Memories of John Blagden.
John taught maths and physics, his wide Jill taught domestic science but above all they both organised many school trips during the 1960s and 1970s.
(wm - WebMaster additions / changes)
Diss Grammar School Trips.
"From 1960, when Jill and I joined the Grammar school we organised various trips, mostly skiing but we also did a visit to Scotland, staying in Edinburgh, youth hostelling hiking trips in the peak district and visits to Earl’s Court to the Schoolboys (later School boy and girl’s) exhibition. They produced a number of situations!
The tour operator with whom we booked for Scotland was about to go bankrupt, it did so half way through the week that we were away but, fortunately, it was ABTA bonded. However when we arrived (Edinburgh wm) we found that they owed the hotel in which we were staying for the two previous trips and that they had not made proper arrangements for the various excursions. Fortunately I had taken quite a big contingency fund from school and managed to set up things as they were supposed to happen. On a trip to Glasgow, whilst we were ‘doing’ the city the coach driver spent the day supporting the local brewing industry, was arrested at the coach station and carted off. We had to wait for another driver to come from Edinburgh.
It was on this trip that the worst accident to any member of one of my groups happened – worse that anything that happened whilst skiing. One of the girls was running down a tree lined street in Edinburgh, turned round to see where the others were and ran into a tree hitting it with her knee. She broke her knee cap and, to this day, still walks with a limp. (Suzanne Kemp from my memory wm)
Going to Earl’s Court from Liverpool Street was always interesting, for most of them it was the first time on an underground. Somehow they managed to get on a tube train and leave one of the staff behind when the doors closed.
The walking trips produced nothing more interesting than an accident with the hired minibus on the way – fortunately only a scrape.
We took a group skiing every year from 1966, some years because the interest was so great and I would not take too large a group we took one at Christmas and one at Easter. The first few years travel was by train, to Liverpool Street, across to Victoria, then to Folkestone and hence to Boulogne, couchettes to Basel, then a change to the local Swiss network (changing from standard to narrow guage railway at Chur wm). This was at the time when it was impossible to buy foreign currency, except with a special form from the bank. I had to get everyone’s spending money, there was a limit of £25 per person per year some of this would already have been spent by the travel operator for hire of equipment and instructors.
The cost of the first trip to Disentis was £39*1, when, a few years later the price went up to £50 Jill and I felt that the would be the end of school skiing - the last trip that I took from the High School was £530.
Two of the resorts that we visited, Einsiedeln and Engelberg were approached by a rack and pinion railway which provided a new mode of travel for most.
Later it became cheaper to fly but when we went to La Borboule to ski on the Puy de Sancy there was still a group of parents that would not consent to their children flying, part of the group went out by boat and coach, accompanied by Jill and Don Swanton, one of the school governors. I flew with the rest. Going home from this trip we found two aircraft waiting for us at Clermont Ferrand airport – that agency also went bankrupt shortly afterwards.
For school skiing I was always looking for the cheapest, but safe and serviceable, option, hence we moved round resorts, Bled to ski in Bohinj in what was then Jugoslavia and even to Vitosha in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria we had to have a communist party guide with us all the time who fed us the party line about every conceivable subject. This was another interesting trip. The hotel had double booked some rooms so we had to have camp beds put up in some in order to accommodate the party. There had been blizzards for several days before we arrived, these had brought the power lines down. It was an all electric hotel with no electricity – no heating, candles for lighting, no hot food. At breakfast everyone was supplied with a large tot of rum to warm them up before they went out, Fred Stratfold and I, after a quick conference, decided that only the staff should avail themselves. The hotel was a very modern building, of which the intourist guide was very proud, it had one wall completely (single glazed) glass, the ground level doors fitted so badly that every morning, if it had snowed overnight, there was a snowdrift across the dining room. Most resorts we visited at least twice, the second time you know your way around, but not this one! However, the ski equipment supplied was very good indeed, but not withstanding that, the next year it was Austria.
Some of the Italian resorts featured among the more reasonably priced, one year when visiting Claviere, on the Milky Way ski area, we flew to Turin and then went on by coach, on arriving in Claviere the driver stopped in the main square and said we had to get out, she was not going to attempt to turn into the hotel; apparently shortly after leaving the airport she had lost normal brakes, she didn’t worry on the main roads but she was not going to try and manoeuvre around a town with no brakes!
I have no doubt that the pupils on the trips could tell many more stories, some of which I would rather not know about!! In spite of what appears to be a chapter of errors I think that I can say that they were almost universally enjoyed." (I certainly enjoyed Disentis, cold and crisp. Scotland was not as good, cold and bleak. It was John who 'let me loose from Norfolk', I escaped three times in all wm).
*1 - Equivalent to £589.00 in Jan 2012 using the RPI.
See Measuring Worth for the calculator.
Thanks John and JIll, an organiser's nightmare.
There are a few photos of school trips in the Photo Gallery. Somewhere there is an 8mm home movie of the Disentis trip!
If you have any memories of school trips or got any photos, films or recordings then the Old Dyssean Soociety would be pleased to hear from you. Use our contacts page to do this.