Class photo 1984

Sunday Morning Mutterings – Keeping it Old School

Believe it or not, I haven’t lived in Marbella all my life.

Although some might say that I flopped onto a Marbella beach on some pre-human dawn and then evolved.

I moved to Marbella from Stoke on Trent in the mid-80s – which as big a culture shock as you could imagine – but I took to my new environment like the aforementioned amphibian and ‘thrived’.

A recent invitation to join a Facebook group, however, took me back to the early 80s in North Staffordshire. In my early teens I attended Newcastle-under –Lyme School, an educational institution that can trace its founding back to the early 17th century. Proving that the universe does indeed have a sense of humour, I passed the entrance examination and found myself in a world of House colours, upper and lower quads and a school song entirely in Latin. Of which more later.

I joined the school in the third year, which meant that I missed out on being a first year. In the hierarchy of the school first years, known as “Scruts” were the lowest of the low. Every school sports day there was an event known as the “Scruts’ Scramble” that saw the entire first year taking to the track in a chaotic carnival of Corinthian carnage. ‘Chariots of Fire’ it was not.

Alas the Scruts’ Scramble is no more. Neither is the ancient practice of hurling unsuspecting Scruts off the upper close and sending them merrily bouncing off the bank to the lower close below. ‘Plus ca change’ and all that.

The last school assembly was always an eventful occasion. As I mentioned before, the school song was in Latin with the chorus of ‘Floreat oh Floreat, Floreat castigum” (something about flowers blooming). At the time the headmaster was known as ‘The Gaff’ short for gaffer, and on one famous occasion, the hall boomed to the sound of

“Floor the Gaff, oh floor the Gaff, floor the Gaff, castrate him”.

There was a look of thunder from the headmaster.

He did have a sense of humour, however. One of the star players in the school’s golf team was a young man called David Gilford. One day the headmaster called him into his study and warned Gilford that he had to pay more attention to his studies or he “would not amount to anything in life”.

David Gilford went on to play for Europe in the Ryder Cup twice and won the European Open ahead of Olazabal.

At an Old Boys dinner several years later, the (now retired) headmaster delighted on telling  this story with a wry smile. ‘The Gaff’ indeed!

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