For some years now I have been told that I should write about my days in Barnardo's. I have decided to concentrate on just one
period of my boyhood, the days I spent at Goldings.
How can I add to what surely must be quite a substantial catalogue of times spent within the walls of that red stone, mock gothic
building, in the middle of the Hertfordshire countryside? I will try in my own personal way to re-capture what it was like to be living
within what was then to me in 1947, a young lad of fourteen, quite a frightening place.
Every one of us has a story to tell and I feel that somewhere out there in the world beyond my front window, someone may just read
what I am about to write, and it will strike a cord within their own memories and bring back childhood events to them.
The Margaret Home
On the 18 th March 1947, with the regulation blue kitbag in my hand I arrived at Stepney Causeway in east London from the warmth
and relative security of a small Branch Home called The Margaret Home at Bognor Regis, Sussex, for the onward journey by Albion
lorry, along with assorted piles of bread and provisions for the drive through North London and Hertfordshire to a place I had only
been told about by the Matron at Bognor.
The winter of 1947 was probably the worst on record and the snow that covered the fields and roads was extremely deep and slippery.
After what seemed like an eternity the lorry arrived at the gates of a long winding driveway leading up towards, what I called Gaunt
House, rather like a character from a Victorian novel arriving at his or her place of employment, cold and hungry, out of the gloom
of a darkening March afternoon there loomed up out of the mist this huge redbrick building, with it's lights streaming out of the
windows onto the cold afternoon air.
It was rather frightening to stand there, not knowing what to do, where to go, and for the life of me now, I still can't remember who
it was who met us and took us into this awesome building. I remember walking up the long dark passage and up some steps into a
large hall the only decoration being a glass cabinet with sporting trophies and large board giving lists of names. I remember various
doors leading off from the hall, one in particular was open showing a
large billiard table, I had never seen one before, and really didn't know what it was, but over the years that hall with it's sporting
trophies, billiard room and office etc., became a meeting place for myself and the friends I made whilst at the school. Someone told
me that I would be in Cairns House. What that meant I had no idea, but I was led up a narrow winding stone staircase leading off
from the hall and into a vast room, almost the size of the Bognor Home itself, with lofty ceilings, large bare windows and highly
polished wooden floor, and against the walls rows of black iron beds, all with their bed clothes neatly folded and stacked on the
I remember that my first night at Goldings was spent in what can only be described as awsomeness at the overwhelming size of the
place, and a certain amount of terror. At what?, I ask myself now.
The vastness, coldness and perhaps what was most striking the impersonality and insecurity of a new home, just struck me with
terror, I knew no-one, they did not
know me. But there I was all alone, yet not, if you know what I mean, climbing into bed, after having to make it, which I wasn't quite
used to, listening to all the unfamiliar noises, the shouting and the commands from the older boys, who turned out to be the House
Prefects or the House Captain, and the sound of bugles, blowing for this command and that. I think I must have shed many a tear
that night, and longed for the quiet security that I was used to at Bognor.
But like everything else one soon settles down, and all these strange commands, bugle calls etc. became part and parcel of my life,
and very soon I learnt to take little or more notice of them, in more ways than one, sometimes to my cost.
Shortly after my arrival at Goldings, I was called into the Headmaster's study. Mr Wheatley asked what I intended to do with my time
whilst at Goldings. I really had no idea at that time, but as he said he thought that I was perhaps best suited to a career in printing, I
readily agreed, perhaps, if only to be allowed to be get out of the study as quickly as I could. At that time I really had no idea of what
printing entailed. I was soon to find out, as I was shown into the print shop and introduced to Mr Miller (Dusty). He explained to me
the rudiments of the trade and asked me what branch of printing I would like to go into. Again I had no idea, but not being of a
mechanical bent, it was suggested that I start in the Composing Room.
And so my years in printing began, under the watchful eyes of instructors such as Mr Riley, Mr East, Mr Amos and Mr Stackwood.
