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Patrick Kennedy

War broke out as he started at Westminster. [3:16] Evacuated with the school. Dwindling numbers of pupils. [6:10] Left Lancing when France fell. [7:21] Chocolate rationed. School moved to Lancing College. [13:10] Chose Maths as his main subject. Tony Benn was in his class. A booby-trapped door that caught the Head Master, John Christie. [18:39] Comments on John Christie. [19:30] The house magazine for Grant’s. [21:46] Stayed at a farmhouse. Good quality dairy products there. [23:13] The Home Guard at Buckenhill. The House Master, Murray Rust, was a Major in the Home Guard. [25:24] Robert Bruce, a friend. Walks together in the mountains after university. [27:35] Football. [31:15] Tennis. [32:20] Activities in the boys’ spare time. [33:49] Reading evenings. Walks. [34:36] Harvesting mistletoe. [37:33] Tony Benn, who was called Wedgewood Benn. A time Benn was beaten for putting his feet up on the desk during a lesson. [49:20] Masters’ wives were very integrated with the school. They used to cook for the boys. [51:53] Cycling at the weekend was very popular with the boys. [52:55] An example of Murray Rust’s quick thinking in an encounter with a hand grenade in the Home Guard. [59:25] Long-distance race across the common, called the Bringsty Relay. [1.04.03] Academic studies. Weekends dedicated to music and arts. House choirs.

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.

Dr Douglas East

Had a prep school friend who went to Westminster School and visited him there. He remembers the King’s Scholars and their splendid costumes. [1:20] He was asked to rebind the Abbey library in 1983. Charles Low became aware of him and asked him to start bookbinding at Westminster. He had just retired from classes, then started bookbinding classes a day or two later. [4:45] The amount of pressure on pupils, who are working with their minds all the time. Important for them to have a break and work with their hands. [9:55] Bookbinding saved several people from nervous breakdowns. [11:02] More competition to get into Oxbridge than there used to be. [13:24] The bookbinding exhibition gets better each year. [15:59] Hasn’t had time to make a binding of his own in years. Description of inlay onlay bookbinding technique. [17:33] Doesn’t have a favourite binding by a pupil. They’re all different and good in their own way. Not keen on the idea of prizes. [19:29] Benefits for teachers doing bookbinding. A break from academic work. [23:11] Description of a flood from a tap left on in a top floor flat. His tools covered in rust when he returned from the summer holidays. [24:09] The new bookbinding room. Severely claustrophobic from his time in the Navy. Hasn’t been on the Tube since the war. Was once trapped in a lift and hasn’t been in one since. [26:36] An unhappy childhood. [26:47] Started teaching at 17. Went to Oxford later. There were more people than usual at Oxford, back from the war. He studied history, the only proper subject, which embraces everything else. [29:08] Start of the Cold War in 1947. Crisis in Berlin. Felt that he could have been called back into the armed services at any moment. [31:56] Diploma in Education. [33:23] Went to Abbotsholme School, a pioneer for progressive schools. Forestry, farming, music and crafts were all part of the timetable. [34:21] Seeing a bookbinding class for the first time. Had never thought about bookbinding before. [35:21] Started running bookbinding classes at Abbotsholme. [37:50] Worked at the Public Records Office Conservation Department. Very good experience. Lecturing at Camberwell for the professional course on archives and records. Local Authority had funding cuts and sold Camberwell. [39:55] Recommended to the Abbey Library and came to Westminster. [41:38] Maundy money, a reward for good work, given by the Queen in the Abbey. [44:22] Writing poetry. Wants to continue with bookbinding. [44:45] Wants happiness for his pupils. [47:47] Has been vegetarian for 70 years and is still very fit. Became vegetarian during the war, surrounded by slaughter. He decided he could stop some slaughter. [49:06] Not a vegan, although this is the logical thing to be. Veganism can be a bit of a nuisance to other people. [50:01] Used to have many colds every year. After two year of being vegetarian, he hasn’t had a cold since. [51:10] Much easier to be a vegetarian now. Before, there was no provision made in restaurants. [51:40] At Oxford there was only one other vegetarian in his college. They were given things on toast. [51:10] Nelson, his favourite historical figure. He doesn’t understand digital things. [53:41] Misses his analogue camera. Doesn’t have a computer. [54:30] Least favourite historical figure is Elizabeth I. Dismissed the Navy without pay as soon as it defeated the Armada, leaving sailors starving in Plymouth. Dismissed the militia without pay too. Description of the discovery of Philip II’s private diary. [1:00:01] Criticisms of the statue of Elizabeth I. [1:00:52] Enjoys some Dickens. Liked reading The Cruel Sea, which reflects his experience of convoys during the war. From Londonderry to Gibraltar in 1943. Port Said and the Suez Canal. [1:05:50] Enjoyable experience of South Africa. Likes the accent even now. [1:06:53] Mentions different pupils. [1:08:12] The idea of perfect happiness is having the right people around you, marrying the right person and having nice children. His marriage was a mistake for both of them. Their son died before he was born and they then drifted apart. He’s been on his own for 45 years. Being at the school is his idea of perfect happiness. [1:09:57] He believe in the next world and will communicate with people he’s left if he can.

