West Downs News Bulletin – January 1944
Probably many Old Boys have no knowledge of the present fortunes or even of the present address of West Downs. And though this does not profess to be a proper edition of the West Downs Magazine and Register, it may interest you to have a news letter giving up-to-date information about the School. In July 1940, when invasion appeared to be imminent, we were advised by naval and military parents to move from Winchester, as that neighbourhood was likely to be in the thick of the fighting in the event of German troops effecting a landing. We therefore broke up three weeks earlier and Mrs. Tindall and I set off on a search for new quarters. By that time many schools had already moved and the choice of large houses was very limited. After a fruitless visit to the West Midlands we heard of a house in Ayrshire which sounded suitable; this was Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, a large modern house belonging to the Earl of Inchcape.
We moved into Glenapp Castle in August 1940 and opened a new term there in the middle of September. In many ways Glenapp Castle was well suited for school purposes; it is a very well- appointed house with large rooms which made excellent dormitories and a hall sufficiently big to take the place of Shakespeare and to be turned into a temporary Chapel on Sundays. The grounds were well wooded and suitable for Scouting, and there were two lochs in which the boys could get occasional fishing in the summer.
The chief difficulty was the lack of playing fields, for there was no really level ground for the purpose. We managed to make reasonable football grounds, but cricket had to be played under very adverse conditions.
At Glenapp we spent a quiet and happy year, and fully expected that we were settled there for the duration of the war. But this was not to be. Early in September, 1941, we had a visit from officials of the Scottish Health Department, who informed us that they were instructed to find a house suitable for a hospital. On hearing that the Castle was occupied by a school, they told us that we should not be disturbed. But the relief was short-lived. On the following day they reappeared, saying that they had orders from the Department to inspect the place and make a report.
On September 8th, just a fortnight before our Autumn Term was due to begin, Glenapp Castle was requisitioned and we had no idea where we were going to move to.
It is not an exaggeration to say that during the next three weeks we made enquiries about more than sixty large houses in Scotland and North England. In almost every case these were either being used or were already earmarked for war purposes; the others were quite unsuitable for school premises. It was during these weeks that we first heard that Blair Castle might possibly be available. We came up to Blair Atholl to see it. From the outset it seemed clear that the Castle would answer our purpose well, though the basement of one wing was – and still is – occupied by forty children evacuated from Glasgow.
Blair Castle was formerly the property of the Dukes of Atholl, but is now owned by a Company. As soon as we had seen the place, I entered into negotiations with the Chairman of Atholl Properties Ltd. and arranged the terms of a lease.
It was at this point that the Glasgow Corporation stepped in and said that they proposed to press for the whole Castle to be requisitioned for the accommodation of more evacuees, although it had been empty since the beginning of the war. After some weeks of uncertainty it was decided by the Perthshire County Council that it would be unsuitable for this purpose, a fact which was self-evident from the start.
In October, 1941, we moved all our belongings from Glenapp to Blair Castle, and were able to begin our term early in November. As six weeks of work had been lost through this inevitable delay, we kept the School open throughout the Christmas holidays and more than half the boys remained here. In this way we had a double term, extending continuously over twenty weeks; and we were all ready for the Easter holidays when they came.
The oldest part of Blair Castle dates back to 1269; but the whole of the interior was modernised and converted from a fortress into a dwelling house soon after the ’45 rebellion. Since that period bathrooms have been added, the sanitary arrangements brought up to date and electric light and central heating installed. Also a good many additions have been made to the older building.
Many of the state rooms are now in use as dormitories and we have excellent classrooms. There is an enormous ballroom (about 100ft. by 36ft.); one end of this we use as a dining hall and the rest of the room, which has a dais at one end, makes an excellent Shakespeare and is used as a Chapel on Sundays.
The country round is magnificent for scouting, even better than at Glenapp, and there is ample level ground for games. The cricket pitches are certainly rather rough, but we are hoping to improve them before this coming summer.
There are three small lochs in which we have the right to fish, and deer forests in every direction, over which we have permission to walk, though not to stalk. We also have occasional use of ponies for riding.
Our address is:- West Downs, Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Perthshire. Visits from OWDs would be welcomed at any time.
