Having temporarily left Newport in the 1970s and only ever travelling home for family events I had not really kept up to date with the happenings at St Julian’s until December of last year when I attended a Christmas Concert at the school. Walking back through those doors was an unexpectedly emotional experience for me after almost 60 years. So much that was familiar and yet some changes that seemed oddly disconcerting. Entering the hall to find the stage is now on the right hand wall and not the wall in front of you as you walk in was the first of those odd experiences. I was stood there thinking “What HAVE they done to my school!”
Memories are such wonderful things. As I approach my eighth decade I remain certain that my recollections are perfect. Sadly some of my contemporaries are less convinced! But anyway…
One of the first tasks on entering the Juniors was to begin to write in ink. This had to be achieved using school issue wooden pens with a steel nib which you had to dip into the inkwell on the corner of your desk. It is not hard to imagine the mess that all this created. For some reason we were not allowed to have our own fountain pens until after the first year and ball point pens seem to have been regarded as corrupting influences designed to lure young minds along a path of laziness and corruption!
Once we could write we were given the opportunity to enter an essay completion sponsored by Cadbury’s chocolate. We all sat in the hall and watched a film about how chocolate was harvested in far off places and then made in Birmingham. The task was then to write an essay about some aspect of chocolate production with the prize being a seemingly enormous slab of chocolate for the best essay written by a boy and the best written by a girl. You can , of course, guess why I can remember this. I won the bar of chocolate and made myself thoroughly sick eating it.
We had four ‘houses’ named after the patron Saints of the four countries that made up the United Kingdom. I do not recall the house rivalries being used at any other time then on the annual sports day. In my final year I was , for some odd reason, elected as house captain of St David’s. Since my athletic prowess was notoriously bad the outcome that year on sports day was disastrous for my poor house members.
At one point the overcrowding in the Juniors was so bad that our classroom for an entire year was the dining room. For the last lesson every morning we would carry our chairs out into the corridor and be taught the last morning lesson there.
I recall a school trip to London Airport (now Heathrow) to the rooftop of the Queens Building which had recently opened. We were all a bit puzzled as to why we were going to stand on a rooftop for the day. It was much more exciting than that of course – there were rooftop gardens, souvenir shops and cafes as well as great views of the huge aircraft. On the journey back on the train one of the accompanying teachers got us to play a game which involved winning if you pretended to be asleep for longer than anyone else. I can recall a conversation between 2 of the teachers as I pretended sleep saying that whoever invented this game was a genius!
There was, every year, the annual nativity play. Costumes for this production were pretty basic for us boys. Tea towels tied on as head gear and dressing gowns as robes. I recall one year being cast as Joseph and having to wear a thick clump of cotton wool painted black and attached to a piece of elastic as a beard. It itched like mad and was so delicate I was not allowed to wear it during rehearsals leaving my actual moment of glory in the final performance a bit muffled as I tried to talk through two inches of cotton wool.