Poems by David Pollard
Blue beyond blue
God, I was young,
The ancient past of
Thus could I scythe
at our celestial nerves;
From all those
I do this work for
Dark fugue whose
Nie wieder Krieg.
And became old
Hardly Il Furioso
And so my head at
Tribute to Barry Roach
At the same time Barry was prominent in local amateur theatricals as producer and adjudicator, and it was probably inevitable that in the end he was persuaded to join a London college in the same capacity. He still lived in Brighton with his invalid mother, maintaining contact with several of his erstwhile Whittingehame colleagues and pupils. After the death of his mother he lived alone. He had no relatives apart from a cousin who pre-deceased him, but his cremation service was well attended by represented by Whittingehamians and by many other friends who remembered and respected him.
Tribute to Peter Kleiner
Peter was an absolutely unique character both at school and at University, and I could give a score of remarkable stories - e.g. he won the "Observer" mace as a debater, was elected to innumerable committees, and was the only student member to sit on a national committee to establish rules to guarantee integrity in student elections. This card relates to some activity or other at Bangor, the university he chose because it taught electronics -- a brand new university subject. He was always elected, and this led to his cutting pracs, which he admitted because he had already done all that work under his own steam while at Whittingehame. He was sent down (he agreed that the authorities had no alternative because university rules stipulated that lab attendance was compulsory) . But almost immediately he won an open scholarship to Brasenose College Oxford, studying law. Again he was on all the committees, did not bother very much with assignments etc., but graduated with a good degree. He was snapped up by a London legal practice because of his legal/scientific background and his brilliant brain. Unfortunately he was dead in a couple of years. My belief (shared by all members of Whittingehame ) was that he would have soon become a national figure. Eldon Smith
Tribute to John Murry
John was a man of very many talents and qualities. He was warm-hearted and kind, and although he was sometimes exasperated he somehow got over it and laughed. Indeed we shared much laughter over the years. I remember once we went together in the van to help Richard Acland in the famous Gravesend election Just before the return journey a nasty fog set in, and somewhere en route in Kent we got hopelessly lost and were obliged to try to push each other up signposts in the hope that we'd recognize a place name which would really help. We weren't laughing at all, but fortunately a Dubarry lorry, large for the time, pulled in and said he was bound for Shoreham, and that we'd be best advised to follow him. This we did, so got home to Ruth and Ella safely in the end and laughed at our quite grotesque efforts to establish where we were - lost in the fog.
But John truly stood out as a teacher and inspirer. During the last few days I've received so many emails and other messages from former students attesting to their fondness of -love of - English poetry and literature as a whole, and the English language in general, brought into existence because of John's own brilliance. I remember talking to an ex-student who was just then sweeping the boards at Guy's Hospital of both surgical and medical prizes. He had just returned from a summer holiday on the continent and the subject of our conversation was his delight at discovering links in Italy or France with the literary heroes to whom he had been introduced by John. A few days ago I had an email from an accountant in Israel who told me proudly that the screen saver on his office computer was actually a quotation remembered from one of John's lessons - a line from Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality
And they loved his chats -in fact they went on ( usually about sci-fi) even after they left us, as John himself suggests in the preface to one of his novels Out of those chats too emerged a remarkable un-censored intermittent student paper called "Vox Populi", some editions of which are still on the Whittingehame web-site and which continue to reduce me to near-tears. This was the product of John's sense of fun.
And he nourished their chess, and their appreciation of pictures, their theatricals and so much else besides..And there was never any trouble or discontent. Boys being boys, sometimes they "try it on" or "take the mickey" but never with John - he was too loved and respected. And in the Masters' Common Room. there was never a single cross word, for he was always friendly and benign, though he never failed to express his deeply-felt principles One cannot hope to complete the list of his qualities, and I feel a wonderful sense of pride in being able to say we were friends
Photo of John and Ruth Murry taken in recent years
The Welcoming Matrons of Whittingehame
My first introduction to Whittingehame was in the winter of 1949 – when England was still living under post-war restrictions - sweet rationing being one of them! We on continental Europe had been basking in American munificence under the open-handed Marshall Plan, flooding goodies into Antwerp, my home town.
