Glengyle School (Glengyle Preparatory School for Boys)
Glengyle Preparatory School for Boys was in Putney, south-west London. It was founded in 1907 by Leonard Augustine Chope, and was originally in Cambalt Road before moving to 4, Carlton Drive in 1914.
Walter Vivian Wallace was appointed as Assistant School Master in 1938 before purchasing the lease from Mr Chope and becoming the proprietor and headmaster of the school.
He bought the freehold of the property in Carlton Drive in 1960. His wife Winifred taught at the school and took over its running following the death of her husband in 1981. Mrs Wallace retired in 1986 and the school was sold. It is now the Merlin School.
The building was one of those huge Victorian villas, probably built in the 1860s for a large and prosperous family with many servants. The ceilings were high, the rooms spacious. The large garden had been turned into a gravelled playground, complete with climbing frame. A skeletal medlar tree stood in one corner near the conservatory, which was now Form Two.
In the 1965 photograph, the whole school is shown: it had about 60 pupils.
From L – R the staff are: Mrs Helen Jordan (music); Mrs Joan Mensing (Form Two); Mrs Winifred Wallace (Form One); Mr Vivian Wallace (Headmaster); Major Peter Williams (Form Four); Mr Smith, and Mr Davies.
Mrs Mensing had started out by being Mrs (or Miss) Walker, but intrigued us all by remarrying and changing her name in 1964. She was a good amateur watercolourist.
The Wallaces, with their three children, Peter, Juliet, and Adrian, lived upstairs. The school occupied the ground floor and the basement, which also housed the kitchens and the dining room.
The cook was a South African by the name of Frank Jermy. He had a permanently grubby white apron, and greasy trousers. He produced endless quantities of chips, every day. Ham and peas and chips, fish and peas and chips, stewing steak and chips, a slice of spam and (probably) peas – and chips, pie and peas – or sometimes carrots or cabbage – and chips, the menu didn’t vary very much. Except at Christmas.
The morning playtime discovery of a headless grey squirrel lying on the gravel outside the kitchen doors caused endless speculation as to how it had met its fate. The verdict was unanimous: Mr Jermy had beheaded it, and the squirrel would no doubt be on the menu the next day, complete with chips.
Every lunchtime, between the main course and sweet, Mr Wallace would take his dessert spoon and hammer the formica-topped table in front of him. This brought a pin-drop silence to the room so that the daily register could be taken. As there were only about sixty pupils in the school, it didn’t take very long, and lunch then continued with jelly and custard or apple pie and custard.
Next to the kitchen and dining room was the place where we hung our coats and caps on hooks until going-home time.
This area was also the place where small bottles of milk (one third of a pint) were dished out from a crate every morning. It was a perk to be appointed a milk monitor. I never was. In winter, the bottles were stood in plastic bowls of hot water to take some of the chill off. Winters in the 1960s seem to have been spectacularly cold.
Next to the dining room was the Maths Room, which was the domain of Mrs Hawkins. It smelt of blackboard chalk and the paraffin heater that steamed the windows up. The walls were an acidic yellow, covered with educational posters and bits and pieces to do with mathematics. The room also carried a faint smell of its incumbent: a smell of perspiration in an age when deodorants were far from common.
Mollie Hawkins – who arrived in around 1964 – ruled the Maths Room by fear. She was a bully, given to outbursts of temper with occasional violence thrown in. Had she behaved in a similar manner nowadays, she would not only have ceased to be a teacher within a very short time, but would probably have been arrested into the bargain. She remained on the staff for twenty years, and died in 1993 at the age of 76.
(I remember my best friend being the victim of one of her more brutal attacks, in which she grabbed him by the hair and shook him backwards and forwards to punctuate a tirade levelled at him. Of course we never said anything. At home, complaining about a teacher was virtually useless, the usual response being something along the lines of ‘Well, I expect you asked for it.’)
My dislike of Maths has remained undimmed to this day.
The playground was at the back of the school, and its rear wall overlooked the playground of Putney High School. At break-times, the vigorous shouts of amazonian young girls at play could be heard, providing – for some – a tantalising hint of desires and pleasures as yet undeveloped, but frequently spoken of with much hilarity and absolute disbelief.
In 1967, the school held a Diamond Jubilee celebration, marked by a fete in the school grounds, and also the production of felt pennants, printed with the school’s name and dates – in the characteristic grey and white of the uniform.
I was there from 1963 – 1967, leaving just before the celebrations, and returning as a visitor for the day. It all looked very strange. And very small. For many years the prospectus continued to declare that the school provided a fitting background for those wishing to enter “the colonial or diplomatic services”.
To be continued …