps, the directories also enabled me to uncover the humble beginnings of Alfred Highfield Warren, who was the “& Son” of “AR Warren & Son” mentioned above.  Alfred was an ex-pupil of Nottingham High School, and thanks to the High School, he was to move from being the son of a grocer to being the holder of an Open Exhibition at Worcester College, Oxford, a Nottingham City Scholarship to Oxford University of £50 per annum, and from the High School, a Sir Thomas White Senior Exhibition.

On Mansfield Road, there is nowadays the “A & D Dental Practice Ltd” and the “City Chicken Cafe”. In front of the Dental Practice is a bus stop used by hundreds and hundreds of High School boys every day…

And here is the City Chicken Café, sworn enemies of Dixy Chicken just two doors away and probably not too much in love with the Istanbul Off Licence next door.

But in 1928, these two businesses, the “A & D Dental Practice Ltd” and the “City Chicken Cafe”, were the premises of LW King, a Draper who lived there with his family. That family included his son William King, a High School pupil, who became a pilot in the RAF in World War II. Alas, poor William was to die, with all his colleagues, in a catastrophic air crash in a Handley Page Hampden. Here is ‘Before’:

And here, far too often I’m afraid, is ‘After’

How many times have I walked or driven past those two businesses, but without realising they were previously the home of a young war hero? And how often do we do that in our everyday lives?






Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

Saturday Time-Out

Enjoy these from a friend of mine in Indiana.

A Trivial Mind At Work

Some dry humor for your Saturday…

  1. The first time I got a universal remote control I thought to myself, “This changes everything”.
  2. I refused to believe my road worker father was stealing from his job, but when I got home all the signs were there.
  3. I recently decided to sell my vacuum cleaner as all it was doing was gathering dust.
  4. Don’t you hate it when someone answers their own questions? I do.
  5. As I watched the dog chasing his tail I thought “Dogs are easily amused”, then I realized I was watching the dog chasing his tail.
  6. Gambling addiction hotlines would do so much better if every fifth caller was a winner.
  7. Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.
  8. To the man on crutches, dressed in camouflage, who stole my wallet – you can hide, but you can’t run.
  9. Velcro – what a rip-off!
  10. My friend…

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Filed under Uncategorized

Nina Potapova: a woman I cannot forget (2)

Last time I was talking about the lovely artwork in a book which had intrigued me as a 9 year old. It was:

It has some beautiful pen and ink drawings. This is Moscow University in Moscow. The winning quiz question, of course, is “What is the name of the river in Moscow?”

Here is the Moscow Hotel, built in the old Stalinist style:

Here is a football match in Moscow. Defending the goal is Moscow Spartak and attacking is Moscow Dynamo, team of the great Lev Yashin, the ‘Black Octopus’:

Other sketches are just of everyday events Here is the seaside. Don’t miss the seven nuclear submarines. The crews spent days camouflaging them:

Here are two siblings, one is playing tennis despite her legs being drawn straight with a ruler while her brother is swimming away through a sea of oil after his submarine collided with one of the other six. That’s just one of the risks of high quality camouflage:

Here’s winter. Can you see Bigfoot sitting thoughtfully in front of the trees on the right?:

A nice picture of a table set for a meal. Note the traditional vodka in the tiny glasses although the bottle seems to be missing:

Lastly a bomber flies slowly over its target which appears to be some kind of factory. Surely the starboard propeller is about to cut the wing off ?

But who was Nina Potapova?

A beautiful slip of a girl when she got married:

She had all the usual hobbies:

She fought the Germans in the war:

She was always jealous of her husband, Frank, who always received more medals than she did. He was in the Red Fleet, the Commander of seven nuclear submarines. Note the KGB man behind him:

But that was all years ago. Nowadays, Nina is just famous as the mother of a successful Olympic weightlifter, Frank junior:


Filed under History, Humour, Personal

The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 2

Last time I mentioned the ways in which boys used to come to Nottingham High School before the cossetted era of luxury cars, luxury trams and luxury city buses. They walked. They cycled. They came in Papa’s carriage.

But there were other methods too. Just look at this photograph of the school piling out of the North Entrance at top speed at 4 o’clock and 30 seconds in  1947 or perhaps 1952 or even 1957 :

In other words, I don’t know the exact date. Here is the view from inside the yard in 1932. As far as I know, both pillars of the gate have now been replaced. Years back, a bone headed lorry driver backed his bone headed lorry into the left pillar and down it came. The other pillar, I believe may also have been replaced, perhaps for a similar reason:

And here is the view, outside the gates, on Forest Road in 1932. Look at the spindly trees…

Hopefully, during these periods of building work, the graffitti from the early 1940s is still there. The link will take you to what I wrote about them a little while back:

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I’ve managed to enlarge sections of the original photograph of all those boys, all eager to get home to see if Dad has bought a television yet. This is the left hand side:

Notice how all the boys are wearing their caps, presumably all of them black with the lozenge of Dame Agnes Mellers attached. I did do some posts a while back examining the truth of the idea that the school badge is the coat of arms of the Mellers family.  Needless to say, my ideas were different from what you might have expected. Just take a look if you have the time.

Anyway, if you’ve seen the caps, don’t miss those old black and white scarves, no doubt obtainable only from one retail outlet at a rather inflated price. Back in 1932, somebody drew and painted the permutations of ties. Here is the top half of the drawing, with thin yellow stripes for the Colours tie, awarded to those who had represented the School at sport:

And the bottom half. I believe that purple is the extra colour of these ties, worn by the Old Nottinghamians :

Now the boy on the bicycle. What’s he carrying in his right hand? Is he riding a Raleigh bike? I’m no expert but I think he’s got one of those front lights that is powered by pedalling the bicycle. And look at his huge hands, clad in those heavy knitted gloves of yesteryear, eminently suitable for wearing while digging an Avro Lancaster out of deep snow:

And what is the boy behind him wearing? A coat which appears to be striped in a rather strange fashion. Perhaps he was an expert in some field and he has a special garment to prove it. He does look a little young to have School Colours, though. And the boys’ faces. The thin faced little chap on the right, looking so, so worried. He won’t lose that look of terror until he’s got home and done his homework.

Now look at the right hand side:

This part of the photograph shows the star of the show. He looks so very young to be a motor cycle rider. But at least he has the equipment. The voluminous mackintosh, pulled tight with a plastic buckle. The collar turned up like Eric Cantona. No crash helmet though. Nor for the young gentleman on his left, sitting on what must surely be some kind of moped, unless, of course, it’s one of those Hell’s Angels Easy Rider motorbikes with huge handlebars. But how will his cap stay on? Especially if he can reach 28 mph again on some steep hill. He is wearing what almost looks like the little boy’s version of the motorcyclist’s gloves, but not as hard or stiff. And why has the boy standing behind them got a black and white hooped tie? If he is wearing a Junior School tie, then why has nobody else got the same thing?
And finally, the back of the crowd:

All those different expressions. All those different angles to wear a cap. Boys climbing the gate. And behind all of them, the windows of the Assembly Hall, dare I say it? Wreathed in smog. It’s certainly a day in late autumn because of the top coats and the scarves and the gloves. But it’s not so far into December or January that it’s dark. Any more conclusions gratefully received.


Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School