So there I was standing in my knickerbockers at the footsteps of Whittingehame College, near to midnight, having crossed the Channel alone on the Ostend ferry. "Alo! Il y a t-il qu'elqun a la maison?" I shouted, not expecting an answer. But someone did appear at the top of the narrow staircase next to the main stairs. This gentleman turned out to be our cook, William, whose welcome was warm and kind.
As I had turned up a few days early, the school was empty except for a few boys who had not gone home for the summer vacation. My first impression was one of light and warmth, and this impression never left me during my 5 years of boarding school.
My second encounter on this first night was with an Israeli boy , Yoram Polani, who within minutes of my arrival had, in typical Israeli style, to test where I stood vis a vis himself as to strength and pecking order. After a violent tussle lasting a few minutes we knew where we stood! 40 years later I came across the same character, more worldly and suave.
When the term actually started, I was bathed in a semi-torpor, having to adjust myself to my new environment, the surroundings, the utterly unfamiliar language, the boys, the new subjects and the masters. But I felt good and at ease. I try desperately to evoke some memorable incident from my subsequent years at Whittingehame, but nothing exceptional comes to mind - no deaths, no bones broken, no epidemic, no sexual assaults - one could call it a happy time. In those days our minds had not been corrupted by TV or tabloids, and anything unacceptable was swept swiftly under the carpet. We were cocooned within the safe walls of our school, and the masters were not gossipers or bearers of tales. The classes were always orderly, and we respected our teachers as was expected in those days, and they in return treated us with benevolent superiority. The matrons were motherly, and I'm sure some other boys could tell some interesting stories about them!
Apart from Headmaster Halevy, whose frequent unelucidated referrals at morning assembly to Maimonide's "Guide to the Perplexed" only perplexed us even more, the master who stands out most vividly is Mr Smith. In my days that was the only name he was called by. How he gained the epithet "Schmutz" – which means "filth" in German, I cannot imagine, as it was totally inapplicable to this vivacious, honorable little Welshman.
The total lack of intimacy between pupil and teacher at Whittingehame in the fifties, I feel was very beneficial to our growing up. Nowadays, at the slightest misdemeanor, the teachers go into the background, psychologists counselors are called in, and a whole battery of semi-clinical noxious assaults are made on the poor pupil - leaving him in a worse state than before. At Whittingehame, this did not exist. You were overtly punished according to the misdeed, and that was the end of it.
To those who lived in Woodlands, they may remember this imposing Victorian building, when compared to the presumptuous pseudo-Bauhaus architecture of Whittingehame College proper. Woodlands stood in its own grounds, majestic and proud, and I always wondered who inhabited this unique house before the arrival of the numerous Jewish boys who were to run up and down its creaky wooden stairs.
The front door facing Surrenden Road was used only by Headmaster Jake Halevy. His visits were rare - he used to glide in and out. The rumours in those days had it that that his visits were associated with his extra-curricular duties - to which one of the matrons, so it was understood, was not unwelcoming. This was an accepted fact by the boys who were aware of this state of affairs - being pubertal adolescents who were well aware of the desires and penchants of the flesh - and especially as we knew the headmaster's "other half" (may they all rest in peace). This grey (sometimes violet) haired woman, always ready to harangue anyone in sight was to be kept out of range: If you were collared by her all she could do was to berate you - no wonder her husband keep out of sight!
The only individual able to assuage her constant ire was the ubiquitous Mr. Eldon Smith. This lively little Welshman - who kept good supervisory control over the whole school, keeping everyone in check. His grasp even extends to the present day. His charm has not been lost with the passing of time and still exudes its powerful effect. Former pupils having reached 70 and over still bow and doff their caps with reverence to this smiling, quick talking Welshman - always accompanied by his faithful companion – who herself has not lost any of her sweetness.