School Matches are practically impossible. Since we have been in Scotland, we have only been able to have three Soccer matches and seven Cricket matches. This is mainly due to the fact that there are no other schools in the immediate neighbourhood and the petrol restrictions make it impossible to go long distances.
Scouting has become an even more important feature of the School life than before. In the Summer Terms we were able to arrange several very successful camping weekends. There are two regular scouting afternoons in the week.
The School music has been going as strongly as ever; Miss Playsted and Miss Lunn have between them more than thirty piano pupils. Miss Lunn has been in charge of the Chapel singing and regular singing classes, and has organised several concerts. There have been two Peacock Cup competitions; in summer 1942, the cup was won by J.D. Spooner and Tamworth; in 1943 the winners were J.D. Spooner and R.N. Bruxner-Randall.
The Patrol Shakespeare Plays have been continued in the Autumn Term. Several boys have competed successfully for the entertainer’s badge by writing and producing plays.
There have been three Summer Shakespeare Plays since the last issue of the West Downs Magazine.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was produced at Melbury in 1940, just before our evacuation. This was a successful performance, the outstanding players being R.C. Bucknall (Bottom), R.D.J. Bendall (Oberon), R.F. Grissell (Titania), P.G. Grattan (Helena), J.G.G. Pollard (Hermia), C.J. Morse (Theseus) and H.R. Mainprice (Flute).
“Twelfth Night” was in course of rehearsal in 1941 at Glenapp, but when two leading ladies and Sir Toby Belch succumbed to mumps, it had to be abandoned.
A particularly successful production of “The Tempest” was given at Blair Castle in July, 1942. We were fortunate in finding a very suitable setting for this play, a bare, stony hillock on which grow two lonely fir trees. A good array of parents managed to come for the performance. The cast was a very even one; but special mention must be made of H.R.M. Storey (Prospero), J.W. Deane (Gonzalo), G.D. Paris (Trinculo), G.A. Allan (Stephano), C.A. Wauhope (Ferdinand), J.E. Oxley (Miranda) and J.D. Spooner (Ariel). The producer once more appeared as Caliban.
In 1943 we returned again to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The stage selected for “The Tempest” was not suitable for this play, but a good setting was provided by a tree-covered knoll. This play, always a favourite, again went well. Particularly good performances were those of D.A.T. Rice (Bottom), R.J.R. Davies (Titania), G.D. Paris (Puck), J.D. Spooner (Oberon), W.E. Grenville-Grey (Quince), D.W. Pryor (Flute), M.R.L. Davidson (Starveling), J.E. Oxley (Demetrius), M.W. Macquaker (Lysander). A special word of praise must be given to H.M.C. Quick, who not only played the part of Theseus, but also acted as liaison officer between the stage and the actors “off.” It was due to his efficiency that there was no hitch in the difficult entrances on such a stage.
The Sports have been held in the Summer Term of 1941 at Glenapp and 1942 and 1943 at Blair Castle. In 1941 several of the Senior events were won by M.I.B. Straker, and in 1942 J.E. Pretyman was the outstanding prizewinner. In 1943 the winners were more evenly distributed.
Although we have no special gymnasium, the Physical Training classes have been continued as usual. Miss M.E. Coombes is in charge of the physical training.
In spite of our double evacuation, we have had greater success than usual in Scholarship Examinations. In 1941 the following boys gained scholarships:-
C.J. Morse, Winchester.
I.G. Macdonald, Winchester.
M.H. Priestley, St. Bees.
H.R.M. Storey, Winchester (Senior Scholar).
C.A. Wauhope, Stowe.
J.C. Bucknall, Uppingham.
A.F. Twist, Radley (Exhibition).
Four Confirmations have been held in the School since our arrival in Scotland, two at Glenapp by the Bishop of Glasgow, and two at Blair Castle by the Bishop of St. Andrews.
Several members of the Staff have joined the Forces:- Mr. J. L. Stanton (now Major) obtained a commission in a Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment at the outbreak of hostilities and is now at the War Office.
Mr. M.R.F. Simson joined up on the Lower Deck and after some months at sea was given a commission and is now a Sub-Lieutenant, RNVR. He is at present engaged on a shore job. Mr. R.L. Schuster joined up in the RAC. He was fighting in Libya during the retreat in May-June 1942 and was taken prisoner. He was in a prisoner of war camp in Italy; there has been no recent news of him.
