Wednesday 26th September 2012
The Durham Reunion Lunch this year was held in the Chequers public house in Churchill, close to Kingham Hill. Though some previous Durhamites couldn't attend through prior commitments, went the day well, if you'll excuse the quote, and it saw the return of other faces.
For the last four weeks, the Hill has been filled with the sound of 80s music as the houses rehearsed for this year's House Singing competition. The theme this year was 80s film music and each house picked their favourite song from the era in preparation for the competition on Saturday 12 October.
I was born in Zambia, and came to live in England for a few years after that. My most formative period, however, was spent in Papua New Guinea. I arrived there aged 7, with my parents, who were idealistic teachers, and my sister, two years younger than me. My father went on to be national football manager, and founded a sports institute, but unfortunately my parents' marriage foundered and I came back to England for senior school aged 12. Life was then a very long commute between father and mother on opposite sides of the world during term and holiday time, until I left Millfield senior school to read Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College London.
I discovered Jesus as a 7 year old boy through reading the Bible and through C. S. Lewis' Narnia stories, and my Christian faith is the most important thing to me, and the primary reason why I came to Kingham Hill. Not long after Imperial I was selected for ministry in the Church of England, and then spent a year working for a church in a very deprived area of Blackburn. This was followed by a year of travelling the world, working in such unlikely places as a Kibbutz in Israel, Jackarooing in Australia, and Beach Modelling in Fiji. I trained as a vicar at Durham University, finding time in my four years there to complete an MA thesis on C. S. Lewis, who has remained my pilgrimage's best companion as a Christian.
I was ordained in Canterbury Cathedral in 1998, and served a curacy in a parish in Kent. I met a lovely organist there called Hannah, who has been my wife since 2002, and we have been blessed with two children - Samantha (b.2006) and Benjamin (b.2008). Before coming to the Hill, I moved on to a wonderful six years as Chaplain, Head of Theology, and Housemaster as Magdalen College School in Oxford.
As to interests and hobbies, I'm afraid Headmasters don't get much time for those(!), but when I can, I play football, enjoy bridge, go fishing, and read as much as I can.
I came to Kingham Hill because I believe very much in its Christian foundation, and in the practical way that shows itself in helping children with a boarding need to have opportunities in life. My overriding goal is to uphold and maintain the vision of the Founder, and I think the next few years could be very exciting ones in the history of the school. I have very much enjoyed meeting the old boys and girls so far, and I think that relationship is a tremendously important one, which I am keen to develop and see flourish.
Reverend Nick Seward and daughter.
I was at Kingham from 1960 until 1965, first in Plymouth and then in Durham.
My father was killed in an RAF plane crash in Kenya in 1954 and at that time we were living in Malta. It took my mother a year or so to get us organized with a home in Ashtead, near Epsom, Surrey. She managed to get my elder brother Anthony and I into separate prep. schools in Leatherhead. She was concerned that without my father's male influence we would grow up as 'pansies', so she thought it would be good if we were in an all male environment of a boys' boarding school.
My mother took us round to various schools, but the only other school that I can remember visiting was Vanbrugh Castle, Greenwich.
I was looking forward to going away to boarding school. I thought it would be grown up and I had visions of dorm feasts etc.
I had two brothers, Anthony who was already at Kingham since 58, and John who started while I was still on the hill.
Model club. Left to right: Nick Thompson, Iain Helstrip, Mike Tadman and Mr James H. Woolliams (circa 1963)
I remember we were on holiday in Dorset, the summer that my brother Anthony was due to start at Kingham and there was the news in the papers and on radio about the Rohila. There was first speculation as to why they had not arrived and then further speculation that they had been 'run down' by a much larger ship. Suddenly Kingham was front-page news.
EXAM & INTERVIEW
I can remember visiting Kingham for the exam and interview and I know that the 'clincher' for my mother was Teddie Cooper. She was very impressed by him and was sure that with Teddie as Warden, Kingham would be the right place for us boys.
