Old West Downs Society – Memories of the Tindall Era, 1922-1954

From Ivor Graham, 1929-33

I enclose two personal reminiscences, the 2nd of which was something of a cause celèbre at the time. But I would like to mention 4 aspects of WD which might not otherwise elicit the comment that is sure to be forthcoming on the more obvious things, like those mentioned in the circular letter.

Assistant Masters

I don’t think the septet of WHL, DLR, JLS, DH-G, REW, AFB, CAGB, could be bettered as devoted prep school masters in the early ’30s. (I remember their names and initials to this day). I’m sure I don’t need to give their names in full.

WHL’s sarcasm and DLR’s cuffs over the head were rather hard to take, otherwise one remembers them with affection and gratitude. The most popular without a doubt was DH-G, but I also feel in his case that the epithet a ‘great’ prep school master would not be out of place in the text of your history. I am sure only his extreme modesty and shyness kept him from going on to higher things.

All lived in the Masters’ Lodge, except for WHL and DLR who walked up from their houses in the town. These two had been on the staff since the beginning under Helbert, we were told. ‘Stantie’ (JLS) was always a bit of a mystery, cousin of Tindall’s, and would take over the school if anything happened to him, we were told, though WHL was officially second master. REW and CAGB left to take over their fathers’ schools in Norwich and Ferndown respectively. AFB (‘Beanie’) went out to New Zealand to start and run his own school, but later turned up at Three Choirs Festivals, where he would generously give any OWD in sight an excellent dinner. He was also very popular, partly perhaps because he had a huge, green, open tourer car (?Sunbeam) which he would fill with boys and drive around in.

Mrs. Tindall’s Party For New Boys

Held in the drawing room, this was quite a feature in my day (1929) and a happy introduction to school life. Her propensity for pinching one was not so acceptable, though it may have been more in affection than punitive.

Book Passing

At the beginning of term, all books had to be passed by KBT or WHL, who initialled or confiscated them. Sapper was ‘in’, Edgar Wallace ‘out’. I once brought back ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Wall of Loneliness’ – both definitely ‘out’. (I think one got them back at the end of term).

Kbt’s Confirmation Classes

He prepared one himself, and took immense trouble over this. I still have his notes, which my mother bound up for me in ecclesiastical purple. Surely this was exceptional for a layman, and I don’t think we can have been better prepared by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

In the same category, his individual talks to School Leavers about the facts of life and sex, known as a “Pi-jaw.” Practical, sensible, frank and free from embarrassment, one learnt more from them than from one’s parents or other boys.

Playing the Organ, but not on Sundays

For about the last two years at WD I was school organist. My duties were to play the hymn at the weekday morning and evening services. On Sundays, when there was a full Matins and Evensong, the Staff took over, and my duties were confined to finding the places and turning the pages, and on special occasions joining the choir. I was too small to reach the pedals, but this didn’t matter as I drew a double stop on the manual sounding an octave lower, which produced (something like) the same effect.

This arrangement suited the staff (AF Broadhurst and Dorothy Lunn), who would otherwise have had to turn out morning and evening just to play one hymn.

A fine organ was installed in my day – a Compton unit organ of two manuals and pedals, which was still there on my last visit.

There were much better musicians than me in the school, but somehow I acquired and kept the job. It gave me an excellent knowledge of Hymnody – we used the Public School Hymn Book – and was a good training in keeping strict tempo, and a steady beat, and in counting the pauses, for organ loft and choir stall in later life.

Knocked Down for Ten Bob

School walks were a feature of life at WD – in all weathers, at all times of day, even in darkness on winter mornings. Known often as “burberry walks,” they were also known by their locations, eg “Long Triangle,” “Short Triangle.”

One walk, the “Long Triangle,” in July 1933 could have been disastrous for two boys. We had just emerged from a byroad onto the main Winchester – Romsey road for the return to the school – as usual walking on the wrong side of the road – in file, with Anthony Gibbs (the late Lord Aldenham) and myself in rear. Without warning we were run into from behind, and knocked down flat like ninepins. Luckily the wheels did not go over either of us, and we crawled out, one each side, from under the car.

I had a badly cut ear, Anthony a back injury. The driver said he had been “looking at the view” over to St. Cross on the right, and luckily was only going about 20 mph. He was naturally most concerned and offered to drive us back to the school. But the Duty Master, Mildmay, said we should walk the mile back, and so we did, supported by other boys. We were put into darkened rooms in the Sanatorium (“Sanny”) suffering from shock. Mildmay, I believe got into serious trouble afterwards, for this.

The sequel for me was that I missed Confirmation, and was confirmed a week later by the Bishop of Winchester at a private ceremony in his chapel.

The Epilogue for both of us was a few weeks later attending the case in Winchester Guildhall. As prospective witnesses, we were not allowed in Court and had to sit outside in a draughty corridor, where a kindly policeman looked after us. In the event we were not called. At the conclusion of the case KBT came over and said the driver had been fined £1, “which shows you boys are worth ten bob each.”

We did not think this very funny.

I have 5 photographs which might be of interest. (1) School Play, 1931; (2) Chapel (interior view); (3) Boys in sweaters coming in from games to the changing room; (4) Winchester and County Music Festival 1932. WD the winning choir, with banner. (AF Broadhurst conductor, Miss Dorothy Lunn accompanist); (5) A characteristic pose of KBT with pipe and gauntlets, leaning on pond railings, looking left towards boys toiling up the hill from the station at the beginning of term (1932).

Ivor Graham