Two Decades by J B Morris published in 1986 is now available on line. Download and read Two Decades by J B Morris
Many thanks to the daughter and granddaughters of Jack & Jill Morris for their kind permission to convert ‘Two Decades’ into a PDF file and put on-line for all to see and enjoy.
Thanks too from the OSA and so many Old Shebbearians who have so many memories of ‘Jack’ to Peter Brown for painstakingly scanning, proofing and processing the hardcopy into a PDF.
‘Schools at War’ by David Stranack is published by Phillimore & Co, Chichester, West Sussex, at £14.99.
There is no mention of the great defensive trench that stretched the length of a cricket field, the Home Guard, the nightly blackouts or the sadness when the lengthening list of casualties was read out after prep in the Old Third.
But a new book says Shebbear’s remoteness made it a popular choice for parents seeking a safe refuge for their sons during the Second World War.
While not actually hosting a complete school, Shebbear received a steady stream of individual evacuees from urban areas at risk from attack.
In fact, “In the late 1940s the school roll was 50 per cent higher than it was in 1939.”
When Jack Morris arrived from Bryanston in 1942 to take over the headship, pupils were faced with a variety of attitudes among the staff.
“Morris was a jingoistic patriot but some of the older members of the common room who had had personal experience of action in the First World War viewed the new conflict with apprehension, and a couple of masters who were confirmed pacifists completed an interesting spectrum of opinion.”
It adds: “Apart from the usual deprivations caused by a shortage of food and fuel, Shebbearians’ lives were largely unaffected by the war.
“But perhaps helping with the potato harvest alongside prisoners of war from Italy and Germany gave them some inkling of how other lives had been affected.
Other West Country school mentioned in the book include Blundell’s and Kelly College, while it is also records that Bideford Grammar School hosted pupils from Selhurst Grammar School, Croydon, for a while.
Leslie Scrase Celebrates Retirement in ‘It’s Another World’ (published by The Book Guild Limited of Lewes, East Sussex – £16.95)
We have enjoyed thinly-disguised autobiographical accounts of his schooldays and his time in the Royal Navy (A Prized Pupil and A Reluctant Seaman) reviewed in the last Shebbearian and on the OSA Website. Now author Leslie Scrase turns to retirement as the subject for his 13th book. Slippers, pipe, hot chocolate and early nights? Not for one moment! Old Shebbearians, national serviceman, Methodist minister and atheist in turn, owner of a car hire business when he chauffeured the rich and famous, he celebrates the move from suburban Surrey to rural west Dorset with joy and humour in It’s Another World.
LS is a natural story teller. And from one story come others in glorious twists and turns. We are lured happily into another world. Fairies, leprechauns, giants and witches appear and we accept them totally.
Fortunately, devoted wife Wend and dog Becky keep some order and perspective in Leslie’s life. But Becky can talk quite sensibly. Well, tell me a dog that can’t?
We get some clues to the author’s past. There’s wise Joe, who lives in an old, old farmhouse and owns the neighbouring land. He went to boarding school and ‘that’s where Joe and I met.”
Occasionally, Joe drops into the vernacular of all our West Country childhoods: “You must be maised boy, proper maised.”
Leslie and Wendy drive to North Devon to get an aneroid barometer repaired in Merton “a small village right in the middle of nowhere between Okehampton and Great Torrington”.
“I used to know that part of North Devon quite well. I did a lot of my growing up down there,” he explains.
He tells why he is teetotal. “Funnily enough, I left religion behind and stopped going to chapel altogether, but I never acquired a taste for alcohol. And later with drink-drive laws coming in, there didn’t seem any point.”
He objects not one bit to Wendy sipping the occasional brandy. “I must say I like the way it affects her sometimes.”
Wartime at Shebbear left him with an everlasting liking for plain food. “I like proper English food with no frills and none of that modern rubbish of plastering everything in herbs and spoiling the pure taste of good meat and vegetable.”
Back again to the war years: “I served with the Home Guard when I was a Scout. I was a runner or messenger for them.”
He touches on religion, declaring: “Preachers were never very good at inspiring people with visions of heaven so they tried to terrify them into virtue.”
A beautifully written and amusing book in which the author sees every new day as a fresh challenge and an opportunity to experience something new. And he never misses the chance to give the reader a little history lesson.
It is truly a celebration of what fun life can be when the shackles of earning a living have been removed!
After leaving Perspins, Roger Wallace becomes a National Service sailor. Denied his preference to work in education he becomes a writer (or “scribes” in naval slang). While the course of his Service life provides the chronological peg on which the narrative is grounded, the main thrusts of the novel are his continuing passion for Gladys and the development of his journey from Christianity to Humanism.
The author ponders earnestly on his philosophical response to pacificism (in relation to the Korean war), homosexuality (as a witness at a Court Martial on board HMS Victory), and above all the basic tenets of the Christian religion. He takes unexpected parts in a marriage ceremony and a funeral. These are brilliantly described, the first hilariously, the second elegiacally.