As money was tight in those days, my mother had asked the school if I could wear my existing prep school (Rowans School, Leatherhead) blazer. It was a similar blue colour and, very shortly, I would grow out of it. It was agreed that we would only need to change the school badge. We had to order up lots of nametags with my name, house and number on them. Many hours spent sewing in the labels into every item of clothing. I remember that I thought it was great that we did not have to wear a school cap. Very grown up!
It felt like a great adventure catching the train at Ashtead to Waterloo with my mother, younger brother John and Anthony my elder brother. Then the trip across London to Paddington station, and then meeting up with lots of other boys and their parents.
By this time, Anthony was an 'old hand' and went straight off to talk with his friends from his form and from Sheffield. There were masters to greet us at Paddington, but I can not remember who they were. We then said goodbye to my Mother and John before the train departed for Kingham. It must have been late in the harvest time and there were still stooks in the fields that we passed.
My first impression was embarrassment when I saw the Dickey Durrant paintings of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the wash-room walls. They were well painted, but it was not what I, as an 11 year old, was expecting from an all boys boarding school! Another initial impression was of the sheep grazing on the Plymouth rugby pitch. I could imagine what state they would leave the pitch in and would not clean up after themselves as a well-trained Kingham boy would. The house appeared to be VERY big, but we soon got used to it and found our own house to be very small when we went home for the holidays.
We were issued with army type 'hobnailed' boots very early on. I am sure it was to do with the number of miles that we would walk between Plymouth and 'Top School' over the next two years in all weathers.
Plymouth was run by the Rev. Wilkinson (Padre), his wife and the lovely Mrs. Knight. The Wilkinsons had a son (Martin) and daughter (Mary), they also had a great scruffy black & grey dog (Sammy).
I started in Dorm 1, which I think was the dorm that all new boys went into. Some of the names that I can remember from that time are David Earl, John Burgess, Maurice Gransault (from Guyana), and Peter Roziky.
I broke my arm during my first term, when we were doing handstands in the Plymouth gym. Another boy fell sideways and landed on my elbow. I did not know it at the time, but when I held up my boots for inspection, they fell out of my hands and Mr. Wilkinson could see that there was something wrong with my arm. I was whisked of to the infirmary at Chipping Norton and came back a few hours later with a plaster cast. It was quite an eventful term, as there was an outbreak of some illness such as measles and the boys in Plymouth were sent home early for Christmas.
Another impression of my early years at school was that we lived two different lives, one at school and another at home. When we were at school we did not think too much of home and when at home we did not think too much of school. I know that this was not the same for all boys, as the odd boy would run away.
A group of us decided to build an aerial ropeway, similar to what we had seen at the Royal Tournament. The upper end of the ride was from a large chestnut tree, the lower end was an 'A' frame that we had made from branches and was staked out in a field. Unfortunately, we did not have a rope long enough, so we had to join, which made a knot. We did not have a pulley to travel down the rope, but had found a metal ring that we thought would do the job. I cannot remember who tried it out first, but when it was my turn, it worked fine until I got to the knot. When the ring that I was hanging onto hit the knot, the shock must have been too much for the ropes that were holding back the 'A' frame. The ropes parted or the stakes came out of the ground and the 'A' frame landed on top of my head! It must have knocked me out for a few seconds and, when I came to, I could hear the laughter of the other boys.
Another adventure I had with the same group was to build a raft near the workshops out of old wood and oil drums from the farm. We carried it down to Sarsden Brook, and it floated! We could only use it on the weekends, and during one week some boys from Churchill took our raft and converted it. The new design looked neat, but was completely wrong and was unstable. They had the drums in the middle with the platform on top, overhanging the drums. We imagined that they got very wet when they used it.
There were many treats in Plymouth that we did not get when we moved up to the senior houses. I can remember getting cakes and cream, made by Mrs. Knight, and having tuck parcels sent up from a shop in Kingham that my grandparents paid for.
When I was interviewed by Teddie for my end of year report, during my last term in Plymouth, I asked if I could go to Durham house for my senior years. Durham was winning many awards in those days. The housemaster was Mr. Kingnorth, and it had the added advantage of being closest to the dinning room, top school, swimming pool, etc. I was lucky and got the house that I wanted.