You will be glad to know that the following members of the Staff are still with us here:—
Mr. D.L. Rose, Mme. de Coutouly, Mr. W.H. Ledgard, Miss D.M. Playsted, Mr. D. Howell-Griffith, Miss D. Lunn, Mr. H.A. Ricardo, Miss M.E. Coombes.
New members of the Teaching Staff are:- Miss A.H. Campbell, Captain E.J. Fox, Captain E.H. House and Mr. A. Templeton Turner. Mr. Rose was compelled to miss the whole of last term (Autumn 1943) owing to a bad attack of rheumatism. He has now completely recovered and is back with us again.
Owing to increasing deafness, Miss Hills retired from the Staff at Easter 1943.
Old Boys – and how many there must be! – who have begun their career at West Downs during the last forty-two years in Miss Squilly’s Form, will have an unfading memory of her sympathy, her humour and her genius for telling a story. There leaps into one’s mind the picture of a row of upturned faces, naughtiness and fidgets forgotten, gazing spellbound, while the quiet, husky voice announced “So he took a knife – a very sharp knife.” This was the story of Macbeth; for Miss Squilly’s loves were Shakespeare and Dickens. Her English Literature classes were to most Lower School boys the high light of the week’s work.
Her estimate of the characters of junior boys was always shrewd, but optimistic; and her judgment was hardly ever at fault. I recollect her saying recently of a distinguished Old Boy’s son “You know, Mr. Tindall, he’s just like his father, but not quite so naughty. He ought to turn out very well.”
But it is not merely as a wonderful form mistress that Miss Squilly will be remembered by those who knew and loved her at West Downs. It is rather the inherent kindliness and saintliness of her whole personality which we shall always treasure in our memory. She is one of those rare people who radiate peace and good will. I have heard her described as a power house for good”; and this description could not be bettered.
Forty-two years of continuous teaching at West Downs have earned her the rest which she is now enjoying in her home at Holyhead. Her countless friends will wish her continuance of the good health which she has always enjoyed; tranquillity of spirit will always be hers, for it is an essential part of herself.
Since the last issue of the Register, donations have been received from the following:-
|K.A. Arnold.||W.E. Grenville-Grey.|
|J.C. Baines.||M.A. Hall.|
|P.J.A. Baines.||D.A. Hall.|
|R.J. Banister.||C. Lyle.|
|G.R.D. Beart.||C.J. Morse.|
|D. Blascheck.||J.E. Oxley.|
|A.F.B. Broadhurst.||T.V. Pigot.|
|R.D. Burrows.||R.K. Pigot.|
|R.T.A. Cooper.||J.D.M. Pollok.|
|J.G. Corson.||J.E. Pretyman.|
|D.L.H. Davidson.||C.L.M. Scott.|
|M.H.L. Davidson.||E.J. Scott.|
|D.W. Fladgate.||W.D.M. Staveley.|
|A.T.H. Fuller.||H.R.M. Storey.|
|P.I. Fuller.||M.B.C. Sumner.|
|B.C.P. Gething.||R.M.M. Wills.|
The contributions are being banked, so that the panelling may be continued as soon as possible after our return to Winchester.
We apologize for any errors or omissions in the following lists and for mistakes in the style of address on the wrapper.
We shall be most grateful if Old Boys or their relatives will send up-to-date information about them to:—
K.B. Tindall, West Downs, Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Perthshire.
1939 P.I. Fuller.
1930 H.G. Hargreaves Brown.
1914 D. Plunket Greene.
1900 E.C. Straker.
1929 Lieut. T.P. Cokayne. R.A.
1928 2nd Lieut. J.H. Cripps. 60th Rifles.
1923 2nd Lieut. Hon. J.D. Fellowes. The Rifle Brigade.
1923 2nd Lieut. H. Forbes. The Rifle Brigade.
1907 Major V.C. Knollys. The Rifle Brigade.
1926 2nd Lieut. Hon. J.A.G. McDonnell. Royal Norfolk Regiment.
1912 Lieut. G.H.A. Perceval-Maxwell.
1928 2nd Lieut. J.R.K. Sinclair. Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.
