Codding, Fagging, Grantham, Isaac Newton, Schoolday Memories, Scragging, Scrumping, The King's School, Tom Brown's Schooldays
Isaac Newton, 1642 – 1727, King’s School pupil, 1655 – 1661
Painting by Godfrey Kneller (1689) – http://www.newton.cam.ac.uk/art/portrait.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37337
In 1655, a somewhat insecure and possibly frail young boy by the name of Isaac Newton started his formal education at the King’s School, Grantham, a school that was founded in the previous century by Richard Foxe, Bishop of Winchester. Newton’s mother pulled the young Isaac out of the school in an effort to turn him into a farmer. Isaac protested, saying he had laws of gravity and motion to sort out plus some maths to support his ideas and so his mother reluctantly returned him to the school and the rest, as they say, is history. Sir Isaac Newton went on to become one of the greatest scientific minds of the seventeenth century.
Why am I telling you this? Because I too attended the King’s School in Grantham, albeit three hundred years later, and although I never became one of the greatest scientific minds of the twentieth or twenty-first century, I made a small mark in the field of electronics engineering and, more importantly, the school made its mark on me so much so that I decided to capture my memories of my time at the school in a small paperback book:
I entered the school in 1955, first as a day boy and then, in 1956, as a boarder where I remained until I left in 1960 to make my way in the world. In my time at the school it was a traditional boys-only grammar school with a long history of old-fashioned discipline and classical teaching techniques rooted in the English public-school system. There were about 500 boys at the school, mostly “day bugs” as we boarders called them, but with a small contingent of boarders with numbers fluctuating between 30 to 40. Even now, as I approach my octogenarian years, my memories of my schooldays are vivid and captured in both words and images in the book. Here’s a summary of the book’s contents:
Main School Memories
Life in the Boarding House
My First Publication
After I left School, What Happened?
About the Author
If you’ve ever read and been intrigued by Thomas Hughes’s 1857 book Tom Brown’s Schooldays, or have a hankering to know what scrumping, fagging, scragging, and codding mean, this is the book for you. Or, if you are younger than me (most of my acquaintances are these days) and want to compare your teenage years’ education with mine, read and be amazed how liberal we’ve become in our approach to teenage behaviour and secondary education. In my day, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes while under the age of eighteen were major crimes (I confess to both wrongdoings in my youth) but drugs were not yet prevalent and encounters with the opposite sex were mostly innocent and second base at best. Similarly, gay meant happy!
Some say that the first five years of your life determine the pattern of your social, academic and ethical behaviour for the rest of your earthly existence. I disagree. When I look back on my days at the King’s School I can identify many things that happened that have influenced me: my sense of fair play and teamwork; my enjoyment of academic subjects based on the staples of Mathematics and English; my appreciation of all styles of music (now sadly lost because of my hard-of-hearing limitations); my ability and preference to work intensely in the early morning rather than late at night; my aversion to all sorts of gambling; my gradual conversion to atheism as a personal doctrine; my inability to leave food on the plate; and the familiar name (Ben) I have been known by since entry to the school at age 14. All these things can be traced back to the five years I spent at the school between the ages of 14 and 18.
The paperback book is available on Amazon, priced at £3.50. I’ve not yet produced the ebook version but may do so in the future. Let me know if that’s your preference.
Yep, that’s me in 1957, Sports Day, pole vault, clearing well over 7ft. I wish I could do that now!
And that’s me again, front row, second from right, playing the side drum in the school’s army cadet band at the Mayor’s Parade, circa 1959.
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