Stephen Spurr

When he arrived at Westminster he felt the school needed to rediscover its purpose and reshape itself for the 21st century. [3:42] His aim in the first year was to consult people over the future of the school. [4:00] His previous school had been Clifton School in Bristol. Every school is different, and when you begin at a new school you must understand its ethos. [5:08] At Clifton he had learnt how important it was to have co-education. Clifton had been in a difficult financial state when he first arrived. He had learnt how important it is for the Headmaster to keep on top of finances. [6:25] He had been a housemaster and head of a large department at Eton. Before then he had been a university academic. Westminster is like a small university in some ways. [7:30] Westminster was originally ahead of other schools in co-education, but now can be seen as a dinosaur. Believes that the Westminster model is the right one. [9:18] Doubts about excluding girls from the years below. [10:34] He decided to change the composition and numbers in the sixth form, so that Westminster no longer felt like a boys’ school that happened to have some girls in it. Decided on 1/3 girls, 2/3 boys in 6th form, with minimum of ¼ boarders. [12:23] School increased overall to 740, to allow for more girls at 6th form. Introduced a head girl. [13:19] The number of women in the Common Room has also increased. [14:08] The greater number of newcomers in the sixth form helps the boys who are already pupils to see the sixth form as a new beginning. [14:35] Balancing money spent on social mobility and money spent improving facilities. [15:53] The importance of fundraising. [17:55] The choice between fundraising for a very large endowment or raising money every year to plough straight into financial assistance. Chose the latter. [19:08] Harris Westminster Academy. Westminster needs to look outwards more. [20:23] Westminster summer school. Inspiring pupils to go into higher education. [21:55] Media portrayal of Westminster. Most schools try to get into the press. At Westminster, it’s the reverse. Many calls from the press, which are not always relevant. Need a good relationship with journalists. [25:47] The impact of social media. Pupils need to be educated on how to use it responsibly. Can be a very positive thing. [27:10] Relationships should not just be virtual. [27:48] When first came to Westminster pupils had Walkmans and weren’t talking to each other. Needs to be a community in the school. The development of a parenting forum, where parents can discuss their concerns. [29:44] A moral education should be central to the school. Nurturing individual talent is important, but pupils must also have a sense of social responsibility. [32:38] Relationship between the School and the Abbey was re-assessed during the preparations for the 450th anniversary of the foundation of the school in 2010. Began working together more. Morality and spirituality became more central to the school. [35:30] Introduction of civic engagement, for every pupil to participate in, rather than community service, which was for pupils who weren’t interested in sports. [39:16] Many Westminster pupils will go on to be leaders, and leaders must be socially responsible. [40:17] Traditions. Latin Prayers. Deciding either to abolish it or take it seriously. [43:46] When he began, the Governors had been concerned that Westminster had lost some of its style. The importance of the Archives. [45:47] The introduction of girls’ uniform. It had previously made it appear as though girls were just an add-on. [48:48] Pupils have more generosity of spirit now, and are less brittle and competitive. [53:31] The importance of the Monitors and Head Boy and Girl. [55:17] The Common Room previously hadn’t had much of a common purpose. He tried to involve more staff in the development-planning of the school. [57:35] The Headmaster needs to protect teachers from management, legislation, financial matters, and so on. Their sacred task is the teacher / pupil relationship.

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