Bernard Tinker 1955-61 on the new Putney Elliott
Strangely enough, this memory which for me, goes back about 56 years is still fairly vivid. Perhaps I should be worried about long-term memory syndrome? Having been (what we then called) a first year at the old Elliott boy’s school in Merton Road, Southfields, like many of my contemporaries, the move was not without some trepidation. For a start, the concept of co-education was a new one to many a twelve year old. Girls in the same class! The school itself, of course, was a flagship building under the auspices of the (then) London County Council (L.C.C.). The country was still emerging from post-war austerity but it appeared that for this new breed of comprehensive schools, money was no object.
The building and equipment were little less than fantastic. I don’t know how the school is configured nowadays, but four teaching floors, fully equipped science labs (we were even allowed to have acids out along the centre of the benches as the norm.). The there were five gymnasia, workshops, domestic science rooms with their own flat to teach house-craft, needlework rooms, music rooms, typing rooms, drama theatre, assembly hall, two large dining rooms and those fantastic views across London from the Geography rooms; the list was seemingly endless. When the school opened for business in early September, the large assembly hall, was not finished, so the huge wood partitions between gyms 2, 3 and 4 were pushed back to make one enormous space where we were all assembled. It may have been that the senior school had begun a day earlier, I can’t remember. Many people had already seen that particular area as the new school uniforms were sold there during the summer holiday. We were all seated on the floor, roughly in year groups facing a seated array of what, at first site, looked like a row of vultures. These were the teachers, most of whom were new, wearing academic gowns, again a new experience for many and certainly for those of us from the ‘old Elliott’.
After a brief welcome from the head Mr Maurice Holmes, proceedings were orchestrated by the senior master Mr J L (Leslie) Rose, who sported a rather handsome moustache and was to become our history teacher. The ritual reading of names began and eventually we got to Form 2G. About 30 names were read out and luckily most of the boys were known to me as we had been in the same form the previous year. We were told to go with Mr Forgione and trundled along behind him, out of the gym, up the stairs and along the ‘ground floor’ (which wasn’t (still isn’t) at ground level) and along to the last room on the right-hand side - number 37. This, it turned out, was to be our home for the next four years, 3G, 4G and 5G and supervised by Mr F. (also our Latin master) for the entire period. Our class pretty much stayed the same, save for a few of the usual comings and goings - you can see a picture for year 1958/59 Form 4G in the school photos area of the website. In those days there was ‘streaming’ in the school and 2G etc. were flattered to be in the grammar stream concentrating more the Arts subjects, whereas 2S etc. was also ‘grammar’ with a bent towards the Sciences. The school was officially opened (I think) in April 1957 by the Right Hon. Hugh Gaitskill M.P. Leader of the Labour Party and H.M. Opposition so I suppose Sir Anthony Eden must have been the Prime Minister as it was the year after the Suez Crisis.
A few other random memories from my time at the Elliott.:- I saw a contribution from June Pavin (nee Chitty). Before my voice broke a was a boy treble and I wonder if she remembers during a music lesson in 2G with Miss Mountjoy that the pair of us had to sing duet in front of the whole class? I think it was “Drink to me only with thine eyes”. By the time we got to 4G and the senior school, speech day was split into two. juniors in the afternoon, when the seniors got a half holiday, but we had to come back in the evening for our turn. We were ‘larking about’ in the corridor waiting to go down to the Assembly Hall, when somehow or other I got thrown over John Jones’s shoulder, fell onto mine and dislocated it. Ambulance to St James’s Hospital, Balham (blues and twos) with my friend David Pitkin being allowed to come with me. A kindly gesture, you might think, but when we arrived at the hospital, he jumped on a bus home and disappeared from view. There’s gratitude after getting him out of speech day! Just over a year later we were out on the common doing cross-country with Mr Parry. The last obstacle was a very wide open ditch full of water. I said something to the effect of “I’ll walk round this one if you don’t mind, sir?”
“Jump it, boy!” I did, slipped and reached out to grab the bank - guess what happened? This time it was Putney Hospital driven by Mr Garth Gibson (Head of P.E.) in his own car. Happy Days!