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Jeffrey Eker

Westminster Under School restarted in 1943 in Grant’s, when the Great School was evacuated. Joined the Great School in 1945, when it was back in London. [1:10] A day boy. Lived above Baker Street station. School still finding its feet being back in London. There were barrage balloons and anti-aircraft guns in Vincent Square. Rationing of food and clothing. [2:52] He entered via the 4th form, which no longer exists. [3:43] Weekly form orders, when the pupils were ordered according to their marks the previous week. A very competitive atmosphere. Moved up two years due to his academic promise. [4:29] Took the School Certificate at 14. [5:00] Maundy money prizes and book tokens. [6:06] Physical training in Little Dean’s Yard in the morning. [7:10] The war was very traumatic for him, as a Jew. He was excused going to religious services, although some other Jewish boys did go. Was allowed to be away from school for the major Jewish religious holidays. He was an atheist. [8:42] The Under School evacuated for 4 weeks when the flying bombs came to London. [10:22] School numbers were very low when he arrived. No more than 220 boys. [11:05] Greaze took place in the roofless School. [12:52] Memorable Masters. W. F. Monk, an inspiring teacher. Dr Burch, who had no control over his class at all. [14:55] No bullying, and corporal punishment was very rare. [17:03] Enjoyed rowing. [18:05] His mother and siblings were sent to America in June 1940 by his father, because they were Jewish. His father probably thought he was never going to see them again. [18:50] Father came to England in 1911. Landed at Tower Pier, penniless and not speaking the language. First job was in Petticoat Lane, selling fabric off a barrel. Ended up with a textile business. [20:36] Knew he was going into business but didn’t tell anyone at school. [21:46] Brother went to Westminster when it was evacuated, and had a totally different impression of the school. Felt that the Housemaster was a bully and an anti-Semite. Jeffrey felt no anti-Semitism at all when he was there. [22:27] Saw the first meeting of the committee that set up the United Nations, which took place in Church House in 1944. Boys felt they were at the centre of the world. [23:47] Went into his father’s business after school. Sold the business and retired at 57. [24:29] Was in Ashburnham House, but there wasn't much house spirit. Felt more a member of the school than his house.

John Porteous and Catherine Porteous

Catherine’s earliest memories of the school. Visiting St James’ Park with Nanny. A visit by the Princesses to Westminster Abbey. [2:37] King’s visit to the Latin Play in 1937. [3:24] War and evacuation to Ireland, where she stayed until April 1940. [4:38] Wearing lifebelts on the boat back to England. [4:56] Staying at Lancing College. Listening to Churchill on the radio. Soldiers returned from Dunkirk sleeping in gardens. [6:25] Moved from the coast. Blitz begins. [7:42] Living in Herefordshire. The Blitz at Westminster School. [8:41] Herefordshire. A governess shared with the other Masters’ children. Rode a pony to school every day. [10:49] Made friends with an old poacher. [12:00] Moved into the town. More involved in the community there. Westminster boys learning how to live in the country. [15:18] Her mother, Mrs Christie’s, food parcels from Australia. Tony Benn helps her with her long division. [16:08] Learnt to swim in the river. [16:25] Awareness of war news. [16:45] Religious service and local vicars. [18:12] Excitement on D-Day. [20:42] Arnold Foster, Head of Music, organised a local choir and orchestra with the boys. Enjoyed by the locals. [21:27] Plays by the boys. Her first Shakespeare. [22:20] Vanessa and Colin Redgrave, who were also evacuated and joined their classes with the governess. [22:40] Masters’ wives and matrons worked hard to cater for the boys without servants. [23:49] Return to London. It felt dirty, broken and sad. [24:30] Masters’ children took lessons with a member of staff. [26:10] Living in no. 17. Cycling around on top of the water tanks in Dean’s Yard. [27:09] Hide-and-seek in the Cloisters. American soldiers. Playing around on the school roofs. [29:02] Bomb damage to the school. Impact on father’s health of the strain of war and school bomb damage. His illness in 1947. [31:35] Went to boarding school. [32:17] First saw John playing Gwendolyn in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’. [33:47] Occasional returns to Westminster. The Greaze. Later watching her son in the Greaze. [36:00] Mother kept hens at school. Boys thought she was very eccentric. [37:15] Mother became very good at entertaining. Would visit boys who were ill. [39:50] Christie’s lasting friendships with the boys. [41:59] Catherine and John meet. [43:33] John’s experience of WWII. Tormore School Prep School. Trained for the Challenge quite intensively. [46:04] Many boys he knew from his prep school were at Westminster. [46:57] Westminster was very liberal after his strict prep school. Food at Westminster. An unpleasant experience with the school food. Post-war rationing. [49:43] Post-war Westminster bleak and dirty. The Abbey coal-black inside. Princess Elizabeth’s wedding. [50:50] The robes and huge jewels of the Indian Princes. [51:50] Smog and the effect of city living on the Westminster boys. [53:39] College was very ‘churchy’. [54:44] Found work too easy in the Shell. [56:20] They were precocious and gave themselves extra work in non-school subjects, for example learning Tamil. He learnt Anglo-Saxon. [58:08] Teaching classrooms. [59:20] Seen as infra dig to take A Levels. Trained for the Oxbridge exams. [1:00:51] Scared of John Christie, who taught them and made them learn Greek by heart. [1:02:25] Descriptions of teachers. Munck, killed in an aeroplane crash. Charles Keeley, shy historian. [1:04:01] Deeply churchy place. Prayers every morning. Some King’s Scholars considered becoming Catholic. [1:05:33] Description of the Westminster tradition of Decals and evening calls. [1:09:29] Initiation ceremony to learn Westminster slang. Changes in the tradition while he was at school. [1:12:31] Scholars all slept in the same dormitory apart from the prefectus, who had a separate room which had formerly been the bedroom of Catherine Porteous when she was younger. [1:13:42] Abbey an important part of Westminster life. [1:14:54] Queen Mary came to the Abbey when her favourite curate was preaching. Looked old-fashioned. The misbehaviour of Catherine’s sister on one occasion. [1:16:03] Eccentric Masters. Troutbeg, who wore tailcoats. Rugbig, who carried a cane. Simpson. [1:18:53] John Carleton, an excellent House Master and a huge influence on John. Remained a friend with Carleton. [1:21:17] Catherine was required to call all the Masters by their surnames, unlike the other Masters’ children. [1:22:39] Gradually starting to use Christian names for pupils. [1:23:53] The re-opening of College and the royal visit. John Carleton’s first year as House Master of College. Terrible acoustics of the new building. [1:25:16] The opening of College by the King and Queen. [1:28:58] An instance of John Carleton’s ingenuity. [1:32:59] House ledgers. John’s character as a young man. [1:34:40] Uncertainty what would have happened to him if he hadn’t won a closed scholarship. [1:36:43] Good friends made at Westminster. [1:39:31] Being in the 6th and 7th form at Westminster was very like university. Boys educated each other. Informal classes were like tutorials. [1:40:36] Debate with Eton. Etonians were more sophisticated. The Westminsters felt like ‘ignorant schoolchildren’ in comparison. [1:42:39] More difficult for John to make ends meet at Oxford than it had been at Westminster. [1:43:45] College was the elite. Very strong sense of cohesion as a house. The gowns meant they were more easily distinguished from the other houses then. [1:45:16] Catherine had lots of friends in Oxford. Sent to Germany by her parents, who thought she was being too frivolous and that she was getting too involved with Robin. Learnt German.

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