Updated 6 Oct 2009

Retford Grammar School

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Memories of RGS 1955-62

by John Dernie

Pratt Cup Team
Winners 1962
John Dernie (at RGS 1955-1962) sends these Memories.
Thanks John.

    Dear John
    I attach a few memories of my time at King Edwards for your admirable collection. I got your name from an e-mail from Steve Barton and read extracts with great interest. I have not yet perused in detail the photos but expect to find some including the Dernie brothers - perhaps you overlapped with Ken.


    John Dernie

    JOHN DERNIE 1955 – 1962

    I went from the Abbey Boys School in Worksop to K.E‘s Retford along with Peter “Butch” Kenworthy, Bill Cooley, Joe Lane and Mervyn Platford. I was following in the footsteps of my brothers, Eric 1939 -, and Ken 1946 -. The former was a better scholar and the latter a better athlete as I was reminded by the various teachers who taught all three of us! However, I managed to end my time there as Head Prefect.

    I recall many of the teachers mentioned elsewhere.

    “Tash” Illingworth with his pedestrian paced bicycle (with occasional new tomato box to carry exercise books) accompanying us to the baths where on occasion he was known to chase, naked, those boys who lingered too long in the water. He also threw mint imperials at noisy pupils which tended to add to the mayhem

    “Maths” Jones, following a detailed calculation on the blackboard calling out “Check the logs, check the logs! We appear to be flying at minus 500 ft!”

    “Bull” Charlton, self proclaimed best spoken English man at the school and someone who required miscreants to stand on the desk and intone “Little boys should be seen and not heard. I am a very little boy and Mr Charlton does not even want to see me” I wonder if he lived long enough to see his beloved Durham cricket team join the county elite. He did see, with tears in his eyes, his much rollered cricket pitch complete with cross and daisy chain, destroyed to make way for new buildings.

    “Bo” Beasley whose hearing impediment meant he could not detect where sound was coming from. Hence his call of “Shut up that boy” whilst looking in completely the wrong direction.

    “Chemistry” Jones who once brought his collection of ancient wine glasses for pupils to handle and admire. A great act of faith by a first class teacher.

    Headmaster, John Gover, who said “Sounds like Physics then, Dernie” on hearing my A level results and “Sounds like London then, Dernie” on hearing my failure at “O” level Latin ( forced to do this along with all of 5J as a necessary entry qualification for Oxbridge). Thanks to McNeil Watson who recognised lack of enthusiasm amongst some of us and concentrated on the more ambitious.

    And, of course, “Mac” McFarren. Where to start! His regimentation of assembly with a clip round the ear for anyone who failed to take up the appointed place. His office or “Sanctum Sanctorum” where he had a collection of canes including “Whistling Willie” and “Weeping Willow” His inebriated, very late, arrival from the Railway Arms for the first lesson after lunch which consisted of the latest “epsipode” of Troddles and Charlie Cash as recounted to my brothers years before. His constant battles to prevent Worksop bus boys dashing across the then A1 to catch the 15.45 which passed near the school and thereby avoid the trail into town to catch the 16.15. On one famous occasion when Cyril, the bus conductor, who allowed him onto the bus step only, as Mac refused to pay, rang the bell, and threw him off at the Station! Finally I attended the Old Boys Dinner in my role of Head Boy. Mac, now retired, staggered to his feet and, mid way through John Gover’s report on the achievements of some Old Boys, told us of an Old Boy who was in prison in the USA on a fraud charge! (a story my elder brother confirmed later)

    Strangely my school memories are so much clearer than those of my time at London University. Perhaps a sign I enjoyed the former much more than the latter. I am now long retired from a career, mostly with ICI (remember them?) and enjoying that retirement near Chester.

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