Master Piece (Part 2)

23 Dec

The first part of this discourse on my Secondary School’s teachers and their nicknames covered what I think of as the “main players”.

The ones I have left on my list (unless or until Mike or Hank come along and tell me “You missed out…..”) by and large either had nicknames that they may or may not have been aware of or no nicknames at all but some interesting characteristic instead.

I will tackle the ones with nicknames first concluding with two concerning whom I am “in dispute” with my classmates.


Mr Chenery, the Technical Drawing master and our Form Master in the 3rd and 5th Years was (to me anyway) another really nice guy. Given our surreal collective class sense of humour you might imagine the nickname to be something to do with the Goons but this was not the case. It was in fact something of a parody of the sweep’s song from Mary Poppins – “Min Chenery, Min Chenery Min Chen charoo”! This does still, of course, show signs of that surreal sense of humour. I don’t ever remember this man being annoyed or upset about anything.


Mr Moore our Chemistry teacher seemed to qualify for his nickname twice over! He was a small bird-like person whose neck didn’t seem strong enough to carry his head with the result that it seemed to bob about in a nodding motion for some seconds after he stopped moving. Furthermore he only needed the addition of the hat with the bell on it to actually LOOK like Enid Blyton’s famous character.

I rather lost interest in Chemistry when it got to the stage where everything was theoretical and to do with Molecular weight – rather than making things either explode or make nasty smells in the lab.


The nickname was just a schoolboy variation on the real name of Mr Warsop, our History master and Form master in the 4th Year. He was well known in the school as something of a left-winger politically – one of the few teachers who ever made their political leanings known to us. As usual this was a bad move as someone (not from my class) commented on it by spray painting “Warsop is a Commie” on the large mirror in the main toilets.

As with Physics which I mentioned in the earlier part of this article, I failed History at examination level. Again this was down to me and not the teacher. I learned an awful lot of stuff about British History over the years that Mr Warsop taught us but he was unable to make me anything other than bored rigid concerning the Reform Act of 1832 and the Corn Laws! That was what the syllabus required when all I wanted to study was BATTLES!

He eventually became a Labour Councillor and I once saw him on local TV proclaiming his triumph at the partial pedestrianisation of Ipswich Town Centre. This clever scheme closed the main shopping street to all traffic EXCEPT BUSES! While he was being interviewed one of these roared past so close that you could see his hair move in the slipstream!

“Big Bruno”.

Mr Nicholson, our Biology master for most of our stay at Copleston was nicknamed, I believe, from his habit when out of the classroom of smoking an enormous pipe filled with St. Bruno tobacco. I really liked him and I think it is fair to say that I learned more things that have “stuck” from him than any other teacher.
He was always extremely trusting of John Lamb and myself and granted us permission to work on lab experiments unsupervised during break time. We didn’t waste TOO much time knocking each other out with the chloroform bottle that was kept in the back room and did actually get a lot of lab work done.
He had plainly played Rugby at University and, when free to do so, could be found shouting instructions to one of the school teams – still with that pipe in his mouth!


Mr Woolford, Art teacher (I think he must have been the only Art teacher we had because I don’t remember any others). Small, inoffensive and harmless like the creature he was named after! He would probably have been called something else equally non-controversial, such as “Koala”, if we hadn’t all been avid fans of the Radio forerunner of “Monty Python” and “The Goodies”; “I’m Sorry I’ll Read that Again” which featured a serial entitled “The Curse of the Flying Wombat”.

My school reports in “Art” swing between “Shows no great ability” and (a magnificent) “Satisfactory effort”. My “Art” obviously lay in written work!

Mr Woolford was, by tradition, the school pianist, accompanying our somewhat scratchy singing (well in a school of 11 to 16 year old boys at least half are always going to be having their voices breaking!) on the Grand Piano to the left of the stage.

“The Lord of the Flies”.

A nickname that I don’t remember from the time! It was applied by my old classmate in Thailand to Mr Max Page our 2nd and 3rd Year English teacher and a recorder player par excellence. The name is said to have come from the book of the same name which was one of our set books in English Literature. I SEEM to recall, however, that the book was assigned for GCE exams which would make it something we had in the 4th and 5th Years, i.e. AFTER Max had gone. (On reflection, however, the name MAY have been conferred by one of the years above us who were already studying the book – we had no monopoly on the granting of clever nicknames! – Alfie)

Nevertheless it was an apt name for one whose interest in young boys went beyond teaching them English! He was eventually sacked for messing about with a pupil in the Library stockroom! I seem to remember hearing that he went to teach in Switzerland (no Sex Offenders register in those days!) after that.

“Jumping Jack fact”.

