Tag Archives: Frank Hodgson Headmaster

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…

The Great School Hymn Book Robbery

The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery to date in British history and took place on the evening of 21st February 2006 from until the early hours of 22nd February. Several men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members and stole £53,116,760 in bank notes from a Securitas Cash Management depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

This reminded me of another famous robbery that took place in 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 because 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 meant 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 and I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork, which were lessons for the boys who were going to be working in factories quite soon and at which I was completely hopeless 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.

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 liked going to assembly and some of us hatched a plan to close it down. The plan was brilliant and simple, if the three of us 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.

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 was discovered in our desks and we were 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 our 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 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, and soon after he was caught and charged he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

The face of a Master Criminal – Baby Face Petcher:

A Year in a Life – 16th September, The Great 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 in 1968 and a tiny glimmer of hope because although I finished the third form in July still rooted in the fourth stream I must have done reasonably well in the end of year exams because when I returned in August for the fourth year I unexpectedly found myself promoted to the third stream.  This surely meant that I wasn’t a complete no hoper after all and someone had at last spotted my potential.  Significantly it meant that I might be allowed to take a few GCE ‘o’ levels in a couple of years time and I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork, which were lessons for the boys who were going to be working in factories quite soon and at which I was completely hopeless because the only things I ever completed were a wonky wooden tray and a bent metal fire poker, neither of which were suitable for their intended purpose.

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

The Dunsmore School Great Hymn Book Robbery wasn’t quite on the same scale of the 1963 Great Train Robbery but this is what happened:  every morning the school had an assembly and as we all trooped in lines into the main school hall we would collect a hymn book from cardboard boxes on a table by the entrance and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again.  No one liked going to assembly very much and some of us (me, Mick Kowell and Simon Howells) hatched a cunning plan to close it down.  The plot was brilliant and simple, if the three of us 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 and it would be even more brilliant if we took two hymn books each every day.  Actually, to be honest, 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.

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 was discovered in our desks at the back of the class and we were called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves.  The Headmaster 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 schoolboy 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 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 double underpants and a pair of speedos for extra protection 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, and soon after he was caught and charged he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

The face of a master criminal…

 

A Life in a Year – 15th August, Academic Achievements

When I was a boy I rather liked going to school even though for many years my academic achievements were quite poor.

At Hillmorton County Junior School the Headmaster was Mr (George Edward) Hicks who was a decent sort of chap but he never seemed to take to me and in days when favouritism was acceptable I found him to be quite unsupportive and he wrote me off at an early stage as being a bit of a no-hoper and advised my parents to buy me a pair of clogs and prepare me for a long dull working life in a factory, as he was certain that I was destined to be one of life’s academic failures.  For slow learners there was no such thing as special educational needs or additional support mechanisms and the class was set out in a strict hierarchy with the fast learning favourites at the front getting all of the attention and the dimwits at the back making table mats out of raffia.  I suppose I would have found myself about two thirds back from the blackboard.  I was a late developer!

I never made much impact at school and casually ambled through four years of education, three times a year at the end of each term taking home a disappointing school report and enduring a lecture from dad on how I had to work harder because one day I would be taking the eleven-plus exam.

The eleven-plus established a tripartite system of education, with an academic, a technical and a functional strand. Prevailing educational thought at the time was that testing was an effective way to discover to which strand a child was most suited. The results of the exam would be used to match a child’s secondary school to their abilities and future career needs but the exam became a fiercely competitive annual scramble with parents pushing hard for their children to pass the exam and join the elitist group going forward to the stuck-up grammar schools.  Sure enough in 1965, as predicted I failed my eleven-plus in Spring and was sent to secondary school in September in the bottom grade at Dunsmore School for Boys (now Ashlawn School).  For me, life at secondary school didn’t get off to a brilliant start and in my first year I was in form D.  To put that into perspective that is form D out of A to D; A and B were grammar streams, C were the hopefuls or maybes and D were the hopeless and the write-offs.  A and B studied Latin and Grammar and joined the chess club and D did metal work and wood work and smoked Players No. 6 behind the bike sheds.

Just as at junior school I was hopelessly misunderstood by the teachers so these were not happy days.  I fell in with the back of the class trouble makers and consequently made zero progress in my first full year and was doing best in report book entries and detentions.  I’m afraid I just didn’t find school very stimulating and I was about to set out on frittering away what might otherwise have been five productive years.  I wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy school, just that I found it a bit of an inconvenience.  Not as bad as my sister Lindsay however who when she was fourteen went down with the longest recorded case of tonsillitis in medical history and stayed off school for eighteen months until they told her not to bother going back.

I managed to make my way through nearly five years without making much improvement and then sometime in 1970 the penny dropped and I suddenly started to do a bit of work.  In June I sat nine ‘o’ level exams and passed six (failing all of the science papers) which was a bit of a shock for just about everyone.  Not particularly wanting to go to work at this stage and much to the irritation of the headmaster, Frank Hodgson, I exercised an option to stay at school and go into the sixth form to study ‘A’ Levels.

I was on a roll now and the Maths teacher, Mr Wilson, was even determined that I would pass my maths exams so I had another couple of attempts at ‘o’ level before he had to admit defeat and I took the alternative CSE exam which I passed at grade 1, an ‘o’ level equivalent.

It was a complete turnaround in approach to school and learning and soon I became determined to go to University which meant I had to pass all three ‘A’ levels with good results.  I took the exams in June 1972 and on 15th August received the results, I had passed them all, B,C,C which meant that later that year I would be off to Cardiff University and work was postponed for another three years.

Mum and dad burnt the clogs!