Memory Lane

I have set up a 3rd party message board application which will open in a new window. Sorry, it has advertising, but that's the price you pay for refusing to cough up money every month. Comments left on the message board relating to school life will eventually appear on this page. If preferred, you can also still use the contact form or email.

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Feel free to explore and experiment with the message boards, I have not spent long investigating the functionality, but I will. I don't believe you have  to set up an account - you can post as a guest, although it may be easier if you do create an account.

14th June 2023, Simon Poulton (1967-74) writes:

Recollections of Tony Smith and the music department

Although the numbers taking O and A level music were very small, just one or two a year, the enthusiasm that Tony Smith brought to the musical activities of the school was significant.

He was a highly talented musician, his main instrument being the organ and he was a Performing Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. He encouraged much musical activity outside of the school and there were regular needs for pupils to perform at concerts held at St Edmonds in Northwood Hills, at which he was a regular contributor, and at St Mary’s Church, Harrow on the Hill, where he was the resident organist and choirmaster. A number of us also took part in concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields and St James’,  Piccadilly. On top of this, he was a piano teacher outside of school and relished having an extremely full diary, often busy musically most evenings and weekends.

He was known for a degree of spontaneity which could take you by surprise on occasion. When I was in the 5th form, he walked into my form room one Monday morning, the geography room, when registration was being taken by Mr Tanner and walked up to me and told me I was going to be playing a duet with him at the piano for that morning’s assembly – no pressure. I duly went and sat next to him at the piano, he produced the music, a blues number I recall, and without practice, he expected us to carry this off in front of the whole school. He covered up my shortcomings well and I think we got away with it but it was an exercise in nerves – and not one to be repeated!

On another occasion, I had a double period with him one morning in the L6 and he walked in and announced that we were off to London together! He drove us to Northwood Hills station in his Ford Anglia – his noticeable driving style was to lean forward with the steering wheel almost touching his chest – and we went off to Harrods where the store was holding one of their regular Piano Sales. On the train, he told me that he had been asked to choose a piano for the school hall as the existing one was getting a bit long in the tooth and we were going to see if we could find something to suit. He was very genial company on the train – I think the outing quite excited him. In Harrods, the pair of us tried all the pianos we could, selected one, and it was duly acquired and installed in the school hall – the old piano remained in the hall as it was still his favourite so that is how St Nicks school hall had and retained two grand pianos from summer 1973.

10th May 2023, Peter Schweiger recalls:

What a great website.  It inspired me to contribute something.  I did Economics, Geography and History at A level and was so fed up with exams that I was one of the few that did not go to university.  Instead I took the advice of the careers master and successfully applied to train as a forester with the Forestry Commission.  What a slog that was.  For two years working in a Hampshire forest on piece work.  Then on to the school in North Wales with 40 subjects on the syllabus and exams for each.  No jobs in England for foresters when I qualified, so I returned to my family business making shoes in central London for the next 40 years. Shoemakers were called snobs because they would not touch dirty shoe repairs.  That was for cobblers. So I am a double snob.

 I remember having economics lessons in the geography stockroom with Benny Goodman.  There were wide cracks in the walls and we wondered when the building would collapse.   I was impressed by the “Dictator" door closers that stopped them banging and have one.  In the summer terms I enjoyed going sailing on the Rickmansworth Aquadrome and being taken in Masters cars. We capsized once and had a dead fish in the boat when it was righted.

 During the winter on Wednesday afternoons there was swimming at Heston baths.  A coach would take us and because it was 40 minutes each way, no masters would come with us.  When we did swim it was for fun, diving for pennies in the deep end or lengths along the bottom.  I can still do 25 meters along the bottom of the pool in Amersham.

6th form studies arranged a cruise in the Baltic on a converted troop ship for a thousand school leavers. I earned some of the £80 by gardening and baby sitting. I won my only sports prize on the boat in a completion to dive for soup spoons in the pool on board. 3 dives with 40 spoons each time in the bottom.  I brought up 108 and was awarded a spoon with the ships name on it.

 Enough for now.

 Peter Schweiger

 I joined for the 6th form and was in transitus? Until I had enough O levels.


14th April 2023, Greg Powell remembers:

The Old Boys Cricket Team

Entirely the brainchild of the indefatigable Peter Fitzgibbon who brought a team into existence , organising all the Saturday and Sunday fixtures , recruited players and kept it on the road although I am not sure for how many seasons  We had no home ground so played  all away matches .

