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NEWS > 1574-2024 Anniversary Features > Pate's 400 to 450

Pate's 400 to 450

In 1974, two CGS Sixth Formers took on the weighty responsibility of joint editors of a very special quatercentenary edition of the CGS magazine, The Patesian.
Alan Creech (L) and Derek Healy (R) at the 2018 Alumni Reunion
Alan Creech (L) and Derek Healy (R) at the 2018 Alumni Reunion

Discovering that this year my Alma Mater is half a century short of half a millennium old has brought Old Mortality a little too close for comfort.  Why?  Because it’s now fifty years since my great friend Alan Creech and I jointly edited the Quatercentenary issue of that august clarion The Patesian school magazine. We were keen lower Sixth Formers then, soon to embark upon fourth term Oxbridge schools (English Lit and Lang) under Bob Beale’s brilliant and tender supervision.

Alan and I felt greatly honoured by our task, if a little anxious at the burden of history it laid upon our young shoulders.  But we weren’t alone.  That splendid man Dave Kennedy – part of Bob’s English teaching team, and lost to us far too young – escorted us start to finish, saw that we didn’t struggle in depths beyond us, and lit our way ashore.

Cheltenham Grammar was then, effectively, still a boys’ school. Pate’s Grammar was the girls’ school, the far side of town (the much posher side!)  Both establishments were tentatively dipping a toe into the waters of co-education.  Re-reading that 400th Patesian now reminds me that our very first solitary girl pupil – Christina Lawrence, a sixth form joiner from Pate’s in 1972 – had very sadly died of a rare and incurable illness at the start of that academic year.  Six more girls had then migrated across from Pate’s to the CGS lower sixth in September ’73, and a similar number of boys had gone in the opposite direction ( including old chums Stewart Fletcher and John Terry).  It was still to be a fair number of years before full integration, the girls’ school transforming into a comprehensive and the new co-ed Pate’s Grammar concentrating all of its activities onto the Hester’s Way site.  But we were certainly on the right road in ‘73/’74 – despite the Old Patesians’ Club advert in our magazine extolling its fully segregated Men Only bar!

Alan and I were, of course, undertaking our journalistic duties in a different school building from the current one. Only opened in 1965, we knew already that it was falling down – the protuberant bare concrete music block trying to part company with the main red brick brutalist edifice and roll off down Princess Elizabeth Way.  We sat, privileged editors, in its least gruesome part – the hexagonal, copper-domed library block, which even allowed itself an immodest flirtation with some stained glass.  When stuck for our next idea we would pop next door to the Richings Room for an instructive chat with the ever tolerant librarian-in-chief, Mrs Lavis ( ‘Ma’ Lavis of course to all us eight hundred boys and half a dozen girls).

Patesian 400 also reminds me that that that was the first academic year of a new house system. Four new houses, named after headmasters, replaced the previous six ( named after alumni – what we now, dare I say it, have grown to be).  Bell, Dobson, Frankland and Heawood comprised the new foursome.  Dr A.E. (Arthur) bell had retired in our time, being replaced in ’71 by Bernie Wilkinson.  Arthur would only appoint Oxbridge men to Head of Department positions.  We many years later learned from Bob Beale – over sleepy pints at the Cheltenham Cricket Festival – that when appointing him as Head of English Arthur had misread his age, thinking Bob 36, not a laddish 26 years old.  Well, even though young enough to be Horace Cooke’s son, he was a Cambridge man, and that was good enough!

But as for houses, I’m afraid, I still think of the old six:  Baker ( my house, named after the famous engineer of the Bakerloo Line), Biffen, Corfield, Hawker, Jessop and Jayne.  Jessop, we learned, was not named after dear old Fred, our strict but always fair Deputy Head, but in memory of the incomparable Gilbert, one of Gloucestershire and England’s finest and most flamboyant cricketers ( and still, unbelievably, holder of the record for our fastest test century, even in these days of crash-bang T20).

I, being already dedicated to the poetry of Sassoon, Thomas and Wilfred Owen ( an essay on whom, I believe, squeezed me into Oxford), was keen that Patesian 400 should explore the lives of those alumni and staff who served in the Great War.  Even by October 1914, just two months in, ninety-nine Old Pats were already under the king’s colours.  We were able to follow their fortunes through the letters they wrote to The Patesian from the front. One, which I still vividly remember, was Sergeant J.C.Booth, writing from the East African campaign. He had somehow managed to enlist despite his poor eyesight. In October 1917 he wrote to the school, signing off with “I wonder if I shall ever have enough energy and stamina to play for the Old Boys against the School again in a good old tough Rugger match on Battledown.”  The next issue, in April 1918, carried Sgt Booth’s obituary.  The Patesian then was recording the war deaths of six or seven old boys per issue – when the school was a considerably smaller affair than it is today, and the magazine appeared twice a year!

Looking back, I am struck by what a great privilege Alan and I had, as two raw 17 year olds, taking on the weight of the school’s four hundred year history, as it then was. I hope that we did it justice, and that we repaid the faith placed in us by those splendid masters half a century ago.

Derek Healy (CGS 1968 to 1975)

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