In 1965 I decided to visit the school. I drove past Preston Park, which evoked a strong nostalgia for days past, when we used to walk down to buy a delectable Wall's ice cream at the Pavilion, cast side glances and the local talent, with the peaceful walk down Surrenden Road, past the sports track. As I stopped the car opposite the house in the trench-like dip where Mr. Smith used to live, all that was left of the school was the lone central spiral staircase pointing to the sky! The building was gone, removed, destroyed. I could not believe it. I took a few steps up the staircase leading nowhere. No more leading to the bedrooms, no more patter of feet up those well-paced steps, no more young hands grasping the hand rail. What happened to our lovely school? Who did this? I felt personally aggressed, and then fell into a deep, momentary melancholy. The walls of the chemistry lab still stood , and one of the blackboards still had some writing on it. That page of Whittingehame's history was well and truly closed.
MANY THOUSAND WORDS
A picture is worth a thousand words they say.....THEY.....the ubiquitous THEY. But they're right. The photo albums in the web site are treasures, bringing to life a bunch of scrawny kids, and an era of history too.
Memories are big when we think of childhood. We know we were rambunctious, energetic little beings, knee high to a grasshopper, wiry and shapeless. But we forget the details because to remember is to re-live small lives from an adult perspective. Then come the photo albums and reality exposing us for the little squirts we were. Bare, hairless, knobbly knees, stockings around our ankles; ties akimbo; collars crumpled. There didn't seem to be any fat kids in the albums either. Granted the boiled cabbage and turnips we seemed to eat at every meal were not exactly to cordon bleu standards but we were never hungry. Interesting to think of that now when 45% of British men are overweight and 17% are obese.
You can't tell from the photos but it's a safe bet that the shoes we were wearing, hurriedly polished with yarmulkes for morning inspection, were scuffed, dirty, down-at-heel and probably tied with broken laces. Chances are we were smelly too. How many times a week did we have baths anyway? Twice??
Bad enough one or two like us in a family but what an undertaking looking after a hundred. It makes the unfaltering kindliness of Miss Mackay (didn't see any photos of her) more of a wonder; likewise the gentleness of Eldon and Ella Smith. Much though it pains to give the old bastard any credit it probably also explains in part the short temper of Billinghurst. I was never convinced he wasn't an anti-semite..
How do people like Mendel Horowitz find themselves in a zoo like that? Life and history can be cruel But Jake brought him in out of the cold and he was probably grateful for his job - the taunts and cruel disrespect of little middle-class Jewish tikes notwithstanding.
Looking at these wonderful photos now, the most striking impression is of our size. Even the big kids look small. Ray Nettler, Corky Landau, Geoff Lederman ( no snaps of him either), Winston Senior, Billy Phillips, my brother Walter. No surprise that the simian Jake and florid Billinghurst seemed to loom over us like doom.
And somehow we were so middle-European looking. Maybe it was just the mid-century style of clothes. But it doesn't take a giant leap of the imagination to see us filling those frightening photos of our relatives only a few hundred miles to the east being herded at gun-point on to cattle wagons at railway stations. We were so small, so completely harmless.
In one respect Hitler knew what he was doing, massacring the children too. I think of the brains in my own class, Henry Markson and Harry Woolf; exactly the sort of people no dictator would want within a country mile of his territory. I don't know what became of Henry but we know about Harry. How many leading professionals, scholars, scientists, business people did we produce? More than our share.
And wasn't Edwinsford beautiful - the mansion as well as the setting? I remember thinking so at the time. For all our chaos, we breathed life into the place. I hope someone is doing that now.
In June 200O Benji Feuchtwanger, a Whittingehamean from 1943-46, who
farmed in Gedera (South of Tel Aviv), died peacefully in his new
apartment near Dov Airport, Tel Aviv. Together with his loving wife,
Chava; the luxurious apartment had been carefully planned for
retirement, but he only had the pleasure of living in it for less than
one year. He contracted cancer for the second time in 10 years, fought
bravely, but was overwhelmed by its aggressive attack on his body.