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News > Alumni stories > Moulsford - The Early Days

Moulsford - The Early Days

Philip Tarry's account of the school in the 1960s
5 Jul 2022
Written by Phil Tarry
Alumni stories
Whole school photo from 1961
Whole school photo from 1961

When I arrived at Moulsford on that first day in 1961, there were a dozen new boys, but very little in the way of facilities, even down to a lack of desks. However, an aunt of mine was in the process of retiring from her private school in Streatham in London, my father acquired the desks from the school and these were transported to Moulsford. It was a new school when I joined having recently moved from Hertfordshire to Wallingford.

Mr Mortimer was the Headmaster, whilst Mrs Mortimer was the Matron. The first classroom was in the room on the right upon entering through the main door. Their sons, Roderick and Kenneth were also new boys at the school. Mr Hale was the ‘Director of Education’. We were all day boys at that time. 

The buildings were very different from the present layout. Opposite the main front door, there was a walled garden which was fairly overgrown, opposite the front door and to the right were a number of old chicken coops or similar, just the place for outdoor PE and deep breathing exercises. Mr Roper was an early addition to the staff. I recall he taught Geography and sports. In the early days, Games periods were spent clearing the Walled Garden and assisting in the removal of trees. I also remember pulling rhubarb for lunch. I recall stewed rhubarb and corn flakes, as a dessert. Yuk! 

I also remember the cross-country runs including through the water meadows, if not too far underwater. We were introduced to cricket and football, we had to cross the main road to use the playing field at the girls school opposite. As our facilities improved, we had a running track marked out in the meadow alongside the school. I enjoyed running and was concerned when I was stopped in the 100 yards race because I was too slow. However, I usually won the longer cross-country runs. This athletic prowess improved until I represented Southern England in some national event when I came in 8th position. I later went on to record 2 hours 40 minutes for a marathon, and 3 minutes 58.8 seconds for a 1500m race, but that is a different story. I have to thank Mr Roper for getting me started. The swimming pool at school was directly outside the kitchen window, with a small sports hall, used for boxing, alongside. I notice that the sports hall had been demolished, whilst the swimming pool has moved sideways. The new sports hall was built on the site of the former sports hall and swimming pool.

In the education field, I could never get to grips with Latin. I often got used to the phrase ‘Join the happy band’ outside the Headmaster’s study for a caning for getting my Latin wrong, three strokes were the norm. I detested Latin. The school had enlarged by now, with the room alongside the main classroom also being used as a classroom. Mr Warrington joined as Purser, and there was Miss Parish, who I think taught French. Remember that there were no I.T. lessons, computers had not been invented for the likes of our generation.  Boys were given lessons in woodwork. 

Whilst we lived on Reading Road in Wallingford, I was picked up by Tappins Coaches which ran to the Girls school, a few of the Moulsford boys also traveled on the coach. After a couple of years, my father was moved to Stony Stratford, again on promotion. I then became a Border at Moulsford. The Dormitory was opposite the top of the main staircase, mine being the first bed on the right. After a few terms of boarding, I had started to shave once a week, and also had my short fat hairy legs, so I was given permission to wear long trousers!

Apart from the rhubarb and cornflake mix, my underlying memory of school meals was the smell of the cabbage, which was put on after breakfast and managed to pervade throughout the school building. The school also had purchased a Dormobile minibus, a fearsome machine, we would occasionally have small trips out at weekends. 

Mr and Mrs Dunkerley had taken over the reins by now, and the school began to change and expand. The curriculum had also expanded. Eventually, I took my Common Entrance exam, in a small upstairs room, near to the thrashing room! I gained entry to Earnley School near Chichester, as did a couple of other Moulsford boys.

I have returned to Moulsford on a couple of occasions at Old Boys reunions. How things have changed, and how young the staff look these days. Having said that, all of the surviving original gang have now retired. It would be interesting to see how our lives have developed from those days and what careers the old boys followed. 

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

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