Tales from Assembly
(mostly taken from Message Board entries)

There were always 5 pupils reading bidding prayers on the stage. On time it was pupils from year 71 intake and they got a fit of the giggles between them, during Tom Ingrams assembly and he sent 3 of them out.

I think the lads who got the giggles on the stage during bidding prayers included Joey McLaughlin and the legendary Kev Marshall. It was more than just the giggles though, as I recall - they read comedy bidding prayers in comedy voices, each one getting dafter and (amid the tension of assembly and their near open revolt) they were removed for swift and summary justice.

This was one of the top 10 assemblies. I don't think the bidding prayers were intended to be comic! I think the first reader turned 90 degrees to face the second on completing his bid and the second just mangaged to get through his prayer and he also turned 90 degrees. I don't think it got any further than this. Mr Ingram carted the lot of them out at this point.

Remember the prefect who stood on the stage used to get the cue from the Head boy at the back of the hall, and then shout "Stand!!"

It was a prefect from year 69 intake (Ged Battle) who chose to shout "Arise!" instead!

No doubt a bet involved!

Tiddler Morris falling asleep at the organ and slipping onto the organ keys right in the middle of Spike's daily speeches.

'...I think I am a nice man...' (...in response to the fanfare of coughing on his arrival!)...

'...a large spherical object impaired my vision...' (trying to tell us to be careful when playing football near the fence at the bottom of the field)

'Selectives wait behind, non-selectives go to you classes...'

After the Canteen was transformed into a cafeteria (circa 1979) a Large Freezer was placed just inside the assembly hall at the point closest to the entrance to the "Cafe". It was obviously kept under lock and key, but that did not stop some of the future Jailbirds amongst us getting in there and prior to one assembly distributing a large number of frozen bread rolls amongst the congregation. At the given time,just as "NICE MAN" was nearing the front, the missiles were launched. I don't remember too many casualties but I do believe a number of prisoners of war were later captured and subjected to the appropriate torture.

Looking back, one of the things that stands out was the power of the verbal networking amongst the pupils. Someone would be planning an act of defiance and soon enough everyone would be aware of it and co-operating where neccessary, e.g. coughing in assembly, missing words out of Hymms, or emphasising S's in Hymns etc.

The regular removal of Christine Dawson's academic gown from the ladies' staff toilets and stowed said article below the stage so she wouldn't be suitably attired for daily assembly; much to the Headmaster's dismay.............

I clearly remember the first time time the lectern collapsed at assembly.  I think it was just an accident, at least it had nothing to do with me.  It happened at that point when Spike leaned forward to address us, putting his not inconsiderable weight on the lectern and saying something pompous, usually starting with, "Gentlemen, as I look out over the future leaders of our nation ..." 

Unfortunately, as he leaned forward on this particular morning, the adjustable top section fell rapidly to its lowest position with a loud bang, showering papers and books over the stage and removing all sign of dignity from the man.  He was embarrased, confused and very angry.  I remember him pulling open the stage curtains and throwing the entire lectern through the gap.  The effect on the school was predictable - everyone collapsed laughing and carried on for several minutes.  Spike tried to soldier on but, knowing he had lost it, called upon ETM to start the final hymn as he fled the hall.

I don't remember who my fellow conspirators were, but several of us felt that if this could happen once and give such good, free entertainment, then it might be "persuaded" to happen again. The lectern re-appeared the following day and seemed to be structural sound again although Spike was obviously not trusting it with his full weight again.  After a couple of weeks passed, we decided to act.  A suitable opportunity arose to inspect the mechanism, probably an orchestra rehearsal.  Our first attempt was to use a couple of washers to bring the adjuster further out and reduce the amount of engagement of the pin in the pillar.  We did a couple of trial runs but the results were disappointing - it was nearly impossible to set the adjuster up so that it would support the weight of the heavy Missal used at assembly but still collapse, on demand, as Spike leant on it.  We needed something more sophisticated.  The obvious solution was to taper the pin so that it would disengage more easily under the appropriate weight.  Now, in a school equipped with so many lathes (and situated conveniently so close to the hall) turning a tapered end on the pin didn't prove too difficult.  I think we added it to a batch of the pointed spikes used in the candlesticks we all made (who remembers those?) and the extra machining went unnoticed.  We made several, with different angles of taper and managed to swap the straight pin for one of the new, improved designs.  Our trial run was cut short by the sudden appearance of a teacher and we had to leave the tapered pin in place, not knowing what would result.