Mr. Kingsnorth was a great housemaster and we were allowed to do things that I don't think other houses did, such a night sledging parties on 'Dancers Field'. We were told that we could take part, but we would have to be up and out at normal time in the morning. He trusted us and I would like to think that we never let him down. I wish I had met him later in life and had had the opportunity to tell him what we all thought of him.
Mr. Mann took over from Mr. Kingsnorth later, but I did not have the same respect as I had for Mr. Kingsnorth.
THE FISHING INCIDENT
Two boys in our form had been poaching fish from Daylesford Lake and having them cooked at school. Some of us knew about this and thought it would be fun to scare them with a letter from the police. We got one boy who was in the printing club to make up a letter heading for the Oxfordshire Constabulary. A letter was duly typed up on the headed paper and sent to the two boys. One of the boys was in Clyde and the other in Durham. The letters in Durham were set out on a table in the hall. A few of us knew the letter was on the table and waited for it to be collected. He then took the letter into the toilets to read it. We could hear the in drawn breath as he read the letter. Next, he was out and down to Clyde to meet up with his partner in crime to decide what to do next. When we thought we had maximum fun out of it, we told them that we had sent it .... and then ran.
THE MOTORBIKE INCIDENT
One of the prefects or monitors in Durham had a small motorbike hidden in the woods behind Seven House and would use it to go out on the weekends.
There was a story that one evening when he stopped at some traffic lights, he lent against a car to steady himself. He then looked into the car and saw Teddie Cooper looking out at him; Teddie then made his familiar hand gesture round his nose and did not say a thing. The culprit was summoned to see Teddie the following Monday.
CCF INITIATIVE TESTS
The CCF Initiative tests were a great idea, where pairs of senior boys were set a test to gather information from a distant location using their own initiative, and I think 10 shillings to get there, get the information and then get back in the fastest time.
I went on one with Tony Dee, brother of the late St.John Dee, which involved a trip to Northampton. Off we went 'thumbing' our way to Northampton, which took us very close to the recently opened M1 motorway. We thought that it would not take us long to go to London instead of Northampton (we both lived near London).
We had the luck of the devil by meeting up with a chap in the motorway service area who was taking an E-Type Jaguar to London. It only had one spare seat, however, but he had a friend who would be joining him shortly who was driving another sports car to London. With Tony Dee in one car, and me in the other, we made London in no time at all. We were dropped off somewhere near the North Circular Road and made our way by public transport to Waterloo Station. We split up to travel to our own homes and arranging to meet up again later that evening. The journey back to Kingham was not as quick as it had been on the way out. We got a lift from a very slow lorry that was taking broken glass to be recycled. I did know that they did such things in those days, but that is what the driver said. When we eventually got back to school the next morning, we were interviewed by Teddie. I am sure that he did not believe our made up story about how hard it had been to get lifts, but he let us off with it. That is the type of chap Teddie was, and why we loved and respected him. He knew that we knew that he did believe our story, and yet he left it at that. He knew that we had learned our lesson and that we knew we would not get away with it next time.
Nick in his 80% full-scale model of a Supermarine Spitfire.
Kingham Hill Association
Patron: Lord Adonis of Camden
Weds 11th September
Durham's Reunion Lunch 2013 was again in the Chequers in Churchill, with Ralph and Elizabeth Mann, Nick and June Bonnett, Charles Carter, who had a long distance to drive, Iain Helstrip organising again, wife Nicky, Nick Thompson, Tony and Daphne Dee, 'Westie' West, who energetically turned up on bicycle, not all the way from Kaliningrad hopefully, and Pete Rozycki.
The forecast for the day was 'cloudy but dry', and when John, Eileen and I arrived at KHS about 9.50, it certainly was that. John and I went up to our archive room where we met James and Margaret Woolliams, Alex and Katrina Mathers, Simon Briggs and John Hughes. Tony and Julie soon joined us.
For those readers who have registered and become KHSD members, you will recall that the last question in our short registration questionnaire we did ask members to complete was: The most memorable event was and thanks to Stephen Greeves, now we have actually been able to put some fact to this incident and it's now much more than a school boy's tale:
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