Poetry Corner

This page will contain poems written by Old Bucks either when they were at school or later.  Please contact Graham Frankel if you want to suggest a poem for inclusion here.



When first I heard the joyous noise our voices made, it startled me
that I had been a part of such a sound.
We didn't know that we could sing, still less such splendid music make -
we were just boys in shorts, in rows, in school.

It mattered not that no one heard (though later it was said our hymn
drew crowds outside as players shunned their games).
Our teacher's dancing fingers led us, drew from us our opening line:
‘Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts.'

We tiptoed, pianissimo at first, then blew the breezy sound
around and heard it grow and build into
a roaring forte, storming forth in echoes all around the hall
until the wood-lined walls were drenched in song.

Then in the silent second's pause between Amen and his applause,
our hearts skipped beats and hair stood up on necks.
And what contentment would be mine if I could find the joy that filled
That sacred silent second one more time.

Choir was written by Jeremy Hayes (1974-81) and published in OB News, November 2009.




What type of world

Is disclosed to our senses,

Exposed unconfined

But has hidden fences?


The world of an era

Different from ours

Was quizzically perfect,

Has bees and flowers.


When you tasted the water

It was crystal like wine:

Taste it today

And drink chemical slime.


Don’t pollute our world!

People will say,

As their cars spew out gas

And sustain the decay.


A small ball of fire

Held by a thread

Burns itself out, till

It’s barren, cold, dead.


But that’s just fantasy

A myth in the mind

The material world is

The problem I find.


Vile, vulgar pollution

In your head, in your hair

We’ve perfected our death

By polluting the air.


Life’s really great

If you look on the good side,

Life is a gas


Kevin Fox, 3Y

Life's a Gas was published in the Roding magazine, 1972. Kevin (BHCHS 1969-76) is now Professor of Neuroscience at Cardiff University. 



What Joy it was to be a boy
At Buckhurst County High,
A brand new school, a head called "Spud"
The river Roding by.

With instincts old, we claimed our desks
Whilst Masters checked our names.
Discovered Maths and Chemistry
Zoology and Games.

We didn't know the meaning of
‘Esprit de corps' just then
But as the months evolved to years
Young boys turned into men.

Classes interrupted by
The violent sounds of war,
With homework like a minefield trod
Twixt sirens, death and awe.

Meanwhile, cricket on the square,
Physics at the bench,
Singing round the Bechstein Grand
Songs about a wench.

We learnt to take it on the chin
And how to help a chum,
Not only on the playing fields
But for the years to come.

So here's a toast to all "Old Bucks"
A very special breed,
Who learnt that spirit's more than flesh
In thought and word and deed.

Paul Rattenbury (BHCHS 1939-46)



Wedged between the sloping roofs,
A fan shaped room, all glass,
The ‘Theatre' of Biology,
The VI form's real life class.

Glass tanks and trays and specimens,
Some live and some long dead,
Where future scientists, doctors, vets,
Their wondering questing fed.

We proved how water, CO2,
Through chlorophyll, gave rise
To carbohydrates, oxygen,
As plants metabolise.

Found microscopic animals
That live in ponds and mud,
How arteries and veins and hearts
Recirculate the blood.

That haemoglobin found in frogs,
And fish, and apes, and Man,
Has roles identical in each,
A thought provoking span.

And then we saw, through them - ourselves,
Our origins, our past,
And in that lab was wonder born
Which through our lives would last.

A probing curiosity
About the links we share,
With all things living - so to be
Custodians of care.

Philosophy evolves with science,
From wonder sown in youth,
To open wide perception's doors,
Illuminate the truth.


