Contents List Our Memories Fireworks & Festivities

 

Page inspired by Nigel Utting


Christmas        Fireworks        May Day


Christmas

It was a tradition at Christmas for houses to be decorated.  One year, some bright spark in Cavell wrote "CAN YOU HEAR THE BELLS HERNANDEZ?" in rather large script on a window, since Mr Hoare's sense of hearing was less than acute.

Does Dr Hill still trot out his story at Christmas incorporating as many puns on people's names as possible?  The groan factor usually went off the scale as I recall.

Picture the scene; New Hall Christmas Entertainments 1976.  I was in the first year, and didn't really know what to expect.  After various sketches and songs, the resident staff stood in a line for the next item.  I only remember two parts of this, but each person took a verse and acted out in appropriate fashion.

Each verse went;

"I'm a <insert item> on the Christmas Tree,
Boys and girls come and look at me,
Look at me, see what I can do,
You can come and do it too."

Dave Chedgey was the first to bring the house down as he strode forward in an overcoat ("I'm a flashing light...") and opened it in true flasher fashion to reveal a lantern strapped to his chest. The piece de resistance however was to come from Wilson Graham (English).  We'd already nicknamed him 'Harmony' after the then-current hairspray advert, and his somewhat effete demeanour (well it was the 1970s and attitudes were different!).  Mr Graham steps forward, takes off his coat, and in falsetto tones... "I'm the fairy on the Christmas tree..." - tutu, wand, makeup and a mixture of gales of laughter and dropped jaws.  Full marks to him for going through with it!

Nigel Utting (1976-81)

Does anyone remember the festive spirit in the Halls? The same old Christmas Decorations that used to go up in the common rooms and the dining rooms each year. No Christmas Trees but they did put on a Turkey Dinner one day shortly before the end of term including Christmas Pudding but no crackers. In the early years there were even sixpenny coins hidden in the pudding. A jolly time was had by one and all don't you agree? Bah! Humbug!

Steve Grant

I remember the magical Sunday morning after the windows were painted each year, and the time it was our turn. Having about as much artistic talent as a 2 year old, I was not allowed to paint. But it was fantastic watching the little ones come down for breakfast and admiring everyone's handiwork. Not much fun taking it down at the end of term though! One year I was put in charge of organising the window painting in Fry, because the ONLY subject at school I was any good at was art. I remember that magical feeling too - well in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years anyway.

Morag Muir

I remember the rather nice feeling of getting up in my earlier years to find that the rooms had all been decorated by the older years getting up and doing it while the House was asleep. It was even better in the 5th and 6th year when we got up to do it ourselves, despite realising the truth that the girls did most of the painting while the boys clambered up ladders and made tea/coffee.

Iain (Sid) Sidey

I don't remember too much decoration in the old Gloucester days, the same tired old trimmings coming out year after year! But always one evening near the end of term the piano would be dragged out of Seeley's flat and a carol "concert" would be held. The seniors were encouraged to arrange some musical turns. One year we did "ding Dong Merrily on high," with one verse sung backwards and another singing one word each (about 5 of us taking part). I was, and still am nearly tone deaf, so ended up playing the comedy parts!

Colin Farrington

My fondest memory of the Wells traditions was the Christmas evening we had before going home for the holidays. The first formers always used to put on a play, ours was written by an English teacher in the House - name? They were always entertaining. We were very lucky too to have David Anderson attached to our House and he used to come over with his guitar and lead many of the carols. He sang one that I have never heard anywhere else but on those occasions. It was an upbeat version of a traditional carol. Jo ... I am sure you know which one I mean? I think Miss Colls provided some food and drink at the end. It was always quite a special event. Did other Houses do this too?

Moira Scott

I don't know the exact title but it started off with "The Virgin Mary had a baby boy" and it had a chorus "He come from the glory ... etc." I remember the plays too ... or at least mucking around with sheets for angels ...

Joanna Bassingthwaighte

Jo … I think what you and Moira are referring to is "the Calypso Carol." The words are something like:

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
And they say that his name was Jesus.

Chorus …

He came from the glory
He came from the glorious kingdom
He came from the glory
He came from the glorious kingdom
Oh yes, believer
Oh yes, believer
He came from the glory
He came from the glorious kingdom

The angels sang when the baby was born
The angels sang when the baby was born
The angels sang when the baby was born
And they say that his name was Jesus

<CHORUS>

The wise men saw when the baby was born
The wise men saw when the baby was born
The wise men saw when the baby was born
And they say that his name was Jesus

<CHORUS>

I could probably produce the piano music if pressed.