1927 2nd Lieut. Sir A.H.D. Twysden, Bart. Royal Irish Fusiliers.
1925 Flying Officer P.P.L.E. Welch. RAFVR
1924 Acting Squadron-Leader F.A. Willan, DFC, RAF.
1922 Lieut. P.A. Willes. 12th Royal Lancers.
1921 Major P.L. Lewis, The Buffs, was a prisoner of war in Italy. He is now safe in Switzerland.
2 Major C.A. Macdonald, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
1923 Pilot-Officer D.F.W. Parish, RAFVR
1924 Lieut. A. Phipps, RN
1919 2nd Lieut. R.A. Raikes, 60th Rifles
1927 Lieut. G.D.K. Richards, DSO, DSC, RN
1928 Lieut. J.G. Salusbury-Trelawny. DCLI, attached Essex Regiment
1898 Rear-Admiral E.J. Spooner, DSO. RN
1923 Lieut. N.J.M. Teacher, DSO. RN
1913 N.J. Crossley, Lieut.-Commander, RN
1928 C.A.L. Morse, Sub-Lieutenant, RN
1917 Hon. W.D.S. Montagu, Flying Officer, RAF
1920 Hon. B.A. O’Neill, Captain, Irish Guards
1923 R.E. Westmacott, Lieutenant, RN
1925 Hon. E.F. Boscawen, Lieutenant, Coldstream Guards
1925 H. Reynell-Pack, Lieutenant, Grenadier Guards
1906 W. Selby-Lowndes, Captain, 15/19th King’s Royal Hussars
1919 A.R.A. Dorrien-Smith, Captain, 15/19th King’s Royal Hussars
1927 M.S. Willan, 2nd Lieutenant, 60th Rifles
1927 H.C. Corbet, Flying Officer, RAFVR
1910 T.M. Napier, Commander, DSC, RN.
1928 A.J.B. Van der Weyer, 2nd Lieutenant, The Rifle Brigade.
1924 P.P. Raikes, Captain, RE
1908 J.R. Rathbone, Flying Officer, RAFVR, MP
1925 L. Lee Pyman, Pilot Officer, RAFVR
1929 J.N.W. Parish, Sub-Lieutenant, RNVR Fleet Air Arm
1925 F.E. Allhusen, Captain, MC, 15/19th King’s Royal Hussars
1917 Lord Hugh T. de la Poer Beresford, Lieutenant-Commander, RN
1927 C.A. Wynne-Jones, Captain, 60th Rifles
1926 P.C.McC. Banister, Lieutenant, DSC, RN
1912 F. Barchard, Lieutenant-Commander, RN
1928 R. Wynne-Jones, 2nd Lieutenant, 60th Rifles
1910 C.R. Barnett, Lieut.-Commander, RN
1928 R.P. Alderson, Lieutenant, Croix de Guerre avec palme, Hadfield-Spears Ambulance.
1933 C.G.A. Leechman, 2nd Lieutenant, RA
1927 J. Marden, Lieutenant, 9th Lancers
1923 E.J.B. Martin, Flight-Lieutenant, RAFVR
1930 H.A.A. Clogstoun, Lieutenant, RN
1931 D.B. Sinclair, Lieutenant, Reconnaissance Corps
1915 T.P. Coode, Acting Commander, DSO RN
1933 P.T. de la G. Grissell, Midshipman, RN
1931 G. Rhys Williams, Captain, Welsh Guards
1925 J.C. Carver, Squadron-Leader, DFC RAFVR
1922 Sir John Pigott-Brown, Bart, Captain, Coldstream Guards
1929 K.P. Hoare, Captain, RTR
1918 C.T. Milnes Gaskell, Lieut.-Colonel, Coldstream Guards
1906 D.H. de Burgh, Air Commodore. AFC RAF
1930 H.J. Stephenson, Flight-Lieutenant, RAF
1931 J.M. Hargreaves, Grenadier Guards
1919 C.G. Ford, Major, Grenadier Guards
1926 J.E. Tyldesley Jones, Major, Scots Guards
1921 The Earl of Chichester, Captain, Scots Guards
1925 H.T. Crispin, Lieutenant, RN