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Monday, 24 August 2009

Book, The History of Bemrose School, Derby, 1930 - 2005

I helped with this book when I took many photographs for it with Marilyn Thompson, It features 15 of my own images along with many many others and is a great book for any Bemrosians out there.

The History of Bemrose School, Derby, 1930 - 2005
Moorleys Print & Publishing, Ilkeston
Published in June 2009

This book has just been mentioned in the local newspaper..

This from The Derby Evening Telegraph on August 18th 2009
"A BOOK exploring the history of a Derby school has proved a big hit, with more than half the copies printed already sold.
Launched in June, The History of Bemrose School spans 75 years of school life and was complied by former pupils over five years.
The idea came about after Donald Sarfas, 89 – among the first intake at the school when it opened in 1930 – met Marilyn Thompson, a former Bemrose librarian.
They advertised in the Derby Telegraph for ex-pupils to share memories, many of which feature in the book.
About 550 copies of the 1,000 printed have already been sold, through Derby Museum and Art Gallery and the publisher, Ilkeston-based Moorleys Print and Publishing.
The firm's Peter Newberry said the book had sold well.
He said: "As people have bought and read the book there have been quite a few comments and we have considered producing a revised edition in the future once the current run has sold out."
The book is priced £12.95 from Derby Museum and Art Gallery, in the Strand, from Amazon

 or by visiting moorleys online shop.

Details about The History of Bemrose School, Derby, 1930 - 2005

There can surely be few past and present pupils of Bemrose School, Derby, who feel indifferent about their time there or who take the view that their Bemrose experience had little or no impact, for better or worse, on their subsequent lives and lifestyle.

A book giving an account of the first 75 years (1930 – 2005) of the school is therefore to be warmly welcomed. For that account to include among its many contributions at least one from someone who was among the first intake way back in 1930 is truly remarkable, and the book is enriched by Donald T Sarfas’s reflections on those early years and also by the chapter on the distinguished man after whom the school is named.

It is entirely appropriate that the authors and compilers took a chronological approach based around the work and legacy of each person who has taken on the mantle and daunting task of being the school’s Head Teacher. It gives the book its overall shape, and the ability of the various authors to offer not only narrative but, in many cases, insightful evaluation also adds greatly to the interest. It is the perception within some of the observation that is particularly striking, so that a whole host of people whom one never had a chance to meet come alive on the page and cease to be mere names.

Most striking of all is the realisation, which comes from the book, of the extent to which all pupils who attended the school in those first 75 years have been ‘creatures of their time’. Even within the time period 1930 – 1971 during which the school had the comparatively uncomplicated remit of being a Grammar School for Boys, pupils’ experiences were largely determined by the social, political and economic context in which the school was operating, by the facilities available within that context and by the staff, including the Head Teacher, who happened to be in charge at the time.

Thus, for all that a mid-1930s pupil would find he had in common with a pupil from, say, the 1950s, what would and does strike each of them are also the many differences as the school sought not only to move with the times but was also a prisoner of them. For the many staff who served the school for 20 years or more during its grammar school years, the extent to which they had to come to terms with changes of regime is something that the book highlights well. The change, for example, from the end of the Macfarlane to the initial Bennett years brought with it contrasts in operational style which the respective authors touch upon and with which those who experienced those years will readily identify.

Most fascinating of all in many respects is to read not about the years when one was there, but about the years when one wasn’t: how different things were for the lads who attended the school during the war, for example, when fields were lost to sport in support of Digging for Victory. I also greatly enjoyed the account from someone who joined at 13 plus. Written with feeling, clarity and insight his is a most welcome addition to the overall coverage. Those particular contributions are some of the strongest in the first part of the book.

For all the excellence of much of the narrative and analysis of the grammar school years, for me the most moving and gripping contributions lie among some of those which cover the years 1972 to 2005. These accounts contain some first class writing, and among them are some honourable attempts to give a fair and balanced view of the many trials and tribulations that beset the school as it found itself at the mercy and whim of national politicians and cash-starved and sometimes ideas-impoverished local councillors.

It is clear that since 1971 there has been many a heroic attempt made by those who continue to love and honour the school to keep the school (as an institution and as a site) afloat in the most tempestuous of conditions. Those of us who have little or no knowledge of the years post 1971 owe these brave writers a particular debt of gratitude.

The book is so wide ranging in its coverage that within it there is something for everyone. Nobody will agree with everything that is written about the years that cover their own time there, largely because this book is not so much “The History of …. “ as “A history of …” with room for personal contributions that are frequently idiosyncratic and anecdotal. Agreeing with it all does not really matter, however. The writing is often partial, and as such is both evocative and provocative, with much of it coming from the heart. Some of the views and recollections will doubtless fuel many a tavern conversation for years to come.

The publishing of this book is a very worthwhile, commendable enterprise. I hope it is sufficiently successful as to warrant a second edition. That would then create the opportunity for the publisher to make various amendments and additions that the collective wisdom, knowledge and memory of hundreds of Old Bemrosians are already bringing to Moorleys’ attention.



  1. bemrose school is the best!!!!!!!!!!

    1. i dont think so i went thru hell