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News > HORDLE HOUSE 1926-1997 > Memories of 1950s Hordle...

Memories of 1950s Hordle...

Peter Mackenzie-Smith, HH 1954-59, gives us a glimpse of life at Hordle House in the 1950s

Hordle House 1st XI Cricket – 1959
Hordle House 1st XI Cricket – 1959

Peter Mackenzie-Smith, Hordle House 1954-59

When Peter Makenzie-Smith recently signed up to the alumni community, we asked him to share some of his memories of Hordle House back in the 1950s.

Peter lives in Berkshire and still does consultancy work… when he’s not battling gale-force winds walking in Devon or being beaten up by his 5 year old grandson!

He was Head of the School at Hordle House in 1959 where his younger brother Mike also attended, and was good friends with Richard Thompson-Coon (‘Mr Cool’!).

Peter has kindly shared with us his memories of this last day at Hordle House in the summer of 1959:

Memories of my last day at Hordle

It always intrigued me that the core teaching staff at Hordle were known to the joint headmasters, Mr John (Whately-Smith) and Mr Peter (W-S), and their colleagues by their first names, but with one exception. That was Mr JP Howard, aged seventy-something, and teacher of English and Scripture.  Even in Peter Whately-Smith’s photo album of Hordle in the 1950s, now on the Walhampton/Hordle Alumni website, he refers to Tony Branfoot, Peter Eriks, Guy Lewman, Ken Backhouse, but Mr Howard.  I went on to study English at O Level, A Level and degree standard, and never had a more inspirational teacher. Nor did I ever learn what the ‘JP’ stood for.

After five years at Hordle I was wandering around on my last day.  I had spent my first 8 years in (what was then) Malaya, and my father remained there until 1959, when I was 13 and leaving Hordle. I never travelled back to Malaya during the holidays but was looked after by guardians in the UK, so there had been a period of 18 months during which I didn’t see my mother or younger brother, and two and a half years when I didn’t see my father. 

Telephone calls were one per year, on Christmas Eve when possible - it sometimes took two or three hours to make a connection.  So Hordle had been my life. 

My ‘guardian father’ had been interned by the Japanese during the war and badly treated, in shocking conditions. These days he would have been diagnosed as having severe PTSD and been given medication and counselling.  At that time, even 9 years after his imprisonment, he was a cold and complex person and I had a difficult relationship with him.  John Whately-Smith was much more of a ‘guardian father’ to me than he was. I visited John Whately-Smith, in Aldeburgh a couple of times in his final years. He was a personal hero and major influence on my life. Looking at a recent photo of his son, David Whately-Smith, I was surprised to see that he looks just like I remember his father!

As I took my last tour of the school, Mr Howard (always known as ‘Bush’ to us boys, owing to his luxuriant grey moustache) bustled up to me in the corridor and pressed a book into my hands.  ‘I have enjoyed your work and your essays very much.  Thank you, and good luck at Uppingham.’  And off he trotted.  I looked at the book: no wrapping, no inscription, just a handsome pocket edition of ‘The Golden Treasury of English Poetry’, by FT Palgrave.

Still rather stunned, I came across John Whately-Smith outside the dining room. (Well respected by all and known as ‘Billy’ behind his back - I forget why).

‘What’s that, Peter?’ said he.

‘A present from Mr Howard, sir’

‘The Golden Treasury eh.  Well, how interesting.  To my knowledge, Mr Howard has only ever given that book to one other boy’

‘Who was that, sir?’

‘Oh, way before your time. Boy called Derek Jarman*’

‘Oh I remember Jarman, sir’

‘You don’t!’

‘Yes, I was here for his last two terms’

‘Good Lord.  Well, I suppose he must be finishing at Canford about now.  Talented chap.  Good at English, like you.  So, you’re a very lucky young man - take good care of that book.’

‘I will, sir’

And, 61 years later, looking at it on my bookshelf, I have.

Peter Mackenzie-Smith (Hordle House 1954-59)

*Derek Jarman must be amongst our better-known old boys.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Jarman

 

Back row left to right: Willy Richardson, Peter Mackenzie-Smith (that’s me), [Can’t Remember!!], James Yonge, Mark Southall, Gordon Thomson

Front row left to right: Christopher Murray-Johnson, Richard Thompson-Coon, Peter (‘Curly’) Brooks, George Dibben (not 100% sure of his first name), Geoffrey Jackson

Michael Mackenzie-Smith eating cherries, 1959

Peter MacKenzie-Smith today

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