My first remembrances of Cray Valley Technical High School were the day I attended to be interviewed for the teaching post in the Design and Technology department. I cannot remember whether or if I met the head of department or not, I do however recall standing in the presence of Mr Kingsland, Headmaster, within his inner sanctum. Probably it was nearest to the same feeling as experienced by ‘offending pupils’ brought before him in the course of his bat like discipline sweeps of the corridors each day. He obviously spoke of my previous experience, my training at Goldsmiths College New Cross, time spent teaching in a Bi-lateral School in Hoxton London’s East end (broad experience indeed), and my year teaching at the brand new Grammar School in Bexley where I had been responsible for the introduction of the subject to the new school.
The one comment I do remember very clearly was JCK’s, ” Do you always dress as smartly or is that just your interview suit”. Completely flustered by such a direct statement I have no recollection of my reply; sufficient to say that my finances at that time were such that the ‘best suit’ he referred to was my only suit! Whatever I said or left unsaid he appointed me to fifteen years hard, but tremendously enjoyable and satisfying, work. 1957 was, for the school, a very exciting year the ‘new workshops’ were designed and being built, I do not remember the exact timing but during that early period some facets are very clear in my memory.
The first was that timetabled into my week was a period of investigative introductions (make from that what you will!) the particular lesson that comes to mind was an exposition of the parts, function, and general make up of locks and in particular mortise locks. Not only did this prove to be quite a challenge for a young teacher with his class, not in a workshop but in one of the rooms along the top corridor, also that being my first year I was to have observing the lesson a Mr Butler of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. The nervous stress of the occasion has left me bereft of any conclusion to the process, I have no idea if the lesson was good or bad if the class found it interesting or utterly boring, merely that Mr Butler must have at least been ‘satisfied’ for the occasion did not get repeated.
The second, also during that year; part of my week involved teaching the fifth form Technical Drawing in, of all places the Library. Those of you that can remember that room will know that it was situated partly above the main school entrance but also above Mr Kingsland’s room. Therefore any real disturbance could (never in my lessons) involve JCK, rapidly mounting the stairs and appearing within the midst before any form of restraint could be effective. To this backdrop add, my knowledge of the intricacies of geometrical theorem being weak and that the library was divided along its length by bookshelves extruding two thirds of the width of the room proving excellent cover for covert operations by errant pupils. I found those periods next door to hell. I don’t think the resulting lessons themselves can have been that bad otherwise following the end of year exams I would have been subjected to the wrath of Mr Davies (Head of Department) known for his directness, correctness and complete lack of fellow feeling. However I am sure that that period of time aged me considerably.
On one occasion walking along the top corridor I ‘came across a classroom in complete chaos, with no hesitation I entered the room in my usual haughty manner, right hand flipped down the lever handle, my left foot rapidly pushed the door wide with a resultant crash, and my dramatic entrance followed quickly. ” What the hell is going on in here, that’s enough, sit down!” The class obeyed to leave standing, alone, a teacher, it would be churlish to name him. Interestingly I believe that I was more embarrassed than he!
There were, of course, very many other memories nearly all of them happy. I am amazed that so many of you remember my humble attempts at introducing young people to skiing. It was done with the highest ideals imaginable. Like many of my activities uniquely mine. The first of my trips I went with other teachers, but following my first visit to Bad Ragaz (which was a disaster) where a school travel company made the arrangements and expected us to share a really appallingly low standard of accommodation. From the next year I booked everything, which saved something up to twenty per cent on costs. The greatest assistance came from the Verkeresbruro manager Herr Webber. It was he who asked why it was that I used the ‘bad’ travel agent when it was just as easy to making the bookings myself. That began over twenty years of school trips for, after leaving Cray and joining Kelly College, I again took groups skiing.
Before the annual skiing I accompanied Frank Bird on the French holiday to the Lycee la Baule. With the beach games and sunshine; I remember particularly attending a talent competition in a local French bar. We all sat with a glass of wine and listened to an endless series of local ‘artists’ reciting singing and joking their way through a programme, which lasted (seemingly) forever. The climax was that each act should come onto the stage and we, the audience, would by our applause rank them best to worst. Of course all received equal volume so the compere decided to rerun the whole event! At well after midnight the complete performance had been repeated, again the applause was measured and again all were equal. The final decision? The crates of champagne were handed round to everyone that had taken part, artists and audience alike!
Hi everyone, So sorry to hear about John Gale. He was a thoroughly nice man, Like most teachers in that section you could have a laugh with him and at the time so long as you did not cross the line and get too cheeky you could be on friendly terms and have an interesting conversation. Speaking of the technical section I also have memories of a group of us going on a Christian weekend retreat with Reg Wincott. We drove at snail’s pace for miles down the road to Hastings in incredibly thick fog (no cats-eyes or halogen lights in those days). He had a small dog which we used to take on walks. That is about all I can remember but happy days! Alan Souter (1962-66)
So sad to hear about John Gale's passing. A well-remembered and appreciated Master, who (together with Mr. Taylor) provided us 'young'uns' with an excellent introduction to the engineering and woodworking facilities available at Cray. My sincerest condolences to his family.
