Email 2004

Jeff Dukes

From: Jeff Dukes :
Date: Monday, March 22, 2004 5:41 pm
Subject: Almost Legendary late 1940s and early 1950s


I was a direct contemporary of Mike Gaskin at Clayesmore from 1948-53. Whilst "legendary" is not the term which would naturally come to mind, I do agree that it seemed like an oasis to those who had lived through the second World War. North Dorset was and remains a delightful part of England and I believe that Iwerne Minster remains the prettiest village in the country. Pocket Money in the Middles House was 1s 9d or about 10p and for that we could go to Shillingstone, Child Okeford, or Tarrant Gunville and get a Poached Egg on Toast with a cake and a cup of tea; we cycled there, of course. The return bus fare to Bournemouth was 1s 9d; the cinema was also 1s 9d (cinema was banned except for "special" films approved by David Spinney - Captain Horatio Hornblower with Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo being of "historical interest" to the boys). I'm sure David Spinney would have adored the series of books by Patrick O'Brian on the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars - not quite to the detail of Spinney's masterpiece - Admiral Lord Rodney, still the best biography around. A trip to Bournemouth required several weeks' saving the pocket money.

My circumstances were unusual. My parents had both died during the war and I lived with grandparents in Weymouth and it was obviously a struggle for them. When the Dorset County Council announced scholarships/bursaries for Dorset boys at English Public Schools in 1947 it seemed a hint which produced the Richard Attenborough film - "The Guinea Pig". A close friend applied in 1947 and was lucky to get offered a place at Sherborne School. I was a year younger with virtually no Latin knowledge so Sherborne was "out" but I knew someone else who had gone to Clayesmore from Weymouth - Johnny Taylor - in 1947 so I learned something about the school from him. In 1948 I sat the DCC Exam and was summoned to County Hall, Dorchester for an interview. This was with D. P. Burke, who seemed to think that I "was a suitable case for treatment" (in the phrase which became popular some years later) I have never regretted accepting the place offered and remain eternally grateful to Peter Burke for his kindness.

Yes, there was still food rationing. Yes, the school dormitories had their idiosyncrasies and the teaching staff could be termed "eccentric" in many ways. Many will remember Humphrey Moore's insistence on stripping the bed right off, with the punishment for failure being a cold bath at first bell (7.10am) the next day. Baths were a luxury and if you wanted a bath if required a high speed run when evening Prep finished at 8.20pm. Humphrey quite liked the cane and there were instances where his ardour produced some bleeding and he was greeted with hissing when he came into the old dining room for the next meal. I remember the odd phrases used in end-of-term reports and these seems indicative of the educational achievements during that time. Humphrey put on my report for the Lenten Term in 1953, when I was a Prefect in Middles House of which he was Housemaster, "I am not sure that he works hard enough" and this was my "A Level" year! The best end-of-term comments came from David Spinney. He had, I think, three stock phrases he used and one pleased my aged Grandmother - "A pillar of Church and State and a shining example of unimpeachable rectitude". I'm not sure she understood what it meant!

Thinking about David Spinney, his history lessons come to mind. I am sure that everyone enjoyed them; he made them so colourful and interesting and his introduction to American History which was our "O Level" speciality remains memorable. The peak of his method seemed to be the poems he composed and which we learned by heart. The Whigs and Tories poem had, naturally, two verses. The first began:
"Men of finance who looked askance at Royal power unfettered
Whose deep design in '89 our constitution bettered
Who weren't afraid to fight for trade with taxes that the Tories paid
and in conclusion brought, a German Defender to oust the Pretender
and drank his health in Port"
The second verse began:
"Parsons and Squires in their shires revere their Church and King
The Right Divine, the proper line.....

I think they drank the King's health in Sherry. Unfortunately, I don't remember the rest which is surprising since an Opinion Poll taken at the School in 1950 had a 95% bias to the Conservatives; the rest were spoiled papers, I think. That was the year the Peter Burke took the North Dorset seat from the Liberals and gave it to the Conservative farmer Crouch and Evelyn King, then Labour MP for Penryn & Falmouth tried to move to Poole and East Dorset but lost. Subsequently he changed parties and for some years was MP for Weymouth and South Dorset. Clayesmore was a staging post for senior Labour politicians on their way West to drum up support. They must have been surprised by the placards along the drive
from the main gate.


John Dukes (48 - 53)

Many thanks for your 'e' mail. I will include it in the next Newsletter (next December). I went to Clayesmore in 55 and my memories are very similar to yours.

I too had the Spinney phrase - I was a 'chapel fag' and to be a Juniors' prefect and my report started "Cheerful pillar of Church and State"! This rather confused my Russian father!

Best wishes and many thanks.