Throughout Roger alternately pines for Gladys, spends a blissful fortnight with her in North Devon, is cast into despair when she tells him she is to marry another man and, by seeming serendipity, is reunited with her in Surrey when he leaves the navy and buys a small car hire business.
He revisits Perspins to play rugby for the Old Boys and again to seek “Mr. Emerson’s” advice about the Korean war. There are a number of well drawn characters in this volume, notably the splendid Lieutenant George Trelawney, his Commanding Officer on HMS Defiance. Altogether it is a deeper book than its predecessor, entertaining, and most interesting for what it tells of the author’s (or perhaps one should say the central character’s) evolution at a highly formative age.
Leslie Scrase was at Shebbear from 1942 to 1949. He is writing a sequence of novels in the genre of autobiographical fiction. A Prized Pupil (published by United Writers. £16.95) is the second volume and is a lightly veiled account of his years at Shebbear.
The volume is dedicated to three Shebbearians: Jackson Page (JP), Guy Wright and John Shapcott. Like JP, Guy Wright returned to teach, for two years 1946-48, when he illuminated junior maths, music and the stage. He died tragically young. John Shapcott was also struck down in his prime.
The fictional Scrase, Roger Wallace, arrives at Perspins (as in Ad gloriam ….) for winter term 1942. His contemporaries will easily decode the transparent change of other names. Wallace was an evacuee when Shebbear provided a rural escape from the ravages of German bombs for many urban boys, and thus became a more diverse community than it had ever been – greatly to its advantage.
There are broadly three threads: school life; the war and the author’s evolving attitude towards it; and a (perhaps vicarious) romance.
The new boy anticipated a recreation of Tom Brown’s Schooldays or Stalky & Co. Although he seems to have been disappointed in this, the narrative is not without echoes of both, particularly perhaps the former. The book proceeds at a crisp pace and faithfully describes the ethos and rhythm of Shebbear in that era. As Scrase relives scrapes, scats, triangle runs, rugby triumphs, spud picking, scout camp, ditch and dyke (oh yes), the school play and dawning appreciation of an exceptional schoolmaster (Mr Emerson alias JP), the chapters are necessarily episodic. It is interesting to compare the fictional account with coeval editions of the Shebbearian.There is a graphic description of our hero’s debut for the 1st XV, mirrored score for score in a (Winter 1947 edition) report of an exciting win against Kelly College. He routs the Tories in a Union debate (the Spring 1949 edition informs us: “Mr Scrase spoke throughout with much confidence”) and comes second to “John Cob” in the senior cross country – a photo of Scrase and John Shapcott captioned “Runner up and Winner” is in the same edition.
Another arrival in 1942 was J.B. Morris. Although the author’s first impression of JBM, accurately enough, was of a “human dynamo”, some of his later appearances in the book seem rather caricatured. The rugby tackle dramatically executed on the unpleasant and dishonest Mr Smart at ‘Downland Halt’ station is nevertheless chalked to his credit. (Anyone who can recall this episode might enlarge in a letter to the OS editor or an email to the OSA web site).
The three wartime years (1942-45) occupy three quarters of the book. The author provides regular mileposts – the London blitz, Alamein, Monte Casino, D Day, Doodlebugs, VE Day, etc. These act as a peg on which to offer his reflections on this war and on war in general. One of Wallace’s older brothers visits Shebbear to tell him another has been killed flying his Hurricane in North Africa. There is poignancy here, and there is a moving passage when, on Remembrance Day some years later, Wallace reads the names of those killed in both World Wars, silently adding his brother’s name at the end. There is humour too for those who may find mid-century resonance in his parents’ fastidious economy with the telephone and shock at a daring request for two shillings (10p) extra pocket money for a visit to Lords – he tries his mother first, of course.
Then there is Gladys. Wallace has a fling with this pretty kitchen maid and is emotionally as well as physically smitten. An initial disclaimer implies that his occasional trysts with Gladys, hazardous and intense, may be less autobiographical than much else in the book. It is after all a novel.
A Prized Pupil gives a good and atmospheric idea of Shebbear in the 1940s. It is over 60 years since Wallace arrived at Perspins. Imagine the difference between the school shaped by J.B Morris and the establishment run by Ruddle 60 years earlier. Then fast forward to 2003 and be surprised, not by the evident differences, but by the survival of so many familiar features. Guy Wright would be proud of today’s music even if a little incredulous at the existence of 10 Visiting Music Staff. Roger Wallace would surmise the school Food Technician does not prescribe maggots as a meat supplement. But there were redeeming features in what we might now call the late Middle Ages. Among other things one is reminded what good writing there was in the Shebbearian when three boys were editors under the supervision of JP. In the Summer 1947 edition there is a clever and amusing article by Leslie Scrase – “Learning One’s Lines” (for his part in Julius Caesar). The boy could write even then!
A School Apart was commissioned and published by the OSA in about 1986.
Many contributed to it including Leslie Johnson, Kingsley Barrett, Jack Morris, Jackson Page, George Kingsnorth and Russell Buley.
It was put together by the late Tony Fairchild, then yachting correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.