Our efforts paid off at the next morning's assembly.  The lectern collapsed, almost as planned, leaving Spike hot, flustered and again clearly angry. The next morning, for some reason, it didn't work.  We assumed that someone had discovered what we'd done and fixed it, but three mornings later it went with a bang again.  We must have got it just on the brink of stability because after that it would go about once a week!  The fun ended when "a man in a van" was seen adding a much more substantial catch and it never fell again.

Unfortunately, it was about this time that the microphone appeared for the first time.  Who remembers all the times it schreeched, whistled, went louder and quieter, stopped or added Dalek effects?  Why did he ever subject himself to such an ordeal?  It's not as though he needed a microphone anyway!

School antics, now let me recall one............
As I remember there were about 7 or 8 of us and we had wagged assembly and were secreted below our great leader under the stage in the assembly hall. We had sawn off the legs from a few chairs so that we could sit in some comfort in our crawl space. Several small candles had been lit so we could see and a small campfire flickered illuminating our faces and creating massive freak shaped shadows on the walls behind us.
Unbeknown to us indian smoke signals were seeping through the floorboards and wafting up Spikes robes.
As the tittering of the masses grew to crescendo, an eagle eyed teacher, think he was called Mr. Taylor (he taught metalwork/woodwork) disappeared to the carpark to return a few seconds later with a torch.
As the trapdoor creaked open all we could see was dust as we scampered around on all fours trying to find a crevice in which to hide, to no avail. "COME ON OUT,THE LOT OF YOU" .We knew he was serious.
A great cheer went up as we emerged one by one, rather like Armstrong and Aldrin emerging from their lunar module in the Pacific. We filed through the hall and were rounded up in the corridor outside Spikes office.
Somehow i managed to be at the front of the line, think I was pushed !
We were summoned in,shoulders still twitching with subdued laughter. An explanation was required and i felt several hands in my back volunteering me forward.
Damn, I thought, no time to don a second pair of shorts. I was asked to assume the position over the back of the visitors chair, hands on the seat of course, and was duly administered 3 lashes. We were asked for our explanation. "What form of lighting did you have" enquired Spike. A line of eyes shuffled side to side, there was silence. "errrrrr, " I started, all the eyes were now focused on me. "Candles ", I finished. A desperate sigh went up from the lads.
"right bend over" He meant me ! I'd already had my turn. 3 more lashes and we were ordered out, the warning of the severity of our jape ringing in our ears.....
So if you were one of the others with me that day, one of the lucky ones who escaped punishment... you owe me....I took 'the strap'.

A touch of class. I think it happened a couple of times, but whoever first had the idea was a genius. When singing the opening hymn, the lads in the row behind decided on some poor sap in the middle of those in the row in front, and gradually, inch by inch, silently moved the chairs sideways in each direction. It involved team work right to the end of the row, as the manoeuvring obviously had to start at the extremities, but eventually, by about the 3rd verse, the chairs had been moved enough so that there was a gap behind the victim. When the school sat down, this poor sod first of all tried to sit on the knee of the lad behind, staggered back to his feet and then was left standing, looking wildly around, as 500 boys and a couple of dozen teachers stared. He then had to struggle to the empty chair that had magically appeared at the end of the row.

The cheap chairs with the canvas seats, which allowed those behind you to soundly and painfully boot you up the arse.

The day Spike's lectern collapsed. As I recall it, there was a massive creak then a bang as it slammed down under the weight he'd been putting on it. He harrumphed a bit, glared the sniggering boys into silence and carried on, as though nothing had happened - although it was a bit difficult with his prayer books, etc, now at knee level on a lectern seemingly designed for a midget.

The poor old bugger in tears when he had to announce that Paul Ryan ('75 entry) had died.

Sitting on the front row, counting the number of lads entering who were wearing Docs (about 30%!).

Being chosen as organ music page-turner for APJ or Morris, and being scared to death of fumbling, or missing the nodding head that indicated it was time to turn.

The rare occasions when Morris (I think) played Bach's Toccata and Fugue.

Singing 'Oh God our help in ages past',one of Spike's favourites,in a Cockney accent at a Speech Day practise ie.''Oh Gawd our 'elp in oiges pawst etc.''