In September 1950, I moved on to my big School, Rugby. The choice of schools was ironic, because originally my parents wanted me to go to Bryanston and so they contacted Bryanston and asked them to recommend some prep schools and they recommended Akeley Wood. However Mr Ian thought that Bryanston was not the right school for me. He rather favoured Rugby: he had sent his own son, Duncan, there, so he knew it well. It was a more academic school and perhaps more suited to a thoughtful boy who didn’t quite fit in generally, than would be Bryanston which had ‘modern’ ideals to which perhaps one would be expected to conform. Rugby was oin some ways more old fashioned: the prefects were always known as sixth formers or sixths, and you could only be a prefect if you were in the top form, the sixth. The reputation of Rugby as being for rugger buggers was in many ways undeserved, for even if you were a top rugger bugger, you would not become a prefect unless you were in the sixth form, and this suited me well.
I was put in a house called Tudor. This was not in many ways Mr Ian’s first choice. He had sent his own son, Duncan, to Mitchell, which was certainly one of the top houses. Tudor however had been in a bad way. The previous housemaster the Rev Broxton, was a gentleman in religious orders but he did not have that crucial element for a successful housemaster: a wife. Under him I think the house began to slip and the numbers began to go down. Dramatic managerial intervention was therefore needed, so he was ejected half way through the normal 15 years that one was expected to serve as a housemaster, and a dynamic young housemaster was inserted, Peter Falk, who not only had a very effective wife called Biddy, but also two young children and it was hoped that he would pull the house up by its boot straps.
In this I think he was very successful. Certainly my entry term was an exceptionally large one. There were 11 of us in all, attracted by the idea of going into a house that was going to turn over a new leaf. The one reputation of the house was that it was good at Corps, that is the Combined Cadet Force which prepared us for our National Service, where we tended to win the competitions for the best drilled squad. This of course was the last thing that concerned me and I was very bad at it and managed to get out of it in my final years in order to write Greek verse instead. But at least it told me that in the Army I would have a problem marching, and I would do well to find some way of getting through my Army service without having to March. But that is another story.
Academically I suffered or perhaps enjoyed the curse that has followed me throughout my academic career that I was always good enough to get into the top stream but having got into the top stream among the best scholars, I found I could not compete with the very best, and tended to be halfway down the class or sometimes lower. This was no disgrace because the classes were always the top ones, but it meant that I firmly knew my place. I was not an academic and would have to find a life elsewhere, even though I have always been attracted by learning and intellect.
I took the scholarship exam but failed to get a scholarship. I think they awarded about a dozen scholarships and I came I think somewhere around 15 on the list. The top scholars were placed straight into the fifth form, and the runners-up into the lower fifth, but I was placed into the upper middle — I began in the Upper Middle 1, be where for the first year my form master was Ken Stagg.
On to the NHS (Natural History Society