MR. REG WOOLFORD (1924 - 1929)

(Extracts from a conversation held on 22nd March 2000)

I joined the school in September of 1924 when I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a chorister. At the time I joined the school in 1924 there were, I think, about 72 boys all told, including 20 choristers.

The school then was in what is now the gymnasium. There were three classrooms there in the main hall and there was also a classroom in the little side room, which later became the li-brary. There was also a classroom in the Cathedral library, which was reached by climbing up some spiral stairs. I think the sixth form were there, and also round about that time, about 1925, we used several rooms in Paddock House. One very small room and another room which was used by the Headmaster, the Revd Gillespy, as, I think, his dining room.

Over the years, 1925-26, the numbers increased and so the extension in Pitt Street was built. I can't remember the actual opening time but I think it must have been 1927. [It was] a very nice extension with some up to date classrooms.

I have very strong memories of the various boys who were fellow pupils with me and quite a number of those boys made a name for themselves in various walks of life. I think particularly of fellow chorister Neveille Cook. Neville became later organist at Hereford Cathedral. I also think of various old boys who took Holy Orders. A particular friend of mine was Ken Williams who at quite a young age became vicar of Stroud and in later years was vicar of Walton on the Nase. There are the Biddlecombe brother who lived out at Hartpury and I think their sons went to the King's School. One also thinks of Janvrin whose father was the vicar of All Saints Church in Gloucester, incidentally his son is now the secretary to Her Majesty the Queen. John Lyle was a bit of a rascal when he was at school, he took Holy Orders and now at the age of 80 is doing a full time job as an Roman Catholic priest in Perth, Australia. Mention of Lyle reminds me of the close ties that existed between a number of the old boys and I still keep in contact after all these years with John Lyle who phones me 3 or 4 times a year.

When I think of my days at 'Kings' I always think of the masters, always respected, always called "Sir". When I joined the school we had a number of masters who were minor canons at the cathedral. I think it all went with the job. I think of Revd Armstrong, Revd Field who later be-came vicar of Hartpury and then went to a little village on the Cotswolds. There was dear old Mr. Noott who was connected with the school for many, many years, in fact he was Headmaster for a time. I well remember him coming. He came from a church in Malvern. We had a sports master called Browning who died young, in 1932 I think. He was a very well respected master and a very good sports chap. We also has a master called Pickles who was well respected and as far as the choristers were concerned there was an assistant organist called William Mynay who was a bit of a railway buff and he was very friendly with the choristers who had similar sorts of interests. He left in 1928 and went to Wigan where I think he was organist for many years at the parish church.

When I became a pupil at the school in 1924, the Headmaster was Canon Gillespy. He had not long been appointed to the post. He was a real good Headmaster, very fair. He remained Headmaster until, I think, 1932 and then in his retirement went to live at Ashleworth where he was the incumbent at the Parish church for many years. I often used to see Canon Gillespy in Westgate Street. He used to come in several times a week and as I worked in Westgate Street, I was always walking about the area. He would always stop and have a chat and was always inter-ested in old choristers especially.

Amongst the various subjects that we were taught I well remember trying to master Latin, Algebra, Arithmetic, French, History and Geography. I remember the Latin classes because they were taken by the Revd Armstrong. Even to this day, it's turning the clock back, I can still recite one of the declensions: mensa mensam mensae mensae mensa mensae mensae mensas mensarum mensis mensis, and that's good, isn't it, for turning the clock back all those years!

Now I am reminded about discipline especially when I hear so much about indiscipline in schools. The Headmaster and indeed all the masters at the school where very strict on discipline. We had to wear hats or caps and woe betide the boy who was found walking in the street without a cap and of course if ever we passed a master we always had to touch our caps as a matter of respect, something which has long since gone by. If one didn't do well with one's particular subject, there was also a certain amount of corporal punishment brought into being. So many stripes of the cane usually administered by the Headmaster. Whether this was right, I don't know, but it did give one the sense of having to do one's best the whole time rather than having to face three or four stripes of the cane.

One is frequently asked when discussing one's school days whether or not there was any question of class distinction. I must admit there was a certain amount of class distinction between the choristers and some of the day boys, not all the day boys. One must remember that a lot of the day boys came from professional families, doctors, veterinary surgeons, solicitors and all kinds of professional people and obviously there was a sort of feeling, that from the professional point of view, "Oh, I'm a little bit better than what you are" as far as the choristers were concerned. But on the whole I did not personally have any difficulty and I still have close contact with many of the day boys who always stop and have a word, some of whom I mentioned just now and did rise to high office in their particular profession.

I have been reminded about the question of games. Sport was very much to the front. I re-member well we had a very good hockey team, football team and an exceptionally good cricket team. In fact there were several cricket teams and all these sports were played on what was the old Paddock. Now I see when I arrived this morning it is now unfortunately a car park and I thought to myself yes, many's the time I have played at cricket.

I have been asked whether I can recall any particular incidents during the time I was at school. I do recall very vividly an incident, which happened one Wednesday afternoon at a quar-ter to four, after we had been playing games. Wednesday was the usual school games afternoon. Some of my friends got over the brick wall onto the railway track and put some stones on the line to see whether they could be smashed. It so happened that the Ledbury train came along about ten to four and there was a little bit of a commotion because the train didn't crack the stones but was stopped in circumstances which I don't know but I do remember there was a hue and a cry after-wards about some boys at the King's School having tried to derail the Ledbury train. The boys were suitably punished in front of the whole school by the Headmaster in circumstances which I won't describe!

I have been asked whether I had a good education and I must answer yes. One thing that was instilled into all the pupils was that whatever you undertook or did had to be absolutely perfect. No sort of short cuts, do everything absolutely perfectly then you will get on in life.

I left school in December of 1929, my voice having broken and my parents decided that they would not keep me on at the school. In fact, I doubt whether my parents at the time could have afforded the fees being that I was no longer a chorister. I spent the month of January looking around for jobs, there were very few jobs about, and at the beginning of February 1930, I over-heard a conversation that there was a vacancy for an office boy, they weren't called junior clerks in those days, at an office in Berkeley Street. So down to Berkeley Street I went, knocked on the first door, which was a lawyer's office, and of course managed to get this job which I started on 11th February 1930, at a wage of 8/- per week and the hours of work were from 8.30 in the morn-ing until the day's work was done, which in many, many cases was 8.30 in the evening.

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