ALLHALLOWS at Honiton (1927-1931)
Mr.G.H. Gillett the headmaster’s assistant was at the station to meet the new arrivals, and I was introduced to about six boys, all of my own age. Mr. Gillett showed us round the School, and I remember reading on the notice board in the Quad. "The following have been appointed Prefects: - Biggs. Beviss and Corderoy - signed F. J. Middlemist". We were allocated to a dormitory at the top of Bank House, the lower parts being occupied by the very small boys, and were looked after by the headmaster's housekeeper and cook, the motherly "Ma" Bowden. On our first evening we had an informal visit from Mr. Middlemist (hereinafter referred to as "Middy") and were invited in pairs to his study on Sunday evenings to soak up a bit of culture in the form of records of the Alleluia Chorus and Master Ernest Luff. Of course, we politely accepted and listened rapturously.
I found myself posted, with some of the other new arrivals, to the Upper Third Form, in the corner of the Quad. Under the headmastership of "Middy" were Mr. Gillett, a rather aloof man but a very good teacher, who taught History, Latin, and the rudiments of Greek. He later met his death in rather mysterious circumstances by falling from a train; I never learnt the whole story - all I remember is the air of mystery one evening at Prep. and the duty Prefect coming into the School Room and announcing the tragedy.
Mr. H. A. Lee taught. French, German (an extra subject) and later on, English Literature. He became the Officer Commanding the O.T.C. after-Capt.-Rogers and Mr. Drowley left the Corps. Mr. F. A. Hatton taught. Chemistry and Physics, and Mr. F. L. Drowley - "Bertie", to all and sundry- was the Maths Master, I heard he had been killed in a road accident some years after I left. Mr. J. E: Campbell, "Cammy" was music teacher, choirmaster, and organist. Mr. G. S. Napier "Nap" or for some reason "Goat" taught English and Religious Knowledge, arranged sports fixtures, and umpired at cricket matches. Captain J. A. H. Rogers "Sweaty Ben", another old-timer and a very likeable character, taught Junior subjects and Geography. The Rev.J. W. Rodgers "Little Alf” was the School Chaplain and taught Junior boys. Mr. Welch "Winkle", a rather comical little man who wore pince-nez, taught History and Geography, and, with the Rev. Rodgers, refereed hockey. He was later succeeded by Mr. Porter, fresh from Oxford.
The Matron, Miss L. Wells, an aquiline and rather forbidding lady, was succeeded by Miss. P. M. Bath, young and blonde. She was followed by Miss Reilly, an ex-World War I nurse, very pleasant and capable. Matron's duties included issuing pocket-money (usually 6d or 1/- a week presumably agreed by parents and charged to the account), and postage stamps which often got used as currency to buy goodies for culinary operations on spirit stoves concealed under dormitory floorboards, many of which were conveniently loose.
That highly popular institution of Allhallows and indeed of Honiton itself, C.S.M.I. Harry Aggar was physical training and gym instructor, O.T.C. drill instructor (often seen marching backwards at the head' of the column), and groundsman. I understand he carried on looking after his beloved playing fields for the local authority after the School moved to Rousdon. I remember him being immensely proud to have got his son into the School, but saw little of Aggar Jr. as he was a lot younger that I. I did, however, meet him some years later when filling up at Helliar's Garage in Honiton and talking with young Helliar, by then also a grown-up local Old Boy.
Probably my biggest impressions after a week or two at Allhallows were the amount of free time, unorganised, on Sunday afternoons and half-holidays when no home matches were being played, when, of course, our support was expected; and the curious fact of being allowed to read at meal-times. These two things formed no part of the highly regimented routine experienced at prep. school. The only item of uniform was the magenta cap, which had to be raised politely to masters when met in the street. There were other caps worn by those with colours whose straw hats, appropriately ribboned, were worn in the summer. I remember an occasion when walking through the mile-and-a-quarter railway tunnel between train times one Sunday afternoon, when one of my companions lost his cap (with, of course, his name in it) in the darkness. It was found by a railwayman and duly handed in to Middy. The consequences can be imagined.
The tuck shop, run by Mr. Tucker the gardener, after the death of his wife, was well stocked with cream doughnuts and all the goodies beloved of the young; and Mr. Tucker must have had an awful time chalking up the "tick" on his blackboard during the rush of the morning break. However, as far as I know, debts were always honored, either at the end of term or after a windfall from a visiting relative.
After one term at Bank House, I was transferred to School House across the road (Housemaster Mr. Campbell). Here I eventually occupied one of the two single rooms. Mine at the top, and immediately below was the other, occupied by one Neil "Rosie" Ransford. He was a great radio amateur and his room was festooned with wire and gadgets. We became great friends and fixed up an extension with headphones in my room. We listened to the B.B.C. and foreign radio until all hours, and also found that we could file the extension as an intercom. No one ever noticed the twin wires up the Outside wall. Sadly, Rosie was killed in a road accident not long after he left the School, while waiting to join the RA.F.
My next move back across the road to No.2, long since demolished. This was the largest of the six houses (Bank, School House. New Buildings, White Hart "The Pub", and Webby's, a small house up the road occupied by about six senior boys were the names of the others). Our housemaster was Mr. Lee. There were several small rooms, but the house was dominated by the occupants of a large room known as the Big Dorm. They staged frequent raids (Mr. Lee's absences at rehearsals facilitated these) until the rest of the house formed a federation to terminate this nuisance.
