D.O.B – 19 July 1943
Date of entry to Wandsworth School: 1954
My mother originally was a milliner but when she married she packed up work and looked after my sister and myself. My father was a Lloyd’s underwriter up in the city. It was a private insurance company.
I went to Finlay Street Primary School, Fulham. and passed the 11 plus. The headmistress put me down for Emmanuel School at Clapham Junction together with 4 or 5 others of us because we usually got quite a few in there from our Primary School. In this particular year they only took one. It turned out the headmaster had changed and it was turning into a church school. I didn’t get accepted and my next two choices which were Westminster City and St Clement Danes were then fully booked so Wandsworth was my fourth choice. I must admit I’m glad I went there and didn’t get in at Emmanuel.
Beginnings at Wandsworth School:
When I arrived at Wandsworth School I didn’t see the playing fields, as they had just started building the new school. I was in Pitt B, the same set as Dick Moody. I have made a lot of friends through the Old Boys and the Lags lunches keep you in touch with people. The worst thing is you recognise the face but you can’t put a name to it.
When I started it was two years before the comprehensive and the new buildings were opened but once they opened everything was there. Although we had started off in a grammar section, which changed to a comprehensive our class was near enough the same. The new intake went into a comprehensive with an integrated technical section.
Subjects and Teachers:
I was good at maths. I suppose I was studious but I loved sport and I represented the school at 6 or 7 different activities. I finished up at the end being the school captain for swimming. I did rugby, cricket, football, athletics, swimming, basketball and I think that’s it. You had good masters there who were good at the sports as well and encouraged it.
There was H Raymond (King), Ben Clode, who was the maths master; Aldbury, the french master, little tubby Joe Ascher, the french master, George, a history master who put me off history for life. He just dictated everything, every lesson was dictation. You just had to write it into a book while he dictated. And I hated it and after that I hate history. The job I took up I had to take the exam on the history of architecture. It took me six attempts to pass it because I just hated history.
Joe Ascher the short tubby chap was very strict but he was a really good teacher. I found that with most of the masters at the school, that once you got to know them they were fine. Doing sports you got to know them as more than just teachers. Another one was Russell Burgess, he was a music teacher. I didn’t like music but they had a fund going to raise money for an organ. But then I got to know him through cricket and he was a good master and I got on with him well. The masters’ enthusiasm got through to the students and they all wanted to take part.
One who was very good was an ex MP, Sir Richard Ackland. He came and he taught maths and he actually got us through the syllablus a year early. He then taught us applied maths. He got the whole class through the O’ Level in applied maths in a year, then about 8 of us got through applied maths at A’ level the following year. So we did the applied maths to A’ level in two years. I think what it was – was every time he made a statement someone in the class would say under their breath ‘prove it.’ And he did. So you understood right from first principles how that formula or whatever it was, was arrived at. So it stuck in your mind as far as I was concerned.
At school the woodwork you were just given something to do and that was it. They used to give you something that you could have at the end of it. There’s a reading lamp that I made and a book shelf as well. Our woodwork master was Mr Hall.
My sister went to Mayfield. We tried to get a swimming competition up against them but it didn’t work out. I didn’t really mix with the girls at school.
The boys weren’t cheeky – just your odd bit of banter. Once I got past O’ Level maths and started to do A’ Level maths it was a new world, I couldn’t get on with it at all. In fact it was at O’ Level that you got a percentage, you didn’t get a grade, and I had the top mark in the exams in maths at 95%. But A’ level I couldn’t get on with it at all, it was a completely different world so I left at the end of one year.
In the early days I enjoyed practical things like woodwork, creating things. I did a bit of art; I liked geography and seeing different parts of the country. I have a horrible feeling we went to Box Hill or something like that. The only trips I remember were day trips; one to the Isle of Wight and one to the Norfolk Broads. One school holiday trip I went on was to the Olympic Games in Rome. That was an incredible trip. It was two weeks, we went by train with about a twenty-four hour journey but we arrived in Rome smack on time. We stayed in this covent/school, right in the middle of town. We had tickets to finals virtually every day we were there. It was athletics every afternoon, we had finals of basketball, boxing, and that was when Mohammed Ali was boxing. I saw him but I don’t remember him. Then there was fencing and rowing, it was an incredible trip!
