Updated 17 Sep 2011

Retford Grammar School

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Memories of RGS 1951-58

by Roger Kemp

Thanks to Roger Kemp for these memories and photos of school life, selected from a DVD-full taken by him 1951-58. Apply to
for enlargements
. Roger is now a retired Chartered Accountant, married to Carol, two children and four grandchildren.

Roger's memories

I have been asked by the webmaster for memories of RGS, in under (xy) words as a punishment for information passed to his wife Rosie that he was an under-age drinker at school. (see photographic evidence under “the roof expedition”).

The physical aspects, life and routine at RGS are documented comprehensively and extensively elsewhere on this brilliant web site so I am confining my note to why I owe such an enormous debt of gratitude to the lessons learned at school for practical and actual use in later life. But it must be said that the academic lessons, for example three years Latin, calculus, and a discussion about the square root of minus one, must also have had some application to somebody somewhere.

I was one of the last boarders at school. There were about a dozen of us in 1951, traveling on Monday mornings, stopping at various landladies in town, and travelling home on Friday evenings. Originally the school took in proper boarders stopping in the school itself.

The teaching staff was very HEALTH AND SAFTY conscious in those days (the early 1950s) and we were allowed to leave the chemistry lab. when there was an escape of chlorine gas from the fume cupboard. Also “Bo” Beasley, the physics master, dealt swiftly with the problem of an electric fuse constantly blowing. He inserted a 4” nail as a replacement fuse, which did solve the problem. It enabled him to continue his lesson, the one where he lined up 12 boys holding hands, the two end ones holding wires connected to a coil, and he then demonstrated the principle of the generation of electricity by passing a magnet through the coil. There were no fatalities so not a problem, we were all able to continue handling and playing with the mercury that was freely available.

Bo was not the best teacher in the world but was predictable. It was well known that for the mock GCE exams the exam paper he would set would be the previous year’s actual GCE exam paper. OFSTED would be proud of the success rate. He once tore up an exam paper he had set for a lower form and placed it in the wastepaper basket. This was duly recovered by the enterprising sixth form, stuck together, and RECYCLED to members of the lower form before the exam.

Whatsoevertheless Bo’s real talent was the ability to be able to predict the questions that the GCE exam board would be setting in the current years GCE examination. This saved a lot of us, including those of us who never really fathomed out theories about water being displaced, enabling us to get GCE passes in physics, and to also use this technique later in life to pass examinations to obtain professional qualifications.

Classes were broken up into groups to carry out experiments in the physics lab. I was in the webmaster’s team. An early experiment was to determine the mechanical equivalent of heat. We performed our task with due diligence and came to the conclusion that the answer was 744, which, as the true answer is 4.2, we quickly arrived at a second more considered approach. From thereon when performing an experiment we looked up the answer and worked back to what our measurements/readings should have been. This saved a lot of time and messing about, it is the normal one adopted in later life, and it also had the advantage of giving the team time to plan the then important things such as the manufacture of nitrogen iodide, the best time fuse to attach to fireworks in the roof over the headmaster’s bedroom and the bugging of the teachers’ common room. No RISK ASSESSMENTS required.

The next phase in my professional development occurred after taking GCEs in the sixth form when John Charles Havelock Gover, the headmaster, was our mathematics’ teacher. As “relaxation” after the exams he sent out teams into town to survey how many vehicles out of the total had the same number at the start and end on their registration plates. At that time the school was on the main A1 great north road so there was plenty of traffic. Out went the teams, very keen, with their pens and paper at the ready. The webmaster’s team had a more mature approach. We went straight to Howards café in the centre of town (sadly no longer there) and had a pleasant morning drinking coffee. We made up our results and yes, you have guessed correctly, when the headmaster worked out the theoretical answer we were correct to one place of decimals and the others were miles out. I have found this sophisticated technical approach very adaptable for use in the work environment.

