The Teaching Staff – a list of those remembered – all I suppose now lost to the living.
I do not suppose that the teachers at St. Olave’s were any better or any worse than any others. Some were extremely bad, some were extremely good.
Soon after the beginning of peace in 1945 a sea change occurred. For then a younger breed of teachers arrived.
This young teacher was there throughout the war and he was the first teacher I met at the new school. There must have been some good reason why he was not in the services. He was a teacher of Latin. This was the first new subject to me. Mr. Newmarch was approachable and charming. The text books in Latin were brand new and to me fascinating. The school was aware that if any boys were to enter Oxford or Cambridge, then it was necessary that they had some qualification in Latin! I found little difficulty with it, though I little realised why it was necessary to learn it. I remember little, but the foundation in understanding the structure of language has been very important. Apart from that it later eased my way into Oxford.
Dr R.C. Carrington
I first saw the Head Master Dr. R.C. Carrington over a year into my school life. He arrived with the main school on its return from evacuation to Torquay in Devon in 1945. He was a Classics Scholar and in the book ‘Who’s Who’ was described as onetime ‘Student of Archaeology at Rome’. He was a man smaller than his presence suggested. He had a broad high forehead and always looked well washed. Rumour had it that he was repeatedly looking for another position as Head of a far more important school. Today I consider that he was a wise man. He took it upon himself to teach some ‘general studies’ to the VIth form. He covered many subjects, with learning; The History of the United States; The History of Architecture; The Departments of the United Nations. He caused the school to receive monthly digest of United Nations reports which we VIth formers had to read and make resumés.
He even glossed on the basics of Geology, which he averred should be the a study for all students, and introduced the study of Italian. He was not a likeable man; one’s impression is that he was not liked by the staff, but I believe he had admirable ideals. His ideal seemed to me to develop in us the new ‘Renaissance Man’.
History was taught by Mr. Joseph. His exposition of the development of 19th Britain left me somewhat bored. That which moved me most was his undoubted anger at the return of a Labour government in 1945. “That Churchill who has done so much for this country, and routed our enemies, should be ousted by those who owe him so much is a disgrace.” (They at least were his sentiments, if not his words.) Joseph was an aging man with a small moustache and greying hair. But he was a full bodied person with a dominant will.
He was the bête noire of the pre-peace days. He taught mathematics, looked after the silver badges for the schoolboy’s caps and was constantly angry and crushing. Sometime in my fourth year I found favour with him. A geometry homework was set and all our exercise books were marked by him. At the next maths lesson he arrived and standing by his desk, his black gown wrapped about his middle he began to disclaim to the class. “You have failed. Your work is dismal. Cave! Cave! Come out here!” I shrank and quavered and rose and slowly went to the desk. He threw in groups the exercise books to the floor and said to me –“Cave stamp on them! Stamp!” I reluctantly stepped on a few. “You Cave are the only boy to have got it right!” One did not cross with Sikey if possible.
He was an empty headed waste of space. He taught geography. He was inept. He was not a tall man and was thin. He had a habit of sitting on top his desk in the Gandhi position, cross legged. One such occasion was interrupted by the headmaster who entered to declaim that each boy would be issued with a ‘dip’ pen. Such pens were to used in conjunction with the ink wells, lodged in the top right corner of every desk. Fountain pens were abolished and any boy seen to use one was to have it confiscated. This ploy had the aim of improving our handwriting.
He was the senior teacher of French, and I hated his guts. He had the air of boredom. The most used phrase in his lexicon was “You’d better go into detention laddie.” How little he understood me or anyone. Let me recall some anecdotes. My mother had given me a wrist watch. It was my very first watch and I was proud of it. On the back was written ‘Fond acier inoxydable’. I had no idea what it meant. I took it to show Dr. Stockwell. He just brushed me aside and said ‘It is stainless steel’. I wanted to know why it meant that. Moreover I was proud of it. Could he not have spent a little more time saying how nice it was, who gave it to me, that acier means steel- inoxydable means not oxidising and that fond means base or bottom? He had no time for any boy, no patience, no love. He had no talent to be a teacher. His black gown was torn and aged beyond repair. It was so old that the black cloth was turning green in places.
My final despair of French came during one summer holiday. With some semblance of how to be a teacher he gave out small books of the Tales of Maupassant. “Read these during the holidays!” I dutifully began and I genuinely found the first tale interesting. Unfortunately a little way in I discovered that a chunk of the pages had been lost. I threw the book aside and disgusted, resolved never to bother with French again.
Now I live in France. C’est la vie.
To be continued