Paul Rattenbury (BHCHS 1939-46) 


 I remember Mr Michael
In his black gown
Describing monstrous
Circles of chalk,
Freehand and utterly
On the wall board black
As his victims' spirits -
Only occasionally raised
By his solitary joke
Illustrated in white
Of a seagull dropping
A perpendicular.
I remember Mr Michael
Turning and aiming his
Soft voice of menace
At named idiots
And incomprehensible questions
Would fly back to him
Metamorphosed into
Impossible answers.
Before each naming of boys
Attention peaked.
Then sweet relaxation
Of release after each name
Was struck,
Baffled reply made
And pointing arm
Moved on.
I escaped into the green forest
Wary of the terrible Rhombus
Which I knew to infest
These parts of the
Equilateral region.
Well victual led with Thagorus
Pi and custard I wandered
Away, deeper into the jungle
Alive with the small sounds
Of Divisors, Quotients
And the Common or Vulgar
Multiplying like mice.
Carefully overstepping the marks
Of teams of Congru Ants -
That can strip a mathematician
To the bare Napier Bones -
Over difficult square roots
And five figure logs
Blocking my path and I was free!
Free to search for infinity
And observe the legendary meeting
Of parallel lines that Mr Michael
Recounted took place mysteriously
At that distant place.
I passed herds of Hypotenuses
Drinking lustily at their water hole.
Ome begged pieces of Pi.
I patted their great heads and
Entered a sunlit glade where
I danced spirited quadrilaterals
With Land Army Girls and
The Headmaster's secretary.
This was much appreciated.
On to the great surface planes
And beyond the area of the Pyramids
I saw the defenders of Theorem.
Three hundred and sixty
Men of arms and legs,
Servants of the Baron de Grees.
Battle with Opposite Angles,
Jutes and ancestral Saxons
Come as German paratroops
Evilly dressed as nuns,
To be destroyed as I watched,
By the primeval Rhombus
Shaking its armoured tail.
Its footfalls vibrating the forest
Frightening Quadratics and
Simultaneous, Equations
To their burrows
Alarming the fat Hypotenuses
And sending a flock of
Bright coloured Polygons
Chattering into the summer sky
Where fighter planes
Death danced and wove webs
Of vapour trails.
A bomber came in low
And dropped perpendiculars
Which exploded some way off.
I hid the shrapnel
And the spent cartridge cases
That pattered down
Lest Mr Michael
Should arrest and confiscate
These trophies into his
Brown table drawer
Crammed with the bounty
Pirated from boys.
Attracted by these sound
Of discord came the triple
Headed Tetrahedron hissing
And darting its three heads
To overthrow and devour
The Mighty Rhombus.
Sated with blood the
Monster immediately invested
The County High School for Girls
And attempted to bisect it.
I attacked the Tetrahedron
Despatching it with the single
Silver bullet from my Sten gun.
The gates of the
County High School for Girls
Were flung wide in gratitude,
A pathway of gymslips
And blazers lat before me.
Soft voices called
For my nomination as
Vice Chairman to the Board
Of Governors until suddenly
A black-gowned arm
Reached out and calling my name
Mr Michael demanded information
Pertaining to and about
Obtuse angles.
I returned resenting thus
Ridiculous interference on liberty.
The County High School for Girls
Seemed a much more
Interesting angle.

Peter Godfrey (BHCHS 1939-46)