A few years later, an apprenticeship scheme was introduced and I, along with others, became indentured apprentices to Mr Miller
and Mr Wheatley. I still have my indentures somewhere but I have never in all my life been asked to produce them.
Life at school was not all spent in the workshops, a lot of the time was spent at sports, general education and also just hanging around
with one's own circle of friends. There was also the Cadet Force run by Skip Culver, but as I was not really of cadet material, he was
spared my entrance to his 'Elite' corps.
But I must admit to a rather sneaking admiration for the boys who were in the school Band, and their succession of 'Baton' twirling
Drum Majors, they were always extremely smart and were relied on to 'Produce' a good turnout and performance wherever they went.
I always preferred to be amongst friends who had similar interests to me. I joined the Drama Group under the direction of Mr Fogg
and then when he left Mr Smith. During the winter evenings I also joined the Music Appreciation class. My circle of friends included
William Cotton, Derek Godfrey, J Jenkins, John Langdon, Jimmy Goode and Trevor Adcock. I wonder where they are now?
I still have a programme for the Christmas Concert 1950, and these and many other names appear on it.
I could not be described as a devotee of sport whilst at Goldings. Football I detested along with boxing. I preferred to watch cricket
rather than play, and I enjoyed athletics and took part in swimming only as a pastime, never entering for the 'Swimming Sports.' To
some readers it might seem that I was a bit of whimp, but I can assure any person interested that I enjoyed the activities I did enter,
and perhaps found that I did not have to compete against other boys to the extent that the sporting fraternity were expected to do.
here are other things one can enjoy just as much, and I think that my love of music and theatre were first introduced to me at Goldings.
To this day I am passionately fond of classical music and some of the music of the late forties and early fifties brings back memories
of my days spent at Goldings.
During the winter evenings, one of the highlights was the 'Weekly' Film Show, and I can still hear the roar when we were all in the
gymnasium and the shouting and whistles when each reel came to an end. The noise was quite deafening. Two films stick in my
memory. One was The Magic Bow about the life and music of the violinist / composer Paganini and the other film was The Young
Politics and classical music play a large part in my life now but at that time, sitting in the gym, no doubt shouting out with the loudest
of them, I could have had no idea as to just how much those two films would have a bearing on my life in later years.
I also remember that some years after I had arrived, someone realised that we had no library within the school. Some good Benefactor
provided a sum of money to be spent on such a project, and myself, along with a junior boy and the School Chaplain, the Rev. S. C.
Corbett visited Foyles Bookshop in the Charing Cross Road in London and chose an amount of books to start up a reasonable library.
That in itself was quite an undertaking, because the books had to be catalogued and numbered and set out in a room at the school.
It was a job that took quite some time. The visit to London was extremely interesting and exciting, especially as lunch was laid on in
a restaurant in Cambridge Circus. I well remember the fun we both had searching for suitable books for the school. Somewhere out
there, the other boy must remember that particular outing.
Looking back from today' s vantage point, I sometimes wonder how on earth I survived my early day s at Goldings. There must have
been some concern because in January 1948 a report about my progress at Goldings said he is now settling down and is much more
confident and friendly. Physical improvement has been very marked. But still a thin apprehensive boy, worried looking, but writes to
his mother and brothers a great deal. Appears keen on printing, and now likes Goldings. So someone amongst the many members of
the staff must have noticed just how unhappy I was in those early days, and just how long I took to settle down and become a full
member of the school. But survive I did, we all did, in fact we had to.
I am sure all ex-Goldings boys, will
remember the School Magazine 'The Goldonian', which was printed by the boys in the Printing Department. Many times I was asked
to write up the magazine notes for Cairns House, and wrote articles in my own right for publication. Some of these I still have, and
reading them now, I think I was really quite naive in some of the subjects I wrote about, perhaps it was a way for me to excel in
something, that other boys could not do, just as I did not excel in sport. To this day I still think that the Goldonian as far as school
magazines go, can hold it's head up with the best of them.
