School Photos

PotentillaPansies in window box

The potentilla in the front garden is fully in bloom, as are the pansies in Jackie’s window boxes on the wall.


This morning a woodpecker took advantage of its long, sharp, beak to penetrate the suet balls suspended from the crab apple tree.

Oak apples

I took a walk as far as Roger’s field footpath and photographed oak apples nestling in the hedgerow. I had noticed these on a day too dull to produce a picture. It took me some time to find them again.

Aaron concreting

A.P. Maintenance completed their work on the back drive when Aaron and Robin concreted the entrance.

Today I began replacing the photographic prints Elizabeth had returned to me yesterday. The first album starts in about 1923 and runs to 1978. Before I set them back in their vacant pages I scanned them and put them into iPhoto. One theme running through was that of school photographs. The style and quality of these has changed over the years, but all bear one general characteristic. That is that if they reach home uncreased they are bound to eventually become rather gunged, and many are so badly treated that they never reach adulthood.

My paternal grandparents’ ‘Norwood School for the Sons of Gentlemen’ was small enough not to suffer the fate of other, earlier panned shots of the entire staff and pupils, where some clown would always start out on one edge of the group, and dash round the back to plant him or her self on the other side before the lens reached them, thus appearing twice for posterity.

When I was at school, the photos we proudly carried home were still group images, but now in individual classes or forms as we called them. They were still in black and white.Wimbledon College school photo c1956

Wimbledon College school photo c1957

The form master in the first of these, taken, I think, in 1956, was Richard Milward, who features in ‘No-one Forgets A Good Teacher’; the second, in 1957, Fr Hamer S.J., on whom I focus in ‘Look At That Book’.Wimbledon College school photo signatures c1957

That 1957 class can’t be the only bunch of boys who thought it would be cool (‘though we didn’t have that use of the word then) to sign the back of the photo.

These pics, despite having spent most of their life in an album, are somewhat wrinkled.

By 1974, school photograph production was rather more sophisticated. They were now portraits in colour and came in a variety of sizes according to the parental purse. Those of Matthew and Becky have clearly been cut from sheets, probably of four copies which would be distributed among Mums and Dads and grandparents. These bear the stains of an early life partly spent clutched by sticky fingers; partly subjected to spillages one can only speculate at; and possibly twelve months beneath a fridge magnet. I took out as much muck as I could in iPhoto, but cropping was all I could do to rescue this one of Matthew, taken at Holly Mount school in Raynes Park:Matthew 1974Matthew 1974 1 - Version 2

Attending that same school was Becky, photographed in 1974 and 1976, when she, too, signed the back of the copy she brought to me.Becky 1974Becky 1976Becky signature1976

Michael is also pictured in 1974, wearing the uniform of his Raynes Park school of The Sacred Heart,Michael 1974Michael 1977

and in 1977 at Islington Green school, where uniform was not required.

This evening Jackie drove us to Lymington, where we dined at Lal Quilla. We both drank Kingfisher, and shared an egg paratha. My main course was King prawn Ceylon with special fried rice. Jackie’s was an interesting new chicken dish with pilau rice.

P.S. Here is a Facebook observation from Jackie:

‘What do you mean the school pictures stay under magnets on the fridge for 12 months ?! I still have my school photo’s of Mat and Becky on the fridge here! They have travelled with me for over 30 years! Love ’em.’
and a very acute one from Becky: ‘Interesting that Paul George John Murphy has signed his name in a ring(o).’


  1. I don’t usually go for annuals but must look at filling some window boxes with ornamentals after seeing yours. Must be a big job sorting out old photos but definitely worth it.

  2. I lingered over the 1957 autographs behind the photo, and very much enjoyed them. (I studied graphology and worked for some time as a professional calligrapher, as well.) I was reminded of the former tendency, somewhere in adolescence, to practice and develop one’s signature as a matter of individual pride. In the USA, now, one cannot even count on the young people’s even being able to read cursive writing, never mind produce it. And now you can “sign” documents on the internet. The unique mark of the hand is all gone, now, isn’t it…..

  3. Oak apples, or oak galls, were used to make the ink that was used to write documents of western civilization from Roman times well into the Renaissance!

  4. Love your annuals Derrick – just got some planted on Friday before our rain showers. Wonderful 1957 look back!

  5. So much of interest here! The photos you took are wonderful–the “oak apples,” the suet balls and woodpecker. Just beautiful. Then the vintage school pics are another kind of wonderful as I am always interested in vintage photographs and am the family archivist, I suppose.

  6. Scanning so many photos sounds like a huge project, but an excellent idea. I can’t say that I have much appreciation for quite a few of the school photos of my children. I had to wonder about the photographer.

    Your flowers are beautiful!

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