Another one where I’m in dispute with my classmate! According to MY recollection the name refers to Mr Mallett who was recruited after Mr Page’s sudden disappearance from the scene to take us to our English GCEs. He was the one of our teachers most in tune with our collective weird sense of humour and was most remembered by me for the occasion when he walked into the classroom to find us all apparently reading a selection of “Mad” magazines, Superman comics and the like. The “Bunters” of this world would have gone ballistic, turned bright red and started a mass confiscation.

Not this guy! He walked up to the nearest one of us, pushed the magazine down, saw the copy of “Twelfth Night” being read behind it (which was, of course, the whole point of the joke), shook his head sadly and sat down at his desk without saying a word!

My recollection is that the name came from a combination of the Rolling Stones hit “Jumping Jack Flash” and his habit of sprinkling his conversations with the words “in actual fact”.

Mike in Thailand, however, has that nickname applying to the head of the P.E. Department, Mr Adams who I don’t particularly recall using the catchphrase. Some of the confusion may be arising from the “actual fact” (sorry!) that Mr Adams name WAS Jack.

Whatever the truth was it will have to wait until we make contact with some more of the class and can get some sort of consensus.

And then…..

There were those who didn’t have nicknames but had odd or memorable characteristics.

“Mr Williams”.

Our Geography teacher and as Welsh as the name suggests – his voice when describing an escarpment with “shallow slopes” and “steep slopes” was as distinctive as Richard Burton uttering those immortal lines “Broadsword calling Danny Boy”!

Many teachers in those days smoked. They couldn’t do it in the classroom or the playground but in the staffroom was OK. Mr Williams rolled his own cigarettes and when he had finished them he put the “dog ends” into a tobacco tin. While we were reading quietly he would then sit at the front and pick the old stubs apart then roll the strands of tobacco into new ones! God alone knows how strong those cigarettes must have been by the time they got to the third or fourth generation!

“Mr Southgate”.

Nothing gets expert taunters of teachers rubbing their hands with glee quite so much as a teacher newly arrived from training college! Such a one was Mr Southgate who arrived to take us for Religious Education one year. Rather than making any kind of effort to engage with us (which was perfectly possible as other teachers would have been able to tell him) he marched in and laid down the law as to how we would behave with a heavy hand.

From our viewpoint this was not to be borne. He was new, while we had been there 3 years and he didn’t actually seem THAT much older than us.

Oddly enough I don’t ever remember anyone discussing what we were going to do but we must have done because when he came into the room for the next lesson we stood up as one man, clicked our heels together and gave a crisp Nazi salute! He ran for the Headmaster who gave us a class detention but I think he must have given Mr Southgate a bit of a talking to as well because he slackened off a good deal after that!

Looking at my old school reports to try to get information for this two-part article I see that most of the entries are initialled and in a great many cases I have absolutely NO IDEA who the teacher was. It seems that they had to have some behavioural or physical quirk in order to be memorable and an awful lot were just, frankly, ordinary.

Perhaps the Grammar school got all the good ones!



Posted by on December 23, 2009 in Schooldays


5 responses to “Master Piece (Part 2)

  1. theworldaccordingtomorpheus

    January 6, 2010 at 7:50 am

    I remember a supply teacher who only took us for one chemistry period. He asked us to list gases. We did so and he wrote them on the board, one at a time.

    Neon… Freon… Xenon. I came up with “Faron” (as in Young). He said he hadn’t heard of it, but added it to the list.

    Then he asked us to name the ones which were poisonous. One by one, he ticked them as poisonous or non-. When he got to “faron”, he said “Oh, THAT one’s poisonous” and quickly moved on.

    I suspected he’d suddenly realised that I’d made UP the name – it being “FART gas”!!!

    I was SO tempted to say “But Sir – I thought you said you’d never HEARD of it” – then I’d have HAD him.

    And if he’d tried to wriggle out of it by claiming to have suddenly REMEMBERED it, I’d have countered by revealing I’d MADE IT UP – from fart gas.

    That would have DESTROYED him! But sadly, I wasn’t that confrontational – plus I suspect that my satisfaction would have ended up costing me a pain in my ARSE (that dreaded CANE).

    Even in those days, I knew you can’t beat the SYSTEM.

  2. richard haxell

    February 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Mr Williams was always known as “Fritz” and occasionally as “Dr. Who”…a garbled accent and large checked trousers would account for it.
    The Southgate incident didn’t involve Batman.We were set 100 lines as punishment..”I am not as clever as I think” prophetic that turned out to be!!
    OOh just recalled the “Fritz out” chant one interminable geography lesson.I think he did actually depart as a result.

    • littlealfie

      February 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm

      Isn’t it amazing what disappears from the memory after only 40-odd years? All I recalled about “Fritz” was the roll-up fags and his odd way of saying “steep slopes”!

      Thanks for correcting my recall of the Southgate business – my goodness but we were a rebellious lot – if that sort of thing happened today they’d blame the parents!


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