Memories of Tavistock School - !960-1965
By David Owen.
First, I must mention the article written about Wilf Rawlings on your web-page; he was my maths teacher when I first arrived at Tavistock School as a “new boy” in Form 1b. He would stroll slowly between the desks while we were grappling with the tasks he set us. I clearly remember him one day pausing in front of my desk, waited until he had the full attention of the class, and said loudly “Ye Gods! The Home Fleet’s in!” referring to my large, shiny, new, black shoes, much to my discomfiture at the time.
Back in those days, the school comprised about 1200 pupils and 50 teachers; I gather it has grown considerably since then. When I was there, it had only just expanded from the old Tavistock Grammar School to become the Tavistock Comprehensive School. We used the old Grammar School building to have woodwork and metalwork classes in. This meant that regardless of the weather we had to walk a fair way to get there. As it was usually raining, this meant that we often got wet. In fact, one of the strongest memories of going to school in Tavistock was the appalling weather we had to contend with.
As I lived in Bere Ferrers at the time, we had to walk about ¾ of a mile to the station, uphill all the way, catch the train for the 9 miles trip to Tavistock, then walk all the way through town to get to school. This means we often had to contend with torrential, cold rain, driven into our faces by strong to gale force winds. In the winter this was particularly unpleasant as the rain often turned to hail or sleet.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad, we enjoyed kicking through the piles of autumn leaves, sliding on frozen puddles, and occasionally fighting our way through snowdrifts or battling frozen rain on the pavements. Summertime was most enjoyable, with the Moors shimmering in the distance and the prospect of the long, Summer Holiday before we returned to the next grade.
I remember the school used to shake when Vulcan V Bombers flew low overhead on their way up to Yelverton and beyond, huge delta wings that seemed to fill the sky. They were testing the Concorde engines at the time.
Some afternoons we would be fighting sleep after an excellent dinner, and the sun beating through the glass of the classroom windows. I must say the school meals were usually of a very high standard, with more than enough to satisfy the appetites of growing boys!
I used to enjoy P.E. classes, even when on frosty mornings we were made to strip to our shorts and run out of the school gates, turn right and had to run along the road leading to the old railway tunnel, past what was the Council Rubbish Dump with its attendant flocks of scavenging seagulls. By the time we returned to school we were thoroughly warmed up!
Soccer was usually fun, except when I was hit in the face by a heavy, wet, freezing football off the boot of a very hard kicker! I saw stars at the time. I also enjoyed athletics in the summer, and actually came second one year in the discus throwing event.
Some of the teachers of that era were the aforementioned Wilf Rawlings, Fred Wrench (chemistry), big Dave Squib (physics), Mr. Jones, (English), Captain Forrer, (French & CCF), and numerous others whose names elude me for now.
Some of my contemporaries were as follows:
Nick Findell, Andrew Bond, Dawn Blatchford, Alan Hill, John Williams, Geoff Phillips, Phil Picking, Neil Palmer, Alan Derry, Jeremy Bawden, David Toland, Neil Kingdom, Rob Metters, Paul Fitzsimmons, Phil Metherell, Roger Dawson, John Roberts, Peter Woon, Brenda Tookey, Susan James, Ann Slovka, Sue Northey, Heather Brimmacombe, all from my year, and from the year ahead of us were Peter Hughes, Rob Webber, Phil Griffiths, one of my best friends Phil Langman who was tragically killed in a motor bike crash at the age of 18, Nick Ollace, who died in a parachuting mishap when he was training with the S.A.S. in Africa, and Peter Grinstead, who died from kidney failure a couple of years ago.
I’m sure more names will spring to mind later. Also, my two elder sisters Margaret and Linda Owen at that time attended Tavistock School, and my next younger sisters Rosemary and Marilyn.
I had some very enjoyable times as a member of the CCF, particularly the camp on Dartmoor at Dittsworthy Warren, with the porridge flavoured with pine needles, fried eggs with bits of shell in them, night compass marches, and lying on our backs hidden by the heather and bracken looking up at the clouds drifting lazily across the sky. Ah, yes, those were the days.
In December 2000 I made a pilgrimage back to the U.K. to visit my parents and family, as my father was having his 80th birthday in January. So I went over for a six-week trip, after an absence of 34 years. My parents had been out to visit me 4 and 8 years ago, and my eldest sister Margaret and her husband came out for a trip a few years ago. I hadn’t seen the rest of the family for all that time, so we had a huge re-union at Aberystwyth, which was a very emotional experience for us all.
During my visit I made a nostalgic trip to see my old house at Bere Ferrers where I grew up, and all the other places I could fit in, including Tavistock. My main impressions were that there were far more small cars everywhere, even in the little villages, tourist areas have been modernized and expanded, new industries such as boat building and repairs have sprung up, and roads have been straightened and widened. One thing in particular I did not like was the way the hedges around the farm fields are all trimmed by machine to a low level, this must have had an adverse effect on the bird life as they used to build their nests in the hedges. Such is progress.
Anyone wishing to see some photos from my trip is welcome to visit a website I made after I returned to Australia. I currently reside in Redcliffe, near Brisbane, with my wife and 18 year old daughter.