Remembrance of Things Past

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


[66] ICHS – Part Two


I have many more (mostly good) memories of my seven years at ICHS. While I will try to look at things roughly by years, I also have to look at specific topics and subjects, so it will be a bit rambling. Yes, I know, it’s always a bit rambling!

As now, the school’s curriculum was split into three chronological periods. I will compare things fifty years ago with modern day ICHS, where many basic points seem unchanged.

Curriculum for the first Three Years

ICHS now teaches the following subjects for the first three years: English, Mathematics, (General) Science, History, Geography, French, Music, Art, PE and Games. So far it’s the same as back in the sixties.

Spanish or German is chosen in the second year as a second language. Well, when I was there we all had Latin as a second language from the Second Year. Spanish or German came later as an option. (Not for me. I think I took Additional Mathematics instead.)

They also now have Food Studies, Design Technology, Information Technology, Philosophy and Ethics and PSHEE, none of which came into our education at any time. The nearest thing to Food Studies would have been Domestic Science (more or less cooking) a subject taught to girls only. (See [20] Sex Discrimination.) Design Technology and Information Technology didn’t exist as subjects but we had Woodwork. Instead of Philosophy and Ethics we had Religious Instruction or Religious Education (RI or RE).

Parents could exclude children from RI and from daily assemblies. Ilford had a significant Jewish population and about a fifth of our class had their separate Jewish assembly and religious education. No one then ever indicated any other religion or opted out of Christian (Church of England) teaching.

If you remember [60] Young and Innocent you will understand that Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (which I had to look up) and, in particular any education about sex, simply did not exist. Anything in these areas would be left to parents, who would probably say nothing.

[I have been juggling with possible timetables on a spreadsheet. I can make the First Year add up to 35 periods, as it must, but I’m not sure what happened in the Second and Third Years. We added Latin so somewhere we must have lost five periods. Maybe Art and Woodwork were just for one year.]

The First Year

We were the post-war ‘Bulge,’ which caused some problems. (See [46] The War) Until we arrived, ICHS had worked on a four-form intake but when we came they had to take six classes of 32. Initially, there was no attempt at streaming so that the first year could be used to sort us out. Classes were named from the form teacher. I was in 1J and I always assumed that Mr Jermy was in his first year of teaching. He was learning what it was like to be a form teacher. I have no idea what subject he taught!

(Some Facebook chat about ICHS suggests that Mr Jermy taught Mathematics, so he probably did. That means that he almost certainly taught us Mathematics. I can’t remember everything!)

They say that ‘boys will be boys’ and inevitably there were those among us who tested the limits to see what we could get away with. But Mr Jermy did learn to cope. We were more or less kept under control and we all survived the first year.

There were also other pupils who suggested that 1L was the class for those expected to form the ‘A’ stream, with the others being generally mixed. As one of the top pupils from Highlands I was disappointed not to be among those in 1L. It was said that Highlands was not one of the better streaming schools and so their pupils were not expected to do so well. I felt the challenge to prove myself capable of doing well. (I suppose I was a bit of a swot. I have always liked learning.)


At the end of every year term we had formal examinations in every subject. Marked papers were returned to us. As well as a percentage score, everyone was given their position out of 32. (Always exams in first and third term, not sure about middle one.)

We had reports, which we took home in a sealed envelope. The report listed every subject with a very short comment, the exam result and position. Then there was a section marked ‘Conduct.’ Dad was always much more interested in our conduct and expected ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good.’ Sometimes it was only ‘Fair.’

Second and Third Years

I remember the transition to the next year, which was unusual because of the bulge. From the Second Year onwards we would always be in streamed classes by ability (and in some subjects, in sets, over-riding class streams.) But for the bulge year this would be difficult. Nobody wanted to be put in the bottom stream of six streams. They invented a new structure with 2A, 2B and 2C for the top three classes. The rest went into 2X, 2Y and 2Z, which were treated equally. We were all called into the Hall and class lists were called out. I went to 2A. Classes for our cohort kept to this structure as we moved up to the fifth form.

I can’t remember all the names or details of teachers but my old Latin dictionary has been useful. This was also pocket-sized, like the hymn book, always carried round with us and my receipts for School Fund were stuck in the blank pages at the end. One for April 1960 is signed by Mr Cully, so he must have been the form teacher in the Second Year. I think he taught History. That’s about all I remember of him. He probably taught us History.

