Games Lessons in the 1950s at Sir Philip Magnus school, London

I have never liked sporting events, especially team games. Every Wednesday afternoon my class, of around 28 pupils from Sir Philip Magnus school in North London had to muster outside the school gates for the obligatory torture session. All or most of my class mates absolutely looked forward to this session of purgatory, but I hated it!

At the allotted hour the coach would turn up and on we would by directed by our geography teacher, a Hitler acolyte. We were counted onto the coach, in regimented fashion and told to “sit, be quiet”. The coach went to the London schools football pitches at Friern Barnet near Finchley.  Almost every boy was excited at the prospect of playing football, but I hated it. Each of us had our kit bag with a pair of shorts socks and a top to change into. I didn’t like this silly ritual. I would get dressed every morning with my kit under my outdoor clothes. I absolutely hated undressing in front of the other kids.

Spewed from the coach, our demented teacher couldn’t wait for the class to get changed. We met him on the field about 200 yards from the changing/shower rooms. More than a few times I got on the wrong side of his enthusiasm to get the game started and told loudly, “get moving boy, or you won’t be playing”. He had no idea how those words gave me hope.

I would dawdle, in the changing room, whilst the other kids seem to think these sessions were the very highlight of their week. Often I would be the last player ready to leave the room. The others were already scampering across the muddy grass to the so called pitch. I would linger, in the hope that I’d been forgotten. Being last out, I could slip behind the changing rooms and watch ‘Mr Hitler’, telling his devotees, “This is the beautiful game, and that I want to see you play with your utmost vigour”.  ‘What a twat’, I used to think. It seemed to me that he was fixated on blowing his whistle and pointing aggressively. It seemed to give him omnipotent powers.

If I was lucky I could avoid the banal activity of kicking a silly ball up and down a field. Otherwise Hitler and the other kids screamed at me some incomprehensible advice that more often than not I would deliberately ignore. Usually with selective deafness.

On the occasions that I managed to slip through the visual net, rather than run myself ragged on the silly football pitch, I hid behind the changing building. There I had a smoke of my Player’s Weights cigarettes, whilst the idiots were enjoying themselves, out on that cold field of misery.

After whatever time it took, for Hitler to satisfy himself and his storm troopers. Having well acquitted themselves, under his excellent tutorage and whistle control, he ordered a return to the showers. At that point I had to find a suitable point of muddy grass to smear my legs and boots and get into the changing rooms first. Heaving, like my lungs would burst, I would be animated, as though I had ‘given my all’.

With only a few small mud stains on me I maintained I didn’t need a shower and that I would clean up at home. The coach ride back to school was just as tedious as that outward journey, but a least I knew the rubbish was over for yet another week.

On discharge form school one Wednesday, with my muddied boots hung round my neck by the tied laces, I was walking home along Upper Street when an old bloke in about his thirties stopped me and asked “have you had a great game today”?  He seemed perplexed when I just walked on past, with a stony face.



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15 Responses to Games Lessons in the 1950s at Sir Philip Magnus school, London

  1. Pingback: Sir Philip Magnus School: The 1950s weekly games lessons appraised | Odeboyz's Blog

  2. John Read says:

    I do not remember the school motto but do remember Mr Fogg the headmaster,and his deputy Mr Hanson,who was useful with his deterrent(cane)even though he had a withered arm,I also recall the four house teams which were Dickens,Newton,Sickert,Wren.I Was with Wren whom I was conscripted into box for my house,did well in the school preliminaries,then progressed to the next stage,.which was held at the old Callydonian baths,that’s where it all ended for me,left school at fifteen in 1958.

  3. Richard Hewitt says:

    l was at Phillip Magnus from 1953 to 56 during this period probably late 54 it was merged with Vernon Square two very different schools, l did in fact captain the cricket team for the last two years at school, went on too a four year apprenticeship with a company by the name Marshall Andrews followed 2 years National Service. In RAF, apart from 2 very short break’s l left them 1975, had 2 short periods one with Charles Hammond then two years with R B Porch, then 1979 started my own company.

  4. natalie crewe says:

    this is a long shot but does anyone remember my father David John Crewe he’s turning 70 this year and i’d love to track down his boxing trophies as he hated footballl so the headmaster taught him boxing

    • Stanley Marshall says:

      I left the school in 1954 , ( not 1964 as have reported want pass GCE maths again)so I would not have known your Dad.Peter Foreman Boxed heavyweight for the school and in the London school championships. I spared with him I smaller than Peter, so Mr Jones school coach said Marshall seen he can hit you. He did I never boxed again. There was another lad very small flyweight ? He turned pro ,made a living for a while I believe.
      Happy BirthdayDad. I,ll be 82 in a few weeks.
      Regards Stan Marshall

    • John Read says:

      Hello Natalie,didn’t know you dad as I was at least six years older,I did the sport(try to knock the other lads head off)but very surprised it has never been off the curriculum,looking back I was selected to take part,but no trophys accumulated.just for the record, I left the school in 1958.regards John Read.


    Do you remember School Colours and half colours which if awarded were worn/sewn around the school badge ….I also was awarded the “Victor Ludorum Cup” ( for my overall Athletic efforts) the Cup which I still have some 58 years on. Mr Fogg was Head & Mr Hanson was his understudy with a injured arm which was acquired during WW11 as a pilot..

    • Stanley Marshall says:

      Congratulations on the V L. I hope your athletic prowess , served you well in your old age.
      I left the Poly we called it in 1964. Spent the next five years at night schools in Hackney, West Ham & Brixton. Two years National Service . Then back to work and two more years of night school.Can you remember any of the boys at the school in your time.
      I spent 40+ years in the construction industry in the UK and else where and have never met any former pupils. Two years in the army and have often met former mates
      All the best Stan

    • John read says:

      Hello Chris,did you ever take part in the noble art of boxing in 1957 or 1958 at Sir Philip Magnus school,if so we may Have been in the same ring or rope off erea which was very primitive.

    • John Read says:

      Hello Chris,I sent a reply message to you concerning my school Sir Philip Magnus,did get a reply from odeboyz blog saying it was Mike who attended the school. Do you know anything about this person,such as surname as I may know him from my classes and sports.

  6. Steve richmond says:

    Scienta cum disciplina

    • Stanley Marshall says:

      Well done Steve.
      Was you a Poly boy?
      I spent almost sixty years in the construction industry and never met anybody from the school.

  7. Stanley Marshall says:

    Oh dear what a sad time you had. I was a Poly boy at this school between 1951 and 1954.
    You must have been one of the Sec Mod boys.
    My geography teacher was Dr Low.
    The head teacher was Mr Fogg.
    I played rugby and swam in the North London Schools championships for Sir Philip Magnus school at Marshall St baths.
    Great school. Four building subjects five GCE.
    Captain of Dickens House.
    Can you remember the school motto?
    Probably not.

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