Our memories aflow with partial cadences
Ruptured by distance but much lives on
Of our imagined community- Old Bucks.
The Roding intelligentsia - men waiting to
Fly away from the maggots of the County High.
Who each 1940's morning, cresting the high ground
Peer into the valley below from black bikes
Loaded with errored homework and dismal tomes.
They hope to view a ruin after the night's
Excursion by the Hun through flak infested sky.
Each morning the audible groans of the disappointed.
A small two seater passes and ensures brief adherence
To the Highway Code. It is The Head, relieved
His school still stands near the silent gun battery
Already in preparation for tonight.
Blue RAF lorries pass us on their way to replenish
Silver titans with gas from our next-door neighbour
Balloon Barrage HQ. They haste towards London.
Packed with the grey blue canisters- Balloons' breakfasts.
The trudge of boys from Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill
"Caps will be worn!." on pain of death or worse - detention.
Heading for futures they could never guess,
Coagulate in their Critalled Windowed forms
The décor designed by Mrs Taylor we were told.
The French Impressionist prints" They cannot draw!"
We said. Our bikes are stalled in byres eager
As their drivers for the home time bell.
A weary staff faces another day of ingratitudes
And battle the incipient idleness and ignorance of
Their cliental uninterested by academic tasks,
Preferring deep discussion with youthful experts on
Sport, girls, planes and girls and the war- and girls.
Cold winter without heat. Mittens and coats in class
"House shoes need no longer be worn in school"
Hoorah for the problems of rationing!
School dinners faced with stoicism. Not unlike, we said,
The menus offered in German Prison Camps.
Mince Mince Mince! Boiled beef wet and salt.
Pickled red cabbage - plenty. And suet pud
Revealed from metal canisters damp and slimy,
Sweetened with watered raspberry jam
As was the unsweetened rice. On this we thrived!
A final coalescence growing with the passing years
And forming memory and grateful thanks to
The Old School then still new. A monastic settlement
That stamped us with tools to work our futures well.
Let us remember and rejoice that we were there.

Peter Godfrey (BHCHS 1939-46)




I was a sickly, weedy boy;

so delicate; so shy and coy

'A mummy's boy' they used to say.

From school I'd often stay away.

Mum wrote these notes on PE day:

'Excuse my Tim from doing Gym

A dreadful bug's got hold of him.

If he cavorts in shorts and vest,

he'll catch a cold upon his chest.

(He's not as robust as the rest).'

Then fully grown, in khaki clad,

I found most parts of me were bad.

The MO's chitties multiplied;

'Needs extra rations.' 'Nothing fried.'

And 'Excused boots. No laces tied.'

Yet, later on, I grew quite strong;

and often worked the whole day long.

I thrived upon the daily grind;

put those unhealthy years behind.

A happier man you couldn't find.

Now I'm retired and growing old.

(My poor old feet do feel the cold).

The eyes are weak. I can't hear well.

(For me to hear, they have to yell).

You'd think, for me, that life is hell.

And yet that really isn't so.

I'm sure it's not my time to go.

I've had my three score years and ten

that's true, but so have other men,

and then they've started round again.

Another note is needed now,

politely hoping He'll allow

extended time in mortal state,

permitting me to contemplate

ascending at a later date.

A 'well' note's what I need to write;

short and pithy, but polite;

'Dear Lord of all this earth's domain,

although my body's on the wane,

I'd like the chance to start again.

My early days were heaven-sent,

but selfishly and poorly spent.

I'm sure that you were not amused,

and humbly beg to be excused.

Your precious gift was so abused.

I think I'm getting better now,

and understand more clearly how

we humans ought to work and play.

I wonder if you'd see your way

to call me up some other day?'

What's a 'Heaven's Portals' postal code?

I hope that's His correct abode.

Hold on! I might be in Disgrace.

You never know. So, just in case,

I'll send one to the Other Place!

Joe Colton (BHCHS 1942-49)


The nostalgia troops of Uncle Mac

Are in the front-line now

And taking casualties.

But we remaining

Were the Children's Hour

Happy boys and girls;

That group to whom

A Golden Age, a gift so rare,

Had been bestowed.

Each generation differs from

The next in line.

Those now are ignorant of then

As we are baffled by their now.

Bow your heads

You who were there,

Remember Uncles Mac

And David too, Elizabeth

And other wireless aunts

Who set a standard

From their Regions

For us to follow.

That now is history.

Pause and muse on tricks

Played on Toytown 's Mayor.

By Larry the Lamb and Dennis.

Holst's new musics,

Plays by L.du Garde Peach.

And the stirring tales of Poo.

Commander Gould explaining

Scientific wonders and

Politics by friendly S.King-Hall.

So much more you must

Remember for yourselves.

Children's Hour each five o 'clock

Before our Dad came home

And busy Mum prepared the tea.

As Uncle Mac bid all goodnight -

To children everywhere..

Be grateful for that gift

Of peace when out beyond

The World, as ever, festered.

While we were civilised.