Colin Leaford

I too remember the magical feeling as you came downstairs the night after the 5th years had put up the decorations.  We were not allowed to paint our windows with coloured paints in Westminster, so purple Windolene liquid was used instead, which was applied using paintbrushes, and polished off at the end of term, killing two birds with one stone. Even now, 30 odd years later, the smell of purple Windolene reminds me of Christmas. I don’t remember the windows being painted once we moved to Kett Hall, but we did have wonderful house Christmas carol concerts with every year doing a “turn” and also some the staff. One year an English teacher, a Yorkshireman I think, (was it Mr Elliott?) performed a Stanley Holloway monologue which was marvellous.

Christine Plume (Dellino)

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Fireworks

In 1955 when we all came back from Autumn half term break, November 5th was soon upon us.  If we had any fireworks, the 'well regarded few,' sometimes known as 'licks,' had the privilege of letting them off for us in the relative safety of the pit beside Butler 34.  It should have been a longer display, but a spark found its way into a biscuit tin filled with the pyrotechnic goodies and the result was short and very spectacular!  In those days biscuit tins carried a deposit refundable upon return.  I don't think this one was worth returning.

John Chapman

The great thing about the annual school fireworks display on the Park was the fact that it was about the only time in the year when you could get away with hanging around for hours in the dark canoodling with a GIRL.  Shock! Horror!  Hence great efforts were made in the weeks before to persuade the object of your desires to 'go to the fireworks' with you. 'Who are you taking to the fireworks?' would be the main topic of conversation.  Quite how the staff allowed all this to happen I can't fathom, as they usually went to massive lengths to stop 'hanky panky' but generally a good time was had by all!

Ian Gomeche

One of the factors of the school was that the average age of staff was very high and consequently there was little chance of promotion within the school. After four/five years there, the Head decided that I was worthy of a small promotion and this manifested itself in being Andrew Seeley's helper on Extra Curricular Activities. Consequently, I was on duty on Fireworks night where he and I set them off.

There was always a large bonfire and as it was built over the preceding two or three weeks, it was always watched carefully (particularly on Saturday nights), lest someone should ignite it before the correct day. The were a couple of times when it was and the whole thing had to be rebuilt on the ashes of the previous one.

Inevitably on Bonfire Night, the large mass of wood almost always used to burn the trees surrounding it. Andrew Seeley would walk around with ex-CCF flares lighting them directly from the Bonfire. I believe that the CCF had to always get rid of the excess flares pronto and he took it on himself to do the job.

Anyway, one such night I had, as a helper, one Steve Rutherford. We has set it all up at about four in the afternoon (in daylight) and stayed with the fireworks until the evening. One firework that we had was a mortar, where you had to dig a foot-deep hole and firmly encase it in the ground. You then put the firework in and lit the fuse that trailed out of the tube.

During the evening, I placed the bomb in the tube, crouched low, and lit the thing. I then half-crawled away and stood up, whilst walking briskly and, as was my practise, looked to see the results of what I had done. I was about ten yards away when I saw young Steve walk OVER the tube. He took ONE more step when the bomb shot out of the tube and exploded some 10-20 yards up. Steve merely walked on almost oblivious to what had just happened. The air went blue and I called him all sorts of names in full hearing of the distant kids, all of whom thought that this was so funny. Me ranting and the fact that the mortar went off so close to him.

If it had happened only a second earlier, I'm sure that Steve would, at the very least, have never been able to even attempt fatherhood! I think that he came to realise how close it was. After that, and at future events, the safety side was very strictly adhered to!

Incidentally, Fireworks Nights were infrequent in the Eighties. It was always hoped that the pupils would go to one on the weekend and therefore a school event was not needed. Nonetheless, we always seemed to be reminded that it was needed. I must confess that as I loved setting the fireworks off and I used to start the rumour that it was cancelled so that the event would happen (Particularly after Andrew Seeley retired and I took over as Head of ECA)!

Also, in terms of cost we would burn up to 500 in one short evening and that took a lot of the Extra Curricula Money! That was a lot of money in those days!

Cliff Martin

I have similar memories as Ian Gomeche re the Fireworks night; especially the chance to get with the lady of choice in the dark.  We also brought our own fireworks in the early days (50's) and were allowed to let them off ourselves in the Park location.  However, the official walk from the College thru the woods to the Park enabled some to sneak into the woods and get lost.  From this location we placed rockets into bottles and aimed them at low angles to give the student body haircuts as they stood round the bonfire.  This is possibly what finally banned any student from having fireworks.

Now I live in Northern Illinois where fireworks are banned to the public ...... but I can have several guns!

This same Park area I remember as being the location of great chestnut trees and was a source of expended energy throwing sticks into the tree to permit us to bash open the shell and obtain delicious chestnuts.

Dave Turner (1951-58)

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May Day

Click to enlarge May Day was celebrated at the College in (we think) 1953, by these girls from 3rd and 4th forms of the Technical School. 

Click on the thumbnail image to see the full size version and (most of) the names.

 


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Wymondham College Remembered