Scrap Book Project – The Dunsmore School Great Hymn Book Robbery

1968 – The great Dunsmore School Hymn Book Robbery.

At school it must have come as something of a relief to my parents that there was a little bit of improvement and a glimmer of hope.  Although I finished the third form in July 1968 still rooted in the fourth stream when I returned in August for the fourth year I unexpectedly found myself promoted to the third stream.

This surely was a sign that I wasn’t a complete no hoper after all and significantly it meant that I might be allowed to take a few GCE ‘o’ levels in a couple of years time.

I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork and Engineering Drawing.  These were lessons for the boys who weren’t going to be taking exams and were going to be working in factories quite soon.  I was completely hopeless at this manual stuff (I still am)because the only things I ever completed were a wonky wooden tray with loose dovetail joints and a bent metal fire poker that was completely useless for its intended purpose unless you wanted to poke the fire from around corners.

It wasn’t all plain sailing however, I was still a ‘back of the class’ sort of kid who liked getting into mischief and enjoyed larking about and in 1968 I nearly went just that little bit too far and put my new soaring academic status at risk.

This is what happened: every morning the school had an assembly and as we trooped in to the main hall we would collect a hymn book from a cardboard box and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again.  Apart from the members of the school Christian Society no one really liked going to morning assembly and some of us hatched a plan to close it down.

The plan we thought was brilliant and simple, if the three of us (me, Michael Kowel and Simon Howells) didn’t actually return our hymn books each day then eventually there wouldn’t be any to hand out in the first place and that would put an end to assembly!

Actually I have now revisited the plot and the thinking behind it and I have to say that it was most unlikely to have ever been successful, not least because there must have been something like a thousand hymn books and at the rate of one each per day for the three conspirators this would have taken two complete school years to achieve and during this time someone would have been sure to notice the slowly dwindling stock of books.

Actually they noticed a lot sooner than we gave them credit for and after a week or two, maybe a month, our stash of books (maybe fifty or so) was discovered in our desks at the back of the class and we were immediately called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves.  Someone, one of the teachers I expect, must have been snooping in our desks and I am certain that would now be seen as an invasion of privacy and an infringement of  human rights but this was 1968 so none of that liberal tosh applied back then.

He really made a terrible fuss about it and I remember thinking at the time that in my opinion he seemed to be unnecessarily over reacting to what was after all only a silly prank.

For a while it was touch and go, mum and dad were called in as well and expulsion seemed on the cards but I put up a fairly decent defence and my punishment was commuted to no worse than six of the best from Frank Hodgson’s garden cane and the sentence was carried out the following day, which gave me time to take the appropriate steps to lessen the pain by wearing triple underpants and thick trousers that morning.

It turned out that at the same time as our hymn book heist quite a lot of other school property was going missing as well and turning up in second hand shops all over the town and the headmaster suspected me of being the criminal mastermind behind the thefts.

Most of the school orchestra’s musical instruments went missing and eventually the finger of suspicion turned towards the Welsh music teacher, a nasty aggressive bully called Mick Self.   Soon after he was caught for this and other things (apparently his organ fetish spread to teenage boys) and he was charged, convicted and spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.  I believe he is dead now – good riddance!

The face of a Master Criminal – Baby Face Petcher…

21 responses to “Scrap Book Project – The Dunsmore School Great Hymn Book Robbery

  1. That was a great story, so interesting. I love to read about the esrlier years of peoples lives. You were a rather naughty boy but my goodness you were a great looker and I bet many a girls heart was broken before you finally settled down with Kim

  2. I dont believe a word of it… that such a beautiful boy could be soooo bad!
    ( Quite a wilful look in those eyes though)…. great story!

  3. This cracked me up. There’s always been a hint of that same mischievous boy in your travel tales as well. I’m very glad you reposted this! 😀

  4. I could curry favour and say that you haven’t changed a bit 🙂

  5. Brought back a lot of memories for me, I was at Dunsmore School for Boys from 1964 to 1968. I am now living in Western Australia (since 1988) would love to get in contact with my best mate in those days Ian McIntyre Dickson

  6. Andrew, My name is Nick Crocker. I googled Frank Hodgson for some odd red wine driven reason and found your blog. I was at Dunsmore from 1963 to 1968. I don’t remember you but in those days the year below were “untouchables”. Although to Mick Self, music teacher that you mention, I recall some boys were very touchable! Didn’t know he allegedly diverted school equipment elsewhere. I left the area in 1975 and lived all over UK but returned last year (2017) and now divide my time between Guilsborough and Andalucia. I have many memories of Mr Self. Do you recall some of the tyrant teachers – Mr Higginbottom (Geog) Mr Barker (Tech Drawing) Mr Leeson (Science). I like you was deemed a prat and careers advice was – Army or GEC. I left with 7 O’s and pissed them off then, after they wrote me off, by leaving and going to East Warks Coll of FE. Since then I acquired a professional qualification a Masters Degree and had a pretty successful career in financial services. I have some good anecdotes of those days which I am happy to share if you want to respond on nick@oldcrocks.net.
    Great memories
    Nick Crocker

    • Hi Nick, thanks for your contribution, I was there 1966-72 so I was three years behind you.
      Leeson was a vicious sod, he once caned a boy so hard it cut his arse to ribbons. The case went to court and as a consequence the right to give a caning was thereafter restricted to just a handful of masters. Plod Barker and Bernard Dunning were two of them.

  7. Nick and I used to cycle to school together from Bilton. Yes, totally agree with your comment Nick about Leeson was an arsehole but the one that bullied me equally was Billy Buxton the German teacher. He was a real sod, I joined Dunsmore from a school in Coventry at 13 years old. The class were far in advance of me and good old Billy would not accept this and rode me like hell, accusing me of just being lazy. Just like to make a comment of Bernhard Dunning who I had a lot of respect for doing woodwork. Fortunately I managed to keep out of the Report Book and the canings but I would like to hear about how much homework you all used to get, I ended up in tears in those days at 10pm at night still trying to finish. I’d like to have met Leeson and Buxton having grown up but I’m afraid I missed that opportunity. One last thing, should anyone know the whereabouts of Ian McIntyre Dickson my motorcycling mate back in 1967/68 I’d love to get in contact with him. Thanks for the memories guys.

    • Hi Ian, thanks for your contribution.
      On the other hand some were very good, I always liked Charlie Wright (Maths) and Barry Markham (English). I never came into contact with Billie Buxton because I didn’t study German.

  8. With a face like that you were bound to get sussed.

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