• Paul Rutherford


Updated: Jun 14

In an age of infantile broadcasters and self-obsessed media people , it's a relief to be reminded of real heroes with real character.

The following is a story from 'I Once Met...Chance Encounters with the Famous and Infamous' - a collection submitted on the subject to 'The Oldie' magazine. It's from a Mr David Ransom, and is of a different era...

'Field Marshall Lord Montgomery of Alamein took an interest in a number of boys' schools after the War. Westminster Abbey Choir School, which I attended from 1949 to 1953, was one. So it came about the for the Coronation, in 1953, Monty and his page lodged with us in Dean's Yard, just behind the Abbey.

'After one of the rehearsals, Monty announced that he and his page would pose on the school steps in their full regalia. It was a command rather than an invitation that we should photograph them. A number of us trooped out dutifully with our Box Brownies. Press photographers were always lurking in Dean's Yard at that time, and it was no surprise when, the following day, a picture appeared in the Daily Mirror of us taking photographs of Monty.

'After choir practice that morning, I was summoned to the headmaster's office. There stood Monty and his page. The headmaster addressed me sternly. "The Field Marshall would like a word with you," he said.

'"Is that you boy?" said Monty, pointing to the photograph in the paper. "Yes sir, it is," I replied. "And that's Keith Hewitt and..." "I'm not interested in the others," he interjected. "Notice anything about the photography, eh?" I looked at it carefully. "No sir, I don't. It's a rather good one of..."

'"SOCKS, boy, SOCKS!" he yelled suddenly. The headmaster's hand shot to his mouth to stifle a giggle. The page, to whom a number of us had taken an instant dislike, smirked superciliously.

'"You've got one sock up and one dock down," squeaked a furious Monty. "You're a disgrace boy! A disgrace to me and to the school. Explain yourself." I was mortified. "Gosh sir," I said, "I'm dreadfully sorry. I've lost one of my garters, and...I can't explain it, sorry sir." Monty and the smug-faced page swept out of the room. After more mumbled apologies to the headmaster, and on the verge of tears, I left the study. I went straight to my copy of the picture, and cut off the offending leg. At least my parents would not see my shame when they saw the photograph in my scrapbook, where it remains to this day.

'The story might have ended there, but on leaving the Abbey Choir School, I went to St John's School, Leatherhead, where Monty was Chairman of Governors. An Abbey chorister was a bit of a novelty after the Coronation, and on my first speech day I was called on to the sacred grass of the quad to shake hands with the great man.

'"I know you, boy," he cried, before I could be introduced. "You're the boy who can't keep his socks up." He glared at me ferociously and, before I could say anything, added: "Things don't seem to have improved." I looked down. No problem there. Even he couldn't see through long trousers. Shoes looked OK. "Your JACKET," he shrieked, "It's got a button missing!"'

(Coda: To any of my KES friends reading this - we may not have had Monty, but as I read this, all I could hear was the voice of 'Mickey' Mason.)

#fullmonty #school #humour #montgomery #theoldie #westminster

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