Recollections of an Old (but young at heart) Oswestrian, circa 1952 - EPISODE 50, THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD!

It was the British novelist, poet, playwright, and politician, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), who came up with the phrase, "The pen is mightier than the sword". But the spoken word can also be used to devastating effect as exemplified by master orator and wit, Winston Churchill, who when speaking about a contemporary in the House of Commons said of him, "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire!"

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the first Baron Lytton

Lao Tzu, born c. C4th BC
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step", and so it was. When Victoria Evans approached me early last year and asked me to consider posting some recollections of life as a boarder during the fifties I agreed to put pen to paper and see how it went. 

It is now almost twelve months since I took my first step on this long journey, during a lockdown forced on us all by the arrival of COVID19. 

Little could I have imagined when penning the first episode on 24 February 2020 that we would all still be in lockdown a year further down the road, albeit with light now at the end of the tunnel, and that I would arrive at the end of my own written journey having completed 50 episodes! It has been a surprise and delight to reach number 50, and I must thank Vicky for her invaluable help and support behind the scenes in assembling my words and pictures into what I hope has been an interesting, memory-jogging blog. I could not have done it without Victoria who has kept me on the straight and narrow and with whom it has been a pleasure to work. 

From very early in the process, one of my concerns had been the possibility of running out of suitable photographs without which the articles would lose some of their impact. My fears did not turn into reality as a steady trickle of pictures, supplied by Old Oswestrians, arrived on my laptop. Despite having used over 370 photographs there are many that remain unused awaiting appropriate context.

As I approach the end of my weekly literary travels I would like to mention Masters who were most influential in my life during the years 1952-60.

R Williamson, Headmaster (1920-58). An iron fist inside a velvet glove

Mr Ralph Williamson, a slightly aloof figure of a Headmaster, was a benign looking gentleman who wielded an iron fist inside a velvet glove, and woe betide anyone who got on the wrong side of him. A quietly spoken man, he surely must rank third in the pecking order of Headmasters, behind our Founder, David Holbache, and the Rev Dr James Donne. Mr Williamson took over the school in 1920 when it was at a low ebb and breathed life back into it as it struggled to revive following The Great War of 1914-18. 

By dint of a steely determination, and use of his own money, he slowly, but surely, helped the school find its feet and built a loyal and longstanding team of Masters, several of whom remained at Oswestry long after my brother and I left in 1960. Mr Williamson retired from a lifetime dedicated to education in 1958 just after the school's 550th anniversary having served as Headmaster for 38 years. I believe he was the longest serving Head of the school and have fond memories of this kindly, but stern, individual and his wife.

Peter Humphreys and Dai Lewis

Dai 'Stoker' Lewis (pictured above with Peter Humphreys, who became Chairman of the Governors), was our Housemaster during my stay at Oswestry, and acting 'in loco parentis' he ruled School House with a firm hand. At times he has been the butt of my humour and he and I did not always see eye-to-eye, particularly during the Frankland era when the whole establishment was operating under a great deal of stress. 

This ex- old sea-dog always had the interests of the school, and boys under his charge, uppermost in his mind, and although he often gave us a bit of a hard time he was always fair and even handed. Well respected by everybody, he acted for Messrs Williamson and Frankland at the sharp end in School House and he was ever the loyal lieutenant. Indeed, like D G W Felton before him in 1961, Dai Lewis stepped up to the plate and took over the helm when asked to do so during 1973-74.

Duncan Felton and J F Tilley were 'Day Boys', so to speak, travelling to and from school daily. Whilst School House was like a second home to J F T, we did not see quite so much of Mr Felton outside normal school hours.

As I contemplate how I will replace the pleasurable hours I have spent ruminating over the lives of me and my contemporaries, I wonder if there is an Old Boy or Girl, young or old, who will take up the very rewarding challenge of recounting their memories from a different era at Oswestry School.

For my part this year long trip down memory lane has been great fun and I hope I might have raised a smile or two and jogged a few memories of your own during what has been a dark period brought on by the COVID19 pandemic.

I will now hang up my codpiece and quill, leaving my weekly observations behind, but I am planning to return from time to time with a few more articles.

With best wishes to you all, 

Au revoir,



  1. The other David1 March 2021 at 05:13

    Congratulations and thanks to David Pickup for the 50 episodes describing various aspects of his experiences while a boy at Oswestry School in the 1950s. I do hope someone takes over the mantle and treats readers to more aspects of life as a pupil at Oswestry School.
    When I started at the School in 1942, John Tilley was still pupil there! In 1946,
    David Lewis arrived as a clean cut young ex-serviceman. Duncan Felton was a senior member of staff, and Ralph Williamson the long serving Head. Tilley was back as a teacher after gaining his degree from Queen's College Cambridge. He cycled in daily from Whittington, where he lived with his shop keeper parents. Duncan Felton strolled in, cigarette in hand, from his home in Hampton Rd, but David Lewis lived in - his sparsely furnished bedroom on the corridor between the two main dormitories and the upstairs toilets! He had no other private room. He took his meals with the boarders. Such spartan conditions would certainly not be acceptable these days!
    All four teachers mentioned above gave loyal and long service to the school.

    1. Thank you " The Other David " for those kind words ; i thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and hope to return to my Blog with a few more stories from the years immediately post Oswestry School .
      I am convinced there must be more than one person out there with a fund of interesting tales from different eras at the school , and i encourage them to ' dip their toe in the water ' so to speak , as i did , and just see how it goes .
      I must admit i was most surprised to learn that J F Tilley was still a pupil in 1942 as he was already a Master when my brother and i arrived at Oswestry in 1952 , and good old Stoker Lewis looked an old man to us .
      I is undoubtedly true that these two , along with ' Fattie ' Felton formed the backbone of the school for many years , contributing greatly to its success .


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