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I was as at FGS from 1966 to 1971 when I left at the age of 16 to start an
engineering apprenticeship with BEA at Heathrow.
My first year at the school wasn’t so bad as, despite Latin and French lessons started (which I hated), I could attend metalwork and woodwork classes which I really enjoyed. I can’t quite remember the name of the teacher in these areas (was it Pascoe?) but he was revered for having built his own house in Farnborough.
Then things became a lot worse in the second year. Because I had a good end of year result I was promoted to a higher stream which meant no more woodwork or metalwork but extra languages instead. Compounding this disappointment was the violent attitude of Joe Thomas (JT) who used to throw hard blackboard rubbers at pupils for making even the simplest mistakes. If memory serves I think JT used to teach Latin as well as lead the CCF. I remember having a rubber thrown at me hard for stumbling over reciting all of the many past participles of a Latin verb. This made me think the punishment for not turning up at lessons might not be any worse than the risk of injury from attending!
Attendance registers at individual lessons didn’t seem to be a great forté of FGS and I found I could quite easily miss any lessons I didn’t like (mainly Latin and German) and either pretend to be studying in the library or skip over the fence to The Grange next door (defunct military accommodation from the war) or walk up to Fernhill. Then, get back in time for the lessons I enjoyed. I became quite expert at this and nobody really noticed.
As for the CCF I would have loved to have got into “Masher Mansfield’s MT Section” but that was for the favoured few. In the end I got into the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DEA) section and out of the CCF for good. DEA was great. We rarely saw a master and more or less did what we wanted on Friday afternoons, instead of CCF, or even walked home early ahead of the bus.
Back to JT though and I also remember a couple of the lads at school (I can’t remember their names) started a “Joe must go” campaign. They arranged things like a “bonfire arrangement of desks and chairs” and a “Joe must go” message on the blackboard before his lessons started. The pinnacle of their achievement was when they painted the message in white paint in two feet high letters all over the CCF hut in the playing field! From memory I think the whole school was punished for that one.
Dear old Joe used to say in his Latin lessons that, in Ancient Rome, the crime wasn’t in stealing food when you were starving but in being caught. I think a lot of us put this into practice so he did teach us all that at least.
Mike Clarke - 28th August 2020