"....the highly thought of Mr Colin Partridge, related to mugwump, guardian of the 'conkerbonker, candlelit reader of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles', elicitor of ludicrous excuses for being nominally late for meal times, and all round 'good egg'? I sometimes wonder whether you contributed to the writing of 'Dead Poets Society'?"
Thus enthused former pupil David Partridge about his English teacher Colin Partridge (no relation) who taught at Cleobury Mortimer 1959 / 61. Colin did much more than just teach English at the school, he brought it alive for his pupils and facilitated and encourage both reading and writing with the establishment of the Literature Club and a school magazine - The Boarder. Colin, who went on to be a Professor of English at the University of Victoria in Canada has written his full story for this blog - Here
This is from The Boarder - Issue 4 July 1963 - The magazine edited by Colin.
" As in previous years, this club has been functioning excellently. the high attendances at each meeting show that this is so, and, with the choice of story read it is not surprising.
The stories range from novels by famous authors to short stories by lesser known, but equally good writers. The Hound of the Baskervilles proved to be the most popular of all, but The Inn, The Copper Bowl George Fielding Eliot, The Pit and the Pendulum Edgar Allan Poe , The Fly and John Wyndham, Female of the Species - Rudyard Kipling were not far behind - the last named perhaps because it was X Certificate for the Upper school only!
The creator of the club, Mr Partridge, is also the reader of the stories and he can turn a seemingly dull story into one more exciting. I think the addition of some home made stories by boys in the school would be the next step in the growth of the literature club."
N. Blackford - Form Upper 111
Colin Partridge has recently sent me his reflections on the Literature Club -
"Adapting and abridging a story or novel for public presentation taught me to discern the key dramatic elements in writing and speaking. This skill, acquired through teaching literature at the school, remained with me for life. In later years, when giving lectures, tutorials and seminars at universities, this acquired sense of drama structured my effort and enlivened communication. But I always missed the taut audience expectancy which, with laser-like speed, could transform into palpable collective excitment when relating a narrative in a classroom at the City of Coventry School."
And since this post was published - Colin has clarified some of the stories and novels studying in the Literature Club -
" Neale Blackford may have confused some material in the article -
I've just found in my library here one of the anthologies I used: The Mystery Book, editor H. Douglas Thomson (1934). I had relished this book, after finding it in a used bookshop as an adolescent in the late 1940s, and delighted in sharing my reading-thrills with pupils a decade later.
I recall using Wilkie Collins' classic Victorian story "A Terribly Strange Bed" and that had an impact on the listeners. Other stories from the anthology possibly used were Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", Lord Dunsany's "A Night at an Inn", Bram Stoker's "The Judge's House."
H.G.Wells' novel "The Island of Dr Moreau" was the most popular of all presentations but I can't remember if I abridged and read it in class, or at the Literature Club, or both. (Dr Moreau was made into a film around 1979 and I've often wondered if former pupils recalled the reading and went to see the film.).
"The Fly", possibly French in origin, was the original story on which the horror film "The Fly" with Vincent Price was based. Can't recall the author but the story was appreciated perhaps because the film was not then available to young audiences; it's now a cult movie. It may have come from the First or Second Pan Book of Horror Stories, published around 1960.
Can't recall "The Female of the Species". Kipling invented the phrase in a poem but I would not have used the poem. I remember working on something by Wyndham who was very difficult to edit/shorten/dramatize - so difficult I didn't present him a second time. Maybe something from the Pan Book of Horror Stories...? My copies of the books have not survived.
I certainly read a great story from world literature which brought gasps of fear in candlelit wintry darkness. Again, as with Collins and Dunsany, the setting was an inn. (Did listeners identify the boarding school with a country-inn?) The story is a classic in Romanian literature - I.L.Caragiale's "The Easter Torch" - still superb to read and ruminate upon. And I was planning to use Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades" as a follow-up but for some reason kept deferring and never read it."
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Trailer 1959
Trailer for The Dead Poets Society
Some more memories from Colin Partridge
"Reading Michael McAvoy's article in The Boarder brought back memories of editing the magazine at the small desk in my room in Mortimer House in the warm spring of 1961. I had completely forgotten..."
"I've been reminded of Ludlow by the BBC television series on Towns by Nicholas Crane. I recalled taking some of my V form literature class in May or June 1961 to a performance of Macbeth, which we were studying for O levels, at Ludow castle. The experience has always remained an "event" in my life - on a beautiful sunny spring day seeing a Shakespeare play about seizure of power in a castle, near an area in the grounds where English administrators had governed my native Wales for several centuries... And, returning to school for a late meal, the students seemed visibly impressed after hearing the dark words and seeing the grim deeds against the grey walls and towers of a real castle. . . But I can't remember how we travelled: did I drive a small group in my car or did somebody else drive us to Ludlow and back in a larger vehicle? "
"My thanks to David Partridge for his kind reminiscences. I read them aloud at a party with former university students here in a pub at christmas. Nobody could guess what a "conkerbonker" could be. I think the word was directed from nature to a teacherly instrument by a young student with a satirical eye and a gift for writing superb English - Neil Blackford. Whatever became of Neil...? " Colin Partridge