My time at Goldings by John “Jimmy” James
My Goldings story began when I was driven through the front gates in the Albion
lorry with seven other Barnardo boys who had also been boarded out in East
Anglia. I had had 12 years with the same foster parents, who had become too old
to cope with my care and attention when I left school at the age of 14, just at the
end of the second world war. The date was the last day of August 1945.
Being plunged into a boarding school environment among 200 young men was
something of an experience for someone who had been brought up in the wilds of
Cambridgeshire. I spent the first weeks of my Goldings experience as a spare
boy, as there was no room in the workshop of my choice. As a ‘’spare’’ you spent
the days doing domestic chores and general work around the grounds. I soon
settled into my routine in Mount Stephen house. I joined the choir, not just
because I could sing but because there was an extra tanner a week on my pocket
money. I was eventually given a place in the printing section and Mr. Amos (Slim)
was my teacher. The printing trade was all very new to me so it was very
interesting. Learning the ‘’case’’ and various type faces and the use of different
type sizes was all very intriguing.
By the time I was 16 I had been promoted to Prefect James as opposed to boy
James. This gave me certain privileges, one of which was that I was allowed to
smoke! This was a very back-handed privilege, as I had never smoked before. I
wish I had never started. I became, like many, a slave to nicotine. I’m pleased to
say that I am no longer a slave to the drug!
After a few months as a prefect I was promoted to House Captain. I did my best to lead the house in all sports - football,
cricket, table tennis, and athletics. Goldings was a wonderful place to be if you were interested in sports. You were
encouraged by very experienced staff in all sports. By playing games for the school in the school team you got to travel
quite a bit around Hertfordshire, playing at various venues.
I completed the last 9 months of my time there as School Captain. which was another great challenge. By the time I left I
had almost completed learning my trade which was to see me through life, I had represented the school at football,
cricket and table tennis, and I had been a ballboy at Wimbledon for four consecutive summers, three of them on the
centre court. A picture of the ballboys of 1949 was recently published in the Guild Messenger and I could name 31 of the
boys and staff in the picture. Also in that year I appeared on the radio programme ‘’In Town Tonight’’ where various
people were interviewed who were as the programme says, in town tonight. The great Walt Disney was on the same
programme, as were, I believe, the Andrew Sisters, who were just starting out.. I left Goldings in October 1949 to do 18
months National Service in the RAF. After I had been in the forces for 15 months the Government decided to increase
National Service to two years, so I eventually became demobbed in October 1951. During my time in the RAF Barnardo’s
wrote to me and invited me to return to Goldings print department to finish my apprenticeship. This I did. Also while in
the forces I met the girl I was due to marry. It was actually at one of the Goldings dances, and I happened to be down
for the week-end to play cricket. She had fallen down the concrete steps outside to the staff entrance. I did my gallantry
bit and carried her to sick bay for attention. I then pursued her and we became married on Boxing Day 1953, which
means it will be our Golden Wedding anniversary this year. In the meantime I had become secretary of the Goldings Old
Boys Association. We ran a football team in the local league, table tennis teams and snooker and billiards teams. During
this time I continued to play cricket for the School. Joan wasn’t really into cricket, but she used to suffer it and came
along to make teas for us when we were playing at home. Joan and I produced two children, one of each, and we now
have six grandchildren.
When I left Goldings print department in 1952 I went to work for a small company in Cheshunt. This didn’t last too long
as the firm went bankrupt. I then moved to work at the Hertfordshire Mercury in Hertford. I stayed with them for 10
years. The opportunity than arose for me to return to Goldings as an instructor of hand composing in the print
department. In 1967 Barnardo’s closed Goldings and made all the staff redundant. However, the print section got
together and pointed out to Barnardo’s what they would be losing if they lost the print department, bearing in mind
that we could still train young lads in need. They built a purpose-built printing school in Hertford and I worked for them
until the closure of the school about 12 years ago (27 years). I changed my job in the 60s to mechanical composing
instructor, teaching Linotype, Monotype keyboard, and Monotype caster. This all came about when Mr. Millar (Dusty)
died and Ron Stackwood was promoted to principal of the print department. Ron came and asked me to take over the
typesetting department. I knew very little about the workings of the Monotype system, so they sent me to school in
I played cricket for Goldings until it closed and we lost the ground. I then played for McMullens, the local brewery.
I also played table tennis for them. I took up refereeing soccer, and officiated around the county for 20 years, at the same
time I joined the committee of the local league and was the referees’ secretary for 16 years. The old hips had started to
play up by this time and I have now had four hip operations.
I now content myself to quite a lot of lawn bowls, a game which I have played on and
off the about 45 years. Joan plays as well so we are able to go to matches together and
play with or alongside each other. I am back in administration again, this time I am
the secretary / treasurer of a two-division bowls league. The league is a summer league
and we have 29 member clubs with 37 teams. We also run all the relevant competitions.
I would just like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed working for Barnardo’s and found It
very rewarding trying to impart enough knowledge into the young men in my charge
to enable them to earn a decent living. I am still in touch with a number of them.
© John (Jimmy) James