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Remembering 1950s grammar school swimming team lads

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 22, 2014

  • Tipton baths in Alexandra Road

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WE have had a terrific response to the memories and photographs sent in by former Dudley Grammar School pupil John Darby, that were published in last week's issue.

Trevor Raybould told us, "Page 17 of the current issue of the Bugle was of particular interest and a great pleasure to read as it evoked many memories for me of my schooldays at Dudley Grammar, where I started in September 1946.

"The photograph of the 1950/51 school swimming team caught my eye straight away as it contains five of us who were fortunate to pass the newly introduced eleven-plus exam after four years at Tipton Green Junior Boys' School and, as a consequence, chose Dudley Grammar School for our secondary education.

"Like many young Tiptonians in those days we taught ourselves to swim by spending as much time in the Alexandra Road Jubilee swimming pool as we were allowed to get away with by the attendants.

"Three of us are among the unnamed in the back row: from the left, no. 3 John Barfoot, no. 4 myself, no. 5 unknown, no. 6 John Fletcher, no. 8 unknown. Two are among the unnamed in the middle row: from the left, no. 1 Bobby Ford, no. 2 Bob Bates. At no. 3 is the captain, Ken Jones, and at no. 5 is Don Southall from Gornal.

"Many of us are wearing Royal Life-Saving award badges – at DGS, if you could swim you were expected to join the life-saving classes.

"I published this photograph in my book Dudley Grammar School, 1562 - 1875. A History of the School in its Times, which was published in 2010, but only chose to name the captain Ken Jones. The five Tiptonians, which included myself, were in North House and enjoyed all the house competitions that John Darby mentioned.

"The spirit of the September 1946 intake at Dudley Grammar School lives on, and about 18 of us still meet twice a year for a pub lunch, when the old school occasionally gets mentioned in conversation."

We also received correspondence from Reg Flavell, whose memories were also inspired by the publication of the Dudley Grammar School swimmers. He told us, "I looked with interest at the photographs and read the DGS feature several times. John Darby was in the year that followed me, since I left school in 1951 and I'd had the privilege of Percy Chance's history wisdom for two years by then.

"I was fortunate enough to be one of the intake for 1946, the first beneficiary of the Butler Education Act of 1944. All we had to do was pass the 11+ and for the first time we were destined to take our place at grammar school with no fees attached.

"For the past 10 years I have organised a reunion for members of that elite group (plus a few others). We meet usually twice a year and regularly have 20 of our original 90 turn up. Not bad considering we are all around 80 years of age these days.

"I am in regular touch by e-mail with around 30 old Dudleians scattered around the country and indeed the world.

"With regard to the photographs that were sent in by John Darby, I can give more details of those who appear in the one showing the swimmers.

"The back row, left to right, Crwyn Jones, Ken Williams, John Barfoot, Trevor Raybould (later Dr T.J. Raybould, head of history at Wolverhampton University and recent President of the Black Country Society, who lives at Wombourne), unknown, John Benjamin Forbes Fletcher (who became a metallurgist, lived and worked in Sydney, Australia, from the 1960s, and who sadly died last year), John Roden, and, right on the end, another chap who unfortunately can't be named.

"The middle row includes Bob FordandBob Bates (who became a metallurgist with Bamfords before setting up on his own in the metals business. He now lives in Redditch). Bob Bates was a remarkable athlete and swimmer and held every swimming record, at every distance, at the school bar one. Continuing on, the next in line is Cen Wyn Jones (who became a special needs headteacher and still lives in Burnt Tree, Tipton), Paul Sadler (the son of Mr Sadler who was the MC at the Queen Mary Ballroom in Dudley during the 1950s), and Don Southall (later Dr D.B. Southall, who went to live in Australia and became a senior gynaecologist at a hospital in Sydney from the mid 1960s).

"The front three were Trevor Wade (the son of Dudley's chief fire officer), John Darby and Ernie Hall.

"I must mention the fact that several of this team were products of the Tipton Swimming Baths of the late 1940s: Bob Bates, Trevor Raybould, John Fletcher, Bob Ford, John Barfoot and captain Cen Jones."

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