Sunday evenings, delivered slowly, deliberately, and with much emphasis, were in total contrast to the Rev. Rodgers', which were rattled off in ten minutes from a script in a rather wailing monotone. I fear "Airs Sermon" Sundays were looked forward to with much more enthusiasm than Middy's. Nevertheless, Middy was a much respected Headmaster and a phenomenal classical scholar. He hated boys whistling, likening them to "butcher-boys" whenever he caught them. Mr. Napier was, I suppose, one of the most popular masters in any school. I never once heard him raise his voice in anger. He had a little Scottie terrier "Call-Boy" after a contemporary Derby winner - that some of us took for walks occasionally. On his key-ring was a dum-dum bullet taken from his leg in World War I. His limp never interfered with his many activities. Mr. Campbell was a benign old fellow and an excellent marksman with a hymn-book at his choirboys who misbehaved at choir practice. He wore large squeaky boots which precluded him from catching wrongdoers as his approach was always audible. He was, once heard t?" say "I don't mind ‘Cammy’ but I won’t have Cambo ".
Mr. Hatton was once the target of an unknown joker during a General Election campaign. The two main candidates were Sir Clive Morrison-Bell (Conservative) and Mr. Halse (Liberal). Mr. Hatton was, as far as I know, the sole Liberal supporter in the School and he rather unwisely sported an appropriate rosette. The anonymous jester chalked up the slogan "Hats off to Morrison-Bell. . . Hatt-on for Halse". The Tory candidate duly won the seat, and during his post-election tour of the Constituency stopped at the School and asked Middy for a half-holiday for the boys, and we got it too.
On Sunday afternoons there were no organised games so we roamed the countryside, pinched apples in season, rode our bicycles, permitted after the age of fourteen, sometimes over Yarcombe Hill and into Somerset. This meant quite a rush to get back for tea and chapel in the evening. We also swam in the deep pool in the river known as "The Pit", as only the elite were permitted to use the swimming pool on Sundays. A lookout had to be posted for this, as yesterday's pit-swimmers were often today's prefects.
The O.T.C., which was (in theory) voluntary after the age of fourteen, paraded twice a week; once with belts and rifles only, and once in rather ill-fitting Service dress with 1908 webbing. Personally, I loathed it, the winding of puttees which invariably came adrift at the wrong moment and the polishing of buttons; put me right off the military life. Our platoon sergeant was C. G. "Perce" Hardman, later a war casualty and D.S.O. He was a popular character and an excellent marksman, and also held the post of "Captain of the Baths" in the summer, as he was not much of a cricketer. He patiently taught us the rudiments of soldiering which gave us a start for future events. Owing to him, I was the only member of the squad able to answer two of the questions always thrown at recruits - "What is the weight of a pullthrough?" and "What is the Knox Form?' - much to the chagrin of a bullying N.C.O. during basic training in the summer of 1940.
I cannot say I excelled in sports, although I was in Mr.Hatton's 3rd XV for a while and played in a season in Mr. Lee's 3rd XI. We played against Exeter School Junior team, St. Albans' Lyme Regis, St. Peter's Exmouth and Mr. Fitzgerald's XI on the ground by the Belmont Hotel. The Easter Term of 1929 was noted for the absence of hockey owing to a heavy and prolonged fall of snow. This brought a heavy demand for toboggans, supplied by Dodd's, the builders, by the Junior Field, at 2s 6d a time, usually shared by anything up to six boys. The Glen and the slopes by the river were favorite runs. There werethree cross-country runs in the Easter Term, to Monkton and back for Bank House; the Junior run was extended to take in Dumdon Hill, and the Senior, about eleven miles, included St. Cyres as well. The latter was reputed to be the toughest in the country after Sedbergh and I can well believe it.
There was no Speech Day, prize-giving being the nearest thing. Other end-of-term features being cricket week in the summer, the variety concerts at Christmas, and the play at Easter. C. G. P. Hardman "Rustic Perce from Axminster" was a favorite in the variety shows, and Mr. Lee always was a highly convincing villain in such productions as "The Speckled Band" and "The Crooked Billet". Heroines were played by P. Brownrigg, another of my many classmates killed in the war. Middy's speech after the performances never failed to congratulate the actors and (twinkle) "actresses" on their histrionic ability.
The highlights of the end-of-term were the break-up tea - sausages and mash or raspberries and ice cream according to season, and the ceremony of "ticket-giving”, when we were issued with our rail tickets for the 7.39 next morning. An occasion when Virgil II provides an apt quotation - "Conticuere omnes, intentique ora tenebant…." as it was-Middy who dished out the tickets.
It has been a great pleasure to set down the foregoing reminiscences and I hope they will be of interest, not least to any surviving old-timers who may read them. I also hope that my "English Grammar and composition" may reflect some credit on those who taught me.
I was not one of the ‘Brighton Boys’, having arrived at Allhallows in the Summer term 1933 as the only new boy – a somewhat daunting experience, although everyone was very friendly and I soon felt quite at home.
The Headmaster was D.B.Briggs and I was put in Bank House. One of my first impressions was the wonderful sense of freedom after the confines of Prep. School life. Being able to roam over the countryside was marvellous. Then again, crossing the ‘Bridge’ to get to the main classrooms & playing fields, after waiting (for what seemed ages) to be escorted over the main road by a prefect or master.
In my first term ‘borrowing’ a bike to ride out to a friend’s house in Feniton, crashing on the way back to School for evening chapel and smashing the bike which I found to my horror, on somehow getting back to Honiton, it belonged to a prefect! Six of the best in my pyjamas from Dennis Briggs hurt but was well deserved!
Ronald Vacy (Lyle) (33-37).