Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.


This is about growing up in Ilford, Essex in the Fifties and Sixties. The town has long since been absorbed into Greater London as the Borough of Redbridge. It’s based on my memories and is full of sweeping generalisations, some of which may be inaccurate.

It was written in a fairly random order but you may find it’s easier to read by starting at the beginning and working through in order. If you are looking for a particular topic see the Categories below or try the Full List of Posts from the Menu bar.

If you like what you are reading please share it with your friends.

Also, please look at my new blog

AUGUST 2019: After nearly five years I’m in the process of updating, correcting and reissuing all the posts. The posts were originally numbered as [1], [2], [3],… but updated versions have been renumbered as [201], [202], …

23 thoughts on “Home

  1. whacko!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Look out for Blog [47]. More to come on TV programmes.


      • Alan. Just ran across your blog.Love the Muffin the Mule pic. I’m a little older than you. I went to Fairlop and ICHS boys, and we lived around the corner from the latter on Emsworth Road. The blog brings back soooo many memories and I have questions about whether some things/organizations still exist. I would love to talk/correspond with you. How can I do that?


      • Hi Alan, it seems every time I revisit your Blogs I it brings back more memories of my schooling at ICHS and how it was growing up in Ilford in the 50s and 60s. Like a number of other people I would like to actually get in touch with you and swap war stories. I graduated from ICHS in 1960 and suspect you graduated a couple of years later — possibly in 1964 judging of your WordPress ID (Alan0001946). I too did chemistry, physics, pure and applied maths with the same teachers: “Wild Bill” Rigby, Gat and Tonk, sadly, the name of my chemistry teacher has faded into the mists of time . . . And interestingly, I read most of the same books as you as I devoured the science fiction section of the library — though in the first form, the “Biggles” books by Captain W.E. Johns — a series about a WW2 fighter – was what sparked my love of reading and converted me from a pedantic word decoder, into a ‘speed reader’.

        If you every do feel inclined to make a more personal contact, I am sure you can access my email via WordPress, or leave me a reply. Perhaps we can meet sometime when I am in the U.K. visiting family. (I currently live in Oregon in the Western USA)



    • Whack-o! coming in next blog


  2. Good site you have here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have enjoyed reading this. I was at ICHS at the same time as you but I only survived 2 to 3 years. During my dreadful time there I was the subject of Pinheads bullying tactics and he ruined my life. It took yoears of help to get over what he did to me.


    • I was at ICHS from 1955 to 1960. I remember Pinhead saying one day that during the war he had been a Spitfire pilot and he would always shoot enemy aircrew who had baled out and were coming down by parachute. I’m pretty sure that is a war crime and just about sums him up.


      • I was at ICHS from 1953 to 1960 — I think 5 years ahead of you Alan. Interestingly I remember several of the teachers — who could forget “Gat” Taylor — the headmaster was less memorable . . . possibly a Mr Kenwood — but memory fades with age. Bill Rigby was the Upper Sixth Form Master when I went through.

        The school had a very strong Liberal/Fine Arts focus when I entered in ’53 — and as a Chemistry and Physics enthusiast I was definitely one of the “lesser beings” until the launch of Sputnik changed the world and suddenly the pleds became the “Golden Children”.

        When I was there we has only A, B, C and D classes in each year and about 700 boys in the school. I sat resolutely at the lower end of the B class throughout my school career — in part (as I know now) because I was ADHD .

        While I was no the world’s best student and would never had won a “most likely to succeed” awards, the grounding I got at ICHS has stood me in good stead and, by any standards, I have had a most amazing life. It too a few years — but I earned a Ph.D at age 42 — in part thanks to those deadly Latin classes from the elderly Mr. Lowe — since I was studying graduate level neurosciences with no biology or Anat and Phys background whatsoever — but the long buried and much hated Latin classes came to my rescue.

        So I have mixed memories of ICHS, of the pleasures of the Chem and Physics labs, the deadly monotony of studying “Macbeth” for FIVE consecutive years. But the bottom line is that, compared with my peers, to this day I have an extraordinarily broad and deep general knowledge base, excellent problem solving and critical thinking skills — and the residual social ineptitude that goes with being in an all male environment throughout my “formative” years.

        Thanks for sparking the memories Alan.


      • With eyesight like his I doubt he piloted anything more demanding than an Imperial typewriter.


      • Pinhead was an arrogant bully. The bullying disguised inability. As a teacher he was rarely more than one page ahead of boys in the textbook.


      • Geoffrey Brooks. We should have been in the same year at ICHS — I left in 1960. I remember Stephen Brooks who used to live on Coventry Road — but not a Geoff . . . . .


  4. Idly “wasting time” on the computer came across your blog – you seem to have finished with this now – and it brought back many memories. I suspect I must have been two or three years ahead of you but the names of the teachers were mostly very familiar; odd to think that I left ICHS over 50 years ago but your reminiscences made it al seem as if it was yesterday


  5. I was at ICHS 1945-1952 but many of the masters whom you mention were there when I arrived. In some cases they had just returned from the War. In those days it was very common for a teacher to join a school straight from university and to stay until retirement.


  6. Hi
    Cannot believe that I just found a picture off Highlands School with me in the photo – and such lovely memories of the school – and the lifestyle – that I too remember so very well. I remember many of the pupils but not your surname. It’s a pity really that my mother insisted on a stupid bow in my hair for the school photo though. Well done on such great memories on a time gone by BUT – a time that would serve many people well now!!! The culture, discipline and empathy that is so sadly lacking in this day and age.