Members of “the team” may have selective memory on the next item. The second year sixth form were suddenly given the privilege of being allowed to walk on the lawn at the front of school for the first time in the 400 year history of the school. There was a large bush/tree on the lawn. The team spent every break walking round this tree in the same circle with the specified intention of wearing a path out on the lawn. I cannot now think of the higher Milligan logic of doing this but, having spent a substantial proportion of my working life with a local authority, I would not rule anything out.

Along with many others I am sad that in the interests of PROGRESS the school has been closed and is not being used.

My final memory is on progress. Edward “Tedda” Brown came to school one morning (1950s) complaining that he had been kept awake all night by constant and repeated clicking noises from the cottage next door. The cottages had just had electricity connected and, with the novelty value, the neighbours had just spent all night switching the lights on and off.

Roger Kemp
2 September 2011

Roger's photos

01. Upper VI form 1958.

02. Form VJ. 1955.
03. VI form. 1956.
---|Jones|White|---|Nigel ***?|Blower

04. Bescoby house cricket. 1951.
05. Bescoby house cricket. 1953.
06. Under-14 cricket. 1953.
07. Bescoby house cricket. 1953.
08. School cricket under-14s. 1953.

09. Rear of photo 08. 1953.
10. Bescoby house football. c1953.

12 Jones|---|---|Blick|Davidson|Shuker|Jackson|Greaves|---|---|White|KMorris

15. Physics Lab.

43. Belfry classroom.
45. Chemistry lab: Hartland,
Wilshee, Brown and Palmer
46. Lady Goodwin opens the
new Squash Courts in 1957.
41. Cacoethes Scribendi 1956
(A club for writing to famous people)
42. Cacoethes Scribendi 1956
(A club for writing to famous people)
51. Room X in the Belfrey, 1956
"Cool Water", "High Noon" (by Frankie Lane)
52. Room X in the Belfrey, 1956
"High Noon" (by Frankie Lane) and "Unchained Melody"
14. The Rev. McFerran, second master
13. Impending departure of the Rev McFerran


----Anyone with more details for publication on this webpage, please email ----

Ian McIntosh  writes:
Dear John,
I hope that you are well (can you really believe that we are in our 
seventies?). I have been looking again at the Retford Grammar School 
website which you run and am delighted to note the updates. It is a 
real pleasure to read the accounts of school life and to have confirmed, 
incidents which one feels must have been elaborated in one's memory by 
the passage of time. e.g. the attic adventure which I knew about.
The rocket group reminded me that Trevor Randall and I made rockets and 
launched them in a disused sand quarry. One of these fine days I will 
write a piece for you! In the meantime I have some suggested additions 
to the names attached to Roger Kemp's photos. Some of them I am certain 
about and some are more tentative.

Kindest regards,

Ian McIntosh

B/R = back row. M/R = Middle row F/R = front row. All counted left to right.
Photo 01
B/R 3 Neil Robinson?
6 David Jackson?
8 Keith Morris?
9 Roger Greaves (later, Head Boy)

Photo 03
B/R 2 Bills?
M/R 5 Nigel  *******?
M/R  6 Sam Blower

Photo 04
F/R 4 Peter Gallaher

Photo 05
F/R 1 John Gallaher (younger brother of Peter - above.)

Photo 06
B/R 4 Robert Willcock
F/R 1 *****  Scott
4 Peter Barrett

Photo 07
B/R 1 This could be the same boy identified as "Croft" in Photo 12.
F/R 3 Peter Gallaher
4 Michael Chislett

Photo 10
B/R 2 William "Bill" F. Gallagher

Photo 11
B/R 2 Mr. Chandler? (English)
3 Mr. (later Dr.) Arnold (Organic Chemistry)
4 Mr Taylor (Music)
7 Mr Atkinson or Atkins. (Biology)
11 Mr Birch?

Photo 12
B/R 5 Davidson?
7 D. Jackson?
8 Roger Greaves
M/R 1 N. Robinson?
2 Duncan M. Scott 
9 Sam Blower ?
13 Ernest Gordon Gray

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