Another master was Cote Bond, he was rather strict but I got on well with him. That’s how I finished up by swimming because he took the class. I had started swimming when I was at primary school. The school had very good results in things like the fencing and cross country. They always came out at the top in London.
I used to get there (school) early, to play football before assembly. Morning break it was football again, lunchtime was football or we’d go and do basketball practice. Then the afternoon break was football again in the play ground. After school I came home but when I was at primary school it was football all the time, including lunch time. You’d have an hour’s football, then run home have my lunch, run down the road then catch a lift off the milkman on his horse and cart and go back to school. We used to play after school as well when I was at primary school.
I turned to rugby when I went to Wandsworth. Rugby was quite amusing because it was the religion master who taught us the rules. ‘Dai’ Evans taught RI but we turned it from Religious Instruction to Rugby Instruction. That was when I first started the playing the game. It was the only winter sport. They didn’t do football in winter and it was only in my last year that one of the boys managed to persuade the PE masters into entering the London grammar schools 5 a-side competition. The boy got 6 or 7 boys that he saw in the playground together. Then we went into this competition and got through to the semi final – the group that won was the top school for football in London, so I hate to admit it but I was the first one to play in a football competition for Wandsworth school.
With rugby you just played different schools each week, there was no competition to get medals, you just had a record at the end of the season as to show how well you had done. It always seemed to be the under 15s team that came out as best each year. We were beaten once one year as was Emmanuel, so our master tried to organise a match to see who was best but they refused us.
There was one match where we had to go to the other side of London. We got lost and we finished up having to play a quarter of an hour each way and we won that match 30 points to nil. We refused to take the conversion because it was taking up too much time. I remember another time we played in six inches of snow and it was a bit nippy. Most of the games were played down at Beverley Meads on the Kingston Bypass because there were no playing fields at the school. It was a way of getting some exercise and having fun.
In the last year that I was there, the district relay swimming team had 6 members, Wandsworth provided 5 of the swimmers. Even though I was the captain I was the slowest. They formed a medley team with each person doing a different stroke. We were the slowest but when we got to the final we won and that was a big achievement.
Facilities at Wandsworth School:
The building was very good. I’m glad I went there, it gave you a chance to do whatever you wanted to do, and virtually everything was catered for. Sports wise it was unfortunate that there was no playing fields but then they bused you out for rugby to Beverley Meads, we had our own swimming pool and the new gymnasium was tremendous. Sport wise the school was well catered for and it had some good masters to look after the sports. I cycled to school everyday for five years. 2.8 miles because I didn’t quite qualify for the free bus pass.
In terms of Extra-curricular activities I was in the local scouts and local youth club. Swimming took up every Saturday morning in primary school and that swapped to rugby in secondary school. I don’t know how I did school work. As soon as I got home I was told to get on with my homework and I just did it. I passed 6 O’ Levels and 1 A’ level. The A’ Level was Applied Maths, and for O’ Level I did Applied Maths, Pure Maths, English, French, Geography and Art.
Friends and the Old Boys:
Thinking back although you got on well with people, I didn’t really manage to carry it on afterwards. It was really an uncle of mine who suggested I join the old boys. When I left school I started work straight away and was doing part time study and my uncle suggested that I did something so that I’d got a break from working all the time. He suggested that the old boys might be a way of giving me that break. When I joined and saw that it was an annual fee of 10 shillings a year or you could have a life membership for £5, I thought that’s 10 fifty pence, I won’t be with the Old Boys for ten years. But I went on to play rugby with them for twenty. It gave me a break from studying and now I’ve made so many friends from the old boys that I was glad I did it.
I started at the Old Boys in 1960 when the ground was officially opened in Woodstock Lane. I actually played for the school because they were short that day and then I started playing for the Old Boys. Of course they had the Pavilion; I never went through the hardship of having to wash in a cold bath. I was on the ground committee for a few years, it involved clearing ditches, cutting grass and looking after the Pavilion. It was a nice setting but it was the fact if we did have heavy rain it would have to be cancelled. They did have another pitch in Hampton Park and it was completely different, if it rained it was fine to still play, it just drained away.
There was one season where we lost the first three games of the season then we won every one after that. I’m not sure if your dad (Tony Watts) was captain that year or if it was Tony Berry, but it was a good season. I only played for about a year in the first team, and then I stayed in the second and third team.
