Dear Editor, 

In reply to Michael Croucher’s article on Rainham  Secondary School for Boys in December 2000 AF,  like many old Rainham boys, my brother and I  attended the old Orchard Street School, now  St Margaret’s Junior School. I started there in  September 1945, leaving in December 1949 as a  prefect.  I was somewhat surprised that Mr Croucher didn’t  mention the backbone senior staff, namely Harry Thomas (Science) and Bert Newell (Art). Both were  on the staff before the war along with others like  Mr Sargeant. The names of others, after more than half a century, I sadly can't recall. Mr Smith I can  recall, however, was headmaster when my brother  Frank and I began there; although short in stature he  ruled with a rod of iron. During our second and third  year Mr Smith retired, to be replaced by Mr Bacon,  who I recollect swept down the hall for his first  assembly complete in black gown to the amusement  and sniggers of all us boys sat as normal cross-legged  on the floor. 

Other staff I can call to mind with respect are Bill  Taylor, my old form master, whose old Morris car I  have helped to start with a push with the help of other  lads on cold nights after school. Teachers with cars  were a rarity in the 40s and 50s. Harry Thomas did  own an ageing pre-war Austin Six I remember. Mr Sargeant I remember well with great respect; he  taught woodwork and TD. Sadly he died during my  final year. I recollect all of us prefects led by  (Bomber) Ronald Ware, headboy, attending his  funeral at Rainham Church.  Mr Smith taught us metalwork assisted by Mr Clark who came to the school on interview in his  Royal Naval Chief's uniform.  Mr Johns taught us history, I have him to thank for  my interest in the subject which has lasted a lifetime.  Like Mr Croucher I too have been on the receiving  end of Mr Brown’s size 12, assisted by an overweight  Mr Morris, who also took us for music before the  arrival of Alf Springate. 

Maths was taught by Billy Bones as we called him.  Mr Bowden was his real name — he had an amusing  habit of rhyming a boy's name to what might happen if he didn’t stop talking. A great friend of mine was  Alan Barrett Danes. Mr Bowden would recite ‘I’ll  give you such pains Danes’. Mr Patterson taught us how to grow spuds in a straight line in the school  garden, when all we were really interested in was  looking at the girls in the school next door, namely  Rainham Girls. Although both schools occupied what  was in reality one building divided into two schools,  the consequence if caught eyeing one of the girls  while in the building was a fate too dire to mention;  however, in the school garden it was permissible, resulting in rows of spuds far from straight and a  l great interest in gardening or rural science as it later became.

The school in Orchard Street in 2003, now St Margaret's Infants and Junior School

Careers education was almost non-existent in those  initial post-war years, apart from the odd school  outing or a visit from some heavily ringed naval  officer from the Dockyard. I can call to mind going  only on one visit to a building site which today is  Damson Way, being told as we clambered in and out  of unfinished houses (no hard hats in those days) that  many building trades would be taught to us if we  became apprentices. The foreman emphasised that the  building site language would come naturally. This  was said in response to a barrage of newly acquired  grammar from young apprentices who only the  previous term had been our fellow pupils at Orchard  Street.  The late Harry Thomas, and especially the late  Herbert Newell gave me the push and the incentive I  needed to take the first initial steps towards teacher  training and qualifying as an art teacher in 1957.

Over  the intervening years Bert became a good friend I  was privileged to be invited to Mr Bacon’s retirement  function at the newly built Howard School.  After 42 years in the job I enjoyed I too am now retired and have a lot to look back on thanks to  Rainham Boys’ at Orchard Street. 

(Howard School below)

John K. Austin 

Retired Schoolmaster 

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