Family Histories

Attending Donhead has become a tradition for many families and continues to this day.

We are very grateful also to Bill and William Howard (Grandfather and Great-Grandfather to Louis and Matthew Farrow) for their memories of the school, both of which can be read below.

Bill Howard's Memories of Donhead (1964-1970)

It used to take me an hour and 2 buses to get to and from school. I was 7 years old and travelled on my own! Parents wouldn‟t get away with that these days. Children are no doubt driven to school by Mum or Dad in their shiny new 4x4s and dropped off right at the school gates. We had a Ford Zodiac. Two tone in grey and purple, with tail fins. I used to think it looked like the Batmobile!

I studied at Donhead from 1964 to 1970. I say that I 'studied' but I still have some of my old reports and I don't show them to my own children in case they follow my example! Autumn Term 1967 (Lower Elements) Father Egan remarks "Once he can learn to overcome the diffidence which besets him, he will make satisfactory progress", Other teachers would write: "William is a cheerful boy but is easily distracted... is capable of much more if only he would apply himself…must pay more attention in class... " and so on... and so on...

I recall that discipline and good behaviour were fiercely encouraged. Father Egan would often sternly chide me for running in the corridor. While it is surely genetically impossible for small boys not to run in an open corridor, one risked certain punishment for not observing the rules. My hands still bear the marks of many a corporal action, always delivered with enthusiasm and always received with a "Thank you Father".

As an 'academically-challenged' child, Geography was a complete mystery to me, but Arithmetic was truly my nemesis and I would dread the days when we would have the times-table test. Class would all be required to stand and the teacher would fire sums at individuals in machine-gun fashion: five twos ? three sixes ? seven eights ? One was expected to answer instantly and when satisfied, teacher would move the machine gun swiftly on to the next victim. Oh happy days.

I was also a Campion boy and all pupils were encouraged to take pride in their House achievements and the House 'Leader Board' was always on prominent display. Such competitive spirit is frowned upon in many schools today, but for an indolent under-achieving child like me it was an ideal motivational tool. The peer pressure to succeed at all sporting and academic events propelled me to strive for greatness and, Harry Potter-like, I would often be raised aloft onto the shoulders of my cheering pals after a particularly hard fought victory for my House. Well - that's how I like to remember it anyway.

Ultimately, my overriding recollection of Donhead is of a safe, friendly and welcoming place which provided gentle but firm instruction to an insouciant mind. I would readily have sent my own children to Donhead, but the buses don't run as frequently as they used to ...

Bill G Howard

William Howard's Memories of Donhead (1935-1939)

When my grandsons asked me about my memories of life at Donhead in the 1930's, I replied that 70 years ago was the equivalent of a 'bridge too far'. However, I still retain images, albeit somewhat disconnected, of particular events.

I joined Donhead from the Holy Cross Convent, but first I was to be appraised by the Father Rector – Father Ingram. In the company of my parents, he suddenly addressed me directly and enquired whether my English grammar was up to scratch. A little nervously I nodded and he asked me "which is correct: 9 + 7 are 15 or 9 + 7 is 15". I replied the former. He then smiled and said “English good, Arithmatic needs improving” – my parents were mortified!

Accepted for Donhead, I was soon at ease in my new surroundings. Father Miller, a kindly headmaster, had a special manner which while keeping him somewhat aloof, neverthless endeared him to his pupils with his engaging and innumerable stories. As time passed, I began to regard Donhead as an extension of my family, making many friends who would be invited regularly to my home.

Mr Farwell (subsequently Father Farwell), for me, was a significant member of staff. He had the knack of making you feel completely at ease in his company and he was very popular, responsible for the sporting activities. I recall him teaching me cricket batting techniques that were to stand me in good stead in the years ahead. These were balmy years and the only hint of the gathering storm clouds in 1938 was my father mentioning that I might have to leave Donhead if war broke out. Yet school life was enjoyable if a little competitive. For example, classes were divided into teams: Romans and Carthaginians. Points were awarded to teams winning spelling bees and mental arithmatic and so on. The winner would go on a victory walk with half a day off! Apart from class teams, the whole school was divided into 2 houses – Xavier and Loyola – and it was very important to beat the opposing house.

Discipline was an important feature of Donhead life. Father Miller would insist that boys wore caps in public and woe-betide anyone with 'hands in pockets'! Despite the fear of the ultimate sanction - the ferula (rarely used but sufficiently deterrent), somehow the staff were able to maintain a very high standard without seeming heavy handed; a certain Miss Manning could quell any unruly behaviour with a look and Miss Courtney was very popular as Cub Mistress. I recall 'crocodile' walks - a long line of the school in pairs, walking in silence from Donhead down Edgehill to the Sacred Heart Church for special occasions, there joining the (Wimbledon) College boys.

Other fading memories give glimpses of rugby matches against Kings College, Wimbledon (definitely a game to be won at all costs!), conker competitions in the playground, a stamp collecting club, fretwork in the handicraft room and Mass in the College Chapel. To sum up, in retrospect my time at Donhead was the most enjoyable period of my life at any school and in formative terms, one of the most important.

William E R Howard

Michael Brown

Michael Brown attended Donhead in the 1940s. The photo below was discovered by his nephew, Jason McKnespiey, in a family album entitled "Donhead School Production - 1948".