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News > Lyonian News > First impressions of John Lyon School

First impressions of John Lyon School

What is your first memory of John Lyon School? Read OLs' first impressions and add your own!

Last Saturday, 28 September 2019, over 250 families came to the School's Open Morning looking for the right school for their sons. 

Do you remember coming to John Lyon for the first time?  We'd love to read your memories, so please do post them below.

We reproduce here the contributions of two Lyonians to the Lyonian Magazine (Summer 2018) reflecting on their first days, 60 years apart.

September 1958

“And that” said RFB Campbell, pointing at the very top of the spire of St Mary’s Church, Harrow on the Hill, “Is reputedly the highest point in Middlesex.” We gazed dutifully upwards, impressed. We were at Church Terrace, where Byron had sat by the Peachey tomb, contemplating his Hours of Idleness, part way through the Headmaster’s walking tour of the Hill on the afternoon of our first day of the autumn term in 1958. Earlier we had paused outside the North Star pub in Crown Street (still happily there, unchanged, decorative tiles splendidly restored). “If you were hoping for a drink, you’re too late. It closed last year”, said RFB. We guffawed manfully. Mr Campbell is now of course commemorated by the Boyd Campbell Hall but the name Boyd was unknown to us first formers - he was universally referred to as “Ron” but not, of course, to his face.

My first visit to the School had been during the January of 1958 to sit the entrance exam. It had long been my ambition to go to John Lyon - why, I cannot recall precisely. But I never regretted it for a moment. The Saturday of the exam was an icy cold but brilliantly sunny winter’s day. I discovered many years later that among the candidates had been a Reginald Dwight, from Pinner. Dwight did not attend the School in the end, having been put off by the School’s “Dickensian aspect”, one of the very qualities that had attracted me. He later changed his name to Elton John and pursued a quite different path.

In the morning of our first day, we had been introduced to our classroom in the Red House, which had only been in School use for three years and which was the location of the first two years’ classrooms. I must even at that early age have been an enthusiast of domestic architecture as I found the Red House with its mixture of Georgian and Arts and Crafts a very attractive environment. 1A was located on the first floor, from where some us could observe the autumn sun setting over the jumbled rooftops of the Hill. The other three forms were on the ground floor. Frantic games of football (nothing larger than a tennis ball permitted) took place on the tennis court, later the site of the Music School. We had been issued with our pocket-sized calendars for the term, listing football fixtures, other events, and mysterious happenings like “Field Day” and (later in the year) Association Day. The comforting presence of “Spike” Hughes, our form master, put us at our ease.

Perhaps not on the first day, but certainly during the first week, we had the benefit of 40 minutes hilarity from Phil Davies when we should have been learning French, and were read an M R James ghost story by “Sammy” Cowtan, which inspired a lifelong enthusiasm in me for that scholarly genius.

The School consisted then solely of the Red House, the Old Building and the New Building, beside which, roughly on the site of the present Sports Centre, were two separate annexes for the fourth and fifth forms. We had to “cross the road” for the daily assembly in the Hall. The entire school gathered, theoretically in complete silence, to await the entry of RFB and staff. We were observed by Major Fred “Basher” Sibcy from a tiny balcony at the rear of the Hall and by the Head Boy (styled “Head of the School” in those days) from the stage. Basher, in fact a much more benign presence than his nickname suggests, would suddenly roar “that’ll do”. Usually this resulted in a kind of silence. Any further breaches were met by the Head Boy naming the offender and delivering the dread command “out the front, Smith/Jones” at which point the miscreant was required to stand immediately before the Headmaster’s podium. The Hall, complete with splendid honours boards, was literally and figuratively the centre of the School. Everything happened there: assembly, the annual school play, concerts, music lessons, PE. It has almost disappeared completely within a remodelled and extended “Main Building”. The view of the School from Middle Road was much the same as now, but The Lyon Building, Ernest Young Building, Oldfield and the Sports Centre were still decades in the future. Most of us trooped up the Hill daily to eat lunch in a small dining hall behind the Harrow School Stores, close to Gieves the Outfitters.

Away from the School, the Hill presented an eccentric and village - like demeanour. There were still small shops open in Middle Road, Crown Street and West Street. Milk was still delivered to properties on The Hill by horse drawn milk floats. I remember seeing sparks fly from the hooves of one poor animal as it struggled with the incline of Middle Road. At the end of that week, a first taste of school on a Saturday morning.
By “RS”, Old Lyonian

September 2018

As I stepped gingerly out of the car, my head was buzzing with several thoughts: how will all the teachers be? Will I make any friends? How many times will I get lost? But there was no going back, I had to stride forth and not look back. All these questions were giving me headaches but I knew they would be answered. I was nervous and expected it to be really formal but actually it was not. The Prefects we met outside Oldfield seemed intimidating at first but were friendly and helped us find our new forms. Bravely, I stepped towards my group (Norwood) - studying everyone’s face – said hello and tried to remember every single name. I just thought to myself that these are the people I am going to be with for a long time. The School building towered over me as I walked into it. The staircases must have been enough to climb a mountain. Each door enveloped me and was a portal to a new world, it was magical. My hopes were high in the sky! By Basel Raja, current John Lyon student

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