Unfortunately the teacher for the third year just put his initials ‘JE’ on the receipts. I think he was Mr Evans and taught Geography

[It was only long-standing teachers who seemed to come with established nicknames. The headmaster was ‘Harry’ and his deputy was ‘GAT,’ which we all assumed, wrongly, was from his initials. My older brother assured me that it came from an allusion of him with his gown, which he always wore, looking like Batman. I will come to a few other nicknames later but Mr Jermy, Mr Cully and Mr Evans did not have nicknames.

Our respect for authority meant that we always called teachers ‘Sir’ and referred to them as Mister. But when the boys talked about teachers Mr Jermy would become just Jermy.]


From the Second or Third Year some subjects (Mathematics, French and Latin and, later Physics and Chemistry) were taught in sets rather than streams. So, for example, 2A, 2B and 2C had Mathematics lessons at the same times but were taught as 2 Set 1, 2 Set 2 and 2 Set 3.


I am going to end this post with a look at all the subjects we only did in the early years.

I can’t say I remember much about Religious Education. We were growing to the age where we questioned things and no longer took what the teacher said as necessarily true. So belief in God was beginning to waver. Lessons were still effectively stories from the Bible. (Religious Education meant Church of England education. We were never told anything about other religions.)

It was the subject where pupils had little interest and teachers found things like discipline most difficult. I can remember quite well-behaved boys testing the teacher with a bit of messing around and I think several teachers did not last long.

It was one of the first subjects to disappear. It may have been an option for GCE but I don’t think anyone did it.



In today’s world, where Health and Safety concerns permeate life, it may be hard to believe how we did woodwork. With just the supervision of a single teacher, a class of 32 were let loose in a room equipped with hammers, saws, planes, chisels and other pieces of equipment. At the front of the room there was a circular saw and the only safety measure was that we were sent outside when this was in use. (Facebook chat suggests that the teacher may have been Mr Noakes. The name is familiar.)

There were no serious accidents but I do have a line across one thumb, which many years ago was a blood-marked line following over-vigorous use of a chisel.

We learned to measure accurately and to construct in the old-fashioned way – with dovetail and mortise-and-tenon joints and strips of wooden dowel. Measurements were, of course, sixteenths of an inch, not millimetres!


I have to squeeze in Art, which stopped in the lower school. To be honest I can’t remember whether we had one, two or three years of Art. It was more or less a single drawing or painting in a double period every week but we did learn some of the techniques – light and shade using highlights and vanishing point perspective.



Music was a subject that we only did for two years. I wish I could remember the name of our music teacher because it was a subject I enjoyed. I did have the advantage of having had a short period of piano lessons. (See [44] Boars and Antelopes, Craneflies and Earwigs.) We had Music in the School Hall where the teacher could use the piano that lived there for assemblies.

There was no attempt to teach us to play music or to read musical notation.

For the first year we sang. We had song books with the words – usually the sort of song with several verses and a repeated chorus. I suppose the books had the music (or perhaps we just picked up what the teacher was playing.) To be honest, I have no idea whether we sang in tune but that was not the point of the exercise. We enjoyed singing heartily.

There were familiar English folk songs like Barbara Allen, Scarborough Fair, Clementine, Heart of Oak, Early One Morning and the Lincolnshire Poacher; and sea Shanties like the Drunken Sailor.

The Second Year marked the beginning of puberty for most boys, when voices broke. Our music teacher felt that with our changing voices boys would be self-conscious and less keen to sing. So there was no more singing. Instead he played us classical music on an early record-player.

He picked pieces that he could use to illustrate musical topics and would explain everything about the piece before playing it, so that we had something to listen out for. Some of them told stories through music, like Peter and the Wolf.


Danse Macabre

I am sure that you all know that Danse Macabre is an artistic genre, dating from the Fifteenth Century, portraying by analogy the universality of death, showing a personified Death calling those from all walks of life, typically the Pope, an emperor, a king and a labourer, to dance among the graves – to remind us of the fragility of life and its vain glories. (To be honest, I have had a little help from Wikipedia.)

Camille Saint-Saëns wrote a song in this genre for voice and piano and later re-worked it for an orchestra as a piece of music that I will always remember from our music lessons. It uses various instruments and musical tricks to paint a picture of the dance of Death.

I can’t recount exactly what the teacher described to us, but here are some notes, again helped by Wikipedia. The legend is that at midnight on Halloween Death calls the bodies of the dead while he plays the violin. (I will say something about Halloween in a later blog.) The music starts with a single note repeated twelve times for the chimes of midnight. The solo violin is tuned down a semitone so that it can use two strings to make a harsh dissonant sound to call out the dead.

