A wonderful, humorous account of school life in 1940s. The author's ability to remember minute details of teachers and fellow pupils is remarkable and brought back memories of my own Grammar school life in 1950s. It is easy reading from start to finish. Thoroughly recommended for anyone of that era and anyone younger who is curious about 'how it was' in the good old days. I look forward to reading the next of the author's many books.
Being an old boy of Kingston G S it confirmed and updated my memories of the school in the 1950s. For non-old boys it evoked Grammar School life in a hilariously witty manner. His portraiture of the staff and their lasting influence on generations of pupils is masterly. Highly recommended.
I walked through the same gothic doors as the author exactly 25 years later and little seemed to have changed in the intervening years, including the form rooms. Remarkably, many of the same masters were still there; thoughtful, intelligent men who performed a difficult task with great patience and bags of character. Berwick Coates portrays these wonderful men with gentle humour and the simple respect they deserve. By the late 60s we didn’t have rationing or German bombs to worry about, but this was still the age of fountain pens, slide rules, masters in baggy tweed jackets with leather elbow patches and ragged black gowns. Mac, Crippo, Wiggy, Mr. Thomas and many others were still trying to make useful citizens out of a rabble of small boys possessed with the cunning of wolves. Even the nicknames survived. And George Hartley; a man who changed my life for the better in so many ways, I cannot look at a map to this day without silently thanking him for those superb geography lessons. George was a man who not only epitomised the word style, but made us want his approval and in my day was senior master, a role he performed with effortless grace. This book captures a world that is long gone, but for anyone who went to a grammar school between the war and the late 1970s this will bring back so many memories, sounds, smells and images of that brilliant spell of life between childhood and the world of adults. I could continue at length about the evocative detail this book brings to light, an incredible read for what seems such an unlikely subject.
I found this book utterly engrossing. Though some 20 years younger than its author, so much of what was good about my childhood and grammar school education was evoked. The extensive and realistic details of school and neighbourhood, seen from the eyes of an alert and interested child, were astonishingly full and engagingly written. There were also wonderfully humourous accounts of school activities, notably the wildly inventive productions of the French and German Circles. This book was a really good read, quite the opposite of the, "Look at what a rotten childhood I had" type of writing that is currently popular.
School is not usually a subject that attracts a wide readership, but this is a splendid book that you ought not to miss. What long-forgotten memories it brought back of my own schooldays, navy blue gabardine raincoat, short trousers, school cap and all! It is a reminder too of what an excellent all-round education the traditional grammar schools used to give, not just in the classroom but in sport, music and drama. Berwick Coates brings vividly to life what characters the teachers were, with their tattered gowns and jackets with leather patches on the elbows, and how well they taught and what high standards they insisted on,with no modern aids, just blackboard and chalk. (I must say I did not realise that he and his schoolmates had the same subversive ways of getting their own back as we did at my school!) Outside school, he paints a picture of a youngster's life in a war-weary suburb of London -his father away in the forces, flying bombs and rockets,food rationing, everything worn or in short supply -, but gives affectionate descriptions of the many local people who somehow kept the place going despite it all. He has obviously enjoyed writing this book,as I have enjoyed reading it. I think you will too. Richard Robson
"Starkeye and Co" is a wonderfully evocative portrait not only of a grammar school, its staff and boys, coping with the demands of total war, but more than that, it gives the present day reader a fascinating insight into a vanished, and more "innocent", world of boyhood, a world without play stations, trainers and ipods.The author, who taught this reviewer at that same school in the 1960s,has produced splendid pen portraits of his masters,many of whom were real "characters" and still teaching at the school welll over thirty years later. It is a book that will delight not only all Old Kingstonians,but anybody who has an interest in the social history of Britain both during the war and as it emerged from its "Finest Hour" to be confronted with the Age of Austerity.Thoroughly recommended.
This book is a very accurate recording of times in a grammar school 1944 onwards. I was lucky enough to be at the same school as Berwick at the same time and his very detailed account of those times is mind boggling. In the times of food rationing, second hand clothes and an end to evacuation, I found the recorded memories very absorbing. How lucky we were to be part of a historic educational system after the war and I would recommend the book to everyone.