Old West Downs Society – Memories of the Cornes Era, 1954-1988

From G.L. Eddis, taught 1961-82

West Downs

I feel that the greatest part of any anthology should originate from Old Boys rather than Masters, but as Nick Hodson sent a copy of his screed to me I will submit a few notes. (I taught from ’61 to ’82, starting with maths, English and Geography, finally just maths and science. I was disbarred from teaching English when it was discovered that I was teaching Grammar, including the names of adjectives and adverbs, and the difference between phrases and clauses. Blasphemy in these enlightened days!)

A couple of headings to be added to Nick’s lists. “fish queue” and “milk-check”, the latter being the bane of the Duty Master’s day and almost certainly of a large number of boys too! The ingenuities by which milk-haters (and who can blame them) would hide their one third pint bottles undrunk.

Science. I had the doubtful privilege of being detailed off to start the subject at W.D. Before my first term (Sept 61) Wincoll had agreed that their Head of Science should allow half a dozen boys from WD, Pilgrims & Twyford together with accompanying Beak, to attend once a week at the College Lab. The subject was “Soil’, and we examined earth, weighed its moisture content, tested its pH level, and no one was very excited.

The next step was provided by ESSO. They supplied a number of boxes, each containing one term’s work on a scientific subject – Pond Life, Astronomy, Heat, Sound, Light, eleven in all – and at the end of each term the box was packed up and sent to the next school on the distribution list. We passed through two cycles of this before the next step financed by Nuffield, which, with modifications, is the basics of the present C.E. Science syllabus. I was sent to attend Holiday courses at Malvern, where the emphasis, certainly to begin with, was the DIY construction of apparatus and the cheapest suppliers of materials. For a year I was allowed two extra free periods a week to fit up the Lab (in the old ’N’ room) and make the required apparatus from the cheapest possible sources. The (correct) idea of those pushing science teaching being that headmasters would be unwilling to pay out the vast sums necessary to provide proper laboratories and equipment. [If it could be started on a shoestring there might be some chance of germination and growth and universal acceptance].

So West Downs boys learned their Science through Heath Robinson style apparatus, and will have been highly impressed when arriving at their Public school to see the marvels of modern technology. I have not yet heard of any OWDs of this vintage achieving any dizzy scientific heights.

If an amusing anecdote is required, I suggest you ask Tristram Jenkins (about ’56 – ’59) about digestive biscuits.

Guy Eddis