South Shields Grammar-Technical School for Boys  
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School Trivia

This is the place for facts and figures that really don't fit in anywhere else (or they do, but are worth listing again) - and, as always, let me know if you have anything worth adding.

The Sixth-Form badge

Towards the end of the 1959/60 academic year, Bill Egner suggested that members of the Sixth Form might like to wear a different blazer badge. This would replace the traditional lifeboat design and reflect the special position of the Sixth Form in the school (although its real purpose was probably to encourage the older pupils to continue to wear school uniform).

6th form badgeExperts in Heraldy and Archaeology at Durham University pointed out that if a shield-based design were to be chosen, it ought to conform to the laws of Heraldry and be approved and registered. The time and expense was thought not to be justified, so a number of non-shield designs were suggested.

Mr Mason painted these at full size to best judge the overall effect, and the chosen design (left) was by Lionel Masters and Brian Lawrenson. It consisted of St Hilda's Cross in yellow on a navy blue background - this (more properly known as a Croix Fleurée) reflected both Bede's history in the area, and St HIlda's church. Top left was the Roman eagle in silver (reflecting the Roman history of the town), and top right was a small yellow lifeboat above blue and silver waves (reflecting the sea and the town's lifeboat history).

21st century logoThis badge eventually became the school's emblem, albeit with a much thinner (and less correct) cross.

In about 2007 it was replaced by the more "modern" logo on the right, retaining the light blue and gold, and the lifeboat.

The sloping table, chair and lecturn

Most of those who attended the school in Harton will have seen the headmaster's table and chair, and the "Brooks Memorial Lecturn" on the stage - but only those who attended from the mid-50s onwards would have questioned the design of them.

If you look at the photo on the right you'll see the strange slope to the table uprights and top, and the base of the lecturn. In fact these were all cut at 4 degrees, as were the legs of the chair ... why?

Because, before the stage was moved from its original position at the north end of the hall, it had a rake of about 4 degrees - by designing these with a built in 4-degree slope, they would sit squarely upright.

The slope of the lecturn was less of a problem than the slope of the table, which caused Mr Egner considerable frustration (and he, and subsequent Heads appear to have decided that having it slope away was better than having it slope towards you).

Of course, it would have been a trivial task to get the woodwork department to add small wedges underneath the table's feet, the chair legs and the lecturn - but for some reason, it was never done.

The Runcimans in Parliament - a first

Lord Runciman, one of the very first boys to attend the old Boys' High School, became an MP. he was married to Hilda Stevenson, who also became an MP, and between them they became the first husband and wife to sit together in the House of Commons.

The school motto: NUNQUAM NON PARATI

South Shields' Charter of Incorporation (as a municipal borough) was granted in 1850, and the Mayor and Corporation set about forming standing orders and bye-laws, and designing the insignia. Shields poet and artist, Robinson Elliott, designed the seal, and a coat of arms with a lifeboat at its centre. Then came the question of a motto. Robert Ingham countered the normal tradition by proposing an English motto ... "that is what our Lifeboat and its Brigade are: Always Ready". And so, this was adopted as the borough's motto (although one person had suggested "Few words, Much work").

When the Boys' High School was looking for a motto, it turned the town's English motto into Latin. The negative of the negative nunquam (also spelt numquam, and meaning never) was chosen ... non nunquam is a weak form, and really means "sometimes" ... nunquam non is the strong form, and means "always". And parati means "prepared". So I suppose the school's motto really reads "not never prepared".

The very first try ever scored at an International match at the Twickenham rugby stadium ...

... was by Old Boy, Dr FE Chapman, brother of Sir Robert Chapman, in the International between England and Wales on 15th February, 1910. England won by 11 to 6.

The varying slopes of ties

Compulsory school uniform was introduce in September, 1956 and the standard school tie seems not to have been quite so "standard", as some ties slope down from right to left and some from left to right. - as this picture (from 1959) shows:

A mixture of ties

The traditional slope of the British tie is down from right to left /// - so four of these six ties are "correct". The opposite slope (\\\) is actually a predominantly American style, and it's a puzzle as to how we have this mixture. The special Sixth Form ties don't show this discrepancy, but judging from the ties' appearance in school photos here on the site (right through to the '70s), about 25% of them sloped the "wrong" way.

When this first appeared on the site, I wondered if anyone knew why this should be. One theory has since emerged.

The Girls' school used the same tie, but could it be that its design was deliberately sloping the opposite way to the Boys' ties, and that this difference was not properly recognised? If this were the case, photos of the Girls' school should show the opposite trend - and indeed, based on the few photos I've looked at, they do.

Sneaky short-cut

Bill Lucas, Headmaster at the time the school moved to the new building in Harton, lived at 233 Sunderland Road. This meant that to get to the school he had to walk along Sunderland Road, through to St Mary's Avenue, and then double back to the school's entrance. All a bit unnecessary in his eyes, as his house backed onto one of the houses in St Mary's Avenue. So he came to an arrangement with its owner (Carruthers, the builder) to have a gate into the back garden, thereby giving him a short-cut to St Mary's Avenue and on to the school.

The School Organ

When the new building at Harton was being planned, the Old Boys' Association of Westoe School organised fund raising to buy an organ for the new hall. Amongst other events, they organised a Garden Fete in June, 1935, raising just over £100.

The organ (a "4-rank extension organ") was built in 1936 by Vincent Electric Organ Co, of Sunderland. It was overhauled in 1947, and in 1954 it was moved when the hall was turned through 90 degrees. The organ was overhauled in 1994, when a new action was fitted.

Very few Heads

The school is unusual in that it has had very few Headmasters since its founding in 1885 - in the 90 years to 1976, it had only 5!

The first was WH Philips, who gave way to GD Dakyns in 1890. When Dakyns moved on to become headmaster of Morpeth Grammar in 1896, GR Kriwan took over. Kirwan died in 1919 and WT Lucas became acting Head, and the following year was appointed as Headmaster.

Lucas oversaw the move to the new school at Harton, where he remained until his retirement in 1955. His replacement, WE Egner, couldn't quite match his 36 years, retiring in 1976 after 21 years as the school's Head.

The new school at Harton in 1936 ... some facts

Of the 13 acre site, 10 acres were occupied by playing fields and tennis courts - there were three rugby pitches, one soccer pitch, one fully-laid-out cricket pitch, a practice cricket pitch and four hard tennis courts.

The back corridor is 445 feet long ... storage was provided for nearly 300 bicycles in different parts of the site ... the main hall could seat 550 pupils.

The entrance hall is laid with York stone, and panelled in oak... the floors to corridors and classrooms were laid with teak boards and blocks, and Australian jarrah (a variety of eucalyptus tree, nothing to do with the town just west of Shields!) ... the main hall floor is American oak ... the (small) gym floor is Canadian birch ... the roof is green Westmorland slate.

The School Song ...

... was first performed in November, 1926, at the Speech Day. It was performed at every Speech Day thereafter, until its final performance in November, 1968. However, it continued to be taught to Sixth Formers until 1973. As far as I know, it has never been performed since.

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