Stanley Johnson

An Old Shirburnian remembers

Stanley Johnson looks back on days of rugger and a little light studying

 I went to Sherborne in January 1954. The first view I had of my housemaster was at the TC ­inspection parade held on the first day of every term. TC stood for tinea cruris or ‘crotch-worm’, an ­infection which boys were thought to be prone to during the holidays. Col H.F.W. ‘Hughie’ Holmes moved down the line of boys, inspecting for tell-tale pustules, as they cupped their hands over their private parts.

When he reached me, he straightened up. ‘Ah, you must be Johnson!’ he barked. ‘Welcome to Lyon House!’
I was lucky enough to win a £150 scholarship to ­Sherborne. £150 was a great deal of money in those days. It represented half the annual fee. My grandfather, who subsidised my education, instead of reducing his own contribution, sportingly agreed to let me have the money. In theory, this could have financed any number of visits to the tuck shop for me and half the school. In practice, my father, an Exmoor farmer struggling to make ends meet, suggested I might like to invest in some more cows for the farm. ‘They’ll always be your cows, old boy,’ he assured me.

At the end of my second term, when I was 13, I took five O-levels: Latin, Greek, maths, French and English. At the end of my ninth term, when I was 15, I took my A-levels in Greek and Latin. The headmaster, R.W. Powell, thought we should get the tiresome business of Oxbridge entrance out of the way, so he sent me off to be interviewed at Lincoln College, Oxford. My grandfather had been to Lincoln so it seemed like a good idea.

At the interview, the Rector of Lincoln, Walter Oakeshott, asked me what my grandfather had read during his time at Oxford. I said I didn’t think he had read much but that he had rowed a lot.

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