As a publisher myself I fully appreciate the work that goes into creating magazines. I have the luxury of a computer, the ability to correct spelling and move sentences around all at super-fast speed. But I am old enough to remember typewriters! A ‘typo’ was a problem you had difficulty hiding. You had to be sure that what you typed was what you wanted. The keys were heavy – not like these days when your fingers can literally dance across a keyboard.
So, I marvelled at a 1957 publication which was lent to me by an old boy of Kenyngton Manor. The Young Historian was published a couple of times a year and was made up largely of contributions by pupils ages 11-14. The little magazine ran for 15 pages of stories, facts, quizzes and illustrations. Put together by Mr Gaffigyn who fired up children’s interest in history, this was painstakingly put together, hand typed, hand stapled and cut on the guillotine by a small group of helpers. That is dedication!
As well as admiring the concept and execution, the content is fascinating. The articles are very well written and fascinating to read nearly 60 years later. The opening piece is entitled ‘School at the Outbreak of War 1939’ and reads as follows:
September 3rd 1939. Big Ben boomed sonorously at 11 o’clock. Mr Chamberlain, the Prime Minister broadcast his message to the nation. Britain was at war. The strange sounding siren wailed across the warm air. All traffic stopped. There was a knock on our front door. A man with every trace of colour drained from his cheeks and carrying a baby, stood there shivering with fright. His wife and son stood by him….”May we come in? The sirens gone”. As if we needed telling…We did not realise at the time that the siren would fall into the pattern of our lives and that we would accept bombing in much the same way as we accepted washing up after a meal.
Until the shelters were built at our grammar school, its doors opened only for the staff to set a week’s homework and for it to be marked and gone through on the blackboard. We boys worked on a shift system, going in batches of about 80 on different days and at different hours. When the shelters had been erected the school opened for normal instruction again.
Air raids began in earnest in 1940 and studying became increasingly difficult particularly for those of us who were facing exams. Wrestling in the shelters with Paradise Lost, The Merchant of Venice and the complications of European politics in the 18th century made great demands on mental stamina.
Mr Gaffigyn, in his foreword, thanks Mrs Sivill, Mr Robertson and Mrs Holdaway for all their help in making the Young Historian.
I would like to thank John Coshall for sharing these old magazines, which are themselves a little piece of history now.