Updated 30 Apr 2010

Retford Grammar School

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Memories of RGS 1953-60

by Peter Burton

Peter Burton (at RGS 1953-1960) sends these Memories. Thanks Peter.

    Dear John,
    Here are some memories I have managed to bring to mind about my time at RGS. I hope they are of some use.

    I was a pupil at Retford Grammar School from 1953 to 1960 and I remember it as a very happy time. I remember being inspired by some of the members of staff, in particular by Duncan McNeil (who was tragically killed in a car crash while still teaching), Herbert 'Spike' Pollitt (who introduced me to the Crusader movement and the summer camps on Anglesey when it always rained and we ended up sleeping on the floor of the local church hall and who also allowed groups of us to play table-tennis in the attic of his house on London Road) and Howard Bartley. It was Howard who aroused my interest in theatre and in amateur dramatics, an interest which has stayed with me to this day.

    Of the remainder of the teaching staff one or two still spring to mind. JOHN ('Tash') ILLINGWORTH taught me mathematics but he also taught me to swim (not totally successfully as I am still a poor swimmer). I remember his shouted encouragement as I thrashed my way down a length of Retford Baths trying vainly to catch up with a sweeping brush which he hovered over the water in front of me while he walked down the side of the pool. He was also well-known for a punishment christened the 'bacon slicer' which was administered to the posteriors of miscreants with the edge of a ruler. E.C.('Charlie' or 'Coke')CHARLTON was passionate about the cricket field within the school grounds and had boys, willingly or otherwise, trundling up and down the wicket with the heavy roller on the 'rolling squad' or rubbing linseed oil into the blades of cricket bats in the 'tin tab' as a punishment for misdemeanours, although some boys actually volunteered for these duties. It was a sad day for him when it was decided to build new classrooms on the field. BERNARD('Bo')BEASLEY was deaf in one ear so boys were asked to 'come round the other side' so that he could hear them. He also prepared us for the future with the expression, frequently used, that 'life was full of more kicks than halfpennies'. Finally, REV.W.P.('Mac')McFERRAN entertained us endlessly with his tales of Troddles and Charlie Cash. He was always a firm disciplinarian so it came as something of a shock when, at his leaving ceremony in 1957, he was overcome by emotion and burst into tears.

    Of the pupils I remember, I still see Clive Webster and Derek Hedley regularly as fellow-members of Worksop Light Operatic Society and Mick Mills, who sings with me in Carlton Church choir. I also see Peter Ledger, David Casseldine, Jim Wilson, Richard Salmon and Les Russon from time to time.

    One particular pupil, whom I have not seen since I left school but who made a great impression on me then, was David Smith. He was much older than me, in fact I think he was a sixth-former when I started at RGS, but he set such a good example that he was a wonderful role-model for me and many others. He was an excellent sportsman, very intelligent and always available for advice and support.

    Having had my interest in drama awakened by Howard Bartley, who was a leading local actor at Retford Little Theatre, I naturally remember the school plays. In 1957 we did 'Treasure Island' when I drew the short straw and had to play Mrs. Hawkins (the only time I've ever played a female character). Then, 'wonder of wonders', permission was granted by Miss Townsend for some of her girls from the Elizabethan High School to take part in productions and together we put on 'The Merchant of Venice' in 1958 and 'Busman's Honeymoon' in 1959. In all three of these productions my good friend Robert Burlington showed what a terrific actor he was and, for a while, he did work as a professional. Sadly, he died very young in his forties.

    So there it is, a few random memories from the past. I've not said much about education but friendships are what stick in the mind over the years.
    I hope this is of some interest.
    Best wishes,
    Peter Burton.

    Carlton-in Lindrick,
    S81 9DT

Retford Grammar School productions 1957-1959

"Treasure Island" 1957

Jim Wilson     Robert Burlington  ?  Peter Burton
(Jim Hawkins)  (Billy Bones)         (Mrs Hawkins)

                  The cast
      with Peter Ledger as Long John Silver

"The Merchant of Venice" 1958

Peter Burton (Gratiano)
       Simon Chislett (Lorenzo)
              Kenneth Marshall (Bassanio)
                    Robert Burlington (Antonio)

            The Cast
with John Pedley (centre) as Shylock

"Busman's Honeymoon" 1959

standing (l. to r.)
Robert Burlington; 
       Les Bignall; 
             Peter Burton; 
                   Jim Wilson; 
                         Derek Otter?

            The cast
From left to right but excluding the girls, are:-
 ?, Jim Wilson, ? Ken Marshall, John Padley, Peter Burton, 
       Les Bignall, Robert Burlington, ?, and Peter Ledger.

Form 5A - 1957-58
Back Row, L-R: ---, Michael FLEAR, Michael LUCKETT, ---, Michael MARSH, Bob WIDDOWSON, David NUTBROWN, Tony GAMBLE, David CASELDINE, Roy JONES.
Second Row, L-R:Brian SHERRATT, ---, Richard ALLSOPP, Ron GLEDHILL, John FOSTER, Paddy SLOANE, Michael BLAND, Roy KELLY, Mick VOLENTINE.

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