One of the those unusual innovations at St Hugh's were the English Speaking Board lessons and examinations. The very buxom Miss Albrecht would teach us to speak correctly, read novels and recite poetry once a week. The exams consisted of those elements, plus a timed talk on a topic of the presenter's choice. I remember doing one about the Titanic one year.
I'm probably not wrong in thinking that most of us boys took the whole thing rather lightly but, in truth, Miss Albrecht's teaching has been one of the most important lessons for my eventual working career. Miss Albrecht was supposed to be preparing us boys for the dizzy heights of reading and speaking from pulpits.
Although I never made it to the priesthood, I did eventually become a vocational trainer, working for a bus company in Brighton and now as training manager for the tram operating company in Croydon. Miss Albrecht's influence, and the techniques I learnt in her lessons, has turned out to be one of the most critical factors that enable me to do my job effectively. Not only that, but I read the scriptures most Sundays in my local parish in Brighton.
I lived at St Hugh's from 1966 to 1970. The 60's revolution really passed us by in the rarefied atmosphere of a church school, as it was becoming accustomed to its transformation to a more open Catholic college.
The one defining moment I do recall about the 60's, besides the hideous wallpaper in the senior common room, was listening with some of my friends to 'Je t'aime' on the record player - to the horror of either Fr Daly or Fr Dazeley who happened to catch us enthralled in trying to translate the French and understand what was going on.
I used to enjoy walks around the grounds, more often than not with my friends who smoked. One morning we were standing in a group by the stream, next to that infamous swimming pool, when Fr Daly appeared from behind a tree, where he'd been saying his breviary. Needless to say, we were all in trouble, even me who's never smoked.
My first friend there was Phil Camp, from Ilford. Phil was going to be a White Father but left after our first year. I then got to know Danny Cronin and we used to spend a lot of time together. I'm still in touch with both of them; I was best man at Phil's wedding and Danny is now a Canon in the Westminster Diocese. Phil is now a paramedic for the HEMS ambulance service in London and Danny is the only one of our year who made it through to the priesthood - the rest of us went far astray!
Although perhaps I've now tried to put that right by graduating from Heythrop College with a Masters in Christian Theology. It sort of closes for me a circle that opened at St Hugh's. I actually used to enjoy the church routine at St Hugh's, beginning early in the day with meditation and Mass.