Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Bagful of Stories: Mike Ford

Late Marjons return.& very helpful 'bobbies.

Late Marjons return.& very helpful ‘bobbies.

A car for breakfast- students' prank at its finest.

A car for breakfast- students’ prank at its finest.

A  pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can't make that up:-)

A pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can’t make that up:-)

They say that everyone has at least one story to tell, but one guy has a bagful of them and he is willing to share. I have a pleasure of telling you about Mike Ford another great Marjon graduate.
We have three of his books in the archives, written and also illustrated by Mike himself. He also published them as he created a publishing house (Chwarae Teg Publications) just to tell his stories. Wow!
There is ‘Mike’s Odd Odes’; Reading this one can only be compared to reading Vogon poetry if Vogons illustrated their works- that makes the ‘Odes’ a mixture of bizarre and awesome, you can’t go wrong with that. ‘The 1930’s + 1940’s Revisited’ is a book of stories from his childhood in Penarth. A good read for anyone that prefers ‘common man history’ to the official history books.
But the one that is the most interesting for me was ‘A Stewed Ant in London, Paris and Cardiff (Ha! I didn’t get that one until I said it aloud.:-)’. Those are the mostly the stories from his time as a Marjon student 1955-57- the good, the bad and the weird. And those include: A pirate working for charity, a secret marriage and ‘bobbies’ helpful beyond their duties. My favourite though is the story about an especially strict teacher that finds a car on his table instead of expected breakfast. This one made me regret that I never witnessed anything like the pranks of old. On the other hand- today’s student has little authority to rebel against and I’m happier for it.
His work reminds me of Billy Hopkins and his books. I have written about him before. I think that Mike deserves as much recognition as Billy. Or maybe more than him, because he is hilarious and his anecdotes mademe laugh out loud (No, I’m not abbreviating that!;)

Leave a comment

Filed under long time ago, people

Little Black Notebook

We have plenty of flashy things in the archives. We have portraits and microfilm-viewing machines; we have magazines and books, trophies and brass plaques. Among those showy things there is a very modest-looking black notebook. There is no illustrations or pictures, no famous people had it in their possession or put a signature to it. Yet it is the sweetest and one of the most interesting things I have seen so far. Picture this: it is a New Year of 1889, a young man named Swann, a fresh graduate from St Mark College, sends this black notebook to Mr Duthie who was his tutor for the past two years. What is the notebook? Just a compilation of stories, the memories of over forty young men, the class that crossed the gates of the college in 1887. Each of those men wrote a short story about one particular memory from his time in the school. There are stories about poaching vegetables from the West Garden (‘…a garden of cabbages intersected and bounded by gravely path…’), about being a new students and ‘…giving vent to their feelings by whistling Georgian chants.’, about studying Horace’s odes at 7AM. I’ve read how all of St Mark celebrated the Jubilee Day, June 21 1887, and how they had a day off- an event unheard of except for major holidays. The notebook even gave me a reason for further research: They called their principal ‘The Dad’, just as Coleridge was called when he was a principal and in 1887 it was somebody that was stomping around. His footsteps were like ‘…the clang of a war-horse hoof…’. Now I’m tempted to check who that was.:-)

Can somebody tell me what it means? It's all Greek to me:-)

Can somebody tell me what it means? It’s all Greek to me:-)

I have read some of the memories that the past students wrote and even published in the Year Books or elsewhere. But those are not the memories that were written after many years, tinted with nostalgia of passed youth. It is not St Mark College years on; it is the school as it was right then. Those guy just graduated and then produced these accounts. And they did it in just a few short months, remarkable considering they were from all over the UK with Swann compiling and coordinating the whole thing, And for the love of all that is holy, can somebody tell me what it is written on the front page? I can’t read Greek and the curiosity is killing me!:-)

Leave a comment

Filed under long time ago

Chelsea-Versailles 1955

Among the things that I did not know about Marjon is that there used to be a lively student exchange between the college and the Ecole Normale D’instituteurs in Versailles. And I wouldn’t know still if I wouldn’t stick my nose where it doesn’t belong and dig up some of the scrap books that were made to commemorate the occasion. Apart from the student’s scrapbooks from the beginning of the twentieth century that I’ve written about before, I was never very much into the idea of a scrapbook. In our time, when everybody carries a pocket camera, galleries can be made on the fly and uploaded to a social platform of your choice, I can’t see much point to it. But back then, a scrapbook could be a great project. This one is, a memory of an event that survived for sixty years on these pages. What is special about it is that it is not a work of one person. This is not a work of some zealot that collected ticket stubs, newspapers and drew pictures like there was no tomorrow. This scrapbook is a compilation of work of all participants of the exchange. Each person contributed to this project. They wrote articles on a different subject concerning the life in Versailles. They drew pictures of art, buildings, life scenes and of an occasional French bum that they encountered ( technically such a person is called a clochard and is an important part of local ambience):-). There are tickets to attractions, map of the ‘expedition’, fronts from French cigarette boxes and even the receipts from the restaurants they visited. Want to check what was good to eat back then? Be my guest:-). And what is interesting about the exchange of 1955 is that it is an exchange that almost wasn’t. Apparently, that year an epidemic of scarlet fever stormed through the Ecole Normale D’instituteurs. Seriously not fun. The scrapbook contains a telegram from Versailles that brought the news that almost nixed the plans for the exchange. Luckily it was only postponed and the exchange went ahead. And that is how a beautiful keepsake was made.