 Peter Godfrey (BHCHS 1939-46)


CAT IN CRISIS (A real shaggy dog story)


It was quiet and it was peaceful

Just an hour had passed since dawn

I’d listened to the birds as they

Had heralded the morn.

My mind was tuned to Nature

To that restful tranquil scene

Where the violence of the human world

Was nowhere to be seen


As I gazed out of the window

My inconsequential eye

And some sixth sense of danger poked my mind –

I know not why.

Something had disturbed me

My senses were alert

A prickerly sensation

Climbed my back beneath my shirt


I looked again, there was no change

The vista seemed the same –

An yet, somehow it wasn’t

I looked then looked again

That extra look then showed me what

Before I didn’t see

That where there’d been some thirty birds

There now remained, but three.


Each one was black and large and suave

And everybody knows

It doesn’t matter who you are

You just don’t mess with crows.

The three of them just stood there

Like soldiers on parade

Their breakfast was forgotten

And not a sound they made


Something strange had happened

And disturbed the birds’ routine

My curiosity was roused

You’ll know just what I mean

It’s said that curiosity

Was what had killed the cat

I looked but couldn’t see one

Least – not from where I sat


But some smart bird had spotted him

and given the alarm.

As thirty breakfasts flew away

He strived to keep his calm.

He’d been hidden in the shrubbery

Now, with his cover blown

He’d come out in the open

And his had (or paw) he’d shown.


He really was a monster,

This ginger tom from hell –

That he was on a mission

Wasn’t very hard to tell.

He clearly felt superior

To any stupid bird

And here were three just stood there

Which he thought was  quite absurd.


With slow, deliberate, stealthy, steps

His belly on the floor

He came within a foot or so

Then licked his lips once more.

Now, a crow’s a mean opponent

And he was facing three

The outcome of this dram

I just had to wait to see!


I could tell from his demeanour

That the cat was quite non-plussed

‘Cos in his vast experience

Birds always gave way fust.

But not this time – e’en as he froze

The first crow pecked him on the nose!”

Then, so as not to be left out,

The second pecked him on the snout.


The cat leapt back in some distress

He clawed and hissed and spat

The crows were clearly not impressed

And weren’t there just to chat.

The cat was in a quandary

And knew not what to do

He didn’t want to turn his back

For what the birds might do


He backed away as slowly

As had been his advance

The crows just stood and watched him

Without another glance.

But, even as he turned to run

The crows took to the air

They dive-bombed and harassed him

First one and then a pair.


The cat was in a panic –

He had to get away

And he really didn’t care

What other cats might say.

So when he reached the garden fence

With one prodigious leap

He cleared the six foot obstacle

With a sob of pure relief.


I didn’t see the next part

But I heard it just the same

And after this sad episode

He won’t be back again.

When cats take to the air like that

They really have no choice

‘bout where they’re going to hit the ground

And if it’s dry or moist.


Our feline friend was out of luck

He landed on a patch

That cushioned his arrival

But with which there was a catch

Patch is an Irish Wolfhound

A real live shaggy dog

And clearly he objected

To this stupid flying mog.


He’d been lying in the sunshine -

Well, there wasn’t much on telly -

When this cat came flying through the air

And landed on his belly.

The peace and quiet exploded

In a cacophony of sound

Of roars and barks and squeals and squawks

That echoed all around.


Eventually it quietened down

And peace once more held sway.

The crows and all the other birds

Continued with their day.

The grassy scene before me

Was as busy as could be

And the drama that I’d witnessed

Became a memory.


Chris Waghorn (BHCHS 1949-54)




All of the content on this site has been researched and provided by past pupils of Buckhurst Hill County High School. We are always interested in adding to this resource and ensuring the accuracy of the information on the site, so if you have further details regarding information on this page please click here.

If you have information that has not been allocated a page or you are unsure where it should go please click here.


Are you involved?

Membership includes the bi-annual newsletter, and invitations to the Annual Dinner and other Network events.

More >

Buckhurst Hill County High School