Farnborough Grammar School

Prospect Avenue, Farnborough, Hampshire

Telephone : Farnborough 539
Paul Allan (Memories) - 1954 to 1961

I have only just found this site, and it has brought back many memories of people I had almost forgotten. I do not think I ever made any great academic impact on FGS, maybe being too lazy or maybe reaching my level. I never won any prizes! But I mostly enjoyed my time there. I arrived in the third term of Year 2, due to my family moving into the area in 1954.

I see a variety of opinions of members of staff – mine may or may not agree with others.

The Beeb – fortunately I never had a musical voice so I was never asked to join his choir. Also my knees were obviously not that attractive. I was interested to read of his sudden disappearance. I knew he left but I had not realised that it was unplanned or unexpected.

Nuncs I liked, and the Latin I learned from him has stuck to this day, even though I never continued once I moved to the Science stream. I do however have a Latin dictionary in the bookcase beside me as I write.

Doc Naish I got on with quite well, but I recall once disputing with him his statement that Tynemouth was pronounced locally Tin-muth. My family had originally come from Tyneside and I visited often. Fortunately Gordon Winterbourne who was in the same class and also had northern roots supported me. Doc Naish grudgingly gave way, but I am not sure he really believed us.

PE was never my thing, as I was completely uncoordinated at kicking or catching or hitting balls, so Boggy and the PE staff largely gave up and sent me out doing cross country, running out to and along Cove Brook and maybe back through Prospect Woods, and I enjoyed it. I recall running at times with Jock Young and one or two others who similarly were rejects from the ball games.

As I said, I moved to the Science stream, and in those days I think I wondered at times why I had made that choice. Indeed today I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had chosen the Arts instead. These days I find history fascinating, and get by in Europe adequately in local tongues.

Jonah I liked, and coped quite well in Biology. Boris I never got on with, although I spent a lot of lunch breaks around the prep room. (But Mrs. Stallybrass was quite attractive!) I never really understood Chemistry. Reg Smith in Physics never seemed to like me… Doesn’t seem too promising for a science future!

The maths side saved me, I think, Walter Cotgreave I got on with well, and Gobo Mills lived two doors away from me in Highgate Lane. He always had the problem of whether in lessons he should use my first name or surname, as it would be first name out of school. I enjoyed the Applied Maths with him. It was interesting that in Applied Maths we dealt with the same topics as a lot of Physics but used totally different units. Of course that was before we moved to the metric SI units as the standard.

It was Colin Wilson who made the difference. Once he was teaching me I began to love Physics. I have not said yet that my life after FGS was teaching Physics, and I was always careful to remember the differences between Reg Smith and Colin Wilson, and to make sure that my pupils could question and get to understand the concepts. Well, my life was teaching Physics for many years until the government of the day decreed that it should be a general science course instead, and my lack of understanding of Chemistry let me down, as well as my basic disagreement of the policy. But by then I had become fascinated by computers so I moved to run an IT department instead, writing some big admin programs for examination entry, timetabling and subject option choices.

Much comment has been made by some of the contributors here about Joe Thomas and the CCF. I was not so opposed as some were. If I had to spend Friday afternoons doing this, I would try to turn it to my advantage, so as soon as I was able I joined the MT section, and spent a year of Friday afternoons in Aldershot learning how cars worked, which I have never regretted, and also learning how to ride the old Bantam and the other larger motorbike around the boggy field across the road. Good fun and useful in later life. And they built a housing estate on that boggy field!

I also got to know Joe in other contexts in later years and found him to be much more pleasant than he had seemed at school.

Then John Attree began a Surveying Section and I joined that. I had always enjoyed maps, even when Geography lessons seemed to have little to do with land forms. I was also beginning to enjoy mountains and wild country, thanks to Farnborough Parish Church’s Delta group, several of whom were also in the same year at FGS. (Yes, you will find in one of the Alfa magazine parts of this site a brief report by me as secretary of the CU.) Indeed I still spend a week each year with some of the old Delta/FGS group in Snowdonia or similar places. So map making was fascinating, and many thanks to John Attree’s spin-off from the CCF. And to this day my holidays are journeys of exploration, from Scandinavia to New Zealand, Russia and Israel to California.

This love of mountains led me, while teaching in Surrey, into close contact with the athletes John Disley and Chris Brasher, and while I could never compete with them in my running speed, John in particular got me into Orienteering. Maps and cross-country! Before long my surveying and map making interests moved me into the map-making side of the sport and I ended up surveying and drawing the maps for the British Championships and the Jan Kjellstrom Trophy events, among others.

So in the end I think I gained from the CCF, in several years of serious surveying work, cartography, updating the Ordnance Survey in forested and wild areas. Coupled with my teaching, I led a good number of my pupils into Orienteering and love of the hills and wild places. Indeed, while my daughter was at secondary school I went one evening to collect her from a friend’s house. Her friend's father looked at me and said “You are Paul, aren’t you? You used to teach me Physics and got me into Orienteering!”

Paul Allan : August 2016

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