Memories of Teachers

Please send us memories of Downhills teachers
to be added to this page.

Updated 27th July

Miss Brooker by Stuart Gilles

Miss Brooker The art mistress. She was an absolute stunner, and the first woman I had a crush on. (Confessions coming out now!) Although I am sure I was far from being the only one amongst us boys who felt like that towards her. When I was 15, I guess she was about 25. She was extremely keen on ballet, would frequently wear her hair in a dancer's bun, had a dancer's figure to match, and would always be immaculately dressed and made up. Once on the snow slopes in Kandersteg I gave her a piggy back for a laugh. I was amazed how light she was. Many of us called her by her first name, Barbara (we were cheeky s*ds!).

Mr. Davis by Stuart Gilles

Mr. Davis History and maths (?) He was the nephew of the music mistress, Miss Davis. He subsequently married the domestic science mistress, Miss Preston. Later, he left Downhills to take up an assistant headship at a greatly expanded Crowland Road School. I see he has written a history of the school which is on this website.

Mr. Hoskins by Stuart Gilles

Mr. Hoskins He was a prisoner of war in Burma and spent two years on the notorious Railway of Death at the hands of the Japanese. While a PoW, he lost the little and fourth finger on his right hand. He would often talk about his experiences. He taught maths and book-keeping, and was the first teacher to get me interested in Pitman's shorthand, something he used to teach 'after hours' at South Grove. Shorthand was invaluable in my career: perhaps it was that that got me on to the papers in the first place. He also had a gift as a cartoonist, and would use it in the weekly bulletin he designed on a blackboard recording the school's progress in National Savings.

John Cunningham adds:-

He also taught 'Commerce'. I was in his Form for nearly 5 years and he never ever told us how he lost his two fingers - I wonder. He lived in Potters Bar and I remember him telling us about the day he was coming down Stagg Hill in his old car, when the gear lever suddenly pulled straight out from the gear box, allowing him to wave it in the air! He promptly thrust it back and carried on with his journey without any further problems!

Mrs Laskiewicz by Jim Franklin

Mrs Alexander Laskiewicz was a teacher at Downhills from approx 1956 until 1978. She was my first form teacher 1L in 1956. She taught maths and Physics having a degree in both. In the early 1970s, I lived in Hammond Street near Cheshunt and I subsequently found Mrs Laskiewicz had lived only a few roads away the time. Further to that, when I moved to Orpington in 1978, she did the same, a fascinating coincidence. We first stumbled over each other when my daughter had trouble saying the name of her form teacher, it turn out to be Laskiewicz, too much of a coincidence not to be the same person. We met at my daughters parents' evening, much to the teachers embarrassment and her colleagues' amusement.

Orla Laskiewicz does not look back on her life and has only rarely revisited the local school she once taught in. Looking backwards is painful and she likes to look to the future. This is understandable once she has related some of her wartime experiences. This is not the place to relate them in detail, suffice it to say, at the end of the war she was in Italy with her four sisters being looked after by the Free Polish Army, which had been heavily engaged in the Italian Campaign.. Shortly afterwards they all came to England. She and her sisters are all highly qualified and have had successful careers.

She has now retired and lives in St Mary Cray, Orpington, and runs an antique shop specialising in period fireplaces. She is well known in the area and all visitors to the shop get a cup of coffee after about ten minutes. She obviously enjoys her work and keeps very busy. When she passed the coffee to me she said, "Now you are grown up, you can call me Orla", (her pet name). We wish her well for the future.

Mrs Martinez by Stuart Gilles

Mrs. Martinez (pronounced 'Martini'.) She taught French and was the Girls' Head Teacher. She was a stickler for the girls to wear school uniform, and made a big issue of it. Many of the girls thought it unfair, especially as there was no attempt to force the boys to wear the uniform. Consequently, the boys would turn up wearing all sorts of weird and wonderful garb while the girls were noted for the maroon, black and gold. On one occasion in 1953, a few weeks before my year left, we went to Stratford-on-Avon as a sort of farewell outing. Mrs Martinez issued the girls their orders: you must wear uniform. One girl had the temerity to turn up in 'civvies', and very smart and attractive she looked, too. But Mrs. Martinez would not let her go. We left in the coach and she watched us depart in tears.

Mr Shine by Jim Franklin

Mr. Shine Mr (Alan) Shine arrived at the school about 1958. Dark and somewhat dapper in appearance, he taught English, a subject for which he had a great passion. He would get his pupils dissecting passages of English as if they were performing an autopsy. Such was his enthusiasm, or most likely his skill as a teacher, the ability to analyse English has never left me. This has stood me in good stead when learning German, where knowledge of grammar is essential. He shared one particular attribute with Mr Fiddick, the willingness to "roll up his sleeves" and get stuck into any task that would benefit the school. He organised the school fete, held on the field. One of his more ambitious projects was to print much of the material used by the school, especially the School Magazine and Prize Day programmes. The "Adana" printing machine, which became a permanent feature in Room C (off the Hall), seems quaint in comparison with today's word processors. But, with Mr Shine's coaching, it taught one to think and plan ahead.

Mr Thomas by Stuart Gilles

Mr. Thomas He taught science. He was a kindly grey-haired Welshman with accent to match, who liked reading to us from a small library of personal books he kept in his cupboard. He loaned me one once, and I noticed in it red ink 'cues' reminding him when to pause and modulate his voice for effect. He kept a small aquarium in the class which was a natural target for us mischievous boys. Often, we were more interested in electrocuting his tadpoles than learning science.

Mr. Vos by Stuart Gilles

Mr. Vos He taught geography and certainly knew his stuff. He was the organiser of the Kandersteg trips. He also took a very keen interest in the boys' personal development (and I don't mean academically!). Each of us were, in turn, kept back for about half-an-hour after school and subjected to a deep interrogation on how we were growing up. He later moved on to a headship elsewhere.