Banburyshire Family History

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By Any Other Name

Smokey

An odd effect of attending grammar school was the temporary loss of one's first name. The teaching staff (revealingly termed 'masters') and pupils called each other by surname, but within one's immediate circle a tribal or given name was bestowed. This followed the mediaeval origin of surnames in that it was descriptive ('Carrots'), locative ('Brummie'), derivative ('Dusty for Miller), or impromptu ('Wendy'). <Don't ask>.

Photograph of a school cap from Archbishop Temples School Lambeth in South London

This cap is made of velvet with a green silk tassle and is from Archbishop Temples School, Lambeth in South London. Velvet caps were issued to prefects and the colour of the tassle denoted the house: in this case "Heller" after a noted 19th century reforming Headmaster. Temples was founded in 1661 and has been situated within a stone's throw of Lambeth Palace for 300 years until 1972. School motto "Templa Quam Dilecta" I attended in the 1950's
Barry Marriott

Receipt of a given name was an important sign of group acceptance for a first year pupil. There was no schedule or logical explanation for its derivation; no one could choose or decline his given name; after its first spontaneous use group acceptance would settle the issue. Non ownership of a given name spoke volumes for a boy's character, whilst a few select individuals enjoyed two such names, reflecting membership of parallel worlds.

Everyone secretly wished for a name with credibility, such as 'Chief', 'Hammer', 'Rock', or such - but inevitably the received accolade was an embarrassment. It can be quite a psychological insight to meet an old-boy of the school who still uses his given name.

Addressing a boy by his given name without group membership was a real faux pas. At the same time, one of the most effective weapons in a teacher's armoury was the unexpected use of a boy's given name in open reprimand. The class response was derision that this was officially known and had been publicly used.

Naming protocol was supported by a strict labelling procedure. At a set cost the school provided bundles of twenty woven name labels, regardless of name length. Regulation font and size, surname and initials; an additional number was added in the case of duplicates. First entry into the school was preceded by a frenzy of sewing as a name label was affixed to every item of an issued list of required uniform.

Outside school the absence of a cap met with severe retribution, but the labelling system meant that a missing cap was easily replaced in the traditional army manner. The replacement might perch on the top of the head or descend around the ears, but it carried the name label. In its working life a cap could have many owners. Addition of an inked identity mark was pointless -- the label conveyed ownership. It was accepted that heads could shrink or swell. Sales of name labels was healthy.


You may also like to read By Any Other Name in 'Little England' Helen Verrall's experiences in New Zealand.

Written by Smokey