Peter organised a meeting , I guess in about 1967 ,  which took place in the old Geography room at the school which had also been the form room of lower VI and Middle VI Econ  in one of those modernising reorganisations of the forms that took place in about 1964/6.  (In the 5th form for GCSE we had been reorganised into 5 Modern , 5 Science and 5 general) .The meeting was the catalyst to get the teams formed and for one season I was  captain of the Sunday team without any clue about how to go about the task .

We were very average but Peter kept it going for a few years. Players I recall were, Martin Miller, Doug Root , “Biff “ Bailey, Malcolm Newing - our best quick bowler, Tony O’Sullivan, Dave Pullen and Peter himself, Derek Warby, David Chapman?, Mark Haddon? and John Sawyer and one special guest appearance by Tony Douglas , a fast bowler of great stamina. I am not sure how the team wound up and hope others might be able to flesh out the history .

18th April 2023, Malcolm Newing replies:

Hi Greg the old boys cricket team actually soldiered on for many years. I played from about colts age with the old boys so I guess about 1967. I recognise all those names you mentioned although it was Millier not Miller, who I think was captain when I started. Dave Pullen was lead joker in the early days and he also played at Ickenham and Harefield. I played at Ickenham from about 1974 to 1978 but went back to the old boys for another 3 years. The team went on for many years after that but not sure when they finally stopped. Others on the website will be able to answer that question? I ‘ve got a picture of the team at Fulmer circa 1973 which I’ll send to Dave for the website. It has many of the names you mentioned in it. Malcolm Newing

Mike Shammas recalls:

My best memory? Mr Easom, teaching Physics. We were certain all the iron fillings were numbered.

One day, he started by asking for the workbooks with the physics homework in. Of course, no one had done it. Sitting at back, I started writing it in my book

Starting at the front, he asked each boy for their homework, one by one. Left it at home sir. DETENTION he bellowed. I brought my Maths book by mistake. DETENTION! I forgot to do it. DETENTION!

He worked his way slowly down the line. Until he got to Brown. Brown was chubby, mild, polite, inoffensive. And even he hadn't done the homework.

"Well, laaaaad?", intoned Mr Easom...

"I ..... I .... I couldn't be bothered, Sir."

You could have heard a pin drop. Really. We all knew this wouldn't end well. Poor old Brown.

"WHAAAT?" Easom couldn't believe he had heard what he thought he heard.

"I couldn't be bothered to do it sir."

All eyes switched to Mr Easom. All those that weren't studiously avoiding eye contact in an attempt to avoid collective punishment. Even I looked up from my furious scribbling.

"Alright laaad", he said, "Get it to me by next lesson. I like a novel excuse."

Shocked ain't the word. Brown smiled, more through relief than bravado.

Easom moved on to the next boy. It might've been Cummings, I'm not sure.

"WEEEEELL, LAAAADD?" Easom wheedled, "where's your homework?"

"I couldn't be bothered to do it either, Sir!"

"DETENTION!" shrieked Easom in delight, "That's not original any more!"

Quite the funniest thing Mr Easom ever did, and also the smartest. He gained my respect that day. And my homework, 5 minutes later.

A former pupil, who remains anonymous remarks

 "I liked the film of the Fair in 1962. Hadn't seen it before...I was there & in the evening,

I had a 'hot date' to take to the dance but got soaked by an unexpected storm walking from home to her house. I had to return & change out of my much prized new suit into an old sports jacket.

Luckily her father (do you remember Councillor Beasley?) drove us to the school. 

Her brother Peter also went to SNGS. Unfortunately Peter died a few years ago. Amazing what remembrances a photo or two can evoke!

(Can't agree more. Ed)

The "real" first trip to the Soviet Union.....In 1966 St Nick's started an O Level Course in Russian supported by the authorities in an attempt to encourage contacts between east and west. Twelve boys from St Nicks started the course, but it was rapidly whittled down to a handful. The teacher was Mr Emmans and he taught the diminishing group throughout the 1966/7 school year. Sadly he left after the first year, leaving the remaining bunch teacherless as no-one else on the staff spoke Russian. The answer was to send the remaining interested pupils to St Mary's where we joined the girls' class taken by Miss Betty Belton, a delightful teacher who managed to propel and encourage our interest throughout the whole second year up to the O Level exam. I well remember those trips, several times a week, across the great divide between the 2 schools much to the envy of many of my classmates.

At St Mary's, she organised lunch time "Russian Club" where all sorts of activities went on, and as pupils from beyond the divide, we were always made welcome.

There was an all-England trip to the USSR planned for the summer of 1969 which Betty Belton encouraged us to go on, and we duly set off on an overland coach trip to Lvov and Kiev and had an amazing and adventurous journey along the way, including being turned away from Prague on the first anniversary of the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia.