Leave a comment

Filed under long time ago

Old Adverts- everyday history

What is the most glanced over part of a circular publication? I’d say the editorial notes with the advertisements right behind them. Especially nowadays when we know exactly what kind of deals are at our local supermarket and, if we don’t know, we have Google to tell us. But give or take thirty years and the humble advertisement might become curiously interesting. Suddenly it is fun to find out how much was milk when our grandma got married and what company used to sell donkey stones (pssst… Eli Whalley & Company). Today I have a couple of examples of ‘ye oldie’ adverts from the St Mark College Magazine, and some later ones from Marjon Magazine. Those adverts are especially interesting as they were published in a specialized publication and intended for a specific audience. Most of them advertised local businesses and people that sell school materials, but sometimes you’ve got more general services like coal deliveries.

A name, an address and a sample of the stock- that what you used to get before the mass media spoiled us rotten- an advertisement from the beginning of the 20th century.

A name, an address and a sample of the stock- that what you used to get before the mass media spoiled us rotten- an advertisement from the beginning of the 20th century.

For the modern eyes the adverts from before the true mass media era look really strange. There are whole pages in the St. Mark Magazine before the thirties that are promoting many different things, but there isn’t one with an illustration. And I don’t mean photographs. I mean no graphics whatsoever- no drawing and no logos. Most of them just give a sample of prices for specific articles they sell. It feels a bit austere, but on the other hand I can see how useful it could be- you knew exactly where to go for the things you’d need.

Marjon Magazine 1935- a coal merchants’ advert.

Marjon Magazine 1935- a coal merchants’ advert.

I think that the first illustration I spotted in the issue from the 1935 and it was for a coal supplying company. A bit strange place for a picture, I assume it’s a replica of the advertising poster: Brentnall and Cleland, a coal trading company. This guy seems to know more about them, but I can’t find any picture of an advert poster. Maybe it is the last place you can still see it. Funny where the research can take you.

Visual artists have no need for words!:-)

Visual artists have no need for words!:-)

After that, the magazines started to be less text and more graphic. More and more photographs started to populate the pages. I’d say that some went a little bit overboard, like the Reeves artist’s materials.
Finally, I had a look at the Marjon Magazine’s advertisements from the beginning of this century and found out that, at one point, you could own a Marjon Visa…aww, now I want one too!:-)
I’ve always found the ‘everyday’ history more interesting than the ‘big events’ history. The day-to-day is quick to escape the memory, unlike the grand historical moments. I guess that the old advertisements preserve the simple stuff in a

It's a Marjon Visa, what else could you want?:-)

It’s a Marjon Visa, what else could you want?:-)

strangely effortless way.

Leave a comment

Filed under long time ago

Puff the Magic Marksman or The History of Smoking in St. Mark’s

Whew, the big and unplanned hiatus is over and we’re back to our stories.

In the St Mark’s Magazine of 1935 one can find an article that described the smoking habits of St. Mark’s College in the years. The author was a student in the College in the years 1891-92. Smoking in the College was forbidden, so said an elaborate sign ‘in ancient lettering’. But as it is with all schools since the popularization of the tobacco, there was some rule-bending.

There were places and spaces that were the refugee of the smoking folk. They were unofficially permitted to smoke in the gardens and in the gym building. The gym building had the obvious advantage of gas lightning that made for a fine lighting point. They were strictly forbidden from smoking in the study room, but the clever students taught themselves the art of covert smoking by puffing into a drawer or, sitting on a hob, into a chimney.

Contrary to or barbarous times, the cigarettes were not the proper thing to smoke, unless you were engaged in a ‘ten minutes’ fag’ in a short break between lessons. Our civilised Marksmen preferred the noble pipe as paraphernalia of choice and at one point an unofficial smoking club had a rule that every member should smoke a ‘churchwarden’. It was in fashion to have your own favourite pipe. ‘The president smoked a long pipe, whose stem might have been used as a walking-stick or a map-pole’, others had briar or clay pipes and the author even recalls one interesting ‘Indian opium pipe’ that was so ornate and beaded that it barely have a bowl to put tobacco in.There was etiquette and unwritten rules that a smoking man should adhere to. Borrowing of tobacco was frowned upon as well as constant failure to provide yourself with matches. You may recall the tobacco jar that I’ve written about before. It is from a later period, when the two Colleges came together. But the rules about smoking did not change, yet still there was a ‘communal stash’St Mark College Smoking Club. I presume that's the president on the bottom right of the sign. Look at the size of that pipe!

St Mark College Smoking Club. I presume that’s the president on the bottom right of the sign. Look at the size of that pipe!

one could dip into. But the main question is: why the smoking was frowned upon in the time when dangers of smoking were mostly unknown? Was it because they thought it would bother other students or was it a fire hazard? Imagine somebody smoking in the library! Yikes!

en dangers of smoking were mostly unknown? Was it because they thought it would bother other students or was it a fire hazard? Imagine somebody smoking in the library! Yikes!

Leave a comment

Filed under long time ago