In August 1929 I was moved from Applecroft Primary School to Hertford Grammar School. The fees were £5 per term. I believe this was a little less than the fees at Hitchin Grammar School, but only half of the £10 charged by St Albans Grammar School. As there was no grammar school at WGC at the time the majority of bourgeois boys of the town went to one of these three schools.
Any WGC boy who did not do so soon dropped out of my consciousness, but there was an elementary school in Applecroft Road to cater for such; there was also a grammar school for girls at Hitchin. There was something of a ghetto system in WGC, much of the area west of the railway falling into the bourgeois ghetto, but because of the small size of the town, the numbers in the west travelling to each school were quite small.
School uniforms including caps were obligatory. I went to Hertford daily by train with several other boys from the Welwyn and Hatfield areas, some of whom became good friends. The three-coach train on the Hertford line, now closed, was pulled by a tank engine belching a good deal of smoke, and it stopped at Cole Green and Hertingfordbury before reaching Hertford North.
At Hertingfordbury was stationed a very easily irritated porter, with whom some of us savoured the delights of dangerous living by taunting him as the train departed, ‘Trotty Walker can’t catch me’, and other similar comments. This had to be done with care, as he was entirely capable of jumping onto the moving train, delivering hefty boxings on the ears all round, and leaping off before the end of the platform. We persisted in this dangerous sport for several years. I suppose it was the equivalent of more recent vogues in Northern Ireland for stoning the police; at all events it got the adrenalin moving and with skill, we were usually able to avoid the disaster situation which we courted.
Hertford Grammar School, now renamed the Richard Hale School, had some 350 pupils at that time and its pupils, at least, regarded it as the elite school of the area. With one serious omission, the absence of any teaching of biology, it gave me an entirely adequate education and it got me to university at a time when this was not too easy.
I regret now that it took me 62 years (until 2000) to get round to revisiting the school after leaving in 1938. I offer the slightly limp excuses of the disruption caused by the War and the initial absence of any effective mechanism for keeping former pupils together.
In my early years at HGS, I more or less bumbled my way happily through. My standard class position was…