I too am very sad to learn of John Gale's passing. Not only was he an excellent teacher but also a man who was able to combine a great sense of humour with approachability and respect. Some may not know that he was also the Captain of the 14th West Kent Boys Brigade Company in Bexleyheath from 1957 to 1967. I had the pleasure of assisting him there in the mid 1960's as the Company's 'guest pianist', accompanying hymns each Sunday morning. To this day I am grateful to John Gale for giving me that opportunity of practicing and honing my musical skills, even if it did mean cycling to Bexleyheath from Orpington (and back) once a week. At least it kept me fit. I am sure he will also be fondly remembered by many for those school trips he organised, not only climbing and canoeing on Dartmoor and in Cornwall, but also skiing in Switzerland.
Dear Colin, Thanks for the sad news about John Gale. I had always intended to visit him on my next visit to the West Country as we always had something of a 'special relationship', or so I thought. But then I expect he made many people feel like that? He certainly did a great deal for me that I never really had to opportunity to thank him for. I had no idea that he was ever in the TA in Blackheath. I, too, joined the TA in Blackheath soon after leaving school. I desperately wanted to fly and, since the Royal Auxilliary Air Force had been disbanded before I became old enough to join, I thought that 289 Parachute Regt. RHA was the best way to get my arse off the ground. After a few jumps, however, I soon realised what a bloody silly idea it was leaping out of a perfectly serviceable airframe, and I decided that, with a little more application, I could actually be one of those who sat up at the front end and stayed inside until after the landing. Of course, it meant giving up my daytime job, but it did lead on to a 17-year career in the RAF which I never came to regret. In all that time, I never bumped into Ben Brown, Doug Mounter or even you, although I did seem to meet all sorts of people in different parts of the world whom I'd known from Cray Valley. The Engineering I learnt from the likes of John Gale and Dai Davies stood me in good stead when I finally left the RAF and got involved in building satellites at BAe. I recall chairing a meeting of highly qualified young Spacecraft Engineers and explaining to them that I couldn't sign off their mechanical designs unless they had used the 6-3-1 method, and showed me the ideas they'd discarded. (Thank you Dai). Enough ramblings for today. I remember Holden, especially the choice of two Rileys he seemed to have. I still have my MGTC, but I still envy Holden's small Riley.
Colin - splendid that you're continuing. I've appreciated the emails and site, and once again a double memory is jogged: A Mr Gale asking us newbies in form IN our names, and finding someone called Beer, to his obvious relish. He did a double act on it with a certain Mr Parsons, brightening up the woodwork room for some nervous eleven year olds. And hi Richard. Good grief, that was 49 years ago.
I was in touch with John Gale, latterly and briefly - 40 years on from CVTHS! I remember him as full of life and spirit and utterly dependable. I also remember camping at his 'cottage' outside Tavistock - no running water, no power, nothing but nature! He was someone to be remembered with affection.
I am so saddened on hearing of the passing of Mr John Gale. I only recently got back in contact with him..30 years after saying goodbye from CVTHS. Goodbye John.. a guiding light in my and many others achievements.
John (Windy) Gale John lived around the corner from me in Bexleyheath. Not only did I know him as a brilliant teacher but as Captain of the 14th West Kent Boy's Brigade attached to Christ Church, Bexleyheath. I always felt that he was dedicated, not just to teaching, but to developing youngsters in all walks of life and helping them to achieve a roundness through learning to be committed to whatever they did. You did not have to be academic or athletic to get John's support. He was so enthusiastic about craft and engineering and motorbikes and just good honest fun. I wish I had known him in more recent years but I hope it will be taken as a tribute to his life that 45 years on from when I last saw him I can remember him and what he stood for and believed in, so well . Thanks Johnny.
I would like to echo the sentiments of my ex-classmate Justin Stevens. God Bless Mr.Gale, one of life's gentlemen. I just wish I were a little more competent at metalwork..and woodwork...and maths et.al. Often wondered how I ever got to Cray actually since I was pretty dire at everything except English and History! Sad to report that I too can still remember the form register as if it were yesterday, not 1974. There are, at least 4 of us from Tonbridge house still extant out of a class of an initial class of 22. Since I am still coming to terms with being 50, the memories of school seem brighter than ever. Odd that.
I should like to say how sorry I am to learn of the sad loss of Mr. Gale. If I never distinguished myself in the crafts department, I still have memories of his periods. To this day if I drop a knife, etc. I never try to catch it. So he taught me something! Who remembers his demonstrating the three ages of womanhood with a pair of callipers? (one for a pub reunion.) Seriously- you will be missed. I can only regret not getting in touch when I discovered this site. Fond memories go with you, and our thoughts to your family.