There are then two themes, played on separate instruments through the orchestra, gradually becoming more energetic. After a direct quote from the Gregorian Dies Irae, it returns to its two themes in a full orchestra crescendo.

The ending represents the cock crowing at dawn (with an oboe) and the skeletons scuttling back to their graves. As in another piece by Saint-Saëns (Fossils from the Carnival of the Animals) a xylophone is used to indicate the rattling bones of the skeletons.

This is still, definitely my favourite piece of music, and it always reminds me of that lesson. (More about music in [26] Music (1) and the two follow-ups.)


Although I have lots to say about ICHS, it’s going to be a series with unexciting titles and few pictures. More to come …


[26] ‘All I want is Music, Music, Music, Music!’

A mixture of historical and sentimental music.

My original plan was to do a sort of ‘Desert Island Discs’ and pick my six most memorable tunes. The list grew very rapidly. Here are some memories in the form of tunes and songs that remind me of the fifties and sixties. I tried hard to keep the list short but there are so many that just have to go in. Often one song represents many others by the same singer, sometimes several similar singers or groups. After a lot of thought, I let it expand to about just under 100, so it will take (at least) three posts.

In an ambitious attempt to confuse you, they are in (approximately) alphabetical order – with links to appropriate videos!

1.  Abide With MeEmeli Sandé

Because: This hymn is still always sung by the massed voices of the crowd watching the FA Cup Final as it has been for decades. (For US readers, it’s just a soccer match, but to us it’s as important as the Superbowl.) Even to the non-religious, it has a moving effect. This version, by Emeli Sandé, is from the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

2.  All in an April Evening – By Hugh S Robertson

Because: It’s one of my all-time favourite pieces of choral music. I sang it several times in the choir of St Andrews. We could only sing it in Lent and in the month of April, so it didn’t come every year. I don’t think I have seen it performed since then. (This version by the Glasgow Phoenix Choir.)

I have missed out many of my favourite pieces of choral and piano music, which became familiar in later life, so I am glad I could get this one in.

3.  At the HopDanny and the Juniors. (1957)

Because: It’s one of the earliest and best – fast moving Rock ‘n Roll.

4.  Autumn LeavesTemperance Seven with Whispering Paul McDowell (1961)

Like many of these. Because: I like it. From the early sixties – a sad, haunting jazz ballad, partly sung in French. One of several tracks I remember from one of their LPs.


5.  Baby LoveThe Supremes (1964)

Because: the Supremes [Before they were Diana Ross and The Supremes] and other Motown groups were part of growing up in the sixties.

6.  Barwick Green, a maypole dance from the suite: My Native Heath, written in 1924 by Arthur Wood.

Because: It’s the signature tune of the long running radio series, The Archers. [I don’t have space here to explain all the signature tunes. Maybe later.]

7.  Blue Moon of KentuckyElvis Presley

Because: I have strange memories of this tune. Before electronic music, heavy use of echo chamber vocal modification made this a sort of eerie tune, which I associated with the Science Fiction stories I was reading at the time. Released in 1954 as a single but I heard it on an LP.


8.  Blueberry HillFats Domino (1956)

Because: It was part of my early introduction to jazz music. Covered by many others but best remembered for this version.

9.  By the Sleepy LagoonEric Coates

Because: It’s the signature tune of Desert Island Discs.

10.  Calling All WorkersEric Coates

Because: It’s a very early memory of my mother.

Music While You Work was a twice daily radio programme running from 1940 to 1967, with uninterrupted light music (aimed originally at providing an even tempo to assist factory workers.) I can’t say that we ever listened to it but Mum always turned the wireless (radio) on as it ended so we heard this, its signature tune. She stopped work to listen to the next programme, ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’, with a cup of tea. [I may do a post about Mrs Dale!]

11.  The Carnival is OverThe Seekers (1965)

A popular hit from the Australian folk group, featuring Judith Durham. Most of my choices seem to be sad songs!

12.  Catch a Falling StarPerry Como (1958)

Perry Como appeared singing on many television programmes. Representing other ‘crooners’ – like Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crossby. I can’t pick them all.

13.  Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom WhiteEddie Calvert (1955)

Because: I just remember it, particularly the glissando introduction. The Man with the GoldenTrumpet.

14.  Come OutsideMike Sarne and Wendy Richard (1962)

Because: It was the sort of silly little song we don’t get anymore. A cheeky song described by Wikipedia as: a ‘UK novelty chart topper.’ If you don’t know the song, listen to it.

15.  Concrete and ClayUnit 4 + 2 (1965)

Because: I like it – an unusual pop song, both words and music.

