Memories of the 1970s

[by Philip Tranter, 1970-1979]

     On reflection my time at LGS witnesses its fair share of endings.

     I first arrived in September 1967 at what was then the Lower School under the headship of Mr. Lewis. The Lower School operated from the wooden building which is now known, I believe, as 'the workmen's huts' and the pre-fabricated buildings some of which now form part of the workshops and some of which occupied part of the site of the current refectory building. I feel quite nostalgic whenever I see the site now. Two years later the Lower School merged with Fairfield, the High School prep school, on the Fairfield site and I and my contemporaries were obliged to migrate to the other end of Burton walks, full of misgivings at the prospect of having to share a school with girls !

     I arrived back at the Grammar School in 1971 after negotiating the 11 plus entrance exam. Caps - much detested - were then still compulsory for boys in the first two years [although worn as little as possible] and short trousers were still an option for the first year, though long trousers were almost universally worn. Both caps and short trousers were soon to disappear for good.

     My first form master was Tony "Gracie" Field, and the Headmaster was Norman Walter. Norman was fighting a rearguard action against long hair and flared trousers which were the fashion of the time although the School Rules - evidently not penned by someone up to the minute in fashion circles - still forbade 'drainpipe' trousers and sideburns. The rules were later modified to enjoin flared trousers and to require a visible gap between the hairline and the collar - a difficulty for those of us with short necks or aspirations to pop stardom !

     Norman retired a year or so later to be succeeded by John Millward. Mr. Millward had the misfortune to arrive at a time when the press was heavily pre-occupied with news of financial scandal involving businessman Ronald Millhench, the new Headmaster quickly acquiring the soubriquet 'Hench' as a result.

     Most of the other masters also had, or acquired nicknames along the way. Characters on the staff included the redoubtable Colin Tivey [known as 'the Bird'], the Revd. 'Josh' Elliott the chaplain, Bob 'Neddie' Griffiths, who ruled the roost among the history staff in the Tower, and Tony Cullingford, variously dubbed 'Brillo' or 'Freaky' [the former on account of his wiry beard and the latter, I believe, on account of his occasional predilection for flowery shirts or, possibly, his penchant for playing excerpts from Godspell in assembly].

     Apart from one year when I was spared his attentions I had the privilege to be taught French by Mr. Tivey throughout my whole time at LGS. His distinctive teaching methods based on strict adherence to his "vowel chart" and a solid grounding in French grammar and syntax [all dutifully recorded in "best model writing" in the "Blue Book"] served to achieve almost uniformly excellent exam results for those he taught despite his having to contend with pupils of very mixed linguistic abilities. By the time I was in the sixth form I had come to appreciate that there was a good deal of humour in his sometimes fearsome manner and a deep concern for the well-being and progress of his charges.

     I used to get to school by bicycle as did almost all boys from Loughborough, the bike sheds behind the Barrow Block being full almost to overflowing. Those from further afield came by bus or were dropped by car. Fifteen or so older boys came by motorbike and a very few from out of town had permission to come in their own [or parents'] cars and to park in the car park behind the woodwork shop.

     I was in the last 'Remove' or 'fast stream' to 'O' level. That the decision to abolish the fast stream was justified was borne out by the exam results of many of those who were not in it - achieving results as good as those who were.

     Of wider importance was the ending of the direct grant system which led to the momentous decision for the school to become independent.

     One of the most enjoyable extra-curricular activities in which I was involved came towards the end of my school career when a surprising shortage of guitarists on the teaching staff led to my conscription into the 'orchestra' for the staff production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.  Such was the success of the initial run in the Hodson Hall that the production had a second, short [three-day] season in the Town Hall theatre. In those days Jason Donovan had yet to be invented but Bill Dyson's voice and kneecaps brought him almost as much acclaim [if, perhaps, less wealth] in the role of Joseph.

     Sadly, my decade at the school saw the end of the elms, their disappearance from the Walks and later from the First XI field marking the ravages of Dutch elm disease.

     More happily, the first computer arrived at school. Donated by one of the town's industries which was upgrading its system, it was a huge mainframe monstrosity occupying a whole room in the Pullinger Block. As a mere non-scientist I was not allowed near it but on one occasion was permitted to allow it to test my reaction times ! Such was my first encounter with automation.