  7. Alan thank you for telling me about your blog.
    Absolutely fascinated by it.
    Totally different life experience to mine. I am dyslexic when it wasn’t recognised but not thick as most teachers assumed.
    Passed the 11 plus to everyone’s surprise (it was an intelligence test and that was no problem)
    Always bottom of the class but later on found I had an aptitude for science eventually got a degree in 69. Always have had friends and loved the social side of work.
    Must try and write my own blog.
    Thank you for the inspiration


  8. Your blog has been very helpful! I found you after trying to visualize a parrafin heater, while reading Barbara Pym. I live in Nebraska, USA, born in the 60’s and never been to England, so your discussion about household heating was very helpful and interesting. It seems I have a new rabbit hole to go down!


  9. I grew up at the bottom end of Tomswood Hill and attended ICHS from 1956 to 1963.. I went to Fairlop primary school and remember that my great grandmother lived in one of the cottages opposite Colvin Gardens. The house she rented (where my mother was born in 1917) was not equipped with electricity and she was illiterate, so she called me in to read the labels on her food cans. I also remember she had an accumulator-powered radio set and that I once had to fetch an exchange battery from a shop opposite the former Barkingside village school.
    I well remember most of the teachers at ICHS and how I detested football and particularly cricket. I finished up taking A level languages and have lived in Basel, where I worked as a translator, since 1967.
    I think your estimates of prices in the fifties and sixties are somewhat too low. A haircut cost around 2/- (10p) and a pint of beer roughly the same. My father purchased our council house in 1954 for around £700 (I recently saw it on the market, priced at £450,000).


  10. Hello Alan, I’ve come across your blog a few times and I enjoy coming back, reading a bit more about your memories of Ilford (and life). I run a social media channel called Ilford Retro, research for which was the reason why I found your page in the first place. With Ilford Retro I look back at family photos of Ilford from the recent past (last 40 years) and create Youtube videos of each with some information on what we’re looking at. You may find it a nostalgic walk down memory lane, and if you wish to find out more, just type in ‘Ilford Retro’ on Google. Keep up the good work and thanks for filling in some history for me. Rod.


  11. Rod. Interesting to find you here! I found your IlfordRetro pages a few weeks back and enjoyed going through it. Sadly much of it is too recent for my memories which are largely from the 50s and 60s. I did see the page with C&A at the site of the old Super Cinema — a “bomb site” in my childhood days — and later the site of a store called Moultons — where I bought a blanket made of a fancy new material called “Dupont Dacron” (polyester) in 1967 – – – it is still in use to this day 53 years later.

    Alan — thanks for continuing and updating your blog — it has made me more determined to visit ICHS once the COVID madness is over and I can travel back to the UK.


  12. Hallo Alan.
    I was a pupil at the County High from 1953-1958. I was what is known as an under achiever. There were quite a few of us. I hated every moment I was there, apart from when I was playing football. I don’t know how I passed the dreaded 11 Plus. The fact that I had German measles at the time probably had a lot to do with it. You said in your blog that you didn’t know whether Pinhead Bown actually hit anyone. Well, he nearly knocked me senseless. It was in my first year. I was just under five foot tall, buck teeth, a bit tubby with NHS glasses. I failed to put my name on test paper. For this he hit me so many times around the back of my head he knocked said glasses off and left me slumped over the bench. The humiliation of crying in front of all the other boys was awful. In the the fifth form I had the ******* again for general science. On the first class he clipped me round the ear. I was now not under five foot tall, but quite fit. I leapt up with my fists raised – and he physically shrank. I said quite loudly that that would be the last time he would ever lay a hand on me. And he never did. But, I put no effort into my science education. Thus another failed ‘O’ level. I went through second to fifth form in the D stream. Three ‘O’ levels. Didn’t get my name on one of the wood panels in the Hall.

    Some other teachers whose names I recall – ‘Gaffer” Thorpe, English. Jack Skinner, geography. ‘Nobby’ Noakes, woodwork. Bell, (somewhat suspect), R.I. Webb, Drake, Painter (?) P.E. Nancarrow ? Chapman, maths. (caned me). Young, economics. Gregory, physics ? Rigby, maths. Mitchum, music.

    All the experiences and relative failure at school perfectly equipped me to be a top candidate for every useless, pointless, boring job in some dreary office in the City. £5.10s plus luncheon vouchers. ‘You don’t know how lucky you are, son.’ At some stage I realised that education and learning are two totally different things. To break the mould I joined the Royal Engineers. Eleven years later, a sergeant, I bought myself out and unleashed myself on the unsuspecting world of commercial printing. And guess what. I became a success. Since the age of twenty I have had a really interesting life. I now live in Ireland with my lovely wife. I don’t have a clue as to why I thought that you might find this interesting. I’ll quit before you lose the will to live.

    Best wishes,

    Gary Barwick


  13. Hi Alan
    Thank you for taking all the time it must have taken to write your blog on growing up in Ilford in the 1950s and 60s. So much of it resonates with me, an Ilford boy a few years younger than you.
    Funnily enough, I knew an Alan who grew up on the Cathedral estate, like you. Alan Lawson, elder brother of David who was in my year at Highlands Primary School. And it the League winning football team which led to us joining Westwood Rangers.


  14. Dear Alan
    I grew up in Weybridge, Surrey in the 60s and I love your blogs about life at that time!
    I have lived in the US since 1982 and found your blog since my husband and I were talking about paraffin vs kerosene heaters!! That reminded me of very cold mornings in my house in Croydon where I would have to light a paraffin heater and rush back into bed until it warmed the room! How times have changed. My children have always taken a warm house for granted. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.
    Best regards- Janet


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