JTC Riddell and Curtois 1939-45


OW President- Mr Graeme Bruce

February 1985 found me edging my way along the A45 (now the A14) from Cambridge with snow blocking the outside lane. I missed my turn to Woodbridge and then missed the school gate (no sign in those days) and got lost in the unfriendly one-way system.  But despite being slightly late, I was offered a cup of instant coffee in the Common Room, and was then interviewed by Dr David Younger, who was to take up the headship in September; I was his first appointment.  I had been teaching for four years and my ambition was to stay at Woodbridge for at least five years, to see a year group through to O Level.  I managed that, except by then it was GCSE.  Soon it was 2015 and I retired, having been teacher of French (6 years), Head of Modern Languages (11 years) and finally Director of Studies (having succeeded the legendary Mr Mileham).

What did I find in 1985?  Girls were a slight novelty for older staff and their uniform was a blue blouse and a plain grey skirt.  And then there were those summer dresses.  Boys wore mid-grey suits.  The top of the “new teaching block” was languages, where you would find some of the few women on the staff, Mrs Mitchels and Miss Gosney, and the department was pervaded by the stale smell of coffee, Mr Still’s addiction.  Lunch was approached through the black hole, not my favourite duty, and staff had to do Sunday afternoon sports hall duty.  Fortunately our contract stipulated that we had to live within ten miles of the school. Saturday school still existed – a brilliant time for tests, or silent reading…  CCF was a low-key affair but it wasn’t until Dr Broaderwick arrived in 1986 that I got involved with that and became part of its expansion.  My only responsibility beyond the classroom, suggested by Mr Vyvyan-Robinson in my short interview with him in his last year of headship, was to “help out with the French Exchange”.  Keeping my word over the following 30 years, I actually spent 56 weeks on French exchanges and sixth form trips, 25 weeks on CCF annual camps and visited 17 countries with the school, including the expeditions to Iceland and Norway.

Throughout my time I have been amazed at how the school has grown and developed without losing its core of being a small community drawing pupils from diverse backgrounds and giving them an excellent all-round education.  One mother who has three sons with very different talents and interests said that Woodbridge had done brilliantly for all of them and it was true.  To keep in touch with that diverse group of people in your year and those above and below that you knew through CCF, music, drama, sport is a real enrichment to life.  I met some of my own old school friends recently, a couple with whom I had been through primary and secondary together but have not seen since we were 18 and it was such a rewarding experience; we all remembered different aspects of the same experiences and people.  It was so much fun.  I have shared some of that sense of excitement meeting OWs over the past couple of decades and seeing just how many different areas of life they have gone in to.  Just as pupils turn in to better people in the sixth form, sixth formers continue to mature beyond school; we all change and improve.  I know that there are some exciting developments on their way for the Old Woodbridgians and I am really looking forward to being part of that this year.  I hope that you will be too and that we can catch up with each other at the various events this year.   À très bientôt j’espère!

Graeme Bruce

OW President