Willie Watkins

Willie Watkins

I started at HDS in September 1953, along with the only other boy from my Primary School, Holy Trinity (Beechwood Road, just off Dalston Junction) standing, as we all did in those days, at the bottom of the front steps waiting to be invited in to the somewhat forbidding interior.   It would have been for many of us the largest building we had entered up to that point.

Willie Watkins

Willie adjusting his school tie at Grocer’s Hall – June 30th, 2014

Fear was soon overcome and acquaintances made, sometimes turning to friendships as the years progressed.    I am still in touch with Lawrence Joseph (in Australia) who was to become the first true friend and who I last saw two years ago.

School was a riot of experience from running the School Stationery Shop for Mr.Fox in Room T, helping with the Library in the last couple of years (for John Kemp), running The Gramophone Society  (with Graham Lees and Lawrence Joseph), and helping out with the School Plays under Albert Calland.    These activities ensured that I made friends in forms above and below my own – and represented a different slice of School society from that taken by the Athletes or Cadets (both activities which I avoided).   School Journeys – of which I remain sorry for having only participated in one – made more friends from yet another slice.

I ENJOYED my Schooldays and would have started again at the First Form had this been allowed!

Leaving School I went straight to work in the City of London at a Merchant Company specialising in “Bolts and Nuts” – a portent for my future.   A short spell here was followed by  the (then) largest Chartered Accountant Partnership in the World (Peat, Marwick, Mitchell) where their Secretariat Department ran Trade Associations from Oven Ready Chicken Producers to mine – Railways Wheels. Tyres etc. which, after three years and a quick six months in the Ferro Alloy Department of Union Carbide I changed for a job in the London Office of The United Steel Companies – selling Railway Wheels etc.

After four years I was asked to move to the plant at Rotherham which I did and was immediately asked to become a “working” member of the local Branch of the Management Union – becoming, almost in the same instant, Chairman of the largest Branch of the Union, and later Sheffield Division Job Security Officer, Member of the National Council etc – and even leading a Strike!   All this while con tinuing my day job where I became Customer Service Manager (Billet), then Production Controller of the Templeborough Cogging Mill.   Alas, the fortunes of the steel industry made all jobs fairly unstable so I opted to go “on the road” and transferred to North London, Milton Keynes and finally Wolverhampton before succumbing to the redundancy pressures, transferring (with only one week unemployed!) to Glynwed then to Kiveton Park Steel (supplying steel to those Bolt and Nut Producers!) and finally a couple of temporary jobs with Stockholders before retiring at 63!

But the Clove was never far away – from 1963 until I left for Rotherham I had, with John Larter, been Joint Secretary of the Club and ran the Annual Dinner while John organised the Cricket Match!  Together with Barry Snowden, David Murray and others we produced newsletters, each of which was hand addressed (Dear . . .   Yours sincerely . . . .) with some surprising and gratifying replies from correspondents then scattered all over the world.

Sadly, the Club seemed to fall apart while I was away!    The then Committee felt that people who lived more than ‘x’ distance from the School would not travel to events and I was therefore unaware of the Centenary Supper.

John Larter (and others in the Fives Section) had remained my contact group over the years (with an annual outing to Oundle) and it was John who kept me in the picture regarding the ups and downs of the School’s position.   Then came Les Mitchell’s 80th Birthday and and innocent question “Whatever happened to the Clove Club?” (from Jeffrey Leifer!).    A phone call the following day to John Kemp set me on the trail of the papers and, wresting them from Howard Cohen – the last Secretary – I set about updating the membership lists (there were three!) by reading the telephone directories, something which would be a useless exercise today.    The rest is history and today I am proud to count nearly 700 members as my friends.    Realising that we would run out of Headteachers as Presidents, I suggested to John (as he was then still acting in this role) that making me President would guarantee some sort of future and, although it might seem invidious rolling all the jobs into one, it seems to be working.

I was involved with the setting up of Mossbourne Community Academy (even chairing a meeting of would-be parents in The Round Chapel in Clapton in 2002!), and am concerned with endeavouring to set up an Alumni Association (from a distance) with Zack Harazi.

My house is filled with Clove Club documents and memorabilia and I work with Steve Bench in producing other lists and histories to complement the final History of the School which I commissioned Geoffrey Alderman to write a couple of years ago.   All we can now do is to live on our laurels and, my goodness, what a School it was – all I can say is, that I was proud to have been there and, through the Club, glad to be in touch with others who shared a similar experience of the School to my own.   Thank you, Grocers!