Another great interest in my life now, which certainly came from schooldays, is my interest in tennis. Who amongst us, who were
members of the 'Ball Boys' at the Annual Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, can either fail to profess an interest or a love
for the game. When I look at television now, and watch the present generation of Ball Boys and of course now-a-days Ball Girls, I
cannot fail to remember just how much we had to sweat it out on the courts of those days in grey flannel shirts and long grey trousers.
I would have given anything to be allowed to have worn the uniform they do now. But then back in 1948-1949 even some of the
players were still wearing long white flannel trousers to play in.
I remember the coach rides in one of Birch's coaches to and from the grounds everyday, and the dingy Ball Boy's room under the
main staircase between Centre and No: 1 Court. But I am sure that none of us would have missed it for the world.
Another great event during my time at Goldings was our participation as extras for schoolroom scenes and cricket scenes for the film
that was being made at Pinewood Studios 'The Browning Version.' I well remember the whole school being lined up house by house
on the Parade ground, while a member of the film staff walked through the lines choosing the boys he thought would be suitable. I
was among them, and we spent a number of days on the sets at Pinewood and on location at Winchester, and at the St. Cross Hospital.
It was exciting to meet such stars as Michael Redgrave and Jean Kent.
Many other things come to mind from those days, one of which is the school in Chapel, and I think that I quite enjoyed attending
Services there and being able to sing with gusto the hymns etc. Services seemed far more enjoyable when all the voices were of the
same pitch, and one could really get one's teeth into singing. And the sound of three hundred boys and staff must have been quite
spectacular when heard from outside the chapel. Whether this Chapel was built at the same time as the rest, of the building, or was a
later addition I do not know, but it was of the same red stone as the main house, and in similar style. I can honestly say that I enjoyed
attending the services.
By the early 1950's I had become, a House Prefect of Caims, and shortly after that I moved out of the main school house into a
smaller establishment known as 'The Verney' where Mr and Mrs Corbett looked after us. Eventually, I was put into lodgings with a
landlady somewhere in Hoddesdon, and travelled to Goldings each day. I hated it, and as I was lucky enough to have my own mother,
living in London, I asked if I could return home to live, keeping on my apprenticeship at Goldings and travelling back and forth from
London to Hertford each day. It was quite a trek. This was agreed and so for the last two years of my time at Goldings, 1952-1954,1
really saw only the printing department. I was still indentured to Mr Miller and Mr Wheatley, but did not come under the normal rules
of the main school and I was paid the going National rate of pay applicable for those days, as were all the other apprentices.
I have kept my thoughts to an absolute minimum. There have been many events and observations I have had to omit but my mind is
full of so many events that took place at Goldings during my days, such as the fire in the school kitchens, the annual holidays to
Dymchurch in Kent for those who were unable to go home for leave to mention just two.
In late January 1954, when I reached the age of twenty-one all my connections with Goldings were severed, and I was really out in
the wide world beyond the grounds of the William Baker Technical School, and to this day I have never returned to Hertford, except
for the Opening of the New Printing School in the town itself, which was built after the closure of the Main School back in the middle
1960's. Though I have often thought about the school and my time spent there, and I have longed to be able to visit the estate, but
circumstances have always been such that have prevented me from achieving just that. But life for me went on. My years in the
R. A. F., spent overseas in Egypt, Palestine (Jerusalem) and Cyprus, where I met up with a number of Old Barnardo and ex 'Golding's
boys. Then the years spent working in the newspaper industry in London. My enjoyable time spent at an Art College in Kent.
Eventually I became a Trade Union Official with the N. G. A. at the local and county level.
The School Motto was "FINIS CORONAT OPUS" and what better way to end than to be able to quote those Latin words and their
English translation, "THE END CROWNS ALL WORK".