They were good days, and the trip itself is another story, but you will forgive me if I claim the 1969 trip as the "First Trip to the USSR".

Mike Pipe. (1962-9).

Another anonymous recollection.

A small group of pupils lived sufficiently far from the school that it was necessary to travel by train from Northwood Hills Station to Harrow-on-the-Hill, and some one or two stations beyond.

We all were issued with Train passes, but they were valid only to our relative stations.

One evening after school, one of the members of our party decided he wanted to go to Baker Street Station (much further down the line than our destinations) to visit the Lost Property Office of  London Transport, and he invited the rest of us to join him. "It'll be all right." he said "Just flash your passes at the Ticket Inspector. They don't check them."

So we all decided to go off to Baker Street.

The trains were of the old wooden construction, with manually opened doors, and sash operated windows fitted to the doors. This allowed one to lower the window, and sit, facing into the carriage, with one's rear sticking out through the hole formed in the door.

One member of our party decided it would be fun to do this. However, he forgot that part of the railway line runs underground.

We suddenly arrived at the beginnig of a tunnel, which startled the culprit, and he "jumped almost out of his skin"........ Attempting to propel himself back into the railway carriage, he caught his foot on the door handle. The effect caused the door to fly open.........Unfortunately, the door, which opened outwards, was wider than the gap between the train and the tunnel wall....... the nett result being that the door was very badly damaged.

The Guard on the train became aware that something was amiss, and stopped the train in the tunnel. 

He approached our carriage, made good the door, best he could, ushered us all into his Guards Wagon, and allowed the train to proceed to Baker Street Station. 

We alighted to the welcome of a Transport Police Officer, whom we assured the door opened by accident, and we assured him that no "Tomfoolery" of any kind had taken place.

He released us, having taken statements, and allowed us on our way.

This had allowed us to pass through the Ticket Barrier without having to produce our passes, but, having ascertained that none of us had passes to Baker Street we all had to pay a surcharge on our journey. This is cash we were going to use to buy tickets to get us back through the barrier and on to the train for our return journey.

So, having been to the Lost Property Office, we set off to return to our respective stations. 

However, there was a problem. Between us we, now, only had enough money to buy one ticket. What to do?........We decided to buy one ticket, for one pupil to go through the barrier and on to the station platform. The plan was that he would, then pass the ticket back over the fence to a second pupil, and so on until we were all on to the platform....How we were ever going to achieve this who knows? 

So, one pupil was elected to go to the Ticket Office and purchase one ticket.

At this point, the almighty must have seen the funny side to our prank. The ticket purchaser put down his duffel bag, on the floor, to get out of his pocket the remaining money he had, and, as he did so, he put it down on a ten shilling note, that was lying on the floor......Quick as a flash, he picked up the note, and bought a ticket for each of the party, thus allowing all of its members to pass through the ticket barrier with a ticket in their hand. 

The rest of the journey went off without any further hitch.

The sad sting in the tail, however was that the item that the pupil went to the Lost Property Office, in the hope of retrieving, had not been given in, and thus he came away from that Office EMPTY HANDED.

(Crikey!!!!! That's good enough for a novel. You could not make up a story half as good as that!!! Ed)      

Another Anonymous Subscriber writes:

I live and work in the US most of the year and, although in occasional touch with a couple of my closest friends, had never reflected much on my time at St. Nicks; then about 10 years ago, a classmate/friend tracked me down and suggested a few of us meet. On a glorious 90F (no one knows Celsius here) day in August 2003 we met for lunch at a pub in an Oxfordshire village, adjourning to enjoy ice-cream and coffee in the garden of a nearby family home with a lovely view of the Chilterns. One of our number produced a heretofore secret diary from around '59-61 with addesses, phone numbers and random stuff such as results of a chess rivalry and the make of Mick's new transistor radio. A sort of test ensued and I learned that, although my short term memory is rubbish, there's a sort of creeky rolodex rotating in my bonce giving access to most of what got in before I was 18. I was as surprised as everyone else to be able to list 1960 addresses, phone numbers and birthdays of our circle of friends. I was asked about our class and found I could list it alphabetically as it was in 1959/60 (1A), mainly because I could recall a voice, I believe Mr Proudman, our form master calling the register each day. However the memory does play tricks and the overlay of subsequent form masters calling slighly different registers in later years may lead to the odd error.

[The names of these pupils are listed on a separate page to this page. Ed.]