I went on several Easter tours. Two were in Brussels and one was in France. They were good fun. The first one in Brussels we went to and we won the competition, I think Dick Moody organised that one. But because we won it we had to go back the following year to defend it and take the cup back. We took 15 players only, but I’m not sure if we won it or if we got through to the finals again. I think we got to the final because we said we don’t want to win it, because we don’t want to come back a third time. It was great fun and you meet people.
You’ve got the eccentric Old Boys like Chris Munton. But it’s all a good crowd and a very friendly crowd. I wasn’t one to be riotous, so if anything like that occurred I stayed clear of it. One thing I do remember clearly was when we went to Wales; for an England – Wales international and a game against a local side. Dick Moody had arranged this trip down there, and we went by coach to Neath and arrived late afternoon. We got to the hotel and the opposition, Cimla RFC, said “come and have a drink.” So on the Friday evening we were supposedly drinking with the opposition, but when we went to play a match on Saturday morning we didn’t recognise any of the opposition because it was obviously the second team that had been drinking with us the night before. The first team were all tucked up in bed, so they beat us at the game. Then we went to Cardiff for the international, and after the match we went to a pub somewhere in town with the Cimla boys. When the pub closed they said we should all go back to the hotel as the bar there would still be open. So we went back there, and I remember at one stage I thought I’ve had enough, I’ll go to bed, I’ll get a bit of fresh air first, and when I saw the pavement zig zagging, I thought I gotta get back! Fortunately I had a room to myself, so I got the key and went to my room. I remember waking up and thinking I better put the lock on, because if they see I’m missing, they’ll come and get me. So I put the bolt on and looked at my watch, and it was six in the morning, so I must have crashed out as soon as I hit the bed. That was about the only riotous thing I ever got involved in.
Bill Forrester. He was my captain in the first year I started with the Old Boys and he was all for open rugby. I learnt about Old Boys rugby from him. He and Murray Deards were the two that I started under. That was good and it was in the second team so the results weren’t as important as the first team – because it was the first team that was always in the paper. In the second team you played to enjoy the game and that was what Bill and Murray’s sort of philosophy was.
Other people shone in different ways. Dave Millen, he was our fastest winger but he had a nasty accident. I was actually playing in that game. He was tackled and he turned to try and break out of the tackle and put his knee out. People went over and as I approached I saw all his knee out and I just turned and walked the other way. Of course, as they picked him up to put him on the stretcher his knee clicked back in place, I think that is possibly what damaged his knee, he never played again. He was known as the flyer. We sometimes played in 6 inches of water and he used to fly over of it!
Your dad knew how to play referees. He would try something and if he got away with it, he thought that’s alright, the referee doesn’t play that so I’ll keep it up. Tom Boucher, they always said he had bad eyesight and he wanted a bell put in the ball so he knew where the ball was.
In my time there was nobody really outstanding, it was just a good team, a great team spirit. I think that’s why we went through that long period of being undefeated because the same group of people were kept together all the time and we managed to avoid injuries.
I played for 20 years until I was 38. I hate to think of it but that’s 30 years ago. One bad injury I had was when I broke my arm. I was working in an office where there was only three of us and I couldn’t hold a pencil. As I was in an office where you had to write and draw I had to think about giving rugby up. Fortunately it was the last game of the season! When you look at it now, I’m glad I’m not playing now. When you were young you were always told to play a sport and when you get to middle age you suddenly have all the aches and pains. At Ian Maclean’s 70th birthday a lot of the Old Boys were there and they were all complaining of the different operations they had had. If you had a hip replacement, which one it was, whether it was first, second or third.
I went into Architecture and got a job in an office and they gave me a day off a week. So I did a part time course where I did 3 nights and a day a week. It should have been a six year course but it took me 8 or 9 before I was qualified. I had an interest in buildings. My mum thought that that it was due to the nearby bombsite where 8 houses were destroyed. When they started re building, she knew if I was missing I’d be down there watching what was going on. She’d find me possibly dragging a spade to help them build the houses. I was only 4 or 5 then. She dragged me back and I’d get my bricks out and start building the same lay out that they had. She said that possibly that got me interested in architecture. When I left school, because I was good at maths, I was toying with doing quantity surveying which is essentially figures. I managed to get a day out with a quantity surveyor on a building site, then after that I thought I don’t wanna do that. So that’s why I went back to the architecture.