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Farnborough Grammar School

Prospect Avenue, Farnborough, Hampshire

Telephone : Farnborough 539

Christopher St. John (Memories) - 1957 to 1964

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“The hum of pleasured industry is, welcome, but idle noise and senseless chatter is unwelcome and ill mannered.”

Hard to remember, although I wrote it many times for the art teacher [E.J. Foster] - who seemed over keen on giving lines. However, he did have a great copy of the painting (Salvador Dali) of Christ on the Cross over the entrance to the art room. I always admired that and was stunned when I saw an original placed similarly at the museum in Glasgow many years later.

It seems we (me and Malcolm Knight) were far enough apart that we never encountered each other. Between us you might remember Terry Friezegreen, David Brimelow or Glynn Roberts. Terry graduated at the Royal School of Mines (Imperial College) two years before me and had his first job at the {notorious) Bouganville mine opened in Papua, New Guinea. David died of asbestos poisoning after working for years in early nuclear plants. Glynn went to Cambridge to study mathematics. Graduated in two years as “Senior Wrangler” and joined the faculty.

Since you were into athletics you may remember Brian Hogg. I recall the staff at athletics events rushing away as he threw the javelin much further than expected.

I believe I was in the first group to occupy the new science block. Chemistry was no more interesting and I recall furtively creating at least one small explosion to liven matters up. Physics (with Colin Wilson) was more interesting - hence the Wimshurst Machine. I appreciated Applied Mathematics best and my career was all about numerical modelling, latterly with US and French engineering software companies. Great to have met, and sometimes collaborated with, some of the pioneers from around the world.

Numerical Modelling? At Imperial College it was focused on Rock Slope Stability for mining. In the US (1976 - 1986); it was mostly related to High Level Nuclear Waste Isolation, but also deep missile basing and the new Metro for Los Angeles. Back to the UK in 1986 I worked on the safety of the new transporters for nuclear warheads. Very tough project that caused us to camp out at Harwell and spend much time on their Cray super computer.

I retired at the end of 2020 after almost 30 years in the engineering software business.; I ran the European and the Asian operations of MacNeal Schwendler (later MSC Software) before moving to ESI Group as Head of Asia and then global sales, based in Paris.

My parents moved to Bedford immediately after I finished school at FGS. I have a vivid memory of looking out of the kitchen window of their home and at the row of houses behind. I told my mother “I don't want a life like that”. It has been very different - taking me to most parts of the world. As a child I thought China was fascinating and got to go there almost 100 times over the past 20 years. Living in Tokyo for ten years was the best experience.


Christopher St. John : September 2021

Note by Malcolm Knight. I remember the names in paragraph three especially David because we were in and out of each others’ houses on a regular basis and Terry Frieze Greene because our fathers worked alongside each other at NGTE Pyestock.

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