John Rosser writes:

I was a pupil there between 1957-1962, one of a group from Harefield junior school who passed the 11 plus exam. There were 2 lads older by 1 year than us who were the pioneers to go to St Nicks, they were Tommy Tucker and Michael Dagnall, the latter now lives in Holland but where the other went I don't know. In our group there was me, John Weedon, Roger Palmer, Alan Chambers and Barry Parnell, the latter left during the 1st year but I believe the rest went onwards and upwards.

I still remember a lot of the old teachers and the lads in my class which was the D stream (us 2 Johns' were in D whereas the other 2 were in the C stream) after the 1st year.

The following is a second contribution by the same author:

Our form master initially was Teddy Tilbrook but then we had Eric 'Bobby' Charlton for the rest of the time.

The latter had a good laugh at my expense as I was pretty useless at technical drawing and metalwork, and still no good at practical work. However this particular day I was working on a metal scraper and Eric had a student teacher with him; he said to the student: 'what ever you do don't let Rosser near the lathe because if anyone can make it go up and down instead of round and round, it'll be him!' Blinking sauce!

He was also my team master for Kevere. Once again I was the butt for him on the cross country team event. Bear in mind that I'd managed by scullduggery to avoid the 1st 2 years of the event and wasn't an athlete by any stretch of the imagination but unfortunately found myself put forward for the team of 40 in the 3rd year.

Eric told me that I'd better not finish last otherwise he'd kick me round the course. Well I think it was about 3 miles on a wet and soggy Haste Hill and I wasn't too bad until the last stretch up the hill when I got overtaken by nearly everyone but managed to finish an exhausted 156th!

We weren't good at rugby either especially as we played soccer at home. Our rugby teacher was Bomber Plenderleith who taught us all sorts of dodgy and incorrect tackling procedures. One day we were playing an inter team or class match and several great hulking forwards were bearing down on our full back and the ball was in the air comind down in his vicinity. Bomber shouted out 'hug it Huggett-the boys name' but to no avail as he was flattened by the onrushing forwards!

A recollection from Stephen Lee who tells us:

I was there from 1957 – 1964.

There is one story that sticks in my mind regarding Mr “Basher” Clarke: the classroom overlooked the playground and I think we were in the 2nd year and starting an English lesson with him. He asked the question: “What are you reading” and looked at (John?) Hardy. Given the strictness with which Mr Clarke taught, we were all taken aback when Hardy replied “Books, Sir”. Mr Clarke said “Any more comments like that, Hardy, and I will boot you over those rugby posts.” Everyone looked out of the window at which point Mr Clarke said “Oh you can’t see them, they’re at Wembley!” At which point the whole class, including Mr Clarke fell about laughing.

A snippet from Dr. Andrew Long

I was at St Nicholas between 1965 and 1972 when I went to St Mary’s Hospital Medical School with two other SNOBs boys, Stuart Lowe and Chris Elias.

A Few Recollections of School Life From Malcolm Reip 

a) Mr Tilbrook regaling a full assembly at the start of a new school year with his experiences of a summer holiday spent in Japan.  In the course of which he introduced us to two new pieces of Japanese technology, namely; felt tip pens and singles records made of unbreakable plastic, which he proceeded to throw like “Frisbees”, (not that we had them then!), across the hall. 

b) The Lower Sixth Geography Field Trip in 1961(?), at Malham.  Most notable for Mr New not achieving his 50th ascent of Ingleborough, when we were ambushed by a severe blizzard halfway up the mountain. Given that our equipment at the time resembled an urban version of that used by Scott and Oates at the start of the century, it was fortuitous that there were no serious results. The outcome was made the more galling since the day before we had walked twenty miles through Hellifield and Long Preston, in the same gear, but with an ambient temperature well into the 70’s!  

c) A Saturday cricket match against Hayes County Grammar at their ground.  Their team had eleven fast bowlers, (the wicketkeeper spent much of our innings demanding to be allowed to bowl, to “sort us out”), and the experience was perfectly framed by a black thunder cloud which hung over us for the whole match without shedding a drop of rain but provided a perfect Wagnerian setting. We managed to win, but not without many frights and some bruises. “Taffy” Thomas was particularly pleased with the result since most of their team were descendants of “sons of the valleys”, who had moved to the area during World War 2. 

d) Hayes got their revenge in rugby matches, where their average size advantage counted for more, as well as their ability to grow a beard at age fifteen! 

