|12 Sep 2022
|Life After Hymers
Immediately after leaving Hymers I went to Sheffield University to read Biblical Studies (despite having A-levels in Maths, Chemistry, and English Literature). In my first year, I also studied Philosophy and Ancient History.
Whilst in my first year at Sheffield, I went on one of the famous trips to Greece, led by the Hymers Classics teacher, Gerald Thompson. These always ended on the island of Aegina, in the Saronic Gulf, to which Gerald subsequently retired. (I remained in touch with him right up until his death in 2015.)
I passed the fast-stream entrance exams into the Civil Service, where I worked for what was then the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. This was during the early days of the UK’s membership of the EEC and involved frequent trips to Brussels for meetings of the excitingly named European Working Group on Eggs and Poultry. I then spent some time in one of MAFF’s Fisheries divisions, helping to preside over the decline of the British fishing industry – which was ironic because my Dad had worked on trawlers out of Hull before the war.
After a couple of years, I moved into the computer industry where I stayed for the rest of my career. I started as a programmer (software developer) on commercial systems when the ‘mainframe’ computers (which were all there were) still relied on punched cards for input - even floppy disks hadn’t yet been invented. However, I soon moved into more technical areas, developing software for the defence industry. My first experience of Malvern (where I still live) was in 1982 when I came here on a ‘6-month’ contract for the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE – part of the MoD at the time) to work on software modelling of UK air defence systems.
My career then progressed through systems analysis and technical project management, focusing on systems simulation and research for civil ATC systems. Finally, I spent the last 15 years or so as an Information Security consultant, working in the defence and intelligence sector, before retiring in 2021.
I have been a magistrate (JP) on the Worcestershire Bench for 25 years and am about to be admitted as a Licensed Lay Minister in the Church of England, attached to Malvern Priory.
I have a lot of memories of Hymers (and of the CCF in particular) which I’d better keep to myself, for fear of giving your Health & Safety Officer palpitations! I do have particularly fond memories of singing in the choir at the Hymers Christmas Carol Concert, held in the Main Hall, when Graham Watson’s choice of music, together with the lighting effects created by the school caretaker, Mr Burns, combined to create a truly magical atmosphere.
For many years (perhaps ever since the school was founded) it had been customary for a passage from the Bible to be read out each morning, by one of the masters, during school assembly. However, during the last years of Harry Roach’s headship, this requirement was relaxed. Harry decreed that the reading could now be taken from any work of ‘improving’ literature and, perhaps unwisely, delegated the task of reading it (except on Fridays) to a rota of sixth-form prefects.
The week came when it was the turn of one of my most imaginative friends to do the readings. This individual had better remain nameless; suffice to say, he went on to become a well-known local Estate Agent. On the Monday, he improved our minds with ‘An Ode to Premature Baldness’, written by a (wholly fictitious) Roman author. On Tuesday, we were treated to a gruesome story, from what my friend declared to be ‘the cul-de-sac of French literature’, about Parisian tramps being dismembered for scientific research. (Again, this was pure invention, but if anything ever needed a ‘trigger warning’…!)
Sadly, the Modern Languages department turned out to be more au fait with their subject than were their counterparts in Classics. Words were said and the offending prefect was stood down – so we never got to hear his offerings for Wednesday or Thursday (although I believe he was planning to recite the school song). This was probably just as well, since those of us who were ‘in the know’ were finding it increasingly difficult to keep a straight face as these readings progressed.
I joined the choir of St. Mary’s Church, Beverley, aged 7 – not because I could sing, but because all my pals at St. Mary’s Boys School thought it would be a good laugh! The choirmaster at the time was Graham Watson, who was also Head of Music at Hymers, and he’d been on a recruiting drive. A couple of years later, largely thanks to Mr Watson, I moved to Hymers Junior School. At the time, there were several Hymers pupils on the choir, including Ian Hare who went on to be Organ Scholar at King’s College, Cambridge.
I continued to sing on the St. Mary’s choir throughout my time at Hymers, descending from treble, through alto, to tenor – but with (as yet) no further progression to bass. I returned to sing with them during the holidays whilst I was at university and, even once I’d moved away for work, the choir always welcomed me back whenever I went home to visit my parents. This continued after Graham Watson finally retired as choirmaster because I knew his successor very well.
One of my contemporaries on the choir went on to have a career in music and formed a choir called Cantus. For the past twenty years or so, in August, he and I have returned, with Cantus, to sing the services at St. Mary’s – the church where we first sang as boy choristers over sixty years ago.
It was fantastic to see you in the summer, Richard, your reminisces made for the most enjoyable afternoon. We will be sure to seek you out next August at St. Mary's.
Former Senior Master and Head of Mathematics, Geoff Underwood took part in a Teacher Feature in 2001 More...