Last updated: 11 Apr 09
1930 – c1968/70
School Photo 1964
Staffroom photo ~1967
Educated at the Central Secondary School, Sheffield, he was an exhibitioner and state scholar at St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford, where he obtained Class II in the Hons Modern Languages School. He had taught from 1928-29 at Epworth College, Rhyl.
1953: Sam was the French master and self-confessed Communist. Would spend most of his holidays walking in the Pyrenees. He must have been an effective teacher because his pupils achieved excellent results in the GCE examinations.
Also taught Russian which he learned by listening to short-wave radio!
In 1960 when I left Sam must have been in his late 50s. In fact a few years after leaving perhaps 1964 [no, he taught me in 1968, Webmaster] I attended Sam’s Retirement Dinner at the Kenmare Restaurant in Walsall. I presume that he retired at 60.
Sam was very fit, still played tennis, and was always in a rush. He dressed smartly and seemed to have a permanent sun tan. I think that he spent his holidays in France every year and he was of course an exceptional French Master.
Sam arrived for class as the previous master left the classroom; there was never even a minute’s break between lessons when Sam was involved. But to give him his due he was always out of the door before the bell had finished at the end of a lesson.
I was hopeless at languages. But in spite of this Sam dragged me through to get an O-Level French. His lessons for me were a minor nightmare as most of them were conducted in French. Each week there would be a test which consisted of Sam asking questions in French for us to write down the answer in French, or making a statement in English to be translated into French. The total marks would be 40 or 50. Each week I would get 3.5, 4 or 4.5. I think that Sam must have taught to standard far above O-level as the official exam was much easier than Sam’s tests.
I was not the only one with low marks every week: there were probably half a dozen of us competing for worst result. Sam regularly made comments. A friend of mine was Roger Staite, we had been at junior school together, and he also lived in Darlaston. He had been unfortunate enough to have had an accident. He had been knocked off his bike by a car and consequently away from School for about eight weeks, recovering. When he returned, of course, he was catching up on the work that he had missed. This produced regular comments from Sam along the following lines: “Some people think that just because they have had accident and been away from school, are you listening to me Staite, that this is a reason for not performing well.”
I was not taught by Sam until the fourth form. I first met him however as a first year when one lunch time he can into our form room when several boys were playing chess. He asked if someone would like to give him a game and I was put forward by the other boys as I was one of the better players. Most boys had not played before going to WBHS but I had been taught by a friend of my older brother who had also attended WBHS. Sam wanted to give me a rook start but I refused. I beat him and I always thought that Sam remember that game particularly in later years after Kipping had retired and Ted (Dagger) Davis, the other master who was a chess fanatic, had left, when Sam took over the running of the Chess Club and School chess teams.
The incident that sums up Sam happened the evening of a Chess Club meeting. The Chess Club would meet in the Dining Room at just after 4pm immediately after lessons finished at 4pm. On this particular evening there was no sign of Sam. This was most unusual and we could not think what had happened. About 4.10 Sam arrived full of apologies. He had forgotten about the Chess Meeting and had only remembered when he had arrived home. Sam lived in the road (Montfort Drive) that leads to Pleck Park. He would walk to and from School each day. His house must have been at least a mile from School; perhaps a mile and a half. Sam had walked home and back to School and it was still only 10 minutes past four.
At Sam’s retirement dinner the speaker (I cannot remember who it was) related a story of a boy from the Commercial School up the main road, who had come to WBHS to deliver a message to the Headmaster. This was in Kipping’s time and the boy, who did not know where to find the Headmaster’s Study, was unfortunate enough to enter Sam’s class to ask for directions. He very quickly found himself being asked to decline French verbs and do some translation by Sam who had failed to appreciate that he was an outsider. This story produced howls of laughter from the audience at dinner and even more laughter when someone confirmed that it was all true has he had been in the Classroom at the time.
My French was poor and I remember feeling uneasy as to what Sam would say to my parents at Parents’ Night when I was in the Fifth and about to take O-levels and leave School for the wide world. When Mom and Dad returned home I asked with some apprehension what Sam had said to them. Apparently he had been most charming and had not mentioned my lack of success at French but had simply questioned why I would be leaving School at the end of the year as the Chess Club really did need me next year.
As I have grown older I have realised that Sam was so on top of his job that he knew I would get an O-Level in spite of my poor results in class. He knew that his standard of teaching was way above what was required. If you think in military terms of a soldier always performing at the double, that was Sam. Everything was quick and energetic. He was a remarkable man and a wonderful Teacher.
Trevor’s memories above trigger some of mine. Same took me for French in my Fifth year in 1967-68. He had lost none of his dynamism, nor his penchant for making pithy remarks about boys he thought were not trying. His favourite phrase — usually directed at the same person, who must remain nameless — throughout the year was, “Why don’t you just go out and get a job?”
His weekly tests continued, but it appears he changed the rules. Ours were always out of 30, with one or two bonus questions, making it possible to score more than full marks! Anyone who managed 30 or above would be treated to having conversation practice in the following lesson with the French Assistante, Mme Michelle Koenig. As I was pretty good at French (and also quite lucky), I was fortunate to get many a lesson on my own with Mme Koenig in the Deputy Head’s office, next to the staff room. She sometimes used to sing to me – I remember “Sur le pont d’Avignon” being one of her favourites.
David Perry [Webmaster]