e) Holding the cricket nets on the matting on the playground on a Wednesday afternoon, and Mike Barwick the school wicketkeeper deciding, against all the rules, to stand in the net. Needless to say Mike Smith over-rotated in trying to hit a pull shot and hit the ball straight backwards, between Barwick’s gloves and hit him at the top of his nose. Lots of “claret” stained the matting, a lengthy visit to Mount Vernon ensued, and the story that an inch higher would have guaranteed a fatality. This was the only time I saw Messrs Lee and Thomas lose their customary sang froid and ebullience.I never did find out who had the brilliant idea to issue eleven programmes for the School Fair to each of us, of which we had to sell ten at a shilling each for the school, and could do what we liked with the remaining programme.  We could also sell as many other sets of ten as we wished.  I think some entrepreneurs were formed that year.  In addition it helped get our income above £1000 within (four?), years of the school’s foundation, and gave us huge bragging rights over John Lyon School who had been trying for over fifty years to achieve it!  

f) In the Sixth Form we had to use a classroom at St Mary’s for some geography lessons, and we were astonished by the order and cleanliness.  Even the ink wells had ink in them!  However this image of restraint and decorum lasted only until it was suggested for our cricket team to play the girls at hockey. It was undoubtedly the most painful blow to my ego as a sportsman, (we lost badly), and to my body, in spite of all the blows being below the knees.   

g) Maths lesson with Mr Walker.  He took umbrage at Tyler’s attitude and sought recompense by throwing the board rubber, (hard!), in Tyler’s general direction.  Five minutes later Tyler walked to the front of the class to give Walker the rubber back.  Walker’s face went deathly white.  What none of us could see was that Tyler was bleeding from a nick to his forehead, and being the guy he was had deliberately let it run down his face and soak into his collar! As I recall Mrs Tyler turned up at the following day’s lesson with a senior master in tow, (can’t remember who), and waving the stained shirt like a protester at the barricades in Les Mis. Tyler, (and many others), could barely suppress their delight at this result. Did this have any affect on Walker’s career? 

h) Fifth year school house cricket finals, Abbots v Bec, attended by the Headmaster and Mrs Watson. Peter Lawson for Abbotts bowling sharp medium pacers. Batsman missed with a forward defensive stroke and it hit where a “box” should have been. Very loud expletive, of the type not used by nice guys like us reverberated around Northwood Hills. As captain of Bec I had the honour of sitting next to Mrs Watson. My eyes did not stray from the front for the next ten minutes, and nothing was said. After the presentations, and with a broad grin on her face she asked me to pass on her commiserations to the pained batsman. Geoff Lee was not as generous.   

John Rosser came across this article:

In the summer of 1976, John Hawley took his First Form rugby squad to Satterthwaite in the Lake District (the scene of Mr Cahill's Deep Heat experience ). The team had made a fair start in the 1975-76 season for, although three games had been won to six lost, the points were only marginally against them (130 to 128 scored). Furthermore, the team had won the Hillingdon Borough U'12 Championship.

This was the first time St Nick's had entered the competition, and in it the team scored 124 points to only 8 against. Dave Josey at fly-half scored ten of the tries, including the winning one against Bishopshalt. The pre-season training camp, staying in the church hall, must have worked wonders for male-bonding, for the following season 16 games were played with 14 won, 1 drawn and only 1 lost (away to Reigate)! In total 576 points were scored and 102 conceded. Stephen Chung scored 144 points, Stuart Beck 124, Dave Josey 80 and Andrew Neal 50.

The team picked up a further trophy in the Borough 7's with 92 points scored against 12 conceded. John Hawley recalls how hard the team trained, even in the semi-dark, on frozen surfaces, and the fantastic team spirit. He would love to hold a reunion and urges ex-team members to contact him via the staff list on the SNOBS site.

For the record the team (6 or more first team games) were: Robert Anderson (Captain), Stuart Beck, Stephen Chung, Chris Hardy, Alistair Hardwick, Michael Hennessy, Guy Horchover, Adrian Hopson, Dave Josey (Captain v Ricky), Robin Jones, Gary Keegan (Captain), Andrew Neal (Captain v Northwood), Colin Reap (Captain), Tony Wood, Neil Wray, Ian Mitchell, Paul Maynard, Michael Gislingham.

I wanted to give you this URL: Chris van Kampen was a good friend in the same year as me. We performed together (with the equally famous pianist and music arranger Tony Hymas (in the year before me) and the lesser known Terry O'Brien - violin) on a BBC radio programme in our early days. Chris was a highly skilled cellist. The Obituary doesn't mention the fact that he was also the principal cellist with the National Youth Orchestra of Britain and performed the famous Elgar cello concerto when the orchestra played in Moscow. Tony Hymas was pianist and composer/arranger for Jeff Beck for twenty years. I wish I had had such talent!

(Message sent from David Olley)


Headmaster's Retirement


The Life Of Galileo (1965)

Visit to France (1957)