Old Leamington College photo sparks sports memories

Retired English professor Maurice Varney has submitted this old photograph of sixth formers at Leamington College for Boys.

Friday, 2nd September 2016, 3:36 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd September 2016, 4:41 pm
Sixth formers at Leamington College for Boys in 1954.

Prof Varney, 79, who now lives in Cheltenham, attended Leamington College for Boys from 1948 to 1955.

He said: “I have just come across this photograph of the Upper Sixth when I was in the Lower Sixth in 1954. It might ruffle some memories although it was taken a long time ago.

“The young men are: Wilton, Shurvinton (Head Boy), Lakins, Chantler, Herbert and Lawrence.

“The school was a straightforward grammar school in the early fifties, later merging with Leamington College for Girls and then becoming Binswood Secondary School. It was in Binswood Avenue and was originally built as a nunnery. It is now the Whittle restaurant and a complex of apartments for older occupants.

“In my time, 1948 to 1955, it was 100 percent recruited with 11-plus boys, unlike its fellow 11-plus school, Warwick School, which was a public school and took fee-paying pupils. It was a good school, with very hard-working male teachers, very poorly paid, many of whom had served with distinction in World War 2.

“Standards were high and many pupils went on to university; I went to Leeds and several other universities later in my career, in the UK, in France and in the USSR.

“The school specialised in sports, especially rugby, and in drama; the latter was my forte. Shurvinton, on the photo, was a great rugger player and actor, but not a great academic. He went to teacher training college after a year as an officer for National Service.

“Sometime between 1952 and 1955, Leamington College was in the national papers for the wrong reason. Its rugby team was beaten by Warwick School 160 to nil and the Daily Express had a headline ‘Are Warwick the new Springboks?’

“The Leamington team had half its usual complement injured or ill and played with reserves and people who didn’t know how to play. We didn’t have many big stories as we were a quiet lot and kept so.

“We were not even allowed to speak to girls on the street if we were in uniform and the same went for Leamington College for Girls and the numerous private schools which abounded.

“We were very strong in swimming, but had no pool, but I believe a pool was installed through public subscription in the early 1960s.