16.  Danny BoyEva Cassidy.

A sad, Irish song to an old Irish tune (Londonderry Air, or now sometimes Derry Air.)

Because: It’s a great song sung by a great singer but also because it’s one of the few tunes I remember playing when I had piano lessons at the age of six. This version is modern – not sure of the date but it’s after 1990. I can do that. It’s my blog.

17.  Danse Macabre – Saint-Saëns

Because: – we had a great Music teacher at our senior school. For the first year we sang together in the school hall. In the second year, when voices were breaking, we listened to music. He introduced several well-known of pieces of classical music, explaining them first and then playing them (on a very limited gramophone, before the days of record-players.) I will never forget this music or the story that goes with it.

Also Because: it’s the best piece of music ever written. (Yes, it is.) I still try to play it on the piano. (But, for sentimental reasons, it’s not my Desert Islands rescue choice.)

18.  Doctor Who Theme (original) – Ron Grainger and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Because: I like it and liked the original series – both much better than the revival series (apart from Rose Tyler and Amy Pond!)

In 1963 the Radiophonic Workshop produced electronic music before electronic music had been invented. This music had a futuristic effect, which has been severely diluted for the modern, revival series. I was a fan of the early Doctor Who but can’t understand the plot (if there is one) with the revival series.

19.  Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour (on the Bedpost Overnight)? – Lonnie Donegan (1959)

A comical song, similar in genre to My Old Man’s a Dustman.

20.  Ellen VanninThe Spinners

We saw The Spinners performing several times at Cheltenham Town Hall. They always included this song about the tragedy of the loss of the ship, Ellen Vannin, at sea. The ship was named after the Manx name for the Isle of Man. The group of folk singers were active from 1958 to 1989.

[For Non-UK readers: The status of the Isle of Man is complex. It is approximately equidistant from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland but does not form part of any of them, or of Great Britain, or the UK, or the EU. It’s a dependent territory and its occupants are British!]

21.  Ging Gang GoolieRobert Baden-Powell

Because: It reminds me of Scouts. It was written by the Chief Scout for Scouts to sing round campfires and I joined in once or twice as a Scout. So that it could used internationally, the words were not English. They were not any other language either! Feel free to sing along:

Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha; Ging gang goo, ging gang goo;

Ging gang goolie goolie goolie goolie watcha; Ging gang goo, ging gang goo;

Hayla, hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh-ho; Hayla, hayla shayla, hayla shayla, shayla, oh;

Shally wally, shally wally, shally wally, shally wally; Oompah, oompah, oompah, oompah.

[I hope to talk about Scouts in a later post, but I promise nothing.]


22.  Good Golly, Miss MollieLittle Richard (1958)

Classic Rock. His style was loud, almost shouting and he would play the piano, fast and loudly, while standing up.

His career oscillated between rock and evangelist gospel music.

23.  Good News WeekHedgehopper Anonymous (1965)

An unusual pop song, with strange words for a pop song. I always associate it with Concrete and Clay. I think they came out in the same week.

‘It’s good news week; Someone’s dropped a bomb somewhere; Contaminating atmosphere; And blackening the sky.

It’s good news week; Someone’s found a way to give; The rotting dead a will to live; Go on and never die …’

24.  Good VibrationsThe Beach Boys (1966)

The Beach Boys, California and surfing were part of the pop culture of the time. This tune marked the start of a new sound, which featured intricate, multi-layered recording with key shifts and choral fugues. ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice?’ was similar.

25.  Goodness Gracious Me!Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren

Because: It was funny and they don’t make pop songs like it anymore. I can’t explain it, you just have to listen to if you don’t know it. It features a well-known highly acclaimed actress, Sophia Loren, probably the only song she recorded, with the main lyrics: ‘It goes boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom; Boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom-boom-boom!’

26.  Hernando’s Hideaway – the Johnston Brothers (1955)

See: [25] ‘I know a Dark, Secluded Place.’

27.  Hit and MissJohn Barry Seven Plus Four

The signature tune to Juke Box Jury


To end Part One of musical reminisces, messing up the subsequent alphabetical order:

28.  Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In) – Teresa Brewer (1950)

‘So, put another nickel in; In the nickelodeon; All I want is loving you; And music, music, music’

Because: Teresa Brewer was such a fantastic singer, from before my time. I don’t know how I heard this song. I may not have heard it until much later, when I searched for her other entry, in the next part …

[Thanks to YouTube for all the links. You will appreciate that early recordings were heard and not seen. Any video associated with these links has been added later.]